A couple of years ago, I remember sitting in my car listening to a radio program, riveted to a discussion with Dr. Melvin Levine, co-founder of the non-profit All Kinds of Minds www.allkindsofminds.org .  The subject of the show was his (then) recent book Ready or Not, Here Comes Life, in which he explores why so many young people struggle with the school-to-work transition in life, “a pivotal time that claims more than its share of unsuspecting victims. In fact, most people are better prepared for their retirement than they are for the startup of their working lives!”  At one point in his discussion on how we might better prepare young people for post-school life, he asked the question, “Why don’t we teach kids project management?”  Why not, indeed?!   I have thought often about that question since hearing that radio program.

A couple of years ago, I remember sitting in my car listening to a radio program, riveted to a discussion with Dr. Melvin Levine, co-founder of the non-profit All Kinds of Minds allkindsofminds.org .

The subject was his (then) new book, Ready or Not, Here Comes Life, in which he explores why so many young people struggle with the school-to-work transition in life, “a pivotal time that claims more than its share of unsuspecting victims. In fact, most people are better prepared for their retirement than they are for the startup of their working lives!”

At one point in his discussion on how we might better prepare young people for post-school life, he asked the question, “Why don’t we teach kids project management?”  Why not, indeed?!   I have thought often about that question since hearing that radio program.

Then a few weeks ago, my interest in teaching kids project management was piqued again when I was reading about an organization founded by George Lucas https://www.edutopia.org/ in which he advocates project-based learning.

Lucas was often frustrated as a student in classes he found to be abstract and meaningless.   He suggests thatyoung people working on project interdisciplinary, project-based learning in which students learn using real-world problems and challenges provides context and meaning, but also the opportunity to work in groups to develop “emotional intelligence.”

An engineering class, for example, could require students to build a house that is constrained by a budget and timeline, and has to meet quality requirements such as the ability to withstand particular climatic or weather conditions. Students would be graded on individual and group success, including the project’s “intellectual quality and how well team members got along.”

Project-based learning teaches civility and the ability to work in teams, according to Lucas.  “People don’t get fired for being stupid.  They get fired for not being able to work with other people,” he says.

You could argue that all kids in school are exposed to the idea of time management in that they’re given deadlines, and they have to achieve quality standards in that they get grades, etc.  So there are certainly elements of projects and project management in most classroom settings.

But how much does the average school setting truly embrace what Levine and Lucas are advocating?  Some ideas might include:

Stakeholders
How much thought do students give to the consumers of their work?  Who is their audience and what is their influence on their work?  Who has power?  What kind of power do they have?  Do they think about the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) factor for their stakeholders?

Definition of  Success
Do they consider that the definition of project success depends on who you ask?  It would seem there is something there that could be useful to most students.  Whose definition do I need to pay the most attention to?

Defining Scope
How about scope definition?  What’s in and what’s out.  How do they respond to creep?

Lessons Learned
What about Lessons Learned?  Do they capture thoughts about what’s working to build their “corporate memory?” And, importantly, are they rewarded for working well with others, and what’s the consequence if they don’t?  

Evidentally, this topic is on the minds of others in the field of PM.  In fact, the November issue of PMI Today arrived in my inbox the other day, and a featured article is “New Toolkit for Teaching Youth about the Life Skill of Project Management.”  (See pmief.org for downloads.)

In no way am I discounting all of the wonderful and creative things happening in today’s classrooms all over the country.  In fact, maybe there’s a lot more project-based and project-management learning infused into many classrooms than I’m aware of.

I do like the ideas Levine and Lucas are advocating, however.  Project management is a life skill and, as such, should certainly be something to which kids get exposed.

I won’t be moving a white board into the kitchen to facilitate dinner conversation on calculating the earned value of the evening’s meal preparation project any time soon.  But there is plenty of real-life applicability of PM concepts on the home front.  At the very least I can shed some light on scope definition and risk management on the next trip to the mall.

13 thoughts on “Teaching Children Project Management: Important Life Skill

  1. well put — I am interested in teaching kids project management fundamentals — do you have any other good sources for me on this topic?

  2. Thank you for this post! I am currently working on my masters degree research dissertation in which I explored the development of 21st Century Skills 13-14 year old students undertaking community service projects. Collaborative working, communication and critical thinking are all skills areas that the cohort of participants (150) strongly identified for themselves as developing during the project management workshops I ran and the actual projects the students ran afterwards. I’m definitely going to check out the links mentioned, if there are any relevant peer-reviewed academic papers in this area you could recommend please send them on!

    Kind Regards,

    Grace

    • Grace – That kind of work among young people bodes well for the future for all of us! Best to you!

  3. Thanks Andrea and Grace – so interesting to stumble upon this thread and know that there are like-minded others thinking and doing along these lines. As a PM practitioner who’s also a CELTA ESL teacher, I’ve pursued the concept of a “graded” intro PM life skills course that’s suitable for ESL groups (we have many) here in London. Currently teaching this to local community groups as a pilot. Partnering with local Voluntary Centres and associations to identify real community projects for the practical piece. More than happy to connect and share ideas with interested others 🙂 Cheers, Neil

  4. I love the way you are all thinking. I am involved in teaching children who need challenge and research indicates they prefer learning in a theme/project format. Could anyone recommend suitable project management software to introduce children to?

    • Tracey – Good for you and good for your students if you’re moving toward project-based learning! Nothing comes to mind regarding software specifically for kids, although I know there are a variety of tools out there. Some, of course, can get very spendy, but those tend to be enterprise tools which probably wouldn’t scale well for your environment. I think if you teach the fundamentals and the concepts, they’ll probably figure out the tools. Standard school-issue Chromebooks or laptops with Office-type tools can go a long way toward providing students with what they need. Personally, I think it is possible to do good PM with simple tools like a good word processor and spreadsheet. Thanks for sharing your question and good luck!

  5. I am involved in children teaching and was looking for the application of the project management like game or activities any resources?
    Thanks a lot

    • Hello, Safi. I am not aware of any games or specific activities for children regarding project management. Hmmm…good idea!

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