Fieldwork Coordinator Update – Nov / Dec 2019


Fieldwork Coordinator Update - Nov / Dec 2019

Date of Activity / Lesson:

Nov 19 - Dec 19


Oaks Bottom, Confluence Landbridge in Vancouver, OMSI, Columbia River Gorge, Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals, Portland Art Museum


It’s winter break already and many of our classrooms are wrapping up this phase of their fall place-based projects. Here’s what happened this trimester at four different grade levels.


7th / 8th grades:


For over seven weeks the 7th and 8th graders trekked to Oaks Bottom wildlife refuge to collect data about the ecosystem. Focus groups concentrated on topics spanning from waterfowl presence to the quality of the water to vegetation. The work is a partnership with Portland Parks and Rec to document to impacts of a culvert renovation to the reservoir in Oaks Bottom. PPR’s ecologist, Laura Guderyahn, trained students in bird ID, and environmental educators from PPR gave a hands-on class about the role of decomposers in the Oaks Bottom ecosystem.

Student teams presented their findings on December 10th to parents and partners, comparing data taken two years ago by former CSCS students to the same data they took this year. This has been an amazing project that has allowed our students to do real science. The added bonus is that students have also gained an appreciation for how human efforts can impact an ecosystem for the better. The unit will culminate in a celebration at Sellwood Riverside Park on December 20th, where the students and other students from Portland will release Salmon they raised in the classroom this fall through Multnomah 4-H into the Willamette River.



4th / 5th grades:


This fall the 4th and 5th grades have been laying the foundation for a year-long study of American History through an Indigenous lens. They began by examining the federal holidays and examining the history and reasoning behind all of them. Students specifically considered Columbus day and its significance as a jumping off point for learning about the time period when European American began to colonize the Americas. Daniel’s class delved deep into the story of Columbus, the Taino tribe, and the standard set by Spanish conquistadors for relations between Europeans and Americans. Morgan’s class is researching several different Indigenous tribes across North America to gain perspective on the sheer diversity of Native Peoples. For fieldwork, both classes visited the Confluence Landbridge in Vancouver guided by Indigenous educators and interpreters from Fort Vancouver National Park. There will be more fieldwork to come in the winter, when this unit flows into local history.



3rd grade:


Geology is the place-based focus for 3rd grade in the fall. Students learn about the geologic history of the Pacific Northwest and gain a fundamental understanding of rocks. To help with this learning, students visited OMSI to take a class on fossils and a class on the rock cycle. They also traveled to the Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals in Hillsboro, took a tour of the Columbia River Gorge, and explored a fossil kit on loan from the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. This year, we are happy to partner with Portland Parks and Recreation for the culminating project: students will be creating educational materials to help the city’s environmental educators lead geology-focused field trips at Mt. Tabor. We are excited to complete the project in January and hand the work over the PPR. Thanks, third graders!




After completing their classroom mapping project earlier this fall, kindergarteners have been exploring the topics of identity, family, and art. Supporting fieldwork has included a trip to the Portland Art Museum, a visit to the Oregon Historical Society, and three voyages on the MAX Orange Line to examine public art. When looking at art and artifacts, students considered the questions: “What story does this tell? What does it tell you about the person who made it? What does it tell you about this place?” IIn the classroom, students have made self portraits and engaged in “family sharing.” This unit will extend into the first part of January with one more visit to the Portland Art Museum and more classroom visits from students’ families to share artifacts and traditions.


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.

Image Gallery:
(if blank, then see above)

Make a Donation to Help Further Place-Based Education!