This exhibit allows students of all ages to make 'a special connection to the history'

Local elementary school students create art inspired by featured exhibitions at the Whatcom Museum’s Art FUNdamentals program.
Local elementary school students create art inspired by featured exhibitions at the Whatcom Museum’s Art FUNdamentals program. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

For more than 40 years, the Whatcom Museum has helped local students learn more about local history and art by providing school tours and other hands-on programs for youth.

Through various educator-created programs, the Museum teaches students from across the county about a variety of subjects, including the history and culture of local Native people, art, birds and Bellingham history.

"Part of our mission is educating people of all ages, so here we're hitting the school-aged children, from preschool- to college-aged students, and teaching them about local history," said Emily Dieleman, the Museum's Educator and Program Coordinator.

"The People of the Sea and Cedar" program is the museum's most popular school program. Through an interactive tour of the exhibition and a hands-on workshop, students learn about the lives and history of Northwest Coast tribes, such as the Lummi and Nooksack.

In the workshop, students experience five different hands-on stations where they learn about skills, such as cedar bark processing, woodworking, weaving and different toys and games that Northwest Coast children played with. Dieleman says that this workshop gives students "a special connection to the history."

The program is helpful for schools because it satisfies many parts of a state-mandated curriculum that requires schools to teach students about the history of Native American tribes in their area.

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Students learn how to twine cedar bark at the Whatcom Museum’s popular “People of the Sea and Cedar” program. Whatcom Museum Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

The museum also teaches students about art through its "Art FUNdamentals" program. The program invites students to view the museum's rotating art exhibitions in the Lightcatcher building and then participate in an accompanying workshop that incorporates elements of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM).

Young students aren't the only ones who can learn from the museum's programs. The museum also organizes programs that are aimed at college students and even older adults.

In 2017, 4,747 students from 121 schools came through the museum’s doors. Dieleman said that "almost every student" in Whatcom County goes through the museum's “People of the Sea and Cedar” program, with only three schools in the county not attending. The museum also attracts schools from places as far away as Anacortes and Stanwood.

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High school students participate in a hands-on art project in the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Studio. Whatcom Museum Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

"One of my favorite things is when parents come in and help us with the workshops at the different stations," said Dieleman. “It’s really fun to hear parents who grew up in the area remember doing this exact program when they were a student, so it really sticks with a lot of people who remember doing it as a child."

Colton Redtfeldt is Whatcom Museum’s marketing assistant.

Whatcom Museum

The non-profit is operated by the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the . The Old City Hall building at . and the Lightcatcher Building at . are open noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Sundays. , located inside the Lightcatcher, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays to Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission, good for all sites in a day, is $10 general, $8 youth (6-17 years) and student, senior or military, $5 children (2-5 years). start at $50 and include free museum admission. Whatcom Museumcity of Bellingham121 Prospect St250 Flora StThe Family Interactive GalleryMemberships

The museum offers a variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature and Northwest history. Its collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art of regional importance, including a photographic archive. The museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate.