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December 22, 2012

Life-Long Learning

December 22, 2012

Each of us at SmallBox is unique, but we do share at least one common trait - we're all life-long learners. This translates to a lot of extracurricular activities, side projects and other awesomeness.

One thing I've toyed with, but back-burnered for the past several years is building something like mini-lesson plans on subjects that capture my imagination. I've been thinking of it as "extracurriculum," a sort of personalized, self-led continuing education, with enough planning and structure to keep me focused.

Extracurriculum Mind MapI could just take a class somewhere, or read one comprehensive history book to learn some of this stuff, but I like the thought of tailoring learning to my own pace, schedule and interests. The idea is not to become an expert on a new topic, but to learn enough to sate my curiosity and provide context to interests like art, food, etc. What else was happening in the world that led to this? How did politics shape art, and vice versa? Ideally, each lesson plan would answer these types of questions with an interdisciplinary approach – a sample might include reading a book, watching a film, a field trip to a museum and some type of hands-on project.

To get started on crafting my extracurriculum, I brainstormed potential focus areas with a mind map. One example from my map is the time period known as "la dolce vita" in post World War II Italy. I am most familiar with this era because of the films that came out of the 1950s-60s, including the better known Fellini. At the same time, there was a renaissance of fashion, music and other arts. I'm pretty certain that my first extracurriculum will lead me into an immersion into that time period.

Ideally I'll take this mind map and build a calendar for all of 2013. Some of the books and materials might require a little lead time to source, so I'll need to plan ahead if I really want to dig into some of these.

There are a few things I haven't yet determined:
How long should I spend with each topic? One month? Or two? Maybe it varies based on each topic.

Could this be collaborative in some way? Part of me thinks it'd be fascinating to co-create some lesson plans, and to experience them and meet up, book club style to discuss.

Is there an end-product? Should I always close out each area of focus with a "final project" of sorts? What does that look like? Do I share the results, or is it personal?

This is a start, but I have further mind-mapping and planning to do if I'm to give this the old college try in 2013. In the mean time, I'd love to know: if you created your own extracurriculum, what would you study?

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox
Today’s prompt: "Mind map a project you want to tackle in 2013."

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