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402 days. 402 (plus or minus… mostly minus) posts.

Tag: learning

Day 739: The Year of Using Your Brain

Last year, I wrote a checklist in lieu of a list of resolutions. I figured checking stuff off everyday would be easier than resolving, failing, resolving again, etc.

I’m happy to say I did a pretty good job getting through the list each day. (“Pretty good” may be a generous assessment, but I took some liberties with number 10.)

The act of writing the checklist in January helped me remember that it even existed partway through the year, which seemed useful in and of itself. So this year, I’m doing the same thing – but this time, my daily checklist only has one item on it:

  1. Learn something new.

Learning something new about just one topic seems claustrophobic and way too logical, but since I don’t want to make a totally bogus checklist, I picked some interest areas to focus on:

  • Food access and agriculture
  • Neuroplasticity and aging
  • Creativity and mental health

(Imagining the three areas was a fun exercise – if you decide to make your own one-item checklist, I’d recommend taking a minute to think about what you’re actually interested in knowing.)

Since there’s no time like the present (and I already read more Game of  Thrones than I can handle over the holidays), I dove right in with food access and agriculture by watching five episodes of Food Forward by PBS yesterday. There are some cheesy moments, but the series is generally interesting, smart, accessible and surprising. I didn’t know, for example, that seed libraries are actually a thing. You can borrow seeds at the beginning of a season, and then donate new seeds back once you harvest your garden or farm. It’s a great way to preserve local agricultural biodiversity.

Seed library information online seems a little paltry after a brief search, but there are still plenty of folks out there trying to show you where to participate, if you’re interested. (If you’re already familiar with this system and have some better resources, please leave them in the comments.)

seed library

Photo of a seed library by Mike Teegarden and borrowed from this article

In the name of New Year aspirations, I like the idea of feeding the planet (or at least myself) off my patio, so the show + my checklist also inspired me to sign up for a local gardening class that will teach me how to grow edible stuff in pots. The class doesn’t meet until March, so I have a couple of months to learn more new things first (and a check-point in case I start lagging). Here’s hoping the thirst for knowledge never dries up.

Happy New Year to you, and happy checklist-making!

Day 113: Feynman’s Father

Two very good friends of mine became parents today. They are wonderful, intelligent and curious people, and I can only imagine their inquisitiveness will emerge in their daughter as well. I’m excited to watch her learn and grow.

Richard Feynman (1918—1988) was a theoretical physicist and Nobel Prize winner who introduced the concept of nanotechnoloy to the world in 1959. He was a brilliant and innovative man who, by all accounts, was delighted (tickled, really) with beauty and mystery of the world.

I don’t remember how I stumbled onto this footage of Feynman describing his relationship with his father, but it’s incredibly telling. Feynman describes a man who taught his son how to think critically, relate concepts to reality and seek deep understanding over base memorization. Although the video starts a little slowly, it’s a great six-minute watch.

“He knew the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something, which I learned very early … So, that’s the way I was educated by my father, with those kind of examples and discussions. With no pressure, just lovely, interesting discussion.” – Richard Feynman

Day 104: Weekend Watching

Sir Ken Robinson is a creativity expert, an author and an international advisor on arts and education. While you’re juggling ballet classes, naps, farmer’s markets, shows, errands and absolutely nothing this weekend, get comfy in your favorite chair and watch his presentations from the 2006 and 2010 TED Talks. You’ll be so glad you did.

He makes a compelling and humorous case for an education revolution—a new way of thinking about learning that exposes and nurtures children’s natural talents, rather than squishing them into linear and not terribly creative systems.

Without innovative children, we will lack innovative adults. And without innovative adults, our species is sort of screwed.

TED 2006: Do schools kill creativity? 

“We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, ‘If all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.’ And he’s right.”


TED 2010: Bring on the learning revolution!

“…education, in a way, dislocates very many people from their natural talents. And human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep, you have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.”