Every minute of every day, each of us is faced with an expanse of problems that require our attention, ranging from very simple problems such as what time to set your alarm clock in the morning, to large, wicked problems like natural disasters related to climate change. The World Economic Forum has identified complex problem solving as one of the top ten in-demand skills that employers are currently looking for and will continue to grow in importance in the years ahead.
With this in mind, Roycemore’s Portrait of a Graduate has prioritized Globally Focused Problem Solving as a key competency under the tenet of Citizenship. As students progress from Early Childhood to Upper School, they acquire knowledge and understanding of the world around them, gaining global competencies related to humanity and the environment. Leveraging their cultural humility and appreciation for diverse perspectives, students learn that in order to solve the most complex challenges of our world, they must begin with respect for themselves, each other, and the environment. They learn about their relationship with the air, land, food, energy, water and ecosystems. They understand society’s impact on the world including population growth, population development, and resource consumption. With their knowledge and perspective, students then have opportunities to engage in real-world problem solving. Using a design-thinking approach, students are able to recognize their own agency to design innovative new approaches that inspire action for real change.
Globally focused problem solving is supported throughout the curriculum in an interdisciplinary way. Across all grades and divisions students engage in conversations about both local and global events. In the Lower School, integrated units, such as the second grade unit on the rainforest, open up conversations about deforestation. A far-away place like Brazil is made closer as students become informed consumers. A homework assignment, for example, is to go to the grocery and identify rainforest products. Students then research ways that companies have adopted corporate policies that are both earth and human friendly. They learn that even though they are young, their choices can have a profound impact on the rainforest animals that they study.
Each year in Middle School, students have the opportunity to work on problems that they are concerned about through their chosen Personal Passion Project (P3). The P3 program continues teaching the Design Thinking complex problem solving approach that Lower School students were exposed to, but is now focused on a problem of the student’s own choosing. Students further engage in real-world problem solving across the curriculum whether it is through the globally based Humanities curriculum where students study the ancient civilizations of China, Egypt, and Sudan but relate the history back to current issues countries are facing. Or perhaps in science class where students work on projects that address real world problems and identify possible solutions to global issues such as climate change and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Students enjoy engaging in conversation and integrating their opinions on what’s happening around the world with their classmates, and they also participate in “mystery Zooms” where they connect with a classroom in another part of the country or the world. As Humanities Teacher Amy Milner says, “It reminds us that our reality is not the only reality. Furthermore, we have to work with another classroom to future out where they are and to help them figure out where we are.”
As International Family Liaison and Upper School teacher, John Trowbridge shares, “The more students can understand about other cultures, world views, and ways of looking at the world, the more they can begin to articulate solutions to problems that take into account the perspectives of peoples all over the world.” For example, in Katie Carson’s math classes students have the opportunity to explore global population problems. They learn what makes data valid and reliable, and how to read graphs to help improve their understanding of global problems. In Upper School science classes, students engage in real world problem solving on topics of energy, natural resources and sustainable design. Chemistry students learn chemistry-related causes of issues and identify possible solutions on topics as varied as the Flint water crisis, ocean acidification, and the Apollo 13 explosion. In AP Biology students engage in many activities related to elephant and rhino poaching using DNA tech to track poachers, create hybrid embryos to preserve species and more. Even in college counseling, students are encouraged to explore extracurricular pursuits, or independent projects for the January Short Term (JST) that address global issues. Some examples include sustainability, social justice, or health awareness. World language courses naturally lend themselves to global perspectives and problem solving. “My goal is to help my students expand their horizons and look beyond their zone of familiarity and comfort,” says Spanish teacher, Jennifer Sommers.
According to the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), “Problem solving is one of the key competencies humans need in a world full of changes, uncertainty and surprise. It is needed in all those situations where we have no routine response at hand. Problem solving requires the intelligent exploration of the world around us, it requires strategies for efficient knowledge acquisition about unknown situations, and it requires creative application of the knowledge available or that can be gathered during the process.” The adoption of Globally Focused Problem Solving in Roycemore’s Portrait of a Graduate will prepare our graduates to become responsible citizens, inspired scholars, and compassionate leaders to create a just and sustainable world.
In partnership for the education of your children,
Adrianne Finley Odell
Head of School