The year was 1954, Joe McVicker, CEO of Kutol, had a problem. Not a tiny problem, but a big problem. The Kutol family business, which had been passed down for generations, was on the verge of closing its doors. Kutol had made its fortune, originally in the production of soap, but later in providing families with a wallpaper cleaner. Up until the mid-1950s, most houses in the United States were heated from coal. A very warm form of energy, though costly in many ways, coal made your house - a dirty mess. Kutol’s product was a putty compound that when rubbed onto wallpaper would remove all of the coal soot, leaving behind a fresh and clean house.
That all changed in the 1950s when gas began to replace coal and vinyl supplements replaced wallpaper, thus the demand for the Kutol putty was greatly decreasing each year. During an early Christmas gathering in 1954, the McVickers were sitting around the table and discussing the plight of the family business. As family members were throwing out ideas of what the future should entail, Kay (Joe’s sister-in-law) while playing with the compound, was struck with an idea. She asked if she could use a number of cans of Kutol the next day. Kay, an elementary teacher, had planned to use the putty compound at school with her students. The students could mold the putty, with their hands, to fashion Christmas ornaments for family and friends. The next day at school, the project and putty was such a hit, that Kay called her brother-in-law and pitched him on her future vision of the family business, Play-Doh.
Ironically, this historical story provides a glimpse into the future of work. This is a story of innovation. Within two generations, the McVicker family was forced to learn new skills, and reinvent their product three separate times in order to survive. The workforce has, and always will change at a rapid pace.
The same holds true for the 21st Century economy. With the onset of new technologies, that already rapid pace is quickening by the year. One needs to look no further than our own backyard to find successful examples of change throughout the years (i.e. The Herald, Wurms Woodworking Company, or Crest Bending, Inc, etc…). It goes without saying, when companies change products and services, the employees must change as well. The 21st Century employee will need to be able to innovate, unlearn and relearn, and utilize entrepreneurial skills (to name a few) in order to maintain employment.
As a school, one of our goals is to prepare our graduating students to succeed in this highly fluid and competitive marketplace. This goal can be seen in the opening of our new STEAM lab. The STEAM lab is a 21st Century industrial playground consisting of multiple tools, that when used correctly, can teach important skills, such as:
This goal can be seen in our new Innovations course. This course asks our students to choose a large and multifaceted problem or project. They then are partnered with a teacher to mentor the student through the process of solving the problem or completing the project. This course, placed within the STEAM lab, will teach the above-mentioned skills as well as the following:
This goal can be seen in the offering of Entrepreneurship courses littered with Project-Based Learning. These courses and projects teach our students important entrepreneurial skills:
If the past 18 months have taught us anything else, it is that life can be challenging, difficult, and at times, unfair. So, while we are actively working to provide our students with the above-mentioned skills and preparing them for the 21st Century economy, we realize our students will also need to be able to deal with professional, personal, social, and emotional challenges on a daily basis. To help our students meet these challenges we are integrating G.R.I.T. into our lessons and our school culture:
As a school, it is difficult to predict what this year will bring. Will the Covid variant(s) disrupt our school year, school community, and larger communities? Will the late Fall and Winter months mirror last school year and bring with it many positive cases? Only time will tell. That said, I do know that this year will bring challenges. Difficult and multi-faceted challenges. Those challenges will be met by both our staff and the student population. Not in isolation, but rather in partnership and collaboration, utilizing the aforementioned skillset, working together, to forge a better school experience for all.
Sometimes life provides the best learning opportunities. Let’s utilize our resources and classrooms. Let's utilize our talent and knowledge base. Let’s utilize our community, staff, and students to make this the best academic, athletic, and social school year to date!
Dr. Michael Martin