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  • 8 Nov 2021 8:23 AM | Anonymous member

    Learn more about The Folk School Fairbanks and the Center for Belonging Folk School, explore the summit report from the African American Craft Initiative and discover ways to support the FEAA this season. Have feedback or an article you'd like to see or contribute? Contact us anytime. 

    In this Issue:

    • New Leadership Looks to Re-Engage with Roots in a New Time: The Folk School Fairbanks
    • Meet the Center for Belonging Folk School
    • Support the FEAA this Giving Tuesday (+ Everyday!)
    • African American Craft Summit Report

    View Issue

  • 8 Nov 2021 7:57 AM | Anonymous member

    By Mary Cattani & Liz Rog

    The real heart and soul of the new Center for Belonging Folk School (CFBFS) in Decorah, Iowa, is the endeavor to create community through shared experience and deep exploration of what builds connection among people.   “Stoking connection, weaving community, welcoming into belonging,” these are some of the watchwords of this unique folk school, words that tug us along the path toward understanding these aims.    Founded by Liz Rog, whose many involvements have made her a well-known figure already,* the school offers gatherings, events and classes that all take place outdoors, in her own back yard, a spacious, forested back yard with a traditional log cabin in it, where Liz and her husband raised their family, and where her parents and grandparents, and perhaps another generation back, were also joined in deep connection.    

    Nature is the teacher at CFBFS and is the center of every connection that is made.  Everything at the folk school happens outdoors, under an open-air, but sheltering gazebo, and as Liz puts it:  “Our gatherings require that we make ourselves comfortable together outside.   This is something that many in our modern society seem to be longing for, and without a building to retreat to, it can call for our creativity and flexibility ….. We find that we are happy and safe together in nature, even when it’s cold, hot, wet, dark. “ 


    CFBFS uses theater and music to instruct and to further its aims, song and story, art and craft, cooking and eating together as an integral part of what they do in  weaving connection and building community.  “Gatherings” is perhaps a better word for the groups involved than “classes” would ever be, and they offer these gatherings around not just handcrafting, cooking, or doing music together, but also deepening social and spiritual dimensions of community with such tools as nonviolent communication, conversation circles, conflict engagement, nature spirituality, seasonal festivals, and campouts. 

    All this in service of the main goals of the school:   to help bridge divides among people with different economic, social, educational, political, racial, religious and gender identities.  The folk school is committed to providing access to all through generous experimental ways of viewing and using money - sliding scales, free events, low overhead, gift economy, and other means as they present themselves. 

    As Liz puts it:  “We are new, fresh, emergent, and in an exciting phase of our existence. As such we are fertile soil for catching seeds on the wind that life is blowing our way, both from the past and from the future. Starting a folk school in this time, we are influenced not only by Grundvig, Paulo Friere, the Highlander Folk School, and the various social movements of the 1960s and 70s, but also by adreienne maree brown, George Floyd, the pandemic, climate chaos, the conditions that brought about the election of Donald Trump, and more.“

    *Liz is organizer of “Village Fire, Intergenerational Outdoor Community Singing” an event in the Upper Midwest, which happens when there is no pandemic, and a member of “Decorah Now, Building Community through Arts, Cultural, and Recreational Events,”  among her many other involvements.


    So, here, then, is the Origin Story of the CFBFS, as told by Liz Rog, its founder, edited from the original for length:

    The Center for Belonging Folk School
    Origin Story
    Liz Rog, Oct 2021

    Each of us, and each thing that we create, is born of those and that which came before. We are the next ones, carrying the stories and dreams from the past forth into their new shape, the new possibilities and needs of this time. 

    The Center for Belonging was given a name, a roof, and a hearth in January 2021, but arises from many things.  Her ancestors include: 

    • The Settlement Houses in Minneapolis where my dad’s Polish immigrant family found its footing among other immigrant families from Syria, Italy, and other lands ; 
    • The Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, birthplace of the American Labor Movement and Civil Rights Movement, where song and dance were woven into each day because they knew that beauty and joy could would be necessary to sustain them through the long haul. 
    • Liberation Theology, and the Women’s movement(s), Civil Rights, Alternative Education, Co-op, Wild Church, and Ecology Movements. 
    • Traditional Skills camps, sometimes called ‘Skill Shares.’

    Locally, it grows from:

    • experiments with education models that are small, grassroots, and intergenerational
    • family camps, singing camps, kids camps, church camps
    • women’s spirituality circles and leadership lounges
    • rituals old and new to honor the seasons of earth and the seasons of human life
    • the re-emergence of community singing; songs for these times that can easily be sung together by non-professionals. 


    Isn’t it often from times of frustration and unsettledness that we can finally articulate a need and a longing that had been churning beneath the surface for months or years? This is how it was for me In 2019 as I was approaching 40 years of having lived in this place, using my creative energy and care to seed many different spaces for weaving belonging in community:   gatherings, celebrations, rituals, camps, workshops, retreats, parties, and more. For I was born this way, always imagining the next chance to gather with others. This is what I myself need, regularly, in order to know my place among everything. This is what I was given to do. 

    Perhaps it was my approaching 60th birthday, or perhaps Covid, and George Floyd, and the next western fires which were already whispering of their coming. Whatever it was, in early 2019 I was compelled to take out a piece of tagboard and write down everything I could think of that I have seeded, tended, or dreamed in this place. I made 7 bubbles in a ring and named them: Ritual, Neighborhood, Camps, Singing, Celebration, Learning Together, and _____. In the center of the ring I made a circle and called it: Center for Belonging.  I showed that map to a few friends and then forgot about it...but not really. 

    Journal, Oct 13, 2020:  ‘I know that the things I tend in this place are both old and new, (and) if they will live on past my aging and dying self, something needs to change. 

    Now is the time: I need a team. People younger than me, to bring their own vision and voice.

    Journal, Nov 16 2020: “What if there were enough special shared outdoor spaces in this neighborhood that one could feel the pathways to them and between them ever-renewed by the eager and grateful feet that walked them? What if my job were to hold the shuttle, to help community weave the designs that we choose?” 

    Journal, Nov 26, 2020. “I think in gatherings. What is the language of gatherings? Circle, voice, wind, fire, earth, spirit, soul, laughter, tears, vulnerability, courage, moment, song, creativity, improv…”

    January 6 2021 brought the insurrection at the US capitol and somehow blew a big wind into the sails of the Center for Belonging. We had been building a gazebo in the woods where we live, inspired by Covid times’ need for more outdoor gathering spaces that were protected from rain and snow. After the insurrection some local friends got together and decided that the Center for Belonging must be created, and to show me their encouragement they sent a few thousand dollars! How powerful that money-energy was; for even though I didn’t know what was to become and therefore had no ideas yet how money would be used, that gift of money played a key role in what was already being created: the gazebo in the woods. 

    But I was certain that I needed a team. I named the leadership team the Shuttle instead of Board of Directors. I was looking to create something fresh and whole: a group that valued and included attention to relationship-building with each other, with earth, with spirit. I named some of the many qualities, interests, and capacities that would be valued on the shuttle team: vision-holders, grief-tenders, play-bringers, archivists, numbers lovers, self-care and other-care givers, business thinkers, friends of digital doings.

    And so we have gone forth.  I make agendas and send them out in advance, but when we meet we often change course depending on what arises. When I send out minutes they are sometimes typed but sometimes an audio file so that people can listen while they do something else.

    What are we doing here, so far?  Here are some recent examples:  

    • Creative Writing Workshop
    • Intergenerational Singing Camp
    • Family Bird Exploration Day
    • Oak Tending Workshop
    • Grief and Renewal: Community Tending of Pandemic Fatigue
    • Week-long day camp for kids
    • Foraging for Wild Salads
    • Story and Song Retreat
    • Non-Violent Communication workshop
    • Basket Weaving

    We look forward to much more from the Center for Belonging Folk School!



  • 14 Jul 2021 8:44 AM | Anonymous member

    This summer, the FEAA is pleased to bring you a new look that better represents our direction as an organization along with the meaningful folk school news and articles you can count on from us. Have feedback or an article you'd like to see or contribute? Contact us anytime.

    In this issue:

    • The Folk School Fairbanks: Diversity Working Group 2021 Summary
    • Doing Folk Education: A Place for Exploring Human Longing - Land Alliance Folk School
    • Opening "Olive's Porch"
    • Intro to Grundtvig e Freire collection
    View Issue


  • 5 Jul 2021 5:20 PM | Anonymous member

    John C. Campbell is excited to announce plans for Olive's Porch, a new Folk School community gathering place in downtown Murphy. The location at 27 Peachtree Street will feature a large classroom, a retail shop showcasing the work of Appalachian artists, and a studio maker space for an artist in residence program. Olive's Porch workshops will feature Appalachian topics such as broom making, chair caning, basketry, woodcarving, quilting, knitting, spinning, weaving, music, and dance. Special exhibits, demonstrations, and events will also be held throughout the year.

    Named after the school's co-founder Olive Dame Campbell, Olive's Porch will invite locals and visitors to learn about and participate in traditional Appalachian crafts, music, and dance. The idea for Olive's Porch originated from recent community listening sessions, where locals asked for enhanced community outreach and accessible program offerings for local youth and adults. In 2020, a generous grant was awarded to the Folk School in support of this project. We look forward to announcing the opening date later this summer. Stay tuned!


  • 5 Jul 2021 1:41 PM | Anonymous member

    The Folk School Fairbanks
    Diversity Working Group 2021: Summary

    By Jessica Austin & Kerri Hamos

    In March and April 2021, the Folk School Fairbanks (FS) formed a Diversity Working Group and held weekly sessions for six weeks. The group included a diverse sampling of members of the local Fairbanks community. Each week, a different member of the group led a discussion on a specific topic. This working group was part of the Leading From the Roots project supported by the FEAA and the Folk School Alliance.

    Building diversity in an organization can often feel like a chicken-and-egg problem. This working group was successful in breaking out of that cycle because it was formed from members of the community who do not typically participate in FS planning, and these members were allowed to lead the discussions, and encouraged to share their honest opinions. With this structure, the sessions offered a fresh perspective to old problems, and resulted in a wealth of possible avenues the FS can pursue over the next year and more.

    Session summaries:

    Session #1: Introduction. How is the Folk School viewed in the community, with respect to inclusivity? The primary issues brought up here were: the FS feels like a social clique, that is predominantly white due to the word-of-mouth nature of our growth, and does not feel welcoming to people of color, and the cost of attending events is a barrier to inclusivity. With this feedback, we came up with a list of session topics to dig into possible solutions to these problems.

    Session #2: Class topics. How can diversifying the types of classes lead to student and leadership diversity? During this session we brainstormed possible class topics, and instructors, to involve members of the Fairbanks community that don't typically attend FS events. Examples included: events to celebrate Juneteenth and Black History Month, beading or kuspuks for the Alaska Native community, and spoken word events for Pride Month. 

    Session #3: Marketing. During this interactive session, we developed a marketing plan that would encourage a greater diversity of participants in FS activities. This plan includes: our target audiences, our communication objectives, barriers to action, benefit promise, tone, and execution. This session generated a wealth of ideas too numerous to include here, but some specific campaign ideas were: targeted outreach beyond typical FS advertising channels, a focus on introductory events where someone new to the FS could attend for free, and partnership with local organizations to introduce the FS to new audiences. 

    Session #4: Leadership. How can leadership at the FS be more inclusive in their decision making? We also acknowledged that being a board member is a big commitment, and there are other avenues to be part of FS decision making. For example, the board should form more community working groups to get fresh perspectives. One idea was to form a youth working group to develop a set of classes and events during a summer. The board should also lower the barriers to entry for leadership by: making the board's activities more transparent through social media posts and member profiles, developing a mentorship program, and sharing "job descriptions" for specific board member roles.

    Session #5: Financial equity. How can we make participation more affordable, and thus more inclusive? How can we encourage more people to use the FS scholarship fund, which is historically under-utilized? We acknowledged that asking for scholarships can be socially awkward, so we explored the idea of introducing a pay-what-you-can structure for some classes, and use the fund to make up the difference if needed. Other ideas included: regularly offering free classes, especially for target groups and first-time attendees, and conducting outreach to specific groups that may need financial assistance but don't know that it's available.

    Session #6: In this final session, the group summarized the key takeaways and possible action items, which could then be shared with the FS board to implement.

    Even while the sessions were ongoing, the Folk School began making changes based on feedback, for example ensuring more diversity in website photos and posters. The board integrated many of these action items into their strategic plan during their May retreat, and are following up during each monthly meeting. The FS also plans to check in with the working group members periodically to ask, "How are we doing?", to make sure we stay on track.

    For a small organization, taking on the pressing issues of diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion can seem like a monumental task, but by being honest about the current situation and open to new ideas from a diverse group of supporters, The Folk School in Fairbanks was able to start taking steps in the right direction. In keeping with the tradition and history of folk education, we relish the opportunity to better support our community, break free from past mistakes, and diversify both our leadership and student body, and we hope to see other schools diving into this work as well.

  • 5 Jul 2021 1:28 PM | Anonymous member

    A Brief Introduction to S. Haddad (Ed.), Grundtvig e Freire: escolas populares na Dinamarca e no Brasil (Grundtvig and Freire: Folkhighschools in Denmark and in Brazil): São Paulo, Brazil: Acão Educativa, 2020)                                        

    By Clay Warren

    Connections between the educational philosophy of Denmark’s N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) and Brazil’s Paulo Freire (1921 – 1997) have been made from time to time; however, these interrelationships have never been the subject of a major treatise nor has a book detailing Grundtvigian ideas been published in Portuguese until now.  In late 2020, such a book became available to people who would like to learn more about these major advocates for the classroom as an agency of social change:  Grundtvig e Freire: escolas populares na Dinamarca e no Brasil.  The book is comprised of eight chapters (not counting the introduction), six of which (those that are English-language-based) are provided in both Portuguese and English.  

    Freire’s best-known work is Pedagogy of the Oppressed (published in English in 1970).  In it we learn that students should not be passive “piggy banks” in which knowledge is deposited (“banker education”), but active agents facilitating their own learning process. 

    Grundtvig’s educational ideas finally were consolidated and published in English in 2011 as The School for Life.  A corresponding idea to Freire’s banker education is Grundtvig’s  “school for death” in which students are crushed into conformity by externally derived ideals; instead, they should be involved in reciprocal teaching engaged through the living word.

    These ideas were examined in Grundtvig and Freire.  It was found that both Grundtvig and Freire believed that the ultimate reason for learning is enlightenment of life (as Grundtvig put it) or in raising awareness (conscientização, as Freire put it).  With appropriate enlightenment and awareness, a person is then able to knowledgeably engage in social participation to help run a government by the people for the people (as Americans put it).

    In addition to exploration of these philosophers’ educational principles, a case study was done to collect data about how two longstanding Danish folkhighschools have been organized over the past 175 years.  A Brazilian team made two academic visits in 2018 and 2019 to Brænderup FHS and the International People’s College in Helsingør.  Why was this deemed necessary?  As the team put it, the “Scandinavian experience” is hardly well known in Brazil and studying it would help close the gap between the Danish and Brazilian knowledge reservoirs.

    Sergio Haddad, the editor, graduated with a Doctorate in History and Philosophy of Education at the University of São Paulo. Until his retirement this past year, he was a researcher and coordinator at NGO Ação Educativa, professor at the Post- Graduate Programme in Education of the University of Caxias do Sul, and Senior Researcher at CNPq.  He has been a champion of Brazilian youth and adult education for most of his career, defending the process of education as a human right for all people.

    Sergio decided to buttress his Brazilian-based team with selected authors representing other countries known for Grundvigian-based studies, with 6 scholars from Brazil and 6 scholars from an international pool.  The list of contributors includes:  Sérgio Haddad, Gabriela Zeppone, Janaina Uemura, Maria Clara Di Perro, Angélica Kuhn, and Roberto Cattelli Jr. – Brazil;  Ove Korsgaard – Denmark;  Clay Warren and Carrie Ann Welsh - U.S.A.;  Asoke Bhattacharya - India & Bangladesh;  Marcella Milana - Italy & England;  Tore Sørensen – Belgium.


  • 1 Feb 2021 9:01 AM | Anonymous member


    In this Issue -

    • Greetings & Notes
    • Introducing our Newest Board Members
    • Doing Folk Education: Nurturing Flow and the "Cathartic Response" at the Michigan Folk School
    • "Leading from the Roots" Featured Projects
    • Grundtvig News - Winter 2020
    Read the Full Issue


  • 30 Jan 2021 7:47 PM | Anonymous member

    Winlock Community Garden cultivates more than just produce

    By Elizabeth white

    After Dr. Alicia Spalding graduated with her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Bastyr University in 2016, she knew she wanted to make naturopathic medicine more accessible to people in her community. Naturopathic medicine is a form of alternative medicine that uses natural remedies like herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, nutritional counseling, and more to treat the root cause of an illness and help the body heal itself.

    “Basically, we're licensed healthcare providers that we practice medicine from a stance of disease prevention and removing obstacles to cure,” Spalding explained.

    She founded Nature Nurture Farmacy in 2018 to bring naturopathic medicine, specifically hydrotherapy and herbal medicine, to Lewis County in Western Washington.

    “So, although in Washington state we’re licensed primary care providers, it’s still really hard, [because] not all insurances accept naturopath as primary care providers,” Spalding explained. “And so, a lot of folks, even if they want to access natural medicine, have a difficult time doing it.”

    After moving home to start Nature Nurture Farmacy, she heard that Winlock High School, her alma mater, wanted to start a garden club. “And so, because one of our big things is that food is medicine and empowering sustainable food cultivation, I just went to the teacher who was starting the garden and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, how can I support you?’” Spalding said.

    And the Winlock Community Garden was born. Spalding took over the garden in spring 2019 after the teacher she was working with moved.

    “We grew this beautiful garden last spring, and we follow a permaculture model,” Spalding said. “So, the idea is permanent agriculture. So, putting in trees, putting in lots of perennial herbs, things to stay every year, and then you grow your annual crops, like all your vegetables and things like that.” The garden produces approximately 100 pounds of food a week and is available for anyone to harvest. The remaining food is donated to a local food bank.

    “And then this year when spring hit and COVID happened, we were super worried that none of the kids were going to get to come to the garden,” Spalding said. “So that's when we actually created Project: Food is Medicine.”

    Spalding explained that they pivoted to the new project in May 2020 as Washington State entered lockdown and classes at the high school were moved online for the rest of the year. “Now, more than ever, we need to be educating folks about food,” Spalding said. “And so, this year we focused on mass production of food and just trying to get as much food to the community.”

    With the help of volunteers, they put together 500 garden kits for families in the community. Each kit contained a garden manual, a dozen different seeds, and a bag of soil. The manual also contained nutritional information and the best way to prepare the fruits and vegetables they grew. Spalding explained that the kit wasn’t enough to feed a family, but it was a good starting point.

    “We had really amazing feedback from the people who had never grown anything before in their life,” Spalding said. “Some people went really big and started growing good-sized gardens. People were really inspired.” Spalding said that the state eventually lifted the ban on agriculture practices, and they continued to grow the garden into the spring and summer.

    Spalding joined Leading from the Roots in June and used the funding to hire a permaculture design consultant and garden coordinator, Mary Lewin, to schedule work, help implement garden plans, and organize community members to safely work in the garden. “I live here in Winlock and it’s really important to me to have this source of food sustainability and security for me and for my neighbors,” Lewin said.

    Spalding hopes to expand the garden’s reach next year and also provide supplies and resources for the community. “Being in the garden is more than just growing food. Like you get your exercise, you get your connection with nature, you get your fresh air,” Spalding said. “The whole goal is maybe not everybody will be growing their own food, but if everybody understands how much work it takes to grow food and how much effort and energy goes into it, I think people will be more mindful of where they buy their food and not waste it.”


  • 30 Jan 2021 7:33 PM | Anonymous member

    Old Growth Mountain Dulcimer Club brings the community together with music
    By Elizabeth White

    “Mountain dulcimers are the potato chips of the musical world. It's easy to start and hard to stop,” is how Old Growth Mountain Dulcimer Club’s website describes playing the all-American string instrument.

    The club was formed about five years ago when the founder, Ellen Rice, bought a mountain dulcimer but didn’t know how to play. She put up a sign on a bulletin board in a local store looking for other players, and when a few community members came to the local fire station with their dulcimers to play some music, the Old Growth Mountain Dulcimer Club was born.

    The mountain dulcimer can be traced back to the Appalachian mountains of Virginia, where Irish and Scottish immigrants first invented them. They were the first major instrument to be created in America.

    Shelly Spalding, a member of the Old Growth Dulcimer Club, brought the Leading from the Roots grant and the club together. Leading from the Roots funded the Lessons & Loaner project, which provided two dulcimers made by Mason County-based woodworker Ron Kunkle and are available to loan. People interested in learning how to play but aren’t sure if they want to commit to buying one can borrow a loaner dulcimer. The funding also helped dulcimer instructor Dean Robinson record and produce 6 lessons, which live on the Old Growth Mountain Dulcimer club’s website.

    “They are just amazingly beautiful instruments,” Spalding said. “And one of them is out on loan right now. And I know once we get out of the COVID thing, we start meeting in person again, we will likely end up with some newbies who we can loan dulcimers to.”

    Spalding explained that the club sends out a playlist several weeks before the meeting so that the players can practice the music. Most of the meeting is dedicated to playing together, but it also includes a teaching component.

    In pre-pandemic times, the club met in-person weekly to play some tunes together. Since COVID-19 started, they meet once a month on Zoom. “In this time of COVID, for me, it's all about connecting without being in the same space. That's important,” Spalding said.

    Before the pandemic, the group had plans to play in a small music festival in Tenino and an assisted living home in Shelton. These events are on hold for now.

    Spalding bought her first mountain dulcimer from a music shop in Seattle. She was intrigued by how much smaller it was than the other dulcimers she owned and how it only had 3 or 4 strings. “And so, I bought it and it hung on my wall for probably 10 years because I didn't know anyone who played the instruments and I had never even seen one played,” Spalding said.

    Spalding explained that a year or so after dealing with some health issues, she saw that an adult education class was being offered in a town nearby on how to play the mountain dulcimer. The class was ending, but luckily Spalding connected with the instructor who told her about the Old Growth Mountain Dulcimer Club. She has been a member ever since.

    “I always would go, and we would always jam some. For me, that was really valuable to be able to play with other people,” Spalding said. “Because when you play at home alone, you can get sloppy and not even know it, with the timing and different aspects of the music. So, when you play with other people, you have to be on the same page that they are so that you all work well together.”


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