Community, curriculum, collaboration

I found another online community that I can use to help further my knowledge of teaching. The name of the group is NGSS which stands for Next Generation Science Standards. This one has to do with Biology teachers that are primarily in high school but there are some info and lessons that would fit into the middle schools easily as well. Within the group, there are biology teachers from around the country that help each other with standards, lessons, ideas, textbooks, labs, and lots of other great resources.

I find this very helpful for as a new teacher or a teacher that wants to mix things up and add different material. I plan on asking questions and then helping others when I can as I learn more. This expands the learning community from just the school and town that I live and teach in, to a much larger scope of assistance.

Culturally-Responsive Lesson Plan

Below you will find a PDF file of my lesson plan, Exploring Rhythm and Pulse in Inupiaq Dance Music:

Exploring Rhythm and Pulse in Inupiaq Dance Music

Below is a link to the PDF version of my lesson chapter from the Arctic section of the iBook:

Katie Kroko Inupiaq Music Lesson

Below are links to online resources and YouTube videos used in the lesson plan:

King Island & Little Diomede Dancers

on YouTube

Kivgiq 1988 Point Hope on


1987 King Island Eskimo Dancers ­ Raven Dance on YouTube

Barrow Dancers; Loon Dance

on YouTube

Barrow Dancers; Whaling

Dance on YouTube

AFN 2013 Point Hope Dancers

d9 from YouTube

Alaska Native Dance at

Echospace artice on Education through Historical Organizations


Here is a list of the Alaska cultural standards for curriculum, which my lesson plan incorporates:

  • Cultural Standard A – a culturally-responsive curriculum reinforces the integrity of the cultural knowledge that students bring with them.
    • Section 1: a culturally-responsive curriculum recognizes that all knowledge is imbedded in a larger system of cultural beliefs, values and practices, each with its own integrity and interconnectedness
    • Section 2: a culturally-responsive curriculum insures that students acquire not only the surface knowledge of their culture, but are also well grounded in the deeper aspects of the associated beliefs and practices;
    • Section 3: a culturally-responsive curriculum incorporates contemporary adaptations along with the historical and traditional aspects of the local culture;
    • Section 4: a culturally-responsive curriculum respects and validates knowledge that has been derived from a variety of cultural traditions;
    • Section 5: a culturally-responsive curriculum provides opportunities for students to study all subjects starting from a base in the local knowledge system.
  • Cultural Standard C – a culturally-responsive curriculum uses the local language and cultural knowledge as a foundation for the rest of the curriculum.
    • Section 3: a culturally-responsive curriculum incorporates language and cultural immersion experiences wherever in-depth cultural understanding is necessary.
    • Section 4: a culturally-responsive curriculum views all community members as potential teachers and all events in the community as potential learning opportunities.
    • Section 5: a culturally-responsive curriculum treats local cultural knowledge as a means to acquire the conventional curriculum content as outlined in state standards, as well as an end in itself.
    • Section 7: a culturally-responsive curriculum is sensitive to traditional cultural protocol, including role of spirituality, as it relates to appropriate uses of local knowledge.
  • Cultural Standard D – a culturally-responsive curriculum fosters a complementary relationship across knowledge derived from diverse knowledge systems.
    • Section 1: a culturally-responsive curriculum draws parallels between knowledge derived from oral tradition and that derived from books.


I feel that my lesson plan embodies the aforementioned cultural standards because it embraces and enhances the knowledge that students bring with them to the classroom, it uses the local Inupiaq language and culture as a foundation for the lesson and the music curriculum, and it fosters a complementary relationship between western classical music learned in an ensemble setting and Inupiaq traditional music learned through oral transmission.  I think that my lesson on rhythm and pulse in Inupiaq music is most clearly linked to Cultural Standard C, specifically sections 3, 4, 5, and 7.  This lesson requires immersion in the Inupiaq language in order to learn the words to the songs in the lesson plan.  It also requires cultural immersion in order to learn the motions to the dances and their meanings.  This lesson treats members of the local community as teachers, and invites local Inupiaq Elders to the classroom to conduct the main portion of the music lesson.  Traditional music and dance are elements of local cultural knowledge, and learning and honoring traditional art forms is the main focus of this lesson.  In addition, learning traditional Inupiaq music and dance can help students to learn conventional music content standards by building skills such as inner pulse, rhythmic stability, and eurythmics.  In this lesson, all activities would take place under the guidance of or with the approval of the Elder leading the lesson, and all content would sensitively convey local cultural knowledge.  The role of the classroom music teacher is to enhance and build upon the cultural material presented by the Elder and to weave connections with western classical music concepts.


Involve elders, parents, and local leaders in all aspects of instructional planning.

The lesson I wanted to talk about with the students through their community of elders, culture bearers, and families is how language empowers us. A mentor at BHS told me a story that resonated with me. She told me that when she learned that one of her cousins passed away that that information was relayed in English. She said she could not feel anything and she was surprised about the lack of feeling. She went on to tell me that the word for cousin in Inupiaq loosely translates to “a part of you is in a part of me”. When she went home and thought about losing her cousin in her native language, she felt a rush of emotions. My vision for this lesson is to invite elders, culture bearers, family members into the class to talk about boarding schools so that the students can hear first-hand how the times were back then, provide them with a balanced view, and build community. I am by no means the person to teach this portion of the lesson. I would like the students to find the issues that speak to them and reflect so that they are able to answer the question: what can we do today? In doing so, I feel that their editorial articles will be authentic and written for a greater audience than our class.

LBDrake Lesson Plan_2

Lesson Plan: Ethnobotany

This lesson plan intended to be used in combination with my iBook lesson “Ethnobotany.” LessonPlanEthnobotany (1)

This lesson meets various cultural standards, but the ones I focused on are as follows: 

Curriculum Standard B: A culturally-responsive curriculum recognizes cultural knowledge as part of a living and constantly adapting system that is grounded in the past, but continues to grow through the present and into the future.

  1. Recognizes the contemporary validity of much of the traditional cultural knowledge, values and beliefs, and grounds students learning in the principles and practices associated with that knowledge. 

Student Cultural Standard C: Culturally-knowledgeable students are able to actively participate in various cultural environments.

  1. Perform subsistence activities in ways that are appropriate to local cultural traditions.

2. Attain a healthy lifestyle through which they are able to maintain their own social, emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being.

I wanted to create a lesson that emphasized that Alaska Native (specifically Athabascan) knowledge of plants. Within the lesson, I tried to emphasize the “contemporary validity” of plants in Alaska. Plants were used for medicinal and subsistence purposes and they are STILL used this way today by many Alaska Native people and others who have learned techniques from them throughout the years. I wanted students, regardless of their own cultural background, to be reminded that the plants of Alaska are also a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. I also wanted students to be introduced to the wealth of resources available written by Alaska Native people and various tribal organizations, sharing recipes, translations, and uses for plants.

Cultural values and oral history lesson plan

I chose to do my lesson plan as a way to connect cultural values, history, and oral traditions in the classroom.  I have looked at the poster of Traditional Values in Alaska for many years, along with our Southeast Traditional Values poster – they are up in my classrooms throughout the school district.  I’ve often wondered if it’s ever gone farther than that, I know that CCTHITA (Tlingit and Haida) has some dvd’s from a project asking elders to speak to this values which I’ve had the opportunity to watch bits and pieces.  But with no Tlingit teachers at the high school I work at, or few, if any, in the district, I wonder if any have ‘spoken to’ the values in the poster, or if there are up there as a symbolic representation that this is a culturally safe space, or some other reason I can’t think of right now to write down.  How do we make these values posters relevant to the teachers and students that walk past them everyday?

So with this in mind I created this lesson, I tried to do it in a way that I could use it as a unit to approach all of the different regions in Alaska during an Alaska History class – though I could pull different aspects of it to use in a Sociology class.

I could go on and on about the reasons behind my lesson but I always try to be mindful of what I’ve heard from different speakers on Native education:

“Don’t teach us our culture, teach us through our culture.”

This can be so tricky to navigate as an educator – we have to be so mindful of the language we use, the tone we use, and the manner in which we speak.  As we carefully facilitate and guide our students, we can validate cultures, values, beliefs, histories, technology, intellect, and ways of knowing.

I believe my lesson best exemplifies Cultural Curriculum Standard A.1.) recognizes that all knowledge is imbedded in a larger system of cultural beliefs, values and practices, each with its own integrity and interconnectedness.

I start my lesson with a discussion on values, cultural values of the Inupiat and then spend time with activities that I hope will allow students to see the integrity and validity of the oral histories and values of the Inupiat.  The final project is shaped in a way for students to create an oral history based on cultural values and perspective (I do my best to refrain from using ‘storytelling’ because I don’t think it does justice, nor validates, the beauty, power, and intellect found in a culture’s oral traditions).  Then, maybe, that poster won’t just be something they walk by anymore.

MPJ Arctic Region Lesson Plan

Inupiaq values page


Inupiat Photo Gallery

What’s a boat to do

*Don’t have a full 41 sec. to spare… jump to 24 sec. and hold your breath.

Alaska’s culture is inherently linked to boating culture. We are and have often been bound by our ability to move across or on the water. Overshadowed by air travel and often overlooked is the profound impact boating technology has on all of this state’s residents and billions of people worldwide. Here at home store shelves stay stocked only if the barge arrives on time, reaching the road system usually requires a ferry, and harvesting a winter’s worth of halibut or salmon is exceeding difficult without a boat assist. Travelers, adventurers, and rural residents today rely on boats of all shapes, sizes, and propulsion methods to reach their respective destinations. Whether it be a 18’ Lund shallow V, 35’ a bow- picker, or a 6lb. pack raft we love boats. Funny side note, boats need water; I love water, hence I love boats. Now you know.

My lesson plan has to do with our recognition of the simple fact that we are reliant on these crafts large and small for tasks for which they were designed and sometimes not. I have indicated, in my lesson, that several state standards are addressed whether it be scientific process of design, utilization of technological innovations, understanding properties of matter, developing an understanding of the interrelationships among individuals and their respective cultures, but I believe the lesson here is most closely tied to state standard F 3, which reads, “develop an understanding of the importance of recording and validating cultural knowledge”. I say this because the lesson contains an activity where students will make some comparisons between a contemporary modern kayak to a biadarka. The grandfather of the modern Kayak, the biadarka has been copied and has further evolved to meet the specific needs of people where ever they are in the polar region.
For more on this, see:

The lesson first asks students to consider boats in general and how they (students) are connected to boats and their many uses. Then the students are asked to determine what features of a given boat make it useful for a particular application and how they know that. In small groups students will be in charge of their exploration to compare and contrast the two similar and describe them using the data collected. For more on that see the attached lesson.

Our Global Boating Culture

Keynote slides- boats

Writing Activism: Project Chariot and the People of Point Hope

My lesson, “Writing Activism: Project Chariot and the People of Point Hope,” draws on Culturally Responsive Curriculum Standard E: situating local knowledge and actions in a global context.

Standard E encourages students to “think globally, act locally.” My students will learn about Project Chariot and the successful opposition mounted by the Inupiat of Point Hope. They will take on the role of Inupiat activists, and will write letters of protest directed at a specific audience. My hope is that students will come to understand that acting on a local level, even in the most remote areas of Alaska, can have global results.

Project Chariot, the 1958 AEC proposal to blast a harbor in the coast of Alaska using buried nuclear bombs, would have sent unprecedented levels of fallout drifting over North America and the Arctic. To put the plan in context, here is Dan O’Neill comparing the plan to Sedan, a nuclear test in Nevada:

A shot the size of Sedan, fired at Ogotoruk Creek, could have dropped radioactive fallout over the entire length of the North Slope of Alaska, or penetrated 1,000 miles into Siberia…The Chariot shot, at its smallest configuration (280 kilotons), would have been nearly three times as powerful as Sedan. At its largest configuration, Chariot would have been twenty-four times larger (O’Neill, 1994, p. 275).

At the time when it was first proposed, Chariot seemed very likely to go through. Without the Inupiat and their determination to defend their land rights and protect their environment, it most likely would have gone through. The consequences would have been devastating, not only for the Inupiat, but for the rest of the world as well.

The Inupiat succeeded for two reasons. First, they were willing to oppose Chariot with everything they had, even when they seemed to be the only opponents. And second, they made an effort to raise awareness and gather allies from all over the country. By the time Chariot was abandoned in 1962, it had many vocal opponents – but the organized resistance to the plan started with the people of Point Hope and their refusal to be manipulated by the AEC. I hope that the example of the Inupiat will inspire my students to see themselves as members of a global community of activists.

I’m attaching three slideshows that go with this lesson, so that the teacher can give a series of brief presentations on the history behind Chariot. The first one introduces the idea of Project Chariot, without giving any details beyond the project itself. The second one gives the history and rationale behind the project. The third – to be used at the end of the lesson, after the students have written their letters – explains how the Inupiat were eventually able to defeat Chariot.

Slideshow A

Slideshow B

Slideshow C

Edited to add: I forgot to credit Mischa Jackson for the idea behind this lesson. When I brought up the idea of doing a lesson on Project Chariot, Mischa immediately suggested centering the lesson on activism and having the students write letters. I thought it was a great idea, so I used it.