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Column

Learning matters

When you start going through your resume and it looks as eclectic as mine does, you start to wonder what you’ve been doing all these years.

I’ve been a teacher, a seamstress, a tutor, a bookstore owner, a workshop presenter, a quilter, a homeschool teacher, a nanny, a special education aide, a puppeteer, a puppet maker, a costumer, an author and now a reporter.

There’s got to be a theme in there somewhere, or have I reinvented myself so many times that what I used to do doesn’t matter?

The thread — if you’ll allow the pun — has been education. And not the education where you sit at a desk while someone tells you what you need to learn, although I’ve done quite a bit of that, from both sides of the desk. Real learning is the kind you get from the world around you, and you never graduate from this school.

When I homeschooled my kids in grade school, we were fortunate enough to be in an area with lots of museums. We learned about local animals and did science projects; we saw art and created our own; we watched the stars in a planetarium and in our back yard; we had slug races and raised an iguana.

That’s the thing about home- schooling. You learn that the whole world is your school. The grocery store is a math class. You know that algebra you thought you’d never use outside of school? Well, that’s how you figure out which brand is cheaper by the ounce.

Puppeteering is teaching and learning, too.

This is where I give a shout out to Rainbow Puppets, a non-profit group in Virginia I worked with for years putting on educational shows and workshops. Check out their website at rainbowpuppets.com; you’ll see some puppets and costumes I’ve made and maybe even my smiling face.

All of Rainbow’s educational shows are researched thoroughly, including making the costumes as authentic as possible. I designed Mary Peake and Eleanor Roosevelt’s costumes from photographs of them, and Neil Armstrong has an actual NASA patch.

Then there are some physics and engineering involved in creating puppets. What exactly do all those contraptions on the Wright brothers’ airplane do? How do I get a puppet to glide through the air like a fairy and yet be able to shoot fire from her fingertips?

Here’s a hint: once you figure it out, don’t let anyone point it at the giant spider backstage — unless you want to make some new spider eyelashes.

So, if what I’ve been focusing on my whole life is teaching and learning, then learning must matter.

And, boy, have I been learning lately. AP style writing, used by reporters, is significantly different from creative writing or scholarly writing techniques. Wordiness, flowery adjectives, opinion and my beloved Oxford comma (which I put in this sentence, but Sarah will probably make me take out) are to be avoided. Quotes get their own paragraphs. And I use the word “that” way more than I need to.

I’ve been learning about Creston and Union County, too.

Interviews for the Progress Edition have had me talking to long-time Creston residents and learning many things I didn’t know about my hometown. Sometimes we feel isolated here in our little corner of the Iowa, but we have residents who have really impacted the whole world in their own way.

My colleagues call me crazy for enjoying the Union County Board of Supervisors meetings I go to each Monday. But the truth is, I’ve learned a lot, and, hopefully, I’m teaching it to you.

You may not have time to sit and listen for three or so hours a week. I hope I’m keeping you informed about what’s going on in your county. And I hope that when something comes up that affects you, you’ll take the time to get involved by showing up or writing a letter or calling your supervisors — they put their phone numbers on the website for a reason.

Learning matters. Never stop learning and then pass it on.

Tell me what matters to you.

•••

Contact the writer:

Email: rsmith@crestonnews.com

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