Sean Bonner and Tara Tiger Brown have been following their interests to successful, strange and dead ends for the last decade together and before that did the same on their own. Through various startups, hobbies, collaborations, projects and proposals they have spent the majority of their lives thinking about and working on the topics that they are fascinated with, for as long as they found them fascinating.
Sean dropped out of college to run his own record company, which he did until he got sick of it. In the years following he ran a design firm, an art gallery, a global blog network, designed over 100 record and book covers, built colorful websites and vibrant communities - both online and off. He’s been in bands and toured with others. He’s produced events and spoken at others.
His photography has been exhibited in art galleries and published in books. Born in Washington DC but raised on food stamps in Florida, he’s since traveled around the world several times with residential stopovers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Singapore, and Vienna.
He currently lives in Tokyo with his family where he runs Safecast, an environmental monitoring non-profit that changed the way the world interacted with radiation data after the Fukushima meltdown in 2011. Beyond writing, music, and photography, his time is spent hiking, cycling and studying the martial art he’s practiced for more than 20 years.
He’s a researcher at Boston’s MIT Media Lab and a professor at Tokyo’s Keio University. He does these things because he’s interested in them, and tries to set an example for his son that it’s possible to carve out your own path in life.
Tara has been exploring Interest-Driven Learning alongside some of the top researchers in the field for the better part of the last ten years. Her work at UC Irvine, as well as the multiple nonprofits and startups she’s founded, have been focused on sharing the positive results with educators, parents, and kids alike. She’s spoken at the White House on several occasions about the maker movement. As a contributor on Forbes, her articles have been widely read and hotly discussed. She served as an advisor during the genesis of YouTube Kids.
Currently based in Japan, Tara has been following her lifelong interest in trees through training to be a Yamabushi (mountain monk), earning certifications in forest medicine and education in sustainability development and leading the Tokyo environmental monitoring club. Her Los Angeles-based company, KitHub, focuses on combining interest-driven learning and hands-on science education, with the intent of unlocking the repeatable patterns behind how following interests can solve real-world problems.
A vocal critic of current education systems, she argues that schools are out of date and by teaching subjects in silos and treating children as a calculated average something important is being lost. She advocates for personalized modes of learning that focus on the whole person and connection to the wider Earth community. Her work, in all its incarnations, puts the focus on skills and competencies, not how well students do on tests.