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From ukuleles to hiking, the Okanagan Folk School is ready to make an economic impact | infonews

Paula McLaughlin will be teaching the ukulele in the first class at the Okanagan Folk School.

Image Credit: Submitted/Murray Wood

11 April 2022 – 07:31

It may be hard to imagine, but things like basket weaving and knitting classes could be the start of a new economic engine for Peachland.

The Okanagan Folk School is set to launch its first lessons — starting with ukulele on April 24 — but organizers hope this is just the start of much bigger things to come.

“It’s about teaching trades and skills for the fun of knowing how to do it, or helping a person become better at a skill, having fun, and meeting people who do it,” Murray Wood, chairman of the school’s eight-member board, told iNFOnews.ca.

The idea for a folk school began to germinate about 14 months ago when Wood, a B&B owner in Peachland, hosted a dinner party for neighbors.

“The classic question was, how do you bring business to Peachland in the winter?” he said. “They started describing this folk school, called North House Folk School in Minnesota. It’s on Lake Superior. It’s about the same size as Peachland. They started 25 years ago. They have brought a whole new life to the town and a lot more income. I was just fascinated and spent the whole night watching YouTube videos about folk schools. And I thought that was perfect. has become a labor of love.

North House started small in 1997 with a handful of local residents who were “passionate about traditional craftsmanship and cooperative learning,” its website says.

It has become a school that offers 350 courses to 3,000 students per year. A 2008 economic study credits it with contributing $6 million a year to the local economy. That amount jumped to $11 when a similar study was redone in 2017, Wood said.

The Okanagan Folk School, at present, is primarily centered in the West Kelowna, Peachland, and Summerland areas, but expects to become a valley-wide organization.

“There’s so much talent in the valley along the lake,” Wood said. “We can see running courses in different parts of the valley.”

Annabel Stanley is ready to teach basket weaving.

Annabel Stanley is ready to teach basket weaving.

Image Credit: Submitted/Murray Wood

It has 11 instructors ready to teach about 25 lessons, including cooking lessons, guided hikes “with their eyes wide open to learn more about the forests they are hiking in”, storytelling, wet felt art , geocaching, canoeing, painting, macrame, jewelry making, knitting and more.

Although basket weaving may seem clichéd, Wood was quick to point out that there were already a handful of students eager to get started.

Some courses may be taught in a “classroom” – currently a Chamber of Commerce office room – but others will be taught in studios or outdoors.

Costs should range from $50 to $100 per course. Some will be one session while others will provide a series of classes.

Wood has a background in construction and would like to teach a course in wood framing. In the winter, there might be snowshoe-making lessons, cross-country skiing lessons, or wilderness survival lessons. There is no apparent end to ideas.

“It’s very interesting to hear what’s available out there,” Wood said. “Just in general conversation, I find people saying, ‘I have a friend who teaches this stuff.’ It’s kind of a basic thing, you put 10 people in a room and each one has three different ideas of what can be taught or what they want to take.

North House offers classes grouped into 25 categories which include things like boat building and timber framing as well as more traditional things like food and fiber arts.

One of the key elements of the Okanagan Folk School is to coordinate with existing arts and crafts societies to ensure that it does not compete with these organizations and brings something new to the region, Wood said.

“One of the goals is to create a community within the group of people doing crafts, but also a community within the village itself through different events and the people who take the classes and get to know more people as a result,” he added.

Linda Lovisa offers a painting course.

Linda Lovisa offers a painting course.

Image Credit: Submitted/Murray Wood

While a school with a campus like North House is the dream, the plan is to start small. The economic impact comes from people traveling to the area to take courses. They eat out, stay in local accommodations, and can add extra days to ski, golf, or wine tours.

Okanagan Folk School is a non-profit corporation and seeks instructors, students, and society members.

It also hosts an open house in Peachland on Sunday.

For more information, visit the folk school’s website here or check them out on Facebook here.

The idea of ​​the popular school originated with Nikolai Frederik Severin in Denmark at the beginning of the 19th century. He wanted to move away from Greek- and Latin-centric education to bring dignity and pride to artisans, according to the Folk Association of America.

The Association has 38 member schools in the United States and two in Canada. This includes Okanagan School as well as Life School House in Nova Scotia.

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