Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Folk Arts in the Classroom program has moved to an online format, with at-home art kits, video sessions with folk artists, and more. Vesterheim is excited that this important education opportunity for K-12 educators has been able to continue. Museum staff created educational videos about folk art in the collection, facilitated an online hands-on kolrosing workshop with woodworker Harley Refsal, and provided materials for follow up. This fantastic educational opportunity will help teachers throughout Iowa introduce their students to folk art.

Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the program helps fine arts and social studies educators learn about folk and traditional arts and create integrated, culturally sensitive lesson plans for their students. The educators attend workshops and learn about resources offered by Vesterheim and also the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library. Participants also focus on culturally responsive pedagogy, an approach to teaching that emphasizes students’ own cultural strengths and helps them develop a sense of well-being about their unique place in the world.

After the participating educators complete their training, each of their schools will receive funding for art supplies, field trips or in-class visits from folk artists. The educators also will receive one Iowa License Renewal credit through the Iowa State Education Association.

The course is led by Molly Sofranko, a visual arts teacher in Cedar Rapids, and Zach Fromm, a former high school social studies teacher and instructional coach in Decorah. Schools in Cedar Rapids, Cresco, Decorah, Dubuque, Johnston, Marion, and Waterloo have participating teachers.