Let kids guide you into the future

Adults should listen to us, because we will be living in the future longer than them.

This is one of the statements made by elementary school pupils in the Dutch city of Breda. And who could argue with it? Listening to kids can really help us all to look at the future in unexpected ways.

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Recently Teach the Future joined forces in the Netherlands with creative incubator PakhuisB and set-up an educational package for elementary school teachers. Within a timeframe of 6 weeks the teachers engaged their pupils actively in exploring their feelings and visions on the future. The goal was for pupils to experience the influence they have on the future and to become active in creating their preferred one. With various tools (such as card games, sketching & drawing and group workshops) the pupils were inspired and challenged to play with their perspectives on the future.

This class program elicited many interesting thoughts and feelings amongst youngsters. Such as: “When I think about the future I feel a little anxious because I don’t know what will happen and at the same time excited to try out new things in the future.” Or: “When I grow up I want to be an archaeologist. I can set goals in the present to strive for this dream and realise it in the future.”

Watch a ten-minute compilation (in Dutch) with many more quotes and reactions of kids about future related topics and get inspired! 

I feel that it would be better if people always have a spare job, in case they lose the one they have currently.

In addition, Teach the Future & PakhuisB, in cooperation with the TrendRede team, also organised a ‘KinderTrendRede’ in Breda. This is an event where a panel of selected pupils of various Breda based schools present the future visions of all schools combined to the citizens and deputies of the municipality of Breda. This future pupil council shows what kind of future they would want to live in. Advice included topics like deregulation to decreasing loneliness amongst elderly people, a changing job market to climate awareness.

I think the municipality should award people who are active in preserving nature. Handing out prices will stimulate more people in our city to help out nature.

Read the full content of the pupils’ future visions over here. Watch the aftermovie of this event (in Dutch) below and the full video of the TrendRede (in Dutch) over here.

Want to organise similar lessons or event in your city or country? Please contact Erica Bol for more information: Erica [@] teachthefuture.org

// Text by Els Dragt

Peter Bishop on
Facebook Live March 28
with Rachel Calderon
and Dr. Nilda Perez

The founder of Teach the Future, Dr. Peter Bishop, will be interviewed live on Facebook at 8 pm (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. Everyone is encouraged to join the conversation and submit questions and suggestions. 

Dr. Nilda Perez and her co-host Rachel Calderon will interview Peter for their Foresight Strategies Group. The topic will be "Teaching the Future: Is This Possible?" and we'll discuss how it is critical to empower young people by showing them how to anticipate a range of possibilities and to influence the course of events. 

Join us 8 pm (Eastern) on Wednesday, March 28 for a 30-minute program at https://www.facebook.com/drnildaperezfanpage. We look forward to your participation in the program. If you miss it, just come back to play the archived show later. 




New Futures Program for Elementary Students in Breda, Netherlands

 Erica Bol leads elementary students in an exercise developed by Teach The Future. 

Erica Bol leads elementary students in an exercise developed by Teach The Future. 

In the Dutch city of Gemeente Breda, ambassadors of Teach the Future joined forces with creative incubator PakhuisB and set-up an educational package for elementary school teachers.

Within a timeframe of 6 weeks, teachers can engage their pupils actively in thinking about their feelings and visions of the future. This approach inspires pupils to take an active part in creating their preferred future. Check out video footage of a session over here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist…

In addition, Teach the Future & PakhuisB, inspired by and in cooperation with the Trendrede team, also organized a ‘KinderTrendRede’ in Breda. This is an event where a panel of selected pupils of various Breda based schools will present the future visions of all schools combined to the citizens of Breda. These pupils will show Breda what kind of future they want to live in.

Want to organize lessons or a similar event in your city or country?
Please contact Erica Bol for more information: Erica@teachthefuture.org

 Dutch children share their ideas from an exercise by Teach The Future.

Dutch children share their ideas from an exercise by Teach The Future.

Lesson of the Month: An Educator's Guide for Realistic and Creative Strategies for Thinking about the Future

Even if you just need to teach your associates a more positive way to think about the future and how we can influence it, this guide is easy to read and use. If you need a low-cost activity to pursue in a classroom, it's wonderful. 

Margo Greenwood:

By connecting with ideas about the future, we have an opportunity to purposely navigate between anxiety and apathy, to imagine and design new futures. So, how do we collectively reclaim discussions of the future? 

Download your copy here: https://library.teachthefuture.org/product/an-educators-guide-realistic-and-creative-tools-for-thinking-about-the-future/

Teach The Future energizes the Futurists in Brisbane

Teach the Future founder Peter Bishop travelled to Brisbane, Australia during the week of October 23 to hold the first Teach the Future meeting in the Australasian region. The three-hour meeting was held on Thu, Oct 26, the day before the APF Block the Future conference.

This meeting attracted twenty-five foresight professionals and others from Australia and New Zealand. Ten or so others said they wanted to be there, but couldn’t. After introductions, Peter made the point that Teach the Future was “standing on the shoulders of giants,” many of whom taught, published and practiced in the region. He then shared the history of Teach the Future going back to 2010 as well as its plans for this year, following a summer of piloting teacher workshops and student camps in Texas.

Peter hopes the APF participants and others will sort themselves into two groups. with one actively teaching "futures thinking" in Australasian schools, and the other group supporting them in many other ways. Teach the Future already has a presence in Texas and California, and a very active node in the Netherlands (thanks to APF member Erica Bol).  Peter hopes that the Australasian will become the next center of activity. 

Anyone who has questions or wishes to join the group can contact Peter at peter@teachthefuture.org until a local leadership team is established.

Report from the Houston Summer of Futures

From Peter Bishop: 

I’m standing in front of Quail Valley Middle School on a warm July morning watching dozens of cars turn into the school. Each vehicle is bringing a middle school student to the Houston Summer of Futures, a futures camp created by Teach the Future. The Houston Summer is the first major initiative in partnership with school districts around Houston and Dallas.

Teach the Future has been operating officially for two and half years, and informally for almost 10. StudentThe first version was based at the University of Houston and offered five teacher workshops and one summer camp around 2010. The current version began in 2013 when I retired from the University and more specifically when Teach the Future, Inc. was formed in January 2015. Since then, Teach the Future raised money through crowd funding to pay teachers to build a Library of materials for teaching the future.  

Another group of donors contributed money this year to develop The Futures Thinking Playbook for middle school students, which is now being finalized by Katie King and Julia Rose West. The book contains a coherent process, appropriate for middle school students, for choosing a topic to investigate, doing research on trends in that topic, and writing creative stories about the expected future and about a ‘What if?’ future that could happen instead. The book is the basis for the four-day summer camp. The teacher-facilitators for the camps provided invaluable feedback for the book which will be available for sale in the Fall.

The partnership with the three school districts began with a day-long teacher workshop on tools and techniques for teaching the future in their classes. A subset of those teachers took two additional days of training to learn to facilitate the four-day summer camp. In total, 185 teachers took the one-day course; 18 teachers took the facilitation training, and 12 of them facilitated two camps that served 160 middle school students. In fact, the facilitators and administrators involved in the camps are asking for more discussions about how they can adapt and use this material in their regular curriculum.

Evaluations conducted at the end of each segment showed that teachers and students were very glad to have taken the training and attended the summer camp. All the comments were good. Here are few selected ones: 

  • Futures thinking teaches learners to more readily accept differences of opinion…and perspectives, and be able to communicate and thoughtfully debate these divergent outcomes amongst themselves and their peers...
  • The most rewarding training I have honestly been to. I have received activities and items I can use in my class for years to come.
  • Teach the Future has given me great materials to use in my class throughout the year. The material can be used in any subject or grade level.
  • Love the design of the day! I would also "advertise" this as giving educators tools that they can use over and over with GT learners as they teach for depth and complexity.

Students echoed the teachers’ comments. The activities they liked best were researching their topic, asking “what if?” questions, writing creative stories, and imagining themselves as superheroes who solve major problems in the future.

  • Students also summarized what they learned in the form of several fundamental truths –
  • I need to follow my future or the future I want.  
  • Every choice you make changes the future.
  • All things have positive and negative effects.
  • I will always remember the story that I wrote with the drawings.
  • It is good to look at things using two perspectives because the future could play out many different ways.

So Teach the Future now has a portfolio of proven products and services that districts and teachers can use to introduce futures thinking to their classes and schools. And we will continue to develop workshops and materials to use with K-12 learners.

But of course, we did not do this by ourselves. So our thanks to the 2015 donors who helped us build the Library and to this year’s donors who contributed the money to write the book. Thanks also to the team who made the Houston Summer of Futures successful:  

  • Dr. Lue Bishop who developed and taught the one-day teacher workshop,
  • Katie King and Julia Rose West who wrote and designed a rigorous, yet friendly approach to the future which Katie turned into an outstanding training session for camp facilitators,
  • Sandy Damashek who contributed her expertise in children’s media, and Sarah Rebar who crafted outstanding illustrations.

And most of all, our deepest thanks to the district administrators and teachers at Fort Bend, Spring Branch and Coppell Independent School Districts who took the risk to partner with us to bring the future to their teachers and students: You are all pioneers of change, and you have our deepest respect and gratitude.


The Summer of Futures

To help teenagers think more effectively about the future when making decisions, Teach The Future has launched the Summer of Futures for high-school students. This program has three phases:

  1. Starting now, administrators can schedule a 6-hour course for teachers of GT (Gifted and Talented) students. All participants learn how to integrate a lesson on ‘futures thinking’ into their classes, whatever the subject. 
  2. After completing the 6-hour course, teachers may sign up for a 2-day workshop which prepares them to conduct a 5-day student workshop. Teachers will be paid for their time, certified for “Futures Thinking” instruction, and eligible to work in the Summer of Futures program. 
  3. During the summer, high-school students will gather in our 5-day workshops to learn how to think about different ways the future could unfold as well as their possible roles. Students will be able to select topics and issues which they see as important to their future. 

Want to participate? Know someone who should? We have brochures and flyers and entry forms. Just contact Peter Bishop, peter@teachthefuture.org. 

Who Taught the Future in 2016?

Last month, we sent out a survey to everyone who downloaded materials from Teach the Future's library last year. We wanted to understand what worked for these earliest adopters and what we can do better in the future. The respondents were split about 50/50 between higher education and K-12, and about two-thirds of them were teachers or instructors.

What did we learn from them? Let's start with the good news:

About two-thirds of respondents said they were "extremely" or "very" satisfied with the material they downloaded. No one said they were unsatisfied.

Ninety percent of respondents said they were likely to use the material again or teach other lessons about the future.

Those data points are uplifting, but they only represent those respondents who had used the materials they downloaded. About half of respondents had downloaded but not yet used the material with their students. We also learned that nearly half of those who had used the materials said they modified them "moderately" or "significantly." 

Neither of those points were surprising nor did we feel that they reflected poorly on Teach the Future. I can confirm that when I was in the classroom, I downloaded many materials that I found interesting but never got around to using. I also very rarely used online materials "as-is"; my students and teaching style were my own, and my lessons and units needed to reflect them. 

Nonetheless, those responses reflect a need. Most educators we come across "get" why teaching the future could be valuable. They find the concept intriguing and recognize the disservice we're doing to young people by omitting the future from classrooms. Still, few teachers make the leap to actually teaching the future. That's partly due to time constraints, which we will never overcome, but it's also because teachers themselves were never trained to think this way nor to introduce these concepts to their students.

That's why we're focusing in 2017 on teacher professional development and support. That's always been part of our plan, and we individually supported several teachers last year. But we are buckling down on that effort this year with the hope that we can make educators more comfortable with the concepts and the material to the point that they don't need us or even our Library anymore. We envision a community of educators who can incorporate futures thinking into any subject and are committed to doing so.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the survey. If you know of a school or group of educators who want to learn how to teach the future, or if you want to sponsor educators to participate in this professional development, get in touch.

Teach the Future with Imagine FutureEd Student Competition

When I was in the classroom, the best days were when a unit both sparked my students’ interest and helped them see the world or themselves in a new way. The first time I taught a future-focused unit, I found a perfect mix of both.

They read future oriented-novels, compared them with articles about change happening today, and envisioned their own future worlds. My students were intrigued by the promise of new technologies but were also attuned to possible unintended consequences. Their concern about some of the dystopian futures they imagined was matched only by their insistence that we all must be involved in influencing the future. In the end, they developed mostly hopeful and optimistic future images, but their weeks of discussion, reading, and thinking made them understand that we all have a role in shaping what’s to come and that our preferred futures are unlikely to occur without focused action.

Many students do not get a chance to explore the future in a rigorous and creative way. To help bring futures thinking to more students and surface their views of the future of learning, Teach the Future and KnowledgeWorks are hosting a student design competition, Imagine FutureEd. That competition invites students to submit scenarios (stories about the future) and artifacts (images of the future).

I hope that all educators and young people who participate in the Imagine FutureEd competition have a fun and mind-opening experience like my students did. To provide guidance for young people as they create their submissions, Teach the Future and KnowledgeWorks are creating activities to spark both creative and critical thinking. These activities are based on the work of experienced foresight educators and on workshops that we have done with students in the San Francisco Bay Area, Houston, and Pittsburgh. The four core activities that we are developing focus on the following topics:

  • Exploring Your Future Outlook: How do you think about the future? How do others think about it?
  • Exploring Possibilities for the Future: What changes are happening in education already? What might happen next?
  • Telling Stories from the Future: What might the future of learning look like given different trends and possibilities?
  • Reflecting on the Future: Why is thinking about the future valuable? What should leaders be doing today to prepare for it?

An extension activity also guides young people through illustrating their stories by creating and submitting artifacts from the future.

There are so many reasons to participate in the Imagine FutureEd competition. In general, teaching young people to think about the future empowers them to ask challenging questions and imagine a range of possibilities. I have always found that to be an enlightening experience for everyone involved, educators included. In particular, the Imagine FutureEd competition gives adult facilitators the chance to develop their toolbox for engaging students around the future and offers the option of receiving some extra help from our team. We are also lining up some exciting prizes! But the most important reason to participate in Imagine FutureEd is that, by giving young people the time and support to think about what, why, and how people could learn in the future, you are telling them that their ideas, voices, and leadership on this important topic matter and deserve to be heard.

Learn more about Imagine FutureEd and sign up to participate.