The goal is big: Create a thoughtful, cooperative, and compassionate generation of students who go on to solve social, environmental, economic, and political problems. Fortunately, the road to get there has a map. It’s called Habits of Mind, an approach to thinking and learning infused with 16 golden rules, from persistence and accuracy to listening with empathy and taking responsible risks. Since 2010, Montecito Union School (MUS) has woven these techniques into classrooms and playgrounds, and last week its efforts were honored and certified by the Institute for Habits of Mind, founded by educators Bena Kallick and Art Costa, who dubbed the 94-year-old public K-6 an “international Habit of Mind learning community of excellence,” a distinction shared by just a handful of schools nationwide.
With students, staff, and parents gathered in the campus’s central courtyard, a handful of sixth graders spoke to the benefits of the learning techniques, in particular the habit of flexible thinking in tackling complex math problems. “I look forward to learning,” said one of the boys, “no matter how challenging.”
In related news, for the 2015/16 school year, MUS was California’s second-highest-performing school district in language arts and one percentage point away from placing fifth in math.