21st Century Skills has been a buzzword circulating the educator community for over ten years. In 2011 bipartisan legislation, the 21st Century Readiness Act, was introduced to Congress to support state and local innovation around 21st century readiness initiatives. More and more, schools are reflecting the need for 21st Century Skills in their school missions. Last week, a multifaceted group of 200 education experts, school principals, leaders of industry, and other national organizations, all dedicated to the education of our country’s youth, gathered in our nation’s capital to support and promote 21st Century Skills at The Summit on 21st Century Learning presented by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills.
21st Century Skills. I’m sure you have seen it enough now to wonder, “What are 21st Century Skills? And, why should I care?”
Well, that is a great question.
“Between 1999 and 2003, there was more new knowledge created in the world than in the entire history of the world preceding “, stated Dr Linda Darling-Hammond as the opening remark to The Summit on 21st Century Learning last week, “Students will be working with knowledge that hasn’t been invented yet, to solve problems that we can hardly envision, using technologies that don’t yet exist!” We are living in a changing world, changing so rapidly that our traditional methods of educating children is no longer as effective as it once was. We can no longer expect students to simply mimic back information and expect them to succeed in college, careers or life. Our goal for education needs to shift from outcome goals to learning goals, and this is where 21st Century Skills learning comes into the discussion.
Last week I had the distinct pleasure of representing Adventure Treks at the Summit on 21st Century Learning in Washington DC. Surrounded by the best and brightest minds in education today, the importance of this forward-thinking movement and the energy behind it became vividly clear. Successful education is no longer exclusively about teaching students what to think and learn, it is teaching them how to think and learn. While we can still lead with content, teaching students to think critically, to innovate, to collaborate, to be creative, to think critically, to communicate, and how to learn is the key to future success. As a society we need to be intentional about ensuring this deeper learning happens for our children. It is the best way to adequately prepare every young person for the uncertain future.
As the Educational Director, I am excited to see the same energy here, at Adventure Treks on a daily basis, that I saw at the Summit on 21st Century Learning last week. The Adventure Treks team is passionate about not only providing every Adventure Treks student with the experience of a lifetime, but facilitating an experience that will benefit them for their lifetime. We believe it is important to take the unique opportunity we have with young people in the outdoors and to prepare the next generation for future success. Adventure Treks activities, by nature, asks students to practice 21st Century Skills. For example, while setting up a campsite students must:
- Think critically about ensuring proximity to water while still choosing a safe location.
- Collaborate to set up tents and come up with a plan for the rest of the evening.
- Communicate the evening plan from choosing the campsite, to setting up tents, to getting water, to starting dinner, to enjoying each other’s company around the campfire.
- Innovate with traditional kitchen skills to apply them to the camp setting while cooking dinner.
- Be creative during fun evening games, activities and entertainment.
Many times students are having so much fun they don’t even realize the lessons learned until they return home and are put into familiar school or social situations again.
As we look forward to next summer, we aim to be even more intentional in fostering life lessons and 21st Century Skills to every Adventure Treks student. We hope to do our part in supporting this important shift in educational thought, but more importantly, we want to support our students in reaching their future goals. We are fortunate that Adventure Treks has the unique opportunity to subtly build these skills in an environment that, first and foremost, facilitates lifetime friendships and is incredibly fun!
Thanksgiving is just a few days away and this year I am grateful for the fun times I have shared with students, having had the opportunity to be a positive influence on their lives, and, in the process, learning just as much from them as I hope they have learned from me.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,