A recent article in our local newspaper highlighted Alaskan, Ida Ross. She is 82 years old and from the Fairbanks area but originally came from Kobuk and Kotzebue. The article shared her life as a youngster growing up in the native culture of Alaska. Presently, she teaches students at the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District about the history of Alaska and the Alaska Native people. She is the oldest and longest serving elder to work for the district. (If you wish to read the entire newspaper article, click on this link, but you will leave a secured website; not responsible for content.)
Ida works in a room called the Alaska Room at the school. This room is like a museum filled with cultural textiles, art work, stories, and artifacts depicting the various Alaskan Native tribes. Students come to her room to learn about the cultures. When they arrive the students are given a bar of soap and a butter knife. Ida asks the students to choose an animal to carve such as polar bear, seal, walrus, etc., and shows them the technique of carving. While students carve their animal, Ida tells stories about her early life growing up in Kobuk, a village near Fairbanks in the 1940’s. Students are actively involved in creating art while absorbing the cultural information and stories Ida shares.
Teachers, how about creating your own Alaska Room? Through reading Alaska books, children’s stories and tales, can your students put together information about the various cultures of Alaska into a “mini-museum”? Invite other classes into your mini-museum to share the information. Perhaps your own students can also carve soap bars into animals of Alaska.
Some helpful resources for cultural information:
“Pourquoi Is That The Way It Is? Writing Creatively to Explain” is a lesson plan posted by Jen Reiter, 2014 Teacher on the Trail™. The goal of the lesson, after analyzing mentor texts, is for students to create an original pourquoi tale to explain a natural phenomenon that is related to the Iditarod.
“Meet Kamik”, another plan posted by Jen Reiter, 2014 Teacher on the Trail™, is a book series based on memories of elders from Arviat, Nunavut.
The State of Alaska Official Alaska State Website has a section called, “Alaska Kids’ Corner”. It is filled with information on the native cultures of Alaska, famous Alaskans, the Russian heritage in Alaska, historical collections of Alaska and much more. This might be a great resource for you and your students as well. (You would be leaving a secured website – not responsible for content.)
Enjoy creating your own mini-museum to highlight Alaskan cultural history. Extend this idea by challenging your students to investigate and research the cultures of your own state. Can you create a mini-museum of your state’s artifacts, art work, history, and tales? Can students do the same for their family culture? What is important in their family’s traditions? Each student could create a memory box or fill a paper bag with items depicting important traditions/cultural events from their family.
The sky is the limit…be like Ida Ross and encourage your students to share culturally.
~Sled Dog Ed