So much to do ...

International visitors, bus trip to space top Ninilchik year so far

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2007


  Aurora Dell is doing the wrist carry as Ninilchik Native Youth Olympic students demonstrated their events for the film crew from Estonia. Photo courtesy of Ninilchik Scho

Aurora Dell is doing the wrist carry as Ninilchik Native Youth Olympic students demonstrated their events for the film crew from Estonia.

Photo courtesy of Ninilchik Scho

Things are happening at Ninilchik School.

"I tell you, it's our year," said Principal Terry Martin.

Earlier this month, a television crew from Estonia dropped in to interview and film Native Youth Olympic students that attend school in Ninilchik, a kindergarten through 12th- grade school of 176 students.

"It was a nice opportunity for them to display their skills," Martin said of the film that will be shown in the country bordering the Baltic Sea. "They said they would send us a copy of the tape so we can let the kids see it."

That's not the only visitor as of late. Heather Pancratz's Alaska studies class recently welcomed Alexei Aksoak, a Russian Orthodox priest who has two students attending Ninilchik School. While living in Ninilchik, the Aksoak family is living in the parsonage of the United Methodist Church. Aksoak is originally from the Yukon Delta region. He and his wife, Paulina, spoke to the students about growing up in a subsistence lifestyle, the role of the Russian Orthodox Church in Alaska and the importance of preserving Native languages.

"The Russian Orthodox Church has arguably one of most profound impacts on our state," Martin said.

Last week Rob Holladay, an anti-bullying speaker who speaks at schools across the nation, made his first Alaska visit to speak specifically at Ninilchik School.

"Safety is our number one job so students can learn," Martin said. "I talked to principals at several schools (Holladay) has been in and they were just over the moon with him. In no way is this a cure-all, but until all of us, every student, every teacher, rejects bullying, it's going to continue."

During several presentations to the elementary, middle and high school students and faculty, Holladay combined humor and illusions to capture the attention of his audience and deliver his message.

"His positive message, from a one-time bully, himself, was truly inspiring," Martin said.

In November, Ninilchik School will open its doors to a different kind of visitor a flight director from the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai.

"We have a program called 'School Bus to Space,' an outreach program funded by ConocoPhillips," said Lin Kennedy of the center.

The program focuses on fourth- through sixth-grade students in Title I schools. Ninilchik is one of the sites selected; others are in Anchorage, Wasilla, Juneau, Fairbanks, Wainwright and Nuiqsut.

The flight director will be in Ninilchik Nov. 26 through 30, teaching students about rocketry and robotics, and is considering taking the center's star lab to the school.

Through community networking, archery recently has been added to activities offered at the school.

"(Kenai Peninsula State Fair Manager) Lara McGinnis contacted me this summer and said there was a gal at the fair really interested in finding a school that would accept $3,000 or archery equipment and have an instructor trained," Martin said of a national archery-in-the-schools program.

After completing the requirement to have an instructor certified, the school received its brand new archery equipment that can be used by students from grade school through high school.

"Strange and wonderful things happen in schools," Martin said. "You can be beating the bushes, looking for this kind of stuff and not find it and then have the local fair manager put you on this."

Coming up for Ninilchik is the Region II volleyball tournament, which Martin described as "a big deal" for this small community. Later this year, Ninilchik, as well as other peninsula schools, will be visited by Alaska author Judy Ferguson. That, Martin said, "is just a neat thing."

So is the enrollment at Ninilchik School, where 151 students were projected for the 2007-08 school year.

"The common thread seems to be people who have family here. Of course, you know as well as I do that Ninilchik's a wonderful place to live," she said.

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