Have you ever heard of Macinley Butson or Benjamin Stern?
Most likely you haven’t.
Macinley Butson and Benjamin Stern are two young innovators making a big dent in the world and their ideas weren’t scribbled on the back of a napkin at a bar. Their ideas came to them during class when they were in secondary school. Macinley, the 2018 NSW Young Australian of the Year, is a serial entrepreneur having invented the Spoonge and SMART Armour. The Spoonge, invented by Macinley in Year 6, is a cross between a syringe and spoon and delivers the correct amount of medicine for a child. SMART Armour, with SMART standing for Scale Maille Armour for Radiation* Therapy, is a protective plate that shields women from radiation during breast cancer treatment.
Benjamin is the Head Honcho and Founder of Nobho Drops. Nohbo Drops are single-use, water-soluble packets containing shampoo, conditioner, body wash or shaving cream. They contain no harsh chemicals, parabens or sulfates and, best of all, generate no plastic waste. Benjamin’s idea came to him during Year 9 Biology class.
Benjamin and Macinley are two examples of a growing number of young entrepreneurs, inventors, innovators and social activists. They are examples of learner agency of the highest degree. Young people observing and noticing their world and the challenges that many face within it and then taking inspired action to propose solutions to help solve that problem. Like all famous innovators, their work is not solo but rather a delicate and diverse network of support, feedback, guidance, challenge and love.
Not everyone needs to be an inventor, entrepreneur or social change agent. But the capacities and competencies that lie underneath what they do are transferable and desirable.
When learners create new value, they ask questions, collaborate with others and try to think “outside the box”. In doing so, they can become more prepared and resilient when confronted with uncertainty and change, and can develop a greater sense of purpose and self-worth. Pedagogical approaches that give students the opportunity to apply their learning to real-life scenarios and challenges, such as how to attain food and water security, how to reduce youth unemployment or how to adapt to urbanisation, help students develop new thinking, ideas and insights.
The capacity to reduce bias, question assumptions, run experiments, take calculated risks, learn, validate with quantifiable metrics is welcomed in any role. This is science at it's best. The combination of effective mental models with application in the real world helps us make sense of the world we live in. It requires we open our minds, our eyes and our ears and then take action.
Supporting these young entrepreneurs is paramount. You may have the next Macinley or Benjamin in your classroom. All kids start school believing they can change the world. Our responsibility as a community is to nurture this growth.