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DC's free, floating school lands a semi-permanent home

Knowledge Commons DC's new space before buildout

A pop-up free school is coming to Rhode Island Ave NE.

Knowledge Commons DC, a volunteer-run, "free school for thinkers, doers, and tinkerers" where anyone can teach or take a class, is moving in to 1613 Rhode Island Ave NE for two months this fall.

Co-organizer Erika Rydberg says that the pop-up, taking over ReCreative Spaces' summer popup, will open sometime in October after buildout, and then KCDC will "have classes running as much as we can."

Due to its entirely volunteer-run nature, KCDC offers a more eclectic menu of seminars than perhaps any other "school" you have heard of: prior class titles include Salsa for Beginners, Tenants' Rights in D.C., Beginning Welsh, and How to Win Friends and Influence People With Bagels. Classes are often taught using "the city as our classroom," as Rydberg puts it. Classes are taught outside, on Metro, in borrowed office space, or on the move on bicycles. But this fall the school is holding most of its classes on Rhode Island Ave, not counting any tour-based classes that will still ask students to go for a walk or take a bike ride to learn something new about the city.

The school landed the space through a grant application with Cultural DC's Storefront DC program, which aims to "activate vacant spaces and increase foot-traffic through an infusion of arts and cultural projects." Rydberg says she thinks KCDC got a boost because the organization held a previous pop-up in 2013, in a space above City Bikes in Adams Morgan.

That pop-up experience is also helping KCDC with its buildout. "We put a swing in the last space. We had a giant chalkboard," she says. The organization is working on building furniture that can be reused if and when the school pops up somewhere else in the city.

KCDC is hoping to recruit local individuals and community organizations who would like to teach classes in the space, in addition to its roster of existing volunteer teachers. Bringing in more local community members to share their expertise, Rydberg says, is "what we've been about all along: making D.C. stronger as a community."

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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