HistoryConnects and the Lifelong Learner
The primary objective of the HistoryConnects program was to combine the VHS’s successful outreach education programs with twenty-first-century technologies, and be able to deliver an enhanced educational experience to students around both Virginia and the United States. We’ve seen a lot of success with this over the first year and a half of the program. Over the 2012–13 school year, we will deliver more than 200 programs to fifteen states.
An unanticipated area of success has been the connection we’ve established with retirement communities, providing programming for lifelong learners. We’ve had a total of fourteen programs with retirement communities in Maryland, North Carolina, and Ohio. These include examinations of Pocahontas and the Powhatan Indians, the Civil War, and changes in twentieth-century Virginia as seen through photographs.
The majority of our programs for lifelong learners have been with the Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Cleveland, Ohio. Menorah Park is a campus with four buildings (a skilled nursing facility, an independent living apartment building, and two assisted living residences), each equipped with its own videoconferencing center. It was one of the first retirement communities to become involved with distance learning, starting in October of 2007.
Earlier this month we connected with two of the buildings on the Menorah Park campus and had fantastic turnouts. Afterward, I asked LeAnne Stuver, the director for Lifelong Learning, if she could tell me what these opportunities meant to their residents. “This type of programming has ‘opened the world’ to our residents. Even though they may no longer be able to [physically] travel . . . they can travel the country and the world through this wonderful technology.”
LeAnne was also willing to share with us some of the resident’s reactions to distance learning opportunities. Ida Kaufman, an independent living resident shared: “I enjoy these programs because they give me a chance to see and learn about things that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience.”
She is not alone in her feelings. Irene Kurtz, an assisted living resident said: “I get so much out of Distance learning. It broadens my brain. It allows me to visit places I’ve never been and am not likely to get to visit. It’s important to learn something new every day, even if it’s something you’ve never even heard of before. Distance learning allows me to do that without having to travel. These opportunities enrich my life. When I see one on the daily schedule, I’m excited and can’t wait to come to the program!”
Making these connections with lifelong learners in retirement communities across the country has been a wonderful bonus to the HistoryConnects outreach education initiative. They have been some of our most memorable programs, and we are looking forward to many more!
Evan Liddiard is Senior Education Specialist at the Virginia Historical Society.