Nature, Mindful, Patience, Arts

wordle 3

I discovered all of these fantastic words in my readings about Skills for 21st Century Learning this week. I tried to make a Wordle, but the fact is my limited technology cannot keep up with this ever changing world. (Thank you to Mardelle for coming to my rescue!) After searching, reading, hitting my head against the desk and threatening to throw my computers out the window, I came up with 4 skills/attitudes which I think need to be brought to our 21st Century Learners:

  • Natural World
  • Mindfulness
  • Patience
  • Fine Arts Matter

Natural World

There is a phenomenon occurring more often nowadays which concerns many in education, including myself. Richard Louv calls it “nature-deficit disorder” in his book, The Last Child in the Woods. Louv (2009) describes it as “the psychological, physical and cognitive costs of human alienation from nature.” (para 2) Many educators know that their students are spending more and more time on phones, tablets, video games and TV. The amount of screen time has increased and outdoor play is slowly vanishing. Even many of our local school grounds are devoid of trees to run around, hills to climb and natural space to explore.  People also have a disconnect to the food that we are consuming. I know that I have seen a growth in processed, pre-packaged food in school lunches. Many parents do not realize what they are feeding their kids; it is quick and convenient.  Our 21st Century Learners need to be brought back into nature. Spaces need to be “designed” for them to grow food, find bugs, and discover the ecosystems that exist in our natural spaces.  I was shocked to read (2009) of “the decision by the publisher of the Oxford Junior Dictionary to replace dozens of nature-related words like ‘beaver’ and ‘dandelion’ with ‘blog’ and ‘MP3 player’.” (para 5) I have seen “environmentalism” on many lists of skills for 21st Century Learners, but how can our learners be environmentally aware without knowing the environment they should be protecting.  Louv (2009) quotes artist and conservationist Robert Bateman saying “If you can’t name things, how can you love them? And if you don’t love them, then you’re not going to care a hoot about protecting them or voting for issues that would protect them.” (para 5)


I had the pleasure of hearing a man I admire, Dr. Stuart Shankar, last month at our Shared Learning conference.  He spoke at length about the stresses our students are under and the anxiety that they bring into our schools and classrooms. I believe we need to teach our 21st Century Learners how to be mindful, how to be in the now and how to self-regulate in order to achieve their goals. As Dr. Shankar writes, “Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing.” (para 3) There has been an increase in primary classroom teachers teaching “Mindfulness Programs” where educators are trying to help children identify their own state of arousal. By teaching a child to recognize how fast their “engine” is running, educators can then help students discover if a physical activity like jumping jacks, stretching, belly breathing or even chewing gum will help them reduce the stresses on their system and allow them to be in the now.  Listening to Andy Puddicombe’s TED talk, “All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes” reminded me that our older students need this skill as they become more stressed. The overstimulation of  texts, alerts, and updates doesn’t give these adolescents a chance to breathe and be still. They too need to learn the techniques to slow their engines down and be present in the now.


I truly believe that 21st Century Learners need to learn to be patient. There is something so lovely about instant gratification. It is fantastic to put a tweet, a post, a picture, an idea out on the lovely internet, and have people respond to it quickly.  It is an instant feedback tool for our triumphs and our failures. But I have learned though dysfunctional document cameras, battery sucking iPads, computers that don’t have all the updates and more, that we also must be patient. My age of students expect everything NOW, and do not understand that sometimes the learning process takes longer than 3 seconds. Even on this past Friday, while doing a painting time, I had students tell me how happy mummy would be with the painting they had created. I had to explain to them that paint needs time to dry, that we can slow down and paint more than a single sheet of green. I look at the beautiful and intricate pointillism of Seurat and see the hours of patience he must have had to create his works of art. Would he have the patience now to create? Patience is no longer just a virtue in my mind, it is a skill and we need to teach it.  Jennifer L. Roberts,(2013) in her article “The Power of Patience” discusses patience and her art students. She writes, “just because you have looked at [a painting] does not mean that you have seen it. Just because something is available instantly to vision does not mean that it is available instantly to consciousness. Or, in slightly more general terms: access is not synonymous with learning. What turns access into learning is time and strategic patience.” (para 8)

The Fine Arts

I cannot tell you that one of the Fine Arts is more important than any of the others for a 21st century learner. I know people will want to point out that Fine Arts falls into the “creative” category on many skills lists. I disagree though. I can be creative while I tell a story, can create a fabulous new app for tracking student progress, and I can be a creative being, but I still think we need to teach the Fine Arts to our 21st Century Learners. I discovered Mae Jemison’s TED talk from 2002 and I almost wept. She goes into such detail about teaching the arts and sciences together. I believe we are getting our science back, but I worry about the arts. As Jemison states, “the creativity that allowed us, that we were required to have to conceive and build and launch the space shuttle, springs from the same source as the imagination and analysis it took to carve a Bundu statue, or the ingenuity it took to design ,choreograph, and stage “Cry.” Each one of them are different manifestations, incarnations, of creativity, avatars of human creativity, and that’s what we have to reconcile in our minds, how these things fit together.” The Arts are one of my passions. Learning the difference between whole, half, quarter and eighth notes helped me with fractions. Studying the form of Mozart and Beethoven in piano showed me patterns beyond the boring “AABAAB” of my classroom.  As I learned about light and shading in art, I began to think of refraction and reflection from my science classes. Sculpture and dance helped me think through the muscular system and learning how to project my voice for theater made me pause to consider echo and echolocation. We want our 21st century learners to be problem solvers and thinkers; give them a lump of clay and let them explore it. We want them to collaborate; preform a puppet show about the life cycle of a butterfly. We can use the Fine Arts to help our students develop so many of these “listed” 21st Century Skills. As Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience in the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”




Louv, R. (2009). No More “Nature-Deficit Disorder. Psychology Retrieved from

Shankar, Dr. S. Self-Regulation. Retrieved from

Puddicombe, A. (2012, Nov. 9). TEDSalon: All It Takes Is 10 Mindful Minutes [Online Recording] Retrieved from

Roberts, J. L. (2013, November-December). The Power of Patience. Retrieved from

Jemison, M. (2002, February). TED2002: Teach Arts and Sciences Together [Online Recording] Retrieved from


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