Merging science and traditional knowledge to teach children about the land
Life jackets? Check. First aid kits? Check? Mosquito repellent? Double check!
The MapTEACH camp on the river begins May 22 at Manley Hot Springs and will travel the waterways for five days. Participants will explore the local environment, learn to use GPS receivers, create unique maps with computers, work with elders, local experts and geologists to understand the environment and share mapping projects with students and teachers.
The capstone event follows years of workshops and trainings held with teachers and students of the Yukon-Koyukuk School District. This time, 15 middle school students and five teachers from Hughes, Allakaket, Huslia, Manley Hot Springs, Kaltag and Minto will be involved.
The group will split in two, with one section traveling from Manley Hot Springs to the Tanana River, studying geology, and the other going from New Minto to Old Minto learning place names and stories from the elders. The groups will then meet and swap routes for the return voyage.
Local river captains will pilot the campers along the way. Assistant Professor Patricia Heiser will teach about permafrost; MapTEACH Coordinator Sidney Stephens will instruct on place names and landmarks; DeAnne Pinney Stevens, geologist with the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Suveys, will emphasize erosion and deposition.
Susan Paskvan, the Yukon-Koyukuk School District’s Native language coordinator, has been instrumental in helping organize the trip, Stephens said. “The Y-K school district is a huge partner.”
Stephens said her goal is to create new ways to tell old stories. “The technology is a draw and is appealing but what the children know and their parents and grandparents know about the land is important too,” Stephens said. “We want both things to end up being valued.”
The overarching goal of MapTEACH is that students learn about the landscape from multiple perspectives, including geology, history and local knowledge, Stephens said.
While Stephens and MapTEACH have conducted numerous teacher workshops and classroom visits over the years, this is the first time teachers, elders and students will experience a field trip together. “This is the culmination of all our work,” Stephens said.