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Archive for April, 2012

I recently came across Seth Godin’s manifesto on education, Stop Stealing Dreams. This manifesto, written in short, blog-style essays, expounds on the idea that we need to teach our kids, not to memorize facts and figures, but how to dream big. And then we, the parents, educators, librarians, and mentors, need to provide the tools necessary to facilitate those dreams.

We have more information available to us today than any generation before us. With the internet, ebooks, online newspapers, and journals so accessible, it is not the facts themselves that need to be taught, but more what to do with those facts once we find them. Mr. Godin believes that schools, libraries, and institutes of higher learning all need to be revamped in order to provide our kids the opportunity to lead, to create, and to dream. I can’t say that I agree with everything that Mr. Godin is advocating but it certainly leads to some wonderful discussions!

Now whether or not you agree with Mr Godin’s ideas for change, there is one point I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with: learning and exploration should not cease with the end of formal education. Yet how many of us go through each day doing nearly the same tasks over and over again? I know I do! And, while this certainly isn’t a bad thing (and I can’t imagine having kids and not having some sort of routine), how often are we learning a new skill or exploring a new topic?

Mr. Godin wrote:

Don’t wait for it. Pick yourself. Teach yourself. Motivate your kids. Push them to dream, against all odds.

It is with this idea that I kick off “What-I-Learned Wednesday” where I will chronicle my attempt to learn or practice one new skill, or explore one new topic, each week. Because how many of us have already learned all that we need or want to know?

Check back each Wednesday to see What I Learned. If you would like to join me, I invite you to post what you have learned (or hope to) in the comments.

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A couple of months ago I read Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water.

IndieBound Description:

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

I was left not in shock of what humans can do to one another, though that is shocking, but in awe of what humans will do to survive. And what is even more amazing is that Salva Dut, the inspiration for the book, has gone on to bring fresh water to areas of South Sudan through his foundation Water For South Sudan. I would also be remiss if I did not mention Linda Sue Park’s ability to tell this incredible story. Effortless is the word that comes to mind, even though we know such writing is anything but.

What does this have to do with Earth Day? After reading this BBC article I could not help but be reminded of A Long Walk To Water. Through detailed mapping it has been discovered that underneath Africa there are huge stores of water, perhaps more than 100 times the amount that is on the surface. Now how best to tap into these huge stores and who will have control over them are all issues that are sure to stir much debate. But for now, for just today, let us marvel at the beauty and mystery that is Earth. How many more secrets do we have yet to discover.

How are you celebrating Earth today? We will be planting our first small broccoli and onion plants today. Companion planting is this year’s garden experiment. More on that later.

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Practice makes progress. I read those words here today and they have certainly struck a chord. Writing, knitting, creating, and parenting (certainly parenting!) are all about doing something over and over again until you can do it better or have made a desired change or can call it “good enough for right now.” Small changes can make a huge difference in every aspect of life (just think of a favorite character in a book and then give them a different name … one small change can alter the entire work). But how can we make those small changes without practice?

One thing I am practicing to make progress on right now is learning something new each week (which I will talk more about next week). What is something you are practicing to make progress on in your life?

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As we peruse the aisles of the local grocery store, check out the goods at the farmer’s market, or decide what exactly we wish to grow on our land (or windowsill), how many times has the question “chicken or kale?” been posed. I am guessing not many.

It is now a question for the legal system to answer (Chicken Vs. Kale: Artist Fights Chick-Fil-A Suit : NPR), once again pitting Artist vs. Corporation. Does a t-shirt with the slogan “Eat More Kale” infringe on the trademark of Chick-fil-A’s “Eat mor chikin” campaign? Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin does not think so:

“If you think that Vermonters don’t understand the difference between kale and a chicken sandwich, we invite you to Vermont, and we’ll give you a lesson about the difference between a kale and a chicken,” Shumlin said. “There are some very distinct features that should be noticed in that difference. Kale is a vegetable; chickens are birds. Birds create manure; kale eats manure.”

Ownership of words is a curious thing, don’t you think?

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