‘The Importance of an Origin Story for our School’s Community’ by Arctic Light Elementary Principal Thad Keener

Arctic Light Elementary School is a K-8 public school in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. It is unique in that it is the only public school located on the Fort Wainwright Army U.S. Base. The school mascot is the Arctic Fox.

This year we are sharing our school mascot’s origin story. Arty the Arctic Fox is our mascot and, “Do Good Work, Be a Friend, Every Day” is our motto. With our students we have expanded these words and we were ready for this book to extend the learning.

This past spring I ran into my former principal and current school board member, Tim Doran. He reminded me how important his school’s origin story had been when he was principal of Denali Elementary. An origin story helps connect students to the local community’s history and the power and security that such a connection can provide.

The cover of Arctic Light Elementary’s new origin story book.

Writing the story did not prove too difficult, the artwork was a different story. After numerous inquiries I connected with a lifelong artist, Nancy Bishop, a bit frustrated by the Covid crisis. Her generosity and talent proved the key ingredient in bringing this book to life. Her beautiful artwork inspired us to take this to the next level of production. A quick online search for printers provided us with a reasonable cost and a shelf ready small book.

Artist Nancy Bishop’s wonderful art brings the powerful origin story to life throughout the book.

Our origin story is beginning to make its way into our community. I’ve shared with daycare providers and other educators. I’ve stopped parents and handed them one with directions that the words in red are for emerging readers and those in black for proficient. The goal is one day our eager custodian will dress in our full-body arctic fox costume and pass the book out to our students. I hope that day comes soon.

“Do Good Work, Be a Friend, Every Day” is our motto

Arctic Light proudly works with the military families on Ft. Wainwright. We honor their hard work with our school’s motto: “Do Good Work, Be a Friend, Every Day.” Our military families’ time in Alaska is limited requiring every minute we have with the students to count. This origin story is another step towards improving our educational program. We look forward to the next idea that can take us even further.