A living classroom


When I walked into the classroom, elementary school-age kids were busy working on masks. As they glued, scissored, stamped, colored, and added feathers, their instructor led them in a discussion about Africa and its various countries and traditions. Several books on Africa were available at the front of the room, and on the board was written the day's activities: Introduction to Africa, African Masks, Freedom Statues, Nigerian Proverbs, Family Cultures and Traditions, and Performances. It was a scene from a typical school day.

Except this was in the middle of summer, the kids were in the classroom by choice, and the instructor was a 20-something resident of the West Side neighborhood in St. Paul, Minn. Allegra is not a credentialed teacher, but she has learned a thing or two on her travels around the world, and agreed to share her knowledge and enthusiasm in a week-long All Around the Neighborhood camp called Global Cultures.

All Around the Neighborhood (AATN) draws on neighborhood resources, including residents like Allegra, to engage young people in learning during out of school time. It is organized through the Neighborhood Learning Community, a partnership among residents, nonprofit organizations and schools which aims to create a neighborhood-based culture of learning so that all of the neighborhood's young people grow up as successful engaged citizens.

Look for more "Tales of the West Side" on future blog posts!

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs