Characteristics of Culturally Responsive Teaching: I appreciated how Paula Savikko had her students engage in place-based scientific inquiry as shown in her classes investigation and survey of local infestations of Japanese knotweed, her classes’ jellyfish and clam surveys on Juneau beaches, as well as the water-quality/organic life survey of Switzer creek. Her students had to engage with the history and environment of Juneau while engaged with their work – be it becoming aware of the purposely introduced knotweed as an ornamental so many decades ago, or becoming aware of the high amount of tailings from former Juneau mines that exist on certain Juneau beaches, or having to interact with a modern state bureaucracy (ADF&G) while securing the “Specimen Collection” permit. What most impressed me though was that Ms. Savikko created her own audiences for each project (as someone else in our class pointed out). She invited the public to a CLUE-like presentation of the mysterious knotweed, submitted their scientifically gathered beach survey results to ADF&G and reported their findings to the residential community around Switzer Creek. That kind of public interfacing moves the theoretical to the actual and is the kind of thing that (hopefully) makes learning more real for students.
The math-trails lesson offered by Tina Pasteris was the only fun math lesson I have ever been given. In a sense, it didn’t take much, but in another sense it was perfectly tailored to place. Being asked to solve math “problems” while interfacing with the art and architecture of the UAS campus was really smart and cool. It was really fun too interacting with my group and functioned as a bonding experience.
The diaper vs. spaghnum moss science experiment offered by Professor Lunda was very similar in concept to Ms. Pasteris’ lesson, except we had to engage with scientific thinking in comparing a resource in our local environment that functioned similarly to a modern day industrial product. I’ve long appreciated Alaska’s mosses:) and was happy, though not terribly, surprised to hear about their traditional Tlingit use in child-rearing and medicine. Again this was also a lot of fun and functioned as team building exercise.
Probably the neatest thing for me about the panel of Elders wasn’t anything in particular that was said, but was in watching the interactions between the Elders and the Tlingit youth (but like Matt, I did appreciate the advice that sensing fear is often what causes a bear to strike). The high school students were so excited and respectful of the Elders; they seemed much more rapt and attentive to the stories being told than the average crowd of high schoolers would be while being talked to by a panel of adults. I mean, to be fair, on it’s face it wasn’t exactly a dynamic set-up for a crowd of kids: a line of seated adults taking time to speak into a microphone to a room-full of kids. But the kids were respectful and seemed into it! I was also impressed by how much the words “Gunalcheesh” were repeated by everyone. They were repeated far more than they would be in my own white culture.
CRT Strategies in Language Arts: I’m really interested in the interfacing of Literature with social issues and History. It also helps to draw parallels or at least comparisons to local issues/history when discussing the issues and history that exist within a novel, story or poem’s world/worldview. Teaching The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn provides an example for this. It would be really interesting to discuss and compare the different social milieus between the Missouri river of the pre-Civil War era to the world of the Kuskokwin and Yukon rivers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. White on Black Slavery vs. Russian and American colonial domination of the Yupik and Athabascan peoples invites obvious discussion. Just one question: What were the economic and political forces in each area that were at work? Another example is a reading of Things Fall Apart that leads into a discussion about the similarities and differences between the colonial and post-colonial experiences of Nigeria and Alaska Native cultures.
Further Thoughts on CRT
Michelle made me realize that by choosing a culturally relevant topic for the class (WWII in the Aleutians) she could basically hand a bunch of photos and questions to class groups and let us generate discussion. And the fact that (1) the topic was “locally” interesting and (2) presented as questions and not as facts made that possible.
Kathy Nielsen made me realize that there is a use for certain children’s books at the Secondary Level. But honestly, I wasn’t convinced that most of the books would reach High Schoolers. However, when one does it’s a great opportunity for visual, auditory (through reading it to the class) and reading learners to receive access to knowledge through a single “device.” The children’s books that succeed on a high school level need awesome pictures and need to speak to the kids beyond myth. I found the straight myths to probably be boring to most of the kids. The right book needs to also tie it back to the local environment, I think.
I appreciated Ernestine Haye’s readings and comments. She’s had a really tough life and a very inspiring mid life renaissance. Her commentary though kept coming back to the word “colonialism.” And I did feel she failed to define what colonialism is to her. Was it federal, was it state, white, modern…all of the above? This normally wouldn’t be a problem, except that she was adamant that we really couldn’t stay on the sidelines. She said that if you don’t actively resist colonialism, you become an ally of it by default. I might be able to buy that but if a speaker is going to be as strident in her message as she was, I think they owe it to their audience to go into further detail. To define their terms at the least. Anyway, I appreciate her story, I just wished her “call to arms” was more fully fleshed out. Before you do that we can’t even really begin a discussion/debate I think.