PBE Workshop 2024

The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science

A Place-Based, Public Charter School in Portland, Oregon


To provide a creative learning environment where students develop a sense of place and become stewards of the natural world and active citizens within our community.

Indigenous Land

We recognize and offer thanks to the many Indigenous tribes and bands who have lived on and cared for the land we now know as Portland. These include the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlemet, Clackamas, Bands of Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla, and many other tribes who have made their homes along the Columbia and Willamette rivers since Time Immemorial.


We acknowledge that this land was stolen from Native Peoples through United States federal policies such as the Land Donation Act and numerous broken treaties. We recognize that the Indigenous peoples of Oregon have faced decimation from plagues and disease, forced relocation, forced cultural assimilation, discrimination, tribal termination, and attempted genocide.


We also recognize that Native Peoples continue to live and thrive across the state and within the Portland region today, within the tribal lands of the nine federally recognized tribes and in the city of Portland which has one of the largest Urban Indian populations in the country. We offer deep gratitude for the many ways that Native peoples and tribes contribute to our collective well-being through offerings of knowledge, time commitment, physical effort, funds, and employment. Our intention is to support their work in on-going stewardship of this land we now share and to be willing learners of other ways of knowing.


As a center of learning, Cottonwood commits to building strong connections to Oregon’s Indigenous communities, both in and outside of our school. Our intention is to be in right relationship, and to ground our work in the awareness of place, presence, perspective, power, political nationhood, and partnerships. We call on everyone in our extended community to learn more and to join us in our journey to live intentionally on Indigenous land.

portland skyline

Place-Based Education in Action

Before they began the trimester, we asked this 1st/2nd grade class simple questions about rivers…

Place-based education is a way of taking the walls down between school and the community.

7th graders identify a problem in the community and seek out policy-based solutions.

Community Partnerships

Building community partnerships is at the core of the place-based approach.

See All of Cottonwood School’s Community Partnerships

Portland Parks and Rec
Mirabella Retirement
PSU Archaeology
Rice Museum
Friends of Tryon Creek

Make a Donation to Help Further Place-Based Education!

Stories From the Field

Outdoor School 2021

Spring, 2021 Fieldwork Update, Part 2


We are so grateful that our 6th and 7th grade students experienced a full week of in-person outdoor school this spring. Below are overviews from the two teachers who accompanied students’ daily adventures at Audubon’s wildlife sanctuary in NW Portland.


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Fieldwork Coordinator Update – Spring 2021


In-person, place-based learning returned to Cottonwood every Thursday (K-5) and Friday (6-8) this spring! The majority of our students joined their teachers in Willamette and Sellwood parks to connect, learn, and enjoy the outdoors.

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Teaching Fence, Black History = American History = Our History

May 2021 Fieldwork Update


Over the past year, our fence facing Bancroft Street has attracted much attention. Last summer, many students and families showed their support for our Black families by posting homemade signs. These cardboard and paper messages filled the fenceline and elicited responses from the greater community, some hostile, but mostly encouraging.



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Keep Updated with Periodic CSCS News and Place-Based Education Updates:        

hills and trees

Upcoming School Events and Announcements:

Latest from Our Blog

  • Dear Cottonwood School Community, I am writing to share that after 15 wonderful years at Cottonwood, I will be departing at the end of this school year. My time here has been filled with immense joy,

  • Exciting news: Two of our classroom teachers have been accepted into summer institutes held by the Center for Geography Education in Oregon (C-GEO)!   Lisa Colombo will be learning more about tea

  • When Kamari was in 2nd grade their class closed out the school year with a celebration poetry slam. Kids could choose to read a poem they have written, a poem from a book, or just to listen. Kamari wr