21st Century Work and a Mulberry Education by Muffie Wiebe Waterman, Ph.D.
“Thank you for sending me to Mulberry” my 17 year old whispered during a recent college open house. The school’s Provost was showcasing their ‘transformative education,’ explaining why their graduates have the skills needed for 21st century work and the ability to live a socially just life. She declared their school isn’t preparing students for jobs, but for the ability to pursue work in a changing world.
Perhaps you’ve encountered the idea that today’s kids will work in careers that haven’t even been created yet. I first heard it about 5 years ago. Think of fields like bioinformatics and GPS technology. Or jobs like video game designer and social media analyst. These simply didn’t exist a generation ago – or even a decade ago. This idea is popping up a lot on our college tours.
The work world that lies ahead is unknown and unpredictable. Our kids need an education that will prepare them for that world.
So if you haven’t yet asked yourself, it’s worth asking now – What work is in your child’s future? What kind of education will your child need?
The World Economic Forum 2015 report New Vision For Education opens with a statement about the changing nature of work.
Their analysis of the US economy from 1960-2009 shows that today and in the future the highest percentage of workplace tasks requires “non-routine interpersonal” skills, with “non routine analytical” skills a close second. Solving highly unstructured problems creatively, in collaboration with other people, will be the norm for future skilled work.
In 2010 IBM conducted an international survey of CEOs, surveying 1,500 business leaders across 33 industries in 60 countries. These CEOs identified accelerating complexity and interconnectedness as the greatest challenge facing 21st century businesses. Their solution to meeting this challenge? Creativity. They ranked it above all other factors including rigor, vision, or management skills.
• Creativity at Mulberry starts with blurring the boundaries between disciplines, because an integrated curriculum makes space for creative intellectual exploration.
• Creativity is found as creative expression, as when the 2nd and 3rd graders translate fairy tales into student-written puppet shows.
• Creativity emerges in problem solving and conflict resolution, as when the middle school students figure out how to have their age-appropriate conversations carefully and respectfully around the younger students.
• Creativity even arises in service projects, as when students were inspired by songwriter-activist Nimo Patel to launch a Kindness Project.
Mulberry School creativity is woven throughout the learning. Because here’s the deeper point – At Mulberry creativity is not the end goal. It’s a pathway to understanding yourself and what you have to offer the world. That’s why it’s so essential, in life and in future work.
Mulberry is preparing students for 21st Century work – by letting them explore who they are in collaboration with others.
Muffie Wiebe Waterman, Ph.D.
Dr. Waterman holds a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. For over 25 years she has worked to advance innovative education. At San Jose State University, Muffie taught courses in child development, cognitive development, and play and creativity for 8 years. Most recently she was Executive Director of 10 Books A Home, a nonprofit child-parent home tutoring program serving high poverty preschoolers and their families in East Palo Alto. Her career has included curriculum development in math and science, teacher professional development for preservice and inservice teachers, and classroom experience ranging from infant through 8th grade.
Muffie was the participating parent when her two children attended Mulberry. She served on the Mulberry Board of Trustees for 4 years.