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Need a small hit of learning? The Westboro Brainery has got you covered.

By Jared Davidson on November 20, 2013

Have you ever felt the urge to learn something new? For me, it’s a hunger that can only be quelled by the consumption of knowledge—hearty, metaphorically consumable knowledge.

Sometimes, it’s enough to just read a Wikipedia article, but more often I feel the need for something substantial. Now, I don’t have the time to commit to a college course, or even a weekend learning stint, so this need goes un-satiated more often than not.

Which is why The Westboro Brainery so appeals to me. It’s a way to get a small hit of learning, a single, short course on a subject you’re interested in. No massive time commitment. No tests. No strings attached. It’s community driven small-scale education—a rallying point for those of us who have that urge to learn.

The Brainery’s website, which launched late last month, sports a wide variety of courses, and the selection is improving by the day. Anybody can suggest a course, and anybody can offer their services as an instructor. So, if you’ve got a passion that you need to share with the world (or at least with Ottawa), The Westboro Brainery may be the pedagogical outlet you’ve been looking for.

Currently, the courses on offer include earring making, equine assisted therapy, the art of self-hypnosis, and raw food cooking—an eclectic mix to be sure. And the prices are quite reasonable—courses range from $5 to $15. That’s about the price of a movie ticket, and what movie is going to teach you stand-up paddling?

The goal behind The Brainery is to make it as easy as possible for the community to come together and share knowledge and skills. It’s being run by Dovercourt Recreation Centre, a place that has always had a reputation for doing things a little differently. And while the centre hosts many of the events, the real backbone of the Brainery is its website.

“It’s about creating a central hub with a whole bunch of different one-off things,” said Billy Russell, Dovercourt’s recreation manager. “[The website] is a place where people can check out what’s happening in the next few months, and if there’s something they’re interested in, they can do it.”

The system is really as simple as that. The idea came out of The Brooklyn Brainery, an initiative that has become wildly successful. The Brainery concept is part of a larger move toward community-driven education, something most recently evidenced by the launch of Google Helpouts.

Thus far the community reaction to The Brainery has been overwhelmingly positive. “People have knowledge out there and they want to share it,” said Russell.

It’s an idea where everyone wins. Teachers get to strut their stuff, and are compensated for their time (the going rate is $30 an hour). Everyone else gets to take their courses at affordable prices. Heck, it’s a great way to learn new things and meet new people. I think it’s brilliant.