This is where we share our thoughts and post ideas to share or shred. Share your knowledge, your thoughts, experiences and ideas with us and we’ll share them with others. Just a word of caution, this is run by an informal, ad hoc group of do-gooders who want you to do good too and we may not reply or post quickly. But we will when we can. Thanks.
There really is only one thing. And that is to let them pursue what they like the most.
That doesn’t mean letting kids play XBox for a week, nor does it mean encouraging your cousin Harv to Netflix-and-chill rather than going to work every day. What it does mean, though, is finding ways to let people do more of what matters to them, and less of what bores the hair off their legs. How many people have you met who absolutely hate their jobs? Bet you could name a couple. Maybe even fifty.
So many people end up in places / jobs / relationships they don’t like, or aren’t fulfilled by, or that frustrate the hell out of them. Reasonably few adults realize that they have the power to make changes to the status quo, and to adjust their life to bring more of what they want and less of what they don’t want. Consistently. Persistently. Until they get to exactly where they want to go. Most of them don’t believe that life actually works that way.
Life actually works that way.
The coolest employers are the ones who figure out how to get all their employees dialled into something they love doing. That’s where retention lies.
Let’s pan the camera for a moment over to a school — pick a school, almost any school — where hundreds of small human souls are pinned to desks for up to 75 minutes at a stretch, listening, reading or writing about things that may or may not matter to them, that may or may not bore them, and that may or may not frustrate them. A bell rings and they have to stop what they’re working on, move to another space, and start the process all over again. Another bell rings and they’re shunted into yet a different space to eat, whether they’re hungry or not.
We start kids off in life, largely, by feeding them straight into the same mindset we were just talking about. Because of our standardized approach to raising kids (school, and increasingly, organized activities), we teach them — as we ourselves learned — not to expect anything that’s personally relevant. And we certainly don’t become accustomed to asking for or creating anything different for ourselves.
There are an oddball few who do. We call them “entrepreneurs”. (Or marriage-leavers. Or activists. Or people who transition because they’ve spent years changing in the wrong locker room.) And for the most part, they scare the pants off most people. Because they dare to try something different — to try for something different. And when they succeed in knowing themselves well and knowing what they want, thereby creating success and happiness for themselves, we say, “That’s all well and good, but I can’t do that.”
And then we go back to our places / jobs / relationships that we don’t like, or aren’t fulfilled by, or that frustrate the hell out of us. We fail to realize that we have all the power we need right in our own hands. All it takes is for us to choose what we want more of.
That’s all. And you just keep doing it, at every opportunity. At every decision point in your day — and there are thousands — you choose the thing that feels right to you. Not the easy thing. The right thing.
It wakes you up.
Imagine if we could teach this habit to our kids? How much faster they would travel to the land of self-knowledge, self-assurance and feeling right within themselves? They would find their purpose much more quickly. Some of us are still struggling with our why in our 40s and 50s. I suspect Boomers never even got a chance at this kind of thinking, so they’re all but lost to the cause.
But the kids aren’t.
When we honour what lights them up, we do them a huge service. When we make space for them to dig around in that rich soil of personal curiosity, we’re building their faith in themselves as learners. When we help them out with their inquiries and connect them to other people who can help, we give them the satisfaction of building their networks. When we allow kids to explore what matters to them, they feel validated and seen — and that’s a powerful place to be.
Because people who feel good do good.
All that’s left is to get them practicing making those thousands of tiny decisions, every day, that lead them to a place of greater satisfaction.
Hitting the brakes on Summit at the Bay just two weeks before the event raised a few eyebrows. (No surprise there; it raised every damn hair on our necks.) But in the wake of The Reversal, we’re discovering something we never expected.
When your ninth-grader leaves her in-person interviews for a project until the last minute and then discovers that two of the people she needs to talk to are away on vacation, you let her learn from her mistake. She’s going to disappoint her group members, and she’s going to disappoint herself. And she’s probably not going to make the same mistake twice.
Sometimes the crash-and-burn is necessary to lock in the learning.
There are times, though, when you need to take action before the crash. You know: slam on the brakes, pull a quick deke — whatever it takes to avoid plowing into the moose.
The core team at Rethink Thinking recently had our own adventurous experience with hitting the brakes. Two weeks before Summit at the Bay was scheduled to kick off on November 18/19, we pulled back. Even though Jeff Hopkins, principal of the Pacific School for Innovation and Inquiry was on deck to lead these kids in discovering their passions through rich, mind-blowing inquiry projects, and even though we had dozens of youth coming to Victoria from interior BC, we pulled back. Even though we had supporters at our backs and sponsors at our sides and a wicked venue and food trucks and snacks and speakers and disco lights and a DJ...
We pulled back.
Because every time we turned around, we met another student or parent or teacher or vice-principal who had no idea this conversation was even happening in Victoria, let alone a whole event. And there was just too much risk that we would miss the kids who would truly flourish as a result of an engaging, inspiring and totally freeing event like Summit.
So we took a breath. And we pulled it alllll back.
Because we were learning as we went. We realized we needed a lot more runway to get 500 bums into those seats. We needed more than two months — and more horsepower than the four of us could manage on our own.
Growing pains. (Because baby, we be growin’.)
But pulling back was hard. Some people squealed, but thankfully — and surprisingly — the majority of them threw their fists in the air, telling us the new date means they can actually dial more kids into Summit. Get them pumped, primed, and stoked up for this exclusive weekend of thinking big. We’re already getting signal back from the community that more kids in other parts of BC want to be there. Other not-for-profit organizations are approaching us to partner in creating an experience that’s never to be forgotten.
It’s something we never expected. We thought we’d have to hustle double-hard to convince people of our legitimacy, but instead, we’ve sold more tickets, brought more partners on board, and begun carving a deeper strategic path.
Because people get it. They get what we’re doing. And they want to see it grow.
We’re so excited.
The community wants this to go off, and it wants it to go off BIG. Our community wants Rethink to knock this one out of the park and into the next time zone. Because we’re all working together to make a statement here: that our kids need different, broader, real-world, human skills to navigate a future that none of us can even fathom.
Call them 21st century skills.
So the big festivus that was set to take place on the weekend of November 18/19 has been moved to April 21/22. We’re still creating all the great experiences like before (the food trucks, the inquiry dive, the speakers, the entertainment . . . and the all-holy holi powder throw, natch). There will undoubtedly be even more on offer by the time Summit arrives.
And hey, we’re thrilled to still be throwing the Village Bash on Friday November 17. So if you haven’t got your tickets yet, get in there! They’re free of charge; the cheese n’ wine is on us! And so are the great conversations you’ll listen in on. Jeff Hopkins will be there, too, to run the crowd through a real-time inquiry so you can see what the kids get to experience when they attend Summit. We’ve got business owners, teachers, professors, deans, social services providers, principals, counsellors and social innovators coming that night. We’d love to see you there.
In the months leading up to Summit at the Bay, we’ll be spreading the word far and wide about those 21st century skills.
At the first annual Rethink Summit in a cold and dusty warehouse, a community of youth flourished. Minds opened. Synergy sparked. And the world experienced a positive new change.
What do you do if your peers don’t care about politics?
You wake them up, that’s what.
That’s exactly what several high school students decided to do when they attended Summit at the Pier in 2016. Over the course of the two-day inquiry event, a group of politically inclined youth came together to talk and share ideas — and to figure out a way to get their agemates more involved in the way societal decisions are made. The group discussed their concerns about low voter turnout among youth, and followed a line of inquiry with the goal of solving the problem by engaging their peers more deeply in politics.
“In the BC curriculum, there is only one required unit on political structure, platforms, elections and civics,” explains YPC cofounder Magritte Gordaneer. “We strongly believe having youth engaging in politics while still in high school is extremely important in setting the stage for them to be engaged in the political process post-graduation, and when voting.”
With chapters at Esquimalt High and Victor Brodeur, YPC meets weekly and follows a student-led discussion format. Run for youth by youth and founded on the model of educating through discussion, the discourse is passionate yet respectful. “One of the organization’s core values is the acknowledgment of diverse political views, beliefs and opinions,” says Magritte. “This allows passion to be expressed within debates, and a variety of perspectives to be thoroughly explored.”
It’s those passionate discussions that YPC cofounder Mayabelle [last name kept private] loves so much. “I admire the confidence and the fearlessness that is expressed by my peers during these discussions and debates,” she says. “Knowledge spewing back and forth, zip spit fire, while others listen, understand, and formulate.”
We at Rethink Thinking know that education is a vehicle for societal change. It’s why we’re driving change through discussion, inquiry, collaboration, self-expression and a commitment to being awake at the wheel.
And that’s exactly the stance YPC cofounder Lia Holla takes. “When youth are more informed and politics is more [a part] of normalized conversation, they most often feel more of a responsibility to care and actively engage in the political process.”
It’s a pretty inspiring result from a weekend of connecting, questioning and thinking of ways to make a positive impact in the world. “Watching our simple idea turn into a widespread organization in only a year, has been energizing and inspiring,” says Lia. “I am excited to watch YPC continue to grow.”
Youth Political Commons (YPC) is holding its first annual conference at Esquimalt Secondary on November 20, in the library. Free of charge and open to interested teens, the night promises engaging conversation around international politics, current events and issues that are relevant to today’s youth.
In fact, he made a whole TED Talk called “Confessions of a Depressed Comic” that snagged over a million views in just a few weeks. He’s spoken at Yale and Harvard and MIT; he’s written a book about depression; he’s even shot the breeze about mental health with Fortune 500 companies. Him and Mark Zuckerberg? Yeah, they made the list of the “Most Influential Millennials of the World.”
He’s Kevin Breel. He’s changing the way we talk about mental health. And he’s kicking things off for Summit this year.
Kevin is a 23-year-old writer, comedian and activist for mental health. At four million views and counting, his “Confessions of a Depressed Comic” TED talk now stands as one of the most watched TED Talks ever, alongside the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and last year's Summit keynote speaker, Sir Ken Robinson. Kevin talks openly and honestly about what life is like with depression as your constant companion, giving a real face to the trials of mental health. He's also really funny. And warm. And honest.
Google him (or just click here: www.kevinbreel.com). Be sure to watch Kevin’s promo video on his site. Also, check out his TED Talk, “Confessions of a Depressed Comic”. And if you’re feeling like all that screen time is bumming you out (and you know it does), go get Boy Meets Depression from the library or bookstore.
Things are getting pretty exciting around here as we put all the pieces in place for Summit. This year’s event — Summit at the Bay — marks the second annual youth inquiry-based summit, the only one of its kind in Canada. It’s whole bunch of things all wrapped together: a huge party, a learning fest, a celebration of human beings’ innate curiosity, and a place for youth to gather with other people who ‘speak their language’. This is an event for the deeply inquisitive.
Which is exactly why we’re clear on the nature of Summit: it’s an inquiry-based exploration event. Sure, your kids will be listening to world-class speakers and kicking out the jams at the Saturday night dance party, but the real driver behind Summit is to create a space where inquisitive youth can dive deep into the things that interest them. They don’t often get a chance to do this when they’re at school; schedules keep them moving from class to class; teaching happens in discrete blocks; everyone in their cohort tends to be the same age; the content is largely the same for everyone; and there’s no guarantee that each child will have a chance to explore what matters most to them.
Summit shakes the jar, freeing kids to ask the questions they want to ask, and to take an inquiry approach as they travel the path toward the knowledge they’re seeking. At Summit, youth form diverse groups based on their interests and, using problem-based inquiry principles, work toward a common goal. They get clear on what they want to do with their project. They get clear on why it’s important to them. And then they work with each other and with adult mentors to create an action plan to take them there. Ideas flow. Age becomes irrelevant. Thinking moves outside the box. Time stretches, allowing for deeper exploration. And every young person in the space is deeply engaged, because they’re exploring what matters to them.
This is why of Summit: Because it’s the way we’re built to learn. When we follow our own interests and drive our own inquiries, we can’t help but expand our understanding. And learning becomes fun. Watch a baby learn to walk. That baby isn’t going to sit still and watch a grownup demonstrate the right motions, then participate in a drill activity to practice the skill. That baby figures it out by taking a chance and trying it out. She leans on people who have gone before, and seeks their support. She problem solves. When an action doesn’t work, she tries something else. She perseveres. And she loves every second of it, because it’s engaging, it’s fun, and most importantly, it’s self-directed. That baby is choosing for herself when it’s right to start trying to walk, and how to go about it. There is no stronger motivation than an intrinsic desire to do something. It’s the sole driver of deep learning.
Although we’ll admit, the Saturday night dance party is kind of fun, too.
“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” -- Sir Ken Robinson, in The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything
Last year 250 youth participated in Summit at the Pier. But the lineup was around the corner, and a lot of kids who wanted tickets couldn’t get them. So this year we doubled our numbers, to 500. Because we see that kids get it. They understand what education experts like John Abbott and Sir Ken Robinson and Jeff Hopkins
have long known: that there are other, better ways to learn. That there are ideas that demand to be explored. That there are people out there who can help you get to where you want to go.
We’re seeing a serious hunger for change in our world. Parents, many of whom struggle with their own difficulty adapting to a fast-moving society, want to send their kids into adulthood with the tools and skills to cope well with the ever-increasing demands of life. Change is coming faster than ever before, and none of us can stay on top of it all. Experts widely acknowledge our kids will be doing jobs that nobody’s ever imagined before. In his book The Singularity is Near, computer scientist and futurist Ray Kurzweil wrote that the future will be “far more surprising than most people realize, because few observers have truly internalized the implications of the fact that the rate of change itself is accelerating.”
At Rethink Thinking, we’re internalizing the implications. Here’s what we know: To prepare kids well, we need to expand beyond what they’re getting in school, where — for all the system’s best efforts to reform itself — conformity, standardization, and achievement within a very narrow skill-set are still the gold standard. Instead, young people need to be able to think for themselves, follow what fascinates them, identify problems and try out solutions, work well with other people, and take care of their minds so that they move through their day in a place of optimism and resilience.
Sounds like a good bunch of skills to equip our kids with, right?
Summit is where it starts.
"Both positive and negative ways of thinking are important in the right situation, but all too often schools emphasize critical thinking and following orders rather than creative thinking and learning new stuff. The result is that children rank the appeal of going to school just slightly above going to the dentist. In the modern world, I believe we have finally arrived at an era in which more creative thinking, less rote following of orders—and yes, even more enjoyment—will succeed better." -- Martin Seligman, PhD, in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
This drop-in creative youth day is for dreaming, designing, debating, and discovering. We invite you to imagine, collaborate and create the kinds of spaces you find best to learn, hang out, or create in. What you come up with is completely up to you.
There will be facilitators to guide and materials to use for prototyping your ideas in order to put them out into the world. You will have space at the Royal BC Museum to enjoy a creative design thinking day with your friends and the new people you meet.
10am: Setting Creative Intentions
10:15: "How Might We"
11:00: Ideation and Collaboration
Noon: Lunch and Performances (see below)
12:45: Messy Making Stage
1:45: Sharing Out
Magicians, musicians and poets will be performing throughout the day, specifically during lunch, to inspire you to think outside the box and put your ideas into action.
Replenish your energy with quick access to food trucks around back, the museum's indoor food court, or your own packed in food.
This is presented in conjunction with the Royal BC Museum and the design thinking is facilitated by Chris O'Connor. We need the help of creative youth to create the spaces for themselves and peers, in order for them to better solve the even bigger challenges of today.
Location: BC Museum's Learning Centre (maker space around the back)
As you may have heard, we have Sir Ken Robinson as the keynote speaker at our Rethink Thinking - Summit at the Pier event. The response from professionals, teachers, parents and others was an overwhelming curiosity and need to see Ken too - to say the least.
Since he's here in Victoria, we thought, "Why not organize a brunch where people can rub elbows with him and talk creativity, education, and what it takes for transformation?"
He is the world's leading advisor on education transformation after all.
So, we're doing it! You can enjoy a tasty brunch in Victoria's most prestigious hotel, next to one of the world's most influential leading advisors on education. Sign up for a chance in a lifetime to get direct answers from Sir Ken himself.
One of our own, Jeff Hopkins (founder of the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry), will facilitate an informal fireside chat with Sir Ken. There will be plenty of opportunity to join the conversation, as this will be an interactive and intimate gathering. And you will have time for networking with like-minded individuals to expand who you know.
After Ken does his keynote address at the youth Summit, he will be speedily brought over to the Fairmont Empress - it is the Empress Hotel so you know the food will be incredible. You may want to soak up what he says. Or, maybe you have questions you want answers to. Either way, you will be at one of Victoria's premier gatherings.
Did you know Sir Ken has been knighted by the Queen of England? AND that two members from the Royal Family, Will and Kate, will be touring the west coast on Oct 1st too?
Once it was discovered that Will and Kate were in town, we extended them a formal invite to attend the brunch. Maybe they can catch up with one of their Knights. Now, this is super crazy but if they have time to visit, you will also get to meet Will and Kate.
That would be a super bonus if Will and Kate attend the Brunch with Ken, wouldn't it?
You have expertise to give from years of hard work. You feel that it's time to give back to the community. You want to see future generations learn from your mistakes.
It takes someone special to want to give back in this way. And you may be one of those people.
Or, maybe you want to facilitate because you'd get to watch the international speakers attending. You would be inspired by either of our speakers.
Taking part in the Summit at the Pier means you get to watch Sir Ken Robinson and Jason Roberts present on creativity, transformation, and community. A chance of a lifetime to watch these two gents. In exchange, you attend the event to support the inquiry process along with the 500 teens by fostering amazing and unique ideas.