Young innovators hubs: the next vital step
The Alithia Learning Space will be the first Young Innovators Hub (YIH) offering creative, cultural and therapeutic workshops, as well as a process for collaborative innovation, where children are encouraged to instigate projects, develop ideas together and put them into action. Our hands-on activities meet objectives for creative, cultural, environmental, educational, STEAM, and holistic development.
The collaborative innovation process uses positive communication tools and methods for developing ideas and ensuring a safe, supportive environment, where children’s voices are heard, the neurones in their brain are firing, and their development and well being are nurtured.
Strategies for keeping young minds innovating and thinking creatively encompass children instigating projects; creative activities and movement; building a sense of trust, belonging and connection; a flexible, supportive, democratic environment; recognising ideas are often formed and discoveries (or connections) made through play and exploration; a sense of empowerment; time for reflection; fun cognitive processes; research; and much more.
“There are four prominent research studies* whose findings highlight the most important 21st century job skills needed for the future (and the future is now) of work and organizations. In sum, employees at all levels need to develop their innovation skills. These include competencies like creativity, critical thinking, communication, strategic thinking, and problem solving to find and develop creative solutions for the complex world we live in.”
– Darin J. Eich, Ph.D.
Innovation skills include:
- the ability to think laterally (creative and divergent thinking)
- the ability to see many possible answers to a question or many solutions for a problem
- the ability to develop these new ideas into something feasible
- critical thinking, problem solving and decision making
- keeping an open mind
- the ability to communicate and collaborate (in order for the innovation to be successful).
As well as being vital for the workplace, entrepreneurs and human progress, these innovation skills are vital on an individual level; they are integral for creating a fulfilling life. We need these skills (problem solving, good decision making, the ability to see many possibilities, effective communication) to ensure our personal life choices, and our way of being in the world, equate to happiness and positive engagement.
“Every meaningful element of human progress has happened only because humans have shared ideas with each other and then collaborated to turn those ideas into reality.”
– Chris Anderson, the curator of TED Talks
*1.The Bloomberg Job Skills Report; 2.World Economic Forum The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution; 3.IBM Global C-Suite Studies; 4.American Management Association Critical Skills Surveys
Young children who are entering their schooling years have minds that are able to think laterally better than any other age group. Their imaginations are powering. Doctor George Land, an author and scientist who founded an institute to study the enhancement of creative performance, conducted a 1968 study that showed the majority of children aged five scored at “genius level” for lateral thinking and this reduced significantly as he tested those same children five and 10 years later. He proved that “non-creative behavior is learned”.
Therefore, we need to create a unique environment that keeps a child’s mind open and their ability to think laterally alive. We need to create a nurturing, fun, inspiring environment. When we focus on developing these innovation skills, we are allowing the mind to reach its full potential, rather than suppressing parts. Furthermore, these early schooling years are when an individual’s perception of themselves in an academic and social setting is formed. A child’s internal voice is developing, creating the scaffolding for future learning. A sense of capability, self-assurance and a love of learning are integral to being open to innovation and open to building on ideas through enquiry and risk taking.
There are two main reason we lose the ability to think laterally and innovate as we grow:
Firstly, children learn that ideas are quickly shut down (even by the most well intended) and that it doesn’t feel encouraging on an emotional and social level. Our everyday way of communicating is to correct mistakes and to point out the flaws or obstacles in an idea (“that won’t work because…” or “yes, BUT”). People (both children and adults) will often laugh as a way of dismissing a seemingly impossible idea, unaware that to the child it was exciting and important. Regardless of the person’s intention in any of these scenarios, it teaches the child to filter or analyse their ideas before sharing them or allowing them to fully surface.
Secondly, the current education paradigm suggests that it is important to instil facts and knowledge into children, regardless of a child’s interest or level of engagement for that topic at that time. The traditional approach to education uses coercive measures of authority and reward to focus a child.
1.Communication: We need to ensure we have created a environment where people feel safe enough to make intellectual and creative leaps. A place where people trust that others will be open to their ideas as something to be developed, their voices will be heard and their thoughts will be valued. The collaborative innovation process** used by a Young Innovators Hub uses positive communication tools and methods to ensure this. For example, the listeners will suspend judgement, clarify their understanding, share what they like about it and help to create solutions for any obstacles, seeing the potential. Through creative-flow communication techniques we can build a trusting place where ideas can be developed, connections made and creative thinking flourishes. When mentors, parents and children are aware of interaction tools, it enables them to act compassionately and supportively, allowing a child’s mind to remain open and engaged and the neurons firing without fear. It is important to acknowledge the connections or deductions made for a fact (even if the outcome is incorrect) as this encourages further connections to be made. For more information and an example of these tools, please see here
2. Innovation requires a flexible, democratic learning space that:
• allows empowerment
• offers a high level of choice
• ensures freedom to innovate and develop when the impulse arises
• encourages creative activities
• is a supportive environment (created through communication tools and assistance with ideas)
• uses tools and games throughout the day to reconnect children with their creative brain (traditionally referred to as the right brain) and connect them to the answers they hold inside
• recognises that ideas are often formed and discoveries (or connections) made through play and exploration
3. Play: is an important component of maintaining a creative mind. Play that encourages construction, role modelling, creative pursuits and problem solving keep the lateral mind open and engaged. Read evidence here
- Morning gathering: Through play, interactive games and imaginative story we switch on brains and bodies, connect to the creative brain, get grounded and focused, connect to one another, the environment, cultural understandings, and within (ie. self reflection, which helps with emotional intelligence, respect and awareness, which are necessary when working collaboratively). This time is also used for idea development, brainstorming and planning the implementation of these idea for the day/week and to touch base on projects. This is when rules for the space can be created as it is a democratic environment. These conversations are facilitated in an easy, fun way using communication tools that aid the development of ideas through brainstorming and problem-solving processes in a way that innovative collaboration prospers and the mind is kept open with the neurons firing.
- Action for innovation: This is dependent on what stage the idea is at and what the project is. The idea might require problem-solving time, research or drafting, or there may be a need to learn about aspects through workshops, mentors, testing and discovery, or there may be a need to fundraise for material, or it may be time for hands-on building.
- Afternoon relaxation/reflection/meditation followed by journalling: (ideas can develop, creative writing or drawing, etc). Meditation and journalling has shown to be an effective way for people to access their full potential, regardless of whether they are athletes, creatives, or work in finance on Wall Street (http://www.joshwaitzkin.com/peak-performance-training/). Throughout the day children are continuously supported to problem solve through situations with the help of tools such as micro meditations to refocus, calm and see from another angle. Journals become a portfolio of a child’s learning journey and are a great tool for reflexive learning.
- Closing gatherings: sharing of stories (maybe something from their journal if they wish) and sharing reflections on the day, any problems that may have occurred, or projects being worked on (with space for problem solving and discussion). Reflecting on things learnt and obstacles overcome consolidates overall development. One of the tools from the collaborative innovation toolkit** includes: “Plan. Do. Review”. Plan an activity, do it and then give a headline to explain how that was. This constant feedback helps shape the space and the approach for individuals. This process applies to activities, idea development sessions, the day, the end of the week, and the overall space.
- High level of choice and following interests/inspirations: Freedom at any time of the day to work on an idea or follow creative outburst (or follow the need for movement, play and discovery) even when a group activity is on. Play and imagination are essential ingredients for development / innovation and are fully encouraged.
- Activities and Workshops throughout the day that inspire creativity and expose children to a variety of concepts and mentors: These workshops include STEAM, creative, cultural, environmental, philosophical, educational and holistic sessions. An important element is to incorporate therapeutic activities into the learning space, such as play therapy, interactive games, nature play, music, creative workshops and movement. Trauma can interfere with development (and therefore any of the steps required to innovate and live a fulfilling life) and so it is vital to incorporate activities that can assist this.
- A mixed-age setting: This allows individuals to develop in particular areas at their own pace (free from labels or competition) and be inspired by each other. It also encourages peer-to-peer learning and aids continuous academic, creative, social and emotional development.
Ideas brought to the Young Innovators Hub could be collaborative projects for the learning space (such as building a playground, fort or flying fox) or the invention of a whole new concept (such as the invention of the widget or the post-it note) that an individual would like to develop as a team, or improving an existing invention (such as the flow-bee-hive) or an idea that can help others in need (such as a campaign to provide water for a third-world community).
The development and implementation of an innovate idea leads to research, inquiry-based learning, hands-on learning and a rounded understanding of various topics. For example, Alithia has teamed up with an indigenous sustainable industrial designer to share her story and if it sparks interest, to run workshops on bio-mimicrisy. Say a child looks at the roots of a tree absorbing and holding water and it sparks the beginnings of an idea around osmosis. The process of “idea development” for this would include exploration into science and mathematics. Research into where this would be useful opens the doors to global living and geography; it may raise questions around why these places don't have access to facilities like Australia, which opens the door to history, commerce and globalisation. The innovation becomes the seed from which relevant and related topics grow, it allows for interdisciplinary understanding and creates context. From this seed a tree of stories will grow, branching out in all directions, fuelled by investigations and enquiry.
All of these skills listed come under the umbrella of “innovation skills”:
The Critical 4C Skills as defined by the American Management Association
Critical thinking and problem solving is defined by AMA as the ability to make decisions, solve problems and take action as appropriate.
Effective communication is defined by AMA as the ability to synthesize and transmit ideas in both written and oral formats.
Collaboration and team building is defined by AMA as the ability to work effectively with others, including those from diverse groups and those with opposing points of view.
Creativity and innovation is defined by AMA as the ability to see what’s NOT there and make something happen.
Top 4 skills from the World Economic Forum study which were
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
“Today, businesses in all industries must find new ways to innovate and reinvent themselves to survive in the digital economy… “Business leaders believe two out of five of the top-ranked companies in their industries won’t exist in the next five years, making innovation a matter of survival.” “
– Alex Goryachev.
The United Nations has declared that there needs to be a paradigm shift in our society to solve problems such as climate issues, social issues and the limits of natural resources. There is a vital need for people to view and see the world in a different way. To change our way of:
- thinking and
Alithia's approach and tools will develop open-minded, creative and analytical thinkers that tend to see the world in a different way to those traditionally educated and find answers where others couldn't.
Alithia will inspire impact innovations through discussions and exposure to the following topics:
- Local community level: Alithia will help build a sense of belonging through discussions of the issues our community might face and environmental issues of our area and beyond. Alithia will encourage innovations for change, to better the community, and to support it.
The United Nations Global Goals (formerly known as the Sustainable Development Goals)
The Alithia Learning Space will be the pilot for the first Young Innovator Hub. Similar to a demonstration school, this space will showcase the outcomes of the learning platform. It will be set on acreage and the activities will largely occur outdoors. The indoor space will be a large, cleared hall with room for movement and large-scale projects. This eco-friendly environment will encourage sustainable practices, a connection to country through indigenous perspectives and a sense of belonging by connecting to community. Alithia has teamed up with researchers to conduct longitudinal studies and an Educational Consultant who has worked with governments to help guide policy on education.
This approach keeps imagination and curiosity alive.
It is the answer for a successful future for all.
A Young Innovators Hub has the potential to make a big difference to many children, by supporting:
The impact of Collaborative Innovation processes in a learning environment
A pilot program in the UK revealed that the collaborative innovation and communication tools that form the foundation of a YIH successfully changed the culture of learning environments, taught "teachers" to become "facilitators", and had a large positive impact on schools, children's level of engagement, and the level of innovation in the classroom. Researched by the Open University.
How communication tools can be used to maintain lateral thinking
This article, written by the founder of Alithia, gives a concrete example of one of the communications tools that form a core element of a YIH. This article discusses the unconscious ramifications of our everyday communication and the impact it can have on lateral thinking skills and on overall development.
Press Release for the Pilot YIH Project Launching 2019: The Alithia Learning Space
The Alithia Learning Space will be the first Young Innovators Hub in the world, using collaborative innovation and communication techniques at the core of a flexible and holistic model that ensures children will be equipped with the skills required for today and the future.
The Learning Space: What's On Offer
We walk you through what's on offer in at the Alithia Learning Space (starting 2019). Get a feel for what the children will be experiencing.
Our workshop mentors come from all walks of life. They use positive communication techniques to build a space of trust and walk beside children in a discovery-based learning approach.
You don't need to live on the Mid North Coast to get involved with and support Alithia Learning! We need letters of support, patrons, and shares too.
Alithia Learning runs a range of child-led activities designed for 5 to 12 year-olds. The defining characteristics of our learning space are positive communication and holistic development.
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