No Problem! (how to raise an expert problem-solver)
This is a tale of two groups of educators in one city. You may have heard of them: Greenfields Academy in Avondale and The Wishcraft Workshop in Northcenter. One fine day, they discovered one another and quickly recognized that they have a lot in common, including the drive to change the world for the better by growing curious, independent citizens and problem-solvers. So they asked themselves, what’s so great about problems? Aren’t problems really problems? Aimee Skinner, M.Ed and Educational Consultant at Greenfields Academy shares: “A problem can be simply defined as something you do not immediately know how to solve. It means there is a gap between where you are currently standing and the path to a solution.”
Turns out, both groups believe that problems are really opportunities. Monika Wolbis, Wish Captain at The Wishcraft Workshop describes how “giving kids space to solve their own sticky situations allows them the space to develop skills that will benefit them and others throughout their lives.” And the opportunities don’t end with the initial problem. “Problem-solvers need to test out a variety of ideas, make mistakes along the way, and adjust their approach based on what they learn. They need to discuss their solutions with others and be comfortable taking risks. When students are confident problem-solvers, they are able to tackle problems independently rather than immediately turning to the nearest adult to ask what to do” says Aimee. Sounds good, right? Collaborative. Iterative. Resourceful. Independent.
Same is true for the grown-ups. Kristina Betke, Chief Making Officer, jokes that her job title could also be “Chief Mistakes Officer” as she has grown rapidly in her senior leadership role at The Wishcraft Workshop . Have you had to learn something new lately? Then you might understand how valuable being a resilient problem-solver is to your toolbox of life skills. Kristina believes “it’s a skill that shapes our character and thereby creates future opportunities.”
Candice Blansett-Cummins, Founder of The Wishcraft Workshop and The Yellow Canoe notes that “confident and curious problem-solvers are not afraid to fail because they know that ‘failure’ is just data in an experiment. And we need courageous problem-solvers in our complex world.”
Want to help your child become an expert problem-solver? Here are some strategies used at Greenfields Academy and The Wishcraft Workshop you can try at home:
• Model problem-solving— talk through problems and attempted solutions out loud when your children are around. Show them that you too make mistakes and have to think through ways to handle issues. While you’re at it, show them what a valuable skill it is to be able to admit when you were wrong.
• Ask thoughtful questions— When your child has a problem, rather than giving them the answers, ask them questions. This approach encourages logical thinking processes without ownership of the problem transferring to the parent. Demonstrate your confidence in their ability by resisting the urge to jump in right away.
• Encourage creative thinking throughout daily life— Solutions come from ideas and ideas require creativity. There are many ways to practice being creative including writing funny stories or poems, building with blocks, creating art from recycled materials and examining “what if” and “would you rather” scenarios.
Give your child the opportunity to build their own problem-solving muscles at one of our camps this summer:
Idea Playground Camp for kids entering Grades K-3 at The Wishcraft Workshop
Spoolhouse Rock Camp for kids entering Grades 3-7 at The Wishcraft Workshop
Young Entrepreneurs Camp for kids entering Grades 2-6 at Greenfields Academy
Creatively Conscious Camp Corps for kids entering Grades 7-10 at The Wishcraft Workshop
Co-authored by Aimee Skinner and Candice Blansett-Cummins