Real-World Skills for Kids

Yesterday, I had the incredible honor of being a guest at TEDx New England’s inaugural event. TED (which stands for “technology, entertainment, and design”) is a series of short speeches on “ideas worth spreading.” Yesterday’s event was hosted by WGBH — in studio, no less — and MC’d by New York Times columnist David Pogue (who, by the way, happens to pretty damn funny).

The talks were nothing short of inspiring. We heard from: MIT Ph.Ds developing sustainable, safe nuclear power, an artist who builds living sculptures for urban areas, the corporate responsibility-focused Dean of Harvard Business School, to name a few. But, I’m partial to anything that helps empower children. That’s why Katie Smith Milway and John Hunter made the biggest impression on me.

Milway is a children’s author who doesn’t write about talking animals or the first day of school. Milway writes about issues like microfinance. Her book, One Hen, about a boy from rural Ghana who started his own chicken farm, teaches children about  entrepreneurship. The book grew into a nonprofit called One Hen, Inc., which “offers teacher manuals and workbooks that use stories, interactive media and hands on activities to teach social entrepreneurship in classrooms across the country and around the world.” The One Hen website even has a series of games that allow children to earn beads and then give those beads to a small business owner. (When the children donate their virtual beads, One Hen makes a real loan to someone in the developing world.)

John Hunter has been a fourth grade teacher for over 30 years. While he was an undergraduate, he traveled throughout Asia and became fascinated by the principles on non-violence. Hunter wanted to find a way to teach his students how to embrace non-violence in an often-violent world. Out of this desire grew the World Peace Game — a multi-month, hands-on simulation where students are divided into four countries. Some countries are rich, some are poor. Some are powerful, some are weak. They face external economic, social, and environmental crises, along with the imminent threat of war. These nine and ten year old students work together to resolve conflicts, avoid war, and leave each of the four countries more prosperous than when it started. Hunter’s game (and the principles that underlie it) teach children real-world issues along with self-awareness and leave them better prepared to become citizens of the world.

I can’t wait to see all the great things to come from TEDx New England and look forward to participating in more inspiring events! If you’re interested in TEDx, checkout their website to see when the next talk near you will be.