A creative and critical thinker is in increasingly high demand: employers are vying for workers who are able to dream big. The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for the 21stCentury Skills and the Society for Human Resource Management conducted a survey in April and May of 2006 asking employers their views on the readiness of new entrants to the U.S. workforce. Of the 431 human resource officials polled, nearly three-quarters of respondents (70 percent) rated recently hired high school graduates as deficient in critical thinking.
Educators need to equip students at every level with the basic skills and creativity they will need to succeed in the workplace and the ever-changing world. These core 21st century skills are listed as critical thinking, communication, problem solving, collaboration, and innovation. These are also known in educational research as higher-order thinking (HOT) skills. These 21st century HOT skills all have reasoning as their basis, and the Partnership, consisting of Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Verizon, Ford, and others, have launched a major campaign to infuse them into the school curriculum, as a necessity for success in the 21st century economy.
Not only do we need critical thinkers but we also need creative thinkers. Creative thinking fuels innovation, it leads to new goods and services, creates jobs and delivers substantial economic rewards. In addition, critical thinking is important to live in a democratic society. Students need to develop their ability to see unlikely connections, and come up with solutions to complex problems. Students should be encouraged to ask questions and explore alternatives. By thinking for themselves, students will not be resigned to accepting conventional rules. Teachers need to breathe new life into their classes, classes that have become too bogged down with test preparation and data collection rather than places of inspiration and creativity. Classrooms should be humming with active, inquisitive learners.
I want my students to see history as an exciting adventure. Instead of students seeing history as flat information on a page, artifacts push them to think about the past from differing perspectives, examining context and therefore connections to themselves and the world. History comes alive when students are able to touch, see, and think about objects in new and stimulating ways. Historians are like detectives, asking questions to try and solve mysteries about the past. Often this involves imagining themselves in that place and time, creating a context with the evidence they have. The idea of time travel for this unit came from David Macaulay's
Motel of the Mysteries
. It was written as a spoof on the Howard Carter discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamen. It details the discovery by future archeologists of an American motel and the interpretation it as a funerary and temple complex. The publishers' description starts off saying: "It is the year 4022; all of the ancient country of Usa has been buried under many feet of detritus from a catastrophe that occurred back in 1985." The quotation suggests the challenges in trying to decipher artifacts. Macaulay leads the reader to think about how historians assemble a wide variety of data to attempt to understand complex systems and situations. Like "Howard Carson" in
Motel of the
I plan to have the students become time travel archeologists, where they can step out of their own world and use their imagination to "travel" to another place and time investigating artifacts.