The big idea that will change the world is that that we’ll have these kids that will be able to look outward at the world and be sustainability natives. But they’re also going to look inside their world, inside themselves and know what makes them tick and know what they need to do to be the most successful human beings that they can be. Emotionally, socially, professionally, all of those things. We want all of our students to grow into well-rounded, emotionally intelligent, socially responsible adults, creating a better world in every way possible.
As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World in the Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Rebecca Amis. Rebecca is chief innovation officer of MUSE Global, an international child-centered educational system teaching sustainability and plant-based values.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I actually have two stories. I was originally “scheduled” to be a writer, but when I arrived for my undergraduate career, I became enamored with my “Theories of Adolescence” class and proceeded from there to become super-interested in child development. I created a project that analyzed the meaning behind children’s drawings. That was when I became intrigued by children’s psychology and development. After that, I went on to graduate school in child studies, and learned about a philosophy in early childhood education called “Reggio Emilia.” I learned that children, too, should be respected, and children and teachers alike can learn together! The reciprocity of respect and learning was the key element that brought me around to creating settings where children are seen, respected and individualized.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The MUSE School model of education is being embraced, envied and chosen all around the world — both domestically and internationally. That’s the most interesting thing I can imagine!
Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?
Education. When I think about a big idea that might change the world, my brain automatically goes to this idea that children are the most important people who are going to be ruling our world eventually. One of the things that we are teaching them at MUSE School is inner and outer sustainability. The big idea that will change the world is that that we’ll have these kids that will be able to look outward at the world and be sustainability natives. But they’re also going to look inside their world, inside themselves and know what makes them tick and know what they need to do to be the most successful human beings that they can be. Emotionally, socially, professionally, all of those things. We want all of our students to grow into well-rounded, emotionally intelligent, socially responsible adults, creating a better world in every way possible.
How do you think this will change the world?
By spreading the MUSE model, we will develop children who will go out into the world and know how to protect the planet. We are planting these seeds, and these kids are going to grow up to make responsible, earth-friendly decisions in their everyday lives. They are going to know what we need to do, how to do it, and how quickly we need to do it. And then, along those lines, we’ll help develop kind people who know themselves well, who have the self-efficacy to be leaders, to be able to go out into the world to make decisions and make changes that are relevant and important to the human race. What is that? I think encouraging people to be who they are, encouraging people to be individuals while also being able to collaborate and come together in unity.
Could I see any drawbacks to helping nurture well-adjusted kids, who are balanced and stable and can go into the world and be resourceful and persistent?
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
The tipping point was really because the education model out there now is failing. We’re finding we’re still doing the same thing after 100 years. In 1999, I started my own school. Later, my sister said, “Let’s start a new school,” because nothing existed that we wanted for our own children. There was a lack of child-centered or student-centered education and environmental education. It was in late 1990s, early 2000s, that we really started looking at climate and at the huge plastic gyres in the oceans across the world. So, we started a new school, emphasizing education around the environment, hoping to teach our children and other children as well.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
My sister would say world dominance. But really, just spreading the MUSE model. One of the interesting things is that we are finding a lot of people are starting to steal our ideas, which is great. Steal it. Take it. It’s just a changing mindset. Changing minds to see that we can change education. We can transform education. In order to do that, though, we’re going to sprinkle the MUSE model all over the world and get people to jump on board and invest in changing education for young children.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- It is not easy to start your own school. What is funny is that when my sister and I started MUSE, we had a colleague of ours who was the head of another cool, innovative school in Santa Monica, California. My sister and I were talking to him, and we said, “Yeah, we just want to start a little school.” He looked us in the eyes and said, “Are you sure?” He knew what we are getting ready to embark upon, and we didn’t. Somebody tried to tell us, but we didn’t listen.
- Hold on to your dreams. You know intuitively what you want, but a lot of times people can try to influence us, try to talk us out of big ideas. It was a really big idea to start MUSE School. A lot of people tried to tell us, “No, no, no, you should do the curriculum like this,” or “No, no, no, you can’t do that,” or “You have to follow a canned curriculum or a curriculum that has already been developed,” or “You can’t start a school from scratch.” It was just very difficult. There were times that my sister and I doubted ourselves.
- Families are unpredictable. Parents can be extremely unreasonable. We have had the most insane scenarios and predicaments. We’ve just had so many situations where you look at them bewildered.
- There are going to be a lot of surprises. I wish somebody had told us that. There is going to be a lot of heartbreak, and there is going to be a lot of joy. The heartbreak for me personally is that all I ever wanted was to create an oasis for children and families. But when somebody starts tearing you down or falsely accusing you of doing something, it’s heartbreaking. When a person decides to start a school or wants to do something better for children, there is no ill will there at all. I think that is hard when people are accosting and offensive and just straight up mean. That’s been hard and heart-breaking.
- There is joy. There have been times at the end of each year — when we graduate students or watch students move on to the next grade — that we look at each other and cry. Those are tears of joy because we look at what we’ve created. We have children and parents come to us, and they are in tears. They say, “You’ve changed our lives.” And that means that the thing we set out to do actually came to fruition. So, that’s the joy. There are times when I can look at my sister, and we say, “Wow, look what we did.”
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
Staying up to date on what is going on the in world, where jobs are going to be, where we need to be and keeping that in mind with your own career.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
I would probably invest in more schools like MUSE. When I say that, I think more about investing in teachers. if ALL teachers could be like our MUSE teachers, the world would be a better place…Teachers who are trained to work with children in the way we do at MUSE. I believe that our education model is the way of the future, and that is why I would invest in more schools like MUSE.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason. I like to accept life on life’s terms and believe that no matter if it’s a good or bad thing, it’s always a teachable thing. and i’ve learned to be grateful for everything that comes my way, good or bad. that’s when i get schooled!
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
I think an open mindset is probably one of the most important success habits or mindsets to have .Just being open to what we are presented with. Being open. Being resourceful. Being persistent.
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?
I would give the MUSE elevator pitch. I would tell a venture capitalist that they should invest in MUSE Schools because we are developing both the inner and outer sustainability of the children. We are looking at how they can go into the world and focus on the sustainability of our planet. But we’re also developing students who know themselves. They know what they have to offer, they are very confident in that. And with these two fundamental elements, our students will be pivotal in changing our planet for the better.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Your readers are welcome to follow MUSE on social media:
Thank you so much for joining us.