New York City Learning Spaces


On my last day in New York, I had the chance to meet up with a few community education centres that are blazing the trail for the rest of us. First was Aimee, one of the organizers of Trade School New York, which inspired Trade School Toronto as well as more than 50 other “Barter for Knowledge” schools across the globe. They are trying to organize the first Trade School conference, bringing in organizers from different Trade Schools to meet up. As she had been so focused on Trade School New York, sharing stories about the successes and challenges of Trade Schools in different parts of the world made it much more real for the both of us.

Afterwards I jumped on the subway to Brooklyn to meet Soma and Jen, the owners of space and business called Brooklyn Brainery. Over the past few years they have created a physical storefront for general interest classes that anyone can teach that focuses on the “quirky” and interesting courses. I was fascinated by their approach, as many learning spaces often have a focus on job and development training or particular philosophical/ political belief. Instead, they are really connected to creating a learning space that focuses on the social and fun aspect of learning.

brainery store

In both conversations, we spoke about the development of their organizations, finding space and their business models. It was great to hear their stories of starting off and the interesting issues they are running into (why are there so many women in these types of classes and few men?).

One interesting note was that both groups were recently involved in a kind of “alternative community learning” networking meeting which invited similar organizations like the Brainery and Trade School to meet and chat. This could easily happen here in Toronto as I am in touch with a number of organizations like Hack Lab and Toronto Free scool. If so, what would be the purpose? Would there be a larger goal in mind or just a fun networking event?