Alutiiq Language Nest School Enters First Full Semester

Students and teachers in classroom in the Afognak building on Near Island during pilot semester. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

A preschool designed to immerse children in the Alutiiq language is about to enter its first full semester of classes.

The Administration for Native Americans granted the Sun’aq tribe roughly $2 million dollars to establish the nest school. It wrapped up its pilot semester in May.

Local artist, Hanna Sholl, says she enrolled two of her children in the nest school. She says her daughter became more comfortable using Alutiiq words over the period of the class.

“She would use them a little bit in the nest, but then she would come home and she would have no problem telling her brothers kita, let’s go, and asking for things. Like, she asks for juice in Alutiiq. Even still now she’ll do that.”

Teacher Marya Halvorsen wants to encourage more of that kind of language use in the classroom. She says that’s a consideration moving forward on possible improvements to the program.

“I think that we had some really lofty ideas about how quickly a curriculum would move along, so we have definitely revisited that and revised it to meet the needs of multiple small children, lots of moving parts. We have also tried to work out a way to change our focus on getting responses from them instead of them just having a receptive understanding.”

As an assessment tool, they made audio recordings of the classes. Halvorsen says, in preparing for September’s reopening, she’s been going over some of the tape.

“And I’ve been listening to that for the last day and a half and identifying my kids by voice, by screech, by squeal, and it’s occurred to me how much I miss them, so I’m really looking forward to getting them back in and hanging out with them. They’re all really cool little people. But I’m also looking forward to what we can do with an entire full year.”

This coming semester will go from September through May with an expanded schedule of classes and a new, permanent office above the Alutiiq Museum.

The program is currently taking applications for enrollment.

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