Educational partnership mixes math with Native design

A program mixing Alaska Native art with high school math is part of Sealaska Heritage Institute’s latest efforts to promote culture and foster the next generation of Native artists.

The partnership seeks to encourage the next generation of artists in the Northwest Coast art traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian. Sealaska Heritage Institute, the University of Alaska Southeast and several Southeast school districts have signed on.

Funded by a federal grant, Sealaska Heritage is calling the program “Sharing our Box of Treasures.” Partners will work to incorporate the geometry and algebra concepts involved in formline design into high school math classes.

It also establishes an associate degree program in Northwest Coast arts at UAS. The goal is for students studying Native art at UAS to then be able to transfer to the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to complete four-year degrees. This partnership is a continuation of one that began last year.

“It’s a way that we may not be able to offer the full four-year degree but by offering the two-year degree it creates a pathway for someone who is interested in that topic,” said UAS spokesperson Keni Campbell.

At the same time, high school students in Juneau, Hoonah and Klawock will eventually be able to take courses in formline design at their schools while receiving dual credit at UAS.

The Juneau School District and UAS will be hiring coordinators to start working on classes next spring.

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