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Ely Folk School


Morning Reflection Paddle


with Alexia Springer

Calendar Jun 25, 2021 at 7 am

Friday, June 25, 2021
7:00 AM - 9:00 AM 

Tuition: $25  Materials: $10

In this class we will canoe in silence as a group on Miners Lake. The goal is to be present, silently communicative with your boat partner, and reflective - whatever the morning brings you. The peace, stillness, and magic of the early morning hours speaks for itself.

You will also learn canoe terminology and basic strokes for maneuvering around a lake. As John Hayes and Alex Wilson write in their book Quiet Water: New Hampshire and Vermont, “The peaceful solitude of out-of-the-way lakes and ponds lures us to quiet-water paddling. … With quiet-water paddling, you can focus on being there instead of getting there."

Students should meet at the boat landing for Miners Lake at 7:00 AM, ready to go with a bag of necessities: snack, water, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, etc. We will do a brief hello and introduction to each other and about the canoe before launching. Once in our canoes, we will huddle for a poetry reading and proceed to paddle around the lake silently. At some point, we will stop for brief reflections, followed by practicing and/or learning basic canoe strokes.

EFS Volunteers are donating clean canoes, paddles, and PFDs for this class. If you have your own gear, please bring it to ensure proper fit and comfort. You are welcome to bring your own canoe or kayak, so long as it is properly licensed. 

This class is being held outdoors. The Ely Folk School encourages students to receive a vaccine for the coronavirus prior to attending class, but it is not required. 

About the Instructor: Alexia Springer has a degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism from Radford University and has worked as an outdoor educator at various camps and universities, most notably Earlham College as the Outdoor Education Coordinator.

"One of my favorite activities on canoe expeditions is taking what we would call a "voyageur start" which meant waking up early, breaking down camp, and setting out into our canoes for the day in the early morning hours. Somewhere along the way I started incorporating a poem reading followed by silent paddling," Alexia says. 

Create Your Own Nature-Inspired Switch Plate Cover


with Kay Vandervort

Calendar Jul 16, 2021 at 1 pm

Friday, July 16, 2021
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Tuition: $30  Materials: $15

This fun project allows students to play with polymer clay and add a pop of color to their homes! 

Students will stack, roll, cut and restack layers of polymer clay to create a variegated color palate to use for creating the switch plate cover. The block of clay is then stamped or drawn on to further enhance the design. Charms or small trinkets can be added if desired. 

Students will work primarily with a combination of green tones, but other colors will be available for those who want to move beyond a nature theme. Once completed, the switch plates can also be distressed with paint to give them an antiqued look. No previous experience is needed. 

This class is a great way to experiment with polymer clay before investing in supplies of your own. Decorative switch plate covers also make great gifts!

This class will be held in person with limited seats available. Masks should be worn and social distancing observed. In addition to adhering to CDC and Minnesota State guidelines, the Ely Folk School is monitoring local public health.

 About the Instructor: Kay Vandervort retired to Ely in 2014 and has become very involved in the community. She participates in AAUW (American Association of University Women,) works part-time at the Dorothy Molter Museum, and is involved in a book club, writing group, and a number of local discussion groups.

Kay enjoys experimenting with many types of craft media, is a wizard with color and jewelry design, and has taught a variety of creative jewelry classes at the Ely Folk School.


Will run

Bent Willow Rustic Furniture


with John Bajda

Calendar Aug 13, 2021 at 6 pm

Day One: Friday, August 13, 2021        6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Day Two: Saturday, August 28, 2021   8:00 AM - 4:00 PM 

Tuition: $120

Do you admire rustic furniture? Do you see handmade garden trellises, chairs made of sticks, rocking chairs, or garden benches and feel a little envy? You can build one yourself! This class gives you the instruction and space to dive into a one-of-a-kind rustic furniture project - your options are endless! 

Throughout history, craftspeople have used the natural looks of sticks and logs to express themselves creatively. This art is productive and highly practical while also allowing the crafter to showcase the beauty and variety offered by Mother Nature. Each and every piece will be unique since no two trees or branches are exactly the same. You will have the chance to design your piece based on the materials you find. 

Find a bend, twist, burl, or root which will make your piece truly your own creation. You’ll be able to build your piece in one day, with several hours of instruction and a willingness to put in a good day of wok. 

This rewarding class sends you home with a project you will use and admire for years to come. It is helpful to register in pairs - a partner can help you wrangle your sticks or logs and assemble your project. The partner attends class for free if they do not make their own project. 

Day One consists of an introduction to rustic furniture, a demonstration with some hands-on tool use, and information on building material. The time between classes will allow you to choose your exact project - Bench? Chair? Trellis? - and collect building material. Day Two will be spent building your project. 

John will give you all the instruction you need to gather workable materials on day one. You will then have two weeks to collect and create a rough sketch of your project. 

If you have questions or would like to begin collecting material prior to August 13, you can contact John at 218-340-0169  or

About the Instructor: John Bajda is a retired high school teacher and has been teaching rustic furniture building though his local community ed program for the past 15+ years. See one of John's bent willow chairs on display in the Ely Folk School window! 

Quiet Hunt for Forest Gold: Mushroom Foraging


with Olena Johnson

Calendar Aug 14, 2021 at 9 am

Saturday, August 14, 2021
9:00 AM - 1:00 PM 

Tuition: $54

In this course, you will learn the basic skills needed to safely identify and collect wild mushrooms. 

An initial hour-long classroom discussion will include a Mycology overview, identification, ethics, safety, storage, and preparation. We will cover top edible mushroom species to know and learn top poisonous species to avoid. In addition, we will discuss the best tools and techniques for efficient and environmentally-conscious mushroom hunting – including weather watching, trip planning, land surveys and mapping, mushroom hunting outfits, reference materials, new mushroom ID documentation, and mushroom preservation. We will have a Q&A session following the presentation. 

Weather permitting, we will reconvene in the State forest for two hours of mushroom hunting where we will apply newly learned knowledge. 

After you participate, you will receive a copy of the class presentation for your reference.

Who This Course is For:

This course is ideal for anyone interested in learning and improving skills of efficient and safe mushroom hunting, whether in a wilderness, rural, or urban setting. This course will be great for:

  • Beginning mushroom foragers seeking an introduction to mushroom hunting
  • Experienced mushroom hunters wishing to add new skills and insights to their existing foraging practices
  • Outdoor enthusiasts desiring better familiarity with the wild mushrooms they encounter in the field
  • Parents who wish to teach children the safest ways of interacting with wild mushrooms
  • Any mushroom-curious folks who want to identify the mushrooms they encounter!

Mushrooms are out there! Let’s go and get them!

About the Instructor: Olena Johnson is a certified wild mushroom harvester living in Chanhassen and Sturgeon Lake, Minnesota. She says the following of her foraging story: 

“I grew up in Ukraine and have been mushroom hunting for as long as I can remember. Back in Ukraine, every fall my family frequented forests near the Belarussian border to hunt for mushrooms. 

This annual tradition ceased after a Chernobyl nuclear accident when approximately 2,000,000 acres of forests were contaminated by radiation fallout and gathering of wild berries and mushroom foraging were prohibited. 

I rediscovered my mushroom hobby 15 years ago while hiking in Banning State park. Big clusters of Honey mushroom (Armillaria Sp.) brought back childhood memories and I was back in familiar territory. 

The rest is history; I was hooked on mushroom hunting again. Every summer and fall, I have been trekking to woods up north in search of the elusive ‘forest gold’. I knew my mushrooms but wanted to confirm North American species and learn English common names. I bought heaps of mushroom guides, read a multitude of internet posts, and watched an insane amount of YouTube videos. I took mushroom classes and got certified. Lo and behold, I started noticing mushrooms everywhere and began sharing my knowledge with curious folks seeing me with baskets full of mushrooms. The challenge now is to find as many or more than the year before and learn new species along the way.

Most of the time I go alone for my ‘quiet hunt’. I guard my ‘forest gold’ spots and do not share them even with my close friends. On very rare occasions, I will guide small groups of mushroom hunters. But I am always open to help ID mushrooms I know well and frequently share my mushroom bounty.”

Mushroom Cultivation: Three Ways to Grow Gourmet Mushrooms at Home


with Nik Prenevost

Calendar Sep 11, 2021 at 11 am

Saturday, September 11, 2021
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Tuition: $25

Mushroom growing is gaining in popularity as people are better understanding the health benefits as well as the culinary value. Various mushrooms have peaked peoples interest for home cultivation. Growing shiitakes, lion's mane, wine caps and oyster mushrooms are an excellent way to easily grow mushrooms for your own consumption.

The class will cover three different methods to grow mushrooms year round. These three methods range from beginner to intermediate so anyone could participate, even kids! Mushroom growing is a unique experience that brings learning opportunities for growing your own food.

Grow your food. Eat your mushrooms.

About the Instructor: Nik Prenevost cultivated mushrooms at Mississippi Mushrooms LLC for seven years from 2012-2019 and is currently a consultant for growing mushrooms in the Twin Cities. 

"I believe in supplementing your diet with locally sourced food that you have grown yourself. It is the ultimate way to know what it is in your food and what inputs it took to grow it. Cultivating mushrooms is one of the most satisfying forms of growing food I have experienced, especially since the turn around is so quick in comparison to tradition garden growing plants. Fungal farming is an exciting adventure that keeps me learning new techniques to cultivate but also insights into how our own biome works. When I grow mushrooms, I feel so connected to the food source and the final dish tastes that much better. I want to help people learn through easy techniques to grow mushrooms and be apart of this growing trend."


Invasive Color: Using Invasive Species as Natural Dyes


with Theresa Hornstein

Calendar Sep 18, 2021 at 9 am

Saturday, September 18, 2021
9:00 AM - 2:00 PM 

Tuition: $60  Materials: $12

Did you know many invasive plants can be used as natural dyes? There's no guilt about peeling off the bark or pulling up the whole plant to make these dye baths! Students will learn plant identification, a bit of natural history, and how to use these otherwise undesirable species to create beautiful colors. Experimentation will include the use of modifiers and mordants and several different methods for obtaining colors. Each student will go home with a 8 different dyed skeins, approximately 30 yards each. The instructor will provide yarn and all dye materials. Students should bring a plastic bag for samples.

Beginner and experienced natural dyers welcome!

About the Instructor: Theresa Hornstein was trained as a biologist and worked in academia for over 35 years. However, she has always had a passion for the arts, specially fiber. Working with natural dyes has been a way to combine her passions. For the last 4 years, she's been focused on using invasive species as dyes and is currently working on a book on a book on the subject. 

Capturing Fall Colors


with Ken Hupila

Calendar Sep 25, 2021 at 9 am

Saturday, September 25, 2021
9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Tuition: $84

Be a part of an autumn tradition in the North Country – observing and photographing fall color! This class will provide a one hour orientation on techniques and equipment utilization while in the field. We’ll then take our gear into the Superior National Forest and look for numerous vistas, unique perspectives, cozy vignettes and macro work. With luck we may come across some forest critters as a bonus!   

Class will meet initially at the Ely Folk School. Bring lunch, camera and gear - manual, all lenses, tripod, remote release, circular polarizer (if you have it) - and rubber boots. Dress for the weather. You may choose to carpool or caravan, dependent on public health and personal comfort.

About the Instructor: Ken Hupila grew up and lived in Northern Minnesota for most of his life. He moved to the Ely area in 1978 and has been a resident here since.

Ken is an educator, having taught in the Ely School System for 33 years. He is an outdoor adventurer who has canoed, camped, hunted and fished from Alaska to Minnesota –including a 500-mile, 27-day paddle on the Albany River to Hudson Bay in 2006. He has been a wilderness guide for over 40 years in the BWCA and Superior National Forest.

He became a professional photographer in 2001, specializing the past 5 years in outdoor photography. Recently he entered the writing world as an outdoor author covering topics such as his guiding experiences, his trip to Hudson Bay as well as personal wilderness trips that he has taken into the backcountry. Ken has taught photography classes through Community Education and the Ely Folk School for the past several years.

Nature Writing for Women: Honor Autumn: Live Online


with DyAnne Korda

Calendar Oct 9, 2021 at 10 am

Saturday, October 9, 2021
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM 

Tuition: $26

As autumn’s colorful landscapes peak, we pause to appreciate summer’s bounty and embrace the season to come. Set aside one Saturday morning to discover the richness of your inner harvest through nature writing. This session is designed to celebrate the strong bond between women and the natural world. You will generate written pieces through free-flowing writing exercises and discussion within a supportive circle of women. Time permitting, you’ll also have the opportunity to share a piece of writing that you find especially inspiring.

About the Instructor: Dyanne Korda is a poet and experienced writing instructor. Her work has been published in many journals including The Wisconsin Academy Review. She is author of several poetry and story collections including This Earth Woman, Path of Belonging, and Finding the Lost Woman.

Korda was awarded her second Individual Artist Grant through the Donald G. Gardener Humanities Trust and an Artist Access Grant through the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council to complete her most recent book, The Shore’s Absolute Edge.

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