By Julianna Davis and Frank Mark Rabena
The U.S. Embassy in Greece supports Athens Open Schools, promoting the basic right of education through arts and civic engagement programming in underserved communities.
“We support this program because it highlights the common values of the United States and Greece, the values of democracy and active citizenship,” said Jennifer Schueler, the U.S. Embassy’s Cultural Attaché. “Through these activities, the children use art to communicate with each other and express how they experience their cities, their communities and their classrooms. We are very proud to be able to have a celebrated Greek-American artist and educator, Sia Kyriakakos, leading these workshops”
Through the Athens Open Schools program 20 schools across the city remain open in the evening and on weekends, offering free activities for all age groups. The City of Athens program, which has had more than 36,000 participants, was launched by the Athens Partnership in collaboration with the Municipality with a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and has additional support for activities from the John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation.
This summer the U.S. Embassy is supporting two Athens Open Schools offerings. One is bringing the Hellenic Children’s Museum collection and educational program to neighborhoods in Athens and the other is an intensive 3D animation course using Oracle’s Alice Software. The Hellenic Children’s Museum “A Different School” program gives children between the ages of 6 and 12 the opportunity to build collaboration and civic engagement skills through games, activities and art. American arts educator Kyriakakos (the State of Maryland’s 2017 Teacher of the Year) participated in the design and implementation of the final educational program.
“We integrate the diversity of the children into the class and this is important,” said Kyriakakos, who is a Fulbright scholar in Arts Education from Baltimore, Maryland. Activities that incorporate diversity include making a multi-material collage of a city, which draws on the different experiences of children, including local children as well as refugees and migrant from various countries. Another creative activity challenged children to create an ocean creature based on their experience, resulting in an artwork that depicted an ocean full of diversity, just like the world they live in.
During a recent visit by U.S. Embassy staff and two Athens Partnership interns from the National Hellenic Society Heritage Greece program, everyone sat on the floor in a circle before a class began and introduced themselves. Everyone was asked to express how they felt about being at an “Open School” on a scale of 1-10. Going around, the majority of the kids responded with “10 happy”.
“I’d also say we are ’10 happy’ being part of this amazing Open Schools program,” said Ms. Schueler as the group concluded their visit.
The spaces in the “A Different School” activity were filled and the waiting list had 200 children on it—a sign of the demand and value of Open Schools. To help support this program and others like it, please click here.
Julianna Davis and Frank Mark Rabena served as Athens Partnership summer interns through the National Hellenic Society (NHS) Heritage Greece program. The Heritage Greece Program is a two-week cultural and educational immersion odyssey for accomplished Greek American college students who share their experience with a peer group of students from the American College of Greece in Athens. The Program’s goal is to reconnect participants with their heritage, roots, language, history, and traditions.