The rugged terrains of Alaska are not only home to natural wonders but have also become a cradle of growth for a different kind of exploration since 2019—one that empowers the youth with critical and computational thinking and digital fluency. The infusion of computer science education in K-12 settings in Alaska has not only reshaped students’ perspectives on technology but has also stimulated a movement of continuous professional development for educators. This journey from 2019 to the present showcases how Alaska is committed to equipping its students with essential skills for the digital age, careers, and holistic academic growth.
It is a rare educational innovation that both endures and remains relevant for 50 years. Ask any person under 55 years old from Juneau about their elementary school memories and they will say, “Sea Week.” At first it was called Sea Week, but it grew exponentially to Sea Month. Sea Week is a Juneau school and community success story.
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.