The MindChamps Approach

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  Published on Friday, 12 July 2019

The MindChamps Approach

Library Home  >  Approaches to Early Childhood Education
  Published on Friday, 12 July 2019
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The Origins of MindChamps ‘3-Mind’ Education Model

MindChamps began in Sydney in 1998 as an educational research organisation, with the goal of finding and filling the gaps which exist in education systems across the world. This meant developing an educational approach suited to the demands of a world created by the Information Revolution.

The MindChamps model is an approach which draws on the research of the last 30 years in the areas of Education, Psychology, and Neuroscience to understand the key elements underpinning learning, creativity, and healthy emotional development. This research simply did not exist in the 19th and 20th Centuries, when most learning systems were developed. The model is also grounded in research into a fourth domain, theatre, with its focus on engagement, which is key to any successful educational approach.

Why ‘3 Minds’?

In their 2007 book, The 3-Mind Revolution, MindChamps’ founder David Chiem and its Dean of Research and Programme-Development, Brian Caswell, explain the genesis of the ‘3-Mind’ approach. In a world where information is universally available, citizens are rewarded not for what they can memorise and recall, but for their learning mindset and for what they can do with information, both individually and in collaboration. 

In the 21st Century, Confidence, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication Skills, Compassion, and Critical Thinking are just as important as Content, and the ‘3-Mind’ approach emphasizes all these elements. 

The 3 Minds are:

The Champion Mind: 

  • The ability to celebrate our own uniqueness and the uniqueness of others
  • Respect for accepted wisdom but the courage to move beyond it if necessary
  • The mindset that treats adversity, and even failure, as a seed for growth 

The Learning Mind: 

  • The development of a life-long enthusiasm for learning for its own sake
  • The courage to try new approaches and the ability to learn from both successes and failures
  • The vision to see how all things ‘connect’

The Creative Mind: 

  • A willingness to view things from multiple perspectives and to use them to create new insights and think outside the box 
  • Understanding that, in creativity, thinking, structure, and planning are as important as imagination
  • Accepting that the ‘first draft’ is never the final product

The S.M.I.L.E.S.TM Curriculum

The 3 Minds is a model for life-long learning. In the early childhood years (0 – 6 years), the key is to lay strong foundations for that life-long process. How a child experiences the world during this critical period influences social, emotional, and neural development which can influence learning and behaviour throughout life.

Drawing on decades of research into early childhood development, the MindChamps team isolated six key areas essential to healthy, balanced development. These are the:





Emotional and


The research also showed that these elements are best developed ‘in concert’ (ie: using activities which combine all, or most, of the elements, simultaneously). This understanding is the basis of the integrative S.M.I.L.E.S.TM approach.

The S.M.I.L.E.S.TM Environment

S.M.I.L.E.S.TM activities are built on the understanding that children are hands-on, experiential learners. MindChamps educarers are trained to be unobtrusive facilitators of learning in an environment where learning activities are built on what the MindChamps development team call ‘Crafted Play’. 

In their book, Preschool Parenting Secrets: Talking with the Sky, Caswell and Chiem explain it this way:

For young children, play is enrichment. Play is how a child learns to make sense of the world, to mould together the tiny particles of experience that will lay the foundations of future creativity and intellectual development.


Our role… is not to teach, but to facilitate. Our responsibility is not to control, but to assist – to provide the flexible structures within which our children can be creative and develop their unique understanding of the world and their place in it.

Activities have a goal, but they must be, above all, engaging and playful. In a S.M.I.L.E.S.TM classroom, the children are encouraged to explore, experiment, and collaborate in their journey towards the goal, building communication and collaboration skills, empathy, resilience, independence, and confidence; all aspects of a developing Champion Mindset.

The Learning Zones

Each classroom is divided into Six Learning Zones: 

3 Imagination Zones (dedicated to Dramatic, Construction & Arts and Crafts activities) 


3 Skills Zones (dedicated to Reading, Writing and Numeracy activities) 

The adults in the room Observe, Reflect, and Respond to what is occurring, modelling approaches, asking generative questions, and gently guiding discovery, but never dictating responses or strategies. This builds confidence, resourcefulness, and collaboration in children and prepares them for future challenges. Language, music, and physical activities are designed to simultaneously enhance learning, cognitive development, and the gradual evolution of all six S.M.I.L.E.S.TM elements. 

Educarers are specifically trained to leverage on the S.M.I.L.E.S.TM approach and the 6 Learning Zones to design Enquiry-based activities to promote curiosity and a passion for learning.

There is also a ‘Connecting as One’ space, where group activities such as shared reading, discussion, show and tell and other social pursuits take place.

100% Respect & Zero Fear

The MindChamps philosophy of 100% Respect & Zero Fear is designed to nurture children to become young champions distinguishable by ten key values:

  1. I am Creative
  2. I am Compassionate
  3. I am a Life-Long Learner
  4. I am Confident
  5. I am Grateful
  6. I have Integrity
  7. I am Self-Reflective
  8. I Focus on the Beauty in Others
  9. I Embrace Set-backs as Set-ups
  10. I Value Feedback as a Seed for Growth

These ideals continue to drive MindChamps’ research and the development of new educational initiatives based on solid data and the latest insights.

References and Further Reading: 

The 3-Mind Revolution: A New World View for Global Leaders, Educators and Parents (2nd edition) by David Chiem & Brian Caswell, World Scientific, Singapore, 2016.

Preschool Parenting Secrets: Talking with the Sky by Brian Caswell & David Chiem in collaboration with Kylie Bell, World Scientific, Singapore, 2010.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 01 October 2020

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