Students at Tuugaalik High School closed out their school year by enjoying the blend of traditional-and-modern programming the school has become well-known for in Naujaat this past month.
Students from Grade 7 to 12 enjoyed a number of land trips throughout the month, while hip-hop artist and freestyle dancer Eugene Baffoe had them dancing throughout the halls during his fourth visit to the community from May 13 to 17.
Vice-principal Julia MacPherson said the school tries to arrange a number of land trips towards the end of May every year.
She said the students went out on the land for the day-long trips by Ski-Doo and qamutiik.
“We didn’t do any overnight trips this year mainly because of the fact we lost a lot of school days due to cancellations caused by bad weather,” said MacPherson. “But every class, and their teachers, got a chance to go out for a day and do a bit of fishing and caribou hunting.”
“We pride ourselves on the importance of taking these land trips, and we hold them high among the programs and projects we’re able to offer our students every year,” she continued. “We do our best to get them out on the land at least three or four times every year, whether it’s boating or out on a quad or Ski-Doo.”
MacPherson said the land trips are built into the school curriculum for grades seven through nine.
She said a few senior-high classes can also incorporate the trips into their own curriculum, but, either way, the trips are important to the school and its students.
“Aubrey (Bolt, the school principal) and I make sure it’s something that’s done every year because the students really enjoy it and the teachers enjoy it too,” she said. “The land trips are a good chance for our teachers to see the students in a different light and work with them in a different environment.”
“For the most part, traditional activities – how to keep them strong and ensure they’re totally inclusive – are ongoing topics of discussion within our school administration We do various things throughout the year – land trips, serving traditional food, having elder guests into the school, holding an elder tea, and celebrating heritage and culture days – to keep our traditional programming strong because it’s important we continue to incorporate it into student lessons and daily school life.”
Lest one think Tuugaalik High School is only about traditional programming, hip-hop artist and freestyle dancer Eugene Baffoe made his fourth trip to the Arctic Circle to instruct youth in the community on the joys of hip hop and modern dance this past month.
Baffoe worked with the youth on May 14, 16 and 17, and participated in a land trip with Grade 7 and 8 students and their teachers on May 15.
MacPherson said Baffoe is always a hit with Naujaat youth when he visits the community.
She said this was Baffoe’s first trip to Naujaat during a time of year when Tuugaalik was conducting land trips.
“Eugene always shows an interest in the school, community and culture, and he always does things like going to the gym or hall in the evenings to play basketball with the kids,” said MacPherson.
“He really tries to incorporate himself into the community as much as possible, even though he’s only here for a short period of time as a guest. This year he was fortunate enough to get out on a land trip, and he said that he was able to check a lot of things off of his bucket list, and some things he didn’t even know were on his bucket list.”
“I find as the students get older they’re a little more hesitant to participate in dance, so it turned out to be really important for Eugene to take part in the land trip as the students really enjoyed his company because he’s such an overall positive person.”
Baffoe conducted dance sessions each morning at the elementary school, and then switched to the high school for his afternoon sessions.
MacPherson said many Naujaat students have a strong connection to hip hop.
And, she said, there are a few students who really, really like to dance.
“He does a great job in taking parts of Inuit culture like ayaya singing or drum dancing and incorporating them into the modern style of hip hop.”
“The kids really enjoy the effort Eugene makes in respecting Inuit culture like that.”