Fun in Fall Classes

Fun in Fall Classes

Though our class offering is only a small part of the self-directed learning we facilitate at Open Doors, we often get questions about what our classes are like.  Here’s a small glimpse of the fun:

Waiting for Film Studies
Teens waiting for Film Studies and chatting … on the board are some Critical Thinking and Feeling notes to ponder as they wait …
Duct Tape Stash
Duct Tape Creations — the stash.
Duct Tape Creations
“Paper” airplanes and boats — made out of duct tape.
Lenny the Party Animal
“Lenny the Party Animal” — an eARTh hEaD class creation, using a recycled pinata.
Box Man
Box Man checks his iPod in Critical Thinking and Feeling class.

Learn more at Monday’s Open House at 12 noon — see you there!

Media isn’t Passive

Some time ago, we heard an adult complain about a young person, the kind of complaint that seems to be pretty common about teens in general:  “He watches South Park, listens to music on his iPod, plays video games on his Xbox but has NO INTEREST in learning even the basics.  Kids today just seem to want passive stimulation.”

“Passive stimulation”?  That’s becoming a very foreign concept to us here at Open Doors.

For instance, some folks associated with Open Doors have a background in Film and Film Production. We notice that they’re always pointing out *how* TV shows and movies are made—how the perspective was framed, how the editing decisions worked with the overarching philosophy, as well as “how did they get that shot?” questions. That’s part of the conversation around here when we’re watching something together, or talking about what we’ve watched.

 

Those of us who have studied the dramatic arts watch a different set of skills at work:  the actors’ choices in every scene.  Contrary to the belief that actors are just glorified line-readers, actors develop a way of walking, of talking, of moving in relation to each character and their emotions.  For those who excel at their art, they can show us a character’s vulnerability in one gesture, one hesitation.  That’s some powerful stuff — enough to make you rewind and watch again, just to appreciate it.

The writers among us are always looking at the story behind the story as well. How is the plot structured?  What are the creators accomplishing by giving this action to that character?  We talk about those factors whether we’re discussing video games, TV shows, or movies. Our understanding is complex and is focused on the whole story system.  We explore each story as a fresh view of ideas that have been around for a long long time, some since the birth of human civilization.

As we’ve researched the video game industry, we’ve thought about the process behind the production—how the graphics are rendered, how some dialogue is written to be flexible enough to sound relevant at various stages of the game, how the process of creating the story is changed by adding interactivity.  We like to imagine the project management aspect of each game, especially the big ones.  There are passionate game designers in the industry, looking to push this media into new directions and tell new stories in different ways.  That’s exciting.

Many of us at Open Doors are music lovers. We love to scour out-of-the-way places for new music to share, and there are times our members are just taken with the music. They think about how the music is put together, and why it speaks to them.

When we’ve experienced live music in the community that surrounds Open Doors,  we could see all the connections being made—how the instruments were played, how the sounds and the rhythms came together, how it feels to move to the music and let it all come together inside of us. Our knowledge and awareness of music is growing deep and wide—it’s not about “the basics,” but about a gestalt — a holistic, systemic approach.

When someone complains about the lack of learning in media (or a word we prefer not to use, “screentime”), you might wonder if they’re looking in the wrong places? Are they looking only to see what a teen is doing or producing?  Are they expecting learning to look a certain way?  Are they missing the fact that when we watch, listen, observe, and respond, we are building an inner understanding that is deep and wide and whole?

At Open Doors, the adults blend our own experience and knowledge with what our teens seem to like doing. We remember to ask questions and start where they are—we get into their interest and appreciate it and enjoy it.  We don’t dismiss their love of media — it counts, and it’s a great starting place for more. Going to concerts, finding out how different bands have influenced each other, figuring out how people have made the movies they’ve posted on YouTube, researching FAQs, talking with different kinds of gamers, looking up the history of weapons that are used in video games, talking through the logic of different game strategies, looking up actors on IMDB—all of this keeps leading to more and more learning about how the world works, and about how the creative process works.

“Passive stimulation”?  No.  There is an aspect of of letting the experience fill us and wash through us as we consider how to how to store it and bring it into our worldview.  As Helen Luke says, “The person who quietly responds with intense interest and love to people, to ideas, and to things, is as deeply and truly creative as one who always seeks to lead, to act, to achieve.  The qualities of receptivity, of nurturing in silence and secrecy are as essential to creation as their [more active] opposites.”

Come see us to find out more.

A Day inside Open Doors

One blustery morning last week, some teen members gathered at Open Doors, as they do regularly, to chat and learn together. Here’s a peek into the goings-on.

In a continuing class about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, we saw footage of the 1963 Children’s March in Birmingham, Alabama, complete with high-pressure fire hoses and police dogs. It was sobering stuff.

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The personal finance class covered balancing one’s checkbook.  The teens had done some research at local banks to see how they could open checking accounts, so this was useful information to have as they take steps forward.

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In the Wild Edibles class we reviewed a few winter edibles.  We found out we can brew White Pine needles into a tea if we need a source of Vitamin C, though the taste might not measure up to a cuppa at your favorite coffee house.

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We also learned how to harvest the cambium of a fallen tree for a source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C.  The cambium is the sap-moving layer inside the bark, which can be gathered and dried to make a flour for simple cakes.

We wrapped up the day with Film Studies and a viewing of Brick, an early Rian Johnson film.  (You may know the name Rian Johnson from films like The Brothers Bloom and Loopers.)  Bruce, seated in the middle, is a local director and our passionate leader in the area of all things film.

Bruce and kids on Brick

Brick is film noir set in a modern L.A. high school.  Released in 2005, it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt in one of his first serious roles after his 3rd Rock from The Sun fame.  As our members said afterwards, “Wow, a movie about high school that isn’t crap.  That’s amazing!” and “Emotions!  I’m having so many emotions after watching that!”  It was a compelling film, and the discussion of it this week promised to be just as world-expanding.

Swirling around the informal classes were conversations about video games, bullying, vacations, jobs, writing, and more.  It is such a joy to see our members engaged in their learning and their lives.  Come see for yourself.

Open houses are at noon on the second Monday of every month.

Evening fun events are at 7:00 p.m. on the third Thursday.

You can also call 616.965.6968, or come visit us when it’s convenient in Eastown at 1324 Lake Drive.

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