By Prerana Vaidya, Kidizens CEO

Education is going through numerous paradigm shifts with an overall emphasis on deeper learning above and beyond the pure academic content that has been taught in traditional classrooms. The evolution in learning is to break out of these classroom boundaries and knowledge-based frameworks to learn life skills – the 21st century skills – skills that will prepare you for innovation, a global workforce, changing work environments and most importantly, for life! And it all begins in the most formative elementary school years….

While many frameworks exist, each with a slightly different list of critical 21st century skills, most agree on the following critical areas for development:

Creativity and imagination
Collaboration and teamwork
Analytical reasoning and critical thinking
Complex problem solving

The Kidizens program is designed to incorporate each of these dimensions, but also delivers on a few other equally important values – values that have been mentioned in many recent thought pieces, informative parenting articles, and expert talks; values that we constantly strive to nurture in our kidizens –

Positive attitude,
Mental tenacity and emotional resilience, and
Social-emotional learning and empathy

Positive Attitude
In addition to cultivating creative confidence, analytic reasoning and critical thinking along the way…

At Kidizens, the kids learn to deal with and develop a positive attitude over time, in face of a rather fragile LEGO modeling environment, often crumbling LEGO houses and earthquake- prone LEGO cities! We continue to nurture and enforce that positive attitude – the willingness to apply oneself persistently, creatively, and keep charging ahead with new and renewed enthusiasm – in face of any problems and crisis situations.

Children develop and apply analytic reasoning and critical thinking, as their guiding principles in wake of every disaster or problem. They learn to consider –

Consequences of their own actions that they must consider at every decision point,
Economic parameters, that help them evaluate the pros and cons,
Lessons and learning from local history providing insight and context, and
Benefit to the larger society that they are trying to establish.

Guided by this knowledge and their critical thinking, the kids often chart their own course of action, with the help of their fellow kidizens, and come out feeling confident and empowered to be the architects of their own learning experience. The kids continually plough through various situations, tough and challenging, simple and complex, and come up with the most amazing creative solutions for their community, with each success building and reinforcing their creative confidence!

Mental Tenacity and Emotional Resilience
While also developing creative thinking and problem-solving

Parents ask us – what if the natural disaster that hits the city destroys my child’s house and he has difficulty coping with it? Well, we believe the child will and should learn to deal with it. He/she may get slightly upset at first, but then will come out smiling, having come up with creative new ways to build a better house than before, having learned the virtues of thinking through situations one can’t control or simply having won a friend who jumps in to help! In addition, the child is then armed with confidence and an ability to problem-solve when unexpected or unwanted situations present themselves.

It’s not that a child never gets upset, but when immersed in an environment where he/she sees everyone facing the same situations – with some kids jumping right back in to rectify them, some thinking creatively to come up with a different solution and some taking their time to accept it and then address it when they are ready – he/she is inspired to face and deal with whatever comes their way. The mental tenacity that some of the young (6-yr old) kidizens show when trying to put their LEGO creations together not once, but many times, only to see them all break down again, is unparalleled….while the building and the rebuilding, is simply worth the exercise!

Social-emotional Learning and Empathy
It’s all about communication, collaboration and teamwork!

Our kidizens are constantly realizing the virtues of good partnership and teamwork and even learning to take good decisions in a small group setting. They need to understand and accept other people’s differing viewpoints, speak up if they don’t agree, learn to muster confidence in presenting their dissenting point of view, despite resistance. The kids form a true community with friends and engaged stakeholders, with each child asserting his/her right as a ‘kidizen,’ while continually learning to hear, acknowledge and accept other kidizens’ ideas and thoughts.

More importantly, they learn to help and work with each other as it’s all towards the common objective of building the most wonderful city. This higher order goal helps resolve differences, nurtures collaborative thinking and builds a wonderful social learning environment.