An Alutiiq language immersion preschool will open next month.
Teacher Michael Bach said he and his colleagues will lead classes in Alutiiq, and it’ll be much like any other preschool.
“You know, preschoolers don’t really learn about English,” Bach said. “Like a preschooler doesn’t walk into preschool and teachers say ‘this is a preposition and this is a proverbial phrase.’ We won’t be doing that. We’ll just be playing, essentially, in Alutiiq. So, instead of having story time in English, they’re gonna be having story time doing it in Alutiiq. Instead of teachers having snack time in English, we’re gonna be doing it in Alutiiq.”
Bach said the language nest is part of a larger project through the Sun’aq Tribe of Kodiak that reaches out to communities and schools to encourage Alutiiq language learning. It’s an initiative which received a $2 million grant this year from the Administration for Native Americans.
That funding, to be distributed over five years, has allowed the preschool to offer a $50 dollar entry fee per semester.
Bach said the program will encourage active family involvement and staff would ask parents to attend community language events.
“So that the burden of language learning isn’t on your little one alone, but you would be learning alongside them,” Bach said. “And at those events, we’ll be giving adults, siblings, aunts and uncles, whoever is interested, access to some of the language that their kids are learning or their nieces or nephews or their little brothers or sisters are learning at the language nest.”
Bach said elders will play a role in helping the teachers sustain complete language immersion.
“Myself and Marya [Halvorsen], we weren’t raised speaking Alutiiq, it’s not our first language, so it’s a lot of work to stay in the language,” Bach said. “And having fluent speakers there to support us will make sure that snack time, play time, story time, circle time, will all be done in Alutiiq.”
The preschool’s first day will be January 24.