During our class discussion on the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Curriculum, my group looked at Cultural Standard C, which states that “a culturally responsive curriculum uses the local language and cultural knowledge as a foundation for the rest of the curriculum.” Some important aspects of this cultural standard are as follows: 1) utilizing local language as a basis for deeper learning, 2) utilizing the study of place, 3) incorporating language and cultural immersion, 4) including all community members as potential teachers, 5) utilizing local cultural knowledge as a way to teach conventional curriculum content, 6) utilizing modern technology to preserve and document traditional cultural knowledge, and 7) treating traditional cultural protocol with sensitivity.
A music lesson I would design based on Cultural Standard C is something I would describe as a “Community Musical Exploration”. For this lesson, I would provide my students with field recorders and then send them out into the community to explore and document the local musical traditions. Each student would complete a self-guided project exploring and making connections with the great variety of musical traditions and performers in their community. For this project, I would have students ask a community member, Elder, Culture Bearer, or relative of their choice to teach them a local traditional song from any background (i.e. a Tlingit song, an old time fiddle song, a blues song, etc.). I would encourage the students to ask their new teacher for permission to record the lesson and song in order to document the learning and performing process. If permission is not granted or the community member does not feel comfortable being recorded, I would have that student write about the lesson and the song they learned instead of making audio documentation. After learning a new song from their community teachers, I would have each student write a reflection about their experiences and what they learned. After going out into the community and learning from community members, Elders, Culture Bearers, and relatives, I would have my students come back to the classroom and present what they learned to their classmates. This would help the students to expose their peers to the rich diversity of local music making that is occurring in their community. Imagine 30 students sharing 30 different songs from 30 different teachers of diverse backgrounds. The potential for explorative learning and community building is huge! For the presentation of this project, I would have students share their songs, lesson experiences, recordings, and reflections with their classmates. Students could even invite their community teacher to see the class presentations.
Here are some ways that this lesson incorporates Cultural Standard C. It brings in community members as teachers, incorporates language and cultural immersion with the community teacher on the song they choose to teach (i.e. a Tlingit Elder might teacher might choose to teach a song in Tlingit, immersing the student in the language), incorporates local cultural knowledge into the music learning experience, and it connects students to place and local cultural traditions.