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Articles: Soft skills

Co-principals Shy-Quon Ely II and Brooke Beavers will focus on improving test scores, preventing state intervention and establishing closer ties with families and the community.

Co-principals Shy-Quon Ely II and Brooke Beavers, most recently co-leaders of a local charter, will focus on improving test scores, preventing state intervention and establishing closer ties with families and the community.

To engage students with diverse interests, high schools are adding nontraditional sports such as flag football, bass fishing, sand volleyball, Ultimate Frisbee, orienteering and esports, to their lineups.

Empathize: Gather information from users In action: Fourth-graders in Colorado solicited ideas from local residents to help their city redesign a local park.

Define: Frame the problem In action: Administrators in Glenbrook High Schools District 225 considered student experience when redesigning classrooms. They chose furniture that let learners move around. 

Some call design thinking a revolution in learning, while others see it as just the latest fad, better left to Silicon Valley charter schools.

VARSITY VIDEO GAMES—E-sports teams—such as the squad pictured above at Nobesville High School in Indiana—often appeal to smart and creative students who have not participated previously in school activities, teacher Donald Wettrick says.

Dozens of high schools across the nation are adding competitive video-gaming as it becomes one of the fastest-growing activities in both K12 and higher ed.

Children from 19 El Paso ISD schools now engage in social-emotional activities at nearly two dozen new playgrounds, thanks in part to districtwide communication.

FINDING THEIR VOICES—Students from the New Haven Urban Debate League in Connecticut are among those across the nation who have been learning the speaking and presentation skills necessary for productive public engagement.

A number of schools nationwide are committed to teaching skills coaches say will last a lifetime, including how to maintain eye contact and ask meaningful questions.

Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis is an International Baccalaureate school serving students and parents from 54 different countries in pre-K through grade 12. When the school wanted to design a new playground, administrators wanted to demonstrate its global brand and create an area with a world theme reflective of students and their families.

Stewart Crais, Lausanne’s director of operations, says the school also needed a playground that could fit into a confined area at the front of the campus and add to its curb appeal.

How does children’s play behavior on school and community playgrounds contribute to physical, social, emotional and cognitive development?

Maine led the nation in 2012 in becoming the first state to require that students demonstrate proficiency in academic areas to earn a high school diploma. (Gettyimages.com: qingwa).

Eighth-graders in Maine in the 2017-18 school year will be the first to adhere to proficiency-based standards.

Districts have several options when introducing a badging program.

For students, the process tends to be more intricate because these badges, often awarded for soft skills and career-preparation activities, contain metadata that details what students did to earn the badges. Such higher-tech “open badges” can be shared on social media and live on an online platform such as Credly, Mozilla or Badgr.

Districts are advised to go through the graphic design process to create high-quality badges that drive engagement—rather than using stock art.

A growing number of districts now award digital badges to students who demonstrate creativity and critical thinking, and even for noteworthy experiences in after-school programs.

Pre-K programs for students with special needs vary widely in quality and scope. Some states and districts have long included students with special needs in pre-K classes alongside their more typically developing peers.

K12 educators increasingly embrace life skills curricula that promote social-emotional learning, mindfulness, problem-solving and other soft skills. Many districts no longer view such programs as “nice to have,” but as essential components of overall instruction.