Place Based Learning

Place based and/or culturally responsive learning:  In my literature classes, so far the only place based learning is in AK Lit.  That course is divided up following an Anthology of AK Lit into seven categories.  Right now we are starting at the beginning:  deep-time indigenous narratives.

I told a story I had read (Inupiaq I think) about ground squirrels turning into brown bears and vice versa. Then I related a story by a white author who wrote about mistaking ground squirrels for brown bears at a distance. I told this to some young guys who would rather be in shop class.  They laughed, but then I told them how the tundra is a lot like the ocean (something these guys know well) in that it often doesn’t lend itself to much perspective because there is often nothing against which to judge distance or size.

And then I told them my story about waking up in a foggy, pre-dawn in a tent while caribou hunting. I was with three friends when I woke to the sound of splashing in the creek we had hiked to the night before.  I peeked out the tent and peered through a sea of fog toward the sound.  There, standing on the edge of what must have been an island in the creek, was a bear.  The bear’s feet disappeared into the fog that hid the island but the rest of it’s brown fur glowed wet and shining in the grey gloom.  I gingerly woke up my friends in the tent and hissed at them to be quiet: there was a grizzly about 70 or 80 yards away. A big one.  A boar no doubt. I described this bear and what it was doing for many minutes until suddenly the sun came up, the fog parted a bit and I realized that I was looking not a large grizzly on an island in the creek, but at a fat little beaver at about the same distance on the other side of the creek.

Outside of that Sitka High has an outboard repair class (that to my own personal woe is not being taught this year).  An entire room is filled with outboards to be worked on.  Pretty relevant in this sea town for sure.

There is another LA/History teacher who teaches a History of Sitka course. He recently had the kids log onto Google Earth and locate various historical and/or prominent geographical locations around Sitka Sound. Then he gave the kids a Tlingit language key for all of the place names in Southeast that were cross reference with White names (some places had no White names I believe) and then label them with both names. Every Tlingit name had a translation I believe, which was pretty cool.

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