Service Highlight: Art Activity Packs for Children

Ziggy Thétard is the AmeriCorps VISTA member in the Healthy Reader Taskforce Coordinator position. In this role, she has recruited a taskforce of community partners to help her design and implement projects to support GNCSD students. One initiative that Ziggy has been working hard on this year is the Cultural Capital for Underserved Children project, which is being run in cooperation with the Grinnell College Museum of Art (GCMoA). This project was recently awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation which will supply the majority of its funding, with additional support from GEP, Friends of Drake Community Library, and in-kind donations from Grinnell Middle School. She shared her thoughts about this project for AmeriCorps Week.


The packs include high quality art prints, art supplies, activities, and a book.


Share a little with us about the Cultural Capital for Children project:

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. This project seeks to provide children with tools to connect their life experiences to artwork in the GCMoA collection and literature. Reading, 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.

Why is this project important to the community? To you?

The project builds on GCMoA and Drake Community Library’s successful summer program that provided activity bags and online programming to children in the community. In building on previous programming, this project strengthens cultural capital in our community whilst building a stronger connection between the community and Grinnell College. Much of this connection relies on Grinnell College’s Department of Community Enhancement and Engagement, which houses GEP and six AmeriCorps members that collaborate with local entities to create sustainable literacy projects.


What has been your favorite part of this project?

I have really enjoyed making connections with community members and organizations. Whilst a student at Grinnell College, I found it difficult to engage with the greater Grinnell community beyond restaurants and thrift stores. People always told me how much was going on in town, but I didn’t realize until becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA. I finally feel like I’ve gotten the true Grinnell experience that isn’t limited by my time on campus.

What is the best part of being an AmeriCorps member at GEP?

GEP is comprised of the most wonderful people. I look forward to our weekly GEP meeting every single week (even during quarterly report drafting). Melissa and Liz are amazing mentors, both personally and professionally, and I love the guidance I receive from the GEP cohort.


Thank you for your continued dedication to students in the Grinnell area, Ziggy!