For the last two years, Luther College has encouraged the development of Saskatchewan ecomuseums by offering a university course called Ecomuseums: Exploring Place (IDS 290AB). Designed and offered by Dr. Mary Vetter, the course has attracted students from many fields and been recognized with two awards from the Saskatchewan Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.

I’m excited to be teaching this course in the fall, with input from Dr. Vetter. The focus will once again be on experiential, project-based learning, and key topics will include: the principles of sustainability, the history and significance of the ecomuseum approach, and the importance of community engagement and sense-of-place in heritage conservation. In addition to a number of graded items, including an assessment of ecomuseums in other countries and a paper that describes an ideal ecomuseum, the course will give students a chance to contribute to ecomuseum development either in the Calling Lakes area or the White Butte region.

The Calling Lakes ecomuseum is concerned about local water quality.

The Calling Lakes ecomuseum was launched in December 2014, in response to concerns about water quality in that area.  As part of a large watershed impacted by agriculture and the City of Regina, the Calling Lakes region comprises a provincial park, a number of resort villages, and significant archeological and cultural sites, including the place where Treaty 4 was signed. Potential student projects include mapping heritage assets, developing guidelines for communicating with different levels of authority around water management, and researching best water management practices for private landowners and other local residents.

 

Student projects could focus on this section of protected land near White City.

In 2015, faced with rapid community growth and the eastward expansion of Regina, people in the White Butte region began using the ecomuseum approach to enhance the identity and profile of local communities, under the auspices of the White City Town Council.  Along with “pop-up” displays of different heritage items, they worked with Dr. Vetter’s students to develop a catalogue of digital stories that are currently featured here. This year they are interested in making a section of private land near the town into a park, since the landowners are interested and the land is close to the school and already protected by a conservation easement.  Potential projects include collecting more digital stories, identifying curriculum links and lesson plans that focus on local heritage, conducting biological surveys on the easement land, contributing to interpretive signage, and exploring potential links with the TransCanada Trail.

This course promises to be a stimulating experience for me and my students, since the work will be very hands on and the projects will involve working directly with the community. Students who took the course in the past really loved it, and gave it the highest level of evaluation. They enjoyed leaning a variety of skills – from mapping to interviewing – that are directly related to future employment, and they were especially enthused about the fact that their projects directly benefited the community.

To learn more, visit the Luther College Ecomuseums: Exploring Place (IDS 290AB) course description.