Grinnell Community Collaboration Distributes Activity Bags to Families and Children

April 06, 2021

The Grinnell College Museum of Art (GCMoA) is pleased to announce a collaborative project between Drake Community Library, Mid-Iowa Community Action, Grinnell Middle School’s Tiger Pack Program, and the Grinnell Education Partnership. The Cultural Capital for Children project will distribute a total of 665 activity bags, which include printed reproductions of GCMoA’s collection with corresponding activity guides, art supplies, and age-appropriate books. Activity bags started distribution in January and will continue into early summer. Funding for this project was provided in part with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

This project was inspired by the significant challenges and stresses placed on families and children by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additional stress and isolation have negatively impacted student learning, mental health, and social-emotional development and wellbeing. Ziggy Thétard, an AmeriCorps VISTA member serving with the Grinnell Education Partnership, said, “The pandemic has been particularly hard on mental health, and it has been so hard to find healthy outlets. In the past year I've relied on making art and reading literature, which is why I'm so passionate about this project.”  

This project seeks to provide children with tools to connect their life experiences to artwork in the GCMoA collection and literature. “Reading, writing, looking at, and creating art allows children to understand their unique experiences as they unpack complex emotions which they may not have the vocabulary for just yet,” stated Tilly Woodward, curator of academic and community outreach at GCMoA. “Art helps us process what is most difficult and what is most painful in life, but it also provides us tools for connecting with beauty and joy.”  

Karen Neal, assistant director at Drake Community Library, added, “Reading fiction allows us to walk in someone else’s shoes, visit far-away places and find shared experiences. These explorations are very important, especially during the isolation of the pandemic”  

Amy Miller, social worker at Grinnell Middle School, shared that "[Students] were pleasantly surprised by the addition of the art bag,” noting that she had already seen the books and coloring activities being enjoyed during study halls soon after the first distribution.  

The project builds on the successful summer program by Grinnell College Museum of Art and Drake Community Library that provided activity bags and online programming to children in the community. By building on previous programming, this project strengthens cultural capital in our community and develops stronger connections between the community and Grinnell College. Much of this connection relies on the Grinnell Education Partnership and the six AmeriCorps members that collaborate with local entities to create sustainable literacy projects for Grinnell-area students.  

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