On Thursday, March 12, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a mandate to close all Michigan schools grades K-12 through April 5 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Spring Break is the following week for Kalamazoo Public Schools and, as of this posting, that is still happening, which means students should be returning to school on April 13th.
In the meantime, it’s more important than ever for our kids—and us!—to read. What books do you plan to read?
Last month, we asked Communities In Schools board members what they are reading. Here’s what a few of them said:
Not that long ago, we introduced you to our newest board members and they shared their favorite children’s book. You can read that post here.
Need to get your freshly washed hands on one of these or other books? Even though the Kalamazoo Public Library is currently closed during this pandemic, their online branch never closes. They have a solution for self-isolation boredom. You can check out their large variety of digital options, including eBooks, eAudiobooks, eVideos, eMusic, and eMagazines. It’s easy to browse and you can filter your search in several ways, including by age (adult, juvenile, or teen). Here’s their website.
Also, keep in mind our three wonderful independent bookstores that serve this community. Like other small and local businesses, they are part of what makes Kalamazoo so special and they continue to need our support. They are here for us and you can help the local health of our economy by turning to them (without even setting foot outside your home!) for your reading needs instead of going to Amazon.
Here are quick links to each of their websites and Facebook pages:
The majority of students today will be employed in jobs that haven’t even been invented yet. The predictions for this range anywhere from 65-85%. So what is a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle to do? How can we prepare our kids for life and work in these increasingly uncertain and rapidly changing times?
One thing we can do is to encourage their creativity. Creativity has been linked with positive academic achievement and it can help young learners successfully navigate and thrive in this ever-changing world.
But just what is creativity? According to Paul Collard, who runs the UK-based organization Creativity, Culture & Education, creativity is “a wider ability to question, make connections and take an innovative and imaginative approach to problem solving.” Collard believes it’s important to explicitly teach creativity. “Creative skills aren’t just about good ideas, they are about having the skills to make good ideas happen.”
Those who study creativity agree. A number of organizations in Scotland worked together to look at creativity across learning environments and identified core creativity skills such as:
-Constructively inquisitive (by being curious, flexible, adaptable, and exploring multiple viewpoints).
-Harness imagination (by playing, exploring, generating and refining ideas, inventing).
-Identify and solve problems (by demonstrating initiative, persistence, and resilience).
These type of creative skills which help kids (and grown ups, too!) play with ideas, look at things with fresh eyes, learn from mistakes, adapt to changed circumstances, stay focused, meet new and unanticipated challenges, and much more, really resonate as true.
Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids interviewed two business people who also serve on the CIS board in Kalamazoo. They both touched on the importance of creative skills. When we asked Dave Maurer, President of Humphrey Products, what parents can do to help prepare their child for today’s labor force, he told us that we can help them persist. He also talked about the importance of developing new ideas. (You can read his interview here.)
Mike Stoddard, chief operating officer of BASIC, talked about the importance of being nimble. “It’s important to keep up and be flexible. In a blink of an eye, things change, particularly when it comes to technology.” (You can read his interview here.)
While there are a million ways to nurture creativity in our kids, here are two things we can easily do: One. Recognize that creativity is important to our children’s future success, both in life and in their future job, a job that may not even exist yet. Two. Help kids look for the second right answer.
A second right answer? In a classic book on creativity, A Whack on the Side of the Head: How to Unlock Your Mind for Innovation, author Roger Von Oech encourages us to shrug off what many of us have been trained to do: look for the one right answer. This approach, he says, is fine for some situations, but we shouldn’t give into the “tendency to stop looking for alternative right answers after the first one has been found. This is unfortunate because often it’s the second or third, or tenth right answer that is what we need to solve a problem in an innovative way.”
Let’s encourage our kids to wonder more and come up with different solutions to a problem. We can ask them questions. Have you thought of any alternatives? How else might this work?
We can read this article, “Tools to encourage kids’ creativity,” that says with a little nudging, kids can build creative skills by sharing stories, opinions, and their ideas. (It was this very article, passed along by CIS Executive Director Pam Kingery, that inspired today’s post!)
Remember, there is no one right answer for how to nurture our 12,000+ kids’ creativity. The important thing is to do it.
Pfizer is committed to applying science to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. A global company with a local heart, Pfizer also works with CIS to ignite hope and help our young people become the prosperous citizens of tomorrow. As a CIS partner, they play an important role in supporting students on their path to using The Kalamazoo Promise®. From encouraging their employees to volunteer to providing career exploration opportunities, Pfizer is making it their business to ensure our children fulfill their promise.
When businesses go all in for kids, everyone profits. A few years ago, in 2015, two Pfizer colleagues reached out to see if CIS would be interested in working together on their Community Art project. Along with other community groups tapped by Pfizer, sixty-five students participating in the six-week CIS Think Summer! program, created artwork for Pfizer’s Global Supply facility on Portage Road. Organizers Julie Righter and Laura Martin said that collaborating with CIS on projects like this “is mutually beneficial to both Pfizer and the students.” The artwork, they say, “inspires our colleagues every day as we manufacture safe medicines for the community.”
The students’ art graces the walls of a company they could very well work for one day. That’s because Pfizer is helping students envision a future beyond high school by offering career exploration opportunities. Through hands-on activities developed by enthusiastic Pfizer colleagues, students explore science, technology, engineering, math, and skilled trades-related careers and learn about the education and training needed for these jobs. Through these career exploration opportunities, Pfizer plants seeds of hope, inspiring students to envision their future, perhaps even a future that includes a career with Pfizer.
While there is much to admire about our partner, one of the qualities CIS staff appreciates most is how student-focused Pfizer is: They want to know what students are interested in and what they’re working on. They are receptive to input from staff and always seek feedback so they can continue to improve what they offer to students.
Pfizer’s commitment to excellence—to listening to the views of all people involved in health care decisions and using that to focus on improving the way they do business—readily translates into the work they do in the schools. For instance, when Pfizer site leader, Bob Betzig, attended the CIS Think Summer! celebration, he listened closely to a CIS Youth Development Worker—and a Promise scholar— who wondered how she could get an internship with Pfizer. The result of Bob’s listening? The local Pfizer site revived their internship program. And in 2016, when Pfizer returned to CIS Think Summer!—they came with their college interns and even “bigger and better” career exploration activities for students.
Pfizer, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.
A few days earlier, we had a chance to meet up and interview Dave at Humphrey Products, a Kalamazoo, Michigan-based manufacturer. Founded more than 100 years ago, Humphrey’s innovations date back to the commercialization of gaslight products in 1901.
Today, with over 250 employees, Humphrey is recognized as a leading producer of pneumatic products, serving organizations worldwide.
Dave grew up here, moving to the area when he was in elementary school. He graduated from Portage Northern High School and then obtained a degree in economics from the University of Michigan.
Dave first started working for Humphrey in the assembly department. It was his summer job in 1984. “By the end of that summer, they needed help in sales and in the marketing department. They knew I went to U of M and asked if I knew about spreadsheet programs. These were relatively new back then. I had learned about them so I started doing life cycle data entry and analysis for Humphrey. I did this over both summer and Christmas breaks, and they offered me a job upon graduation in the marketing department.” Today, Dave is President of the company.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
Not so much learned, but has been dramatically reinforced. History repeats itself. The book I’m currently reading really brought this home to me. I guess the older I get, the more I understand the ebb and flow of things.
What are you currently reading?
Right now, I’m reading Arthur Herman’s Freedom’s Forge: How American Business Produced Victory in World War II. This book really reinforces the cycles we go through in terms of both industrial and military strength, and especially emphasizes how atrophied we became as a country after World War I. It’s amazing when you realize the effort that was required to assist Great Britain prior to entry into World War II.
We generally had excellent leadership at the time, but many of the industrial leaders who had participated in the buildup for World War I were persecuted in post-war society. With tensions in Europe building leading up to World War II, most of the country felt we should remain neutral. “Don’t get involved; don’t pick a horse, don’t engage in helping either side of the battle.” Yet, with all the atrocities that came to light, we really couldn’t ignore it. Pearl Harbor ultimately sealed our involvement. Regardless, we had some phenomenally gifted leaders that took this country from being unable to produce a single aircraft engine to producing thousands a year. It’s just amazing to consider the supply chain that had to be created and sustained. This book is a good reminder that those cycles go back forever and how critical the role of a strong manufacturing base is in maintaining pre-eminence in the world. It’s very easy to get complacent…or even feel that manufacturing is some type of vestigial appendage of the U.S. economy.
What is your favorite word right now?
What is something you love about Kalamazoo?
There is a lot of variety in terms of things to do here! Almost certainly driving that is the fact that we also have a lot of people that are willing to get involved. I work in some organizations at the state level and see just how blessed we are in this community with thoughtful individuals who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved. There are many communities that don’t have a very deep bench for this type of work. It sets us apart.
I like to fish. I like to hunt. I like to read. I like to cook. I’m a little bit of a current events junkie.
What dish are you known for?
We love the U.P. and have a cottage there. We have an outdoor, brick smoker that my late father custom built. I love to load it up with beef brisket, pork butts, and chickens and let it go all day. We’ve also done cedar-planked white fish in it. It tastes great!
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
I had wonderful parents. My dad was very active, served on a number of boards, served in the church and was a good mentor and model. So was my mom, in addition to being an outstanding cook. She was involved in the Institute of Arts, the church, and a number of other groups. They were both excellent role models. I learned good balance from them: community service, family care, self-care, and faith.
What advice do you have for our 12,000+ students—the up and coming generation of workers—to prepare themselves for obtaining a job in the manufacturing industry?
Do not give up on math and science.
They can be difficult concepts, sometimes, but they are cumulative. You have to go through one discipline to get to the next. And once you give up, it’s very difficult to get back on the escalator of math and science understanding. It breaks my heart when this happens. It often feels like this is a problem in the United States more than any other country and I sometimes wonder if that is because our kids are given the flexibility to check out of the most rigorous disciplines in these areas…I’m afraid we’ve lowered some of our expectations and provided weak alternate paths.
Particularly in some of the Asian countries I travel to it seems like there is a much higher level of expectation with regard to persistence through advanced STEM curriculum. As a student, you are expected to persist through these disciplines. At the same time, I also witness their interactions with their parents and see first-hand that the kids are often more stressed about achievement—so it’s not 100 percent healthy either. There has to be some “happy medium” out there we can aspire to. Lowering our expectations cannot be the answer. Our kids are going to have to compete against these folks and we aren’t doing them any favors if we’re lowering our expectations.
What one thing can parents do to help prepare their child for today’s labor force?
I think we have a generation of parents who didn’t necessarily persist through these disciplines either, so they feel a little at a loss as to how best to help their children do so. It’s especially hard for parents who aren’t very comfortable asking for help. They want to help and yet, they can’t provide the help themselves. Finding resources to do that is not so easy. I did persist and, still, it can be challenging to help my kids. I once had a half hour argument with my son about the proper way to do long division. A half hour…and I have a degree from U-M.
But it’s important to send that message: persist. Help your child persist.
You joined the CIS board over six months ago. As you know, there are many great organizations throughout the Kalamazoo area that support kids. Why CIS?
One of my previous favorite reads is The Coming Jobs War by Jim Clifton. [Dave pulls a dog-eared book off the shelf in his office and opens it to Chapter 10: “K-12 Schools—Where Entrepreneurs are Created.”] This is one of my favorite chapters.
One of the fundamental principles of the book is that we, as business leaders, must take an active role in the day to day nurturing of schools—be a face that these kids see—and be an active part of the community that is supporting them. CIS helps with this. As business leaders, we are in a unique position to give them hope, let them see what is available for them when they are done with their K-12 education. We can be a role model, help them make that connection from where they are today to where we are today. We can also sometimes offer some degree of job and financial security where none exists today. But if we don’t create opportunities to connect with the kids, that connection never happens.
We tend to really like life-long learners. But, it’s difficult to assess this in an interview, in that short window of time. So we try to proxy that, find ways to ask questions that indicates how they might be a life-long learner and see if that is a fundamental part of who they are. Do they have that willingness to learn and advance?
Eighteen years is the average tenure for folks at our company. Well over half of our management team here at Humphrey have come up through the ranks. If we’re not hiring people eager to learn new things, we can get stale. We need to constantly bring in new ideas from the outside world even if we’re not bringing in new people.
It seems like you’re doing a pretty good job with this. Your company has been around since 1901.
The Humphrey family deserves credit for that. I have to give them phenomenal kudos. As a fifth generation family business, they have persisted through the years. There are ups and downs in business and there are always companies who desire to purchase us. The Humphrey family has the patience to persist. They understand all this and are happy being in this community and feeding a couple hundred families. They see this as part of their role.