By Ellen Galinsky
President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute
In libraries and museums, you share human adventures in seeking to understand ourselves and our world through the written word and exhibits. My work is an adventure too. It began with a study the Families and Work Institute conducted on youth and learning, where we found far too many young people were not just dropping out of school, they were dropping out of learning; they were turned off by learning. In contrast, we are all born voracious learners. Babies want to touch, to understand, and to master everything. The fire in their eyes burns brightly.
My adventure over the past 15 years has been to pursue the question: What can we do to keep the fire in children’s eyes burning brightly?
To find the answer, I turned to neuroscience, cognitive science, child development and educational research, working with the top researchers in the field, filming their experiments and studying their results to bring the science of children’s learning to families and the professionals who work with them.
Because I had an opportunity that so few others have had—to travel into and across the various academic disciplines, I could see that the children most likely to thrive now and in the future were those with Executive Function Life Skills.
Executive Function Life Skills
Life Skills all involve what researchers call “executive functions of the brain”—functions that take place in the prefrontal cortex and that weave together social, emotional and intellectual capacities, enabling us to use what we know in pursuit of our goals. This skills that are most essential are Focus and Self Control, Perspective Taking, Communicating, Making Connections, Critical Thinking, Taking on Challenges, and Self-Directed Engaged Learning.
The Seven Essential Life Skills Modules for Museums and Libraries provide a new approach to learning and teaching. These are stunning, creative PowerPoints with embedded videos:
- Promote executive function life skills for children by promoting them first for adults. We start by engaging families and professionals in an experiential process of self-reflection and self-discovery where they experience their own competence in each of these life skills, probe why this skill is important in their own lives and take responsibility for improving this skill in themselves.
- Provide adults with first-hand experience with child development research. In the Modules, we then connect the adults’ experiences to the research on this life skill in children’s lives—why it is important and how it can be promoted—through videos that present compelling child development research on the skill in an accessible way.
- Use the language of science. In sharing the science, the Modules introduce some new terms, which are intended to move away from old educational debates and create a shared language.
- Reframe adults’ approach to children’s behavior away from managing children’s behavior to providing opportunities to teach life skills. Our approach is an asset-based one, where challenging situations are opportunities to promote life skills.
Foster goal setting. Executive functions are always goal directed and the Modules have been designed accordingly. At the end of each Module, participants set specific goals for promoting the life skill they have been studying in themselves and in children.
Apply for the Mind in the Making Learning Journey
Please join us for a learning journey where we share the science of early learning with professionals who work in museums and libraries. We have developed a series of Learning Modules on executive function life skills that we’ve been using in communities and states all over the country. Based on the many requests to adapt the Modules for museums and libraries, we have done so in partnership with the Boston Children’s Museum. In addition, we have secured funding to offer them on the east and west coast in the fall.
How to Apply
- The application is due on August 1, 2015. Applicants will be advised of acceptance by August 17, 2015.
- Participants will be required to pay their own travel expenses, lodging and food. The Families and Work Institute will provide the materials and training free of charge.
- The two locations are Boston Children’s Museum in Boston on October 6-8, 2015 or the New Children’s Museum in San Diego on November 3-5, 2015.
- This is a three-day train-the-trainer Institute, and participants will be responsible for delivering the 16-hour series to frontline staff over the next year.
To apply, please go to: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MuseumandLibraryApplication
Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute, helped establish the field of work and family life at Bank Street College of Education, where she was on the faculty for twenty-five years. Her more than forty books and reports include Ask The Children, the now-classic The Six Stages of Parenthood, and the bestselling Mind in the Making, published by HarperStudio in April 2010.
*This blog has been updated to reflect the extended deadline. A previous version had the deadline of July 20, 2015.