Did you know that residents of Idaho 50 and older can participate in lifelong learning programs, such as the New Knowledge Adventure (NKA) branches in Treasure Valley and Pocatello and the Friends for Learning (FFL) organization in Idaho Falls?
NKA is an educational organization for people 50 years of age and older who wish to stimulate their thinking and expand their knowledge, as listed on their website. In Treasure Valley, NKA is supported by AARP Idaho. Idaho State University's Continuing Education and Workforce Training (CEWT) office support FFL and NKA in Pocatello. CEWT also partners with AARP in supporting the Treasure Valley’s NKA. Like NKA, FFL ‘provides, at minimal cost, activities, special events, and opportunities for study for retired and semi-retired people who want to continue their intellectual growth and enjoy being part of a like-minded community, as their Mission Statement says.
“FFL is one of the best organizations in the Idaho Falls area for bringing people together for education and friendships. We appreciate CEWT’s (support) which has afforded us the opportunity to get together and learn,” said Van Sickle.
Both NKA and FFL offer a wide variety of classes to seniors, on topics including but not limited to music, history, tours, health, science and personal development, alongside an abundance of outdoor physical activities. Each year, FFL hosts a cuisine dinner that features a country focused on during the semester.
“Members cook the indigenous foods and share them at a banquet. We have a Winter party each December and a yearly picnic in the park each summer,” explained Vicky Van Sickle, president of Idaho Falls’ FFL. “We have a Bus Tour group that plans several adventures each year as well.”
During a regular semester, FFL offers close to 65 different classes, and NKA Pocatello offers over 100. However, stay-at-home orders and social distancing made offering classes difficult. In 2020, class offerings were cut drastically and had to be offered through Zoom. NKA in Treasure Valley transitioned very successfully to a virtual offering of reduced class offerings during the same period.
“Sadly, we had to cancel the remainder of the Spring 2020 classes. In the Spring semester of 2021, we offered 30 classes via Zoom,” said Van Sickle. “It was definitely a learning process but one that paid off since we had teachers from out of state who taught some wonderful classes.”
While NKA in Treasure Valley experienced fewer classes, it also found a broader audience beyond their normal membership, thanks to the new virtual outreach, said CEWT’s Director, Gary Salazar.
“Most of our trips were canceled. Our lectures were provided over Zoom. Our membership was about half [of] normal,” said Trent Stephens, president of NKA Pocatello.
“In the early Fall 2020 and late Spring 2021, we had both Zoom lecture classes as well as in-person classes (with masks and distancing). Some of our dance classes resumed at the Elks Lodge, which gave us enough room for social distancing. We plan to return to a more normal class schedule for Fall 2021,” said Stephens.
As life slowly creeps back into a place of normalcy, the classes offered through NKA and FFL will also continue to grow.
Through the needed adaptations to new methods of delivery and a quick learning curve, using Zoom has opened the door for potential collaborative classes between the different Lifelong Learning groups.
NKA Pocatello, NKA Treasure Valley, and FFL Idaho Falls recently collaborated in a virtual “brainstorming” session to discuss the challenges each faced during the pandemic and the practices each is applying as they serve their communities. In the fall, all groups are planning on offering in-person classes as well as through Zoom so that classes can be taken by anyone across Idaho.
For more information on NKA or CEWT's other available class offerings, visit cetrain.isu.edu or call us at (208) 282-3372.