Our first day started (can’t use the word dawned) clear and cold! -26ºc which was nice and bracing as we waited for our cab at the hotel. We drove through the frost streets of Utqiagvik to the the local Middle School. The School’s namesake was a born and raised in Utqiagvik (named Barrow back then) and led the efforts to found the North Slope Borough. This essentially (from my reading) put the power of governing into the hands of the native Iñupiat people (I hope I am not messing up the history too much!).
We were welcomed warmly by the office staff and signed in. Making our way to the teacher we are working with. I need to refer to him as “The Teacher” due to sensitivities. I was struck how “normal” the school is. That is how similar it is to my Daughter’s school in the Chicago ‘burbs. Living on the edge of the continent! The Teacher’s classroom has two areas, a classic “desk area” at the front and lab tables at the back with a clear space. Today we were covering the experiential learning component of the curriculum with students carrying out at exercise designed to understand how data is distributed over a geographic area. We saw 5 classes experience the same class (The Teacher teaches all science classes for 8th grade.
It was fantastic watching the students interact and learn as well as the diversity of learning styles. In some of our downtime I had the privilege of talking to The Teacher about native weather knowledge, something I aim to learn more about on this trip. He emphasized how important winds are to the Iñupiat people when they are out on the ice hunting (yes.. on the ice…) If the winds blow to hard on-shore the ice presses together and ridges. If the wind blows too hard off-shore the ice pulls apart and forms voids. The person in charge of the hunt keeps a careful eye on the winds and when they sense that there is a change coming it is time to go!
Time flies when you are teaching fun! The day was soon over giving Meridith and John some time to discuss lessons learned with The Teacher. It was great watching education specialists going deep into how students learn. I was also in awe of the packed schedule at the school! I don’t think I would be so erudite after teaching 5+ back-to-back classes! Back in a taxi to the Hotel, dinner and debrief, a quick workout (after basically sitting all day) and its time for blog and bed!