From ukuleles to hiking, Okanagan Folk School ready to make economic impact | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Sunny  27.2°C

Kelowna News

From ukuleles to hiking, Okanagan Folk School ready to make economic impact

Paula McLaughlin will teach ukulele as the Okanagan Folk School's first course.
Image Credit: Submitted/Murray Wood

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

The Okanagan Folk School is ready to launch its first courses – starting with the ukulele April 24 – but organizers are hoping that's just the start of much bigger things to come.

“It’s about teaching crafts and skills for the enjoyment of knowing how to do it, or helping a person become better at a skill, having fun and meeting people doing it,” Murray Wood, president of the eight-member school board of directors, told

The idea for a Folk School started germinating about 14 months ago when Wood, who owns a B&B in Peachland, hosted a dinner for neighbours.

“The classic question was, how do we 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 brought a whole new life to the town and a lot more revenue. I was just fascinated and spent all night watching YouTube videos on folk schools. And I thought this is perfect. It’s become a labour of love.”

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

That’s grown to a school that offers 350 classes to 3,000 students per year. An economic study in 2008 credited it with bringing $6 million per year to the local economy. That grew to $11 when a similar study was done again in 2017, Wood said.

The Okanagan Folk School, right now, is centred mostly in the West Kelowna, Peachland and Summerland areas but expects to grow into a valley-wide organization.

“There’s so much talent up and down the valley along the lake,” Wood said. “We can see organizing 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 put on about 25 courses including cooking classes, guided hiking “with eyes wide open so you’re more aware of the forests they’re hiking in,” storytelling, wet felt artistry, geocaching, canoeing, painting, macrame, jewelry making, knitting and more.

While basket weaving may seem cliché, Wood was quick to point out there’s already a handful of students keen to get going.

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

Costs are expected to 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 love to teach a timber framing course. In the winter there could be snowshoe making classes, training in cross country skiing or wilderness survival. There’s no apparent end to ideas.

“It’s very interesting to hear what’s available out there,” Wood said. “Just in a general conversation I find people saying: 'I’ve got a friend who teaches this sort of thing.' It’s kind of a grassroots thing. You put 10 people in a room and each one has three different ideas about what can be taught or what they want to take.”

North House has courses grouped into 25 categories that include things like boatbuilding and timber framing along with the more traditional things like foods and fibre arts.

One key thing for the Okanagan Folk School is to coordinate with existing arts and crafts societies to make sure it doesn’t compete with those organizations and brings something new to the region, Wood said.

“One of the focusses is to create community within the group of people who are doing the crafts but also community within the village itself by different events and people taking the courses and getting to know more people as a result,” he added.

Linda Lovisa is offering a painting class.
Linda Lovisa is offering a painting class.
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 into the region to take classes. They eat at restaurants, stay in local accommodations and may add extra days to ski, golf or do winery tours.

Okanagan Folk School is a non-profit society and is looking for instructors, students and society members.

It’s also hosting an open house in Peachland on Sunday.

For more information go to the folk school's website here or check them out on Facebook here.

The folk school idea originated with Nikolai Frederik Severin in Denmark in the early 19th century. He wanted to move away from education as being centred around Greek and Latin to bringing dignity and pride to craftspeople, according to the Folk Association of America.

The Association lists 38 member schools in the U.S. and two in Canada. That includes the Okanagan school as well as Life School House in Nova Scotia.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2022

  • Popular kelowna News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile