Once a week, I leave Carrot New York's offices in downtown Manhattan and take the E train about 45 minutes out to a school in Jackson Heights, Queens. There, I facilitate weekly classes for 6th and 7th grade girls through the Sadie Nash Leadership Project, an organization that aims to empower and equip young women to be agents for change in their lives and their communities.
Over the course of the school year we cover a huge variety of topics, from college prep to sex ed, from conflict resolution to healthy relationships, from gender stereotypes to community engagement. These days more and more is being written about the importance of “soft skills,” “life skills,” or “social emotional skills” in long term student achievement. The belief that teaching these non-academic skills will improve student performance and prepare them for life beyond school is embodied in both Sadie Nash classrooms and in our philosophy and work at Carrot New York.
At Sadie Nash, our class topics and their sequence is driven by student interest. For example, last year I didn't have units on puberty and friendship scheduled for my 6th graders until late April. However, when students soon began asking questions like "What will happen when my body starts changing?" and "How do I know if someone is a good friend?" we pivoted and began those units in January instead.
When students learn skills that address real problems they’re encountering in their everyday lives, they become co-creators of a powerful educational environment. They show up brimming with excitement and ready to explore. Their confidence in their intuition and capacity grows. The effects endure long past a single school year.
Students are hungry for these kinds of real world applications. And teachers are increasingly working to fill the gap and provide spaces for students to learn not just math and history, but also financial literacy, health and nutrition, communication skills, and much more. We at Carrot New York are excited to be creating education programs that give teachers those tools.
Over the next few months, I’ll be reporting back on how I teach about specific life skills, from conflict resolution to sex ed, from goal setting to healthy relationships. Stay tuned for more dispatches from Sadie Nash classrooms.