Mind in the Making: Seven Essential Life Skills Overview and Community Application

Bring The Seven Essential Life Skills to your community!

Download the MITM Community Application 2017 (submission instructions are on the application)

The Seven Essential Life Skills: Focus and Self Control, Perspective Taking, Communicating, Making Connections, Critical Thinking, Taking on Challenges and Self-Directed, Engaged Learning are introduced to communities through Community Facilitator Institutes. These are three-day Institutes where community leaders will become the Community Facilitators and learn about the Seven Essential Life Skills Modules by directly experiencing them as a prelude to teaching them.

The Mind in the Making Seven Essential Life Skills Learning Modules

With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Marks Family Foundation, Families and Work Institute created eight Modules from the book called the Seven Essential Life Skills Modules. These are stunning, creative PowerPoints with embedded videos. These eight Modules are based on the following premises:

  • We begin by engaging families and professionals in an experiential process of self-reflection and self-discovery where they experience their own competence in each of the Skills, probe why the Skill is important in their own lives and take responsibility for proposing strategies to improve the Skill in themselves.
  • We then connect the adults’ experiences to the research on the Skill in children’s lives—why it is important and how it can be promoted—through videos that present the most respected and compelling child development research on the Skill in an accessible way.
  • We provide specific evidence-based activities that participants can use to promote the Skill in children.
  • Each participant then makes specific plans to promote the Skills in themselves and in children, which they report on in subsequent Modules.

Objectives

The objectives of the Institute are that Facilitators will be prepared to implement the following:

  1. Principles of Facilitated Learning – The Institutes are based on promoting a different vision of teaching and learning called Facilitated Learning that is based on research in children and adults. These principles are described and modeled in each of the Modules and form the basis of the evaluation of Community Facilitators. Community Facilitators will have the opportunity to see the Principles in action during the Institute, time to discuss them and then opportunity to practice them.
  2. Research – Facilitators will watch videos and experience in-depth conversations about the research that support each Life Skill and Executive Function.
  3. Learning Journey – The Learning Journey is consistent throughout each Module. The Journey begins with the Skill definition, focusing first on the adult, seeing and discussing the research, participating in activities that demonstrate/promote the Skill and then looking at the importance of the Skill for children and action to promote the Skill. The Learning Journey is built upon the notion that learning is relationship based and each Module builds upon the previous one.
  4. Application of Knowledge – Facilitators will identify activities and strategies that they can employ to promote Executive Functions Life Skills. Facilitators will also be given the opportunity to practice and/or plan how they will implement the Learning Modules in their communities and lives.

In the article in Science, Jack Shonkoff proposes a “new intervention agenda” where

… scientists, practitioners and policy-makers could work together to design and test creative new interventions that combine both cognitive-linguistic stimulation with protective interactions that mitigate the harmful effects of significant adversity, beginning as early as possible and continuing throughout preschool.

However, he notes that traditional parent or teacher education programs are not good enough:

Although the influence of the home environment on school readiness and later academic achievement is well-documented, conventional parenting education and family support programs that simply provide information and advice have limited impact on the development of young children experiencing considerable stress.

 Thus, he suggests promoting Executive Function skills in adults as well as in children:

Alternatively, advances in neuroscience suggest that interventions and services that enhance the mental health, executive function skills, and self-regulation capacities of vulnerable mothers, beginning as early as pregnancy, suggest promising strategies to protect the developing brains of their children.

This is the exact structure we have created with the Seven Essential Skills Modules.

We will be using these with communities that are working to convene and engage families and professionals on behalf of children. These Modules have been specifically designed as a way to have families and professionals learn and work together on behalf of children.

We began piloting this approach in Baltimore, MD in partnership with the Office of Partnership, Communications, and Family and Community Engagement. After the pilot is completed, we have five communities that are planning to use them. In addition, these Seven Essential Skills Modules will be used in the Community Schools Project.