Mar 10, 2010

Kuspuks Go to the Capitol

As part of our ongoing Kuspuks adventure, Gastineau Elementary School's second grade classroom was not only featured in the Anchorage KTUU television news with a wonderful segment on the parallel traditions of Kuspuk Friday..both in the capitol building in Juneau by members of the State Legislature, but on Fridays in the classroom of my sister-in-law, Paula Savikko.

It has been such a fun adventure participating in not only helping the children rip out the pieces for their kuspuks (alternate spellings: quaspeg, qaspeg, quspug...all pronounced kuss-puck), but also being able to actually help sew (my third year on this project) them on our sewing machines set up daily for a week's lesson on the art, culture, and the use of non-standard math and measurement.

Once completed, the kuspuks hang on a special display rack in the classroom, and are worn for special occasions...Kuspuk Fridays, original classroom plays, or for programs or other cultural celebrations.

One such special event was our field trip to the Governor's Mansion in Juneau, Alaska..just across the Gastineau Channel from our school located on Douglas Island.

Loading our students (all wearing their brightly colored kuspuks) onto the school bus, we began our fun filled day with a drive to Juneau and a knock on the new Alaskan Governor's door.

Alaska's 10th and newest governor, Governor Sean Parnell, now resides in Juneau, with his wife, Sandy, and daughters Grace, and Rachel..... and a wonderful dog, named Annie.

The First Lady was lovely, gracious, and welcoming (as were the two beautiful teen-aged daughters) and truly made us feel as if this was, indeed, Alaska's home. We were allowed to visit all of the public downstairs rooms, including the library, conservatory, ballroom, and dining room. And while I may have cringed at the children playing the grand piano (those with previous lessons, of course), finger printing the dining table, and sitting on the elegant sofa, all were made to feel truly welcome.

We played memory games with state facts and history, played with Annie (the State Dog) and signed the elegantly displayed guest by one. We left with official embossed napkins and a homemade cookie... and of course, with big smiles on all of our faces!

We also visited the State Historical Archives and viewed photos of our city of Douglas' past...our school, our town, and our original and unique traditions. A reminder to all of us of the importance of culture and history....both then and being made, all of our lives.

Links to Making Kuspuks in 2010:
Kuspuks Go to the Capitol

Kuspuk Fridays, KTUU, Anchorage News...our classroom featured as State Legislators wear their own kuspuks on Fridays!

Links to Making Kuspuks in 2008:
How to make a kuspuk
Kuspuks Make Front Page News
Juneau Empire Photos: Parka party 01/18/08 video

Links to Making Kuspuks in 2009
Sewing Kuspuks Again!

Note 2018 Updated YouTube link as newspaper site is no longer archived and avaulable.

Making Kuspuks
(via www.with-heart-and-hands)

The following day, a Juneau Empire videographer joined us. She video taped the class, all of the children now wearing their own newly created kuspuks, as we were rejoined by Theresa John, our gifted Yupik Eskimo cultural student, teacher, and doctoral candidate from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Theresa led us in Yupik song and dance, this time we were all wearing our completed kuspuks and we performed the dance several times to the delight of the children, as well as the visitors. The link will be available, online, in the Juneau Empire video archives.

The children dearly loved the entire experience and we celebrated afterwards with small cups of chamomile tea and graham crackers. Perhaps, not culturally traditional, but certainly appreciated and enjoyed!

Kuspuks are done! Such fun, a lot of work and many, many rewards!
How to make a kuspuk
Kuspuks Make Front Page News
Juneau Empire Photos: Parka party 01/18/08

 Links to Making Kuspuks in 2009
Fun But Frenzied Frugality: Sewing Kuspuks Again!
Kuspuks and Friday Finishes


  1. Michele, this is a wonderful concept, a wonderful project, wonderful coverage , and wonderful of you to share it. Thank you.
  2. What a delightful addition to your "busman's holiday" ... something that you'll treasure long after you return home. Thank you (!!) for sharing.
  3. thanks for letting us share in the fun, you famous Kuspuk Maker you! It's great working with young people like this-good for you.
  4. Congrats! That's great!
  5. You are having quite an adventure! What a wonderful event to share. All of you will be grinning for a long time when a Kuspuk is mentioned. You are not going to want to go home, lol.
Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.

On My Design Wall
Working on a kuspuk pattern/directions... for those who keep asking!


Rhonda said...

What a wonderful experince...the kids will never forget it!

quiltmom anna said...

You have managed to do it again Michele- what a thrill for those children.
I am sure that they have made many wonderful memories.
As always you give with all your heart- you are the most generous person I know.

Hope that your arm is healing nicely and not causing you too much pain.
Wishing Becky a complete and full recovery.
Warmest regards,

Junie Moon said...

I hope you are your family are all doing much better, Michele.

The trip to the state capitol sounds wonderful, not only for the kids but for you as well. It's nice they kids can do this and make the connections between what they hear and read about from an intangible point of view to a hands-on physical sense of the state's government. That's important, I think.

Bee Quilter said...

I love how much you give back to whatever community you are in at the time! Sure looks like fun to me!