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Bartering for knowledge

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For most people, weekend activities revolve around household chores and errands or the “oh, so typical” pepperoni pizza and Netflix. For those attending a Trade School Indy course however, Friday night could be as delectable as a course on cooking gourmet quality fare using locally produced cold-brew coffee or as nostalgic as gathering with fellow children at heart to make an artfully crafted paper doll.

Trade School Indy, a volunteer-organized barter for instruction collective, was started by friends Blaire Huntley and Brittany West.

Huntley, inspired by the trade school concept while living in New York City, decided to bring the idea to Indianapolis in 2012. Since then, the organization has hosted more than 100 courses. The Indy initiative is a part of a network of trade for barter schools around the world.

West, a Trade School Indy facilitator and co-founder, was attracted to the idea based on its versatility. “I wanted to get involved because I was not really sure what I wanted to do,” said West. “I went to college and it wasn’t really the right fit, I wanted to study way too many things to commit to a degree in something particular.”

Learning, outside of the traditional sphere of a structured school environment, has grown and evolved in recent years to include not only skill for barter situations but also online platforms such as Coursera, which offers students the opportunity to take free courses from top universities and institutions around the world.

West describes the trade school experience as a unique one where both teacher and student get an opportunity to collaborate in new ways outside of normal everyday interaction. She said that meeting diverse groups of people and trying new things have been her favorite aspects of running Indy Trade School.

Because Trade School is an open source initiative, meaning that anyone is free to participate and collaborate, classes are taught by individuals from all walks of life, who may or may not be formally trained in their chosen area of instruction. At Trade School Indy, all that is required of instructors is a passion for working with others.

Because the classes are barter based, the price for attendees is minimal as most instructors require students to bring household items, food, and other small tokens as tuition.

Currently, the school, which runs on a seasonal schedule broken down into semesters is wrapping up its spring semester and plans to re-launch with summer courses at its Summer School Launch event on May 3. In addition to launching the new semester, Indy Trade School will be recruiting volunteers to teach upcoming courses.

West encourages anyone who is interested in either taking a course or teaching one to join in the movement. “Trade School is a very friendly organization,” she said. “We’re just people getting together to share what we know.”

For more information on Trade School Indy visit tradeschool.coop/indianapolis

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