Exploration, Inquiry and Curiosity. Reasons Why We Love Traveling.

Exploration, inquiry and curiosity. Humans are explorers and inquirers. We have migrated across, and inhabited earth, we have built ships and traveled far. We have built airplanes and traveled long distances in a short time. We even built space rockets. What is it that is so exciting with traveling?

Let’s look at traveling from an applied neuroscience perspective. Here are a few reasons.

-To see what’s behind the next corner? ( dopamine )

-To understand people who live in other parts of the world? ( serotonin )

-To learn languages? ( communication )

-To admire architecture, design, art, music of different cultures than our own? ( self-expression and creativity )

-To eat food that tastes different than that from home? ( senses )

-To connect with others? ( oxytocin )

-To get inspired by each other? ( dopamine )

-To create a better world? ( problem-solving + collab skills )

-To simply enjoy and have fun? ( endorphins )

What is home? It can be the physical place where we feel a sense of belonging, a safe place, a beautiful place to come back to.

It is also place inside ourselves. Our core. Having lived in many places abroad, I came to realise that home is a concept we carry inside ourselves, if we have understood our values, our why, our essence.

When I was a teenager, growing up in – what I thought was – the end of the world, above the Arctic Circle, I was dreaming of living on a tropical island where they dance salsa. I was obsessed with traveling and learning about the world and it’s inhabitants ( authentic inquiry ). I had, at some point, 25 penpals from around the globe!

In 2000 I sold all I had, and moved to the Reunion island near Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. It was a crazy adventure, I was following my intuition. It was the right thing to do.

I guess you have seen those memes that say “If you could tell your younger self something, what would it be?”. I don’t have anything to say to my younger self! I admire her guts! I fullfilled dreams, lived on purpose. I had my island, I skydived, I dived with a whale, did ULM, parapente, surfed, swimed with sea turtles- and in lagoons and under waterfalls, I saw dolphins in the ocean, on my way to work. When I went to sleep I could hear the waves of the powerful Indian Ocean.

I think my younger self could remind me of adventure. When the pandemic started and we couldn’t travel anymore I felt so starved of a big passion of mine. Traveling. I thought of what the plan B would be. Answer: travel at home. Luckily I live in a very beautiful area of Sweden.

I also traveled in my mind. Explored ideas and created scenarios of what would be possible to innovate in the footsteps of the pandemic.

I am now also thinking of how to travel more sustainable in the future.

I simply love coming to new places, and places abroad that I keep coming back to. I love to be a surprised, to challenge myself to communicate in another language, to walk around in Amsterdam ( where I am now ) for example and find treasures, to download music on Spotify with music from that country, to walk, explore, talk, admire, and be in awe of beautiful landscapes.

I crave novelty every now and again as I am a very curious person. I develop as a human when I travel and I can’t imagine a life without it. What about YOU?

Yvette Larsson, the Netherlands, November 2021.

The Concept of Learning is Changing

The concept of learning is changing. Learning happens everywhere. We are already seeing many different organisations providing science-based, relevant teaching and learning for young people, like the recent The LEGO Foundation initiative for SEL/ PLAYbased learning. OECD – OCDE just published their report based on their SEL survey. HundrEDorg promotes learning innovations worldwide. Learnlife writes a new paradigm of learning. Green School Bali model sustainability and happiness. The International Baccalaureate PYP program functions interdisciplinary + boosts concepts and skills based learning.

Humans existed for some 150,000-200,000 generations. Schools as we know them existed for some 200 years here in Sweden. We, humans, constructed the idea of a school. We can reconstruct that idea, to better serve 21st-century learners.

When school is lacking knowledge about the know-how of 21st century learning, initiative, energy, structure, and futuristic leadership, others will step in.

We have already a global, connected learning ecosystem with digital tools, a network of motivated Ed-people, and possibilities, and learners use that!

Schools don’t have a monopoly on learning.

The education system needs to redesign itself in order to follow suit with the changes in society.

Education in schools needs to become more relevant for the learners.

Our decision-makers need to make it attractive to become a teacher. In Sweden, we are lacking 22,000 teachers as we speak, and the prognosis is not looking too optimistic. The teacher profession needs to be reinvented, to become more that of a facilitator, that of a futurist.

The EdTech industry is booming and learners continue to learn.

Humans are more than numbers in a grade book, we are most of all driven by emotion, by our relationships with others, our outlook on how well we believe we can reach our hopes and dreams. SEL is crucial.

Humanity developed by small groups working together ( cf. “The Survival of the Friendliest” /Hare Woods and “Humankind” by Rutger Bregman )

We need some more bold, courageous, and open-minded, futuristic type of leadership at schools now.

Photo: AHA! Hackathon for Youth: The Future of Education is Now at Hetch.

What if?

The question “What if?” is so powerful. It challenges old truths and opens up new doors to more powerful and purposeful human stories. If you think about it, most systems are human-made, hence we can also change those systems when they don’t serve us any longer. We, ourselves, create our belief systems.

The concept of today’s school is also a human-made system. Humans have existed for approximately 200.000 generations. School, as we know it in Sweden, has existed for approximately 200 years.

With a little imagination and lots of courage, we can create better possibilities for young people to thrive.

The Robot is Coming!

/ ROBOTS / Next week will be exciting and interesting. My class and I will have a robot in the classroom. Super happy to be one of two classes in Helsingborg to be able to try this out.

It connects well with the overarching theme that interests me “What does it mean go be human in a global age of technology?” and What is reality?

Here is more information about the initiative: https://lnkd.in/e-wfws_y

Watch the mini robot here: https://lnkd.in/emc6j8jt

“The initiative is run by intrapreneur Tommy Boije at Hbg Works, City Management Administration, and is funded by the Vinnova project “test beds for society’s challenges”.

People and Places Well-being Index

Look at this flower. It’s exquisite! Nature made this.

Let’s reflect for a short moment on how fantastic it is that nature creates so many colours and so many diverse plants and flowers. Look at these lovely ones! A yellow-orange techno party!

Colours in nature can be more timide and less attention-seeking too. Look at these pastels.

At the Sofiero Castle in Helsingborg you can enjoy this ‘parc extraordinaire’. It happens to be on my running route and I often take ten minutes to go in there, and simply absorb all the beauty! Today I had to stay longer. I was reflecting on how underestimated parks and gardens are for our well-being.

Today I discovered the Hälsoteket at Sofiero. A Health-o-teque. I love the play with words. It felt like coming home entering that little orangerie. Take a look, small installations to encourage us to live closer to nature, to cultivate the land and take care of earth better.

A people and planet index.

Yeah! Revamp gardens!

What does your desk look like?


Getting organized.

Being fully vaccinated this summer makes me so much more at ease about going back to onsite learning and teaching. Remember, we were not in lockdown here in Sweden and the primary years schools were open all the time. That caused a lot of stress for educators risking our own health every day for 1,5 year. In this context a colleague of mine, Nanna Spetz of Aha! Accelerating Education set up Aha! WellBeing and the program “An Athlete’s Mindset” for educators where we immersed into working on enhancing trusting teams through a self check- in tool, a focus on resilience and growth mindset + care.

This weekend I’m prepping a bit for a new school year and am excited about it!

Always starting the day with a clean desk:
It gives me peace of mind. What’s on my desk today?

🌿My computer

🌿My analogue calendar ( do you have one or are you completely digital?)

🌿A book I’m reading about Math for work, summerizing big ideas in Math beautifully. My favourite Math areas are symmetry and geometry, because symmetry is about balance and geometry is just the number language of art, and I’m crazy about art.

🌿My journal + Chakra Plan book ( love it! Gives direction for morning mindfulness )

🌿 My intention ( morning ) and gratitude ( evening ) book. I write down key words of what I intend for the day in the morning and what I was grateful for, in the evening.

🌿A book about Sprints ( development, development 😃).

🌿Post-its: can’t live without them ( design thinking brain )

🌿My EXPRESS’ISM book where I write down anything that has to do with words : poetry, quotes, sentences I like, lyrics to songs, anything that is beautiful / quirky/ funny / wise words.

🌿My life goals and dreams book.
What are YOU dreaming of and planing for?

🌿My travel book, where I write down ideas of places I want to experience. It’s very Europe oriented at the moment, reflecting a lot on how to reduce flying. Driving is fun!

🌿My IDEAS book: inspirations for a fun, loving, purposeful life!!!

🌿The pouch where I keep cables for on-the-go

🌿Coloured highlighters ( very visual human being here )

I love organizing 🎉 I thrive in beautiful surroundings.

What does your desk look like?

Balance is only found in Symmetry

The balance between
Desire and Survival

The balance between
Relax & Recharge
Disrupt & Evolve

The balance between
The Urgent and the Patient

The balance between
The Planning and the Now

The balance between Adventure and Harmony

Balance is only found in symmetry, in the language of Math

Sweden. Lessons learned from teaching onsite throughout the whole pandemic.

In August schools start again here in Sweden, after a much needed summer break. I thought I would share with you, a few reflections from what it was like teaching onsite throughout the whole pandemic. Maybe this will help some of you when your school is rebound for onsite learning in the autumn.

When the pandemic started in 2020, and I realised that Sweden was neither going into lockdown nor was going to close the primary years schools, I had to set up some strategies for myself, to feel safe at school. This was a big challenge to begin with.

It was a very bizarre feeling going to work when the rest of the world was closing down. It was like living in two parallel universes: one at school, where life was pretty much business as usual, and one coming out from work in the afternoon, where there were the corona restrictions of keeping distance to each other.

Almost everyday I had this contradicting inner dialogue with myself: “Why is the health of educators jeopardised here in Sweden? “ to “We are doing the right thing for the kids “ .

Luckily we managed the first wave quite well in my town. It was spring and I started to do a lot of outdoor education with my learners. Most importantly I ran a well- being pilot project for my PLC, so focusing on well-being became very natural.

With the stress in society the students responded well to physical activity every day and learning about the body – brain connection.

The response from parents spoke with a uniting voice : “ This well-being program is so needed, thanks for doing it, we love it! “

I also implemented a growth mindset approach for my students, working on resilience skills to be able to deal with the constant, never-ending streams of ad-hoc situations.

I started to use my surroundings more and went to parks and open air museums where the learners did math, art , social studies and more, in an interdisciplinary, natural way.

If I lived in a hot country I would definitely think of doing much more outdoor education, because why would we stay indoor so much?

Then came last year’s summer holiday and we all got our well-earned rest, recharged, became hopeful that all would be better, coming back in the autumn. We thought schools would be more prepared to promote educator health. They weren’t.

In the autumn 2020 came new waves of corona. The Swedish weather deteriorated and we had to be more indoors.

Prior to starting the autumn term 2020 I did an antibody test. I thought that if I had had some asymptomatic version of Covid already I would feel much more safe coming back to school. But no trace of Covid there!

On the first day of school we were all talking and saying how much unease we felt being onsite. Meetings were done in our big staff room and it seemed as we just picked up where we left.

Luckily new routines were set up after awhile, and we could finally do meetings on Zoom, from our homes. Wouldn’t that have been self evident earlier?! As educators we had to make our needs heard and communicate a lot with the educator unions.

Us educators kept missing the deeper perspective of educators’ well-being. If the educator in the room feels capable and good, the chances are that the learners will learn better and deeper.

As autumn became winter colleagues and students started to get covid increasingly much, our town was now at the top 3 in the country of being hit, and the emails stated to roll in “This is to let you know that this person has Covid ….” I don’t know how many corona tests I did at school. It was again very bizarre. We did the test and then continued with learning and teaching as if nothing happened.

I could send home a student one day and the next day I would get an email from the parents letting me know that the family had corona.

Imagine the stress.

This was everyday happenings for all of us.

We are an international school so all students and educators have family abroad. We have a big learning community from India and the India wave hit many of our families who watched the crisis at distance, from Sweden. My thoughts and love go to all the students who lost a grand parent.

I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to use a helicopter perspective and reflect on what is really needed for the learners, not getting stuck at ordinary curriculum thinking. A high level of adaptability was needed. One day the learners really needed to talk a lot about what’s going on, another day it was better to get on with usual stuff.

My guiding words were ‘balance’ and ‘fun’! I wanted to laugh a lot with the students so they would feel more relaxed and creative. I wanted to do activities that would increase their sense of balance in challenging times.

In this context a colleague of mine and I decided that it was about time to put together a well-being program for educators. We had our well-being program Just Move / AHA! Well-being going on for learners, but the need for educators’ well-being grew as we went deeper into winter.

We set up a program that we call “The Athlete’s Mindset”, which is based on applied neuroscience, Sports Psychology and has a growth mindset approach helping people to stay resilient.

We got our Principal onboard and implemented the program at school. We ran Hackathon Sprints for all primary years teachers and specific sessions for class teachers. We created check-in tools to measure individual and team well-being.

We are very happy that our school has seriously taken on well-being for all our primary school community and we will continue to develop the program this year, hopefully becoming an across-all-ages program, from EYP to DP.

So how do I feel going back to school now on August 9?

I had my two vaccine shots this summer so I feel much more at ease. The vaccination rate is high in Sweden, so I look at the new year with more ease than last year. At least I feel more safe than August 2020.

I have reflected a lot on what learning and teaching will be about with my learners this year. I will share that in a separate blog.

As a starting point I will lead from my heart, and first and foremost establish good relationships with my new students so they can feel safe.

If you have questions on how to set up a well-being program for learners and educators at school, please email me: yvettesmiles@gmail.com

Creative Intelligence

Humans are innately creative. Somewhere on the way though, many adults lose their courage to be creative. Convenience is easy and safe, but convenience rarely challenges the status quo! Creativity do! Creativity feeds innovation and innovation has the force to change the world for the better! We need creativity to solve societal and planetary challenges to design spaces that promote human well-being and happiness 2021 and beyond.

I call this our creative intelligence, cf. emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, and digital intelligence. You may exchange the word ‘intelligence’ with ‘literacy’.

In the scope of creative intelligence I’ve put together a few reflections on human development and learning in the times we live in. We can create a better future. We are not victims to circumstances.

Humans thrive and are good at relationships, experiences and engagement.

  • Relationships: A trusting relationship is the foundation of what we can create together in a foreseeable future. With every human interaction you have, you scan the situation as safe or unsafe. That is socially safe, of course. We are not running away from lions and bears these days, but we want to make sure that the person in front of us is friendly. In a split second we read faces, we listen for indicators of friendliness in speech and we look at the body language. We search for rapport, are we on the same frequency level as this person, will this relationship be personally or professionally fruitful? A smile helps a lot, a joke even better. When we have fun together we feel safe, and creativity happens more easily. When you feel safe oxytocin is produced. Oxytocin is the neurotransmitter that is in our bodies when we feel safe, when there is love, when there is care.

  • Experiences: Humans learn best when we absorb experiences with all our senses. We get more motivated to learn and we learn better when we can connect our senses to what we are learning. We get more tempted too. Imagine walking past a bakery. The thought of getting some yummy cinnamon buns may instantly fly through your mind. Imagine walking into the perfume department at the airport. It smells cosmopolitan, it smells holidays, it smells of good memories! Imagine experiencing that special restaurant you saw on Instagram, the one with the special food. It’s mouth watering already before entering the restaurant. Imagine running and listening to your favourites songs. These songs can take you to an experienced moment that you loved, or even a desired moment that you would like to experience! We have entered an experience economy. In our human illogical ways, we want both to be surprised by futuristic experiences, as well as being drawn into authentic lifestyles like the ones on eco-farms. When creating something memorable, create an experience! Think touch, smell, sight, taste, sounds.

  • Engagement: We like to engage H2H. This is something that the pandemic has clearly proven to us. Engagement comes when we find willingness to pursue on a purpose, a goal, we become driven and motivated to accomplish something. If we look at the history of humans, one can see that we developed in small groups for the betterment of all in that group. When we are motivated and engaged to do something there is dopamine in our system and creativity flows easily. Engagement also inspires others to engage!

Collaboration. The future is not fixed. We can create it with our actions and non-actions. Humans are good at collaboration when it really matters. That’s how humanity evolved. The future is people, planet and purpose driven. When many things become automated we may be looking at the possibility of spending more time with what really matters to us. The question of purpose comes up. Something that humans always pondered. A model like Ikigai can help you to understand your life purpose. Humans often feel that we are on purpose when we are at service for others, when we help and support our communities. It seems as we live longer too, when we collaborate with others and solve things together. We need to collaborate in order to solve societal and planetary challenges. Wildfires don’t care about nationalities, wealth, religion and other things that may divide us. We are so small in universe. We live on a planet in a vast universe. Isn’t it about time we started unite in our humanity? Astronauts who saw earth from above come back to earth and wonder why we have wars. Borders are not seen from space.

New Success Formula. The new success formula is the balance of living healthily and living on purpose, which will feed prosperity and be more inclusive. The old success formula seems to have led us to the challenges we are facing now with a pandemic going on and climate change. We need sustainability for the planet first of all, and for ourselves as spices. I.e What is the point of getting a burn-out? Well-being needs to be enhanced at all levels. Without a good health, what are we?

Redesigning learning. Routine learning should be replaced with a focus on skills, concepts and interdisciplinarity: creativity, collaboration, ability to discuss, critical thinking skills, metacognition, multi – lateral problem solving/entrepreneurial learning, applied neuroscience, physical activity and well-being, individualised learning where everyone can develop themselves, a sense of belonging, student agency in age-neutral settings, a classroom without walls where authentic learning experiences happening within local and global contexts, for the betterment of many. You hear where I’m going. One fits all is utterly outdated.

Change. The pandemic has offered us a time to change, a possibility, an opportunity. We often change because of pain or love. The challenge with change is that humans innately wants to stick to what is known and are not so keen to change at first sight. We need to be convinced of its necessity. We need to be courageous. Change happens when there is motivation involved. Societal and planetary challenges become real when extreme weather hits your neighbourhood, for example.

Keep, develop bin. The reset and the possibility of the now. Through crisis, through chaos, comes creativity. We need the helicopter perspective to see what we need to keep, develop and bin. What serves us 2021? We have maybe ten formative years to decide the next story of humanity. What will we write? How will we collaborate? What decisions are needed?

We believe what we tell ourselves. If we believe we can write a good future, chances are bigger that we do so.

Happiness. Happiness can’t be downloaded, it’s not an app. Aristotle said that happiness is the purpose of life, how to be happy as often as possible. If happiness is the purpose, then we need to do our inner work and know what makes us happy and do that often! Happiness comes when we can submerge into the moment and make it great. Aristotle also said that the quality of our lives is our capability to make the most of our now. This is another challenge for us humans, as we are wired for scenario planning of what could possibly go wrong. Hmm, we are not so easy to deal with. However, there is a cure. We can practice our capabilities of being present in the now, by practising mindfulness.

People living in the so called Blue Zones live the longest on earth. Many reach the distinguished age of 100 years. What has been noticed amongst them, is the sense of belonging in a community, the focus on friendships, helping others, the closeness to nature, the daily physical activities, the plant based diet, the possibility to recharge. These are things to be inspired by.

Critical thinking skills. In the scope of creative intelligence we need to use our critical thinking skills and start asking ourselves if we are becoming the technology or if we are just simply using technology. That is a relevant and important perspective in 2021 and beyond. In addition: what does it mean to be human in a global age of technology? For example: Trip Advisor never had a nice meal, but have information about nice meals. Data + information vs. wisdom are two different things. We need to start thinking of what we value, what is real. How do we define real? Is a concert in the Metaverse real for you? Are designer clothes made for AR/VR real? Holograms and 3D boards exist already. How will we use them in mainstream culture in a nearby future? When will our smartphones be replaced? When will humans with computer chips be common in our society? When will designer babies be a reality? How will it all match with humans needing the human touch, hugs, kisses, being close to each other to feel well?

We also need to become more critical to what we see and read in news media. Deep fakes are already difficult to distinguish from real films. This is important to think of when it comes to understanding political ideas and the way they are presented to us.

Law & ethics. We need governmental decisions on how to use A.I, our data, and biological engineering. We need tighter laws that protect young people on social media, to fight against cyber bullying. This part here is an area that needs a blogpost of it’s own.

People know purpose, know passion and have values. Robots don’t.

We need to use our creative intelligence when redesigning life, to promote human well-being, happiness and sustainability 2021 and beyond.

Beach time, downtime, time to recharge.

Downtime, do you make it happen?

The benefits for us are evident.

The brain needs a pause every now and again to recharge, to digest stimuli, to combine the dots, in order to function properly and not go into stress mode with too much cortisol in the system. We also become more creative when we create moments to recharge.

I have developed systems, like micro moments, to boost the recharging of the brain through daily habits. What works for me is biking or walking to work, consciously absorbing life around me, going outside for a walk everyday during work hours, take the road along the seaside before going home, etc.

I’m lucky to live in a beautiful area, so now, when we are more limited to traveling abroad, I enjoy nearby places. Today I did a hike + swim with my son. Yesterday we were at the beach the whole day. Coming home from a day out makes me feel happy and strong.

I am a person who has lots of energy so I feel extra happy when being physically active outside. It keeps me balanced.

-What about you?

Read more here about downtime here: Harvard Business Review https://lnkd.in/efEDn-b

Determined to design systems that work for you?

Email me: yvettesmiles@gmail.com