Paul Smith’s College and the Akwesasne Mohawk Partner to Create a Mobile Cultural Center—with Construction Underway

Nov 10, 2022 | News

Paul Smith’s College Students Get Valuable Hands-on Experience Assisting in the Design and Building of the Center

Paul Smith’s, NY– Paul Smith’s College and the Akwesasne Mohawk are partnering to create a mobile Cultural Learning Lab. The Cultural Learning Lab will serve as a hub of historical and cultural information about the Akwesasne community, including serving as a mobile meeting space, for tutoring, and promoting the use of the Mohawk language.

The partnership was formed in 2020 when Akat Ransom, Director of the nonprofit Nia’s Little Library, reached out to Paul Smith’s Dr. Deb Naybor for help. Known as the college’s “The Tiny House Professor” Dr. Naybor, along with Paul Smith’s students, provided assistance in planning, developing, and constructing the center. Although the COVID pandemic put the center on hold until 2022, construction is finally underway.

The Cultural Learning Lab is being underwritten from a grant from the Mohawk’s of Akwesasne Settlement Trust Fund which was approved this past summer. Construction of the Cultural Learning Lab on wheels began this August with students completing their sustainability capstone project assisting in the design and construction of the facility.

Akat Ransom, Director of the nonprofit Nia’s Little Library said, “It will be like a tiny house filled with cultural and language materials, books, crafts, tutoring in both English and Mohawk—and it includes something for all ages! It can move to local schools, community centers, powwows, and other events in order to make cultural education easily accessible.”

The Cultural Learning Lab has a sustainable design, focused on using locally sourced, natural or renewed materials to create an energy efficient space that provides a place for books, drums, artwork, and meetings.

“We wanted to respect traditional meeting places, such as a longhouse, while making it fit the limitations of being mobile,” said Dr. Deb Naybor, Assistant Professor at Paul Smith’s College. “Our students are proud of how much we were able to do so far but we have a lot more to do.  We’re hoping to add solar power and we’ll be installing a kitchenette and bookshelves.”

The Learning Lab exterior will be finished soon and next semester the interior will be completed by a new crew of Paul Smith’s College students.

This wasn’t the first time the two organizations partnered. During the height of the pandemic, Dr. Naybor and her students worked with Nia’s Little Library to create over a dozen free tiny libraries and a small bookmobile to promote access to books in the Akwesasne area.

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