KIBSD strives to incorporate tradition, culture into curriculum
By Noelle H. Lowery
“When you are talking about the culture of Kodiak, it is important to say cultures; Kodiak has become a melting pot,” explains Ron Bryant, KIBSD’s director of school and student services. “We are so diverse here, and that is one of the reasons we are having these community conversations. We want to know what is important to the community and what values Kodiak considers to be important.”
Infusing SEL with cultural considerations — CRESEL — adds classroom curriculum content that is relevant to diverse students’ lives. It makes compatible the behavioral norms of schools and students’ home cultures. It is inclusive of the language of instruction and students’ home language, and it connects classroom curriculum and the traditional teaching methods familiar to students.
With seven village schools and multiple cultural influences felt throughout each of the six town schools, creating a CRESEL program in Kodiak is an important endeavor. KIBSD’s CRESEL program has established the following SEL priorities:
- To establish district and school infrastructure to support social and emotional learning.
- To increase connectedness of KIBSD staff with each other, with families, with community leaders and with students.
- To increase opportunities to develop and use social and emotional learning and employability skills.
- To establish thriving student-led social and emotional learning environments.
Key outcomes of Kodiak’s project include:
- Increase Communication, Connection and Collaboration for SEL and Cultural Integration
- Increase Opportunities for Staff and Students to Consistently Use and Model SEL
- Enhance Partnership with Parents and Across District to Support SEL and Thriving Students
- Increase Student and Staff Connectedness Within Schools, Community, and Across the District
- Increase District Leadership and Support Structures for SEL Practice & Teaching
- Increase Unity and Sense of Belonging Among Students
- Increase Student Leadership, Decision Making and Peer Mentoring for SEL
“One thing that we’ve seen is that the staff is able to take the information and inform and adapt some of the social emotional learning standards and create concrete ways that it fits into planning,” notes Grassgreen.
The initial community conversations at Main, North Star and Akhiok schools identified strengths and weaknesses found in each school with regard to the role played by culture and tradition in the education of students. Community members also discussed the ways in which they felt the school conflicted with Native ways of life and in what ways they felt the two were aligned. Finally, the conversations focused on how schools can be strengthened through the incorporation of Alutiiq values, as well as what the next steps are to begin the process.
Though the CRESEL work has just begun, Bryant, Grassgreen and Xiláay Gatti all agree the foundational steps have been fruitful. “We are asking what the areas are in which we can get meaningful work done,” says Xiláay Gatti. “In Kodiak, if the district is trying to teach Alutiiq lessons, then it helps to have community members as part of the conversation.”