Fieldwork Coordinator Update – April 2020


Fieldwork Coordinator Update

Date of Activity / Lesson:

April 2020


Neighborhoods, forests, backyards, homes


School in the spring of 2020 is for Cottonwood students as it is for children all over the world: different. For the past six weeks, our small school has worked to negotiate the contradictory concepts of “remote learning” and “place-based education.” The scope and scale has become hyper-local for our families: the home, the yard, the neighborhood. Teachers are working hard to stay connected with all of their students, keep them on track to meet learning goals, AND offer experiential activities to help kids further explore and consider their specific place and our collective place (city, state, country, planet). For this update, we are highlighting projects from kindergarten through 3rd grade this spring at Cottonwood.


Kindergarten: Change


The kindergartens are focusing on the concept of change. They are using their homes, backyards and neighborhoods to explore change in this place called Portland. Students observe leaves as they emerge and grow, hunt for patterns in nature, learn the basics of the water cycle, and share other changes they notice at home. The guiding theme of change has them thinking about the natural world and how they themselves are changing from day to day and year to year.


1st and 2nd Grades: Forests


Our 1st and 2nd grade students are experiencing their spring place-based unit as planned! Teacher Nesa reports: ¨The first and second graders are learning about Oregon forests in a collaborative and engaging way. Individual plants and animals that the kids drew were printed out and put on a large forest landscape made by their teacher. Over the next month, the landscape will have things happen to it like lighting striking a tree, so that the kids can learn about forest fires and other life cycles in the forest. The project will also include information writing about specific forest animals.” Research on Pacific Northwest forests and animals is complemented by suggestions to “adopt-a-tree” near their home to visit and observe throughout the spring. Check out these photos of the evolving forest-scapes!


3rd Grade: Native Plants and Indigenous Peoples


Over the past several weeks, 3rd grade has continued the study of Northwest plants used by Native peoples. Teacher Fawn continues to make project work a daily part of the learning plan and integrates it into literacy and math whenever possible. As part of the current unit, students engage with Confluence’s web library of personal narratives that connect to plants, water, and lifeways, and go on virtual field trips to places that we intended to visit this spring such as the Grand Ronde cultural center and Camassia Nature Preserve. Students make connections to their neighborhood through plant walks and activities related to the plants they have already studied: conifer trees, nettle and now camass. Through our grant from the Gray Family Foundation, we are providing native seedlings and bulbs for students to plant in their home gardens and extend the learning to their whole family.


Next month: remote place-based learning in grades 4-8! Stay safe and hope you are finding a way to love your place.

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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