Cultural Standards for Students:
Culturally knowledgeable students are well grounded in the cultural heritage and traditions of their community. This is one of the 27 Cultural Standards that are now a required component of all educational programs in Alaska:
Culturally knowledgeable students are well grounded in the cultural heritage and traditions of their community.
For each Cultural Standard, there are a half-dozen examples of what that standard looks like in practice. Copies of these documents are available at the web site address that I will give you at the end of the presentation.
In addition to the Cultural Standards themselves, Native people have also developed a series of guidelines to help implement the standards in various elements of the educational system, including outlining what teachers need to know and be able to do to successfully implement the standards in their schools. If anyone is interested in more information on how these ideas impact teacher preparation, you can speak with my wife, Carol, who is the head of the Elementary Teacher Education Program in Fairbanks and is here with us this evening.
Another area of consideration was a set of guidelines on the role of traditional parenting and child-rearing practices as they might be incorporated in school and community practices.
Of particular concern was the need to acquaint teachers, most of whom come from outside the communities in which they teach, with local practices regarding the role of Elders and the protocols associated with the knowledge they contribute to the educational process. This is one of the Elders who shared much about her own up-bringing and helped find ways to bring that local knowledge into the schools in culturally appropriate ways. You will be hearing more about Louise when Cecilia describes the educational philosophy that is embedded in the next slide.
As you will see when you hear from Cecilia, the Yup\’ik and Cup\’ik people of Southwest Alaska are quite capable of defining their own deeply rooted expectations when it comes to the education of their children.
As I indicated earlier, there are many areas in which there is local knowledge in every community that can serve as a starting point for teaching the subject matter that we draw upon for the school curriculum. Left are just a few examples of the place- and culture-based educational resources we have developed to illustrate how what students experience in school can be built upon the life they lead out of school.
For example, there is very little that we teach in the science curriculum that can\’t be demonstrated through examples drawn from the local community, including remote villages in rural Alaska.
Sled runners can be used to illustrate friction. Local weather observations can be compared with satellite images to study meteorology. The local language can be used to identify the many variations of snow and ice conditions to illustrate states of matter, sublimation, energy transfer, thermodynamics, etc.
Math problems can be constructed around local themes.
Local knowledge about constellations, celestial navigation, tidal patterns, seasonal change indicators, etc. are abundant in every community and can bring learning alive in ways that are seldom achieved in the classroom setting alone.
Knowledge about local edible and medicinal plants and traditional healing practices continue to be a matter of survival in many Native communities, to the point where ethno-botany has become a field of study in its own right.
To help teachers see the possibilities and benefits of tapping into the knowledge base in the surrounding community and environment, we have developed a \”Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum\”.
The curriculum materials and cultural resources that are developed by teachers have been assembled in a web-based curriculum clearinghouse to make them available to teachers anywhere in Alaska and beyond.
As these curriculum resources have accumulated over the past ten years, we have been able to organize them around a series of themes that provide a culturally-based framework that is now being put to use to serve as a full grade 7-12 curriculum in a demonstration school in Fairbanks.
The Effie Kokrine Charter School is organized on a year-round seasonal calendar and all courses are offered on an intensive three-week block schedule, to allow time for students to spend extended periods of time out in the community and surrounding environment.
In summary, the river banks and ocean shores of Alaska are increasingly providing the most promising learning environment for achieving the goals of both academic and cultural education.
Through a place- and culturally-based pedagogy, students are being prepared to make a life for themselves in a global world while at the same time learning the skills to serve as knowledgeable stewards of their own communities and the environment on which their livelihood depends.
And teachers are learning to not just teach about culture as another subject in the school curriculum, but to teach through the local culture as a doorway unto the world.
You can find much more information about the issues I\’ve discussed here today on the Alaska Native Knowledge Network web site at www.ankn.uaf.edu.