Last fall my brother, a brand-new parent, texted me: “What are you doing with your kids to combat climate change?” His message landed amid my very busy workday, bookended by childcare, family meal preparation, transporting kids to and from school and sports, helping with kids’ homework and hygiene, and several failed attempts to squeeze in some exercise and me-time for yours truly. I thought to myself, “I drive a Prius. Does that count? We recycle. We use and give hand-me-downs. We switched to reusable straws … is that enough?” My reply to him: “Nothing.” Because, we don’t talk about it. We don’t teach about it. I’m not shaping their lives with climate change in mind. Ugh. Mom guilt. Climate guilt. I’m not doing enough. How can I be better? Just one more thing to keep my wheels turning after I’m supposed to be asleep at night.
A week later, my son came home from school proud to share a project he had completed in his Kindergarten class. He’d colored (mostly) within the lines. He had come away with the intended knowledge. But it gave me pause – why did this feel like deja-vu? And then it hit me. His sister had completed this exact same project six years prior, at a different school, in a different town, with a different teacher. I began to realize that, up this point, his education had been entirely undifferentiated from hers, 6 years apart. Despite the advances in technology. Despite having excellent instructors. Despite having a parent who spent an entire career in education. Despite the clear shifts in the relevancy of lessons taught and learned.
This is when the idea for WorldWHYs began to bubble. Together with passionate, solution-oriented educators who found my circumstances highly relatable, we came together to discuss what a solution could look like. How can we keep education relevant in such a dynamic global landscape? And with consideration for overwhelmed teachers and families? How do we equip ALL kids with the skills, resources, behaviors and mindset – not just the privileged – to navigate life’s biggest challenges? So WorldWHYs was born. We built this program after closely examining the school systems we’d been operating for decades, and fueled by our experience as parents, creating a program structure and content that fills the learning gaps that we know, first-hand, our society struggles to address.
This morning, as the world around me awakens to another day of physical distancing, due to an unforeseen pandemic, I watch in awe as my fellow humans respond. Trying to make sense of, and make the best of, current circumstances. Feeling defeated, disoriented, helpless in many ways. Mustering strength, engineering connection, taking one day at a time. And I think about our WorldWHYs roots, and our mission to prepare kids for life beyond the classroom, and it would seem as though we had an inside track, and as though we saw this coming the whole time.
My friends, we did not. However, in early WorldWHYs discussions, we talked a lot about how so-called “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking, are becoming “survival skills”. We built a program that would allow our students – our WHYs Guys, if you will – to thrive in a landscape of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Our topics of focus – Health, Safety, Money, Environment, Human Connection, Work, Community & Globalism – were selected because these are the areas that can make or break a person’s ability to thrive, no matter what is happening in the world around them.
For now, we have paused sales and are committed to providing free family engagement lessons that can be accomplished without internet, materials, classrooms or textbooks, because the most important, most relevant learning and teaching happens in moments like these. We take this time to be with our kids, and as much as we can, be here for our communities. When things shift again, we are ready to help keep life-skills learning alive, and to continue building the soft skills all kids need to thrive.
Sending love and strength,
Lauren & Team WorldWHYs