Young people spend most of their waking hours from September to May in school. They learn all kinds of things there, like math and science, as well as how to be with others and how to get things done. As a result, schools are a great place for them to learn about the future. Not the only place, to be sure, but a necessary one if we are to move toward our aspiration -- to raise a generation of young people who know how to navigate an uncertain future and who identify and commit to work toward their preferred future.
There are teachers around the world, mostly in colleges, who are teaching the future. However, few schools have adopted futures thinking as a standard part of their curriculum. Teach the Future has had the pleasure to work with three such schools, a college, a K-8 and a K-12 school.
1. The Mendoza School of Business at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana, was the first. More than 10 years ago, the Dean sent two faculty members to the Foresight program at the University of Houston to learn how to teach the future. As a result, they established a course called the Foresight in Business and Society which was required for all third-year students. Sam Miller, managed a staff of four full-time teachers who taught 600 students every year. Each student also works with a mentor during the semester to learn how businesses deal with the future. The University has since discontinued most required courses, but the Future of Business and Society is still a popular elective there.
2. Summit Micro School (SMS) is a K-8 school in Toronto, founded and run by Amanda Dervaitis, a leading educator in Ontario. SMS uses Project-Based Learning (PBL) as its pedagogy. The year is divided into six six-week units during which students focus on a particular topic. They were studying water, particularly in the Toronto area, when we first worked with them. They had a unit on the future of technology after that. Each unit covers the major disciplines through the lens of that topic – math, science, history, literature, governance, etc. Students do individual and team projects at the end of each unit to demonstrate what they have learned. It was quite natural, therefore, for Ms. Dervaitis and the teachers to introduce the future of that topic along with the other subjects. They used the Futures Thinking Playbook as the means to do so. Ms. Dervaitis told Teach the Future, “We don’t have to make a special effort to teach the future here because students simply expect the future to be part of each unit.”
3. GEN Koleji is a private K-12 school with three campuses in Istanbul. Members of the Turkish Futures Association worked with Sevinç Boy Erşen, the principal, to introduce futures thinking in the fifth- and ninth-grade classes at one of the campuses. Teach the Future trained the teachers in futures thinking, and they have since carried on that training themselves. At last count, they have taught between 600 and 700 students in that school.
And now we can add a fourth school to that list -- St. Peter’s School, an IB school in Barcelona. St. Peter’s has made the decision to establish a futures thinking course in the Fall semester. They began their interest in the future two years ago as the result of a strategic planning initiative to look for ways for the school to innovate. A Teach the Future team visited the school in October last year. There they met the owner, the principal and the curriculum director who were all committed to institutionalizing futures as part of their curriculum. They appointed Noelle Roces, one of the teachers, to lead the initiative and to conduct futures activities in classes throughout the year. Sandra Martinez, a member of the Spanish Hub, joined Ms. Roces in the Spring semester as part of her practice teaching assignment.
Teach the Future visited the school again in May 2023. The school was hosting a conference for parents and others on its plans to teach the future. The conference began with six student presentations on what they learned about the future during the year. We also heard from Jordi Ginjaume, the general manager of the school, on how they adopted futures as their goal and their reasons for doing so. Ms. Roces shared on her plans for the first course in the Fall, and Peter Bishop provided a broad overview of the historical background and the rationale for teaching the future at this time in history.
Teach the Future will work with Ms. Roces on the details of the course as she and the teachers introduce the course to students in the Middle Years Curriculum (MYC). In preparation, Teach the Future prepared a document on how futures thinking could meet some of the MYC learning objectives which Ms. Roces will use to finalize the content of the course.
Teach the Future is proud to be associated with these schools, and other schools are institutionalizing futures as well. Arizona State University, a university recognized for its innovative programs, established the College of Global Futures and the School of the Future of Innovation in Society. There are undoubtedly more schools that have institutionalized futures and foresight, and we would like to hear from them as well. In fact, Teach the Future is looking to create a community of practice so these schools can share ideas and resources as they build futures into their curriculum.