- Parker Barry
The creative world has its eyes on Austin for two weeks in March for the South by Southwest Music Festival, the South by Southwest Film Festival, and South by Southwest Interactive — where Toca Boca kicked off the weekend at the SXSW Gaming Expo. But before those festivals, at SXSWedu the focus was on education and bringing out the natural creativity and curiosity in kids. Toca Magazine was there and learned about some hot topics in nurturing the best in kids. Making, moving, mindfulness and messing up were a few trends that caught our attention.
Schools and libraries are empowering kids to take risks and create, putting real tools of the trade into kids’ hands, giving them training in how to use them safely and setting them free to make. Kids use 3-D printers, all kinds of saws and laser cutters, sewing machines and more in the spaces that are set up on mobile carts, in corners of libraries or in kid-designed and built MakerSpaces. The maker movement illustrates one of our favorite topics of interest at Toca Magazine: learning through play.
Martin Keen spent his childhood tinkering and making, and he grew up to make shoes that are known for allowing people to get moving. He also learned in school how to sit still, which isn’t the best way to learn and isn’t best for healthy bodies, either. Now he’s making furniture that lets people move and stand while working. Other teachers use a walking classroom, delivering lessons to kids through podcasts while they walk. The idea here is that kids learn best when they’re doing something.
Goldie Hawn delivered the closing keynote for SXSWedu, highlighting the importance of teaching kids how their brains work and giving them the tools to identify and take control of their emotions. Her organization, the Hawn Foundation, teaches kids to give themselves “brain breaks” to reduce stress, develop resiliency and increase emotional self-control. By taking time to calm their brains, practice gratitude and participate in acts of kindness, kids develop compassion and empathy as well as their own resilience and self-confidence. Education, she said, is more than learning facts because, as Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education.”
An overarching theme of the week was the importance of failure. Sal Khan, the founder of Khan Academy, showed the marketing video that demonstrates learning through failure. Several speakers in various sessions mentioned the importance of process over product and making sure kids know that we learn through and from our mistakes. For creators, especially, where we usually show off only our best work in its final form, it’s important for kids to see and understand the process involved to get there. They have to know that failing doesn’t make them a failure but rather it’s a necessary step along the path to success. Play gives kids the chance to practice failing — and trying again — in a safe environment.
We’ll delve into these ideas more on Toca Magazine. What hot topics in kids and learning are you most interested in?