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CIA photography student Caitlin Groh spent six weeks teaching art as part of the Freedom Schools summer literacy program.
As an intern during the summer of 2011, CIA student Caitlin Groh learned what worked and what didn't at the East Cleveland Neighborhood Center's Freedom School program. There, she created and taught the art curriculum for a summer day camp aimed at enhancing learning skills for children 8 to 12.
This year, Groh ('13) is ready with new projects and ideas as the city brings back its six-week Freedom School® program. East Cleveland is one of many such sites across the country, and its program began June 18. The national program is organized by the Children's Defense Fund, which is a result of the Civil Rights Movement and works to improve the lives of children. In 1992, the Freedom School program was established under the leadership of CDF founder Marian Wright Edelman. The program is modeled after the “Mississippi Freedom Summer Project” of 1964, a major political action program designed to engage Black students and community volunteers in various activities to ensure basic citizenship rights for all Mississippians.
About 50 students participated in East Cleveland. They focused on literacy activities in the morning. After lunch, the kids were split up into special programs of interest, including dance, music, computers and art. That's when Groh faced 15 to 20 children with a variety of skills, interests and learning challenges.
“Going in to this summer, I wanted to shy away from the usual summer camp, arts and crafts, Popsicle stick projects. I really wanted to focus on art history, art techniques and art movements,” said Groh. “Their capacity to learn and react to different mediums is really amazing. We covered a lot of ground, from painting Chuck Close square style canvas, to making our own Van Gogh oil pastel flowers. They learned that art is for everyone, and you don't have to be able to draw to be a good artist.”
The kids aren't the only beneficiaries of the experience. Through the internships, Groh has met engaged, enthusiastic residents and learned that there's more to the city that meets the eye. She found a strong sense of community among the Freedom School families.
“A lot of these children have never been exposed to art before, whether that be art history, or art making. It's inspiring to see their creativity, and it's encouraging when they come in the next week and remember the artist from the week before,” said Groh. “It's an exciting thing when you see even that one kid who found their niche in art.”
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