Where’s the last place you unexpectedly discovered an educational opportunity?

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Jamie Martin, Assistive Technology Consultant for Students and Adults with Dyslexia

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Every time I see a Pixar film, I learn something about the human condition (or at least am reminded of how we deal with life's challenges, often subconsciously). So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that my family's trip to the movie theater on Father's Day provided all of us with an educational opportunity that kept us talking for a good 2-3 hours afterward. Simply put, I was unexpectedly blown away by Pixar's latest masterpiece, Inside Out.

Inside Out is quite possibly the best Psychology 101 class of all time, one that everybody, from elementary to college age, can easily understand. It brilliantly depicts the necessity of having all of our emotions and trying to balance them in order to lead happy and productive lives. But it goes deeper than that and explores how the human brain functions and develops.

When the credits started rolling, my wife and I both exclaimed, almost simultaneously, that the film is pure genius and quite possibly the best that Pixar has ever produced. Our son, who is 9 years old, was inspired to draw a diagram of the brain when we got back to our house. It had all kinds of arrows showing how memories are created and how the different emotions take over in different situations.

As an educator, I am always on the lookout for "teachable moments," so it was a pleasant surprise to be on the receiving end of an educational experience that showed up unexpectedly.

Vanessa Domine, University professor, teacher, author & parent.

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I unexpectedly discovered an educational opportunity in my own kitchen. While my tweens, teens and I love to watch the popular TV shows MasterChef and MasterChef Junior for entertainment, when it comes to doing it myself I am highly unaccomplished. When I accidentally left out baking soda from a batch of cup cakes (and my kids wondered why they were flat), I was inspired to create another set of cupcakes and leave out other individual ingredients to see if my kids could guess which ingredient was left out of which cupcake and what effect it that ingredient produces (e.g., salt controls yeast growth; eggs provide moisture, leavening and binding). Not only did my kids learn about chemistry in an uber-authentic way but I also learned that my kids will eat just about anything.

Jules Csillag, Speech Language Pathologist and Learning Specialist

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It happens so frequently that it almost doesn't qualify as "unexpected," but I learn from my students all the time. I learn about how they learn best, I learn about what aspects of school are challenging for them, and I learn plenty of content from them, too – from social media savvy ("Instagram is all that matters now") to American History (a downside of having spent most of my school years in Canada), and from technological tips to how to make a study guide more efficient. Being open to learning from children is essential for educators, but also helpful for parents. It demonstrates respect and trust, which all children need. Plus, you could actually learn something!

Noah Mayers, Teacher and Alternative school starter and advocate.

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When I'm on a field trip with my students (groups of 6-8 kids) I'm always open to synchronistic events! On one hot June day our class was on our way to visit a ceramics studio in DUMBO. One student noticed a dreidel made of ice melting on the sidewalk. On closer inspection (peeking in the basement windows) we noticed an ice sculpting studio. We rang the doorbell and a student asked if we could take a tour.
The staff was happy to see us, and showed us their giant industrial sized ice cube making machines, chisels and chainsaws in action.
Using a chiselKeep an eye to the ground, keep curious, and be fearless, and you'll find a whole city full of teachers and guides.

Katrina Mohn, Arts Editor, Art Historian, Graduate School Survivor

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Every few weeks I visit my 92-year-old grandmother for a "stitch n' bitch". We meet at her place, embroider together for a few hours, have lunch, drink, and gossip. Every time I visit I learn something new: be it a tidbit of family history or how I've been doing my French Knots wrong.

Lois Weiner, Professor, researcher, former high school teacher

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This is a great question because people who work in schools are so focused on doing their jobs well they may forget how much really valuable learning - for everyone - occurs outside classrooms. Whenever I travel to another country I see things that make me think about our own country differently. For instance, Portugal has national museums in even small cities, to preserve art and artifacts. The country doesn't rely on the local government to do this because their history is understood as a national treasure. Why don't we do that ?

Charlotte Dungan, Pre-K-12 Educator, Parent, Life-Long Learner

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We had a book trading party with friends, inspired by the diy.org Reader badge. We built a giant fort, read stories together, dressed up as our favorite characters, and made snacks to match our stories (for example, gingerbread cookies for Pippi Longstocking and popcorn from If You Take a Mouse to the Movies). Then the kids brought a few books that they wanted to pass along and everyone got to trade. Later that day, I found my two kiddos out on the porch reading their "new" books, and the whole thing didn't cost a dime. Well, except maybe the popcorn. :)

https://twitter.com/SeeTryFly/status/608911242783264768

Kendra Whitmire, Writer and Tutor

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I find that you can easily let social media work for you and provide you with ways to learn something new every day. By following certain news agencies, organizations, and people, such as Medical News Today, Shakespeare's Globe, Professor Brian Cox, and more, you can get information on the latest medical testing information, scientific news, and other interesting topics right in your news feed.

Amy McElroy, Writer, Editor, Writing Coach, and Parent of two

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My teenagers have become strong critical thinkers and activists as they navigate social media. Rather than filtering content for them, I find myself being schooled by their passion over the latest controversies in the news on topics like racism, gender bias, and other forms of discrimination and social injustice. My daughters often serve as my front line educators for issues that haven't even crossed my radar yet, as I work day to day on my own projects.

SueAnn Stanton, Senior Manager, Social Media at Noodle

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Sunset

Whenever I get to witness a beautiful sunset, it inspires me to research interesting facts about sunsets. I'm constantly amazed at the amount of science behind that amber glowing orb. For example, by the time I saw the above sunset, the Sun had already technically set; it’s only due to the fact that the atmosphere bends light that it still looks like this. This sunset was so beautiful, it blinded me with SCIENCE!

“It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it.” —Carl Sagan

Jen Messier, Co-founder of Brooklyn Brainery

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I'm always looking for new things to learn and observe while going about my daily routine. Inspired by a tree identification class I took on a whim, lately my focus has been on the natural world, aiming to identify more of the birds, trees, and flowers that I encounter walking around New York City. Not only does it help enliven some of the typically less exciting parts of my day, like commuting or running errands, but it really brings out an appreciation for world we inhabit and the passing of time - something that's not always easy in the bustling city.

I enjoy this type of learning because it can be done in bite-sized chunks; rather than sitting down for an hour or two to read, I can spend a few minutes looking at the leaves of a particular tree or even whipping out a bird ID app on my phone to try and pinpoint what's in front of me. For years, I rushed around not really noticing these things, but I now find a lot of satisfaction in knowing there are London Planetrees in front of my house and the occasional gray catbird in the back, and it's deepened my experience of everyday life in a meaningful and surprising way.

Amanda Uhry, Owner/Founder Manhattan Private School Advisors

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I don't have to look very far, since I own Manhattan Private School Advisors. That said, outside of work, here's where I look for real education and advise our clients to as well: in all the places where at first I fail miserably!

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