Brian Tye Kuhr, 14 of Kasilof, maneuvers his drone at UP STREAM Academy, a week-long program aimed to provide a STEM camp for Title VI Students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Thursday, June 1, 2017. The academy was held at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska Center in Kenai, Alaska. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Brian Tye Kuhr, 14 of Kasilof, maneuvers his drone at UP STREAM Academy, a week-long program aimed to provide a STEM camp for Title VI Students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, Thursday, June 1, 2017. The academy was held at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska Center in Kenai, Alaska. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Alaska Native students go UP STREAM

From Nanwalek to Kenai, 36 Alaska Native students from across the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were brought together at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai for UP STREAM Academy, a weeklong camp that focuses on building science, technology and relationships.

“We’re looking at connecting them to up-and-coming technology, but in a way where they are actually going to apply it to their world and in the future,” said Rachel Pioch, Title VI Tutor at Skyview Middle School and organizer of UP STREAM Academy.

Throughout the weeklong camp, Alaska Native students found themselves with jam-packed schedules that started with breakfast at 8 a.m. in the Challenger Center, which acted as the academy’s home-base throughout the week. Students and chaperones stayed on-site in the center’s dormitories.

“Our goal is to let them experience, connect to and apply an up-and-coming technology to their world,” Pioch said. “We want them to learn about their culture, invest in their relationships and future, while giving back to the community.”

They students spent one day exploring Kenai Peninsula College learning about potential college programs and another swimming at the Kenai Central High School pool. They also visited the K’beq’ Cultural Site in Cooper Landing to learn about their own heritage, painted flower beds at the Kenai Community Garden and picked up trash along the beach.

“This is the first (academy) we’ve done as part of the Native education program,” said Conrad Woodhead, the district’s Native Education Program Coordinator. “We’re hoping that it will be recurring because it’s great… We’re targeting STEM activities, obviously, but we’re also trying to bring in the cultural aspect as well.”

On Thursday morning, while the students flew drones around the entirety of the Challenger Center, they interacted with fellow Alaska Natives from across the peninsula.

“My favorite part was getting a ride here,” Bobby Eluska said. “I’m from Kodiak, but now I live in Nanwalek and I got to meet a lot people on the ride up from Homer.”

The students grasped the concept of drones quickly, flying them through hoops and having each drone transport sugar packets across the room.

“It’s fun ‘cause you get to carry stuff around,” Juvenaly Evans of Nanwalek said. “It’s pretty easy to learn and it lets me practice programming which is awesome.”

The students also get to take their drones home after the camp in order to continue their education.

“There have been a lot of highlights so far like… the kids’ face when they first get their drone to lift off,” Pioch said. “And then, they get to keep the drones because we want them to learn how they can use this technology outside of UP STREAM and how to adapt this technology to fit their circumstances.”

Each student was able to attend the program at no cost to them, thanks to Title VI, the Indian Education Program.

“It’s totally federally-funded, so the kid’s do not pay anything,” Pioch said. “This is coming directly from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.”

The program was designed for middle school students, but in future programs Woodhead said they plan to rotate the age groups.

During this week’s camp, the 36 Alaska Native students came from Tyonek, Nanwalek, Port Graham, Homer, Kenai, Soldotna, Sterling and Ninilchik.

“The need is there for us to be able to involve more kids in the STEM area and achieve,” Woodhead said. “Plus, it’s neat to see kids from across the district make connections and create resources, ‘cause these are relationships that they are going to have ongoing, for a long time.”

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

The Boney Courthouse in downtown Anchorage, across the street from the larger Nesbett Courthouse, holds the Alaska Supreme Court chambers. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska redistricting board picks new Senate map after Supreme Court finds a gerrymander

The board could continue work and possibly write a different map for the elections from 2024 onward

A landslide blocks Lowell Point Road in Seward, Alaska, on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (Photo courtesy City of Seward)
Lowell Point Road to reopen Friday

Intermittent blasting work will continue next week

Members of the Kenai City Council participate in a council meeting on Wednesday, March 16, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Boys and girls clubs land donation postponed

The issue will be back before the body on June 1

Vehicles are unleaded at the Seward Harbor after being moved from Lowell Point on Sunday, May 22, 2022 in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)
Lowell Point barge services move 110-plus cars to Seward

The services were covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and ended Monday

Anglers fish on the Kenai River on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Watershed Forum receives matching grant from Conoco

The Kenai Watershed Forum was given a grant from ConocoPhillips to fund… Continue reading

A beach on the eastern side of Cook Inlet is photographed at Clam Gulch, Alaska, in June 2019. The Alaska Board of Fisheries is implementing new shellfish regulations in Cook Inlet. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Fish and Game closes East Cook Inlet razor clam fisheries

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the Cook Inlet… Continue reading

Anastasia Scollon (left) and Willow King (right) stand in The Goods + Sustainable Grocery and Where it’s At mindful food and drink on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sustainable shopping finds new home in Soldotna

The Collective used to operate out of Cook Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Most Read