Welcome to Rolling Earth

This website offers tools for education for democratic self-organization and reflections on their use. I hope it will provide a space for discussion and exploration of the use of "popular education" in movement building -- guided by a commitment to equality and democracy. See the website guidelines for more about the mechanics of the site. - Matt Noyes

The Gift

Learned this at Kani Club.

In pairs, one person (The Giver) mimes giving the other a gift. Her mime should show some quality of the gift -- size, weight, temperature, value, etc.

The Receiver receives the gift in kind (showing its weight, etc) and identifies it. E.g., "Oh what a beautiful lobster! Thank you so much!"

The Giver, in the spirit of "Yes, and...", follows the Receiver's lead, adding some detail about the Gift. E.g., "I pulled it up in the trap this morning and thought of you."

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Feel Free

This is a spiel that I give when beginning work with a new group.

Feel Free

In this course there is one rule: feel free. To me this means three things:

  • Feel free to be comfortable. Feel free to stretch, to sit comfortably, to stand, to use the bathroom. Feel free to make a phone call (outside). Feel free to sleep (outside).
  • Feel free to be uncomfortable. Feel free to be confused, to be shy, to be ashamed, to forget, to be stumped. Feel free to be frustrated, even angry. Feel free to be ignorant, to be mixed up, to be off balance.
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The shared object

A simple approach to emancipated teaching. As my friend Charley once said of a different activity, "This is a double black diamond!" To use this activity well you need to know what you are doing, and not doing, and why.

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Writing into

This is more the seed of activities that can be devised using a common technique, than a worked-out activity.

I learned about "writing into" from John McGough, a TDU organizer and lover of poetry. He sent me this poem by Robert Kelly in which Kelly writes his own poem into Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." Here's the first bit of Whitman's poem followed by Kelly's version:

Whitman:
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;

Kelly:

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Reading the air - 空気を読む

Another game I learned at Kani Club, the improvisation group in Tokyo where I have played many great games and come to appreciate the underlying "Yes, and..." approach. In Japanese, a person who can't understand situations intuitively is said to be unable to "read the air": 空気読めない. In this game, people take turns pantomiming a series of short narratives with the goal of keeping the "reading" intact even as the details of the narrative change.

The flow:

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What is a union?

I came up with this in a Field Study course in which I took at group of students to NYC to study unions and workers centers. The students had no experience of unionism, so we needed to come up with a working definition of "union" so that we had a common basis for discussion. (As opposed to me just explaining what a union is, or given them someone else's definition. - What's wrong with explaining? Read on.) This activity gave us a great starting point for our discussion and it captured something essential about unionism and any social movement: the need to constantly reinvent and reimagine.

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Parallel Universes

The task we set ourselves in an English for Activists class was to analyze an upcoming local election with major implications for parliamentary elections that would follow later in the year. The context was a recent victory by the Liberal Democratic Party in the Upper House elections and the continuing decline of the radical left/green parties which most of our participants support.

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I got 198 methods and violence ain't one: three sorts

These are sorting games I made up based on Gene Sharp's list of 198 non-violent methods of struggle. I wanted to introduce the list of methods to people without overwhelming them (198!), and do it in a way that raises the underlying organizing issues they imply. The idea is to sort the methods according to whatever criteria you choose. These games should spread awareness of the variety of non-violent methods people have used in collective action and the issues they raise in a given context/group.

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Learning Interview

I learned this from Emily Schnee and rely on it, especially for academic courses I teach. The form is simple, an interview activity with a report back and a chart to collect the information. But the content is rich: how have we learned well, what does that tell us about how learning is best done, what does that say about teaching and how it is best done? Starting with a skill also helps people recognize themselves as people who have skills and know how to learn, rather than starting where most education starts, with people's ignorance and lack of skill.

The flow:

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What have we been up to?

This is a simple way for a group that is meeting again after not meeting for several weeks or months to catch up on each other's activities. Like the Power Line and the Learning Interview, this activity involves making a simple shared chart that "bubbles up" individual experiences and, at the same time, enables you to see collective patterns of activity.

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