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Water Cooler: Get inspired this year with educational films and series on Kanopy

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 11, 2021

The dead of winter is a great time to learn something new. has a variety of courses available for free.  (Pixabay)
The dead of winter is a great time to learn something new. has a variety of courses available for free. (Pixabay)

Whatever your goals are for this year, Kanopy has a wealth of resources to inform and inspire you. Kanopy provides documentaries and educational series on a vast range of topics all available to stream for free with a local library. Head to to see all it has to offer, but, in the meantime, here are a few to get you started.

“How to Play Chess: Lessons from an International Master” – Part of “The Great Courses” series, this 24 -episode series will teach you the techniques, history, legends and culture that make up the sport, science and art of chess. Begin with “The World of Chess” to get a bigger picture of its global popularity, then move into episodes that teach must-know tactical patterns, the secrets of pawns and knights, positional weaknesses and targets and much more.

“Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things” – Directed by Matt D’Avella, this documentary examines the growing movement of “minimalism.” It follows authors of two best-selling books on the topic, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who take viewers on a road trip across the United States on a journey to discover how minimalism has transformed the lives of many Americans.

“Dog Training 101” – This 24-episode series helps dog owners cut through the clutter of ineffective training advice and debunks various myths and theories about dog cognition. The techniques offered are based on recent scientific research on dog behavior. Start with learning the basic principles of dog training, then dive into the details of dog cognition and behavioral science to get a deeper understanding of how to work with your dog. Learn fear and aggression prevention, impulse control, verbal cues, hand signals and general care such as feeding, grooming and health monitoring.

“How to Read and Understand Shakespeare” – Over the course of 24 episodes, get insight into Shakespeare’s writing and learn how to understand the world and plot of his plays. Learn how to initially approach reading Shakespeare, then dive into his works, assessing them for comic and tragic, political themes, character arc and more.

“Money Management Skills” – This course offers a comprehensive overview of the basic principles everyday people need to know in order to make good financial decisions. Whether you just opened your first bank account, or you are preparing for retirement, this course has information for anyone to build a financial plan. The first episode begins with understanding the brain and the tension between decision-making and emotional impulse as it relates to spending and finances. Other episodes feature advice on managing money with the life -cycle theory, basic investing, optimal use of credit, the economics of home ownership, basic tax principles and more.

“Hungry for Change” – Directed by James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch and produced by Foot Matters International, this documentary exposes the secrets and deceptive strategies behind the food and diet industry and features interviews from medical experts and everyday people who have transformed their health. Learn why fad diets often fail, how to read food labels and avoid additives and more.

“Love Thy Nature” – Narrated by Liam Neeson, this documentary explores how humans have lost touch with nature and recent research that attests to the benefits of restoring our connection with nature.

“Screenwriting 101” – Over the course of 24 episodes, learn ways to master storytelling for the screen. Episode topics include advice on how to think like a screenwriter, how to reverse engineer a script, how to build a story world, develop characters, create tone and plot beats, how to compare film and television, how to write pilots and more.

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