CRT in the classroom

On Friday I learned a lot about Culturally responsive teaching and the examples that Paula and Angie gave us were just what I needed, because I have never really experienced a culturally responsive math or science lesson so it was hard to know where to start.

The overarching theme of CRT is to make the lesson purposeful and place based. That way students can feel the value of the lesson or project. Purposeful lessons are engaging especially when students understand the desired outcome. Many times growing up, I’d ask why do we need to learn this stuff, and the answers would often be unclear and vague.

I know I have a lot to learn still but I hope to conduct my classroom with a purpose everyday. Where students can feel the impact of what they do. Additionally I will use the resources available to make the classes meaningful whether it is using elders to explain the connectedness of an ecosystem or the local forest service to better understand erosion and its impact on salmon spawning. There are limitless resources that out there, I just have to find them and create meaningful lessons.

Raven who Married the Chief’s Daughter

Raven who Married the Chief’s Daughter courtesy of {Alaska State Museum – Juneau} was a mask that caught my eye while I was browsing the Alutiiq section of the SLAM. This mask was made by Perry Eaton in 2013 so its not exactly an ancient artifact but it still has a traditional story behind it.

There are variations of this story along the coast of Alaska but I found a Tlinget version that was easy for me to understand. In the story, a chief allows Raven to marry his daughter named Fog Over the Salmon, with the condition that he would treat her well. They were happily married but during a hard winter they were without food. Fog Over the Salmon wove a large basket and when she completed it and washed her hands in it, the basket was full of salmon. The couple now had everything they needed. But Raven forgot that his good fortune was owed to his wife and started to treat her badly. He hit her with a piece of dried salmon and she ran away. All the dried salmon they had followed her, he tried to catch her but she turned to fog.

The full version is here:

So who is this Mask Maker Perry Eaton? I did not know who he is but I assume some of our class might. He is from Kodiak and is the founder of the Alaska Native Heritage Center and spent 17 years as the CEO of the Alaska Village Initiative which helps promote economic growth in the villages. He makes these masks in a similar fashion and design as the original Alutiiq masks, mostly they feature a sharp up or down turned brows and a distinct nose. Like the traditional Alutiiq masks they are also sometimes burned after the dance they are featured in. The one time use of masks means that there are very few left today. However, a Frenchman named Alfonse Pinart, traveled Alaska in 1872, and he collected over 70 Alutiiq masks which still reside today in a museum in France. They were brought to Kodiak in 2008 for a temporary exhibit allowing the local people to experience a piece of the rich history again.

As I tried to uncover the full story of this mask I ended up doing alot of side research and now I feel even more drawn to this piece.


Science Lesson – South Central Region

Lesson Plan Idea

My lesson plan idea originally involved using geology connecting it with how different phases of the rock cycle produces rocks with different characteristics that had been used to prehistoric tools. however since this is not my science area of interest I decided to change my plan.

Instead I will be creating a lesson plan about the local coastal ecosystem with a focus on an important keystone species, the sea otter, and how its near extinction could have had and still has major impacts on the alaskan coast as we now know it.

  1. Intended audience? Alaska region – grade, course, etc
    1. My intended class would likely be a high school,
      although it could be easily scaled for middle school biology/life science class.
  2. About how much class time to do this lesson?
    1. The lesson I’m hoping to design would hopefully take about one class period with some pre-learning or homework
  3. What’s the essential question?
    1. My essential questions are:
      1. What is a keystone species?
      2. How does a keystone species influence the local ecology?
      3. What are some human impacts that may effect a keystone species ability to survive?
  4. What source material would students use
    1. Read through this:
    2. Or this:
    3. or watch this great 20 min video:

Now for the hard part, what are the kids going to do. I’m not quite sure about this yet. Any feed back would be great, but I was thinking about giving students options to illustrate the Keystone species concept through art or for those less artistically inclined they can write something.

Any thoughts?

Living in two worlds or one?

We are not living in two worlds, there is but one world.-David Katzeek.

This message in particular resonated with me because your cultural world is not something you just step into and out of when needed. However, I imagine some people attempt to, and in doing so they are not fully present in and preserving their culture. This is an important thing to consider for a multicultural education. While listening to the Elders its easy to see the oppression they endured but it’s difficult for me (although I try) to empathize with a people who have lost their lands, languages, traditions, and values. I just have no frame of reference to draw from, its almost unfathomable. I cannot imagine the difficulty in trying to live one culture at home and leaving that behind when walking into school or work. But I think living by David’s message might be even harder.

By using the on/off switch method of living you can protect yourself. You can pretend to be assimilated into the majority culture to save face and avoid the culture shaming that still persists even today. The only white culture example that I can come up with to illustrate this idea is the movie Mean Girls, in which a kind smart and caring daughter is a conceited bully at school to fit in with the culture of her peer group. She turns on and off the act until she almost loses herself.

Although this example maybe silly its an example of living in two worlds. The challenge with living in one world is that everyone else will try to change you to fit in. They will try to impose their ideals, ridicule your clothing, and require the correct language to be spoken. The only choice you seem to have is to use the on/off switch or to completely despair and forsake one culture or the other.

Thats where our job as multiculturally aware teachers comes in. We need to celebrate the different cultures we have in our classrooms. Allowing our students to be proud and joyful at bringing their culture to school with them, not leaving it at home. It’s our tone that will also set the stage for our students to revel in their beautiful differences.

Where I’m From

Where I’m From – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

I am from Seward, Alaska but my Haikudeck project goes a little bit more into my past. Starting first with my dad’s family growing up in Catholic Dairyland Wisconsin and my mother’s railroad working family in Chicago. My parents, meeting at work while forest firefighting eventually moved to Alaska, where I was born. Growing up in Coastal Alaska, I fell in love with the ocean and boats and fish and all things water. That included swimming which helped me earn my college degree in biology and my passion for science really awakened.