Monday, October 31, 2011

Facing the 21st Century Through Labs Without Walls

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an event at which Ellen Kullman, chairwoman and CEO of E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co, gave a powerful speech with some very clear messages.

As I sat listening, I was struck by many parallels to the world of education. When she speaks about DuPont, Ms. Kullman describes a company in transformation as it moves into its third century, noting that DuPont cannot continue to function as it did 50 years ago but must respond to the changing needs and problems of the world community. One such program – and one DuPont believes it has the scientific knowledge base to address – is the need to create an adequate world-wide food supply by the year 2050.

Kullman shared personal experiences with farmers and communities with scarce access to food in an
October 13 press release. “I’ve walked through fields with farmers on four continents. I now understand many of the concerns they have and their hopes for the future for their families and communities,” Kullman said.

In order to meet this lofty challenge, Ms. Kullman knows that DuPont needs to work collaboratively with others throughout the global community. She describes “labs without walls,” where we learn from each other rather than existing in competitive isolation. Ms. Kullman emphasized the need for people to think creatively and innovatively as they use science to address world problems. Collaboration, a global perspective and use of science to solve important problems were the main themes throughout the address. Ms. Kollman described the importance of this collaboration: “At the end of the day, no one country, company, government or foundation can meet the global food security challenge alone ... Together, we can accomplish what no one can do alone.”

Find out how something as small as a seed can make an enormous change in the lives of farmers, their families and communities:

So, how does this parallel the educational world?

Clearly, just as DuPont cannot function as it did 50 years ago, neither can the schools that are preparing a new generation to do the work Ms. Kullman envisions. Research shows us that schools that foster and support global thinking, cooperation and innovation are child-centered schools encouraging risk-taking and new ideas – Montessori schools fit this description perfectly. More importantly, as Montessori teachers and parents, we need to serve as “labs without walls,” sharing what works in our schools with a broader community so that more children will be prepared to solve world problems – even world hunger.

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