project leader
Robert D
Central Avenue
(Downtown Dubuque)
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Forging Crafts and Friendships at Free School

the project

We're raising money to rent a storefront in downtown Dubuque for three months this summer, which will serve as a community organizing space and the site of our annual Free School. The basic premise of Free School is simple: neighbors teach and take classes from each other for free! In the process, they develop friendships, affirm each other, dream together, and make our community more vibrant and interconnected. 


Free School will be open from June 1 through July 30, allowing community members to teach multi-session classes, lead discussion groups, organize game nights, host community-organizing trainings, and so much more. Dedicated space will be reserved for social justice organizations, including Dubuque Harm Reduction, to hold drop-in office hours and collaborate with one another.

the steps


  • Recruit teachers and solicit programming ideas from the community. 
  • Collect material goods/supplies.

Early May

  • Take possession of the property, begin cleaning and decorating.
  • Finalize class schedule and descriptions; schedule volunteer shifts.


  • Hold a donor and volunteer open house!
  • Publish course and programming catalog.

Late May

  • Canvass neighborhoods to invite folks to Free School; distribute catalog.
  • Partnering social justice organizations begin utilizing the community organizing space.

June 1: Class is in session!

why we're doing it

As Democratic Socialists, we believe education should be free and accessible and that everyone has something they can teach others in their community. We also believe education ought to empower us to become agents of social change. These commitments have compelled us to organize Dubuque Free School. For the past two years we have hosted a day-long free school, which offered adults and children the opportunity to take classes on topics such as workplace organizing, harm reduction, creative writing, poetry as resistance, magic, and upcycled art. These years have been wildly successful, and we are excited to expand our efforts.


Disbursed Budget:

Rent - $1,850

Utilities - $690

Education/Office Supplies - $128.04

Furniture & Decor - $324.70

Printing - $131.54


TOTAL RAISED = $3,434.00
ioby Platform Fee $35.00
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $171.70
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $103.02


Original Budget:

Rent - $1,500

Utilities - $500

Furniture - $500

Educational Supplies - $500


ioby Platform Fee $35
ioby Fiscal Sponsorship Fee (5%) $165
ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $99



Forging Crafts and Friendships at Free School

In June, the Dubuque Free School offered over 30 unique classes, each of which offered an opportunity for learning, sharing, and collaboration. Most importantly, though, they provided participants with the chance to forge new friendships and discover new ways to express themselves. An additional 35+ classes are being offered in July.

Pictured below, both students in ART-02: Clay Pin and Brooch Making sketch out their designs before molding and baking their clay. 

Our most popular class to date has been ART-03: Will It Slime? in which participants made a wide variety of different slimes. While they were at it, they celebrated the birthday of one of their new friends!

Art class at Free School

Every Thursday in June, from 1-3 PM, adults and children alike participate in Art Exploration, taught by local artist and illustrator, Emily Cotton Cram. 


Programming for both Adults and Children at Dubuque Free School

The Dubuque Free School offers a wide variety of classes for both children and adults. This morning, adults learned about the experiences of Marshallese migrants in the Dubuque community, including the history of US involvement in the Marshall Islands, and the health challenges that resulted from US nuclear testing. Meanwhile, children participated in Lego Free Time, a program coordinated by our youngest organizers, 11-year-old Iris and 6-year-old Sully. 

Susie Stroud, a local social worker for the Dubuque Pacific Islander Health Project, explains the history of US involvement in the Marshall Islands as part of her class, Resiliency of the Marshallese and Other COFA Migrants. 

Eleven-year-old Iris (left) and her brother, Sully, organized a two-hour program for kids called Lego Free Time. The seven children who participated met new friends and showed off their creations to other Free School participants. 

Dubuque Free School receives media attention

The local newspaper, The Telegraph Herald, as well as KCRG recently ran stories about Dubuque Free School. The TV news segment can be viewed here.

Free Classes are off to a great start!

The first two weeks of Free School have been a smashing success! Community members have taught and attended a wide variety of courses, including, Practical Stoicism; Art Exploration; Crime and Punishment or Correction; Harm Reduction: The Opposite of Addiction is Connection; Conversational English; Dungeons and Dragons: Becoming a Better Player and Dungeon Master; Introduction to Marxism; Fair Housing, for Whom?; Healthy Relationships; and Realistic Nutrition.

Classes are offered every day, some of which are one-time-only and others of which are offered weekly.

Class participant, Sully, receives some instruction from his teacher, Joe.

Children participate in Philosophy for Kids, taught by a local professor of philosophy.

Partnering organizations, including Dubuque Harm Reduction and the Dubuque Queer Liberation Network have offices at Free School. Here, members of DHR participate in a volunteer training during the organizations late-night drop-in hours.

Attendees at the Dubuque Free School.

Our dedicated volunteers meet to discuss logistics and scheduling.

Our donor and volunteer celebration was a smashing success!

On Tuesday evening, we invited our donors and volunteers to join us for a sneak peek at Free School. Check out the photos!

We can't wait to open our doors to the public this Saturday, June 1, beginning at 9:00 AM. We have a full slate of offerings scheduled:

  • 9:00-10:00am COM-01: Conversational English for ESL
  • 10:30-11:30am: QLN-01: Coffee + Social Hour
  • 11:30am-12:30pm: QLN-02: Direct Action Workshop
  • 1:30-2:30pm: QLN-03: Art Meetup
  • 2:30-3:30pm: QLN-04: Preventing (or Bouncing Back) From Burnout
  • 3:30-4:30pm: QLN-05: LGBTQ+ Support Group
  • 4:30-6:30pm: QLN-06: Dinner and a Movie
  • 5:00-6:00pm: HOB-01: Dungeons and Dragons - Becoming a Better Player and Dungeon Master

Our June catalog is now available!

The June course and programming catalog for the Dubuque Free School, as well as online registration, is now available! We're excited to be offering a diverse set of one-time-only and multi-section courses. Take a look and sign up for what interests you. And please share the catalog with your friends and family!

For our planning purposes, please register in advance for classes

We're now accepting proposals for classes and programs!

Our fundraiser ends in less than a month. If you haven't yet donated, or if you can afford to chip in a little more, please do so!

We're happy to announce that we are now accepting proposals for classes and programs. If you would like to teach a class, lead a book group or discussion, or coordinate a program of some sort, we want to hear from you! Please complete the following form:

In previous years, community members have offered classes about storytelling, poetry writing and performance, politics, labor organizing, renters' rights, sex education, harm reduction, arts and crafts, philosophy, history, and so much more. We look forward to offering a diverse array of classes and programs, so if you have a special talent, expertise, or insight that you are willing to share, please let us know. 

Our inspiration and organizing goals

Three years ago, when we organized our first one-day Free School, we took our inspiration from two sources: the Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement and the philosophy and ethos of timebanking, which is the idea that everyone has gifts and talents that they can reciprocally share with their neighbors. 


This year, we're excited to return to these original sources of inspiration by scheduling a full slate of courses, discussion groups, and other events, which engage us simultaneously as students, teachers, and neighbors. We want to help each other find our voice, share our skills, and grow into a vibrant and interconnected community characterized by mutuality and trust. Along the way, we look forward to tapping into the Freedom School legacy and collaboratively envisioning how we can work together to transform our community to be more just, more supportive, and more participatory. And, of course, putting that vision into action!


To learn more about the Freedom Schools and to jump-start your own vision of what Free School can be, check out these sources:


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


  • Christoffer Lammer-Heindel
  • Carol Smart
  • DDS Snack Caucus
  • Derrick C.
  • Anonymous
  • frank belcastro
  • Louie
  • Richard Fischer
  • Alex Kruse
  • Anonymous
  • Lindsey G.
  • Anonymous
  • Chris
  • C. & J. V.
  • Ian Ringgenberg
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Iris L-H
  • Joseph D.
  • Marshall Mayer
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Louie Meier
  • Jana
  • Anonymous
  • Comrade Dusty
  • Joseph E.
  • Dubuque Harm Reduction
  • Evelyn & Marcos
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Cassidy B.
  • Thomas G.
  • Chris and Haley Lammer-Heindel
  • Anonymous
  • Ann J
  • Anonymous
  • Paul & Ruth Jeffries
  • steve mcguire
  • Richard Fischer
  • Anonymous
  • Louie Meier
  • Erin Story
  • Allison
  • frank belcastro
  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous
  • Robert
  • Dubuque Educator

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