Teaching Children How to Think - Sreeja Iyer, CEO of Sparkling Mindz
Today as the world changes at a rate faster than we can blink and it seems like knowledge-based era has already given way to the thinking-based era, one might agree with Franklin D Roosevelt, “We may not be able to prepare the future for our children but we can at least prepare our children for the future”. This is what Sparkling Mindz, an educational venture, does – create confident thinkers and communicators amongst our children! Sreeja Iyer, co-founder and CEO of Sparkling Mindz talks about how children today need to learn thinking and communication skills.
1. What is Sparkling Mindz all about? What was the inspiration behind it?
Sparkling Mindz is a Thinking & Communication Skills program for the 5-13 year olds and we empower children to thinking and communicate confidently. Today when companies hire someone, they look for someone who has an individual thought process and an ability to express their ideas and thoughts with confidence. In my experience of having worked in the corporate world, this has been the biggest gap that the employers find with the candidates. When I shifted my career into education and visited schools across the country, it dawned on me that when the emphasis was on grades and acquisition of knowledge, the shift towards thinking as a process was not easy to come by. Thus, began the journey of Sparkling Mindz. Our belief is that Thinking is a skill and it can be learnt. The earlier one learns it the better.
2. How do you teach children to think?
We don’t believe in teaching the child. We believe in facilitating the process of learning for the child. There are several components that we work with for the child to improve his/her basic thinking and communicative skills.
We teach creative thinking – where our focus is on the children generating new ideas in familiar and unfamiliar situations and breaking set patterns of thought. This is crucial in problem solving, so that children do not give up easily. Critical thinking is another major tool that we teach the children, in which the child learns to structure his thoughts in an orderly manner so as to communicate what he wants to say effectively. Being able to structure thoughts will help the child perform better in schools as well, all too often children ramble – they don’t know what to write and what to leave out. We also teach them how to ask questions and how to critically analyse their thoughts and make their own decisions by weighing pros and cons. Not being able to make effective decisions affects many aspects of a child’s life, especially as they grow older. Communicating one’s thoughts and expressing oneself is a crucial part of the program too. We use several different kinds of tools and techniques to help children to think creatively, develop critical thinking and communicate better.
3. You mentioned earlier that the earlier they learn it the better. Why is that?
It has been proven based on research that an adult loses a large portion of their creativity compared to a 5 year old mainly because our brains function by matching patterns. So, as we grow we tend to think less and less out of the box, unless trained to do so, otherwise. In their formative years, children have their neural connections intact and flexible enough. It is easier to learn how to think creatively and this learning stays with them for life. Also, the benefits of structured thinking and better communication skills are apparent to anyone who has a child. No case needs to be made for it or for its importance in the child’s day to day life.
4. So children basically learn how to express themselves better?
Not only that, they learn to listen. This is another skill which is not easy for the children to learn. Not only are people at a loss about how to communicate effectively, they don’t listen to each other and hence they don’t understand the world around them. Kids tend to switch off easily in school and social gatherings and they think listening is boring! We work with the children to help them learn how to listen and develop a better understanding of the world around them. They learn the fine art of active listening, which is a rare art! This makes the children more responsive as well – talk to the kids of today and chances are that you will be met with a lot of monosyllabic answers. This is because most of the times they are not listening to what you are saying, not understanding it and not knowing how to respond. We hope to change this in children.
5. How do the children benefit from this learning?
They emerge as confident, articulate, independent thinkers. It helps build confidence and makes them a better communicator. They also learn to work better in teams, motivate themselves and even enhance their focus and listening skills. Children learn effective communication techniques and believe that they can generate ideas no matter what the situation!
6. How have the parents responded?
Parents have been very happy at the change they see in their children. Many parents talk about how their kids show more involvement in their school projects whereas earlier they were ready to let their parents do the entire thing for them. They share ideas, want things done in a certain way and show more personality. We make it a point to explain to the parents carefully, what their child is doing and we show them the tracked improvement that their child undergoes. Parents are often amazed at their hitherto shy child talking to school authorities or participating in activities which involve the stage because they have become more open and confident after the course. Children do show a marked improvement and become resourceful and motivated so parents are quite happy. There has been a very positive response because they see how the child has fun while learning how to think!
7. How do you track the improvement of a child?
We use tools such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and Multiple Intelligence – they are scientific principles which we apply. We work with the premise that all children are intelligent in different ways and our qualified team identifies this in children and works to develop it.
8. Are the courses only for children or do you help adults break out of the mould too?
Of course we do corporate workshops with adults and regular parent sessions too. We have successfully conducted Creative & Innovative thinking programs, Effective communication patterns and several more customized programs for several corporates already and the programs are very well received.
9. Do you have any plans of expansion? This would surely benefit a lot of children all across the country!
Yes of course, as of now we operate from six locations in Bangalore, but we want to set up offices in other metros too by next year. Anyone with the necessary qualification and a passion to help kids learn how to be confident thinkers and communicators should feel free to contact us at Sparkling Mindz so that we can work together in setting up centres across the country. It is a growing initiative which requires passion and zeal to work for the betterment of today’s youth and will give you the satisfaction of having done something very ‘hatke’ and meaningful in your life.
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