If you were in the Utrecht CS S2M location in the past 4 weeks you might have stumbled in a 8 year old girl and her snake robot pet. By the way, she built her robot pet herself. This is part of a project called happy kids school. I spoke with Sella van de Griend, the idealiser of happy kids, and it really stroke a nerve on me.

Sella is mother of two children, Oliver and Emma. As it happens to a lot of kids they didn’t really fit into the school as it is today. What I mean by the school as it is today is siting, listening, not being able to question what is already settle as right and repeat this process on and on. Because of this way of learning that is theoretically applicable to everyone, no one really learns or work on their own unique potential.

I remember my own childhood. I wasn’t an easy child to deal with. When school was making me learn the bhaskara formula all I wanted to do was watching movies, series or read. Because they have to prepare you for the LSAT, which in Brazil is called vestibular, you don’t have time to work on what is your thing, only on what college wants you to know to get it. Which sometimes you will never use in your whole life.

With the abundance of knowledge we have today and the easy access to it, the education system is in a need of a change more than ever. It doesn’t make sense to assume that teachers and books are the only source of knowledge kids have. Today what is necessary is to teach kids how to learn with all the tools they already have. That’s what happy kids is working on.

Children are put in a safe environment. Their questions are listen to, not judged. They are treated as equals, not as in an hierarchy. The adults don’t have the answers for everything, but hey, that’s ok. We will find the answers together, and learn how to learn. Once that is the sure thing we will have to do constantly during our lives.

I participated in the last of the classes they had this summer. I was amazed. I met 6 wonderful kids who, together, built a snake robot, a robot that solves the rubik’s cube and one that transports objects. They built and programmed them from scratch using lego mindstorms. At the same time they built they would stop, reflect and think about what they were doing and how to do it. That gives them the emotional intelligence to see how we can, and will, make mistakes. There is no need for panic. Start over and see how you can make it right again. I know I wished someone taught me that during my childhood.

The way we were educated reflects in our behaviour forever. It is hard when you taught since you were a child that you couldn’t make mistakes that will make them. A lot. Specially when we live in a society that asks more and more for us to do things independently. We are entrepreneurs and freelancers now, so when we make mistakes we can’t hide behind a big company’s name. It’s just us. And that is fine. We do have a lot to learn from the happy kids. I know I sure would like to go back in time and go in a school like this. How about you?