No community without learning, no learning without community.

No community without learning, no learning without community.

Vital Café: No Community Without Learning, No Learning Without Community was held on March 19th at the Whistler Museum & Archives. Watch our Vital Signs page for details on the next Vital Café.

Story by Suki Cheyne from Whistler Learning Centre

After the CFOW’s Vital Café on Learning and Education on March 19, I was asked to write a blog post on what I had learned. I mulled over this idea in my head as I drove home.

To give you some context, at the Vital Cafe I gave a brief presentation on education and learning in relation to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Yes, I did have to first find out what the Sustainable Development Goals were!

Can I say that an international organisation made up of 193 member states is cool? The United Nations have developed 17 Sustainable Development Goals with calls to action as a “shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.” That’s right we’ve received a blueprint for peace and prosperity!

In the UN's words, “this is the World's best plan to end poverty, reduce inequality, and to tackle climate change.” And #4, well, it’s is focussed on education!

My immediate assumption before I delved into Goal #4 was that Canada has lots of quality education and this goal has already been met. However, as I kept reading, I learned that maybe we are not as far ahead as I thought we were.

Goal #4: To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning for all

Here are 3 of the 10 targets for 2030 (Full list is available online):

  • ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
  • substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship

I picked these 3 to discuss as they demonstrate how a resort community in Western Canada still has work to do. 

The theme of access in these first two targets is interesting. Any new parent in Whistler knows we are experiencing a childcare crisis in Whistler. And the lack of early child care places and need for more trained ECEs is affecting access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education.

Add to that the fact that a large portion of Whistler’s immigrant population must then study English before they can access technical, vocational and tertiary education, as well as skills for employment.

Access to trades and post-secondary education in rural communities such as Whistler is limited and typically requires a student to travel or move away from their family, home and support network in order to receive training and education for employment.

For those who choose to pursue online learning there are other challenges: owning/having access to a computer, knowing how to use a computer, and having sufficient intenet service to access online learning.

On the flipside there are MANY educational opportunities in Whistler. Plus, there are local organisations working to develop even more. For example, the Whistler Learning Centre works to facilitate and promote lifelong learning opportunities in Whistler. Find the education calendar here.

At the Conversation Table

After the Vital Café presentation, we divided into groups to discuss 3 questions. Here are some of the responses from the groups I was working with:

What does learning mean to you?

One of the first things that struck me, as I acted as a scribe for the group, was the diversity of responses. I suppose it should come as no surprise given that education means different things to different people and our small group was composed of people from 6 countries, different backgrounds, and ages spanning teen to senior. As I work in the area of education, my first response is ‘to develop skills for work’, so predictable! But responses included so much more like being healthy, learning about cultures, being ready for life changes like retirement, life skills like cooking and parenting, and being open minded. As the conversation continued, I realised that I rarely spend time reflecting and enjoyed how the group revealed the deeper meaning of education to both the individual and society.

How does community enhance learning, and learning enhance community?

The second question had two parts, and initially it seemed easier to respond to part one that focusses on how learning enhances community. Slowly we started to explore how community enhances learning and it was heartening to hear the group discuss how a community’s culture and collective knowledge provides positive and valuable learning opportunities.

How can we make learning a pillar of community wellbeing?

  • Make learning free
  • Learning from and listening to elders
  • Share knowledge
  • Learning exchanges
  • Match those who want to learn with those who want to teach

When considering this final question, we were encouraged to think about what individuals can do in Whistler. And within my group, the answer about learning from our elders struck a chord with me. So many Whistler residents don’t have family locally (I’m one of them), whether that’s young workers or families whose grandparents live a plane ride away or our growing senior community whose kids and grandchildren don’t live nearby.

The term ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ was playfully suggested, but it really makes sense. We’ve got a large senior community full of knowledge, life experience, and stories. And, there are lots of young people and families trying to figure out their path. Yet these groups rarely mix socially, maybe on the occasional chairlift. Can we foster more interactions where the sharing of knowledge and informal teaching within a family can be emulated?

I’m grateful to the Vital Cafe team at the Community Foundation of Whistler for hosting these conversations that encourage us to look at our community through different lenses and think about how we can make a difference. Not only did I meet lots of new people and make new connections, but I experienced a new learning opportunity.

I encourage you to join a Vital Café this year.

Posted on Wednesday, May 01, 2019