Sealaska Heritage


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July 27, 2015

Download Textbook and Kit

Sealaska Heritage Institute has produced a curriculum and art kit for formline design—the basis of Northwest Coast art—and distributed it to schools in Southeast Alaska.

The curriculum—Northwest Coast Formline Design: Definitions and Student Activities—is the culmination of SHI’s Jinéit Art Academy, a three-year project to teach formline design region wide and to cultivate more formline instructors. A team of K-12 teachers, Native artists, specialists and Sealaska Heritage staff spent years developing and field testing the curriculum, which was also vetted by the institute’s Native Artist Committee, a panel of esteemed Northwest Coast art experts.

It is an authoritative, in-depth resource that is tailored for teachers to access formline design, the term used to describe the unique shapes and compositions that are the foundation of Northwest Coast art, said SHI President Rosita Worl.

 “We have developed a premiere curriculum for educators to easily teach our ancient Native art practice,” Worl said. “Even teachers who have no background in formline design will be able to use this curriculum because the materials come in a ready-made form.”

The curriculum textbook includes an introduction to formline design, definitions and vocabulary, formline design examples and five activities, including detailed instructions on how to draw formline shapes, assemble formline sets and engrave formline in foil. The materials were designed to meet state arts education objectives as well as state content area objectives.

The curriculum text is part of a kit that was mailed to schools and tribal offices in ten communities. Inside the kit teachers will find items such as a jump drive with an electronic version of the text plus videos of SHI’s two-day formline design workshop taught by expert Steve Brown and a presentation by Tsimshian artists David A. Boxley and David R. Boxley on the house front they made for Shuká Hít, the clan house in the institute’s Walter Soboleff Building. It also includes the landmark book Northwest Coast Indian Art by Bill Holm.

In addition, the kits include materials for activities to make it easy for teachers to use the resource. For example, the text includes a section that calls for the use of flash cards. The kit has laminated copies of the cards that are ready for use, precluding the need for teachers to copy the pages from the text. The text and contents of the kit also are available online.

Sealaska Heritage collaborated with K-12 teachers, artists and curriculum and art kit specialists. The materials were also subjected to critiques by SHI’s Native Artist Committee—which includes formline experts Nathan Jackson, Delores Churchill, Nicholas Galanin, Steve Brown and Da-ka-xeen Mehner. It was presented to school district staff and tribal administrative staff in 10 communities and kit caretakers were identified in each place. It was also field tested in Juneau and Angoon.

The kit received high marks from teachers and students during field testing. Teachers who evaluated the kit unanimously rated it as “Excellent, will definitely use again”; 80 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the kit tied in well with their local curriculum; 100 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the lesson directions are easy to understand and follow; 100 percent strongly agreed that students demonstrated increased understanding of formline design and drawings. Among students who evaluated it, 100 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they were interested and excited about the activity they tested.

Kari Groven led the project and edited the textbook in collaboration with Steve Brown, Annie Calkins and Nancy Lehnhart. The Jinéit Art Academy is one of SHI’s initiatives to make Juneau the Northwest Coast art capital.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private, nonprofit founded in 1980 to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars. Its mission is to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska.

CONTACT: Rosita Worl, SHI President, 907.463.4844