It’s hard to believe it, but the Our Alaskan Schools Blog turns three this month! In 2021, we featured 25 stories of schools and classrooms around the state. Here are some of the highlights of the stories we featured this past year.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” -Nelson Mandela
This quote was chosen by a Colony Middle School Leadership student to begin their final speech and perfectly sums up the goal of leadership. Leadership class is not a new idea in schools, but it is a new addition at Colony Middle School this year and students reaped the benefits. In this class, students learned how to be the best version of themselves in order to be everyday leaders in their school and community.
In Fall 2020, faced with the challenge of conducting Pearl Creek Elementary’ s Extended Learning Program remotely, I turned to chess to help students connect with each other. As a longtime school chess club sponsor, I knew how much fun students had playing against each other, so I just needed to figure out a way for them to play online. I invited students to play using a copy of a shared google drawings template during Zoom sessions with ELP students enrolled in Fairbanks North Star Borough School District’s e-learning and BEST homeschool programs. I was happy to find that, even remotely, I was able to hop from game to game and give advice or settle disputes as they arose.
It worked! Students liked it so much that games sometimes extended beyond the ELP session. Students would often have more than one game active with different classmates. Some even started their own games by copying the template and sharing it with willing friends. Continue reading An Old Game Meets New Tech: Creating Connections During Remote Schooling by TJ O’Donnell, Pearl Creek School
When more than 20 students joined Lower Kuskokwim School District’s new after school food sciences club this fall, expectations were low. The students, at school sites in Goodnews Bay, Tuntutuliak, and Kipnuk [currently on hold while in “red” Covid-19 status], expected to do a little cooking and a lot of listening to lectures about nutrition and kitchen safety. Instead, what they got was “an exploratory adventure going through cuisine” and so much more, according to Gear Up grant coordinator Alex Bernard.
Imagine this: It’s Monday morning. Over the weekend, one of your students, Gabe, challenged his classmates to post sexual images as a dare. Ana responded by posting an image of a faceless nude female to a group chat of 5 kids. The parent of a recipient in the group chat is calling the office looking for a response. What are you going to say?
I often use scenarios like this in workshops I facilitate for teachers demonstrating the need to proactively plan and implement a positive digital culture instead of just being reactive. Educators commonly respond to this scenario by stating they would talk to the students, call the families, involve counselors, and/or notify administrators. Some say they would involve law enforcement. When asked how long it will take to contain the drama and repair the impact of the student actions, nearly all raise eyebrows and shake their heads.
Offering technology in classrooms has given students and teachers new tools to help them learn in the classroom setting and has helped keep students and teachers connected during the pandemic.
One crucial element to using technology in the classroom is having up to date tech and operating systems. Unfortunately, one roadblock school districts face is how to recycle their used and outdated tech. And if your district is in rural Alaska with limited shipping options, repurposing outdated iPads or laptops can be more challenging.
This was a challenge that the Nome School District faced. After years of planning, the district achieved its goal of a 1:1 digital learning environment this year. The district uses a mix of iPads and Chromebooks for almost 700 students. Continue reading ‘Renewing Classroom Technology In Remote Alaska’ by Dominique Johnson at ACSA
In September and October of each school year, Fronteras Spanish Immersion Charter School students and staff research, study, and present the history, culture, and contributions of our ancestors from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced this observation in 1968. It was expanded to a 30-day period by President Ronald Reagan starting September 15th and concluding October 15th.
For the most part, life in King Cove is very peaceful. It’s a calm, good hearted community ground in deep family ties and traditions, an outdoor lifestyle, and culturally rich values. Being the principal of our small school of 70 students is largely the same. Our students are pleasant and hard working, the staff is professional, caring, and dedicated to student success, and the building and surrounding land it sits on is national park status beautiful. The City of King Cove is home to Peter Pan Seafoods, one of the largest by volume fish processing facilities in the state.
Alaska’s PK-12 school system is embracing the teaching of computer science like never before. Educators across the state, and their students, have recognized that navigating the digital world is not just about being a consumer of digital content, it’s about the skills needed to create that content. And to become a creator means knowing the building blocks of how digital content is made using computer science.
Being a creator means that your individual insights and perspectives on the world can be represented and celebrated. Alaskan students experience the world through languages, cultures, climates, and geography that exist nowhere else. To ensure the digital landscape includes space for these unique perspectives, Alaskan students need to be equipped with the right knowledge to meaningfully share what they know and impact how digital spaces represent them. And because we know that Alaska Natives, women, and other people of color are historically underrepresented in the field of computer science, it is critical that we focus our efforts on giving those groups the skills needed to succeed in the digital future.
As schools look to re-engage their students following a year of online learning, the Alaska Academic Decathlon for high school students and Pentathlon for students in middle school offers small group learning opportunities that extend beyond the boundaries of the classroom.