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New Iowa Arts Council program weaves folk arts into classrooms

Jun 12, 2020

Art teachers from 12 Iowa schools are literally weaving traditional art techniques into their lesson plans, thanks to a new Iowa Arts Council program called Folk Arts in the Classroom.

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 will attend workshops and learn about resources offered by the National Czech and Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum in Decorah. Participants will 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.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for teachers to connect folk and traditional arts to their students and engage them with meaningful experiences that elevate their learning opportunities in the classroom," Iowa Arts Council Administrator David Schmitz said. "We're excited to see this program move forward, and we thank the National Endowment for the Arts for its support."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has moved to an online format, with at-home art kits, video sessions with folk artists and more. 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. A list of participating teachers and schools follows:

Cedar Rapids
Harding Middle School – Mike Busta, Chad Bakkum
Cedar Valley Christian School – Robin Crow, Lindsey Richey
Metro High School – Liz Deutsch, Sarah Collingsworth
College Community School District – Kim Heckart

Crestwood High School – Tanya Riehle

Carrie Lee Elementary School – Rachell Branum, Jenn De La Rosa

Kennedy Elementary School – Molly Dillon, Teri Caldwell
Eisenhower Elementary School – Beth Kilgore, Michelle Demuth

Timber Ridge Elementary School – Liz Bloomburg

Marion High School – Jonathan Mitchell

West Harrison Community School – Meghan Treasure

Orange Elementary School – Amanda Grau, Stacey Snyder

The Iowa Arts Council is a division of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs. More information is available at or 515-281-5111. 

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.