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OpenLearn Live: 20th August 2015

Updated Thursday, 20th August 2015

A tree sacred to Native Americans is just the start of a day of free learning and insight...

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OpenLearn Live is an experiment in a rolling free online learning blog. There's also a Twitter feed @OpenLearnLive.

Yesterday, we visited Marc Bolan's memorial tree; caught up with Chinese School; heard how High Speed 2 is going and more

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Today's Posts

New free course: Developing your skills as an HR professional

Do you work in human resources, or do you hope to? Why not brush up your skills with our hot-off-the-whatever-the-equivalent-of-a-press-is these days:

In this section you will look at three very closely related skills which will help you to manage your working life, and the balance between your working life and your social life or family responsibilities. These skills are: organising yourself, managing time and managing stress. Unfortunately, there is no universal prescription for any of these skills. However, you will consider what events make you stressed, the impact that different demands and pressures have on you, and different ways of dealing with them so that you can maximise your well-being. This means identifying the strategies that you can use not only to cope with stress, but also to prevent it and achieve a better balance between your working life and your social life or family responsibilities.

Try Developing your skills as an HR professional

Listen over lunch: The Thames

The news today that marine mammals are thriving in the Thames is a tribute to the years of dedicated river management invested in the river. BBC Radio 4's Open Country explored how the river was springing back into life in 2011. Today seems a good time to catch up with that programme.

Read: Marine mammals thriving in the Thames at BBC News Online

Listen to Open Country: River Thames on iPlayer

Download Open Country: River Thames as an mp3

Try our free course: Water in the UK

On iPlayer now: Genius of the Ancient World

Catch up with Bettany Hughes' journey round some thinkers of the ancient world - Socrates, Confucius and Buddha. The whole series is now up on iPlayer.

Watch the series at

Watch on OpenLearn: Buddhism's four noble truths

BBC Radio 4, 4.30 & 9pm: BBC Inside Science

In this week's edition of the OU/BBC science magazine, why The Paleo Diet doesn't actually reflect a paleo diet; what CO2 is doing to the oceans; and grime. Not the music, unfortunately, but actual grime: does a dirty city lead to pollution?

Listen live on BBC Radio 4 this afternoon or evening

Listen on iPlayer from early evening

Read more about the programme

Read Dirt, waste and revulsion: How cultures cope with leftovers and mess

The Virtual Arboretum: Manidoo-giizhikens or the Spirit Little Cedar Tree

Every morning this week, we're starting off with a brief focus on a notable tree. Yesterday, with Marc Bolan's memorial sycamore, we featured a site of secular signifiance. Today, with Manidoo-giizhikens, it's a tree with more spiritual importance.

Little Spirit Cedar Tree - Manidoo-giizhikens Creative commons image Icon Thoth God Of Knowledge under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license

This tree is known variously as Manidoo-giizhikens, the Spirit Little Cedar Tree and (more controversially) as The Witch Tree, and can be found on the edge of Lake Superior in Minnesota. It's a Thuja occidentalis, part of the cypress family, and has clung to the side of the cliff for at least three centuries.

Its striking shape and location overlooking the lake led the local people, the Ojibwe, to ascribe special significance to the tree. Before attempting a crossing of the lake, the Ojibwe would hold a prayer ceremony under Manidoo-giizhikens, and tie offerings of ribbons and tobacco in the branches. This, it was hoped, would appease Mishipizheu, a fearsome underwater lynx, and guarantee safe passage while on the water.

The first Europeans to come across Manidoo-giizhikens - led by French explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes - respected and continued the tradition. More recent visitors, however, treated the tree less circumspectly and would carve the trunk, or chop off pieces to take away. In order to save the plant, a public subscription was raised to buy the land; now, should you wish to make your offering to Mishipizheu, you have to be accompanied by a member of the Ojibwe.

Do you have a tree - large or small - that you think should be recorded? Make sure it's listed on Treezilla

From our free courses: How should we study religion? 





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