Of braineries, schools of life, pie labs, and other learning places

I’m becoming more and more interested in informal models of education — specifically, in the kinds of informal education that take place outside of educational institutions, and that aim at teaching people skills that aren’t always taught in schools, and providing spaces for community and conversation as well. And, ideally, food. For instance:

  • Someday I want to visit the Brooklyn Brainery, which offers what they call “accessible, community-driven, crowdsourced education.” I would absolutely love to take their classes on beekeeping, filling oneself with wonder, the secrets of the New York City subway system, and the history of Scotch. And if I lived anywhere nearby I’d volunteer to teach knitting, opera appreciation, and Intro to Shakespeare’s Plays for People Who Were Put Off by it in High School.
  • If I lived in London I’d also want to check out the School of Life, founded by the writer Alain de Botton, which offers short classes (and talks, and dinners) “concerned with how to live wisely and well.” And they offer a bibliotherapy service! “Bibliotherapist” is definitely on my list of Best Job Titles Ever.
  • This is more of a community center than an educational space, but the idea interests me so much I wanted to point to it anyway: PieLab, a “combination pop-up cafe, design studio and civic clubhouse” in Greensboro, Alabama. They’ve apparently moved away from the design side of things (and had some initial missteps and growing pains), but are still making pie, and teaching people how to cook.
  • As part of my New Year’s resolution to learn something new every month, in March I took a class in letterpress printing at AS220, an art and community space in Providence with its own print shop (and a great restaurant, too). Now I have a stack of homemade greeting cards, and I know how to make photopolymer plates and print on a Vandercook press and set type by hand — which I loved doing, even when I kept screwing up my line lengths and confusing my b’s and d’s. Behold, the fruits of my labors on the last day of class!

Typesetting! (daily photo, 3/17/12)

In summary: learning new stuff is fun, and it makes me optimistic about the world to know that there are so many people out there sharing what they know and spreading the learning around.

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