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Scott’s Trip To China To Learn More About Teaching Non-Cognitive Skills

As I promised in yesterday’s blog, today I will elaborate on the second aspect of Scott’s trip to China. Yesterday, he spoke at Beijing Academy about the importance of young people becoming more educated in 21st century skills (also called “non-cognitive skills). Beijin Academy is the leading new education reform focused school in all of China. Scott was not the only speaker featured at this incredible event. The list included Richard Elmore from Harvard University (a leading expert in education policy and research), Ron Beghetto from the University of Connecticut (considered by some to be the leading expert in the US on creativity), Yong Zhao (professor at the University of Oregon, and the world’s leading expert on education in China), and education thought leaders from the UK and Australia. As Scott said to me when we were chatting this morning “it was pretty surreal to share a stage with them”. 


So how exactly does Scott fit into this group of professors and researchers? As many in our summer camp family know, many years ago Scott began conducting independent research about the skills that universities and employers most desired in their students and employees. This led him to his work with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. P21 brings together CEOs from companies like Apple, Cisco, LEGO and Microsoft, and the heads of major US colleges and universities, to develop viable solutions for decreasing the skills gap that these organizations see as an impediment to our young people successfully entering the work force. Scott’s work with P21 led him to recognize that the skills our young people so desperately need – skills like independence, critical thinking, resilience, creativity, adaptability, and effective communication – are, in fact, the skills that summer camps have been teaching young people for almost 150 years. It was this realization that led to Kenwood and Evergreen to adopt our focus on helping young people become proficient in these crucial non-cognitive skills.

But, again, why is Scott working with education experts in China on this topic? Before his trip I sat down with Scott and asked him just that question. Here’s what he said: 

This is my laboratory. This is my side project. This enables me to really identify the best practices for the teaching of these non-cognitive skills to children and young people. I plan to take everything that I learn in China and bring it back to K&E, where it allows us to do our work at an even deeper level. Our 7-week immersive experience is really teaching 21st century skills on the highest level. So that’s what this is doing. This is informing all of our work – and not only that, it is giving me a more global perspective, which frankly, is the world that our children are going to step into.
One of the questions that has really gone unanswered in my mind is “how can we help our kids become globally competent?” I ask because that is the world that they are going to live in. They are going to work on these platforms that are global. They are going to be working with people that grew up in entirely different cultures and they are going to have to effectively collaborate with them and communicate with them in a global marketplace. How does that happen? What does that look like? And when I’ve looked at what exists in the US, there are some high quality global high school programs and things like that, but they only scratch the surface. They check a couple of boxes. They are not the sort of deep, impactful programs that our society needs to have, that would make the cut for us to put into place at K&E. What my work in China is enabling us to do is bring that dimension into the outcomes that we will be creating. It also lets me identify an elite group of practitioners that I find from outside of the US and bring them into our camp and expose our kids to that group as well.
It also helps me bring in kids from a totally different culture, but know that they are going to be campers who thrive in our summer camp community. I hope that this will help give our campers an understanding of diversity in a meaningful way. When they get to high school maybe there will be an intentional student there from China and maybe they get to be friendly with them – but maybe not Most high schools are very large places. Truly living with somebody from a different culture for 7 weeks is an incredibly powerful growth experience. But I just don’t want to open the floodgates. We could have 1,000 kids from China – I want to make sure that the kids that are coming into our community are the right kids, the kids who already come from families that share some of our values, and that will help make our community a stronger, even more positive, even richer learning environment for our kids. And that they will be good friends with our campers long after their summer camp careers are over. That’s the beauty of this experience and opportunity.

So that’s more of what Scott’s doing in China right now. I’m curious to know your thoughts on all of this. Are you excited about any of this? Have you had any experience working or studying in China. Do you have insights that you could share with our camp community at large?

I’ll have more to share tomorrow on this topic, but I’d also love to know your thoughts. In the meantime, if you are curious about how we teach 21st century/non-cognitive skills at our traditional summer camp in NH, take a look at these recent profiles of some of our coaches and teachers:

Kenwood and Evergreen is a summer camp for boys and girls, ages 8-15. We help children develop their 21st century skills at camp to help them be tomorrow’s leaders and innovators. 

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