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Ilisagvik language nest program close to opening

November 24th, 2012 | Elise Patkotak Print this article   Email this article  

Uqautchim Uglua (Inupiaq for language nest) is a new program getting ready to launch through Ilisagvik College. Its purpose is twofold. It will serve as a lab for Ilisagvik students working towards an Associate of Arts degree in Inupiaq Early Learning and provide up to 12 children from birth to three years of age with early immersion in their traditional culture and language. In its first year, which is scheduled to start in November of 2012, the program will only be accepting three-year-old children. By the start of the second year, the program will be opened to all children from birth to three.

The North Slope Borough School District has worked closely with Ilisagvik to make this project become a reality by not only providing a letter of support for the grant application but also offering Uqautchim Uglua the use of a room at the Kiita Learning Community to house the new program. This allows Kiita students to practice some of their skills by working with the language nest program and students. By coordinating Kiita with Uqautchim Uglua, the college and school district have been able to give Kiita students some real life experience in skills they are learning, while providing the young children with tactile objects to capture their mind and senses.

Two students from Kiita have already lent their skills to the program. After brainstorming among Uqautchim Uglua staff to come up with ideas that would illustrate what was being taught, these students went to work to make those visions a reality.

Kiita student Charlie Nayakik worked on two separate projects for the learning nest. "First it was a small tent frame that took a few days because the angles needed to be just right. Then it was a small freight sled, which took a few hours to build because of the experience I had from Gary Boen's construction class. Now I'm waiting for the next project." Linda Stanford, Program Director, added that Bob Meade, Principal, has also been very supportive of the program.

Lois Frantz, another Kiita student, is a gifted artist who is drawing sea and land animals for the children to identify in IƱupiat. She is also creating Kisitchirit (Inupiaq numbers) and depictions of culturally relevant community events like Nalukataq and community scenes like an igloo with dog sled. Frantz added, "I've been drawing cultural and traditional images for the kids on their playing blocks. While I'm still here at Kiita I want to start taking classes at Ilisagvik College. I want to work and have a job that I like after I finish high school. I would also like to continue to help, entertain and excite people with my talents."

Both students are receiving credits for their work with Uqautchim Uglua.

According to Tuuqlak Diaz, a teacher with the language nest program, "These projects are done by the students using their natural skills and talent, and both are having fun and getting involved in our traditions and culture? It's been a great opportunity for us to work with them, and see their positive attitude and excitement when we explain what we want done with each project." Diaz added, "Thanks to all of UU staff for sharing ideas and making the classroom environment culturally relevant and thanks to all who donated Inupiaq material to put in the classroom? AARIGAHAA!!"

For questions or to request an enrollment packet, please contact Connie Fishel at or 852.8101.


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