Fieldwork Coordinator Update – March 2019


Fieldwork Coordinator Update - March 2019

Date of Activity / Lesson:

March, 2019


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


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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