A Guide to Lifelong Learning

Just because you are out of school doesn’t mean you should stop learning. Learning is something that you can and should do every day. To me learning and getting out and doing things is what makes life worth living, much more so than just spacing out in front of a screen all the time.

Some of this guide is focused on resources available in Duluth but look around and I am sure you will find some comparable services wherever you are.

1) Surround yourself with smart people
Intelligence isn’t limited to book smarts. Chances are everyone you know has something to offer whether it is mechanical expertise, knowledge of a craft, or an understanding of nature. There are so many things to learn in the world. Surround yourself with the type of people who are interested in sharing their knowledge and skills. Who knows, you might also find that you have more to teach than you thought and teaching is also a great way to learn.

2) Read
The old standby, reading, has the opportunity to take you to another world or teach you almost everything you would want to know about the world we live in. You can use books to read about how things work or about things that have happened. You can also use books to pick up a new skill. Want to know how to knit? Crochet? Fix your car? Identify plants? Speak another language? Just go to your library and pick up a book to get you started.

3) Use the internet for good
The internet is a double edged sword. It can be a place of mindless distraction but it is also a compilation of human knowledge. You just have to be careful where you look. The internet is also a wonderful place to find tutorials and how-to videos that make learning a new skill easier than ever. Youtube is full of step by step guides to get you started with a number of crafts and skills. You should always be wary though- the information you find might just be wrong.

4) Take online classes
If you want to learn from home in a more structured way the internet is full of free college courses offered through real licensed institutions. One of my favorite sites is

which offers a large amount of courses many of which are through top tier universities. Some highlights of courses they are offering now or in the near future:
R Programming through John Hopkins University: “Learn how to program in R and how to use R for effective data analysis.” I took this class to learn the statistical software I used for my thesis and for my job in general. It is amazing what you can do with your data.
Roman Architecture through Yale. “Roman Architecture is a course for people who love to travel and want to discover the power of architecture to shape politics, society, and culture.”
Tibetan Buddhist Meditation through the University of Virginia. “…explores the immense variety of meditation practices past and present. We present their histories, their philosophical underpinnings, their transformations in the modern global world, and we give you a chance to reflect upon meditation practices through secular contemplations designed just for this course. “

Honestly I can go on forever but you should just go and explore for yourself! You can browse by subject or use the search bar. I find browsing to be more useful because the search bar doesn’t always get you what you are looking for.

They also offer a number of “Specializations” which are groups of classes that taken together really help you understand a subject. You can even earn a certificate for completing the series and doing a capstone project but that costs money.

Other places to find free online courses:
http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htmhttp://online.stanford.edu/ (not all free but many are)

5) Go to the library
The library is not just a great place to find books. The library is also a great place to go to learn some important skills like doing your taxes, basic computing, and more. The library also brings in interesting speakers to cover topics of local interest. The Duluth Public Library has an Events Page and an Event Calendar  For example on Thursday, October 8th Dan Hartman, director of Glensheen, is giving a talk titled “1918: Duluth’s Worst Year”

6) Visit local educational sites
There are plenty of places you can go to learn and explore locally. Historic sites, museums, nature centers, zoos and planetariums all offer free or low cost educational programs or self guided learning through signs with or without the help of interpreters. Some places to go locally:

Hartley Nature CenterHawk Ridge
Lake Superior Zoo

Great Lakes Aquarium 
Glensheen Mansion
Lake Superior Railroad Museum

Lake Superior Marine Museum
Tweed Museum of Art
MWA Planetarium 

This list only brushes the surface of what is available in Duluth. It does not cover everything here, let alone what you can find in surrounding areas!

7) Take advantage of community education
Duluth has a number of community education opportunities. First of all there is
Duluth Community Education which offers a number of low cost classes on a variety of subjects. Some classes offered this fall include:


Go check out the schedule yourself to learn more. Different classes are taught seasonally including a course on the geology of the area and a series on classes about learning to cross country ski. Classes like these are also a great way to meet people who share your interests.

The Duluth Art Institute offers a number of classes and even some free lectures on art history.

Local business can also offer some classes. For example the Whole Foods Co-op offers public classes relating to food and health. Yarn Harbor offers classes on knitting, weaving, and crocheting. Whatever your interest in check to see if a local business offers learning opportunities. You might be surprised by how many do.

8) Join a club
Whatever your interest is there is a good chance that there is a local club of like minded individuals you can join to learn more. Clubs often bring in speakers and other experts to talk about or teach things in their field. I personally gave a talk about invasive species to the Duluth Superior Eco-Rotary last year. Google is your friend here. See what’s out there!

9) Find out what else universities have to offer
Just because you aren’t a university student doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of some of the university resources. The Planetarium and the Art Museum I listed above are both a part of the University of Minnesota- Duluth.

If there is a specific field you are interested in it is likely that there are seminars. Seminars are when departments bring in special speakers and they are often open to the public. For example the UMD Department of Philosophy puts on some really interesting talks.

If you go look at their schedule you will see a list of upcoming events. One that looks interesting to me is on Friday October 9th from 6-8 PM. “CEPP: Minnesota Compassionate Care Act of 2015 (SF 1880): Should Minnesota Embrace a Right to Die”

Explore different departments and look at their schedules to see if anything catches your interest.

A lot of universities have some sort of outdoor program. Through the outdoor program are lots of different classes that are offered to both students and community members. For UMD’s Outdoor Program a schedule of events for this fall semester can be found here. Some highlights:
There are lots more so be sure to take a look if you are interested in those things.

Also through the RSOP there are a number of fitness classes that are open to the public. If fitness classes are what you are interested in you should also check with local gyms.

Continuing Education:
From the Lake Superior College website: “We offer a wide range of continuing education (open enrollment and non-credit) programs that are accessible and affordable. Individuals can acquire new skills and knowledge, or keep their professional training up to date.” A lot of continuing education is professional in nature so ask your employer if they might cover it for you. You never know.

Take a class:
Taking a class is expensive. But sometimes taking a class at a community college is more affordable and it just might be worth it. Look for deals. For example anyone over the age of 62 can take classes at Lake Superior College for only $20 a credit! If you don’t happen to be in that age range classes can still be affordable. And anyone in the country is eligible to receive a Lifetime Learners Tax Credit
The government will refund you 20% of tuition expenses, with a maximum of $2,000 in tax credits on the first $10,000 of college tuition expenses. 

More Resources:
Community Calendars are a great place to see some of the classes that are coming up. For Duluth I recommend Visit Duluth and Perfect Day Duluth

However you decide to do it make a pledge to learn something. There are so many resources available that you are bound to find something that fits your schedule and needs.


  1. Volunteer!!! I have met some of the coolest women ever by volunteering with the Girl Scouts. (The girls are pretty cool too.)Find old people! They are awesome, know everything, and have the best stories.


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