Program offers kids chance to explore peninsula's history

Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2002

Area students may be getting a break from school this week, but that doesn't mean they're taking a break from learning.

The Soldotna After The Bell Club for Boys and Girls will offer the class "Our Alaska," which will focus on the history of the Kenai Peninsula, during spring break.

In the four corners of the Soldotna Middle School gym, children will explore the Kenaitze culture, the Russian culture, the homesteading influence or a combination of all three. Each child will be "sent to a corner" to spend the week.

The class, for children in first through eighth grades, will be offered from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

One corner of the Soldotna Middle School gym will be given to Kenaitze tribal customs and history. Children in this corner will learn about Kenaitze dancing, drumming and tribal customs.

The second corner will be dedicated to the effect of Russian culture on Alaska. Children will tour the Russian Orthodox church in Kenai and learn to make Russian toys from clay. They also will learn to cook piroghi, a Russian dish.

The third corner will be assigned to those learning the history of homesteaders in Alaska. The children will make sourdough pancakes and go to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to tour a cabin belonging to one of Alaska's first homesteaders.

The fourth corner of the gym combines the three topics. The children here will create a flag of Alaska. They also will be asked to offer suggestions for a design of the state of Alaska quarter.

"We want the kids to understand what we achieved when all three cultures came together to become a state," Jean Waldren, the program director, said. "We want them to understand the diversity of our culture."

Tammy Hanley, the director of the After the Bell Clubhouse at Redoubt Elementary School, is enthusiastic about the program and encouraged visitors to come and join the children already signed up for the class.

"Registration is limited to members of the Soldotna club, but we encourage anyone who is curious to stop in and participate," Hanley said.

On Friday, from 2 to 5 p.m., there will be a party at the Elks Club in Soldotna, with a cake decorated with the flag of Alaska, entertainment and storytelling.

"We would especially like anyone who can tell a good Alaska story to attend this party," Hanley said.

The After the Bell program, which started in the fall of 1999, has been operating with the aid of grants, which will soon run out.

"We are seeking new funding and community support," Hanley said.

Anyone wishing further information can call Hanley at 262-5412.

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