Informal Educational Activities Which Helped Me Learn

With all the buzz surrounding the failings of formal higher ed and its increasing cost, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought (some might say nostalgia) to informal educational activities. Specifically, tools and activities which helped me obtain knowledge and learning skills outside the classroom. I present here a partial list of said activities:


In addition to reading the encyclopedia on ocassion, I memorized and sharpened my knowledge of geography with the help of games:

Risk – What can I say, if you’re going to conquer the world, you should be familiar with it.

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego need I say more?

First/Last Letter Geography – This was fun to play with the family, though we often had to try very hard to avoid countries whose names began and ended with the letter “A” (not an easy task).


Scrabble – nuff said

Bananagrams – ditto

Analytical Thinking

Chess – in addition to sharpening analytical skills by calculating moves and analyzing positions, I learned very important principles of creative thinking and problem solving, thanks to this book, as well as this one.

Formal Logic; Rules of Evidence and Debate

Internet Forums – I know this sounds counter-intuitive; most forums are just flame-war central. There are a precious few forums, however, where one can engage in lively, intelligent and fruitful debate on any subject in the world. My first such experience was on a (now-defunct) forum about General Ulysses S. Grant (I was a Civil War buff back then). The Hebrew Stop! Here We Think! Forum is another such place.

Whatever your interests are – find a good forum. They are very much the internet equivalent of the intellectual “coffee-houses” of old where educated laymen debated weighty issues over a cup-o-joe. You’ll learn lessons about argumentation and decorum that will last you a life time.

So, dear reader, what activities helped you learn outside the classroom?


Hi, my name is Avi Woolf. I'm an American-Israeli MO Jew living in Israel. I have a background in Israeli (as in Land of Israel) and Jewish History and an insatiable need for knowledge. I also have professional experience as an editor, translator and indexer. Enjoy the ride! If you are interested in using my services or just want to drop me a line, contact me at:
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