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Chappaqua Looks to Prepare Kids for Tech Future

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – Seven Bridges Middle School Principal Martha Zornow may never be able to predict the future, she only knows that she will never stop trying to prepare her students for when it comes.

"We cannot teach our students what they will need to know to be successful in their futures. We don’t know. We may never understand it," Zornow said. "But what we can teach them is how to think quickly on their feet. How to exercise habits of mind and persistence."

Zornow is one 22 administrators, teachers, parents and students on the advisory committee Chappaqua Education for the Future. The committee met Wednesday night with a packed house of community members in a discussion about preparing students for an ever-evolving technological world.

The committee, which was founded in July 2011, met throughout the year to brainstorm ideas of how to better prepare students and equip them with "21st-century skills."

“We actually brainstormed 49 ideas," said Superintendent Lyn McKay. "Well, we certainly can’t accomplish 49 ideas, at least not right away, so we worked very hard to synthesize that information, and we came up with three.”

Those three are: ensuring better communication skills, collaboration skills and intellectual agility; fostering the creative process; and establishing practices to enhance the social, emotional and physical health of students. The 22-person committee was then divided into three subcommittees, one for each idea.

Zornow's subcommittee focused on improving communication skills in a world where iPads, smartphones and email are prevalent. While the devices may be changing, Zornow said, the principal skills of communication are not.

“Kids in ... the 21st century need to be able to communicate effectively, thoughtfully, articulately and clearly,” Zornow said. “Tell a story, prove a point, rally people to a very important cause in your world. What’s going to change is how you get the message out.”

Similar presentations were given throughout the night on creativity and health, with community members discussing afterward in smaller groups. Each group wrote down ideas for initiatives they would like to see and “old” teaching ways they never want to lose.

“We have to be forward-thinking,” McKay said. “We need ideas from everyone, and we want to move this district forward and actualize these ideas.”

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