21st Century Skills in Education


Our modern world is growing more fast-paced, interconnected, and global every day. In this 21st century world, it is essential that education programs provide people with opportunities to develop skills that they need to thrive and succeed.

Since the early 2000s, education researchers and policy makers have been identifying how educators can identify and teach the skills and abilities that will best suit our modern society. Soon after, educators outside the classroom setting realized the potential for our places and spaces to work on the 21st century domain with students. This resource is meant to help you both explore what 21st Century Skills are and begin to think about how you can address them in the education programs at your site.

This resource was created from the Facilitating Curriculum-based Education Programs and Services course that is offered annually online. If interested in this course, please search the Common Learning Portal for registration information.

In this resource you’ll find articles, guiding questions, and additional resources. It will take approximately 30 minutes to complete.

How to Use this Resource:

  • Complete the following activities.
  • Review and use the Additional Resources at the bottom.
  • Leave a review (how useful was this resource?).
  • Join our group in the CLP Commons.

Guiding Questions

  • What are 21st Century Skills?
  • Where do they come from?
  • How can we introduce 21st Century Skills into our education programs?


  1. Examining the graphic Old School 20th Century and New School 21st Century, where does your park sit? Share this with your education team and discuss possible opportunities for your park.Old school vs new school chart that compares education in the 20th and 21st century
  2. The 21st Century 4Cs are: Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking. Watch the video 21st Century Skills: The 4Cs (02:21) and create a T-chart comparing what your park currently does to what your park is not doing.
  3. Read this article that describes the 21st Century Skills 4Cs and answer the following questions:
    • Which of the the 4Cs do you think is the easiest competency for your park to implement in an Education Program? Which do you think is most challenging?
    • Take it a step further. Brainstorm with your team to come up with ideas to turn the C that you identified as a challenge into an opportunity. Make a change to an element within a specific education program, tour, pre- or post-activity that addresses the specific skill area.

Additional Resources

  • Check out the resources about 21st Century skills from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Read the Skills Report to learn more about the role that museums and libraries (and Parks!) can play in developing these skills. Consider completing the institutional Self-Assessment to determine where your Park falls on the 21st Century Continuum.
  • Looking for further descriptions of the 4Cs (Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, and Communication)? Reference the National Education Association’s Guide to the 4Cs. In this document you will also find ways to implement each skill area in the classroom. Consider how you might modify those suggestions for your Park.
  • Explore the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (P21) website and take a deeper dive into the research being done around  21st Century Skills and the student outcomes produced by using these skills.

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