Stories From the Field

Cottonwood School of Civics and Science Place-Based Fieldwork

 


 

Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update


Date of Activity / Lesson:

October 2019


Location:

Portland Fire Station, Mirabella Retirement Home, OHSU Aerial Tram, Umpqua Bank, Central Library, Oregon Zoo, National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM), OHSU Primate Lab


Description:

1st / 2nd Grade: Neighborhood and Community Study

 

What is a neighborhood? What is a community? Are they the same thing or are there differences? These are just a few of the questions our 1st and 2nd grade students are exploring this fall. Both classrooms have built neighborhood models and are busy adding buildings, streets, and characters. To inform their classroom work, students have been out and about in the city to learn more about important elements of neighborhoods. They toured Gray’s Landing, the apartment building across the street, and Mirabella retirement home. They traveled to OHSU on the aerial tram and journeyed downtown twice to visit a Portland fire house and see behind the scenes at Umpqua bank. Charlene Zidell spoke in the classroom about the history of her family in the South Waterfront, and next week the classes will visit the Central Library for a tour. In each location, students are asking about how different agencies or business help the community. They will use this research to consider how they can help their community and create their own service projects. This unit lays critical groundwork for our students by establishing a working understanding of community and their role as a community member. Civic education in action!

 

 

6th Grade: The Human Body

 

Did you know that The Cottonwood School has a whole class of medical experts? Another group of 6th grade students have entered the University of Colombo Medical School and have recently passed their MCATs. They are on their way to becoming specialists and presenting their knowledge to a panel of professionals at the grand rounds later this trimester. To prepare for med school, students conducted a few fieldwork trips. The class visited the Oregon Zoo to help their understanding of primate evolution. A trip to Portland State University’s Natural History Museum gave students the opportunity to observe dozens of mammalian skeletons. In September, the class visited the National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) for a guided garden tour and to learn about the medicinal properties of plants. In November, they will revisit NUNM for a class on naturopathic medicine, and in December, the class will journey to the OHSU primate lab to learn more about the field of medical research. In addition to field studies, students will have many hands-on experiences in the classroom (no spoilers!) that make for a completely memorable unit. Best of luck!



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update


Date of Activity / Lesson:

June 2019


Location:

Portland State University, Portland Art Museum, Portland City Hall, Salem, CSCS


Description:

As the school year came to a close, students stayed busy with their place-based community projects. Here are just a few highlights from the past two weeks.

 

3rd Grade: Chinookan People and Archaeology Roadshow

This past weekend our 3rd graders ran an exhibit at the Portland State University Archaeology Roadshow. The theme this year was “Daily Life,” which student applied to their studies of the Chinookan Peoples. To prepare for the exhibit, students met with several experts. An archaeologist came to the classroom to talk about what an archaeologist does and answer questions. The class traveled to the Portland Art Museum to learn about Chinookan art from contemporary artists and even learned how to make paint from clay. Students traveled to two different ecosystems– Tryon Creek Natural Area and Camassia Natural Area– to learn about the importance of native plants and seasonal rounds. Students also visited the Oregon Jewish Museum for a “behind-the-scenes” tour of how to make a good exhibit. Finally, students were able to create and present. This is the fourth year our 3rd graders have participated in the Archaeology Roadshow, and as far as we know, we have the only exhibit that is run by students younger than college level. So proud of them!

 

As a companion project, the 3rd graders have also been researching the possibility of our school adopting a land acknowledgement statement. Students worked in groups to write several different drafts and presented them at a staff meeting.

 

6th Grade

 

This spring, students explored the scientific method, properties of matter and phase change, periodic table, chemical reactions, and looked at how these concepts can be explored through food. Last week, the class presented a science fair for the school community to teach others and explore science concepts. To prepare for the exhibition, students created a testable question and hypothesis, wrote a detailed procedure, performed the experiment (multiple times for some) and collected data in order to confirm their hypothesis or not. Topics ranged from Dry Ice Ice Cream to the Effect of Yeast in Bread, to Phase Change through Jello. According to Teacher Lisa: “The students really rocked out on the science fair. It was so great to see how many parents came and students were really proud of their work.” Thank you for teaching us, 6th grade!

 

7th/8th Grades: Project Citizen

 

Once again, our 7th and 8th grade students undertook Project Citizen as their final work for the school year. Through Project Citizen, students identify and research local problems, propose a policy-based solution, and put in place an action plan. This year, our eighth graders focused on the sanitation needs of Portland’s homeless community, and our seventh graders learned more about challenges facing small businesses. Students spent the spring reading, interviewing, surveying, and meeting with expert guest speakers to refine their projects. A highlight for the eighth grade class was being invited to testify at the commissioners at City Hall so students could ask the city to include several mobile sanitation units in next year’s city budget. Dylan spoke for her class and elicited a round of applause and commendations from Commissioner Hardesty.

 

Both classes presented their final projects to a panel of judges in Salem last week, where they were able to view projects from other schools around the state. Thank you to the Classroom Law Project for supporting a program that provides so many avenues for civic education and engagement!

 

Place-based Symposium

 

Lastly, we held our first place-based symposium on Thursday, May 30th. All classrooms hosted parents, community members, and partners for mini-presentations on place-based projects completed this school year. Student presenters shared slideshows and 3-D models, performed plays, and led participants in activities. The evening was a great success, culminating in a lively round-table discussion for interested guest educators. We’re looking forward to next year’s symposium!

 

It has yet again been a busy year for fieldwork and place-based studies!.Thank you so much to all of the parents, community partners, and teachers who make it possible for us to live our mission. See you in the fall!

 



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Smith Rock State Park with 7th and 8th Grade


Date of Activity / Lesson:

Spring 2019


Location:

Smith Rock State Park, Oregon


Description:

This spring, the 7th and 8th grade classes took a 4-day, 3-night trip to Smith Rock State Park. Led by Northwest Outward Bound, the trip was meant to get students to step outside their comfort zone, make new connections, and build awareness of themselves and their surroundings. Here are some of the reflections that our students wrote upon their return.

 

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

By: Andrew Cortes

One time during the Smith Rock trip we were able to participate in something called repelling. Repelling is where you get attached to a harness on a really steep cliff and you have to slowly reach to the bottom until you touch the ground. There is also an instructor helping you with everything from the start to the finish of the whole activity. When I was first introduced to this I was really scared because I had never done anything like this in my life and I was also a tiny bit scared of heights. In the beginning I was scared, but I took a really big step out of my comfort zone.

 

While I was waiting for the other people to try it (I was number 10 out of 13), I got a bit nervous. Some people came up saying it was super easy while others only just got strapped in. When it was finally my turn I came up to the instructor. He explained to me everything that I needed to know and I fully understood. I finally got strapped in, leaned back, and took the first step. I thought it was easy and traveled down a tiny bit more. It was hard at first but I got a lot used to it. My original goal was to get strapped into the harness and take a couple steps but I wanted to go further.

 

While on the really steep cliff I looked down and realized I had a long way to go. At the one fourth mark there was this part that made my body feel really uncomfortable and I wanted to go back up. We couldn’t really make that happen though so I had to go all the way down. I positioned myself to the right way and felt way more comfortable. I then began climbing down more and more. There was also this one part where my legs didn’t have contact with the rock and I felt really scared. I just pulled myself down thinking everything was gonna be okay. In the end I completed all of it and went past my comfort zone! I felt really proud of this moment and I will always remember this.

 

Night

By: Soren Nilsen-Goodin

One moment from the Smith Rock trip that was special to me was the circle we had in the night. Our group went out to the edge of this cliff, and we all sat in a circle as we reflected on our day and told stories. The stars were out that night and it was such a magical feeling looking up at the stars. I could see the city lights at a distance and the feeling of being there, the feeling of solitude, the feeling of wondering was so perfect in that moment of time.

 

Our instructors past out M&Ms and each color corresponds to one story we could tell. I shared three rules I would like to live by in my life. One was to live in the moment. Two was to always do what I feel. And three ways to make the most of my life while I have it. I will remember the walk back to our tents as well, talking with my friends and walking through the dark night was such a great feeling. I hope I do something like this again with friends.

 

New Friends

By: Zoe Carcia

One thing from the Smith rock trip that will always be funny everytime I think of it is when Dylan, Aurora, Sage, and I were in the bathroom getting ready for our sweet dreams in the freezing cold tarps. There was this riddle we were telling Dylan and she was not getting it. You say, “So listen, if this trash can is a stick, this paper towel is a stick, and the water faucet is a stick, are you a stick?” and the answer is yes because you say “so listen” at the beginning and if you don’t say “so listen” at the beginning it’s no, and Dylan wasn’t getting it and we were all taking turns telling Dylan the riddle and we were all laughing and thought it was so funny. I thought that was a time I really had fun with people I don’t really talk to.

 

It is perfectly normal to be nervous about going on this trip. I was so nervous about going I tried to convince my parents to let me stay home but they made me go and I had a amazing time. Yes you will be stepping out of your comfort zone but if you don’t let that bother you you will be having an amazing time. I was too afraid to go on the scramble and the repel but I went rock climbing and it was so fun seeing how high everyone can go. Some advice I will give you is to bring layers, bring so many layers. It was so cold the first night. There was frost on the tarps and my toes were numb when I woke up. And bring snacks for both the bus rides there and back because I got so hungry on the bus. It is natural to be nervous. All I say is that you go and see how much fun you will have.

 

Scrambing

By: Esme Pearl Barsh

A moment I stepped out of my comfort zone was definitely scrambling (squeezing through a cave). It started with my entire group sitting maybe about 5 ft away from a cliff in the blaring sun, we were all waiting for our turn to tunnel through the entrance. I was excited but also very scared because of all the videos I had watched online of people getting stuck inside caves and not being able to get out of tight spaces. As I made my way through the cave there was a few tight spaces that were a little bit of a struggle to get through, but otherwise everything was going smoothly for myself, but maybe not for Brian. Brian, Owen’s dad, got stuck in between 2 rocks at the last small space. I was a little nervous, especially because since I was in front of him I was expected to help him through the small space by telling him the best way to get through. Luckily, our instructor Ralph helped him get through the tight space.

 

Once we got out and the rest of my group went through the tunnel, we got to sit on a ledge made out of large rocks and enjoy the view of the trees, cliffs, mountains, the rock climbing group, and the beautiful river. Ralph took a picture of all of us and don’t get me wrong, it was amazing up there but I was very ready to get back onto flat ground. Little did I know I had to go through the cave again–but backwards. As everyone started making through way back into the cave I realized I was going to be one of the last people entering, which just put more pressure on me because of the fact if I take too long I would be holding everyone up. I made my way into the cave, through the small spaces, and wiggled up the upward tiny spaces. And before I knew it I was out of the cave back into the blaring sun I started in.

 

The Ups and Downs Rock Scrambling Course with Outward Bound

By: Talus J. Miller

Heart pounding, mind racing, and adrenaline pumping all from excitement. As we approach the scrambling site we do a trust activity. We all partner of into pairs and choose one partner to close their eyes and the other to lead, and we place our hands one on top of the other then I lead my partner through the outstretched claws of the sagebrush and dusty sand revealing hoof and paw prints. Hands clammy in the heat of the sun, we laugh and joke and blindly walk towards the unknown fun ahead. We get to the gear pile. Standing sheltered from the sun by juniper trees we listen the guides rhythmic accent surrounded by the smell of sagebrush and juniper and the sound of birds chirping, frogs croaking, and the nearby Crooked River rushing and lapping.

 

After instructions it’s time to go. With help we spring across a gap with a bone breaking, jaw dropping, and heart skipping thirty foot drop we land with a sigh of safety on the cool moist rock on the other side. As we wait murmuring to each other we look at the flooded Crooked River and our other classmates climbing on the other side of the river. As soon as everyone has made the jump we try not to fall asleep as the sun warms our backs and we listen to more rhythmic instructions from our guide. Then we enter the unknown.

 

As I enter the dark ominous crack in the rock, the cold air surrounds and sends small daggers through me. As I crouch legs shaking  perched on a small ledge I wait. My small friend in front of me makes a small hole look smaller. She looks back at me and a bright smile filled with excitement, nerves, and anticipation breaks across her face persuading a smile from mine. My heart thuds at the thought of such a small space and the possibility of getting stuck. As I swallow my fear and allow my curiosity and excitement to surface, I tell myself, “This is an awesome opportunity and will be a great experience,” then I proceed. I slither through the small hole and walk along between two rocks and through other small cracks and holes.

 

Out we come inching along a narrow ledge pressed tight to the rough surface of the rock to keep from falling off. When we get to the end we peel off the rock one by one and step lightly onto the boulders where we sit and wait for everyone to come out. As we wait we look at the beautiful muddy brown river flooding its banks and spitting water spray over rocks and logs, and we wave to our fellow students waiting for their turn to climb as we clamor about the repelling to come later that day and the rock climbing the next day. We take a couple group pictures as we are perched precariously on rocks and ledges and over small gaps between the rocks. Then after more instructions we head back.

 

One by one we press ourselves close to the cold rough surface of the rock wall and inch our way slowly across the narrow ledge then scramble up a two-foot gravel-covered ledge. As I make my way up feet slipping and hands clawing for hand holds, I hear the murmured chatter of my group and the words of encouragement from my friends ringing out. I wiggle past a rickety old latter and then go head first through a small gap in the rock wriggling and squirming my body to get through. A few more steps and I duck down head touching my knees to get under a rock then a sharp corner a big step up to a little sip of rock covered in moss and gravel. At the next part I pass mapping out the way I’m going to get up the three feet of nothing to get to the precariously placed wobbling elevating rock. I press my back hard against one wall and my feet firm against the opposite boulder shifting my weight I wriggle and worm scuffing my back against the wall behind my my feet. Scuffing the other wall I put more pressure on my back and put one foot down onto the untrustable wiggly rock levitating above a ten foot drop. With a hop I put both feet down and bring my torso of the wall and above my shaking legs. My friend and I laugh as we walk to the next part of the course. The small hole my feet against the bumpy rock behind me and my head and shoulders squeaking and scraping through the hole, my feet pushing me through on my stomach. Up we come blinded by the hot sun, and with eyes squinting we scramble over the slippery moss like it’s nothing. A hop, skip, and jump, and we’re back on the sand and dirt path.



Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update - May 2019


Date of Activity / Lesson:

May 2019


Location:

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Willamette Park, Clackamas Fish Hatchery, Smith and Bybee Lakes, Newport, Yaquina Head


Description:

Now that the days are warmer and dryer, many of our students have been out and about learning from the natural world. Below are some place-based education and fieldwork highlights.

 

Kindergarten: Life Cycles

 

Observing the new growth of spring is a great time for our youngest students to learn about life cycles. These last couple of months, Teacher Noelle has connected the kindergartners to three different hands-on projects related to the topic.

 

Students incubated chicken eggs in the classroom, with support from Maureen Hosty and Multnomah County 4-H. Children learned about the different stages of embryo development, learned the skill of “candling” (holding a light to the egg to see inside), and recorded observations in their egg journals. All viable eggs hatched in the classroom and the student had a week to spend with the chicks before the little guys were adopted by one of the classroom’s families.

 

Parallel to the chick hatching, students made two visits to Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge to observe tadpoles and baby salamanders in the frog pond. The first visit was led by a Portland Park and Recreation educator and the follow up trip allowed for students to monitor frog/salamander growth.

 

Lastly, students raised caterpillars in their classroom and watched as they spun chrysalises and emerged as butterflies. To support these observations, traveled to Willamette Park to visit the Butterfly Garden and once again meet with a Portland Parks and Recreation educator to learn about the lives on these most beautiful insects. The kindergarten classroom also housed ladybug larva, courtesy of Multnomah County 4-H, watched as they transformed into adult beetles, and released them into an ideal outdoor environment, with lots of aphids nearby.

 

1st/2nd grades: Rivers and Salmon

 

What is a river? What makes a river healthy? What is it like to be a salmon? These are just some of the questions our 1st and 2nd graders explored this spring, focusing specifically on the life cycle of salmon. In the classroom, the students built a “frieze” of a river on the classroom wall, adding elements such as native animals and vegetation. Each student added a salmon egg to the frieze, which changed every week- first developing an eyeball, then hatching with the yolk-sac still attached to their bodies, and then growing into a juvenile fish, preparing for the long journey to the Pacific. At times, the salmon encountered obstacles (added to the frieze by the teachers), such as garbage in the water, leading the students to generate solutions to the problem. With every development on the frieze, students drew and recorded events in their journals.

 

To support classroom learning, students made many forays into the field. Most memorable was the trip to the Clackamas Fish Hatchery, located in Milo McIver State Park. Children had the opportunity to hold real fish eggs, see tanks of young fish, and even witness an osprey catching a steelhead from the river! Both classes visited Tryon Creek Natural Area to learn about what a stream needs to be healthy and Angie’s class traveled to Smith and Bybee Lakes in North Portland to explore an important stop-off point for salmon traveling up the Columbia River. Additionally, the classrooms hosted three guest speakers: the head of the Northwest Steelhead Association, a representative from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, and an educator from Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Science. All of this learning will be valuable background knowledge for potential river and stream play this summer!

 

4th/5th grades: Oceans

 

After some initial instruction in oceanography, the 4th/5th grade unit on Oceans was really launched by their overnight trip to Newport. While there, students had the opportunity to play on the beach, fly kites (the first time, for some!), observe seals at Yaquina Head (some students even saw a seal give birth!), and learn from an educator from the Oregon Coast Aquarium about new strategies for cleaning plastics from the beach. Students spent the evening at the Aquarium, learning and exploring, and retired for the night in the shark tunnels.

 

Upon return from Newport, students dove into the issue of plastics in oceans. The documentary and supporting website, “The Plastic Ocean,” has served as a guiding text. Children applied their learning to create educational posters which will be on display at the symposium at the end of the month. Students also plan to write letters to lawmakers, urging them to limit plastic production and pollution.

 

As a final culmination project to the 4th/5th graders’ year of water education, students worked for an entire week with Yakama artist Toma Villa on a mural depicting the Columbia River watershed, from Mt. Hood, to the Pacific. Each student had the opportunity to work in a small group with Toma several times over the week. We are so grateful to both Toma and the students for this amazing piece of artwork that will grace the walls of our school for years to come. Thank you so much to the Confluence Project for funding this project!



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update - April 2019


Date of Activity / Lesson:

April 2019


Location:

Fossil, Oregon; Smith Rock; Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, Willamette Park, Tryon Creek Natural Area, Willamette Greenway and Cottonwood Bay; South Waterfront


Description:

Middle School Overnight Trips

 

If you noticed that the school was a little more quiet earlier this month, that’s because our middle school students all had overnight trips in April.

 

The 6th grade class ventured to outdoor school soon after spring break. From teacher Lisa: “The 6th graders, courtesy of Outdoor School for All funds, spent 3 days in Fossil, Oregon at OMSI’s Camp Hancock. They spent a day learning survival skills including firemaking, shelter building, and finding and purifying water. Students played teambuilding games, went on a night hike to experience adaptation skills and learn about triboluminescence, hiked to the Hancock tree to learn about rocks and minerals and the local geology, and observed plants during an ethnobotany class. Highlights for sure were the campfires, the food, and the squirrely dance.”

 

Sounds like so much fun and definitely something for the fifth graders to look forward to next year!

 

Meanwhile, the 7th and 8th graders journeyed to Smith Rock for a four day rock-climbing camp led by Outward Bound. Students set up their own sleeping tarps, survived a cold, rainy night exposed to the elements, and enjoyed the beauty of Smith Rock while learning rock-climbing basics. From Teacher Chris:

 

“In our final closing circle our director asked the group if they had fun in Smith Rock and the group overwhelmingly yelled ‘yeah!’ A few students have come up to me during this trip to say that they didn’t want to come before the trip but they are so glad they came. All students seem able to articulate how cool of an opportunity this was for them. Giles, our Outward Bound director, finished out by talking about transference. This is where you take lessons learned on this course and transfer it to your life. After the climbing wall the instructors asked students “Who belays you in your life back in Portland?” Many students listed parents, friends, pets etc. they were thinking about people/beings who support them through challenging situations. Many students expressed overcoming hurdles they thought were insurmountable. At the evening meeting I attended last night, the whole group identified how everyone deserves to feel proud because of how they supported each other and overcame personal challenges.”

 

Thank you to everyone who make these invaluable trips possible, including Outdoor School for All, Outward Bound, parent chaperones and drivers, and those who supported the fundraising bake sales. These trips are an important element of our school culture and we are grateful that we are able to provide such lasting memories for our students.

 

Adopt-A-Place

 

Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge. Willamette Park. Tryon Creek Natural Area. Willamette Greenway and Cottonwood Bay. What do all of these local natural areas have in common? They have all been “adopted” by our classrooms as part of our Adopt-a-Place program. Through this program, every class visits their adopted place several times over the school year. Some of those visits are exploratory, some are related to classroom curriculum, and a couple are focused on restoration efforts to help maintain the site, such as planting, mulching, or pulling invasive species. The purpose of the program is to foster connections between our students and our natural areas by providing time for them to play, learn, and care. We have also built meaningful relationships: Portland Parks and Recreation and Friends of Tryon Creek two of our longest standing partners. Thank you to parent chaperones who help us maintain the program by chaperoning our visits- we couldn’t do it without you!

Place-based Art

 

When you walk down the hallway between our 4th/5th grade classrooms and the kindergarten, you have certainly noticed and appreciated the student artwork hung by k-5 art teacher, Melissa Allen. Melissa brings many topics and themes into student projects, such as holidays, families, art history, and she also connects to our place-based themes. Examples over the winter include animal crowns as part of the “Animals in Winter” unit in kindergarten, mountain portraits in the 1st/2nd grades, and etchings of the trickster god Raven as part of the 3rd grade unit on the Chinookan People. Melissa has collaborated once again with Sean Z Becker Real Estate in the South Waterfront to host a student art show. Please come on May 7th, 3-6pm to support our budding artists!



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update - March 2019


Date of Activity / Lesson:

March, 2019


Location:

Mt. Tabor, Tryon Creek, Timberline Lodge, Portland City Hall, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church, Unthank Park


Description:

1st/2nd Grade: Mountains

 

What stories do mountains tell? Our 1st and 2nd grade students explored this question all winter through a variety of investigations and learning activities. Both classrooms built model mountains in their classrooms and gave them names: Angie’s class model is Mountain of Dragons and Nesa’s class has Mount Snowy Top. Students learned the different ways that mountains are formed, with a special focus on volcanology. This dovetailed into a visit to Mt. Tabor to explore the Portland Park’s volcanic past. Back in the classroom, students researched plants and animals that live on mountains and discovered that they live in different zones depending an altitude. Plants and animals were then added to the class mountains. A mountaineer visited the classrooms to share stories of climbing northwest mountains and Amanda McAdoo shared her experience as a witness to the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Students went on to visit Tryon Creek Natural Area to investigate the impact of erosion, which they also applied to their own classroom mountains.

 

Alongside the scientific facts uncovered through research, students also found other stories emerging. The classes read Indigenous stories about mountains and volcanoes and even hosted a storyteller who shared stories about local places. Drawing from both science and stories, students then wrote plays about mountains which they performed for families this week. As another culminating event, Mount Hood National Forest hosted both classes at Timberline Lodge. Students toured the historic lodge, learned about the native history of Wy’East, and had a fun time in the snow!

 

3rd Grade: The Chinook

 

This winter the third grade have considered the question “What is culture?” as a jumping off point for the investigation of the Chinook. This investigation led to more questions: How do geography and the environment influence the way the Chinook meet their needs? How can we makes connections between our culture and to that of the Native American? How do daily routines, rituals, and structures show what a culture values? We were able to borrow the Cathlapotle Plankhouse trunk, put together by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for an entire month to access several teaching resources specifically about the Chinook. An educator from the Museum of Natural and Cultural History (part of the University of Oregon) led a hands-on presentation in the class about “Oregon’s First Engineers” and storyteller Will Hornyak visited the classroom to share stories from the Chinook and other Indigenous peoples. One of the most special events of the unit was a trip to Tryon Creek Natural Area led by three Indigenous educators on the topic of cultural biology and seasonal rounds.

 

An undercurrent to all of these explorations are the questions: Should Cottonwood School officially recognize that we are on Indigenous Land? Why would we do this? Is acknowledgement important? These questions and lessons on the Chinook with continue in the spring as the third grade prepared for their 4th PSU Archaeology Roadshow (June 1st!)
Also this winter, third graders raised trout as part of our partnership with 4-H and released the fry in Commonwealth Lake.

 

6th Grade: The Black History of Portland

 

Is Portland a progressive city? Why is Portland primarily white? What power do I have and how do I exercise that power? How can I be courageous in my own life? Once again our 6th graders have explored these questions as part of their unit on the history of Portland, focusing on the experience of our Black community. The unit begins with a delve into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, where students learned about significant leaders and events. To support this part of the unit, students viewed the film Selma at the Clinton Street Theater and brought the Selma march to life through their own day-long walk through downtown Portland. When it came time to learn about Portland history, students practiced being historians by observing dozens of primary source documents and thinking critically about the stories they tell. Students worked in expert groups to teach the rest of the class their part of the history. Subtopics included: exclusionary laws, red-lining, gentrification and displacement, Vanport, the Albina community, police relations, and school segregation.

 

Throughout the research process, several speakers visited the classroom to share their knowledge and experience. Guest speakers included Ed Washington, former Metro council-member and Vanport resident, JoAnn Hardesty, City Councilwoman, Kimberly Moreland from the Oregon Black Pioneers, and Randy Blazak, head of the Oregon Coalition Against Hate Crime. Students also toured the new permanent exhibit on Oregon history at the Oregon Historical Society and visited the police accountability office at City Hall. As always, the most notable event of the unit was the all-day scavenger hunt where students traveled around the city in small groups to visit and learn about significant historical places. Highlights included a guided tour of Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church and lunch at Black-owned businesses. The class is currently discussing possible culminating projects, to be completed this spring. Ideas include a podcast, a book with each chapter from a different perspective (like Seedfolks), a website, and/or online map embedded with primary sources.



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update – February, 2019


Date of Activity / Lesson:

February, 2019


Location:

Tryon Creek, OMSI, Oregon Zoo, Portland Mercado


Description:

Kindergarten – Animals in Winter

 

In the cold months, our kindergartners work together to consider: what do animals do in the winter? How did different animals survive? What animals are native to this area, anyway? In the classroom, students have added animals to a large frieze on the wall, they have created interactive mini tree habitats out of boxes, they are using books to research, and they are building animal habitat dioramas in shoe boxes. To aide in their investigation, students traveled to Tryon Creek Natural Area to learn how the forest changes in the winter. They will also journey to the Audubon sanctuary to learn more about how birds weather the season. Along these lines, an Audubon educator will visited the class to teach specifically about owls. Students worked together to dissect owl pellets to discover what the nocturnal birds eat. This year, the kindergarten students are applying persuasive argumentation to their unit. Based on research and evidence, each student will choose an animal that they think works the hardest to survive the winter and they will write a persuasive argument to backup their claim. Who would you pick?

 

4th and 5th Grade – Biomes

 

In the 4th and 5th grade classrooms, students are looking more closely at how climate creates environment in their study of biomes. This starts out with an overview of weather and climate and how they are different. A visit to OMSI helped to illustrate this through a hands-on presentation. Students then delve into creating climate maps of Oregon to see how precipitation and temperature impact the different regions of the state, thus creating different biomes. Students visit the Oregon Zoo as a further investigation into biomes and how fauna and flora vary depending on environment. Continuing this research, students studied the skulls from Oregon mammals as part of a traveling presentation from University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History. As a culminating activity, students will work together in small teams to create a biome showcase to share their learning with parents and other students.

 

7th and 8th Grade – Globalization

 

7th and 8th graders and focusing on food for their unit on global trade. This investigation started very locally as students considered what foods are most important to them. They wrote about a food with personal meaning, and then researched the origins of the raw ingredients in that food. Students went on to unpack several more big questions:
 

  • What is globalization and what does it mean to be part of a global society?
  • Why do people trade? Why do they trade food?
  • How does trade affect people, cultures, and the environment? What are the costs to trade?
  • How does globalization impact the food options here in Portland?

 

Students traveled to the Portland Mercado to learn about the organization’s history and interview food cart owners. They hosted a local coffee roaster (CSCS parent, Trevin Miller) and had the amazing opportunity to visit (via Skype) with a class of students in a coffee-growing region of Uganda. Gabe Sheoships, education director from Tryon Creek, gave a presentation on First Foods, the most important foods for local Indigenous peoples. A representative from Equal Exchange came in to talk about fair trade versus free trade, and in March, students will go on a tour of New Seasons to hear about their sourcing choices.

 

All of this research is adding to students’ individual investigations into a topic that connects food and the world–they’re looking at everything from ice cream to coffee, veganism to fast food. Students are in the process of creating podcasts that explore their own questions around this topic. With the help of experts, both local (including Mikey Neilson, a podcaster and Ken Jones at KBOO) and national (Maddie Oatman, the host of Mother Jones’ food podcast Bite), they’re writing, recording, and editing these podcasts. Ultimately, the podcasts will be submitted to National Public Radio, as part of their Student Podcast Challenge. Perhaps you will hear one of these stories on national broadcasting later this year!



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

Fieldwork Coordinator Update – December, 2018


Date of Activity / Lesson:

December, 2018


Location:

Portland State University, OHSU, Oregon Zoo


Description:

December marks the end of most curricular units in our school. Here are a few updates on projects and their recent culminations.

 

Sixth Grade: The Human Body

 

All fall, the sixth grade class has delved deep into the history of life on earth, with a special focus on the human body. Earlier in the trimester, students explored the question, “Why are there so many different kinds, or species, of living things on the Earth, each uniquely fitted for its environment?” to frame their study of natural selection. To help in this inquiry, students observed animals at the zoo and paid a visit to the natural history museum at Portland State University where they saw numerous animal skeletons.

 

Part way through the trimester, the unit shifted to humans. Groups of students researched different body systems and became experts by graduating from medical school (“The School of Colombo”). This process included passing the MCAT, completing a day of residency (dissection!), a presenting to a group of medical professionals at the Grand Rounds. Students even had an opportunity to “diagnose” a 7th or 8th grade student who came into their practice complaining of symptoms. Out in the field, students visited OHSU’s primate lab to learn how primates are being used locally for medical  research.

 

As a culminating project, students surveyed the school community about health practices and concerns and created mini-projects and recommendations connecting to public health and how we can make our community healthier.

 

7th/8th Grades: Storm Stories

 

“How are storms formed?”

 

“What are different kinds of storms?”

 

“What is the difference between weather and climate?”

 

These are just some of the questions our 7th and 8th graders were asking this fall as part of their interdisciplinary project on weather and climate. Groups of students worked together to conduct interviews with community members about storms. Based on the story, students then researched the storm by looking for news coverage, personal documentation, and data concerning humidity, temperature, wind, and precipitation. To aide in the learning process, a group of undergraduate students from Lewis and Clark visited our school twice to teach about “microclimates” and data collection. Our students trekked across the river to OMSI to attend a presentation full of hands-on demonstrations all about weather. We also formed a tremendously fruitful partnership with the climate department at Portland State University, which connected us to Christina Aragon, a graduate student in climate science who guest-taught in our classroom and coached students through their entire project.

 

As a culminating project, student groups presented their “Storm Stories” to an audience in the Great Room last Tuesday. Their presentations included edited excerpts from the recorded interviews, facts about the storm, and the scientific explanation of how the storm formed. This unit will serve as a perfect lead-in to the next science unit, which will look more closely at the impact of climate change on Portland.

 

Celebrations!

 

Our classrooms have held many end-of-trimester celebrations in the last couple of weeks. Here are snapshots from just two of them:

 

  • The 1st/2nd grade classrooms celebrated the end of their garden unit by harvesting veggies from their rolling beds and sharing their garden calendars with families

 

  • The kindergartners honored the different families that make up their community by hosting a family artifact museum where students shared a meaningful family artifact, along with portraits, writings, and a few performances.

 

 

Whew- it’s been a busy fall. Have a warm and cozy winter break, along with some time to get outside! See you next year!



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



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Title:

November Fieldwork Coordinator Update


Date of Activity / Lesson:

November, 2018


Location:

South Waterfront Community Garden, Jean’s Farm in SE Portland, and the Sauvie Island Center, Tryon Creek State Park, Bull Run Reservoir


Description:

First and Second Grades

 

This fall, our 1st and 2nd grade students have dug into the topic of plants and gardens. Students explored the questions: Why do people plant gardens? What are the parts of a plant?

 

What and when can plants can be planted successfully in Portland? To help find the answers, students ventured out to the South Waterfront Community Garden, Jean’s Farm in SE Portland, and the Sauvie Island Center. Students observed plants, learned about what they need to grow, and even had an opportunity to bake apple tarts in an outside oven!

 

Back at school students planted their own vegetable garden in rolling raised beds that we acquired with a grant through the West Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District. The two classrooms also created “gardens” on their walls, which included depictions of the people who care for the them. When students learned about pollination, they built and added pollinators to the scene to ensure the health of their plants. As culminating activities, students designed calendars that tells what time of year certain plants grow, and they will be hosting a family celebration (featuring the veggies they grew!) in early December.

 

Fourth and Fifth Grades

 

Water has been the focus of 4th and 5th grade fieldwork this fall. In order to learn more about the main properties of water, how it moves on our planet, and its importance to all living things, students traveled across our watershed. They visited Tryon Creek State Park to learn about water quality testing and the attributes of a watershed, they toured the Columbia River Gorge to see firsthand how water has shaped our landscape, and they journeyed to the remote Bull Run reservoir to better understand the origin of our drinking water. Students explored personal and cultural connection to water through a full-day trip to the Sandy River Delta where they met with educators from local tribes to consider all of the different ways that water provides for us. Lastly, an educator from Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services visited the classrooms with a watershed model to show students the daily relationship with have with water in our environment– how it impacts us, and how we impact it.

 

As a culmination, students are conducting mini-research projects about different water issues such as the effect of rising water temperatures on salmon populations. They are also writing personal narratives about their experiences with water.

 

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science



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Title:

Fieldwork and Place-based Education: Two Classroom Updates


Date of Activity / Lesson:

October, 2018


Location:

Portland Art Museum, Columbia River Gorge


Description:

Kindergarten: Families

 

What makes a family? What is unique about my family? How is my family similar to or different from other families? These are just a few of the questions our kindergarteners are exploring this fall through sharing, literacy, and art. As a foray into the field, the class visited the Portland Art Museum to explore family and identity in paintings. In the school building, kinders are building their school family with their 7th and 8th grade buddies through reading, play, and exploration. Learning about and celebrating family and diversity is a powerful entry into place-based education for our youngest scholars.

 

Third Grade: The Geologic History of Oregon

 

Our third graders are delving into Oregon’s geologic history this fall. In addition to examining rocks in the classroom and learning about the timeline of the Earth, students visited Beacon Rock in the Columbia River Gorge and viewed sturgeon (whose evolution dates back to the Triassic era) at the Bonneville Dam. Earlier this week, the class visited their community partner, the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, where they were able to see fluorescent minerals, petrified wood, fossils, meteorites, thundereggs, sunstones and amazing gems and crystals. In November, students will trek across the river to OMSI to take part in a fossil lab and a rocks and mineral lab.

 

Later this trimester, the third grade will create an exhibit for the fossil room at the Rice Museum. This marks our third collaboration with the museum; in past years, our third graders created a scavenger hunt for visitors and a visual geologic timeline which is currently on display.

 

Stay tuned for more updates of Place-Based Education (PBE) adventures at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.

 



Sarah K. Anderson, Fieldwork Coordinator, The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science



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