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Minerva Day 5: …5 Minutes, 5 Years

September 4, 2014

Today we went to WeWork, a coworking space with hip exposed wiring and piping on the ceiling and a wonderful view of Market Street.

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We learned about the rules and regulations of the residence hall, library resources…

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and reputation building in the digital age,

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but the thing I’m guessing you’re most interested in is… Minerva’s grading policies!

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Even if you’re shaking your head now, I think secretly you are interested, so I will tell you. Minerva doesn’t issue letter grades, so I will never get an ‘A’ again! Instead, we’re tested on how well we use the HCs (Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts, like seeking counterexamples). We won’t get our grades for the Foundational Courses we’ll be take until we graduate in 5 years, because the HCs will be woven through every single other course we’ll take. The focus is on continuous improvement, and on making the HCs so natural to us that we’ll actually use them after university. That seems entirely healthy and intelligent to me. We’ll see how it actually plays out. Apparently we’ll be learning to apply 129 HCs in the first year….!

I chatted with my advisor, Dr. Eric Bonabeau, a complex systems/computational/business-minded person who likes to use computer models to find optimal solutions to social/multivariable problems. We had a surprising conversation about climate change (he is not so sure that human activity is its cause) and then he gave me one of the Italian chocolates he bought to feed his habit. Our interests (modeling different interventions in a system) are pretty aligned, and I think he will be a great mentor. All I need to do to make this work is to get a better grasp of French humour…!

Tonight we’re going to the Exploratorium (a science museum on Pop Rocks and steroids!) to meet with the director of new exhibits and I am GEEKING OUT!

[Update] Well, we explored it! Here are a few images of our fun, and a scribe of the informal talk we were given by Thomas Rockwell (Norman Rockwell’s grandson! And a former designer of playgrounds!) about the importance of asking generative questions in inquiry-based education. Of course, there is a photo of me drinking from the toilet. That’s just the kind of night it was!

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One last thing – I ventured out to Chinatown to seek some ceramic plates and found thirty cop motorcycles lined up in front of the store as I was leaving it. They had not come to arrest me for poor fashion sense, as much as you might like to think! It was actually a motorcycle show – the equivalent of a dog show for cop bikes.

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