School Blog

If you go down to the woods today...

a tent in the woods serves as a classroom

Our current education systems tend to separate learning from the rest of life. It's something that happens at particular ages and in special buildings, away from the rest of society.

Obviously, that's not the whole story - and here at School of Everything, we love hearing about the unusual times and places people are learning things. So thank you to Nick for pointing me towards this awesome story about the Walden Project.

Set up by former high school teacher Matt Schlein, it's an alternative education programme in which a group of teenagers swap their classrooms for 260 acres of north Vermont woodland. For a year, they follow a free-flowing curriculum that takes in environmental studies, current affairs, and a lot of Thoreau:

"The natural world has a way of grabbing you by the lapels out here. The week prior, it was several feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures; now it's a sudden downpour. The students take shelter in the only escape they have from the elements: a rough-hewn tent that features donated sail material. It's just big enough to accommodate the class and a few visitors. Students continue their discussion of politics while rain patters against the sails."

Sounds like my kind of school.

Paul learns to knit

Paul learns to knit

The Monsters Of Everything

Our next Lesson in Everything is going to be How To Draw Monsters. I cannot wait - I'm planning big pieces of paper, huge green pens, and perhaps some glue so we can all get stuck to things.

We'll be posting our monsters in due course. Meanwhile, here's the first ever monster from Stefan Bucher's Daily Monster, the original and best source of regular monster input.

If you have any more monster tips, or want to come and draw them with us (spaces are first come first served, and disappearing very fast) email mary at school of everything dot com.

Soiree Micronomique and the Free School

So I wrote a few days ago about how we were planning an evening together with CityMine(d), to see what we could learn about skills and sharing.

The CityMined crew cooked waffles for people, and asked them about their skills in exchange for the waffle.

Meanwhile, over in the corner, I set up a Free School. The original idea was to get people signing up to School of Everything during the night. But that'd mean encouraging people to sit at a computer rather than talking to each other.

So instead, we scrounged some paper and pens and created the lo-fi version.

People got it instantly, and quickly started adding stuff.

There was usually a group standing just checking it out, looking for connections or interesting requests or offers.

Offers and requests inspired each other, and people started adding connections and matches to their entries and other people's entries.

By the end of the evening there was a whole sheet of Freeschool offers, and we came away feeling very inspired. Now we're organising a follow-up meet on February 21st. Email me (mary at schoolofeverything dot com) if you want to come - meanwhile watch this space...

Knitty Gritty!

Aneeta Patel, School of Everything teacher and knitting expert extraordinaire, just emailed us to say that her book is out!

Since she came in to give Team Everything a knitting lesson, my Scarf of Everything has grown to about four feet long (not to mention being blogged elsewhere! But I'm not sure how to finish it. So perhaps this is the answer...

McDonald's launches 'A-Level'

McDonald's is the first company to launch its own qualification, supposedly equivalent to an A-level, BBC Education reports.

Last year, the company launched a campaign against the use of 'McJob' to mean an unskilled, low-paid job with no prospects.


It's just 24 hours since my knitting lesson with Aneeta. Here's how my School Scarf has progressed.


Lessons in Everything #1: KNITTING

This afternoon we had our first of hopefully many Lessons in Everything. Aneeta Patel came in and gave Team Everything a special two-hour introduction to knitting.

We've got a bit of practising to do before we can knit ourselves an orange-and-white printer cosy. But in just two hours we've learned how to knit garter stitch and how to change colour - and also that I knit left-handed and can't be persuaded to do it the right way round.

We're not sure that this wool is exactly the F90 School of Everything website colour, but who cares? We've got some natty orange and white school scarves coming along.

Next up in Lessons in Everything: How To Draw Monsters. After that, yoga. If you want to join us for either, or suggest another Lesson, drop us a line...

The Smell of Waffles

Last night's Soirée Micronomique with the lovely people from City Mine(d) uncovered a wealth of skills in Holloway. The smell of hot Belgian waffles turns out to be an effective motivator for getting people talking about their passions.

Skills offered included Tai Chi, basic Czech, video FX and mate making.

So what's the idea of 'micronomics'? As far as I can tell, it's about economic activity that's organised at a human level. This sign kind of sums it up:

Good question! We'd certainly like to help more people make a living out of things they're passionate about.

The Future of Informal Learning

It's good to hear a government minister in Britain talking about adult learning as something which has value in itself, as well as being a route back to work. It's even better when the minister in question, after invoking the rich history of the mutual improvement societies and the Workers' Education Association, mentions School of Everything as part of the future of that tradition.

This was John Denham, speaking at the launch of a consultation on informal learning:

"The potential for experts to share their passions on a voluntary basis is enormous... The Young Foundation has been developing - an online platform that allows learners and teachers to come together and organise their own learning activities. Already, it's offering topics as diverse as maths, yoga and blogging."

You can read the rest of what he had to say here.

Don't be shy, say hello. We'd love to hear from you.

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