15 Minutes on Education and Inspiring Change

Episode Transcript

Kasia Souchen: 00:01 Hello and welcome to 15 minutes to change the world, where in 15 minutes you can learn a bit more about the world and how you can help change it. My name is Kasia Souchen at CARE Canada and the host of this podcast. CARE fights poverty by empowering women and girls around the world in more than 94 countries.

Today’s episode, we are looking at children’s education. September is the time for back to school, back to teachers and books, packing lunches and drop off pickup schedules for little ones and not-so-little ones and parents alike. It is a time filled with excitement and anxiety all bundled together. But education looks very different in many other places around the world. In fact, 65 million girls around the world won’t step foot into school this year and we know that two-thirds of all those that can’t read or write around the world are women. CARE works to empower women and girls through education, training and establishing communities and cooperatives where women, families and their entire communities can thrive. The global economy is shrinking and global issues are becoming all of our issues which need global solutions. If we take a look at education here at home, how are we shaping our young minds to make a difference in the world and to thrive? What are ways that you can inspire your little ones to think more globally and get inspired about changing the world?

Today I’m joined by Erin Anderson, founder and head of rebel academy to talk about a different approach to education focused on specifically changing the world. Thank you, Erin, for joining us. Thank you for having me. So Erin, where did this journey start for you? How did you decide to dedicate your career to inspiring young leaders and changing the world through action and ideas?

Erin Anderson: 02:16 It really wasn’t until I became a mom. I was a teacher before having children, but when I had my own, I realized how incredibly capable they were and yet how our society wasn’t giving them the credit they deserved. Kids ask really insightful questions. They’re outraged by injustice. They have creative solutions., our young citizens, see potential solutions while adults see the restrictions and problems first. So I started Revel Academy to equip my own children and empower them. And luckily others saw the value in our program and have joined us on our journey.

Kasia Souchen: 02:54 That’s amazing. So what would you say are some of the main differences and philosophies at Revel? I know you have mentioned before that you start with yoga or sort of meditation, which sounds incredible. Um, and what are, so what are some of the main differences?

Erin Anderson: 03:08 We do start every single morning with a mindfulness session. So whether it’s yoga or colouring, body scans, meditation, um, just to start off our day on the right foot and really ground ourselves and find our purpose for the day. We are self-paced, which means they can, let’s say they’re seven years old, maybe they’re doing Grade 2 math, but they’re in Grade 4 reading and that’s okay, they can all work at their own pace. Um, we are also a mastery-based system. So until you really have it, you don’t move on. And so we can support them in the areas they need support and let them accelerate in the areas that they are really strong in. Uh, we also are very, um, cognizant of having a warm-hearted and tough-minded approach. We believe in kindness, but we also feel that they need to hold each other and themselves accountable for their own education. And it’s really incredible to watch these students and learners, um, have power over their own education.

Kasia Souchen: 04:15 We love the young heroes concept and we think it’s something that is an amazing way for young minds and young children to start to look at the world maybe at home or, or somewhere globally and find an issue and try to really understand it and figure out ways that they can help create change. How are some of the ways that the kids are tackling issues?

Erin Anderson: 04:39 There is a big concern about girls and education and so they’ve started trying to figure out how to tackle this problem. And it is a different problem in different countries for different reasons, but they’re also realizing that there are so many different layers. They don’t know whether they build a well so that the girls don’t need to spend all day going to get water and can therefore go to school or do they build the school so that there’s more access or is it more of a political change that needs to happen? So it’s really interesting to try and watch them figure out what to tackle first and, and the action plan and of course it is there, there are so many layers, it can be overwhelming, but the fact that they’re still going to make a plan and do their research and figure it out is really, really exciting.

Kasia Souchen: 05:32 How would you say learning is changing or how would you say learning maybe needs to change into a more global context?

Erin Anderson: 05:42 I believe that in North America especially, we need to change our educational system. We are still educating or schooling in the way that we have been doing for hundreds of years. Um, I strongly believe in mixed age groups. Um, not only because a calendar-based system doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think that just because you were born in a certain year, you should be on the same page in the textbook is everybody else. Um, you learn so much from people older than you, mentoring on leadership and you learn so much empathy for when you have kids younger than you in the program.

I believe that we need to start valuing creativity more. Um, we talk a lot about stem and steam and yes, the arts are in there, but the emphasis is always on the science and the math and we lose a lot of our, our kids that way. They, especially our creative kids, they don’t see themselves being, um, valued in our system and they start to conform and our world needs creative solutions. We need these, these minds to rise up and, and have a voice.

Kasia Souchen: 06:54 I really like your point on creativity, especially because I think in global contexts these days but we’re seeing is a lot of really creative entrepreneurs. There are a lot of apps that are solving issues that governments in different places can’t solve, um, that are really going straight to the hands of, of users, straight to the hands of people that need whatever the service is. And I know recently I believe you hosted a entrepreneur fair sort of showing kids that they could have a business or how they would, which is very similar to what CARE does in the sense of empowering women to start their own business and making sure they have training, um, to run that business. So what, what did the entrepreneurship or or fair look like?

Erin Anderson: 07:37 So we host an annual fair now and it’s called the Ottawa Children’s business fair and we invite 50 to 60 young entrepreneurs to create their own business and then either sell their product or their service for that day of the fair. A lot of them then go on to continue this business. My, my daughter started a a bath company and my son started a paracord bracelet company and they’re still selling them. My daughter’s creating a website. Um, but it does give them the ability to create a business and no this might not be their lifelong passion, but to know what goes into creating a business, what are your costs, what are your, you know, what should your pricing the, in order to entice a customer and yet pay yourself back. Um, our kids have to pay back whatever they buy. So if they didn’t sell enough, they end up in the hole. And that’s a good lesson too that they have to really think about all the financial implications and what are people going to want to buy.

Kasia Souchen: 08:41 Did any of the kids go into a sort of not maybe necessarily a social enterprise, but a product that is particularly environmentally friendly or um, sort of has any kind of give back model.

Erin Anderson: 08:55 A lot of them had giveback models. A lot of them said we will donate a certain percentage to this, this um, group, which I think is one, it is a good marketing technique, but two, they also saw that with financial literacy, how we try and teach to save, to spend and to donate. It had that donation aspect. And I think if we can work that in as young as possible, that you do save, spend and donate, I think that would be brilliant. So as a part of our financial literacy program, that is something we talk about. And in figuring out who you’re going to donate to, you’re doing more research, you’re finding which agencies are doing what and that piece alone gets them thinking about the broader picture.

Kasia Souchen: 09:44 That’s great. That’s creating a generation of, of people giving back.

Erin Anderson: 09:48 Yes.

Kasia Souchen: 09:50 So Erin, how can someone with little ones at home take action? What would you suggest are some of the tangible ways to make sure that your child is developing the skills they need for a more global, interconnected world where they can also help be more independent?

Erin Anderson: 10:05 Valuing voice is, to me the number one, if you value their voice and their opinion at home, they will have the strength to go and use their voice outside of the home. I also think that as parents, we need to be role models. We need to have, um, a passion and a direction. We need to be involved in a cause. Um, and when our kids see us take the lead, they too want to help. But if we are just telling them, you go change the world and we’re not willing to do it. It’s it they don’t get the message.

Um, I think modeling is incredibly important. Um, taking risks ourselves, putting ourselves out there, talking constantly about the issues going on. I think a lot of times as parents we try to shield our kids from the world and that’s not helpful. We can read articles, current events. There’s a great website called Newsela that breaks, um, current event articles into different lexile levels so that kids of all ages can read the same story but at a level that’s appropriate for them. Having a, an understanding of current events and what is going on around the world is really important.

Reading books. There are so many incredible books out there that taking a break, I love Harry Potter, but taking a break from Harry Potter every now and then to read Malala’s story or other nonfiction or fiction books that represent a different world than the one we see in Canada I think is also important. We have such an interconnected world that finding people across the world to talk with, other schools, to link up with and talking to them about what’s going on in their world. What do they see the problems being and how can we help, I think is important.

Kasia Souchen: 12:08 It’s amazing how in this day and age you can follow Malala. You can send her a message. She’ll probably get back to you, maybe. That’s very inspiring.

Erin Anderson: 12:17 We also need to teach our kids how to listen and to another side, to another perspective and learn how to agree or disagree respectfully that you can have two opinions and still have a conversation that is civil and both come away having learned something, um, I’m American. So being able to, to bridge the divide I think is also something we need to be teaching our kids. We have a lot of Socratic discussions at my school and also in our own family, and it gets them to think about what do I really think? What do I really feel? And before I say something, I need to really believe it. Not say something just because it sounds like that’s what I’m supposed to say. Do I believe what I’m about to say? Just having discussions and truly listening, not just talking.

Kasia Souchen: 13:15 Yeah. Well, thank you so much, Erin, for taking the time to chat with us today about helping young minds be more globally focused and more independent. It was great having you on the podcast.

Erin Anderson: 13:27 Thank you very much.

Kasia Souchen: 13:28 Thank you for listening. As always, stay tuned on Spotify or iTunes for our next podcast episode.