Blog | November 2, 2016

How a 7-Year-Old Incorporates Deeper Learning By Building a Patio Deck

Effective communication is just one of the deeper learning skills that children learn through a hands-on construction activity

One of the perks of living in Washington, DC, is access to a huge variety of kid-friendly museums and exhibits. The Big Build workshop is no exception. Hosted annually by the National Building Museum, Big Build provides kids of all ages with an opportunity to engage in hands-on learning by working alongside skilled builders, artisans, and tradespeople from the building industry.

I took my son there a few weeks ago. At age seven, hammering, sawing, and pounding random materials were right in his wheelhouse. But as we moved from one workshop to the next, I was reminded of what a complex process the act of “building” actually was. Take constructing a patio deck, for example. One of the workshops required kids to help build a deck by adding grooved planks and then securing them with a drill and deck screws.

First, the kids had to listen to the builder give detailed instructions of the entire process from start to finish. Then, they learned how to work the drill step by step. Finally, they worked together with the deck builder to time the drilling of the deck screws precisely with the fitting together of the grooved deck planks. Not an easy process for a seven-year-old. And unbeknownst to him, he was incorporating some of the core principles of deeper learning.

According to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, deeper learning equips students with skills that go beyond math and literacy in order to help them compete in a global economy. Deeper learning consists of six inter-related competencies that include critical thinking and problem solving, the ability to work collaboratively, and effective communication.

First, my son had to really listen, then demonstrate what he learned by describing to his partner how to use the drill at every step in the process. That went beyond simply following instructions and repeating them back—he also had to talk about these complex steps to one of his peers.

Fast forward to the workplace and you’ll see why developing effective communication skills early on really matters.

Deeper Learning blog series

Every workplace—from a construction company to an aerospace plant—needs workers who aren’t just highly skilled, but actually know how to interact with their coworkers to solve problems and do their jobs each day. That’s not just marketing hype. Effective communication is a necessary skill listed in every job description. Why? Because employers know firsthand that a team that communicates well is a more effective one.

Getting kids into this mindset early, and ensuring that they get to practice these deeper learning skills from grade school through high school primes them to be effective communicators, desirable colleagues, and productive workers that employers want to hire and retain.

Previous blog: Collaboration

Next in this series: Academic Mindset

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