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Elders in the Classroom

The Alaska Seas and Watersheds curriculum has designed the units of instruction to address the Alaska Standards for several ways. The units encourage students and teachers to engage in the local context of the content offered, organize and invite the community into the classroom to share in students’ learning, and utilize local elders knowledge and expertise whenever possible. It is important for students to know that the traditional knowledge of their community is important and significant. If you are new to teaching in Alaska, the following resources may be helpful as you plan for involving elders in your classroom and/or field investigations.

Using Elders in the Classroom by Roby Littlefield includes information and suggestions for involving and working with elders in the classoom.

Scientists and Resource Guests in the Classroom

Guest speakers are a positive addition to the classroom. In a recent report of a study, What Good Is a Scientist in the Classroom? Participant Outcomes and Program Design Features for a Short-Duration Science Outreach Intervention in K–12 Classrooms by Laursen, etal. 2006, it was determined that students showed gains in the following three areas as a result of including scientists in the classroom:

Enhanced Interest and Engagement
New Views of Science and Scientists
Understanding of Science and its Relevance
The report also showed gains in skills and understanding for teachers.

It must be kept in mind that not all scientists are in the teaching profession, but they can share their knowledge, experience, expertise, and research with students. Teachers can help make the experience positive for all involved. Here are some tips to consider:

Contact a local college or university if there is one nearby. Local Fish and Game, Fish and Wildlife, marine offices, or other agency offices are also good places to contact for guests. Don’t forget to ask parents if they have knowledge and experience they might like to share!
Once you find a possible guest, make contact with them to find out their area of expertise. It is helpful to explain what age(s) students they will be working with, and what types of content they have already been introduced to. A general overview of skills and abilities will help the speaker as they plan for their visit. It is a good idea to give a definite time period, so things don’t last too long and risk losing the students attention.
Find out if there is a need for any special equipment, such as an overhead projector, multimedia projector, DVD or VCR player, etc.
If the scientist or guest seems nervous or inexperienced when you initially speak with them, you might share the publication, Sharing Science with Children: A Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers with them.
Be sure to prepare your students for the visitor by explaining who they are, where they work, what they do, and why they will be visiting the classroom. Behavior expectations may also be reviewed.

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