Our School: An Arctic community prepares its young for the future

Lauren Markham in Orion Magazine:

MarkhamBeginning in 2006, Harcharek spent two years asking a version of that question to elders throughout the North Slope. She wanted to know: What should Iñupiaq students understand, value, want, and dream? What do they need to get there? What should our schools look like and feel like, and what should we teach in them? The elders’ response was almost unanimous: given that the modern world is encroaching, and that the earth itself is changing in ways both subtle and swift, it’s important to integrate the old ways and the new ways—traditional knowledge and contemporary thinking—into what the community’s young people are taught. Today, the North Slope Bureau School District’s twelve Iñupiaq values—identified during those conversations with elders—hang in classrooms throughout the region:

Avoidance of Conflict
Hunting Traditions
Knowledge of Language
Family and Kinship
Respect for Elders and for Each Other
Respect for Nature

Harcharek and her team also developed four “realms” of the district’s core curriculum, all related to the Iñupiaq values: the Environmental Realm, which includes lessons about hunting, survival, and respect for the land; the Community Realm, which includes units on parenting, cooperation, and the roles of elders in the community; the Historical Realm, which includes storytelling and discussions of Iñupiaq culture in a global context; and the Individual Realm, which includes learning about leadership, values and beliefs, naming systems, and the cycle of life. Harcharek and others then painstakingly mapped the Iñupiaq Learning Framework to the state-mandated student-learning standards. (The Winter Sources of Drinking Water unit, for example, incorporates both the Alaska state standard for earth science and the Iñupiaq Learning Framework’s standard for lessons about the complex technology developed by the Iñupiat people, which allows them to live in the harsh Arctic climate.)

More here.