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Speaking of cultures and education

The remote operated vehicle was a popular offering at the opportunity fair. - Tara Lemm/Staff Photo
The remote operated vehicle was a popular offering at the opportunity fair.
— image credit: Tara Lemm/Staff Photo

KIANA LODGE — The Kitsap Peninsula is a hotbed of Native American heritage and culture, which is the perfect tool for teaching and motivating student-aged tribal members to learn and seek the life skills of math and science.

But only if the youngest ancestors can grasp how their culture encompasses those core academic classes.

To spur that understanding the ?????????????????????????North Kitsap School District hosted its fourth annual Native American Opportunity Fair Thursday at the Kiana Lodge.

The event’s theme was tying culture to math and science.

“The goal is to motivate the students to pursue educational opportunities available to them through both culture and academics,” said Dixie Husser, NKSD assistant director for Learning Support Services. “A lot of times students don’t understand that all cultures have math and science. We’re trying to bring it together so it will inspire them a little bit.”

Approximately 85 sixth- through eighth-grade students from Kingston and Poulsbo middle schools and Central Kitsap and Bainbridge Island school districts attended the fair, which ran from 8:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Keynote speaker Terry Goedel, a Tulalip tribal member, hoop dancer and junior high math teacher of 15 years, kicked off the day’s happenings.

He told the students some of his best memories were from junior high, as that’s the time of his life he realized he was capable of completing tasks on his own, and so can the students.

“I’m telling you, you have the skills. The kids who usually try make it and the kids who don’t, don’t,” Goedel said. “You’re in a position right now where you get a choice to be what you want to be. You have been brought here today to hopefully open your eyes.”

To facilitate eye-opening learning, the students attended a handful of 10, 35-minute workshops. Among the sessions: archeology, cedar weaving, paddle making, hoop dancing, flute playing and technology.

All involved culture and academic learning and most were presented by a native individual.

“The kids can see themselves represented and reflected in the speaker,” Husser said. “A lot of times they don’t see Native American people doing math and science.”

The paddle makers painted hand-sized cedar paddles with the traditional hues of red, black and white. The cedar weavers took long strands of cedar and made bracelets and necklaces. During the archeology session the students learned about the canoes of different cultures, travel routes and how to calculate travel times.

Keyport’s Laurie Carson, school enrichment program manager and Laurie Musick, work life director council chairman were on site to help students maneuver remote operated vehicles.

“When you get into the high school classroom this is the stuff you’ll be learning,” Carson said. “You’ll be learning to build these things.”

A throng of students gathered around a large, black plastic watering trough and took turns, in partners, operating the alien-looking device.

“We’re here today showing junior high kids that science and technology is important and could be a great future for them,” Musick said.

Another technological offering centered on photography. The students who signed up for the class, which was a full-day affair, were charged with documenting, on film, the workshops, the grounds and their peers. They were taught how to use digital cameras, download and edit pictures and create a PowerPoint presentation that was shown at the day’s finale.

The students in this special session garnished real-life experience in a field they planned to pursue.

“I’m enjoying myself,” said KMS sixth-grader Rayna Ives who wants to be a photographer when she grows up. “It’s showing me all the opportunities and what I can do when I’m older.”

Fellow photographing guru, KMS seventh-grader Lateesha Ranney, learned the lesson Goedel emphasized in his opening speech.

“It’s showing me that I can be a photographer in the future because no one can stop me from my dreams,” she said.

The Native American opportunity fair is a way NKSD and the tribal councils work together to enrich the lives of native students through enhancing their cultural experiences and learning.

An opportunity fair is hosted each fall for ninth- through 12th-graders and each spring for sixth- through eighth-graders.

“It gives kids the message that education is important and through their culture is a good way to learn math and science,” said Lena Maloney, NKSD Native American Education Program coordinator.

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