Free classes on almost any skill or topic will soon be available to everyone, with no exception. The Davis People’s Free School (DPFS), an organization starting up in winter quarter, provides an alternative model of education. It relies on community members to take responsibility for teaching each other.
“We want people to both teach and learn,” said Kimmie Miller, a senior women and gender studies major and teacher for DPFS. “We don’t want to structure it like a classroom. We want it to be kind of a shared experience.”
DPFS was created in 2007 from the Tri Co-ops Lecture and Workshop Committee. It organized a wide array of workshops and classes, covering topics from “Sexuality” to “Militarization of Daily Life and Resistance.” Skills workshops were also available, such as juggling, beginning guitar and stencil art.
“The idea was to open up a free educational resource to everyone in Davis,” said Brett Anne Balamuth, a senior wildlife, fish and conservation biology major and head organizer for DPFS. “It was pretty successful.”
With organizers graduating and others refocusing their energy, the free school faded out by 2009, Balamuth said.
“The free school ended during my first year here. As I was getting used to the new school, I was seeing that [the free school] was a great resource,” Balamuth said.
Balamuth is working to revive DPFS along with fellow organizers, including Davis community member Greg Zaller and Jesse Davis, one of the original coordinators.
During fall quarter, DPFS worked on publicizing the free school and finding teachers. They use Davis Wiki to educate the public about the school and encourage them to fill out an interest survey to get ideas for classes.
“We have 23 different titles planned for the winter,” Balamuth said. These workshops include “Solar Cooking,” “Persian Conversation and Elementary Reading and Writing” and “Hand-rolling Herbal Cigarettes.”
DPFS is still taking workshop submissions until Dec. 10. Applications for workshops are available through the Davis Wiki page.
“You don’t have to be a pro to teach, you just have to love what you teach,” Miller said. She will be teaching “Beginning Hooping” during the winter session. “I’m completely self-taught. I’ve been hooping for five months now.”
Like most of the classes through DPFS, the hooping class will be informal. Everyone in the class has something to bring to the table, Miller said.
As the free school gets off the ground next quarter, more improvements are being planned. Spencer Sevilla, an alumnus in computer science, is planning on returning to Davis in February to write a new software for the free school.
“It will be wiki-like so that people can provide input and facilitate the footwork on what [the organizers] are doing,” Balamuth said. The DPFS Wiki will be enabled for chat or e-mail, as well as provide a video archive of past workshops.
“At most, the software will need two to three months of full-time work to get done,” Balamuth said.
However, this effort depends on Sevilla getting funds to be able to come back to Davis to work full-time on the project. DPFS is currently open to getting ideas from the community to find grants and other sources of funding to make this software, Balamuth said.
In the meantime, Balamuth and the other organizers will be putting in the hours needed to get the free school going.
“The free school is great for making friends and networking sources,” Balamuth said. “It changes the paradigm at least for a few hours a day. It’s a safe place to explore your interest.”
SARAHNI PECSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.