Promoting Executive Function Life Skills is the basis of our work on Mind in the Making.

Mind in the Making (MITM), a program of the Bezos Family Foundation, is an unprecedented effort to share the science of children’s learning with the general public, families and professionals who work with children and families.

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To date, Ellen Galinsky and MITM reviewed more than 1,000 studies and conducted in-depth interviews with over 85 leading researchers who study children’s learning. With New Screen Concepts, an Emmy Award-winning production company, we film these researchers “in action” as they conduct their actual experiments. We present the science of children’s early development in an accessible, engaging and inspiring way — and create an array of multimedia materials that are designed to help diverse audiences bridge the gap between knowledge and practice. MITM has the most extensive library of videos sharing the research on children’s development and learning ever created — and we have more filming planned.

As Jerome Kagan of Harvard University says, “The behavior you see in a child is like observing the sky without a telescope. You just see a little. You’ve got to peer deeper.” By taking cutting-edge research and applying the principles of engaged learning to adult learning, the Mind in the Making initiative helps adults peer deeper in order to better understand how children learn, what they need to learn and how adults can take simple, effective steps to promote this learning.

As a result of her work across multiple disciplines, Ellen Galinsky (author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs, and President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute and Chief Science Officer at Bezos Family Foundation) was able to view the research on child development from a workforce perspective (based on FWI’s extensive research on the workforce) and workforce issues from a child development perspective.

After spending years immersed in this child development research, Ellen realized that it is essential to promote content knowledge and learning-related skills, and to do so in a way that maintains children’s engagement in learning. Thus, she turned to the studies she had reviewed, looking at the research evidence to determine which skills help children thrive throughout their lives. As a result, she developed an evidenced-based list of seven life skills that are essential for children in the short- and long-term. These skills are:

  • Focus and Self Control
  • Perspective Taking
  • Communicating
  • Making Connections
  • Critical Thinking
  • Taking on Challenges
  • Self-Directed, Engaged Learning

These skills are called life skills because of their powerful potential to help children succeed socially, emotionally and intellectually in the short- and long-term. These are skills that every adult can teach and every child can learn. In addition, it is never too late to learn these skills.

All of these life skills are based, in one way or another, in the prefrontal cortex of the brain and involve what child development researchers call “Executive Functions” of the brain. They are called Executive Functions because we use them to “manage” our attention, our emotions and our behavior in order to reach our goals. As Adele Diamond of the University of British Columbia (a leading researcher whose work is featured in Mind in the Making) says:

If you look at what predicts how well children will do later in school, more and more evidence is showing that executive functions … actually predict success better than IQ tests.

As Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University writes in a 2011 issue of Science:

Vulnerable children who do well in school often have well-developed capacities in executive function and emotional regulation, which help them manage adversity more effectively and provide a solid foundation for academic achievement and social competence. Evidence that executive function and self-regulation predict literacy and numeracy skills underscores the salience of these capacities for targeted intervention. Many teachers also contend that competence in these domains is more important at school entry than knowledge of letters and numbers.

Promoting Executive Function Life Skills is the basis of our work on Mind in the Making.