Our heads could do with filling
With some interesting stuff,
For now they’re bare and full of air,
Dead flies and bits of fluff . . .
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.
There were other ways to learn, she decided. Things which could not be found in books. ―D.K. Holmberg
From tastebuds to toenails, our bodies are constantly renewing themselves. Nutritious food keeps our hair, skin, and bones growing, but what about our minds? They need to be fed, too.
Despite the confining desks, piles of homework, and stifling grades of traditional education, learning can be fun. Fresh experiences and information nourish your brain. They’re also invigorating and empowering—new knowledge and skills can help you escape a rut or chase your dreams. All it takes is a little curiosity and perseverance. So where do you start?
Turn on the tube
YouTube, that is. Or TED Talks, or Lynda.com. PBS, the History Channel, or a Netflix documentary. From dog grooming to game design and cooking to coding, you can learn a lot by watching a well-chosen show. Remember Bill Nye, the Science Guy? Try swapping your regularly scheduled programming for something a bit more educational and see what happens.
Take a field trip
Whoo hoo—field trip! But instead of getting out of a stuffy classroom for a few hours, escape your routine for awhile. No permission slips, orderly lines, or best behavior—just you and a change of scenery, anywhere you like. Check out a local art or science museum, a nearby fair, or another country. Go alone or take a friend. Stay a few hours, days, or weeks—it’s entirely up to you. Explore a new place, complete with language, food, and customs, or just get out of your own head for an afternoon.
Long before Google replaced encyclopedias (look ’em up), people were our repositories of information. Family, friends, and neighbors taught us to tie our shoes, ride a bike, style our hair, cook, clean, and ace an interview. People still have a wealth of knowledge to share, so swallow your self-consciousness and ask someone you admire to show you a thing or two. Family, friends, competent strangers—connect with someone and learn something new.
Play a game
Recess was never a break from learning, just the confines of a classroom. Playing sparks curiosity and creative engagement with the world. There’s even a subset of games (called serious games) devoted to productive play. From board and role-playing games to video games and apps, these are intrinsically motivating, with unique challenges and immediate feedback on creative problem-solving. Run your own game development company with a little 2D sim gem called Game Dev Story. Try Duolingo for bite-sized language learning, Luminosity to boost memory and reasoning, or old fashioned chess to improve problem-solving (though you can learn with a great app from Chess.com). For some serious fun, grab a serious game.
Never underestimate the power of trial and error. You don’t need a teacher, program, or guide to begin drawing, painting, dancing, cooking, or taking something apart to see how it works. Just put some colored pencils to paper and start moving them around. Turn on some music and start moving your body. Try mixing ingredients together and see what you get. Experiment. Improvise. No one else has to see what you’re doing. Examine your work, make adjustments, and try again. Learn from your mistakes and delight in your discoveries.
Before the world was reflected in maps, you had to strike out and discover it for yourself. We’re still surrounded by unknown territory, and you can head out anytime. Crawl around your back yard with a magnifying glass. Take a new route to school or work. Roam your city like a tourist. Check out your local library. Surf the web. Read everything your can get your hands on. Observe, listen, taste, touch, smell. Investigate. Inquire. Explore.
What you learn is up to you. No interest in math, English, or history? No problem. How about cooking, coding, or geo-caching? You could identify the local trees you love or try a new language. Maybe you’d like to skateboard or grow veggies or design your own clothes. The only limit is your imagination. What piques your curiosity?
A wide and gloriously interesting world awaits you beyond the schoolhouse doors. Forget about textbooks and teachers’ dirty looks. It’s time to have some fun.
FYI, Story of Choice is entirely ad-free. All the websites, games, and other resources mentioned above are personal recommendations based on my own experience.