life in the Kearsarge area

what's happening in the Kearsarge/Lake Sunapee area of NH

Pop-Up Learning in Bethel, Vt.

Last year, a one-of-a-kind university popped up in central Vermont. During March, “Bethel University” (BU) hosted free mini-courses in the Town Hall, the school, the library, and in homes and businesses all over town. Anyone could become a “professor” and teach a course on any topic under the sun, and anyone could take courses for free.

Bethel University will pop-up again this March. Registration will open in early February and Bethel University will run from March 1 to 31. Like last year, the program will conclude with a community-wide “graduation” celebration on March 29 with food and fun, plus a new showcase of the courses featuring photos, art and “TED-style” talks.

Two exciting new additions will be offered this year. People can also propose “meet ups” – or informal gatherings for people interested in a certain topic or hobby – without having to commit to teaching a course. And for those who do want to teach, organizers will offer two workshops and a manual to help people design great courses. Professors do not need to have college degrees or years of experience – just a genuine interest in sharing their knowledge and skills. Businesses and organizations are invited to propose courses related to their offerings and use BU as a way to connect with the public and gain exposure.

Last year, 21 professors offered courses ranging from Zumba to vermicomposting, quilt making to wine tasting. The courses drew 134 registrations from 11 towns, with significant benefits for both the participants and for the Town of Bethel. The project supported 11 local businesses, brought new people to town, and highlighted Bethel’s assets and the talents of residents. More than 75% of participants said in a survey that they learned new skills and information and 95% of professors said they felt more connected to the community.

Bethel University is organized by the Bethel Revitalization Initiative, a group of Bethel citizens working to make Bethel a more vibrant, connected and livable community. A core group of volunteers came together to start Bethel University last winter, after hearing a great deal of enthusiasm for the idea. Numerous local organizations offer free space and support for the program, including the Town of Bethel, Bethel Elementary School and Whitcomb High, the Bethel Village Sandwich Shop, the Bethel Public Library, and the Christ Episcopal Church.

Learn more at betheluniversityvt.wordpress.com

 

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