We send our children to school every day with one objective, to make them smarter so they can be successful when they grow up. But, how does a child become smart? From taking good notes? From getting good grades? From memorizing everything the teacher tells them?

If you go by the good grades and test score reasoning, the numbers don’t necessarily support the idea. The Nation’s Report Card shows a drop in math and reading scores across the board from 2013-2015. It’s unclear what’s exactly behind the drop and whether the implementation of Common Core standards has anything to do with it. What is clear is that perhaps the method of memorizing and repeating facts is not working and is not making our children smarter and more prepared to be successful adults.

Harvard Innovation Education Fellow Tony Wagner recently spoke about the topic and pointed out several key thoughts that deserve attention. He says, “There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.” Learning what to do with what you know is where we seem to be failing our kids. Wagner goes on to say that we are indeed fostering a culture of “consumers” rather than creators. They are taking everything in but aren’t creating much. This is something we take to strongly at MakerKids.

The point is one that isn’t going unnoticed. The U.S. Department of Education has recognized the importance of raising creators and has clearly acknowledged the importance of giving students the tools to solve problems, gather evidence and make sense of it all. Skills like these are taught through STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs, like the ones available at MakerKids.

Since it’s largely agreed that we need more innovators rather than consumers, the big question is how do we make it happen?

Innovation arises out of creative thinking. Instead of just memorizing facts, we need to encourage our children to think out of the box and figure out how to apply what they’re learning to real-world concepts. We need to encourage them to ask questions; that’s where ideas of innovation lie. Asking why something is the way it is or what makes something work is helping children explore. If we teach them to simply accept every fact, we are only supporting the idea of allowing them to remain consumers and they will never be exposed to the potential of innovation.

By asking questions children learn valuable communication skills that are crucial as they explore their careers. Being able to communicate ideas and respond to others is key in any field these days, especially when it comes to working in teams. Collaboration and creativity among people who have different skills are how greatness is achieved; not by memorizing a fact table and acing every test. By sharing ideas in a group, some pretty great ones are often born. This only helps to raise the next generation of inventors, rather than the next generation of fact regurgitators.

As adults and educators, we have to lead children on the path of innovation and teach them there’s nothing wrong with exploring and reaching for the stars, not just counting them.

We would like to ask you what are your ways to encourage ideas and dreams? What questions do you ask?

– Jennifer Turliuk, CEO MakerKids

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