Trade School: Education Through Barter

OurGoods, an online barter network, is running a pop-up storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. That storefront is called Trade School and it’s a series of classes that centralizes the act of barter and exchange and a pop up classroom in New York City’s Lower East Side.

It works like this: “Take a class every night with a range of specialized teachers in exchange for basic items and services. Secure a spot in a Trade School class by meeting one of the teacher’s barter needs.”

We’ve written about this idea of informal education opportunities and spaces before and it remains a kind of long-term hope to see something like this get started in the area.

So, consider this just another post on the ongoing list of inspirational activities that we’d love to imagine having the time to pull off here in Windsor.

[via Eyebeam & PSFK]

Pop-Up Education


Not that it’s something we haven’t talked about before, but GOOD just wrote about yet another iteration of this kind of alternative community pedagogy, this time calling it “pop-up education.”

Basically these ideas work like this: teach something you know to other people in an alternative space. Perhaps a main distinction in the pop-up education idea compared to what we’ve talked about before is that this kind of pedagogical experience should occur during regular wait-times, the brief post gives the example of teaching safety skills while waiting in the DMV.

So, how many times will we write about this before we initiate something? Well, maybe instead of making a list of skills we have and could share, maybe creating a needs-based list would work.

For example, I would love to learn how to cast metal, do basic programming for the iPhone, and get a better general sense of the narrative of the history of the city. What might you want to learn? Want to trade knowledge?

University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture: Undulating Planters

University of Waterloo's School of Architecture

Danielle and I spent the day at the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture with the DodoLab team planning out a project that will take place in PEI near the end of August. Near the side of the building in this kind of walkway between two parts of the school, we saw this installation, completed by a 4th year architecture class.

The installation consists of a huge number of used coffee cups, chicken wire, and transplanted grasses and flowers. It undulates mildly until reaching the rail for the steps (in the right-side of the photo) where the planters climb the rail. The chicken wire is supported by other coffee cups and those cardboard heat-shields.

We didn’t get to speak to anyone who worked on this project, but it was another great reference for our own ongoing research.

The Public School


The Public School is an initiative by Los Angeles’ Telic Arts Exchange, and, so far as I can tell, the basic premise is this: people interested in either teaching or taking a short-term class on a given subject propose that class; other people interested in such a class express their interest on the School’s website, and proposals eliciting the greatest public interest are selected to be taught. Nominal fees are collected, an instructor and curriculum are settled upon, and then the class is held at a space provided by the School. Topics already selected range from gold leafing and piñata-making to discussion of Benjamin’s Arcades Project and conceptual choreography. And S&M. And composting.

So far, the School has also launched programs in Chicago and Philadelphia. Now, it’s difficult to imagine the exact same system working in precisely the same way in a city the size of Windsor (put simply, there likely aren’t enough interested parties for the same degree of “crowd-sourcing” to be practicable), but as an organizational model for knowledge- or skill-sharing, I think there’s a lot that could be taken from the School’s format.

I’ve written here before about the potential that comes of having a physical space out of which to work, and something like this is perhaps one of the more compelling possibilities. The “school” here is, in effect, an empty classroom: the curriculum and schedule emerges out of a collective desire to see a given thing happen. And then it happens.

People everywhere have knowledge and experience that, in large part, goes under-utilized. It’s not difficult to imagine finding a couple-dozen people willing to chip in ten bucks for a silk-screening workshop, but, at the same time, there’s potentially something to be gained by bringing together four or five dedicated turbo-nerds willing to spend a night each week talking about—I don’t know—European versus North American histories of site-specificity in artistic practice and how these come to bear in current understandings and implementations of “relational” creative activity (only one example, of course). For the particular terbo-nerd leading the seminar, that outlet and the even-slight reciprocity of interest could mean the difference between sticking around and giving up and moving to Kitchener (“the Ghent of Southern Ontario,” I hear they call it). Or something. I don’t mean people like me specifically, of course; I’m just saying.

I could also teach gold leafing. Or piñata-making, come to that. Just saying.

Commuter School

parking lots on University of Windsor campus

I saw an article on GOOD Magazine today that talked about initiatives that US colleges on the west coast are taking on to encourage more students biking to school. Among these initiatives are giving out free bus passes, car and bike sharing programs, shortening the school week and even paying students not to drive.

The University of Windsor (partly pictured above), as a commuter school, is essentially surrounded by parking lots. For some students, coming up from Essex County or even Tecumseh, taking public transit is not an option… (Let’s forget that there was once a commuter train that went from Kingsville, through Essex, and into Windsor). There are a number of obstacles for other students to get to school, even if they live within range of Transit Windsor’s routes—namely that it takes far too long to get to school by bus and to take a bicycle anywhere but along the riverfront is taking your life into your own hands. 

There are proposed solutions to make the campus into more of a campus, with a sustained student body, and less of a drive-thru educational depot, such as increasing the cost of parking even more, and I’m wondering if the next few years might not be especially crucial to shift the student body onto public transit. With the economy so depressed, affording gas, insurance, parking, and car payments may be impossible, so why isn’t there another referendum to try to instate a University bus pass? Especially for students at Lebel, making it to main campus and back again in time for classes that are back to back is difficult, what if there was an electric shuttle that could get you back and forth in five minutes? How much would you be willing to add to your tuition for that? What if there was a dedicated bike path from Lebel to main campus? What if there was a bike sharing program with drop-off points at Lebel, the St Denis Centre, Odette and the Library? Should we buy some bikes and make our own bike-sharing program?