Fieldwork Coordinator Update – December 2018


Fieldwork Coordinator Update – December, 2018

Date of Activity / Lesson:

December, 2018


Portland State University, OHSU, Oregon Zoo


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.




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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