Fieldwork Coordinator Update – May 2019


Fieldwork Coordinator Update - May 2019

Date of Activity / Lesson:

May 2019


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


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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