For the past year, the New Haven Free Skool has offered city residents free classes on topics ranging from art therapy to bike maintenance and Mexican salad-making. In its next session, the Free Skool hopes to teach residents one more skill: how to run Free Skools of their own.
The school, which is operated by the local organization People’s Arts Collective (PAC) and funded through a Mayor’s Community Arts Grant, has offered three multi-week sessions so far, each featuring a wide range of eclectic free courses open to the public and taught by volunteers. In their November session, the school’s directors hope to coach other residents through the process of running its many programs. Their goal, according to PAC Founder Kenneth Reveiz, is to give others a hands-on opportunity to learn how to run similar programs.
On Oct. 5th, Reveiz hosted a workshop titled “Running Your Own Free Skool: Lessons and Encouragement,” which was attended by more than a dozen people. Reveiz said that those who attended the workshop will be in charge of running the Free Skool in November, coordinating classes and advertising them to the larger community.
“This session is much more about developing leaders on a smaller scale and group initiative,” Reveiz said. “it’s a real training ground.”
Marc DeWitt ’15, who attended the “Running Your Own Free Skool” workshop, said that he wanted to run November’s Skool session because he was inspired by PAC’s founding principles of openness. He said he has sought input from New Haven residents themselves about what classes they want to see in the November session in what Reveiz describes as a “grassroots process.”
“We go out with a clipboard and notebook to the New Haven Green, introduce ourselves and the People’s Art Collective and ask [people] what they want to see happen in the space,” DeWitt said.
He said basic English, math, and Spanish classes were the most common suggestions, and this upcoming session’s planners are taking them into consideration. The schedule for the November session will be finalized in the coming weeks.
Shannon McNeil, who is planning the November session alongside DeWitt, will also participate as an instructor. She said she will teach a course on the resources available for children with autism, based on her experiences with her three-year-old autistic son.
“Not a lot of people know about many of the programs that changed my son’s ability to learn and function in a classroom or a social situation,” McNeil said.
The most recent Free Skool session, held from mid-July to mid-August, attracted around 250 students.