Our First Culture Day

January was a busy, hectic, wonderful month that involved a great deal of change. After returning from winter vacation, we were thrust back into the crazy pace of school life. In my kindergarten class, we quickly jumped back into our daily schedule and classroom routines. We also gained a student teacher (more to come on that later) and found ourselves waist-deep in the busy basketball season. Most exciting for me, however, was the fact that we started Culture Mondays. Every Monday from 1:30-3:15, students break up into multi-age groups to learn about cultural activities. Here is a glimpse of our first Culture Day at Newhalen School.

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I am first assigned to monitor the kuspuk-making group. In 4 weeks, students at this station will (hopefully!) make completed kuspuks that they can wear. This past Monday, we were taught how to use a sewing machine by the lovely Miss Kate (above) and how to sew a straight line.

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Everyone practiced sewing straight lines on pieces of paper before they were given cloth. Next week, we will begin measuring, ironing, and sewing patterns together.

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Another station was the beading station. Here, kids got the chance to thread beads onto animal skin to create hair-clips and other decorative pieces.
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Students were so immersed and concentrative. Beading with little needles and very thin thread took a great deal of focus. I was so impressed!
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The third station was the skin-sewing class. Each student got a small animal pellet and learned the first steps of how to sew mittens. I’m so excited to see the finished results in a few weeks!

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The last station was the carving station. Eventually, students will leave this station with a fully-carved piece of artwork. This past Monday, however, students just learned how to use knives and plan their designs.
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As you can see above, students were also able to carve bars of soap to get the feel of how to carve into a piece of wood.
I feel so extremely fortunate to be a part of these Culture Days. Since I’m not Yup’ik, I am learning just as much as the students during this process! It’s so great having a day of the week where students can explore their histories and interact with members of the community.

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