Apply for a Mind in the Making Training Session on Executive Function Life Skills

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:

Ellen GalinskyEllen 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.

Posted in Early Learning, Education Support, Learning Tools and Interactives (Information/Media literacy), Lifelong learning/ Intergenerational | Leave a comment

Let’s Move! Gardens are Buzzing with Pollinators

By Sarah Beck
Program Manager, American Public Gardens Association

Through the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge and Let’s Move! Museums & Gardens initiatives, public gardens move millions of individuals, kids, and families outdoors and make a connection between pollinators and the healthy food people eat.

Pollinators are responsible for 1 out of 3 bites of food we take each day, and yet pollinators are at a critical point in their own survival. Many factors contribute to their recent decline. We know for certain, however, that more nectar and pollen sources provided by more flowering plants and trees will help improve their health and numbers. Increasing the number of pollinator-friendly gardens and landscapes will help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other pollinators across the country.

Bees on a flower

Denver Botanic Gardens demonstrate pollinator-friendly habitats.

The National Pollinator Garden Network (NPGN) is an unprecedented collaboration of 26 national and regional conservation and gardening organizations in support of the President’s executive strategy to “Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators.” The Network recently launched The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge to mobilize America’s extensive gardening community and support them in making more native and non-invasive pollen and nectar producing plants available in their gardens.

Currently, nearly 700 museums and public gardens in all fifty states are participating in Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens through interactive exhibits, afterschool/summer programming, and food service that help young people to make healthy food choices and be physically active. Many of these public garden programs already make connections between pollinators and our own food supply. For example, the Chicago Botanic Garden, in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden, developed a comprehensive how-to website for teachers and schools wishing to establish and maintain school gardens with free plant-based education curriculum such as “Pollination Pondering.”

Children holding a butterfly in the United States Botanic Garden

Children learn about pollinators at the United States Botanic Garden.

Dr. Casey Sclar, Executive Director of the American Public Gardens Association (APGA), explains the role of public gardens in connecting these initiatives: “APGA is proud to be a founding member of the Let’s Move! Museums and Gardens initiative, and we were thrilled that the First Lady launched the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge at her White House Kitchen Garden Harvest in June. We will be able to provide opportunities for parents and teachers to get kids and students excited about pollinators, gardening, and healthy lifestyles—engaging them from seed to table with greater environmental connection through lessons and activities provided by Network partners. Our initiative is set to grow over several years. And through individual and collective efforts of Challenge supporters, we will reach one million gardens and landscapes for pollinators.”

Now that over 500 pollinator habitats at public gardens have been counted on the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge S.H.A.R.E. map, it is easy to find nearby resources, see examples of pollinator-friendly gardens, and learn about growing and preparing healthful food through programs at your local public garden. Myriad Gardens Foundation in Oklahoma City has installed two new pollinator gardens just this year–one is a Prairie Garden with native plants especially selected for bees, butterflies, and birds, and the other was planted in the Children’s Garden. Find out what your closest public garden has to offer!

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Early Learning, Education Support, Environment and Energy, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | 3 Comments

Get Dirty and Let’s Move!

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted by the Association of Nature Center Administrators. To view the original post, click here.  

By Lindsey Flannery
Business Development and Marketing Coordinator, Indian Creek Nature Center

A young girl shows off her dirty handsDirt, or soil, is the lifeblood of all things green, and it’s also the world’s best classroom for kids. This is the motivation for Cedar Rapids, Iowa based Indian Creek Nature Center’s new “Get Dirty” mantra, which provides a succinct way to encourage children and families to connect to nature.  By promoting “Get Dirty” in everything from its online presence to direct mailings to program themes, ICNC encourages children and families alike to engage in activities that get them moving and eating healthfully. Multiple ICNC programs and events specifically incorporate the goals of the Let’s Move initiative, all while providing a fun way for participants to “Get Dirty” and experience the wonders of nature.

This summer, children participating in ICNC’s Creek Camps are not only eating healthy snacks, they are learning about where those snacks come from by getting their hands dirty in the onsite gardens. Thanks to a partnership with Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, ICNC employs a biology intern focused specifically on this initiative. Under the guidance of the intern and camp teachers, children help tend the gardens, observe them as they grow, and utilize them as living laboratories for hands-on learning about food and pollinators.

Vegetables in the Pizza Garden at the Indian Creek Nature CenterIn the Pizza Garden children will help plant, water, weed and harvest the tomatoes, onions, peppers, basil and other herbs that will eventually make it to their lunch plates. As a culminating experience they make healthy pizzas with the veggies they pick, and fire their pizzas in the Nature Center’s new onsite clay pizza oven. In the Butterfly Hoop House pollinator garden they get to see the lifecycle of a monarch butterfly, from tiny white eggs on milkweed through caterpillar, pupae, and emerging butterfly, to learn about the importance of pollinators in the food cycle.

To challenge the whole family to be physically active, in 2014 ICNC added the Sweet Trail Run to its annual Honey Fest celebration. The trail run encourages families to get moving together as they run or walk a dynamic course, winding through woods and prairies and along Indian Creek. Afterward, they can visit Honey Fest’s educational stations and tour the Nature Center’s apiary to learn how bees make honey, from nectar all the way to the bottled raw honey available for sale in the Center’s Creekside Shop. ICNC also offers one of Iowa’s leading beekeeping series each year; those students participate in Honey Fest and help involve event attendees, including many children, in the process of harvesting honey.

Indian Creek Nature Center's "Get Dirty" logoUltimately, ICNC knows that children who develop a passion for nature are more likely to protect and advocate for the world’s valuable natural resources throughout their lives. Providing hands-on, interactive experiences that incorporate physical activity and healthy eating help people get excited about what they are learning.  This, in turn, builds the foundation for a lifelong love of nature – and as an extension, an active and healthy life. The goals of the Let’s Move initiative are simple: eat healthfully, get active, and take action – all things that make the program a natural fit for nature centers.

Posted in Afterschool/Out-of-School, Education Support, Health, Let's Move! Museums & Gardens | Leave a comment