Pay It Forward Inspires Community Volunteering

“What’s the Big Idea?” Challenges Kids to Think Critically & Philosophically

Film Project Poses Intellectual Challenges to Energize the Mind

In order to raise children who will grow up to be critical thinkers, it is essential that we not only present them with intellectual challenges while they’re young, but – as the goal of “What’s the Big Idea?” states – we must also teach them the skills that they will need to tackle complex ideas. By exposing children to philosophical ideas and questions early in life, we create opportunities for them to learn how to think critically about major topics. And if we provide the proper support, we allow them to do this big thinking in a context where they’re supported throughout their learning.

A project of Mt. Holyoke College professor Tom Wartenberg and local filmmaker Julie Akeret, “What’s the Big Idea?” introduces middle school students (12-14yr) to philosophy through film. Pairing commentary with pertinent clips relating to the themes addressed by the project, “What’s the Big Idea?” takes common tween-age dilemmas and presents them to students in a way that not only allows them to learn how to handle such situations, but encourages them to think deeply about the larger ideas that lay behind common life experiences and situations. Clips from iconic movies including The Karate Kid, Mean Girls, Liar Liar, and even High School Musical help to teach students to think critically about peer pressure, bullying, lying, and friendship. The project even offers resources for developing discussions and activities after tackling each theme – resources that can easily be used by educators of all kinds.

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Hindsight Parenting: The Rise and Fall of The “Cool” Kid

Popularity is a Bad Word

Most of know the movie and how cool kids had quite the air about them. Of course it’s not restricted to girls. Popularity and ‘cool’ kids applies to boys too.

Dear Moms and Dads of Future Cool and Popular Kids,

I’ve seen your children—in my classroom, on the playground, at my daughters preschool. I’ve seen them shun the non-conformists, the quirky kids, the ones who may be poorer, or look different, or think different. I’ve seen them. I know them. I once wanted desperately to be them (and perhaps in retrospect WAS one of them.)

It must feel mighty comfortable there on the top. It might feel good to have the daughter who is the “it” girl or the son who’s the “it” guy. However, don’t get too comfy with your child’s top of the world status. Nope. I wouldn’t. Here’s the thing, I know something because of my mighty friend, Hindsight, that was just confirmed by scientist Joseph Allen. It might be great to be on top of the school food chain but that stature is short lived and quite often those kids deemed popular flounder as young adults because they don’t learn the highly necessary skill of learning to adapt to challenges and the constructs of real life. Read the rest of this entry »

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