I was thinking of organising a competition for school children in London where they could compete on their ability to put forward their ideas and receive feedback for them.
I looked at the TED under 20 site for inspiration and watched a few of the talks that grabbed my attention. One was by a Kenyan boy explaining how he got a scholarship to one of the best schools in the country thanks to having invented a solar powered device to keep lions away from the family’s herd; another was by two Canadian school girls who found a way to break down some plastic materials with bacteria found in their local river; a third by a young man who built a nuclear fusion reactor in his garage when he was 14 years of age, but he insisted that the point of his talk was that children can change the world.
So, what do these young people have in common? The first two spent part of their talk discussing how they achieved what they did through mistakes. They did not get things right the first time but did not give up. The third did not specifically say so but he said he had started on the reactor when he was 12, so he clearly spent a couple of years on it and not just a few hours. The other thing that they all have in common is optimism. All of them think it is perfectly reasonable for a very young person to want to try and solve what most would consider an adult problem and that they have the ability to do so.
Unfortunately, not all children feel that way. The older they get the more they are taught that they cannot do things for themselves and to ask adults to show them how certain things are done. Through this style of education, their natural ingenuity and optimism is replaced by a fear of making mistakes which hinders their abilities and makes them insecure.
We at Role Models, want to counteract the effect of this prevalent form of education and help children rediscover their innate ability to think creatively and to stop seeing mistakes as anything more than what they are: just a bump in the road to what they are trying to achieve.
We do believe that children can change the world and instead of laughing at the thought, we want to encourage them to use all their abilities to do so.
-Hugo Shephard, Role Models Managing Director.
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