School visit in the First Nations section of the Touchstones Nelson permanent exhibit.

Touchstones Nelson seeks volunteer museum educators

Do you love working with children and youth? Are you interested in local history and First Nations?

Do you love working with children and youth? Are you interested in local history and First Nations? Touchstones Nelson: Museum of Art and History is seeking volunteer educators to bring history to life through delivering interactive tours for visiting elementary and high school groups.

“Our volunteers offer more than tours, they facilitate hands-on learning experiences that inspire young people to question, think, and wonder about the world around them,” says Jessica Demers, curator and programming coordinator.

“We are primarily looking for new volunteers who have previous experience working with groups of children, as well as having basic knowledge of indigenous peoples in Canada. Ideally we will be able to attract volunteers with aboriginal ancestry; however we are interested in working with people of any cultural background.”

The majority of classes that visit the museum are there to learn about local First Nations history, and the rest are usually looking for an overview of the history of Nelson. All school visits are tied into the BC curriculum and tailored to the age and area of focus of the class.

Touchstones Nelson is also preparing to launch re-vamped history education kits, which will be available for loan to local schools.

“The original kits were created by teachers Linda Hoffmann, Donalda Messer and Gloria Beecham, and they were actually nominated for a Governor General’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Canadian History in 2000,” Demers said.

The kits belonged to SD8’s resource centre, which closed in 2012. The kits were given to Touchstones Nelson last year, and, in consultation with teachers, have been re-vamped to better suit today’s classrooms.

Volunteer educators will also be trained to deliver workshops in the museum that are tied to the history kits.

“This is an exciting time at the museum, as we are re-working our programs to really meet the needs of teachers, and create new hands-on learning resources that engage learners in ways that inspire curiosity and higher levels of thinking beyond the memorization of facts.”

Anyone interested is welcome to attend a general volunteer orientation on Thursday, Oct. 22 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Touchstones Nelson.

Participants are asked to send an RSVP to Jessica Demers by Oct. 20: email jessica@touchstonesnelson.ca or call 250-352-9813 ext. 275.

The orientation will cover all volunteer roles at Touchstones Nelson including front desk, special events and exhibition assistance roles. Short individual interviews will be conducted, and all participants are asked to bring a resume.

“There are three stages to becoming a volunteer educator at the museum”, says Demers. “First, everyone is asked to come to the orientation and have a short interview to get to know one another, then this fall those that are interested will shadow tours so they can see what it’s actually like to work with groups of children in the museum. Then in January we will begin training sessions, which will include First Nations education, communication skills, working with groups of children, an overview of school curriculum and using artifacts and our education kits as learning tools.

“The training program is a significant commitment of time for both staff and volunteers, so we want to make sure it is a good fit and that volunteers will be able to work with us for longer than a few months. Ideally this would be a long term relationship,” Demers says.

“Volunteers who are committed have the opportunity to contribute to the development of our programs, which can be very rewarding, but it does take time.” If people find that they can’t commit, they can choose to volunteer at the front desk, at family fairs, taking down exhibitions, or find other roles.

“We are always looking for ways to engage with the community, and our volunteers are a huge part of that.”

Touchstones Nelson currently has about 60 active volunteers that last year collectively volunteered over 3,000 hours. “Our volunteers are vital to our success; we can’t operate without them”.

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