NEW SCHOOL PROVIDES A STRONG FOUNDATION FOR ALL STUDENTS
Ray Barnhardt, Professor
of Cross-Cultural Studies
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Member, EKCS Academic Policy Committee
Eleanor Laughlin, Principal
Effie Kokrine Charter School
When Effie Kokrine visited Fairbanks schools as an Elder with the Alaska Native Education program she always carried a small suitcase filled with a treasure trove of traditional Athabascan tools and artifacts which she used to illustrate the skills, ingenuity and values that she learned growing up in Interior Alaska. Woven into her presentations were a wealth of demonstrations, stories and humor that engaged young and old in a journey through life’s many lessons—lessons that are just as relevant today as they were in her lifetime. It is those lessons that will be at the heart of the new Effie Kokrine Charter School which will open this Fall in the facilities of the Howard Luke Academy, named after another respected Athabascan Elder who has had a long history of contributing to the cultural and educational well-being of young people in the Tanana Valley.
Both Effie Kokrine and Howard Luke were hard workers, became champion dog mushers, took an active role in the life of their community, served as strong advocates for education, and earned the title of respected Elder. As such, their lives serve as exemplary role models around which to build an educational program that guides young people to become strong, confident, responsible and capable adults. The Effie Kokrine Charter School is designed to meet that challenge with a mission to “provide educational opportunities for students to succeed in the world by developing a strong sense of purpose, identity, place and community through cultural and academic empowerment.”
EKCS will open its doors on August 18th, 2005 with a professional staff of 10 serving 150-200 students spread over grades 7 to 12. Students in the former Howard Luke Academy will have first option to enroll in the new school, with other students admitted by lottery if the applications exceed 200. The school is open to all students grades 7-12 and is expected to be made up of students from a wide range of backgrounds and academic interests. The curriculum of the school is intended to provide students with a strong foundation in the role of culture in their lives as well as prepare them for academic success.
The Effie Kokrine Charter School will be governed by an Academic Policy Committee made up of parents, teachers and others associated with the development of the EKCS program. The Fairbanks Native Association is serving as the initial sponsoring organization for the school, though EKCS will operate as a public school under the authority of the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District. Once the school is established, the Academic Policy Committee will be formally incorporated and become the sponsoring entity.
In an effort to provide students with a well grounded educational experience rooted in the social, political, economic and cultural contexts of Interior Alaska, the EKCS curriculum will immerse them in numerous real-world projects and activities, all of which will be organized around a series of 12 themes, such as family, cultural expression, health and wellness, outdoor survival, applied technology and exploring horizons. Within each of these themes, students will learn the academic knowledge and skills associated with the Alaska Content and Performance Standards, as well as the knowledge, skills and values associated with the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools, as adopted by the State Board of Education.
To provide flexibility for the kind of in-depth experiences in real-world settings that such a curriculum calls for, EKCS will be organized around a block schedule in which students will enroll in one course/module at a time for three weeks, rather than the 50-minute period, six-classes-a-day structure that is typical of most high schools. This will allow students to participate in extended field trips, internships and community research and service projects in which they apply the knowledge and skills they acquire in the classroom setting to real-life conditions in the community. EKCS will also sponsor an intramural sports program, including participation in the Native Youth Olympics and the World Eskimo and Indian Olympics.
To take further advantage of the learning opportunities that such a curriculum structure provides, the EKCS calendar will be organized on a year-round basis with several month-long breaks distributed throughout the year, rather than one three-month break in the summer. That way students can participate in and learn from the many educational opportunities that take place during every season of the year, while meeting the same graduation requirements of other students in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.
The Effie Kokrine Charter School has been approved by the FNSBSD Board and is expected to be authorized by the Alaska State Board of Education in June. Applications for teaching staff and for students wishing to enroll in the school are currently available through the district office. Anyone interested in further information about EKCS is encouraged to contact Eleanor Laughlin, the Principal for the school, at the FNSB School District Office (452-2000, ext. 462). An Open House for parents and students will be held at the Howard Luke Academy on May 19th, 6 – 8:00 pm. Everyone is invited to attend.