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DSU Free School puts students in front of the classroom

- February 5, 2013

The author leading her yoga class at the DSU Free School. (Laurel Walsh photo)
The author leading her yoga class at the DSU Free School. (Laurel Walsh photo)

The classroom may be the centre of the university experience, but knowledge and learning can come from anywhere.

That theme was implicit in the Dalhousie Student Union’s “Free School,” a day of workshops and discussions hosted on Sunday, January 27. The sessions, organized by students, for students, each taught a different skill or explored a different topic, from Marxism to meditation – all free of charge. (Even the lunch was provided by Pete’s ToGoGo).

According to Amanda Charles, commissioner with the DSU’s Sandbox initiative, the idea for the event came from Jamie Arron, DSU president, who was inspired by a similar event in Tatamagouche. Tasked with making the event a reality, Charles says the goal was to “let [the participants] learn what they want to learn.”

Taking it on

Myself, I had heard through the grapevine that the DSU was looking for someone to lead a yoga class. I had already been planning to attend the event, so as a qualified yoga teacher, I readily jumped at the opportunity to get more involved.

On arriving at the event, it was great to see the crowd that had made it out on a Sunday morning: people of all different ages, students and non-students alike.

For workshop hosts, Free School was a chance to share your passion with those who were curious but may never have reached out to you. The people who attended my class had varied yoga experience, but all were keen to learn something new.

I also got to participate in some sessions, and the feeling was extremely comfortable: an unintimidating atmosphere where you felt compelled to try new things, admit you were a beginner and enjoy the learning process.

First I attended a consensus-based decision-making workshop held by Jean Ketterling, volunteer coordinator at the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre (formerly the Dal Women’s Centre). It was discussion-focused, enriched by the diverse experiences of those around the table. Next, for something totally different, I attended the beekeeping workshop hosted by George Kitching of the Beekeeping Society. It was not a topic I had ever thought I would find quite so fascinating, but it was great to hear Andony Melathopoulos give such an informative, animated speech on the lives of bees.

Looking ahead

Organizers are hoping to run the Free School again in the future and hope that feedback from the first event will lead to a larger turnout. On the Facebook page people described the event as “fun, informative, and meaningful,” while many others said the day was “wonderful.”

In the meantime, the Sandbox Team is currently organizing TEDx Nova Scotia for March 10 and looking for speaker nominations. Its members are also running a competition on Soapbox that offers students a chance to win $250 for their ideas.


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