Our childhood experiences, actions and interactions build our perceptions. The way we look at ourselves, people and situations define our choices and behaviours all through our learning process. Social structures have been observed to play a critical role in every aspect of a child’s learning and it is very important that we create opportunities for children to use their social interactions as learning opportunities. Group projects and activities play a significant role in building these skills. If we look at classroom situations, collaborative project based learning provides numerous opportunities for social and emotional learning in children, besides building values, life skills and perceptions. When children are given projects that involve brainstorming and manipulation of objects to create solutions, they get multiple opportunities to interact with each other and build critical life skills too. This helps in strong character building right from the beginning.
On the other hand, if we toss the coin, the social emotional maturity of a child greatly affects the way he or she conducts projects in classroom. Let’s see FIVE ways in which a child’s Social and Emotional intelligence impacts his or her contribution in group projects:
- Self Image: Each child’s understanding of himself affects the way he or she perceives others. If children have been laughed at, or labelled as “This was a silly idea”, “How can you be so stupid?” “You are a bad boy or girl” in their childhood, chances are high that they always perceive themselves as not so good. The negative Self Image that thus gets built over time inhibits them from giving their best in any project and also hampers critical thinking.
- Motivation: If a child always feels that I am not good enough or is only focussing on his shortcomings or weaknesses then he/ she may not feel motivated to contribute, or stay engaged in any collaborative or problem solving process.
- Empathy: Another very important element that affects how a child looks at the entire project based learning is the level of empathy he or she has developed over the years. In my experience, unless children feel empathetic and emotionally connected with the group members and with issues at hand, they may not contribute effectively to the problem solving process.
- Response to Failure: When children build things during problem solving projects, they may not get the most viable solution in the first trial. Solution oriented projects may require a lot of trial and error, and it is in this process that children learn a very important life skill, of taking failure in their stride and not getting overwhelmed by it. S.T.E.A.M. projects with a problem solving approach have a huge potential to help children learn to accept and deal with failure.
- Sense of Mastery: When children successfully completing problem solving projects like S.T.E.A.M. which incorporate more than one skill to solve tasks at hand, they develop a sense of mastery over their learning process. Such a journey gives them a feeling of accomplishment and a recognition towards the ability that they can create and fix anything that may go wrong in their life. This is a crucial skill for children to learn, especially in the rapidly changing, uncertain world that they would step into in future. When children grow up with this strong sense of self worth and an ability to create solutions and manage anything that goes wrong in their life, they are prepared to handle change and uncertainties in a more empowered manner.
It is therefore very important to give children integrated collaborative tasks or projects while growing up which can work as a two way process as far as Social and Emotional intelligence goes. We can make children future ready by incorporating S.T.E.A.M. with a a maker centred learning approach into our teaching methodologies right from an early age.