Three years ago, Angoon school administration and staff began to build an academically enriched positive school climate by creating engaging classes and implementing strategies that introduced students to inquiry learning. We immediately endeavoured to create relevant, hands-on, place-based, and culturally responsive courses such as EthnoMath, Applied Technology, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and Tlingit Language and Culture.
EthnoMath – linking maths to daily life
Currently we continually seek instructional best practices to address local challenges that will mitigate the perceived disconnection between school and “real life.” This detachment often results in our students’ low motivation for learning, especially in mathematics. Knowing that maths is found everywhere (not just in textbooks and worksheets), we introduced EthnoMath as an academic subject to provide our students with a broader and more relevant perspective that maths is traditionally linked to their daily lives.Giving them a stronger understanding and appreciation that maths and science are intricately related, students were exposed to one of our community’s most pressing challenges; namely a wide lack of access to fresh produce.
Making the connection between our food and our land
Not surprisingly, we found that our youth are often unaware of the efforts that go into producing the foods they eat, as well as the significance to their community of developing alternative ways to cultivate fresh fruits and vegetables for year-round consumption. These two challenges led to Haa Aani´: Haa Yaasi´ Haa (Our Land, Our Harvest), the theme of last semester’s EthnoMath Institute and the introduction of Hydroponic Cultivation into our AgriScience course curriculum.
Treasuring the past while touching the future
In their quest for inquiry and relevancy, students will over time transfer their learning into advocacy through our Hydroponic and EthnoMath programs. The long-term goal is to create community awareness of the importance of healthy and diverse nutrition sources that treasure traditional foods and cultural knowledge with emerging technologies. Our students are already touching the future while embracing the past in connecting healthy nutrition to healthy living.
Hydroponics + Community = Economic Opportunities
We intend that our Hydroponic Cultivation Program will serve as a vehicle for economic opportunities and development of sustainable energy sources such as biomass, solar, wind, and water. This year our Elementary School launched its version of our program with the addition of
hydroponic growing units in each class and the opportunity for families to obtain such units for home use. This opportunity is possible through a generous grant provided by Green Our Planet, whose curriculum and hydroponic gardens provide a natural laboratory for students to learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths).
Read more about hydroponics programs and its benefits to your school here.
A word from our writer
As an educator for thirty plus years, I’ve had the privilege of working with incredible colleagues whose professionalism, dedication, and sense of purpose immeasurably assisted me throughout my career. I’ve treasured my work as a High School Counselor and Student Services Manager for the Juneau School District, and as the Director of the Alaska Learning Network (AKLN) at the University of Alaska Southeast. I’m currently developing educational programs for Chatham School District and serving amazing students as their counselor in Angoon; a remote rural community on Admiralty Island in Southeast Alaska.