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This interview with Alanna Navitski was conducted on August 26, 2021 via Zoom. Alanna is the founding teacher and director at Catskill Wheelhouse, an independent, child-centered community education program in Greene County, NY. At the time of this interview, Alanna was three weeks away from the beginning of a new school year for Catskill Wheelhouse, which is undergoing some major transitions again. Now, Wheelhouse will be a community school with early-childhood and elementary education up to second grade in addition to the Forest School program they developed during the previous school year. They are also in the middle of moving to a new location in Cairo, NY. With all of these changes, Alanna talks about what went into getting ready - hiring new staff, the challenges of finding teachers adaptable to Wheelhouse’s teaching styles, and the challenges of retaining staff during the COVID-19 pandemic. Alanna describes challenges of budgeting, the difficulties she faced trying to get grants and how straddling an arbitrary line between daycare and school program (and a discussion of what makes a school a school and what should kids be learning) has its challenges both in the bureaucratic realm and in perceptions by the surrounding community. Alanna talks about Wheelhouse’s commitment to a social-justice based learning model, what that means and looks like for the age group that Wheelhouse serves, and how it relates to equity within the community that Wheelhouse serves through their sliding-scale tuition model. Alanna shares that while she has plenty of worries about juggling things in the coming year, she is excited about these new developments for Wheelhouse and for creating a place where learning can focus on communication, exploration, developing skills related to being humans in the world and not just traditional curriculum markers of learning. She wonders about how this will fit into the post-COVID world. Alanna shares about what it will be like for young children transitioning back into a classroom after the past year and what purpose school should serve for children and the community at large.
Rachel Meirs is an artist and musician currently living in Brooklyn, New York on the unceded land of the Lenape people. In her woodcuts, paintings, and sound-based work, she uses food as a jumping off point for exploring family, care, and bodies. She received her Masters in Public Health from Columbia University in 2019, where she began her still ongoing research on creative gig workers and health care access.
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This interview is hereby made available for research purposes only. For additional uses (radio and other media, music, internet), please click here to inquire about permissions.