Kodiak’s Rural Schools Come Together in Port Lions


Students from Kodiak and seven rural schools gathered in Port Lions for a four-day intensive ‘Math Academy’ workshop. Activities were varied; on Thursday eight teams built cars propelled by mousetrap springs.

Jacob Resneck/KMXT photo


Jacob Resneck/KMXT

This week was a rare opportunity for students from Kodiak’s rural schools to assemble in one place. No roads connect these isolated schools though many of the students already know each other as classrooms are linked by video teleconferencr. But this week gave them a chance to work together face-to-face as part of a four-day intensive session in Port Lions. KMXT’s Jacob Resneck visited and filed this report.

(math academy pkg) 5:30 "More than fifty … In Port Lions, I’m Jacob Resneck."

More than fifty students are gathered in the Port Lions school gym. They’ve been broken into teams. Their task: build a pair of wooden cars powered by the spring of a household mousetrap. Coordinating the project today is Father Joshua Resnick from St. Innocent’s Academy. In his morning pep talk, he tells students the task won’t be easy.


Each team has a budget they’ll have to adhere to. They’ll need every penny as supplies don’t come cheap: yarn sells for $5.94 a foot; a dab of grease is $7.23. The numbers aren’t round for a reason, this year’s theme is mathematics and students will have to keep an exact tally when buying from Michael Mears, who also works at St. Innocent’s Academy.


But after sorting out the arithmetic the eight teams get to work drawing up designs, purchasing supplies and starting work on their cars.

I check in with Raissa Boskofsky, a sophomore from Port Lions whose team is one of the first to complete designs for their two cars.


amb – sawing

Then I ask Tamara Swenson, a senior from Old Harbor, why she’s sawing their mousetrap in half.


The students in each team are from different villages but there’s little apparent awkwardness between pupils. For the past several years they’ve become acquainted with each other via classes linked by teleconference. It’s Anthony Dao’s first year in Ouzinkie from where he teaches math and science via video conference across Kodiak Island. The students are used to interacting electronically, he says, but seem to relish this opportunity to meet in person.


Phil Johnson is the principal of the rural schools. He says this week is part of an effort to get students from different villages thinking of themselves as a unified student body.


These confabs are funded by an ANSWER grant which Johnson said has provided the district with roughly $650,000 per year for the past three years. He says this week’s session is expensive. Bringing together more than fifty students can cost as much as $10,000 and his office is investigating ways to keep these types of initiatives running after the grant expires.


Back on gymnasium floor, already there’s some pre-competition bravado.

enough rubber bands

With classical music piped over the PA, the students go into the final push to ready their cars. Resnick confides to me what the winning teams will win something that so far has been a closely guarded secret.


The competition unfolds with some successes…

excellent race

And some disappointments…

throw it away

Today the 53 students board small planes and return to their villages. They’ll all be seeing each other Monday but for many it will be through a video screen.

In Port Lions, I’m Jacob Resneck.


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