Magazine Feature

Toolkit for "No School Like Freedom School"

Modeled after the 1964 Mississippi Freedom schools, which were designed to change a community by giving residents the tools to develop leaders and exercise political power, modern Freedom Schools—such as those run by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)—emphasize the connection between education and freedom. According to the Children’s Defense Fund website, the CDF Freedom Schools model incorporates the totality of the CDF’s mission by fostering environments that support children and young adults to excel and believe in their ability to make a difference in themselves and in their families, schools, communities, nation and world.

Students are being taught to love learning, to model leadership and to create positive changes in their own communities. Best practices from Freedom Schools can be implemented in a wide range of classroom situations. Examples are below.

Freedom School Best Practice

My Classroom Adaptation

Each day begins with “Harambee!,” a 30-minute activity to celebrate and affirm the value of each participant and prepare for work and learning ahead.

In your classroom, you can start each day by affirming the value of your students and celebrating what they bring to the learning environment by participating in the day’s work.


Children read high-quality books and are engaged in learning activities that are appropriate to their developmental needs and interests.


In your classroom, you can include the books listed in the No Schools Like Freedom Schools article and ensure that you choose books that reflect the images of your students and empower them to make positive changes for themselves and their communities.


Parents are engaged as site volunteers and participate in weekly workshops on children’s developmental needs, civic responsibility and other topics of interest.

In your classroom, you can involve parents and community members in classroom activities and lesson plans as often as possible. Look for opportunities in each lesson plan to involve parent volunteers or community members. They can simply assist in work with students or share their real-world knowledge and expertise with students.

Children learn to apply critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as they become more-responsible members of their communities.


In your classroom, take advantage of opportunities to explore authentic problems facing your community and encourage students to become active problem-solvers.


Children receive two nutritious meals and a healthy snack each day in the summer model and nutritious snacks during the after-school program.

In your classroom, you can teach students about balance, variety and moderation in their diets with resources from You also can encourage families to contribute nutritious snacks for younger students, and work with school nutrition staff to include a balanced diet as part of the school’s breakfast and lunch programs. 

Children are surrounded by caring adults and college-age young adults from their community (at a classroom ratio of 1:10) who share their enthusiasm for learning and reading, and commit to serving them as authentic mentors.

While parent/teacher ratio may be difficult for teachers to change, you can engage parents, college students, and community mentors as volunteers in the classroom to bring ratios down. 

Click here for more information about CDF Freedom Schools.

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Learning for Justice in the South

When it comes to investing in racial justice in education, we believe that the South is the best place to start. If you’re an educator, parent or caregiver, or community member living and working in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana or Mississippi, we’ll mail you a free introductory package of our resources when you join our community and subscribe to our magazine.

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