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Free, Fun & Funky Education

If you consider yourself an expert on all things Davis, you’d better make sure you’ve checked out the Davis People’s Free School (DPFS) because it embodies many things that Davis stands for: openness, Earth-friendly activities, a high value placed on education, and community. DPFS was started in 2007 by UC Davis undergraduates, and while activity within the school has had its high and low points, it is currently going strong. The goal of the school is to provide free education on a variety of subjects to any person who wants to learn, as well as to provide anyone who has ever wanted to teach with the opportunity to do so. The classes are held on a wide variety of topics, including the usual such as drawing and language lessons, the unusual such as bee charming and “anarchist knitting,” and the Davis-esque such as how to compost and how to repair bikes. The classes meet in public spaces like Central Park as well as in rented facilities and private residences, and like the name implies, are completely free to attend.


I found out about DPFS through friends, and it sounded like a great experience, especially as I am still “getting to know” Davis after moving here from Salt Lake City five months ago. I signed up online for two classes, a Spanish speaking discussion group and an “Intro to Massage” class. Sadly, when I showed up at the café Delta of Venus to meet my Spanish class, no one was there. I had better luck with the massage class though: about 20 people met in the Domes Yurt, part of UC Davis’ sustainable cooperative community, every other week for ten weeks to learn the art of massage from Kurt Vaughn. Kurt has been practicing massage for ten years, and his philosophy involves tuning in and responding to the body’s reactions, as well as using your whole body, not just your hands, to massage.

Class 1: Hands and arms

Each of the five classes focused on a specific part of the body, and the first class dealt solely with arms and hands. We learned which muscles to massage and how best to massage them, and the benefits of using massage oil, which include no accidental waxing of a hairy arm, leg or back. Some of it was intuitive because we all know what feels good to us, but it was helpful to learn the best ways to approach massaging a certain muscle, such as whether it is better to use the pointed pressure of a thumb or a whole forearm to massage. Kurt provided us with the anatomically correct names for the muscles, showed us where muscles connect to bone–which feels particularly good when massaged–and told us where the biggest muscles in the body are (your glutes and upper legs).

Class 2: Feet and legs. Kurt in upper left.

The second class that I attended focused on massaging the feet and legs. I failed to realize the practical implications of this, however, and wore skinny jeans to the class. Everyone else was wearing shorts or simply took their pants off, so I deliberated for a moment and then decided to join the pants-dropping crowd. I was already taking a free class on massage in a yurt, so why not? My embarrassment soon melted away with the  friendly and laid-back atmosphere of the class and Kurt’s professional way of leading us through the massage techniques.

There are still two classes left in the course, but I have already learned a lot about how to give a good massage (the down side, of course, is that I will now be the friend who knows how to massage and always has a line of people asking to be massaged. But the more happiness you give the more you get, right?), and there are so many other intriguing classes on the DPFS course list that I will definitely be signing up for more next quarter. “Beginning Hooping” here I come!

To learn more about the Davis People’s Free School and to register for classes, find it on the Davis Wiki at http://daviswiki.org/Davis_People’s_Free_School and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2369398747.

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