Umar Sheraz is the Teach the Future Hub director in Pakistan. This article was co-authored with Saba Nazir.
I was recently invited to take part in a futures thinking dialogue with children of Silver Oaks School System, Pakistan. Since World Environment Day (WED) was being celebrated, the theme of climate change was chosen for class activities. I wanted to move beyond a previously-used routine drawing of futures activities on doves, balloons and tree-filled mountains. The idea was to visualize more authentic, participant-relevant and preferred futures.
We began our proceedings with the time-traveler game. The children were asked to imagine an infant/child whom they really love and try to explore the future of that child using a closed-eye vision of the future. Using meditation and close-eyed visioning, the children were taken on an envisioned journey 30 years into the future. They were encouraged to explore the environment, the structures, transportation and the interaction with the person who is now thirty years old.
Based on their observations, the children were then invited to play the Polak Game, which captures our views of the future using a 2×2 matrix, measuring it along two axis:
Polak Game with 4 options along an axis:
🔥 Bleak futures/ Bright futures 🔆I can influence the future/ I can’t make a difference in the future
Both from an individual and a collective perspective, the participants were able to discuss their perceptions, their fears and their role in plausible futures.
The children were then invited to use drawing as a medium to express the current situation and the preferred future which they wanted. So initially the current climate situation was drawn as a group activity, where the students discussed the current status of climate change as a benchmark of today. This drawing was made by Hiba Umar.
The children were then encouraged to draw their versions of a preferred future. Such versions of the future would incorporate the closed eye visioning; what was desired and what were the undesirable elements of the vision.
A girl drew sentimental robots, which would have time to talk and would feel the sentiments of the people and talk accordingly.
Some kids drew/ wrote about politicians being more serious about climate change.
Others expressed the need for Islamic unity and Islamic teachings .
While still others drew time travel machines and flying cars.
Finally there was the question of getting to the preferred future. This was explored through a futures triangle, expressed as a Futures Rocket. There would be forces which were pulling the rocket down away from the desired image and some forces which would help to push toward the desired destination. These forces were mapped, collectively.
I have always been amazed at the flight of fantasy and futures orientation in children. Now if only we taught our kids about the future, with the same passion that we teach them about history! Thanks go to Madam Nadia Adeel and other administrators at Silver Oaks School System, Islamabad, for creating this wonderful dialogue space. I greatly appreciate seeing the creating and vision for futures with these talented children.