During the 2016-2017 academic year, a small team of elementary educators at NIST International School explored how the confluence of design thinking, service learning and social entrepreneurship could be combined into a powerful learning experience for students. This piloted initiative was offered as a year long inquiry into How We Organize Ourselves under the central idea: People create systems to address issues and support needs.

The social entrepreneurship learning experience was created to expose students to the 21st century skills experts predict students will need in a dynamic future. Although one could choose whatever set of 21st century skills that exist, in this case we will use Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills of the 21st Century. What follows are some examples of how students engaged in social entrepreneurship demonstrated those skills through this learning experience:

Curiosity and Imagination:

Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving:

Agility and Adaptability:

Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence:

Effective Oral and Written Communication:

Initiative and Entrepreneurship:

Accessing and Analyzing Information:

In addition to the 21st century skills mentioned above, student learning was also rooted in the PYP approaches to learning (transdisciplinary skills). Based on data collected after the experience, students indicated the top skills they developed most were:

Thinking Skills: synthesis, application, comprehension and acquisition of knowledge

Social Skills: accepting responsibility, group-decision making, cooperating and respecting others

Self-Management Skills: organization, fine-motor skills, time-management and safety

Research Skills: observing, planning, organizing data and recording data

Communication Skills: listening, speaking, viewing and presenting

They also indicated the PYP attitudes they developed the most were: commitment, cooperation, creativity, confidence and empathy.

When students were asked to rate on a scale of 1-10 how they felt about their social entrepreneurship experience, all but one rated it a ten out of ten. And when students were asked how they would assess their learning during this experience on a scale of 1-10, the class average was 9.0.

Not only was this learning experience highly enjoyable for students, but they also were exposed to valuable 21st century skills, attitudes and dispositions they can further develop moving forward. 

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