Sapienship researcher Dr. Jim Clarke discusses how to speak to students about the world's biggest problems and all the amazing resources for K–12 education that are being created at his workplace, Sapienship. 

Sapienship is the social impact company co-founded by “Sapiens” author Yuval Noah Harari and his husband Itzik Yahav, and headed by Naama Avital. 

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Technological disruption, the climate crisis, the prospect of global war — these are all challenges the problem solvers of tomorrow will have to consider. 

How our students respond will greatly depend on how educators prepare them today.  

In this episode, Dr. Jim Clarke, researcher at Sapienship, explains how the company’s work is helping students prepare for the challenges of the 21st century.

The Big Three Global Challenges

Global change cannot happen without a global effort. But to foster that sort of collaboration requires a deep understanding of the world’s biggest challenges — something that educators can help their students learn about now. 

Jim shares the three big global challenges that Sapienship focuses on: 

1 - Technological Disruption: As humans, we’re losing our agency to algorithms. “We're concerned about what happens if technology develops some agency, which erodes that of humanity,” Jim says. “And we need to be aware of this before we actually experience that scenario.”

2 - Climate Crisis: The collapse of the planet’s ecological systems requires a global commitment to change. While it’s impossible to tackle this entire challenge, we can address specific pain points like loss of biodiversity. Encouraging students to become researchers and take note of how climate change has impacted them is one way to foster participation.

3 - Global War: At any given point in time, there’s a lot of war happening on the planet. By establishing a system of international rules that everyone respects, we can build worldwide security, even when two parties disagree.

While these challenges don’t encompass all of the world’s problems to be dealt with, Jim and his colleagues at Sapienship are working to focus public attention on the big issues that impact us collectively, and to raise awareness of the need to collaborate on solving them.

“When we are in a world where we have not just one, but these three swords of Damocles hanging over our heads, we think removing those risks — or at least attempting to mitigate or minimize their adverse effects — has to take priority,” Jim says.

Prioritizing Areas of Study 

Students have limitless ways to spend their time and attention in today’s world. So it’s become more important than ever to know when to say no. In the same way that Sapienship decided to focus on three main areas of global concern, students must choose their interests wisely.

If we want students to choose interests that will be most beneficial to the planet, they first need to be taught why those specific global challenges are of such great concern. One of the ways Sapienship is promoting this education is through the graphic novel, “Sapiens: A Graphic History.”

“We're all on this planet together. And this is the history of all of us. And we wanted to find new ways to reach new audiences with that same story, because it's a story that we all own. It's a story that we're all in,” Jim says. 

Alongside the graphic novel, Sapienship is developing other ways to get students involved and engaged, including a forthcoming online channel – where educators will be able to access videos, quizzes and games designed as classroom conversation starters.

Next Steps for Students and Parents

To ensure our student problem solvers are prepared for the challenges that lay ahead, Jim emphasizes two attributes that every student should develop: Adaptability and resilience. 

Because the world is changing quickly, knowing how to pivot and how to get back up after a failure is crucial. 

For parents, Jim offers similar advice for their support role: When students are young, they’re fragile. Supporting and role-modeling adaptability and resilience will help young people to better engage with the world’s leading challenges.

Guest Links 

Sapienship

Recommended Resources

- “Sapiens: A Graphic History

- “Unstoppable Us” is an illustrated book series for young readers, which Sapienship hopes will encourage students to reflect on their life on this planet and to engage with a wider global conversation about who we are and where we're going as humans. “One of our key values is that we want to include everybody in the conversation, and young people are the next generation and people we want to include in that conversation.” To accompany “Unstoppable Us,” Sapienship is launching a number of virtual workshops that highlight the questions and themes raised in the book series. Additionally, Sapienship will soon publish an audio drama series that can be used to prompt discussions about technological disruption within the classroom or at home. This series includes scripted, fictional stories for young people to listen to and will be accompanied by a set of guiding questions around the topics the episodes raise. There’s also supporting material provided for parents and teachers to help with the direct discussion about the issues students may face as they enter adulthood.

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This episode was brought to you by Art of Problem Solving, where students train to become the great problem solvers of tomorrow. 

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