Character Education

Alaska’s native people groups and the Iditarod share the distinction as teaching tools for character education. 

“My mother told me, ‘when you get into the qasgi and someone starts to talk, turn to him and look at his mouth very carefully. If you do not look at his mouth while he is talking, you will never remember what he said.” –Teddy Brink, Kasigluk

The quote sounds like something I would say to my students. This came from the Native Alaskan Heritage Museum in Anchorage. I was so impressed with some of the native values listed among the exhibits. There were common themes between the people groups of Alaska: Yup’ik, Cup’ik, Inupiaq, Tlingit, Athabascan, Sugpiaq, Unangax, St. Lawrence Island. The quotes from around the museum could be rules posted in a 21st century classroom.

“Our lives would be different if there were no Elders. Our language would disappear because the Elders speak it most. They teach the younger generations and that generation will teach the next. Without Elders, nothing would be the same.” –Whittier Burns, Noatak

Young people from the various native groups led tours in homes around the museum outdoor walk which were built based on the environment and natural resources of the region.  Those along the Bering coastline often had shelters underground to protect from the fierce wind.  Wooden houses were built in the interior. Young people work at the museum to pass along the traditions of their people. I found their t-shirts to be representative of their strong values.

“When I started going to the qasgi, my mother would say to me, ‘Go and try to steal.’ I am very afraid of stealing. She was actually saying that I will steal information if I listen and learn from the person who is giving instruction, even though I am not literally taking anything. If I learn things that I will recall, I will live by those things all my life.” –Paul Kiunya, Kipnuk

As many school districts have character education recommendations for teachers, consider using quotes such as those above and lessons involving the Iditarod.  The mushers and dogs show perseverance, determination, loyalty, respect, good attitude, and team work.  Strong lesson ideas can be found at the following link from the Iditarod website: