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.