At MaRS, the kids are alright

At MaRS, the kids are alright

The way I see things, content used to be king. Then, almost overnight, everyone had content. When this happened the value of content decreased—in part because much of it wasn’t any good and in part because we began to focus on shiny things instead of what was the end result of a lot of hard, slow work (which is what building great content takes).

The result is a lack of opportunity and, to borrow from The Who, a lack of opportunity for young people is truly a teenage wasteland. Here at MaRS, we offer a range of innovative programs for youth entrepreneurship featuring amazing content that ensures the kids are all right. Just in July, MaRS and Toronto have hosted some of the best programs for young people our city and nation have ever seen. Let me give you a sense of what’s happening inside of our transparent glass doors.

This week MaRS reprises Future Leaders, a program for the idea builders and doers of tomorrow. This immersive weeklong experience encourages teens to use all of the tools made available to them—and there are many, including great mentors and guest speakers—to experience the creative ideation process through prototyping, testing and pitching business solutions. (You can catch updates on what the teens are doing during the program on the Entrepreneurial Thinking blog.)

Just last week, Sarah Prevette’s Future Design School (FDS), which has its global headquarters here at MaRS, ran its first weeklong camp. FDS enables youth to learn through entrepreneurship experience, design education and real-world experiments, and is sure to have a global impact.

Students at Future Design School experience the creative ideation process

Kelly Shaw, the CEO of Ooka Island, has a daughter who just finished a week at FDS.

“As a parent of a tween girl going to FDS camp at MaRS this summer, I was amazed at how into it my daughter was,” she says. “This was the first time she’d been exposed to design thinking and innovation. FDS started her out thinking about an idea that could help change the world, then took it from designing a prototype of a product to solve the problem to understanding the size of the market and competition to pitching it on the last day of camp.”

Testing the prototype
Testing the prototype

For those who don’t believe that great dots in an ecosystem always find a way to connect, Kelly shares that her daughter now wants to attend the Girls Learning Code Summer Camp at MaRS to learn how to code her Live Healthy App.

Girls Learning Code Summer Camp at MaRS gives girls and boys the chance to learn about digital creation

“It’s something she would have never been interested in before, but she noticed the camp while at MaRS and she wants to continue building her startup,” says Kelly. “I think MaRS is doing something unique and very right in encouraging kids to become Canada’s entrepreneurs of the future.”

Girls Learning Code and Kids Learning Code are program initiatives of Ladies Learning Code, an organization that offers women (and men) hands-on opportunities to understand and learn digital creation, an increasingly important linguistic skill in the economy of the present and future. The organization’s summer programs at MaRS are designed to help girls and boys to see technology in a whole new light, including as a medium for self-expression and as a means for changing the world. The organization has planned six full weeks of programming at MaRS this summer.

Campers build on their skills in entrepreneurial thinking, coding and design

Krista Jones, education technology lead at MaRS, thinks this is a seriously amazing thing.

“Entrepreneurial thinking, coding and design thinking are skills that provide a framework for focusing creativity into problem-solving and business building,” explains Krista. “Having kids ages 10 through 17 learning those skills at MaRS and rubbing shoulders with entrepreneurs who are using those skills to build innovative ventures creates an amazing spark of energy that is palpable throughout the building. I think the next Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg might just be here.”

It’s stunning to see how far we’ve come in offering such a wealth of programs for young people who have an eye on building a better tomorrow.