1. Along with the pledge of allegiance, you sang the Alaska Flag Song every morning.
Before diving into each day’s work, your class sang an ode to “the simple flag of the last frontier.” Your first sign language lesson was probably learning and stumbling through the song’s accompanying ASL on a daily basis.
2. Fish and Wildlife were regulars in the classroom.
When these visitors dropped into your science class, things got interesting. At my school, Fish and Wildlife once showed up with two moose fetuses and a heart – freshly ripped from a moose that had been hit by a car earlier in the day. Whether lecturing on bear safety or salmon life cycles, a visit from Fish and Wildlife could range from fascinating to grim, but it usually meant some excitement.
3. You took epic field trips.
During field trips, your teachers used the state as a laboratory for geology, ecology, biology, and botany lessons, and you learned about history, orienteering, and outdoor safety. Your classroom was routinely ferried to beaches, campgrounds, and on hiking expeditions that doubled as an opportunity to goof around outside and take in all the state’s natural glory.
4. And travelled ungodly distances for sports games.
Unless you were in Anchorage, away games were held in the other towns in your conference – and the “next town over” could be anywhere from a 40-minute drive to a 12-hour ferry ride. So during sports seasons, you spent weekends travelling to anywhere from Juneau to Barrow. The long bus, plane, and ferry rides may have been inconvenient, but they were great opportunities for team bonding and other shenanigans.
As mushers geared up for the Iditarod each winter, your teachers got hyped about “Idita-Read.” While you had fun learning about the history and the perils of the Iditarod race and cheering on your favorite mushers, looking back, this was mostly a clever way to rope you into reading 1,049 minutes — one minute for every mile of the Iditarod trail — over a few short weeks.
6. Shopping at the same store as everyone within a 100-mile radius.
You probably did most of your back-to-school shopping at the nearest Fred Meyer. Unfortunately, pretty much everyone else in your class did too since it was the only option within a four hour’s drive. So no matter how hard you tried to be original, there was usually some overlap between your wardrobes. And inevitably, you would be all excited to wear something new, only to have your bubble burst when a classmate showed up rocking the exact same outfit.
7. Giving up (almost) all hope over snow days.
Even when it’s snowing buckets, snow days in Alaska are rare. School was more likely to get cancelled over crazy icy conditions, or a volcanic eruption, than for a few feet of snow. When your cousins from the lower 48 bragged about snow days, you just sighed. Even when they forecasted blizzards, you kept your expectations in check – and every few years that school was cancelled for snow, it felt like a bona fide miracle.
8. Unexpected recess cancellations.
Snow, ice, and sleet didn’t much phase your administrators – your class was sent to outdoor recess until the temperature dipped below -20. But it was a different story when wildlife decided to pay a visit. Violent snow and winds whipping across the playground? Expect to freeze your butt off outside. Moose spotted nearby? Instant indoor recess.