What do Museums Have to Do with CALPs?

Rebecca Still, Community Learning Network

1 2 16 January 2018

At first glance it may not appear that Community Adult Learning Programs and museums have a lot in common but a closer look reveals they have similar mandates.

Community Adult Learning Programs (CALPs) are focused on adult education and so too are museums. “Once you have a collection the next important area is education,” said David Fielhaber, Executive Director for Stony Plain & Parkland Pioneer Museum. “Often the focus is on programs for children but we wanted to target adult education, which is often overlooked.”

When Brenda Adams, Executive Director for Tri-Community Adult Learning Association (Tri-CALA) first met David she learned about his passion and love of learning. They learned that the outcomes each organization wanted to achieve were very similar. Brenda invited the Stony Plain & Parkland Pioneer Museum to become a member of Tri-CALA. Since then, David has been on the board for about four years and has served as the Vice Chair and the Secretary at different times. 

David and Brenda have partnered in a variety of ways over the years. At one time the museum provided space for a cooking class and more recently Brenda has helped to revive the museum’s Lecture Series with suggestions on topics and connections to presenters. As a result, this past fall they had five lectures based on the history of the local area over a five-week period.

David promoted the basic computer courses to his senior volunteers who have limited experience using computers. “We do whatever we can to encourage people to take a course,” said David. It also helps his volunteers to be able to use technology in their work at the museum.

The local Conversation Circle brought their English Language Learners (ELL) on a field trip to the museum. David shared some of the struggles early pioneers experienced such as climate differences, fitting in with others in the area and the isolation caused by language barriers. “The English Language learners related to the pioneer experiences because they were experiencing the same challenges too,” said David. “It brought issues of the past to the current time. It created a bond between the early pioneers and themselves.”

Josephine Bunz-Clark, Family Literacy Coordinator for Edson & District Community Learning Society has learned the value of museums for her English Language learners. She has been taking her families in the Magic Carpet Ride Family Literacy program to the Galloway Station Museum & Travel Centre for a number of years. Not only do they use the space at the museum for one of the program days, but they also get a tour of the museum. “People don’t often think of going into the museum,” said Josephine. “Having our families take a tour helps to bring more awareness to the museum for our ELL families. They also learn about trapping, mining, the wildlife and the history of our area. It’s a great cultural experience.”

Shari McDowell, Manager for the Galloway Station Museum & Travel Centre stated they tailor their tours for the ELL families. They also provide a family pass to the Centre in the Books for Babies bags EDCLS distributes. “We like to partner with other organizations as much as we can. I want to do more with the Edson & District Community Learning Association,” said Shari. 

Other than having similar mandates around adult education why would CALPs and museums want to work more closely and form partnerships?

Josephine says the Galloway Station Museum & Travel Centre has a great park area and the museum is very open and supportive of having people use their space. “We want to be inclusive of our community,” said Shari.

For Brenda Adams it’s because the museum has a strong sense of community and they have shared resources over the years – rooms, clientele, volunteers, instructors, and staff. Both she and David are like-minded and recognize the value of maximizing resources. David said, “When we help support adult literacy it pays back for us by having adults that can read the information in our museum.” 

Together they promote a sense of community, collaboration and partnerships. “You don’t always see the positive impact right away,” said Brenda. “It takes time to grow before you see it, but it leads to a stronger community of learning.” By sharing their skills and knowledge, David & Brenda are building capacity in their community.

If you haven’t reached out to your local museum, take some time and connect with them to see how you can work together for the betterment of your community.

Rebecca Still
CLN West-Central Regional Support Staff


Sign in to view 2 comments