“Our collective presence here today reminds us that our children’s growth and success absolutely takes an entire community.” – Dr. Monifa McKnight, Montgomery County Public Schools Interim Superintendent at the Grand Opening Ceremony for KID Museum’s new flagship site
It’s been a wild ride of highs and lows as we close out the school year. KID proudly opened our new flagship facility, hosting more than 1,000 kids and families for joyful exploration and maker learning, and just a few days later, we were reeling from another horrific school shooting that left 19 children and 2 teachers dead. And now, the overturning of Roe. How can these moments of triumph and joy co-exist in a world with such tragic acts of violence and political upheaval? And how can we – the grown-ups in the room – reconcile these experiences for our children?
This year was another year like no other for school-aged kids, their teachers, and their parents. Covid held on much longer than anyone would have expected, and a full-blown mental health crisis took hold for kids across the country. We may have thought that our education system was broken when we were in lock-down, but the reality is that even though kids are back in the classroom, we are still absorbing the ripple effects of compounding trauma and dysfunction.
When we established KID several years ago, we never could have imagined what our kids and teachers are experiencing today, but we knew that schools couldn’t go it alone. We knew that schools needed partners to drive the innovation and community of support necessary to realign education and help kids cultivate the skills they need to thrive in the future. Today, we feel even more compelled to stand up for our kids and create welcoming spaces where they can learn and grow. We need to arm our kids, not with guns, but with adaptability, creativity, and compassion. These are the skills they will need to tackle the challenges of today’s world.
What’s more, research shows that these are the skills that actually resonate most with kids. As part of opening of our new facility, we hosted a symposium on how to achieve greater diversity in STEM fields. Our featured speaker, Dr. Ebony McGee from Vanderbilt University, shared her research on what motivates students of diverse backgrounds to persist in STEM, and highlighted the importance of applying STEM skills for social justice. She and the thought leaders on the panel spoke of the importance of a “caring ideology” animating STEM engagement, particularly for populations that have experienced inequities in their own lives.
We’ve seen this firsthand at KID – so many of the students in our programs are deeply motivated by how they can make the world a better place. One of our joyful moments at the end of the school year was the culminating celebration of our middle school maker challenge, where students shared prototypes of inventions they created to protect life on this planet. This program reached 1,500 students this past year – and there was palpable pride and investment in their work to address a real-world problem that they care deeply about.
Our kids recognize that they are inheriting an extraordinarily complex and evolving world – and, despite so many obstacles and stresses, they continue to prove they are up for the challenge. But we, the grown-ups, need to step up too. We as a community must come together to provide the tools young people can use to not only get by, but to thrive. As we head into summer, KID Museum is redoubling our efforts to support kids and families, teachers and schools; to provide the safe and nurturing spaces they need to grow and innovate for the future. We hope that you will join us in this work, and together we can build what our 2021 Fête honoree, Geoffrey Canada, called an “army of love” to support all of our kids.