Social Studies Standards (TMHS)

Alaska Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies:

Alaska State Standards for History Performance & GLEs:

Alaska State Standards for History Content:
A: A student should understand that history is a record of human experiences that links the past to the present and the future.
A student should understand historical themes through factual knowledge of time, places, ideas, institutions, cultures, people, and events.
A student should develop the skills and processes of historical inquiry.
A student should be able to integrate historical knowledge with historical skill to effectively participate as a citizen and as a lifelong learner.

A focus that my host teacher and I have in our Social Studies lesson planning, is introducing students to the idea that our culture shapes who we are and affects how we perceive the world and how others perceive us. This idea connects to the Alaska History Content Standard A: A student should understand that history is a record of human experiences that links the past to the present and the future, by showing students that their stories are also part of Alaska’s history (and not just the content in the textbooks). Particularly in the class, Alaska History, students are often asked to analyze and reflect upon their own culture, in order to become open-minded to understanding the development of other cultures, such as the Alaska Native tribes.

Such lessons included:
1. Making a table that responds to the essential question of: How does physical geography influence cultural development?
In this lesson, students are asked to write the distinct cultural features of their school, Juneau, Alaska, USA, etc… and see how the cultural features of our locality may differ from that of other places.

2. Sharing cultural objects. In this lesson, students are asked to bring in an object of personal/cultural significance. The class is expected to walk “gallery-style” and write their guesses, questions, or comments on a piece of paper corresponding to each object. Then, each student shares their object, and responds to some of the comments on the paper. This lesson shows how outsiders may perceive your own culture, and see how there may be similarities and differences in perceptions about cultural items.

When studying Alaska Native cultures, it is important for students to think about the context of the source (museum, first-person narrative, websites, etc…) and see how different sources may interpret a culture in different ways (this can range from personal biases to stereotyping) and lastly, come to think critically about the value of learning/analyzing cultures in multiple ways. This type of varied instruction allows teachers to show the holistic and non-biased views of approaching cultural interpretation.

Culturally Responsive Teaching (TMHS)

I think part of teaching Alaska History is helping students recognize that they too, are part of Alaska’s history. The following lesson helps students see the connection between place and culture by examining the students’ background knowledge & experiences here in Juneau, Alaska, then expanding the idea to research the various cultures of Alaska as a whole.

Instructor: Mara Sheakley-Eearly (Chris Won, MAT)
Class: Alaska History
Unit: Geography
EQ: What is the influence of physical features on cultural development?
Lesson: Place & Culture Table
Length of Time: 20min. instruction; Part homework

  1. Draw a table on the White Board with two categories. (Top Row – Place): Global Citizen/Earth -> USA -> Alaska -> Juneau -> TMHS -> Family -> Self. (Bottom Row – Cultural Features).
  2. Have students define what ‘Culture’ means and put up elements of cultural features up on the board (Food, Music, Tradition, etc…)
  3. For every category, have students share what cultural features connect with them. (For example, for Juneau, students might say ‘Fishing’ or ‘Small’)
  4. Have students fill out the rest for homework.

*There is no right or wrong answer. However students define their own lived experiences with the places listed above is valid. Potential for critical thinking of why students gave their responses.


This was a good side-by-side visual way of seeing how where you live might impact how you live and how you define your culture. It was fun and useful to use my personal experience being an “outsider” to really help students understand that where you live affects what you have access to. I asked, for example, if students knew what Lacrosse was, and only a few students knew what it was. I also asked why is it that they could name a good Filipino restaurant in town but not an Afghani restaurant.

Parker Palmer Reflection

             “As good teachers weave the fabric that joins them with students and subjects, the heart is the loom on which the threads are tied, the tension is held, the shuttle flies, and the fabric is stretched tight. Small wonder, then, that teaching tugs at the heart, opens the heart, even breaks the heart – and the more one loves teaching, the more heartbreaking it can be. The courage to teach is the courage to keep one’s heart open in those very moments when the heart is asked to hold more than it is able so that teacher and students and subject can be woven into the fabric of community (kula) that learning, and living, require.”
-Parker J. Palmer

The initial thought in reading Palmer’s description of the “courage to teach,” is that I wish all teachers would engage students in a way that develops community and fosters connections between student and subjects. Too often in my experiences have I encountered teachers who perceive students as being items on an assembly line to be processed through a mechanized system of learning. I still have hope, however, because through the warpath that was my experience in the American education system (especially as a migrant), I have had the blessing of being taught by individuals who have truly shared pieces of their hearts with me.

If there was one strength of mine that transcends cultures, it was my artistic abilities. My parents always cultivated a passion for the arts and creative output, which in some ways seems to be more encouraged in the U.S. as opposed to in Korea. A teacher who could fuel me to approach projects through my artistic strengths, were the ones who saw and touched beyond my identity as a student. One teacher that comes to mind specifically, was my high school art teacher, Ms. Crist.

Ms. Crist was not necessarily a stereotypical “mother-figure” of a teacher, but through her passions in teaching art and the breadth of expressions, Ms. Crist showed that she truly cared about her students. Ms. Crist knew me from my introductory class taken as a freshman, to my senior year, at which point I was developing an art portfolio at the collegiate level. All throughout my time spent in her classes, Ms. Crist would probe past the surface-level of my abilities, tearing down the walls of procrastination, laziness, substance-less thoughts, which I would often hide behind. In her role as a teacher, Ms. Crist did not need to push beyond me simply completing my projects, but she critiqued, challenged, and craved me to strive for high expectations and high hopes…not for her, but for myself. Senior year when I came back to school after my father’s funeral in Korea, Ms. Crist looked at me and asked me if I was ok. I nodded and told her yes. “Good, then let’s get back to work.” Ms. Crist knew that I did not need a lengthy conversation on how I was processing my circumstances and that instead, I needed to begin channeling my emotions into art. Ms. Crist taught me how I can take my feelings and express them on canvas or clay, with powerful execution. In some ways, Ms. Crist showed me that in life, healing is a work-in-progress.

When I think about some of the students whom I met at Yaakoosge Daakahidi, I think about how important it was for the students to learn how to use education as a tool for processing life. At times the impact of the stories that my students shared with me felt unbearable, and I would often leave the school unable to focus on anything else but my shoelaces. In a week, a month, or a semester’s worth time, however, I would see the poems, the essays, the history projects, that students have used as a vessel for sharing their experiences, and my heart would become filled with joy and love. I think that for this upcoming year as a student teacher, I want to make sure that I do not lose the courage that Palmer describes, because when it comes down to it, I am not teaching for myself…I am teaching for my students, and my students deserve nothing less than the best of myself, and the strength that I may have for them.

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Multicultural Education Final Reflection

  1. How does understanding culture and power impact your teaching?

    It impacts my teaching because it affirms my beliefs that my role as a teacher is to provide opportunities for accessible learning. I think this attitude is important especially for the students living in the margins because they may have experienced a loss of culture and thereby a loss of power. Someone in class said that as a teacher, we should not say statements outwardly supporting trans students, because we might also offend those who are Christians. I am tired of hearing that my advocacy for the oppressed ought to be silenced for the fragility of those in power. Too long have we taught the history and culture of the privileged and we ought to strive towards understanding the cultures we do not see, or perhaps, we are blinded from seeing.I think we must understand culture for ourselves, so that in knowing ourselves, we can see how our lives are not always by choice, but by the influences that others have had on our lives, both personally and institutionally. I think understanding ourselves brings empowerment, and I hope that by providing a space for students to explore their own stories, they can come to be respectful not only of each other, but of themselves.
  2. Pick three terms that resonate with you from the Multicultural Education word wall. Define the terms and discuss why you chose these three terms.Tolerance vs Transformation.
    I really enjoyed this term that was put on the word wall, because I think it challenges people to critically examine their own use of vocabulary. Tolerance is a word that is often used in cases of cultural training/education (I mean, there is even a book called “teaching tolerance”), and its intentions may be benign, but its impact is not. Our differences should not be tolerated, but celebrated, and engaged in. Tolerance gives the option for those in power to disengage, a privilege which people in power always have had. Transformation on the other hand, provides opportunities for continuous learning and for Metanoia. Metanoia is a change of heart, and not just a developed skill-set to ignore differences. I think that recognizing the difference between Tolerance and Transformation is crucial in understanding ourselves and where our goal as teachers may lie.

    To be honest, in the past few weeks, I have struggled emotionally. The discussions that we have had were triggering, and some of the comments made were cringe-worthy for me. Everyday seems like a fight in various ways, to have to justify my experiences and to defend my understanding of racism as a person-of-color. That fight is not going to stop when I enter the school. I do not think Angie taught us with the expectation that our co-workers or our administrators will be on the same page about anti-racist education. That is why this word is so important, because in order for positive change to occur, to break through the school-to-prison pipeline, systems must be challenged. A revolution must take place, advocated by teachers, students, parents, community-members, lawmakers, etc… I grow more and more impatient everyday with systems that actively benefits some but disadvantages many, but I brew this frustration into a revolutionary movement that is working towards disrupting oppression in the education system.

    The last word I chose was hope. Hope is a beautiful word for me, and a word that resonates with me. Through my anger and frustration and my trauma, I challenge myself to find healing, and my hopes have always kept me pushing forward. One of the hardest things to witness in classrooms is self-abuse, whether it manifest physically or emotionally. How do we as teachers help create a space in which a student may develop a sense of hope for their future? How can students bring themselves to hope for goodness, and not expect for results? I hope that my experiences as a student teacher will help me explore some of the answers that I am looking for.

  3. Describe your plan to teach in a culturally responsive way in the coming year. Include teaching strategies you might employ as well as content/units you will implement.Some concrete strategies for me include the following:
    1. Block the clock. Especially at Thunder Mountain where there is a class bell, and even if not, I think that our western perspective on time can be very detrimental to active learning. Discussions happen organically, and learning takes place at different speeds for every student. I think that if we compare ourselves and our work to a clock on the wall, it may result in lower self-esteem. I want to see if there may be a different strategy to approach time-keeping.

    2. Arrange the seats in a circle/U-shape. I mentioned in my post about BH&H that there may be a perceived hierarchy in a classroom where the teacher is the ultimate power and authority. When thinking about my experiences, most classrooms are shaped to exert such a power dynamic, with ordered seats facing the front, where a podium stands. I think that the more that we can become supporters of peer-led learning and communal engagement, the less there will be chances of students “falling through the cracks.”

    3. If I become a teacher, the first thing I want to do is disassemble everything (boards, posters, chairs, tables) and explain to the students on the first day of school that I want the classroom to be arranged in the way that we, as teacher and students, would find most engaging for our learning. Allowing students to have ownership over the space can provide for safety, empowerment, and mutual respect.

    4. Use of Elders. I think that it is crucial to allow Elders to share their experiences and see how they may have helped pave the road towards justice for future generations.

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Alaska Studies Final Reflection

What did you as a teacher learn about project-based learning?

Accountability. So often does this term, when used in the school setting, refer to punishment, blame, and guilt. My experience engaging in project-based learning with Peter Pappas taught me that accountability can be empowerment.

Peter and Angie communicated clearly at the beginning of our courses, that they wanted to do more than just preach, that they wanted to show and practice what it means to be culturally responsive teachers with the use of an iBooks publication, which is to be published for a public audience. When the structures were laid out and we as MAT students assigned ourselves, from that moment, the choice were ours to make.

With that came freedom, independence, determination, and accountability. As students, we were accountable for our own contributions to not only our own learning, but also the learning for our group. An open-ended topic with numerous approaches, we faced challenges ranging from group dynamics, personal advocacy, peer review, and celebration.

In my experiences working at an alternative high school in Juneau, students often express discomfort in being given a choice. Many students are victims of an abuse of power and control, and independence can be overwhelming; I know this, because as I was working through the project, I realized that my own upbringing was causing me to crash hard into the essence of project-based learning. When I attended elementary school in Korea, children suffered corporal punishment for getting an incorrect answer in a spelling test…we were eight years old. So much of my life has been about showing teacher-pleasing behaviors in attempts to fit into a square mold that my amorphous identity could not possibly do so.

I think looking back on these past three weeks, I want to research ways that I can help students feel safe in approaching decision-making. I am especially interested in working with high school students because for a lot of our teens, they are stuck between a hard place and a rock of expectations…they are “old enough” to know what is right and wrong, yet they are “too young” to make decisions for themselves. How do we teach students to become critical thinkers, if we cannot even empower them to be comfortable with their own strengths? Once we learn to recognize where we stand, only in relativity to our past experiences (and not in competition with one another) can education become a personal victory, and not a chore to be checked off for our parents, teachers, and the judges of this world.

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Culturally Responsive Teaching Reflection – Part II

Scott Christian Lecture
Scott spoke about his experience teaching in Nikiski, using his discipline in Language Arts to bring a sense of communal empowerment for his students. I think it is crucial for students to see that their work may have a positive impact on those who they are not connected to…a public audience.

When I was working at Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School in Juneau as the Student Empowerment and Support Specialist, part of my duties included programming events and activities for fostering community development; an opportunity came up to combine my passions of teaching and empowering, when the art teacher went on a month-long leave, allowing me to develop my own curriculum. I created a project called “Story Painting” which had students incorporate their significant life experiences into a painting. The project concluded with a student exhibition, which took place during a school-wide talent show, providing an opportunity for community members (parents, district staff) to view student work. The gallery was nothing fancy-thumbtacks on walls-but watching students explain their work to their friends or family members, I got the feeling that their confidence was rising. Because the gallery was done in a group setting, it was safe for some students to publicly display their work, and the end result was really powerful for me.

Alberta’s Lecture (presented by Angie)
Angie spoke about the relationship that school teachers may develop with Elders and how a respectful interaction between the two is necessary. When I think about this concept, I am often quick to think about how this sounds like common sense, but I have to check myself in realizing that I have not, and do not do this often enough.

I saw the power of gratitude when I was invited to make Devil’s Club salve with my students, under the direction of a Tlingit Elder. When the students were done making the salve, they gifted small jars to all of the guest instructors who have come into their classes for the past year. The students also recognized that although the Elder visited the students at the school, in fact, the students were the ones who were invited to learn from the Elder; the Elder was basically allowing the students to take some salve in return for helping her make the batch. I think this level of humility is really moving, and like David Katzeek’s comment on how the youth are equals to the Elders, the students at Yaakoosge Daakahidi really displayed a profound sense of mutual respect.

Ernestine’s Reading
Ernestine Hayes’ reading from her book, The Blonde Indian, was extremely triggering for me. Ernestine spoke about her experiences in her primary school, and how she was labeled as a “Seagull” (“lower-level readers”) as opposed to a “Bluebird” (“higher-level readers”). I remember when I first moved to the U.S., I was put into an ESL (English as Second Language) group. I appreciated the additional support I got in adjusting to a new school, but some of my teachers labeled me as being “slow” because I was not fluent in English. I internalized these experiences, and they had a traumatic impact in my life.

Ernestine also said that you are either fighting against injustices, or perpetuating the status quo, and that there was no neutral ground, a statement which empowers me. Unfortunately, the reality is that White people have created a racist system in the U.S., and that without our choice, we are all part of the system…and this means that our actions may always be politically weighed. It is a stressful feeling, and even suffocating to an extent, especially as a Person-of-Color, but I think that when I step back and reflect on Ernestine’s statement, I know that my future directions become clearer.


“Cultural Curators” Full Lesson Plan

Unit: “Cultural Curators”
Lesson – “Through the Looking Glass”
Developed by: Chris Won
Adaptable use for: High School Social Studies – World History/AK History
Approximate time*: Option A (1 Day + 1.5 hours); Option B (2 hours)

Standard(s) addressed:
Culturally Responsive Curriculum Standard A:
A culturally-responsive curriculum reinforces the integrity of the cultural knowledge that students bring with them.
1. By having students discuss as individuals and as a group, their intentional decisions on how to write a museum description for an object, students will see how their own personal values may shape the style of their writing. (Ex. A student might see a sword and think that it represents strength, whereas another student might see that and associate it with violence)
2. By questioning the validity and truth of the museum description panels, students may go beyond the function/use of an object, and examine the processes that goes into the act of preserving that item.
3. By showing the dichotomy of having a contemporary Western institution display the living culture of indigenous populations may provoke students to think critically about their local culture and how it is being presented to outsiders.
4. By discussing with the group how students choose to see an object and its unique meanings, students may come to respect the differences in opinions and how one’s upbringing may affect one’s perceptions on an artifact and/or its history.
5. By visiting institutions in their respective towns, students may see how their local systems work towards preserving culture and see how these decisions may be affected by politics and culture of the peoples living in their region.

Key concept(s): Cultural preservation, museum politics, cultural appropriation, cultural bias.

Essential Questions:
Unit-wide EQ: What is the appropriate way of preserving culture?
Lesson-specific EQ: What is the significance of museums in our society?

Full PDF Link: ChrisWonLessonPlan

IMG_2488Image A – Giinaruaq Mask

IMG_2483 (1)Image B – Mask Description

Confederate_Rebel_Flag.svgImage C – Confederate Flag

21'_ASP_BatonImage D – Police Baton

Image Sources:

(Image A – Giinaruaq Mask)
Alaska State Library Archive Museum
||-A-1559, ||-A-1560, ||-A-1564

(Image B – Mask Description)
Alaska State Library Archive Museum
||-A-1559, ||-A-1560, ||-A-1564

( Image C – Confederate Flag)

(Image D – Police Baton)’_ASP_Baton.jpg

(Cover Photo)

Additional Resources:

“Museums are Terrifyingly Inaccurate”
Description: Editorial article on how museums often mislabel their displays.

“Current Biology”
Description: Oxford University Study publication that the “Museums are terrifyingly inaccurate” article refers to.

“Museum Meanings”
Description: Series of books that touch upon various subjects on museum politics, such as the affects of colonialism on the artifacts/museums, and museum accessibility issues.