A Childhood Infection Worth Catching

Chicken pox. The common cold. The flu.

These are all infections easily spread during childhood.

The “I can” bug.

This is another easily spread childhood infection.

In a video from TED.com, Kiran Bir Sethi, founder of Riverside School in India, discusses how she taught children to take charge and make a change. One of life’s most valuable lessons, she believes, is “I can.” After being “bitten by this bug” at the age of 17, she realized that she should have been bitten at a much younger age. After coming to this awareness, she decided to bring this lesson to her school.

The idea was to design a process where she could consciously infect the children with this “I can” bug. There are three components that children went through during this trial. “Awe” was when they could see change. In this case, children performed manual labor to experience what child labor was like. “Enable” was when they realized these problems could be changed. The children went out in the cities and expressed their need to abolish child labor. Finally, “empower” was when they actually led the change.

Results proved successful. The students went to police stations, businesses and offices to express their ideas. The city of Ahmedabad now closes the busiest streets every other month and converts it into a playground that is taken over by children. It is known as the first child-friendly city. Not only did the children experience success outside the classroom, but they were outperforming other students in math, English and science.

Last year, the whole country of India was challenged to do the same. Stories poured into Riverside about the changes the children were making. From fixing potholes to teaching adults to read and write, the children were making changes all thanks to the “I can” bug.

One important thing to take away from this video is that we should all realize the importance of our children and the potential they have for making changes. As these changes are being made by children everyday, there is no telling what the future holds for them.

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