Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘education’

03 NOVEMBER, 2010

An Awesome Book of Thanks! Dallas Clayton Celebrates Gratitude

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In 2008, LA-based artist and writer Dallas Clayton made us smile with An Awesome Book! — a lovely, awesome even, illustrated children’s book about dreaming big. This season, he’s back with An Awesome Book of Thanks! — a gem of a sequel about gratitude and the art of being thankful, both timeless and perfectly timed with Thanksgiving.

Written in a style that would make a Dr. Seuss lover swoon and illustrated with the kind of colorful whimsy that tickles your eternal inner kid awake, this is positively one of the most creative, most heart-warming children’s books we’ve ever come across.

You can read the full book online, but the screen doesn’t do Clayton’s vibrant, playful illustration justice — on the bound and printed page, it leaps to life with boundless charm and exuberance.

Clayton wrote the original book for his son, them made some copies and put it all on online just to share it with his friends. Before he knew it, the books were selling out, batch after batch, and he was doing readings in high schools, children’s hospitals, churches, playgrounds and other kid havens.

And just when you begin pondering whether it’s possible to get any more “awesome,” it does: For every copy of the book sold, Clayton’s Awesome Foundation gives one away to a child in need.

An Awesome Book of Thanks! hits bookstores on November 11, but you can already pre-order it on Amazon.

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25 OCTOBER, 2010

The School of Life

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The classes you actually wanted to take in college, or how to master coolness while munching on a caramel bar.

We’re always thrilled to discover creative ways of organizing information in a novel educational experience and never omit to rave about it. Today, we’re particularly excited to uncover an educational social enterprise that aims to address the fundamental needs of the modern self.

In London’s Bloomsberry, between hairdressing saloons and restaurants — the location is an accidental metaphor for where true wisdom is found — sprouts a small, old-fashioned shop with a sign that humbly reads “The School Of Life.” Founded in September 2008 by an eclectic group of London writers, artists and friends, amongst whom the philosopher Alain de Botton, it offers night classes on a variety of topics with the unifying goal to satisfy its students’ hunger for a more meaningful life. For £30.00 and three hours of your evening, you could contemplate whether being single really is the end of the world in How Necessary Is A Relationship, find out what the mysterious virtues of coolness are in How To Be Cool, or learn to reduce the superficial chit chat of your life in How To Have Better Conversations.

The classes are centered around traditional lectures using various tools and resources, from movies to books and art to active discussions to humor. The school also offers additional weekend activities, daily curated bookshelves (selections vary from How To Enjoy Your Own Company to For Those Feeling the Credit Crunch), conversational menus (prompting you to ponder why you haven’t achieved your goals), and Sunday secular sermons, from Alain de Botton on pessimism to Barbara Ehrenreich on optimism to Ruby Wax’s brilliant, hilarious and insightful On Loving Your Ego. Oh, and Milk-Chocolate Coated Caramel bars, of course.

Most importantly, unlike the competitive and often cold atmosphere of traditional university education, The School Of Life offers the comforting environment of a community of people gathered not to memorize facts, evaluate each other or impose dogmas, but to help understand, explore and improve each other’s lives. Because, as Alain de Botton puts it:

The point of learning is not snobbery, not sounding clever, not passing an exam — it’s to help you live.”

Teddy Zareva is a young filmmaker and photographer currently located in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is prone to excessive dancing and impulsive traveling. Her favorite activities are eating chocolate, hunting for music, and shooting humans.

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21 OCTOBER, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson on Creativity and Changing Educational Paradigms

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What’s not to love about RSA Animate? Here’s their animated adaptation of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk about changing educational paradigms, based on one of the best TED talks of all time, in which Sir Ken makes a compelling case for how schools are killing creativity:

We have a system of education that is modeled on the interest of industrialism and in the image of it. School are still pretty much organized on factory lines — ringing bells, separate facilities, specialized into separate subjects. We still educate children by batches.

With his signature soundbite-ready cadence and perfectly timed wit, Sir Ken — always the intellectual showman — once again manages to ruffle some academic feathers while raising some important questions. I’m particularly on board with his emphasis on the role of divergent thinking:

Divergent thinking isn’t the same thing as creativity. I define creativity as the process of having original ideas that have value. Divergent thinking isn’t a synonym but is an essential capacity for creativity. It’s the ability to see lots of possible answers to a question, lots of possible ways to interpret a question, to think laterally, to think not just in linear or convergent ways, to see multiple answers, not one.

The full talk is well worth watching:

Robinson’s most recent book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, is an absolute must-read, wherever you may stand on education.

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21 OCTOBER, 2010

Project Interaction: Design as an Education Curriculum

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What existential epiphanies have to do with New York high schoolers and The Clash.

We agree with Paola Antonelli in that “design is the highest form of expression people have, period.” And for it to be a truly transformative force of social change, it has to be woven into a society’s most deep-seated cultural sensibility. What better place to begin than the ripening young mind, whose design sensibility remains unaddressed, if not assaulted, by traditional academia?

Project Interaction is a 10-week afterschool program teaching high school students how to use design to change their communities. From storytelling to critical thinking to interaction design, the curriculum takes a holistic approach to design as a social problem-solving tool and encourages students to tackle issues that matter to them with solutions that are both thoughtful and practically viable.

One of our favorite aspects of the project is the series of interviews with established designers, who share how they got their first a-ha! moment about what design means and the turning point in their self-discovery at which they recognized design as a lifelong calling.

Design is something with a sense of history, something that you can riff off of, flip to the past, tweak it, make it your own, and just kind of keep moving forward and just playing with the world around you and reassembling it.” ~ Bill DeRouchey

[Design] helps you think. It’s assistive to all other disciplines. Whether or not you end up becoming a designer or an artist in the strictest sense, the skills are just valuable aross the board.” ~ Jason Santa Maria

The project, which reminds us of Emily Pilloton‘s wonderful Studio H initiative, just finished raising funds on Kickstarter, successfully, and is about to kick off the fall curriculum in partnership with the Urban Assembly Institute of Math & Science for Young Women. Follow them on Twitter for updates and help spread the word about an admirable effort we hope to see replicated in public schools everywhere.

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