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Incomplete notes & photos from an awesome day learning from @TheUnPd’s #EmilyPilloton & @jenksbyjenks!


I’m grateful to have attended today’s Test Kitchen with Emily Pilloton and Christina Jenkins of Project H Design! Emily and Christina have launched (and are still prototyping) a series of Unprofessional Development (@theUnPD) courses, and I was lucky to attend their inaugural New York Campfire back in January.

This Test Kitchen was a differently wonderful experience, and it was awesome to benefit from Emily and Christina’s vast collective experiences of designing and cultivating learning opportunities. The day consisted of a variety of activities including:

  1. Choosing and applying awesome temporary tattoos from Tattly, then explaining why we made our choices. I chose Now or Never for a bunch of reasons.
  2. Doing a quick exercise of “Before I leave the classroom, I want to ________” inspired by Candy Chang’s  “Before I die” project from 2011.
  3. Diving right into an ocean of possible projects, conversation starters, and thought-provoking activity prompts offered by Emily and Christina – all listed in the printed “cookbook” provided to participants and can be thought of as ingredients for a deep and/or dynamic learning experience. They ran the gamut and included things like: Powerpoint karaoke, the Fun Theory, Curious Terrain cards, Mythbusters, TD4Ed, live cams of animals as classroom background music, Buck Institute resources, Public Lab balloon and kite mapping, and a Wikipedia edit-a-thon among so many other ideas. Then each of us also shared an artifact that we hoped would inspire the group. I talked about edcamp and the power of this wonderful for teachers-by teachers grassroots professional development movement!
  4. Creating paper architecture inspired by Richard Serra’s action verbs. We were given the prompt “to hinge” for our green square of paper, “to gather” for our red square, and “to represent our temporary tattoo” for our orange square of paper.
  5. Reading and discussing Chapter 5: What’s Worth Knowing? of Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s Teaching as a Subversive Activity which inspired us to form and craft and rework our own questions that in turn guided the rest of the afternoon’s tasks. My question was: What is needed to survive?
  6. Going on a mini-field trip outside and drawing inspiration from our surroundings to help further evolve our question. Then drawing an image to represent our question.
  7. Thinking of a class activity or project that embodies the learning from this question. I considered that what each of us deems necessary for survival is completely subjective, and that maybe the pursuit of happiness (rather than just sheer survival) is a #firstworldproblem. Also, I often think about the folks locked up in Plato’s cave who believe that the shadows cast on the wall are real. (The venerable Frank Morretti loved comparing Plato’s Cave with The Matrix…) The people in the cave and the people in The Matrix were surviving, but they were also imprisoned physically and mentally even though they didn’t necessarily know it. Anyway, as per the intent of the exercise, I formed more and more questions which would ultimately guide a course of study if I were so inclined…

If you get a chance to attend an Unprofessional Development course led by Emily or Christina, I recommend you jump on it. Also, your school can opt to host Project H Design for amazing, thought-provoking, interesting, creative, and inspiring workshops. Thank you to the United Nations International School (UNIS) for hosting today’s event!

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