The Sitka School District serves a community of 9,000 residents and 1,200 students on what we call “a rock at the edge of the Pacific Ocean” in Alaska. We like to say that we know what is important in life.
It’s important to us that students learn not only academic content but also how to live meaningful, rich lives by experiencing a culturally-responsive education. In Sitka, we have the great honor of serving a very diverse student body, with 26% being Alaska Native and most of those students belonging to the Tlingit tribe, indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, on whose original land the district sits. A failure to learn from the values and richness of the community in which we are embedded would be a disservice to every student we serve. At the same time we were examining our systemic integration of arts and culture, our students pushed us to examine our integration of technology. In the same vein, a failure to leverage the tools available in the world to improve student outcomes would be a disservice to our students.
These conversations led us to develop the Arts, Culture, and Technology (ACT) Standards to guide integration of culturally-responsive education, with the aid of meaningful technological use, into everyday learning. We emphasize quality work, authentic connection, and ownership of learning and outputs, valuing depth over breadth of study in lesson planning. These lessons rely heavily on a wide variety of partnerships with local organizations that provide students with alternative learning opportunities and engage them with local heritage, cultures, landscapes, and experiences.