Tag Archives: self-knowledge

Building Skills That Make Us Human

Exponential advances in digital technologies are reshaping the ways people work, creating uncertainty about how best to prepare learners for the future. Andrea Saveri, a futurist partnering with KnowledgeWorks and a Prospect Sierra parent, is helping to bring direction and insight to our school community. “We owe it to current and future students to reframe our approach to readiness,” she says. Andrea points out that the skills students will need going forward are those that can’t be easily replicated by robots or algorithms. “Curiosity, creativity, passion, intuition, persuasion, spontaneity—those are hard to code,” says Andrea. Rather than fear the rise of better, faster machines, we “need to build better humans who can thrive in the machine age, those with a strong self-concept, self-knowledge, social-emotional skills, and coping mechanisms.” Fortunately, Prospect Sierra’s curriculum is set up to teach these very skills. In fourth grade, for example, students embark on a month-long project as they prepare for their adventure to Coloma Outdoor Discovery School. For the first time they are given an assignment that can’t be accomplished in one sitting. They learn to manage their time, learn planning skills and experience the discomfort of uncertainty while taking steps to achieve their goal. In sixth grade, students transition from researching and reporting concrete data to generating abstract ideas and creating original thesis statements—a major cognitive shift and opportunity for independence as a creative thinker. In eighth grade, students travel to L.A. to help underserved communities, an experience that opens their eyes to a world outside their bubble and inspires both self-reflection and compassion for others. By the time students graduate, they are able to easily adapt to their learning environments, not only because they’re academically prepared, but also because of the very qualities that make us human.

A Design Challenge that Goes Deep

Collaborating in groups is daily work at Prospect Sierra. But before students dive in, they think about how they’d like to collaborate and together, define a shared set of expectations for this group work. At the start of the school year, new groups are formed and this week students conducted a design challenge as part of this process of setting expectations.

First, they brainstormed how they want to feel when working in groups and behaviors that they believe support these feelings. Feelings they hope to feel include respected, excited, supported, confident, and included. Behaviors that support these feelings included not talking over one another, recognizing each other’s positive contributions, taking turns, being brave, and sharing ideas.

Then, to help the process take on life, they learned that a creature named “Harry” (a puffball with eyes) was feeling sad because he could not see well enough at the table top level. They were then tasked with creating a perch for Harry that kept him safe from an elevated height, with a time limit and set of materials to work with. After building their perches, groups had to evaluate how well they had followed their agreed upon behaviors, giving and receiving feedback about where they had been successful and where they could improve.

What appears to be a simple hands-on project, building Harry’s new perch, is actually a great example of how we use collaboration and design thinking to help our students think deeply, build empathy for others, develop their own self-knowledge around emotions, and practice working through challenges with others.