Greetings! My name is Noor Iqbal, and today (how time flies!) is my second-last day at the Canoe Museum! I have been working with Karen Taylor and Jen Burnard (the fabulous folks who bring the children’s education programming to you) for the past three weeks. As a student teacher from Queen’s University’s Outdoor and Experiential Education program, I couldn’t have wished for a better practicum placement! I will especially remember the obvious commitment and delight the staff, volunteers, and visitors have in learning new things.
Everyone I met—staff, animators, and volunteers—has been keenly interested and open to sharing their knowledge and learning from each other. I’ve learned a great deal by spending time with the people who make the Museum come to life. I have had valuable conversations with so many individuals: they’ve shared tidbits of historical information about fur trade artifacts, ruminated about cultural appropriation, demonstrated the process of making fire with flint and steel, highlighted considerations in program design, and described how to make artisan handcrafts. But the greatest thing I’ve experienced is the sense that this is a learning community. This museum is a place where everyone contributes their own strengths and supports each other.
Even the organization and physical layout of the Museum helps encourage life-long learning. The artifacts and programs at the Museum highlight a vast span of time and geography. From pre-contact indigenous traditions to voyageur history to contemporary paddling and from coast to coast to coast, the Museum offers visitors insight into so many aspects of Canadian history. From an educational point of view, I’ve seen how this broad scope ensures that visitors can make meaningful connections with their own prior knowledge. Questions and ideas branch out in a myriad of directions!
After exploring parts of the galleries on my first morning, I spent the majority of these weeks supporting education programs, most frequently the revised version of the Fur Trade Game!
After every program, I’ve noticed how thoughtfully the animators take time to debrief the experience, even if it is as succinct as a quick “How did it go?” This continuous process of reflection is like taking a plane to a rough board: it smooths out the knots, refines the program goals, and clarifies methods of delivery. I’m convinced that every teacher would benefit from the opportunity to be on “the other side” of a field trip!
I’ve had a lot of time to observe how 5th graders (and their teachers and parents) experience a museum dedicated to canoe heritage in Canada. As with any field trip, they arrive with a great deal of excitement! As the animators gather and focus student attention on the relevant topic, I’ve repeatedly noticed that students begin to see the depth of knowledge and skill that lies behind every artifact. Everything has a story to tell! An experiential museum program has so much potential for meaningful learning. For example, when a child actually holds an Inuit kudluk and then begins a soapstone carving of their own, their hands-on experience connects with the traditions of the past. Children can begin to see themselves as carriers of knowledge and skills, part of a wider community and tradition. These programs are a testament to the commitment to lifelong learning at the Museum.
I’m honoured to have been a part of this incredible community of learners for a short time! My thanks to everyone I’ve met here at the museum, most especially to Karen and Jen, Dave, Lisa, Kelly, Alex, Kerry, Jack, Jo, and Ipie! I’m sure I’ll be back to visit soon!