Today’s Block Tower is Tomorrow’s Downtown High-Rise: 21st Century Skills Start Early

As our younger generations grow more adept at technological advancements, educators and employers are searching for the tools to both encourage and enhance these skills. Incorporating technology alone may miss key components of preparing a future workforce, bringing about a more recent focus on what are called 21st Century Skills, or abilities such as collaboration, creativity, problem solving, and communication.

At the elementary, middle, and high school level, programs that address the need for 21st Century Skills are emerging both nationwide and in Kansas, including the EPIC Program (Education Practice and Immersion for Credit) recently piloted by the Kansas Enrichment Network  http://www.kansasenrichment.net. In cooperation with after-school programs such as the Boys & Girls Club and The City, as well as municipal authorities, the EPIC pilot program gave at-risk students in Salina and Hutchinson experiential learning opportunities with local industry and business leaders, and focused on conscientiousness, positive self-evaluation, social skills, and cognitive processes. To adequately prepare for the future, young people need to be capable of integrating their technological and media savvy with equally important talents in teamwork and relationships.

When does this start? Ask anyone in the field of Early Childhood, and he or she will tell you it begins well before Kindergarten. The development of 21st Century Skills is the foundation of quality toddler and preschool classrooms, like those supported by the Cabinet. Teachers arrange environments with changing materials, unexpected methods, and room for flexibility and experimentation, all the while encouraging questions, wonder, and creativity. In every interaction that looks like basic play – taking turns, arguing over toys, negotiating rules of games – young children are practicing how to be a good co-worker, contribute to a team, listen to others’ ideas, and accomplish tasks together. Today’s block tower is tomorrow’s downtown high-rise! Kansas is looking toward a bright future, and the skills to get there are being cultivated far earlier than you might think.