Whatcom Folk School teaches handy skills

Whatcom Folk School launched its first series of classes in May. The school offers a range of classes in everyday...

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to identify wild edible plants or how to build your own Adirondack chair, the Whatcom Folk School might be for you.

The new nonprofit organization launched its first series of classes in May and seeks to strengthen the community by offering classes in “things people need to be doing to be more resilient,” said Cindi Landreth, one of the founders.

“This is an opportunity to bring forward skills that are being lost,” Landreth added.

For this summer, the Whatcom Folk School is offering 67 classes in topics from homebrewing to canning to woodworking. One of the things that is unique about the school is that anyone can offer to teach a class and community members can suggest classes on certain subjects.

So the course catalog will be different each quarter based on what classes are in demand and depending on people stepping up to teach a class, Landreth said. This first round of offerings is kind of an experiment to see which classes are popular.

“The things I thought would take off, like the backyard chicken class, nobody has signed up for,” Landreth said. “Our two most popular classes so far have been applied ethnobotany and principles and pathways beyond sustainability. Our music classes are popular too.”

The role of the organization is basically to market classes — the school prints about 15,000 course catalogs each quarter — and play matchmaker between those interested in teaching a class and those who want to take a class. The Whatcom Folk School is also open to anyone who is currently offering a class to the community, but is struggling to get the word out, cofounder Aron Standley said.

“Instead of worrying about where to place their posters around town, they can focus more on what they teach,” Standley said.

Classes are meant to be affordable, so the fee structure is broken down into four parts: A $15 registration fee that goes to the Whatcom Folk School to produce the catalog; a location fee, if applicable, to cover the cost of renting a teaching space; an instructor fee that is determined by the instructor; and a fee for materials.

So classes range in price from $15 for a one-day Open Space Conversational Salon class, which only charges the required registration fee, to upwards of $750 for an eight-week woodworking class for women.

The goal with these classes is not only to empower people with new skills — it’s also to bring people together around shared interests, Landreth said. She hopes people will meet at these classes and then start their own groups or pass on the knowledge to their neighbors.

“One of the things the Folk School does is knit the community together, which is what makes a resilient community,” she said.

For more information, call (360) 319-7495 or visit www.whatcomfolkschool.org.

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