Picture a classroom. In some increasingly modern schools, you might be surprised how things have changed.
Many schools still operate on the old models of textbooks and paper homework. But as we move forward into the future, some more innovative classrooms are adapting with the times.
More and more, educators are realizing that traditional curriculums don't always prepare kids for the challenges of the modern world.
Slowly but surely, classrooms are beginning to change. And the results are interesting, to say the least: Coding is becoming as important as calculus. Environmental justice, sustainability, and intersectional politics have started to be incorporated into history class. Many educators are now looking to update their teaching methods to compensate for how society is changing.
In other words: Innovation in education is the future. And schools are finding lots of ways to work it in.
Some schools have begun innovating their approach by assigning projects that tackle lessons from multiple subjects. Instead of doing math problems and writing biology reports, a teacher might ask kids to plan, design, and execute a sustainable vegetable garden, like at Hyde Leadership Charter School in the Bronx. As students measure out plots of land and pick out the optimal crops for their garden, they learn not just about algebra and biology, but also about nutrition, sustainability, and food justice — all pressing issues in the real world today.
But some educators still struggle with the reality that whatever hard skills they imbue, no matter how cutting-edge they seem at the time, they might be outdated by the time graduation rolls around. How do educators prepare kids to do well in a future that they can’t predict?
For many schools, the answer has been an unusual one: teach entrepreneurship.
You may think of entrepreneurship as the training that students need to open their own businesses, which isn't necessarily a goal all kids have. But entrepreneurship includes tons of individual lessons and life skills that will help kids adapt to changing environments in any industry.
One such curriculum, launched by the National Federation of Independent Business' Young Entrepreneur Foundation, is broken into three parts: foundations of business theory, developing business ideas, and the logistics of running a business. However, graduates of similar courses say it taught them much more than that.
"[It] taught me how to create something from nothing," says Anthony Halmon, a graduate of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship program. "I learned that I can create my own opportunities and I can be an innovator."
And when kids use their skills to start their own businesses, everyone benefits.
Though students don't have to go on to become startup founders, many want to do just that. A 2011 Gallup survey indicated that 45% of pre-college students polled said they planned to start their own business — a decision that has positive effects on the individual and on society as a whole.
This outside-the-box thinking taught in entrepreneurship classes has benefits, especially for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, where training in overcoming obstacles can benefit them as they’re often granted fewer opportunities than people from more affluent backgrounds.
It also shows promise when it comes to increasing social justice and stimulating lower-income economies, as high school graduates with entrepreneurship skills are more likely to find and take advantage of local business opportunities.
For those who become entrepreneurs, the flexibility that comes with creating one’s own business could have great implications for women and parents. Not only does an entrepreneurship class stand to benefit kids in the present, it could also equip them for brighter futures.
At schools already implementing entrepreneurship programs, the reviews are glowing.
Some schools might be hesitant to try out a pilot program in entrepreneurship, but the proof is in the positive results that early adopters are already beginning to see.
Kempsville High School in Virginia tried out an entrepreneurship academy, and students, parents, and teachers all agreed that it had positive outcomes for everyone involved, whether or not the kids intended to start a business.
“No matter what you do in life, you have to sell yourself,” academy leader Meghan Timlin told local newspaper The Virginia Pilot. “We’re going to give you that set of skills.”
It might be time for more schools to consider adding entrepreneurship to the course list.
It's become evident that there's really no way to predict what the world will look like even a few years down the line. If there's a subject that can teach kids how to create opportunity out of uncertainty, that's something worth exploring.
When we educate a class of innovators, we invigorate society with a whole generation of fresh ideas, plans, and solutions to problems. And that's something we can all look forward to.