Jelinski hoping Aviation Museum and Learning Centre will take flight with educators, students
Tucked away in a rather nondescript building near the Saskatoon International Airport is the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum and Learning Centre.
It is not until you go down a narrow hallway, adorned with pictures of Saskatchewan aviators from past years, and open the door at the far end that you come to the showpiece of the facility. This is where you will find quite an impressive collection of aircraft (not all are going to see the skies again mind you).
As Jim Jelinski readily acknowledged, the mere existence of this facility is a well-kept secret to the public. It is something the one-time administrator with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools would very much like to remedy.
Since joining the board of directors of the non-profit Saskatchewan Aviation Historical Society, he has made it pretty much a daily part of his routine to the chagrin of his wife he joked.
It is, however, very much a blend of two of his great passions–aviation and now increasingly a strong push to pass on the province’s rich aviation history to Grades 6 and 10 students.
Jelinski noted that when he came on board, the Learning Centre appendage was pretty much in name only since none of the other board members had any education-related experience.
“So I sat down and came up with the proposed workshop modules we have now. We want to get the word out to teachers that we are able to offer a really good product here that dovetails nicely with the curriculum. We are able to provide an environment where students can take theory to reality and it comes alive for them. You can talk about aviation history, but this takes it to another level.
“Whether it’s getting on the simulator, kicking the tires or the smell of oil from the engines, it has the wow factor for sure. In a lot of cases the kids, and even adults, are overwhelmed by what we have for them to experience here,” he added.
“I like teaching the theory aspect, and I’m able to bring the pilot component into it and tell stories so it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy seeing the light go on for the kids. That is very validating because for a lot of them, they don’t know anything about the aviation history we have in this province.”
While the focus of the Grade 6 module is to review parts of the plane and the four forces of thrust, drag, life and gravity, the Grade 10 module includes information on the direct and indirect careers that can come through the aviation industry. Recalling for a moment his time as an educator, Jelinski said two of his former pupils have become pilots and he reckons exposure to this well-equipped facility could also strike a cord for future students.
Jelinski said while thus far the school visits have been pretty limited, the reaction afterwards has been extremely positive so he is confident there is a definite niche with the museum and learning centre in the future.
That is why he has become the salesman, noting it is his hope that when a school group does come through, they leave wanting to talk to others about the experience.
There are big plans for upgrades to the facility with Aviation Weekend scheduled for May 25 and 26 and is seen as the primary fundraiser for starters. In the inaugural such event a year ago, they attracted 1,500 people and the goal for this year is 5,000.
“There is an appetite out there and we want to get the word out,” Jelinski said. He noted that the focus is purposely on what role Saskatchewan has had to play in aviation as opposed to promoting the sort of military aircraft that tends to highlight air shows.
Ideally, Jelinski indicated that the society would like to raise $10 million over the next five years, which he concedes is hardly a modest goal. He is, however, optimistic as the group now has a deed on the building, although there are other tenants renting space as well. If successful, there are plans to revamp the whole front end of the facility, even though he is well aware such plans will take time and money.
For more information, or to make arrangements for a tour, visit www.saskaviation.ca.