Originally posted: March 2013
Sarah Segal, a teacher at Hood River Middle School in Oregon, attended the National Council for the Social Studies Conference in Seattle, WA this year for the wonderful professional development opportunities offered there. New Social Studies Content Standards were recently adopted by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) and include a unit on the Inuit. After participating in a pre-conference clinic at NCSS called “Who Owns the Arctic? Arctic Peoples and Global Change” presented by the National Resource Centers on Canada, Ms. Segal returned to her school inspired to implement a 6th grade-wide cultural unit including exploration of the Inuit Nations of the circumpolar north. Sarah Segal describes the cross-cultural undertaking as a living-museum of students’ learning, enthusiastic generation of traditional artifacts, and participation in the culminating Arctic Cultural Fair activity – highlighting the role of Inuit Peoples of the Arctic Council.
Using resources and information from the “Who Owns the Arctic? Arctic Peoples and Global Change” workshop, along with ODE Social Studies Content Standards, teaching Inuit history created the foundation for the Arctic Cultures unit. Integrating science to investigate how cultures develop due to their environment led to expanding this unit to include ALL regions in the Arctic Circle. Comparing pre-1900 life-ways (prior to arrival of traders) to modern-day life-ways, further directed investigating environmental, social, economic, and political, changes that have taken place in the last century.
Students learned that in 2011, indigenous arctic peoples came together to create the Arctic Council and explored their role in assessing, create reports, and informing the general public about trade routes through the arctic, extraction of natural resources, and how global weather changes effect individual country’s environments along the Arctic Ocean.
The entire Hood River Middle School 6th grade then spent the month of January developing a student-created ‘living museum’ Arctic Cultural Fair. Students learning was guided through use of the 8 Cultural Universals: Communication, Arts & Aesthetics, Recreation, Family Structure, Political Organization, Attitudes Towards the Unknown (+ Rituals), Economics, and Food/Clothing/Shelter. Every 6th grade student (180+) dressed to represent their arctic cultural, in addition to displaying a variety of technology presentations and object models of the cultural universals. These will included dancing, games, foods for sampling, murals, informational posters, student-generated and original artifacts, and much more. In addition, the Family and Consumer Science classes used traditional smoking techniques to prepare meat in the school’s native plant arboretum. Furthermore, students researched and created visual displays of their culture in regards to environment. For example, most arctic cultures find significance in the northern lights; treasure meat such as salmon, caribou, and walrus; and the festivals such as Christmas, are derived from folklore of a man bearing gifts on a sleigh and entering the home through chimneys’ (because doors are buried under snow), comes from the Lapland Saami of Scandinavia.
The NRC on Canada presenters, Nadine Fabbi (UW), Tina Storer (WWU), Betsy Arntzen (U Maine) and Amy Sotherden (SUNY Plattsburgh) were delighted by this impressive outcome of their outreach. It is wonderful to see the impact of Ms. Segal’s newfound knowledge on her students as well as the entire 6th grade class at Hood River Middle School.On Friday, March 1st, from 1-2pm, the Hood River Middle School Multi-Purpose Room (MPR) was be sectioned into 6 geographic regions to represents the 7 Permanent Arctic Council. Homerooms broken into council members (Inuit, Athabaskan, Gwich’in, Aleut, RAIPON, and Saami) a ‘living-museum’ for public viewing was created.
Congratulations to Sarah Segal, her fellow 6th grade teachers, and the entire class of students at Hood River Middle School for a job well done! You have not only met but exceeded new content standards and your successful approach will undoubtedly inspire others in the state and across the country to use your unit as a best practice model.
“STUDY CANADA,” the Pacific Northwest National Resource Center on Canada’s annual professional development workshop, has been offered by the Center for Canadian-American Studies at Western Washington University for the last 34 years serving educators from almost every state in the nation. The Institute is funded, in part, by a Title VI grant from International and Foreign Language Education, Office of Postsecondary Education, U.S. Department of Education. Paulette is a Humanities and World Language Teacher in the Ida B. Wells School for Social Justice and a U.W. graduate student in Education, Curriculum and Instruction (Multicultural Education). View the K-12 STUDY CANADA website.