July 04, 2007
The curriculum, co-produced by the Juneau School District, is unique because it's the first Tlingit language and culture curriculum done on a broad scale that meets state academic and cultural standards.
The curriculum was distributed in hardcopy binders, some of which include CDs with computer games and audio of Tlingit words and songs. The 18-unit series of culture and language lessons also is posted online at www.sealaskaheritage.org.
The audio CDs are meant to encourage correct pronunciation of Tlingit language components. The interactive vocabulary games are an effort to make language learning fun, and to reach students through technology, said SHI President Rosita Worl.
"In the past children just had text," Worl said. "But today we know children are watching TV, they're listening to CDs, so we've tried to build on all of the approaches that children are utilizing to learn today."
The curriculum was developed and field tested by primary teachers from the Juneau School District and SHI language specialists. Although the series was intended for the primary grades, it can be easily adapted for teachers of higher grade levels," Worl said.
"The most important thing is this curriculum, I think, is going to lead to better academic achievement for our students, both Native students and non-Native students, because it really builds on the environment of Southeast Alaska," Worl said.
The audio of Tlingit was recorded by fluent Tlingit Elders John Marks and June Pegues. The songs were performed by Nancy Douglas and George Holly. The lessons were written by a team of teachers and specialists led by Nancy Douglas, Elementary Cultural Curriculum Coordinator, Juneau School District. The team included Juneau teachers Kitty Eddy, Shgen George, Kathy Nielson, Hans Chester and Rocky Eddy, and SHI language team members Linda Belarde, Yarrow Vaara, David Katzeek, John Marks, Mary Foletti, Rose Natkong and Jessica Chester. Curriculum consultants Julie Folta and Toni Mallott assisted and Annie Calkins edited and evaluated the lessons and units. Lessons were field tested in Juneau classrooms in 2005 and 2006.
Teachers who want to use the hardcopy materials are encouraged by Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) to contact their superintendents or district curriculum libraries.
The three-year project was funded by two grants from the U.S. Department of Education. SHI plans to release a similar set of curriculum for the Haida language and culture.
The curriculum includes units and resources on the following topics:
Sealaska Heritage Institute is a Native nonprofit established in 1981 to administer educational and cultural programs for Sealaska, a regional Native corporation formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The institute's mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures. Language revitalization is a priority of SHI.
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