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Global Seminar: Reskilling, Sustainability and Community Engagement-Fall 2017

This is a course, in the words of David Foster Wallace, about “adjusting our default setting”; using reskilling as a tool for mindfulness and community-building. One of the consequences of increasing specialization and monetization of the economy is that skills that were once common among the general population, skills that by their nature contributed to a sense of community, skills that could not be accomplished without thought and intention, are now shared by few.

What is reskilling and why is it important? Phillip Barnes describes it as “the acquisition of skills essential to satisfy basic needs in a localized and carbon-constrained future… Reskilling is a process, ongoing and never-ending, that evolves as conditions change and contexts change. It is first and foremost a community-oriented method….While one can learn reskilling by watching a video or reading a book, it is the face-to-face interactions that build community….where a talented and knowledgeable individual or group teaches other people what they know.”[i]

Together with essays and reflections on the nature of home-based work, presentations by innovators tackling difficult problems we face as we move in to a time of uncertainty, and hands on skill-building in each session, this course offered tools for increasing awareness, self-agency and community-building.  Skills learned included herbal medicines, acorn bread, soap-making, canning, mending, basic wiring,  felting/repurposing wool. Other skills were determined by the interests of the classroom community awere student-taught. These included bagel-making, knitting, fire-starting, atole, walnut ink, making cordage from nettle, and potato candy.

[i] Barnes, Phillip, “What is Reskilling Anyway?” Transition US. Web. October 13, 2014.


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Beth Bridgeman is an Assistant Professor of Cooperative Education at Antioch College. Her professional practice areas are informed by community engagement and student-centered experiential learning pedagogy. She teaches courses in co-constructed learning, agrarian systems, reskilling and resilience, plant medicine, seed-saving, and harvest preservation, utilizing the Antioch Farm and campus as a learning laboratory. From 2013-2015 she led the Ohio Agrarian Trade Partnership at Antioch College, developing fifty-two cooperative education partnerships in sustainable food production throughout Ohio. Bridgeman previously served for twelve years as a county extension educator with The Ohio State University, focusing on sustainable agriculture and experiential learning opportunities for youth and adults.

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