A Masterclass in Growth Mindset: Book Review for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind:

By Max Watrous, Instructor & Curriculum Product Manager

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, is an autobiographical coming of age story that follows a young man named William as he designs a windmill to help his family through some of the worst droughts they have ever seen. William lives in the developing African country of Malawi, where the primary income and food source is through farming. In addition to giving a personal account of life in impoverished countries, the story is about community, hardship, determination, and grit. The read brings you in, such that every challenge William faces feels devastating, and every breakthrough feels miraculous. However, the reason to recommend this book is not only its compelling story, but because it gives kids a chance to relate to someone exhibiting growth mindset. (Something we all value here at Build a Robot K12.)

A growth mindset is the ability to see failure not as an end, but as a step on the path toward success. Students who have a growth mindset don’t label themselves as ‘not smart enough,’ but rather look at challenges as a way to grow. This mindset not only gives students the motivation to learn new skills, it also provides them with a healthy lens to discuss their mistakes. The book is filled to the brim with difficulties, and failures. You experience William’s struggle to afford a basic education, the hunger of his family, the technical challenges of working with electronics, and the fervor of trying to build and source parts. Despite these trials, William uses each hardship to his advantage. He spends the time he would normally be in school reading in the library, learning about energy and physics. Despite not having access to electronic parts, William learns to fix and repair radios to teach himself electronics. While there are many frustrating elements you also witness the steadfast optimism through the process, and the joy of each small success. The story explains how it feels to put your blood, sweat and tears into a project and make it successful on the other side. 

Here at Build a Robot K12, I’m thankful my students do not have to endure the same hardships as William. However, we still can learn from his tenacity. During class, I celebrate each question, mistake and failure, because it means we are moving on to the correct path. Kids learn that sharing their mistakes helps others avoid similar difficulties, and gain more confidence in their skills and abilities. As a teacher, I’d recommend this book for your kids, because it helps them realize they don’t have to be perfect, they just need to keep trying. Here, amidst the challenges of the global pandemic, it’s important to realize that we are continuing to learn and continuing to grow. 

If you are interested in helping your child develop a growth mindset, please explore our course offerings.

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Max Watrous

Instructor & Curriculum Product Manager


Max loves helping students get invested in projects, as he firmly believes that hands-on work is the best way to get kids excited about their education. He especially enjoys teaching mechanical design and IoT. He has a dual degree from CU Boulder in mechanical engineering and science education. He is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Stridetech Medical.

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