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We like to share when the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science is in the news.
The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science is a K–8 public charter school in Southwest Portland where place-based education is the heart of every unit. Place-based education encourages students to use the community where they live as a way to practice skills, make connections with local experts, and understand how problems are solved, both in the natural and social spheres. While many units of study lend themselves easily to local connections, others are less obvious. In a recent project at the Cottonwood School, students integrated local history into a science unit by using digital history resources published by the Oregon Historical Society (OHS). By using resources published on The Oregon Encyclopedia and the Oregon History Project, students made connections to medical professionals linked to Oregon to share the information they learned with future students.
Sixth graders at the Cottonwood School start the year focusing on science by investigating the human body through a simulation of medical school. Using the Jigsaw Method, a collaborative learning strategy where students are dependent on each other to succeed, students choose one body system to research, and with the help of medical professionals, they become “experts” in the specialty. Each student creates a 3D model, draws a labeled diagram, creates a teaching presentation, and passes a board examination to prove mastery. Students teach each other and demonstrate their understanding by taking a sixth-grade version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Once they “graduate” from medical school, they open clinics and receive patients, played by seventh and eighth graders, to diagnose ailments and determine treatment plans. These plans are presented to doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals during a grand rounds presentation, who give the student doctors feedback on their accuracy and thoroughness.
Lisa Colombo is a passionate educator with over 20 years of experience in education and curriculum development. She was co-author of the civil rights curriculum, “Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: The Black History of Portland, Oregon,” and has led several professional development workshops on teaching local history through primary source documents. She is passionate about promoting critical inquiry, place-based education, and never-ending curiosity. Lisa holds an M.Ed in curriculum and instruction and is currently a middle school teacher at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.
A pair of fish is visiting classrooms across the Portland-metro area.
They’re Pacific Lamprey, which is an ancient species older than even dinosaurs.
They’re also threatened.
The fish are on loan right now from the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation.
Oregon State University’s 4-H program is taking the fish on tour to teach students about their cultural and ecological importance.
“Youth voice and youth action is so important if we really want to make a difference in our communities,” said Maureen Hosty, with the 4-H program. “By us engaging 4-H youth and to help solve problems and come up with solutions to some of these problems that we face, like fish that are endangered, it really helps, gets kids engaged and excited, and they learn.”
As Maureen Hosty and Sarah Anderson wheeled a large Coleman cooler down a concrete path toward a riverbank, suspense was already building.
Inside, two adult lamprey slithered around the plastic container. Would they try to climb out of the cooler once the lid was lifted? Handlers warned it could happen.
Within minutes, dozens of young students at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science in Southwest Portland lined up to learn about the prehistoric jawless fish and meet the slimy new school pets.
Two Pacific lamprey will serve as ambassadors on loan from the Umatilla Tribe at the Southwest Portland charter school, in a partnership program with Oregon State University Portland 4H.
“The tribes in this area all value lamprey, or eels,” Gabe Sheoships, executive director of Friends of Tryon Creek and member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. Lamprey are a “keystone species” and considered a first food of native tribes in the Northwest.
Lamprey, often confused for eels, are prehistoric fish whose bodies are noted by their disc-shaped heads, sharp teeth and three eyes. Their bodies are made of cartilage, and like catfish, they have no scales, rather, slimy smooth skin with gills and dorsal fins.
The primitive, parasitic fish are known for their gross and downright haunting appearance, as well as their survival methods—they suck the nutrients out of their prey by latching their mouths on and suctioning. They’re older than dinosaurs, native to the Pacific Northwest and like salmon, they’re anadromous, meaning they migrate from freshwater to the ocean. What makes them eerie and distinct is also what makes them so important. Lamprey have barely evolved in their more than 450 million years of existence, but now, the fish are considered a species of concern by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Factors like pollution, predation, loss of food sources and dams have threatened the Pacific lamprey in Pacific Northwest waterways.
Lamprey are actually the oldest living fish species, but there’s not that many left.” Sheoships said. He called the fish, “our oldest relatives who we’re all working to protect and preserve.”
Learning about tribal history has come into sharper focus in Oregon since 2017, with the passage of Senate Bill 13. The Tribal History/Shared History bill requires the state to teach Native American curriculum in Oregon’s public schools and provide funding for place-based education.
Educators at the Cottonwood School, a public charter school in the South Portland neighborhood, said teaching about the history and culture of the region is a hallmark of the school.
“As a place-based school, it’s part of our mission, to really connect kids with the place where they are and you can’t do that without doing Indigenous studies,” said Sarah Anderson, place-based educator at Cottonwood.
Courtney Vaughn – Editor, SW Community Connection
Email: cvaughn [at] pamplinmedia.com
Students say more professional development and funding needed to fill gaps in state ethnic studies standards
“Place-based education offers route forward
The standards’ emphasis on Oregon’s own relationship with race, discrimination and injustice channels a concept called “place-based education,” or learning about broader issues by understanding how those issues manifest in one’s own community. They also echo current calls by Oregon students like Cano to acknowledge the stains of racial injustice upon a supposed progressive hub.
For Oregon’s and Portland’s Black history specifically, two educators at the Cottonwood School for Civics and Science, a charter school known for its place-based approach to instruction, devised a comprehensive curriculum that reveals how schools might implement ethnic studies standards in the future. Known as “Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs,” the curriculum, initially designed for sixth graders in 2010, has been employed in recent years as a model for other ethnic studies classes and curriculums.
Lisa Colombo and Sarah Anderson, who are white, created and disseminated the curriculum with funding from national grants, including one from the U.S. Department of Education four years ago. In 2018, the project received another grant from the Library of Congress to digitize the curriculum and make its contents freely available to educators across the country. With that boost in funding, Colombo and Anderson have organized several workshops with teachers in the Portland metro area and other places in Oregon who expressed interest in using the Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs curriculum in their own classrooms.”
Shauna Muckle, a recent graduate of Jesuit High School, is one of two summer interns working for Amplify, a Metro-supported project aimed at elevating the voices of students from communities historically underrepresented in local newsrooms.
Cottonwood School Board member Scott Kerman has been making the news frequently for his work as executive director of Blanchet House.
The nonprofit social services organization has been providing meals, water and lemonade, and clothes to the houseless population of Portland as well as families and individuals impacted economically by the pandemic.
Scott has called the current situation a humanitarian crisis. He has been interviewed by the media, including KATU, KPTV, The Oregonian, and Willamette Week to get the word out about Blanchet House’s work and current needs.
Here is some of the most recent coverage about Blanchet House and Scott’s work.
Scott was elected to the Cottonwood School Board in December 2019 and has brought his educational leadership experience to our school. Prior to joining Blanchet House, he served as head of school for The Gardner School of Arts & Sciences and assistant head of school and then interim head of school at Northwest Academy.
“We are so lucky to have Scott on the board,” said Laura Stanfill, a board member. “His leadership skills, experience in strategic planning, and his ability to remain calm during a crisis are qualities that we’ve come to expect and appreciate from Scott.”
If you are in a position to help, Blanchet House needs volunteers, funds, warm adult-sized clothes, and more. Here is the latest information and wish list: https://blanchethouse.org/covid-19-coronavirus-updates-blanchet-house/
Do you know of a member of the Cottonwood community whose work during the pandemic has helped make our city better? Let us know! Email laurastanfill [at] thecottonwoodschool.org.
*The following was swiped from the OSU Metro 4-H newsletter *
Middle school students at The Cottonwood School in Portland had an option to choose an elective class titled 4-H Youth Entrepreneurs. After much preparation, this month they successfully launched their businesses. They operated as non-profits to raise money for school field trips. All four businesses gave their best effort to create business plans, develop products that benefit their community, pitch to investors for the 4-H microloan, and create a marketing plan. At last it was time for the real test at the after-school pop up market! Long lines of excited customers were ready to shop and buy creative fidgets, handcrafted pencils and stickers, mysterious gift bags, and environmentally conscious bamboo straws.
Next the young entrepreneurs will prepare financial statements to assess their earnings, discuss product viability, and plan for future business endeavors to present at the 4-H Youth Summit at the OSU Portland Center on May 8th, 2020.
Nikki Cook is Education Program Assistant, Portland Metro Area, OSU Portland Center
“What is the responsibility of public school in recovering and sustaining our democracy? Successfully preparing our young people means more than training them for high-tech jobs. Future citizens will need to be skilled problem-solvers, communicators, and collaborators to tackle crises such as climate change and global migration. They will also need to navigate and appreciate diverse perspectives. Schools can serve as fertile grounds for the next generation of citizens by infusing civic education into the bedrock of their curriculum.
The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science is a public K-8 charter school in Portland, Oregon. We apply our place-based mission to all areas of study across the grades to more deeply connect our 210 students to the communities around us and to offer handson experience with civic engagement. Although place-based education (PBE) grew out of the environmental education movement, its holistic definition of place includes all elements of the human-built world (history, economics, infrastructure, current events, etc.) in addition to the natural environment.”
Sarah Anderson is an educator and author specializing in place-based education and curriculum design. Anderson served as a middle school humanities teacher for nine years, first in Annapolis, Maryland and then at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science in Portland, Oregon. She is currently the Fieldwork and Place-Based Education Coordinator at the Cottonwood School where she leads workshops and mentors other teachers in place-based curriculum design. Anderson is the author of Bringing School to Life: Place-Based Education across the Curriculum and has written for Teaching Tolerance, Educational Leadership, and Education Week. She holds a degree in American Studies from Bard College and a M.Ed. from Antioch New England Graduate School.
Students across the Portland metro plan to walk out of school on Friday to demand action in the fight against climate change.
Many of those planning to join in the protest say they’re willing to do anything to help preserve the Earth. Thousands of Portland-area kids joined in a similar climate strike in March.
Students at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science were preparing for Friday’s march by making signs bearing messages for lawmakers.
Velena Jones joined KOIN 6 News as a reporter in April 2018. Before coming to Portland, Velena was a reporter and fill-in anchor for WISC, the CBS affiliate in Madison, Wisconsin.
Activism at all ages will be on display worldwide this week.
In Southwest Portland, it was seen through high school students encouraging their younger peers. There is a swell among The Cottonwood School students to do something great. These middle school students listened Tuesday to what their elder peers had to say, as seniors from Lincoln High School came by to speak about an issue they hold as very important: climate change.
Evan Schreiber joined KATU News in March 2019 as the Live Desk Reporter for “KATU News This Morning,” and this is his first time living in Oregon.
When it comes to a changing world climate very few are paying as close attention as the generation who will likely have to live in it.
Many of the 7th- and 8th-graders at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science on the South Waterfront will likely be alive in the year 2100, so they are kids who will live with consequences of what is or is not done today.
Kohr Harlan, Reporter KOIN News
I’ve done this job for 25 years and what keeps it fresh and interesting is the different people I meet during the course each day. I love to tell people’s stories. Every complex news item can be boiled down into simple to understand journalism by just telling the story through the eyes of the people who are living it.
The Cottonwood School in southwest Portland emphasizes place-based learning, but when Sarah Anderson started teaching civil rights to her middle school students, she discovered that materials about Oregon’s civil rights history were scarce. She set out to remedy that. A curriculum called “Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: The Black History of Portland, Oregon” is the result of her efforts, and Anderson is sharing it in a teacher workshop for the second time this summer. She hopes to empower educators from across the city to use it in their classrooms. We hear from her as well as Darrell Millner, professor emeritus of African American Studies at Portland State University, who helped develop the curriculum.
Sam McAlevy, Samantha Matsumoto, and Sage Van Wing are producers for OPB’s daily talk show, “Think Out Loud” on OPB (Oregon Public Broadcasting).
A workshop to prepare educators to teach Portland Black history is now accepting applications.
Now in its second year, “Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: Teaching Portland’s Black History Through Primary Sources, an Educator’s Workshop” is the result of years of collaboration between teachers at Cottonwood School of Civics and Science, local Black history experts and equity consultants. Cottonwood is a charter elementary school in southwest Portland.
Saundra Sorenson is a journalist and editor based in Portland, OR. A veteran of newsrooms and alt weekly dens, Saundra has always been drawn to the possibilities of storytelling in a creative format. She had the unique pleasure of combining her journalism background and her lifelong love of comedy in her role as an editor at Cracked.com’s Personal Experience team, where for two years she was part of a pioneering movement in narrative and reporting.
This winter, the 7th and 8th grade students at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science explored the question: “What can we learn about the world by looking at our food?” These explorations allowed students to learn about globalization through all of the disciplines mentioned above, leaning heavily upon personal and local connections. Emily Conner, the 7th/8th grade humanities teacher (and creator of most of the activities below), pulled in guest speakers, books, and other resources to create an interdisciplinary unit that additionally incorporated language arts, technology, visual art, and career skills. Below are elements of the unit, any of which can be led in a classroom as a stand-alone activity.
Sarah K. Anderson spent most of her childhood exploring rivers and forests near her rural Vermont home- experiences which provided inspiration for a passion for nature and all things wild. After graduating with a degree in American Studies from Bard College in New York, Sarah served as an AmeriCorps volunteer for Metro Parks and Greenspaces in Portland, OR. Since then, she has worked as a crew leader at an educational farm in Vermont, a Teacher Naturalist in the California Redwoods and a Middle School Humanities teacher at The Key School in Annapolis, Maryland and 7/8th grade at The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science. Sarah received a Masters of Education from Antioch New England Graduate School, where she specialized in integrated and place-based education.
Sarah has written a book about Place-Based Learning and The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science, titled “Bringing School to Life: Place-based Education Across the Curriculum.” Learn more about the book here .
Our Radiozine guests today are a group of 7th and 8th grade students from Portland’s Cottonwood School of Civics and Science, and their Humanities teacher, Emily Conner. The students recently completed podcasts on the topic Globalization and Food, and entered them in the NPR Student Podcast Challenge. The winners will be announced later this month.
We’re fortunate to have Emily and three of the podcast groups here to tell us more about the project and their work. And we’ll be playing those podcasts for you — Con Leche, Candy Calamity, and Consider the Vegan. The future of radio is in very good hands!
Ken Jones writes and produces radio comedy, in addition to doing author interviews and co-anchoring the Monday PM news on KBOO.
SOLVE, an Oregon nonprofit dedicated to environmental stewardship, has named Cottonwood School of Civics and Science its Youth Group of the Year for 2019. The whole school, kindergarten through eighth grade as well as staff, do an annual Willamette River cleanup in the South Waterfront neighborhood as part of its Earth Day celebrations.
Find the article on Page 11.
Laura Stanfill is a novelist, an award-winning journalist, and the publisher of Forest Avenue Press. She earned a full scholarship to the 2018 Yale Publishing Course from the Independent Book Publishers Association and Publishers Weekly designated her as a 2017 Star Watch honoree. She founded the Main Street Writers Movement in 2017 to encourage writers to build community at the local level. Laura Stanfill is also a board member of The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.