Innovative Ideas from CALPs across Alberta

Posted:31 January 2017

Author: Val Rathjen, Community Learning Network

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Comments: 2

Recommendations: 1

Is it just me, or is time flying by? It seems hard to believe that we are half way through the grant year. Now is the time that many step back to evaluate and tweak their plans and programs. Sometimes we know exactly what we need to do to meet our learners’ needs, but other times we just need an infusion of new ideas and possibilities. It is with this in mind that I want to share just a few of the innovative ideas that I’ve gleaned from CALPs around the province.

Bonnyville Community Learning Council (Nicole Ferbey)

When people don’t have the time to come to us, what do we do? We go to them! One of Nicole’s ideas is to approach local businesses to see if she can piggy back with their weekly safety meetings to present mental health and wellness topics. Offering bite size pieces of material will promote awareness and build trust, and generate interest in future programming. This plan highlights one of the many strengths of our system, the willingness to go to the learner and meet them right where they are.

CALLS (Fort Saskatchewan and Strathcona County – Dyan Semple)

Dyan has been visiting local support agencies, schools and libraries with a presentation geared to raise awareness of CALLS' programs and to highlight the literacy needs specific to their region. This has increased the profile of the CALP and opened doors to identify and meet learner needs. She also shares suggestions, or “things to watch for”, that help frontline staff at other agencies recognize literacy gaps in the clients they serve.

Rocky Learning Centre (Mona Croker, Jana Thompson & Lisa Matchett)

This team developed a LitBit calendar that they circulated to encourage people to strengthen their literacy skills, I love the play on “FitBit” – these gals are brilliant!

There are so many ways this idea could be incorporated. Here are a few possibilities:

  • Design your own version, embedded with basic computer tasks to encourage learners to practice and use their skills.
  • Include LitBit ideas in your flyer or postcard in the local Welcome Wagon basket. Make it something that people could put on their fridge, which we all know is key real estate in a home! Be sure to have your logo and contact information somewhere easy to find and read. 
  • Have a LitBit challenge between your CALP and other partners or community agencies. 
  • Add your own daily or weekly LitBit Challenge to your website or Facebook highlighting local community events.

VegMin Learning Society (Holly Cependa & Heather MacDonald)

One of the challenges in small communities can be finding qualified instructors to meet learner needs. This is where collaboration and ingenuity come into play, and VegMin exemplifies both! Holly and Heather are offering foundational life skills programming, which they are sharing with other CALPs and communities via online platforms. They are also sharing their Microsoft Office programs in the same way, making it possible for other CALPs to offer things like Excel, Publisher and PowerPoint to their learners, even if they have difficulty finding a local instructor.

Holly also did an Essential Skills Scavenger hunt with her board using elements of their business meeting to highlight different skills (i.e.: Reading the Agenda incorporates document uses, reading financials uses numeracy…). What a great way to raise awareness and understanding of the 9 Essential Skills with your board of directors.

Families First, Fort Saskatchewan (April Jennings – Community Kitchens Coordinator)

April has worked very hard to incorporate essential skills into her program. Their materials are amazing and include age appropriate activities for families to do at home. See CALP Portal:

Other thoughts and ideas:

I recently attended a Culture of Collaboration event, and the staff did a great job of summarizing what their CALP does, as well as sharing some tips or questions to help other service providers recognize when clients may need support with their literacy skills. Giving these practical examples really highlights just how prominent and common literacy needs are. Many community organizations mentioned how helpful it would be to have a short summary that outlined the services the CALP offered, so they would know when to make a referral to the clients they serve. Another suggestion was to look for opportunities to visit a staff meeting or leave business cards with your partners for them to hand out. (For more ideas, watch for the Learner Support Services e-Learning workshop coming to the CALP Portal soon!)

These are just a few of the amazing things happening around the province. I hope this has encouraged you and brought to mind something you could try in your program. I am so thankful to work in a field that is so collaborative and open to sharing ideas and best practices. If you’re trying something new, or have a program that you want to share, please post in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you’re doing!

Val Rathjen
Regional Support Staff
East-Central Alberta


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