Story last updated at 4/24/2013 - 2:17 pm
Goldbelt Heritage Foundation has partnered with the University of Alaska Southeast School of Education to co-sponsor a course this spring for students from all three Juneau School District high schools. The focus of the class is to apply the strengths of the local community to promote cultural awareness and science literacy through place-based education.
The spring course was created as an extension of Goldbelt Heritage Foundation's "Aan Yátx'u Sáani Deíyí: Path to Excellence" summer academies. Each summer, through the Path to Excellence Academy, forty students have the chance to earn three university credits and ½ high school credit as they study math and science through the context of local culture. With the intent to offer academic and cultural support throughout the school year to all students, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation proposed the three university credit spring class, "Investigating Traditional Ecological Knowledge." As a result, thirteen students are currently enrolled in the course for university and high school credit.
The course encourages students to take into consideration the dynamic landscape of Southeast Alaska as they develop an understanding of the interconnectedness of nature, respect for life, western science methodology, Tlingit migration and language, and social roles and responsibilities. The intention is to pay tribute to the legacy of the Kwaans of our Southeast region and to allow students to discover the holistic thought processes that helped people thrive in Southeast Alaska.
Students are working closely with multiple community members to answer the driving question, "why do we live here?" Goldbelt Heritage Foundation is fortunate to be working closely with Tlingit elders and knowledge bearers for this class including Percy and Edward Jr. Kunz, Helen Watkins, David Katzeek, Paul Marks, Fred White, Liana Wallace, Edward Hotch, Victoria Johnson, John Smith, and Marsha Hotch. Additional contributors to the class are Discovery Southeast Naturalists Richard Carstensen, Steve Merli, and Rick Bellagh. University faculty includes Eran Hood, Daniel Monteith, and Frank Coenraad. The class has also created collaborations with Juneau School District teachers Henry Hopkins (JDHS), Kathleen Galau (TMHS), Paul Berg, Brita Steinberger (Yakoosge), Steve Hill (Yakoosge), Barbara Cadiente-Nelson, and local habitat biologist Cathy Pohl.
Rigorous content delivered to students focuses on the traditional educational model of what students can learn, rather than what a teacher can teach. Through the navigation of complex oral narratives, collegiate-level lectures, GIS (geographical information systems) technology, and field experiences, students have been exposed to a variety of "ways of knowing" in Southeast Alaska.
The course adheres to national and state standards for science as well as culturally-responsive school criteria. Students will demonstrate their ability to incorporate physical science, biology, culture, and society by completing a course-long group project of selecting and presenting the potential locations of year-round village sites. One example of class investigation includes how the students examined the ingenuity and complexity of Tlingit technology through canoe design as well as the expressions of science through oral narratives that allows future generations to receive ancient knowledge. The lesson drew parallels between modern examples of rockers, forward floatation devices, wave blocking devices, and bulbous bows to study Tlingit mastery of displacement, density, work efficiency, navigation, and relationships with Aleuts and other people.
The class demonstrates an ongoing collaborative effort between the University of Alaska Southeast School of Education and Goldbelt Heritage Foundation. The University of Alaska Southeast School of Education will be hosting the final presentations for the class. Students will continue to be involved with the School of Education this July during the UAS workshop on place-based education, "A Pedagogy of Place" that will further extend opportunities for teachers to integrate science, math, art, and culture into their classrooms. In addition to the co-sponsored course, Goldbelt Heritage Foundation continues to offer curriculum resource development and professional development opportunities for teachers to access local resources and expertise.
Goldbelt Heritage Foundation is also excited to announce the dates for this summer's Path to Excellence Academy to be June 23-July 3 and will be held at the University of Alaska Southeast. The application and additional information will be posted at www.goldbeltheritage.org/cultural-events