Building community partnerships is at the core of the place-based approach. Over the years, the Cottonwood School has created strong relationships with local organizations, agencies, and individuals. Through these partnerships, students have gained greater access to authentic curricular content, career knowledge, and audiences for their culminating projects. Students have also provided services to partners, such as creating educational materials and collecting valuable data.
Several of our classes have “adopted” parks, refuges, and greenspaces owned by Portland Parks and Recreation. Students visit their adopted location several times over the school year. Some of the visits focus on restoration work and other trips offer teachers an opportunity to connect the place to classroom curriculum.
Our first and second grade students visit Mirabella every month to meet with their reading buddies. Kindergarten visits throughout the year to celebrate holidays. Several seventh and eighth grade students volunteer in the spring to offer tech tutorials, help out in the library, and assist the activity director in the memory care unit. Our partnership with Mirabella is primarily organized and maintained by passionate, involved residents.
BES consistently provides environmental education to our students both in the classroom and as part of their restoration efforts in their “adopted” places. BES has also helped to create and connect us to resources around watershed education.
Our students travel to this nearby forest to learn about salmon, water quality, and ethnobotany. Tryon Creek is the fourth and fifth grader’s adopted place; they visit at least six times a year to explore, learn, and provide service work.
Every spring, our third grade students participate in the Archaeology Roadshow hosted by PSU’s archaeology department. The class researches and designs an educational exhibit to help educate the public. Our students are the only participants younger than the undergraduate level.
Our third grade class has repeatedly partnered with the Rice Museum on service-learning projects; students created an educational scavenger hunt based on museum exhibits and designed and created a timeline of geologic history for the museum to display.
Andersen Construction has generously donated hours of volunteer hours to help build playground structures and our Little Free Library. Jeff Slinger of Andersen Construction teaches first and second graders about design elements and fourth and fifth graders about architecture.
The Fair Housing Council supports our sixth graders as they learn about the African-American history of Portland. The Council has also offered invaluable professional development opportunities for our staff.