Souris Valley Museum hosted 500 guests over four days. Virtually

The Souris Valley Museum invited students from all across Saskatchewan last week to join them for a workshop allowing kids to get a sense of the old days.

Museum executive director Mark Veneziano, with the help of volunteers, was hosting classes from different communities.

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"Originally, we were only slated for a two-day workshop. But due to demand, we ended up opening up for four days. Over for the month of April, we had over 500 students and teachers take part in our virtual tours and workshops from all across the province from northern Saskatchewan, western Saskatchewan, as well as some local schools, and schools out of Regina and Swift Current," Veneziano said.

He pointed out that the museum started doing virtual tours in January, and they became pretty popular with Saskatchewan schools. Soon they started developing their first-ever virtual workshop, and last week they finally had a chance to try it out, showcasing part of their collection to a diverse audience. 

The first workshop was called In the Pioneer Kitchen. The SV Museum used items from its collection and the established pioneer kitchen, through which Veneziano explained what pioneers used in daily life and how things worked back in the day. There also was a sweet bonus at the end of the workshop.

"We talked about how kitchen was the most important room in our home, we went into different histories of the kitchen, and then we ended the workshop with learning about the science behind ice cream making. We had a live demonstration of how kids can make ice cream at home like pioneers," Veneziano said.

They had six classes a day for four days. Kids from pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 enjoyed the opportunity to learn something new in an interactive way. The live presentation was done over the platform that suited each school the best. Veneziano said they used three platforms, including Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom, customizing the tour based on the needs of different school divisions.

And it seemed that their efforts didn't go unnoticed.

"We had quite a big turnout and it was great to see people supporting the museum, not just locally, but provincially as well," Veneziano said.

"A lot of teachers were so happy. Because of the restrictions, they haven't been able to leave their classroom for field trips. So this was the best alternative because it was actually a live presentation. We tried to make it as interactive as possible, but there are still some barriers due to the virtual format," Veneziano explained.

The feedback has been good, and some teachers asked for instructions and recipes, so they could make ice cream later with their students. Some schools that are not too far from Estevan also expressed interest in potentially coming for a real tour once the restrictions are eased or lifted.

"It was a great way to really showcase the importance of the history of our area, as well as the history of the pioneers," Veneziano said.

"We've heard positive things coming back from our teachers that have attended, and they're all looking forward to doing this again next year. So that's great to hear and due to the success, we're actually going to be continuing this into the new school year."

The museum plans to introduce more virtual workshops in the 2021-22 school year in addition to In the Pioneer Kitchen. It's a bit too early to talk about what the new workshops will be about, but after the first success, they are looking forward to working with more students.

"The museum is so grateful for the community support and provincial support as well. It shows the importance of museums in the province, so it's nice to see," Veneziano said.

The SV Museum offers general virtual tours for school students on regular basis now. Teachers can book their classes to help them learn about the history of the province and of the area in a different format.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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