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COVID-19 forces Sealaska Heritage Institute to get creative with lessons, resulting in learning kits

Eighth-grade student Blaise Trombetti from Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School examines his kit....
Eighth-grade student Blaise Trombetti from Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School examines his kit. (Photo by Dixie Hutchinson)(courtesy of Sealaska Heritage)
Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 12:54 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Building confidence in students’ skills, teaching about native cultures and positively affecting students’ academic motivation, that’s the goal behind a new education program at the Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Prior to COVID-19, the institute had planned to sponsor community events, but to ensure everyone’s safety, staff had to get creative and shift gears. Instead coming up with the idea of learning kits. The program is called Opening the Box: STEAM education program.

STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.

This week, the Heritage Center sent 1,300 learning kits to middle school students in six communities enrolled in the program. Those communities are Angoon, Sitka, Hoonah, Wrangell, Klawock and Juneau.

The boxes, known as “maker kits” are meant to help children learn basic fundamentals of STEAM in a hands-on, engaging way that incorporates indigenous stories, northwest coast art, cultures and languages.

SHI staff packing kits for delivery, photo by Rebecca Soza.
SHI staff packing kits for delivery, photo by Rebecca Soza.(courtesy of Sealaska Heritage)

“This hands-on approach encourages students to become more curious and to explore and create things,” says Sealaska Heritage Center Institute President Rosita Worl, “They are learning through experience instead of rote memorization and worksheets.”

The kits provide students with all of the tools they need to learn, each one including an illustration of one of four core cultural values of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people. These were the first of the kits to go out under the program, and participants will continue to receive them during the pandemic.

Kits provide students with all of the tools they need to learn
Kits provide students with all of the tools they need to learn(courtesy Sealaska Heritage)

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