Posted By:
Kathy Dye
Kathy Dye
Published On: February 17th, 2023

Space earmarked for future STEAM activities

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) has purchased a building adjacent to its downtown Walter Soboleff Building to accommodate future school programming in Juneau and online.

The structure, known as the Municipal Way Building, encompasses about 14,000 square feet, some of which SHI will eventually convert into spaces for hands-on learning through the institute’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) program that integrates Western and Indigenous science, which it currently offers to students in grades 6-12.

Since SHI opened its Walter Soboleff Building in 2015 and its Sealaska Heritage Arts Campus in 2022, programming demands have continued to expand, and the institute’s staff has more than tripled.

“The additional space will allow more room for dynamic programming, staff and storage. We have been astounded by the rapid growth of Sealaska Heritage, and we want to accommodate that momentum and meet the expanding needs of our students. It’s a challenging but exciting problem to have,” said SHI President Rosita Worl.

SHI plans to renovate parts of the building, but that phase is still a long way off, as staff needs to raise funds for construction. SHI will also reface the exterior so the building visually ties to the Walter Soboleff Building and campus facility, which are clad in yellow cedar to reflect the architecture of the ancient clan houses that once dominated the shorelines of Southeast Alaska. 


STEAM education is an approach to learning that uses science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking. SHI is expanding this approach to incorporate Indigenous knowledge. Using STEAM education results in students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration and work through the creative process.

STEAM teaching methods tap high-tech environments that provide such items as electronics, 3D printers, laser cutters, computers, robotics and soldering and engraving tools.

STEAM is also a natural teaching method for Native people, as historically knowledge was passed down through hands-on methods, such as master-apprenticeships.

Sealaska Heritage Institute is a private nonprofit founded in 1980 to perpetuate and enhance Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian cultures of Southeast Alaska. Its goal is to promote cultural diversity and cross-cultural understanding through public services and events. SHI also conducts social scientific and public policy research that promotes Alaska Native arts, cultures, history and education statewide. The institute is governed by a Board of Trustees and guided by a Council of Traditional Scholars, a Native Artist Committee and a Southeast Regional Language Committee.

CONTACT: Kathy Dye, SHI Media and Publications Deputy Director, 907.321.4636,

Caption: Schematic of redesigned exterior of Municipal Way Building by Jensen Yorba Wall, Inc., courtesy of SHI. Note: news outlets are welcome to use this photo for coverage of this story. For a higher-res version, contact

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