In a school year when many districts are struggling to cover the basics, Bering Strait School District has been busy building young scientists. For more than 20 years, BSSD has held a districtwide science fair, come snow or sleet or global pandemic. This year, amid closures all over the state, BSSD decided the show must go on – on line – with a virtual district fair that allowed student-scientists to present to judges remotely from their own schools.
I never could have predicted that my teaching life would include arranging demonstrations involving marine mammals and holding my students inside because of polar bear warnings, but that’s exactly what happened.
Alaska’s Heart through Student Art is an annual celebration of student expression that brings legislators, statewide educational leaders, students, teachers and artists together to celebrate the beauty, inspiration, and creativity of student artists across the state. The event is launched annually in the capital city of Juneau as statewide leaders gather for the legislative session.
More than 100 pieces of student art were meticulously packaged and shipped to the Alaska Council of School Administrators last winter and transported to the Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Museum. Carefully arranged and labeled in this beautifully appointed open gallery space in preparation for the March 2020 event that, as with so many other life events, became upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) initiative is one of the largest national programs for increasing the college and career readiness of low-income students in the U.S. Focused on middle and high school students, GEAR UP helps empower local partnerships comprised of K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, state agencies, and community organizations to achieve three strategic goals: (1) increasing the postsecondary expectations and readiness of students; (2) improving high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment rates; and (3) raising the knowledge of postsecondary options, preparation, and financing among students and families.
The Rural Alaska GEAR UP Partnership serves students in Alaska’s two largest rural school districts; Bering Strait (BSSD) and Lower Kuskokwim (LKSD) in western Alaska. The partnership is supported by the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN). ASDN’s founder Kelly Tonsmeire serves as the Rural Alaska GEAR UP Partnership Project Director.
The Bering Strait School District (BSSD) is comprised of a unique group of fifteen school sites, even by Alaskan standards. It is a rural district, with three separate cultures, spread out over 86,000 square miles of land and water.