Fieldwork Coordinator Update – Spring 2021, Part 2


Spring 2021, Part 2

Date of Activity / Lesson:

June 2021


Audubon Sanctuary


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.


From 7th grade homeroom teacher, McLean:


7th graders took part in Outdoor School this week at the Audubon Sanctuary and it was pretty awesome! I am so grateful that we got this opportunity to participate in outdoor school in person this year, after they missed out on the experience last year, and just to spend five days with the students, in person, out in the woods, under the forest canopy with the sounds of the birds and away from a computer (with no signs of Zoom, Google Classroom, or email) was pretty special for me too!


Each day of the week had a different outdoor education theme, led by our dynamic instructors, Abby and Tim.


Monday was “Soil Day,” where the students became acclimated to their “classroom” for the week and learned about the three main types of rocks, the different layers of soil, and soil and geology of the Columbia gorge.
Tuesday was “Water Day,” in which we tested the PH level, temperature, and oxygen levels of the creek, created our own watersheds with paper, markers, and tiny spray bottles, and searched for macroinvertebrates in the water to help inform us about the health of the creek.


Wednesday was “Plant Day,” where we took a plant walk through the woods, learned to identify various native plants, tried some edible ones, and did some leaf rubbings and investigations, focusing on the different parts and characteristics of a leaf.


Thursday was “Animal Day.” We got to handle and identify different mammal skulls and pelts and talked about bird adaptations, studying different wings, feet, beaks, and feathers of a range of different birds.


And Friday was a mixture of Wilderness Survival Priorities, where we learned about the “Ten Essentials” of what to bring camping and hiking and the “Rule of 3” of human wilderness survival, and did a couple of blindfolded walk activities through the woods, focusing on using our other senses, and learning to “fox walk.” We also played a Wolf Survival dice rolling simulation game that compared a wolfpack’s chance of survival with and without human interference. All in all, the week was filled with a great mixture of fun activities and educational lessons on the outdoors.


Other highlights from the week Included:

  • Meeting Aristophanes, the raven, and Ruby the turkey vulture who live at the Audubon Sanctuary. (And Bybee the turtle!)
  • Catching a salamander and a crawdad in the creek on water day
  • Hearing an owl hoot in the forest
  • Wood cookies & end of day bead ceremonies.
  • Lunchtime in general
  • Working on our stealth skills, while hiding from the other group in the woods
  • Handling the different animal pelts and skulls
  • Building a wood structure out of sticks
  • A rousing game of “Animal Motions”
  • “Meet a Tree” Blindfolded walk
  • Some really challenging riddles from Abby in the mornings
  • Create your own watershed activity
  • Soil scavenger hunt
  • Tasting Miner’s Lettuce and Osoberry plants
  • RPS Evolution game — with crabs as the most evolved species
  • Some improv games and storytime with McLean
  • AND A group of students worked on creating a play at lunchtime and performed the first few scenes on Friday. The play is 100% student-led (Finn S seems to be the main creative force behind it), features a crew of 10+ actors, and is frankly action packed! I can’t wait to see where it goes and love the creativity and collaboration involved in it!


Huge THANK YOU to our parent chaperones throughout the week and for all of you for transporting out to the Audubon Sanctuary each day, and of course, our instructors, Abby and Tim, for an informative, fun-filled, and memorable week of Outdoor Education that we will no doubt think fondly upon for a long time! Again, I am so grateful that we were able to do this in person this year!



From 6th grade teacher Lisa:


Outdoor school with Audubon was magical. Not only were Tim and Abby phenomenal instructors who really got middle schoolers and really really knew their stuff, they were so organized and chill and set a wonderful tone for our whole week. They were truly moved by all the really sincere thank you cards the kids made.


Each day began with a greeting and a game, followed by a theme day. The first day was all about soil and we went on a scavenger hunt after learning about what makes soil healthy.


Day 2 was the plant day- we went on a hike to find edible plants and learned a ton about the structure of plants and how to id them. It was also our downpour day and honestly, it made me so happy to see the entire class enjoy the rain. I mean really enjoy it! We were all soaked in the best way and Abby was really impressed by all the positive attitudes. No one- I did not hear a single complaint or sour face about the rain. I really do think it illustrates the power of Cottonwood- weather does not faze us.


Day 3 was our water day, ironically! It was also a beautiful dry day that allowed us to search for macroinvertebrates in the creek and do some testing of Balch creek to see how healthy it is. The pH was neutral, it had great dissolved oxygen levels, the temp was perfectly cool, and there were many types of macroinvertebrates.


Day 4 was our animal day and we were thrilled to investigate actual skulls and pelts, learning about adaptations and learning about types of birds. The students even invented their own birds! So many cannibals! LOL!


The last day was about ecosystems and we learned all about wolves in Oregon and how they are a keystone species. We also went on a blindfolded walk through the foliage and met a tree with partners. We played so many fun games including the flock of a feather, the rock/paper/scissors/evolution game, and our favorite, the animal greeting game.


Each day ended with a bead ceremony where students nominated others to receive certain color beads symbolizing traits. Blue for kindness, purple for courage, red for teamwork, green for nature awareness, yellow for curiosity, orange for respect, and only on the last day did we all receive a black bead for completeness. One of the last things we did was to share an appreciation for nature and we held a rope after sharing, and at the end, we all leaned back supported by the rope, symbolizing how we all are interconnected and can rely on each other.


I was so moved by being able to see everyone face to face and to laugh and play and I was so impressed with their caring and honest appreciation of everyone in the group. And an extra extra special shout out and deep thanks to Jered Spencer for volunteering for the entire week. We really would not have been the same smooth experience without you.



By: The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science Teachers and 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!