Rural lawmaker pushes place-based education

Rep. Reggie Joule addresses the Native Issues Forum. Photo by Ed Schoenfeld.

A Western Alaska lawmaker says place-based education is working.

Representative Reggie Joule, a Kotzebue Democrat, told Juneau’s Native Issues Forum today that the approach makes sense.

Theme- or place-based education teaches traditional subjects using students’ frames of reference.

Joule cited a math class he and other lawmakers visited last year at Barrow’s high school.

“The issue they were working around was height, distance and time. The problem that they were solving was in throwing a harpoon in which you hunt the whales with. What’s the time it takes to reach a certain point? What’s the time it takes to come down? What’s the distance? Those kids were into it big time,” he says.

Middle-schoolers compared the density of whale meat and blubber. And elementary students worked on kuspuk, or parka, designs.

Joule says those students were also very engaged in their classes.

“We put some money out there for a pilot project that’s taking place in the Iditarod Area School District. Because their board’s vision was to be, and to deliver to students, relevant education without losing the expectations and standards of what the education community needed to have,” he says.

Other Alaska schools use the technique. A legislative task force last year recommended more schools try place- or theme-based education.

Link to the final recommendations from the Alaska Legislative Task Force on Theme-Based Education.