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May 28, 2015 EXPLO Today

Oppi Festival: 5 Things That Wowed Us (And Will Wow You, Too)

The Oppi Learning Festival is a self-described "pop-up learning festival designed to bring global brilliance to a diverse audience on a different continent ...

Lisa Merlini

The Oppi Learning Festival is a self-described "pop-up learning festival designed to bring global brilliance to a diverse audience on a different continent each year." The Festival moves from country to country, bringing with it a diverse collection of speakers, workshops, and panels about the changing shape of education. When we learned that this year's event was going to pop up in NYC, we made sure that Explo was involved.

We set up in the Oppi Festival's central meeting/presentation hub, next to a booth manned by the Gates Foundation, who had a terrific interactive display where teachers could share their own stories by responding to, “Why I Teach,” on large cartoon-style voice bubbles.

Reshaping Learning with Wind Tunnels
Our activity was a simple experiment. Using Explo's three vertical wind tunnels, we handed festival participants a sheet of cardstock sandwiched between two Lego pieces. The task: using only scissors and tape, alter the shape of the paper so that it floats in the middle of the tunnel.

At first glance, it seems like an engineering challenge (and it is also that). But as dozens of teachers snipped, folded, tested, and retested their solutions, we enjoyed some very interesting conversations. Art teachers wondered how a wind tunnel could be used to construct floating sculptures. Biology teachers saw opportunities to talk about how seeds travel with the wind. Music teachers reacted to the chaotic and rhythmic tapping of the forms against the walls of the tunnel.

Bringing Interdisciplinary Thinking to Learning
And that (of course) is the point… The solutions to this challenge — and any challenge — are so much richer when you apply interdisciplinary thinking. And trying new things (especially when they seem to be outside your comfort zone) will always broaden your perspective.

That is the first, and primary, takeaway of the Oppi Festival. As Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Pasi Sahlberg said:

It was a festival that celebrated education that cultivated the human mind and unleashed imagination to change our lives and the world. I think we need more forums like Oppi where people get together and learn from one another in joyful and enriching spirit.

Four More Key Highlights:

1. Learning strategist and researcher Simon Breakspear asked, in a rapidly changing world, “What is the half life of skills?” He advised focusing on 21st-century skills, which are both timeless and enduring. Learn more about his work.

2. Prof. Pasi Sahlberg also heartily endorsed the documentary, Rise Above the Mark. This powerful film seeks to answer the question, “How do we fix America’s broken education system?” One way is to take a look at Finland, a world leader in education and a country that does so without any form of standardized testing.

3. Jon Schnur, Executive Chairman of America Achieves, says we need to pursue rigor AND engagement in our educational models. “We need to drive more engagement to compete against video games.” Read more about the good works that America Achieves is doing.

4. Check out CROS University, the alternative university in Bucharest whose education ideal is: "A happy person is one that has found his element, the place where his talents meet his passions, someone that ideally learns and evolves autonomously throughout his life. Inner balance and self-knowledge are as important as professional success and the role of active citizenry in the community."

See what other educators had to say about the Oppi Festival in this Education Week article.


@explolive work table crowded with clever prototypes @oppifestival #oppi #oppifestival

A photo posted by EXPLO (@explosummer) on

Lisa Merlini