21st Century Skills: how the Louisiana Children’s Museum prepares children for life

It’s a topic we hear mentioned frequently as educators discuss the different opportunities and challenges our children and youth face in preparing for the work world. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) published a report highlighting the critical role that museums and libraries play in building skills for citizens – and in our case, for children. Today there is an understanding that all people – youth and adults – spend the majority of their lives learning outside of classrooms. Success in 21st century life and work relies on a different skill set than past generations honed. This document highlights skills in several categories.

Learning and Innovation Skills: these include critical thinking and problem solving (reasoning effectively, using systems thinking, making judgments and decisions, and problem solving) and are skills children build by asking questions and observing Louisiana Children's Museum | New Orleans Moms Bloghow something works, seen daily through simple machines in the Fetch! exhibit. The demonstration of imagination (such as role playing in the Little Port of New Orleans and Kids’ Café exhibits) and curiosity (experimenting with how things work and seeing the Fetch! science projects unfold) are stepping stones for developing those skills.

Life and Career Skills: in this category, the focus is on strengthening the early childhood needs of language and literacy development (communicating clearly, collaborating with others in the Talk and Play Center), flexibility and adaptability, initiative and self-direction (managing goals and time-taking turns and seeing a project of summer camp or Art Trek through), basic, visual, scientific and numerical literacy (reading, talking, playing, counting, measuring – perfect in Little Winn-Dixie – and turning shapes into artistic masterpieces in the New Orleans Architecture exhibit) and cross-disciplinary thinking. All of these help build a broad base of skills that – when learned early on – guide us through life.

Information, Technology and Media Skills: here we are talking about social and cross-cultural skills (working effectively with diverse teams and interacting efficiently with others; children rarely notice ethnic differences among their peers and seem fascinated to learn of traditions through our French, African and Hispanic Fests), leadership and responsibility (guiding other to do their best – perhaps in Safety Zone) and information literacy (accessing, evaluating, using and managing information – building lifelong learning practices).

A last skill listed in this report is “being responsible to others.” Our responsibilities to our children and our community can guide the internal development of these 21st century skills.

Tell us – do you typically view Museums as places for pure play OR have you seen the positive influences described above in your own children’s educational journey?

Julia Bland Louisiana Children's Museum | New Orleans Moms BlogJulia Bland is the Executive Director of Louisiana Children’s Museum. Ms. Bland, a long-time resident of New Orleans, is responsible for the Museum’s overall management. Before becoming Director of LCM, Ms. Bland served the Museum as a fundraising consultant and board member. She also chaired the Children’s World’s Fair for two years. Ms. Bland has been honored as a YWCA Role Model, a two-time City Business Woman of the Year, and a Young Leadership Council role model of the year. Ms. Bland is intimately involved in children’s issues and the promotion of child well-being. The Children’s Museum is now leading an initiative focusing on community-wide early childhood and family learning through their Early Learning Village. Ms. Bland has also served on numerous panels and legislative hearings for early childhood education. Ms. Bland has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from Tulane University’s Newcomb College.

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