Studying the Future of Education: Seattle Center/Next 50 Learning Month

Published on: December 30, 2013

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If you're interested in how we can reshape our educational systems to help people of all ages and backgrounds "realize their intrinsic passions to learn and grow?," you should head over to the Seattle Center in August.

This is the mind-bending challenge laid down by The Next Fifty, Seattle Center’s ongoing celebration of the 1962 World’s Fair, for its focus on education during the month of August.

It's a conversation that affects everyone, young and old, and everyone is invited to join in through a series of events in August that seeks to spark discussion and reshape how we might approach learning differently in the next 50 years. Here are the highlights.

Classroom of the Future

The month of events kicks off with the opening of an exhibit called “Classroom of the Future.” According to The Next Fifty website, in 1962 The Seattle Times asked third graders to imagine the future. One reportedly replied that “television will teach us.” This year organizers asked kids to think about “where, what, how and with whom people will learn in the future."

The exhibition displays the results. For the launch event— young participants will share their ideas and predictions in person. Tickets are free, but limited; order in advance through Ticketmaster. Doors opens at 6:30 p.m.; presentations are at 7:30 p.m.. If you can’t make the launch event, stop by the exhibition which is open to the public on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in August, from noon to 5 p.m.

Education in the Next 50

jmcgonigal_fullThe premier lecture of The Next Fifty’s education month, titled "Education in the Next 50," tackles this question: “What is the future we hope to realize for our children 50 years from now?”

Presenters are leading thinkers in gaming, technology and education, including Jane McGonigal Ph.D., a leading designer of alternative reality games and best-selling author of Reality is Broken; Milton Chen of the George Lucas Educational Foundation; Roger Weissberg, Ph.D. of the Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning; and Bette Hyde, Ph.D. of the Washington State Department of Early Learning. The lecture occurs Thursday, August 16 at 7 p.m. at McCaw Hall. General tickets cost $16; $10 for students and educators and $37 for special seating and a reception. Order through Ticketmaster.

Education film series

A series of films in August aims to “examine the relationship of learning, passion and purpose in our society.” Open discussions will follow each film, showing Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the SIFF Film Center. The four-film line-up is Chops on August 8; Happy on August 15; Finding Joe on August 22; and The Lottery on August 29. All four films are documentaries and appropriate for all ages; subject matter is likely best understood by ages 10 and up. Admission is free, but capacity limited; reserve tickets by emailing


Another series — this one on Mondays — tracks aspects of The Next Fifty’s “People-Passion-Purpose (P3)” experiment. Designed to explore the relationship among learning, happiness and success, P3 paired 25 individuals with 25 mentors. Participants spent nine months pursuing their passions with the help of their mentors. Three successive discussions focus on different aspects of the project and the public is invited to engage with participants in the conversation. Discussions take place August 13, 20 and 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Intiman Playhouse. Admission is free, but limited; reserve tickets in advance through Ticketmaster.

With the exception of the film series, events will be available for viewing on the Next Fifty Global Channel, in case you miss something you’d like to hear.

More to see at the Seattle Center

mod-pizzaOther fun stuff is happening at Seattle Center during August, too. Movies at the Mural play Saturdays and Sundays at dusk; this year's line-up is a a full run of the Harry Potter series. Movies are free and show at dusk (about 9 p.m.) at the Mural Amphitheatre. Bring your blanket or low-backed chair for a unique outdoor movie experience.

Open every day in August (and through September!), Seattle Center’s Playway features fun for families, including a zip line, inflatables and other changing attractions like a climbing wall. All day passes cost $12-$19 or individual rides cost $1.25-$6.25.

If you get hungry, grab a bite at the re-vamped Center House, now called The Armory, which is now home to branches of several popular Seattle eateries, including Skillet, Eltana Bagels, Mod Pizza and Pie. Its public “preview” takes place August 3 with free entertainment at the Mural Amphitheatre and International Fountain.

For information on these and all Seattle Center events celebrating our long-ago World’s Fair, visit

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