Kids Make It Better, Children Find Creative Solutions to the World's Toughest Problems

kids make it better photo

Image credit: Suzy Becker
This post was written by Suzy Becker, an artist, educator, entrepreneur, and the author of Kids Make it Better.

There's a freaky back-story to this post. The day I signed on as a guest blogger, this site's homepage featured a photo of a duck whose feathers had been doused in oil.

trash fish illustration photo

Image credit: Suzy Becker

A nearly identical photograph was the genesis of my new book, Kids Make it Better. I was teaching 2nd and 3rd grades, and a bunch of my kids were upset about the sad, doused duck they'd seen on the front page of The Boston Globe. I scrapped my lesson plan, handed out some paper and ask the kids a question: "If you were in charge, if you were the President or a scientist or an inventor, what would you do to clean up the oil slick?"

Then I stood there. Last night, at a "Think-in" in memory of education giant, great mentor and friend Ted Sizer, someone referred to the process of teaching as "lying in wait"—that's what I was doing after I handed out those pieces of paper.

kids wagon photo

Image credit: Suzy Becker

What happened: The kids began to write and draw. Meghan wrote, "I would get a big sponge and tie it with ropes to a helicopter. Then lower it down and soak up all the oil." Kathryn wrote, "I would put suntan lotion on all the animals. Then take the water out and wash it in a washing machine and put it back."

These kids weren't daunted. They were busy "solving" the problem, ant they were visibly less upset. As I watched them working away, I started to think: I could put any problem in front of any roomful of kids and they would come up with solutions. And the more I thought (the longer I was "lying in wait"), the more the idea grew on me.

Eighty classrooms and 20 elementary schools later, I had the beginnings of the Kids Make it Better book. Last summer, I turned those beginnings into a write-in, draw-in journal for 6 to 10 year-olds everywhere. And just last week, I got to watch my 5½ year old choose a problem: "When people are sick, they need extra-special care. How would you take care of someone who is sick?"

I read her an eight year old's solution from the book: "Let them have their pet in bed with them."

"Ew," she said. Earnie (our old cat) drools and Vita (our old dog) desperately needs a bath.

She thought for a while and wrote in her first solution in her very own copy of the book, "Give them lots of fresh air, TV, soda and sweets."

TV, soda and sweets?! "Let's try another!"

Read more about children:
No Kidding, One in Three Children Fear Earth Apocalypse
Children Already Bearing Brunt of Global Warming
Let Children Run "Barefoot" this Spring in VivoBarefoot Kids!

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