Sealaska Heritage Institute buys downtown building to expand school programming

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The structure, known as the Municipal Way Building, encompasses about 14,000 square feet, some of which SHI will eventually convert into spaces for hands-on learning through the institute’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) program that integrates Western and Indigenous science, which it currently offers to students in grades 6-12.

    Since SHI opened its Walter Soboleff Building in 2015 and its Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in 2022, programming demands have continued to expand, and the institute’s staff has more than tripled.

    “The additional space will allow more room for dynamic programming, staff, and storage. We have been astounded by the rapid growth of Sealaska Heritage, and we want to accommodate that momentum and meet the expanding needs of our students. It’s a challenging but exciting problem to have,” said SHI President Rosita Worl.

    SHI plans to renovate parts of the building, but that phase is still a long way off, as staff needs to raise funds for construction.

    SHI will also reface the exterior so the building visually ties to the Walter Soboleff Building and campus facility, which are clad in yellow cedar to reflect the architecture of the ancient clan houses that once dominated the shorelines of Southeast Alaska.

    STEAM education is an approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. SHI is expanding this approach to incorporate Indigenous knowledge.

    Using STEAM education results in students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process.

    STEAM teaching methods tap high-tech environments that provide such items as electronics, 3D printers, laser cutters, computers, robotics, and soldering and engraving tools.

    STEAM is also a natural teaching method for Native people, as historically knowledge was passed down through hands-on methods, such as master apprenticeships.


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