Annalies Corbin, Ph.D., from PAST Foundation speaks on transforming education through the PAST Innovation Lab. Programs in the organization change how students interact with learning environments.
From Annalies’ view, today’s education systems do not properly equip students as the structure of those education systems is obsolete. She brought our attention to how we’re using the same education approaches we used over 100 years ago. Back then, education prepared students for specific industry skills based on career needs of that age, like blue-collar jobs. That was a time when people spent decades doing the same job in a rapidly developing United States.
After all these years, that structure was never re-engineered to fit our current times. Now, we are called to rethink a huge question: “What are we preparing kids for?”
The PAST Foundation became Annalies’ way to prepare students living in this age of society. A large part of preparing students for today’s world is reestablishing “problem solving”. PAST made a warehouse into a lab space for this purpose. Programs at the PAST Innovation Lab feature varied projects, from tech to fashion, with hands-on approaches in a transdisciplinary problem-based learning (TPBL) format.
“…watch your kid play. They are amazing, and yet we get them into school, and we squish that out of them, right? We structure them to the point that they’ve lost the ability to think and be creative on their own without any adult’s interjection.”– Annalies Corbin
These learning spaces take inspiration from Annalies’ experience in Honda R&D (Research & Development). She explains the typical R&D process, then relates that process to the collaborative environment PAST creates. Everything is based around creativity and collaboration.
Annalies believes everyone is capable of participating and solving problems in the labs. PAST will give the basic tools and instruction needed, and step back to let students work through the projects. She expressed that the kids love the process of figuring things out, being hands-on, and building belief in their capability. Students become immersed to the point that she must remind them they need to go home for the day.
These projects can be useful to R&D experts since kids can think in ways experts do not. Annalies explains that kids approach problems without some of the constraints adults do, like knowing the laws of physics. Even if a kid’s solution cannot be exactly replicated, their ideas can be the missing link to a different solution.
With 20 years of experience, Annalies discussed what she believes keeps students coming back, nurturing leadership, and near-peer mentoring. She later gives a real example of dealing with less-than collaborative people in a very collaborative environment. We both admit that taking initiative comes more naturally to some people, and Annalies views participation as a huge step. The PAST Foundation is fostering natural participation by encouraging students to take more ownership in their learning process.
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