A High School Boot Camp To Make Big Decisions Better — THE AREA METHOD

What problems are today’s high-schoolers wrestling with?

  • How do I get an academic scholarship?
  • How do I create a budget and save money?
  • How do I make friends at the new school I’m going to next year?
  • Can I continue to live with my mom?

These were just a few high-stakes problems that high schoolers needed to solve this month when I road-tested my AREA Method with The Future Project, a national not for profit that I’ve known and supported for a few years. The Future Project works in our nation’s high schools to promote a positive school culture and help students learn skills they need for life. Together, we held a half-day “Boot Camp” for teens gathered from both Newark’s Merit Preparatory Charter School and Brooklyn Community Arts and Media High School. The goal was to teach them about decision making.

The learning objectives:

  • Help students become aware of the volume of decisions they make in their lives, that facing choices is actually a skill, and that developing this skill can help them have greater control over their lives.
  • Expose the students to the AREA Method, teach them the fundamental concepts underlying it, and have them put them into practice.
  • Have students use the AREA app (yes, there’s now an app! Coming soon to the AREA Method website to be launched the day my book Problem Solved is officially released on April 17). The app was created to help students identify their Decision Maker Archetype and to teach them about common cognitive biases, those mental mistakes, assumptions and judgments that help us make small decisions well, but impede our ability to openly assess new information when solving complex problems.
  • Teach students and allow them to practice two research skills based upon AREA’s Cheetah Sheets, the graphic organizers that help build and hone the skills needed to carry out the AREA method.

The results first:

  • 100% of students responded that they found the experience valuable
  • 100% of students said they would recommend the experience to a friend

Below are some of the students’ feedback about their key learnings and takeaways in their own words:

The Key Learnings

  • How to assess big decisions
  • I’m too dependent on my parents and I need to stop that
  • How to make a good decision
  • Think before I do
  • Decision making is a big part of life
  • Not making a decision is actually a BIG decision
  • How to get started on solving a problem
  • Think about what you want to do in life and don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinion
  • There are good and bad choices, and how we get to the answers is imperative to growing
  • It made me more aware of how to improve the types of decisions I make
  • Since the only thing we really have control over are our choices, it made me even more excited about what my future will hold

Days Later…

  • The Newark schoolteacher who ran the Boot Camp reported that the students were applying what they learned from it to the way they were operating in school.
  • The students were describing more about WHY they are making decisions.
  • For example one student got a job recently, and said he now realized that deciding to start a job during the school year was going to impact other parts of his life. He realized that it’s important to think that through and said he had a heightened awareness about his choices and their impact.
  • Students have been referencing their decision-maker style from the app with other students at school — and getting really excited about it. They say that knowing their decision-maker archetype increases their awareness about the kinds of cognitive biases that might impact them the most so that they can control for and counteract some mental mistakes.

In sum, the experience got students thinking about their decisions critically. Students became more aware of the volume of decisions they make, as well as the types of decisions, and some of the essential parts of the AREA Method’s tool kit — all of which were key intended outcomes. Relatedly, they also got a sense of the types of questions they should be asking themselves before making a decision — big or small — which is a critical skill that they aren’t typically exposed to in schools (and therefore, aren’t ever explicitly taught). They felt a real sense of agency that they could make better choices in their lives.

The experience was so exciting! As our nation works to solve the education crisis, which will take many solutions, this experience sparked one that I’m now especially passionate about — and that has been hiding, in many ways, in plain sight. Imagine if every young person learned decision making before they turned eighteen. Is there anything we do more frequently that has higher stakes than make choices? If graduating high school also meant mastering decision making, then I believe that the world might get along just a little bit better, and everyone would live happier lives.

Next up: I am working with The Future Project to design a module digital curriculum to teach all high school students how to make big decisions better. The Future Project works in our nation’s high schools with original projects that nourish students’ budding entrepreneurial interests and cultivate agency over self and society, experiences that shape a purposeful identity, and more.

Problem Solved is officially available April 17! You can pre-order here: http://amzn.to/2nUd3E

To learn more about the details of this workshop or about the AREA Method, contact me at cheryl@areamethod.com


Originally published at www.areamethod.com on April 4, 2017.