Eric Adjetey Anang Slide Lecture
Monday, November 7
Eric Adjetey Anang, a Ga fantasy coffin sculptor from Ghana, is an artist in residence at Catlin Gabel from November 7 to November 11. We have invited him here to demonstrate his amazing art of sculpting a coffin out of wood in whatever shape a family feels best represents their deceased elder. He will be sculpting a woodworker’s hand plane, approximately 7’ long, 3’ wide, and 4’ high, on the front deck of the Barn. Please come ask him questions, watch him work, and feel free to participate in the building of the hand plane.
Two years ago, Michael de Forest, the LS woodshop teacher, traveled to Ghana for a summer and studied with Eric in his carpentry shop in Teshie, near Accra. There is also a US trip planned for Ghana from July 29 to August 19, 2012, where students will be working in the Kane Kwei Carpentry Shop with Eric.
Maggie's film, Someone That the World Forgot, received the Heart Award in the NW Film Center's Young People's Film Festival. Professional filmmakers selected the winning films from 150 entries.
Maggie made the movie last year during a collaboration project with students at Maru-a-Pula, our sister school in Botswana. The film is set to a poem by Lulwama K. Mulau, a Maru-a-Pula student.
With each passing week, the garden behind the Middle School expands and improves thanks to the efforts of many community members. From shed doors created by the Upper School shop class to pavers laid by Upper School students, to the latest addition – a cob pizza oven – there are many wondrous elements to discover.
Last spring, Lower and Middle School students submitted 75 drawings for the phase 3 expansion of the garden. The Garden Club selected six winning drawings, all of which included a pizza oven and several new pizza-slice-shaped raised beds for growing pizza ingredients including wheat, tomatoes, basil, onions, garlic, and oregano.
Alumni Kai Yonezawa ’02 and Owen Gabbert ‘02 adapted the six winning drawings and drew up a landscape design and construction plans for garden structures with green roofs and a cob oven with tin roof.
At that same time last spring, then-junior Andrea Michalowsky worked on a design for the phase 3 expansion in her PLACE urban studies class. She designed a ten-by-ten foot chessboard that was completed this fall after a summer crew dug trenches, hauled stone, poured gravel and river rock, and created the area that is now two decks with the chessboard between them.
This fall, the pizza oven became the focus of our attention. Under the guidance of natural builder Eva Edleson, a team of students, teachers, staff, alumni, and parents came together several times in September and October to build the pizza cob oven and its foundation, posts, and tin roof. » Check out photos and a short video of our process.
In 6th grade art class students learned a Matisse stenciling technique and made clay paint to decorate the cob oven. Students and teachers all had a hand in the embellishments. And every year the new 6th grade class can repaint over the previous year's design.
The icing on the cake for this project is green roofs to protect our community garden. Parents of 6th graders are donating sedum and grasses to create this living legacy.
Stay tuned for information about the first annual chess tournament in the garden and for the inaugural firing of the cob oven. Pizza time!
At this time of new beginnings, it is important to look back and acknowledge the countless hours of volunteer time and professional expertise that have gone into the garden. Many hands and generous hearts have contributed, which makes this garden so very organic and special. Thank you to the more than 45 people who have helped to create this beautiful, growing space with artistry, dedication, and hard work.
Volunteers of note include staff members, parents, alumni, students, and friends: Paul Andrichuk, Zoe Edelen-O'Brien, David Ellenberg, Ema Elredge, Ann Fyfield, Herb Fyfield, Meghan Galaher, Peter Green, Larry Hurst, Henry Latendresse, Emma Latendresse, Theresa Long, Matt Maynard, Adam Maynard, Chenoa Ohlson, Barbara Ostos, Tchassanty Ouro-Gbeleou, Carol Ponganis, Dale Rawls, David Reich, Simon Schiller, Jason Stevens, Kellie Takahashi, Hen Truong, Katie Truong, Tom Tucker, Spencer White, David Zonana, and the students in the outdoor leadership and adventure class.
Peter and his wife, Christine Portfors, associate professor of biology at Washington State University Vancouver, host their annual Bat Talk from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 29, in the Dengerink Administration building, room 110 at Washington State University in Vancouver. This event is an especially fun fall activity for families with children ages 4 – 12 and is free and open to the public.
While the season often calls for depicting bats as blood-sucking, vicious creatures, now families have an opportunity to see live bats up close and learn why these animals are largely misunderstood. In addition to teaching guests about bats, Christine and Peter will offer fun children’s activities including arts and crafts.
In their presentation, Peter and Christine dispel popular folklore and teach guests about the beneficial role bats play in nature managing insect pests, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. They will showcase different bat species and introduce guests to a few of their captive tropical fruit bats.
WSU Vancouver is located at 14204 N.E. Salmon Creek Avenue off the 134th Street exit form either I-5 or I-205. Parking is free on weekends.
On October 20, students on Catlin Gabel cross country teams had the opportunity to meet all of the professional runners from the Nike Oregon Project and run with them on the wood chip trails surrounding Nike’s campus. After an introduction to all of the professional athletes by head coach Alberto Salazar, the cross-country team headed out for a few miles around the Beaverton campus.
ABOUT LAUREN REGGERO-TOLEDANO
Lauren Reggero-Toledano received a bachelor's in education (elementary education and Spanish) from the University of Miami, followed by a master's in Spanish language and cultures from the University of Salamanca, Spain. In August 2009 she was awarded a Teacher Fellowship Grant by the American ImmigrationCouncil for a Spanish V class project, “The Hispanic Presence in Oregon: During the Great Depression and Today.” For the last five years she has made a concerted effort to make service learning in the local Hispanic community an integral part of the Spanish V curriculum. Visit her Spanish V class page for more on the service component in Lauren’s class.
ABOUT NAIS AND THE TEACHERS OF THE FUTURE PROGRAM
The Klingenstein Foundation offered NAIS a generous grant for the Teachers of the Future program through which each teacher will receive a $1,000 stipend for participating in the program.
The National Association of Independent Schools, based in Washington, DC, is a voluntary membership organization for over 1,400 independent schools and associations in the United States and abroad. Independent schools are distinct from other private schools in that they are independently governed by boards of trustees and are funded primarily through tuition, charitable contribution, and endowment income. To be eligible for membership in NAIS, schools must be accredited, nondiscriminatory, 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.
Wordstock is a literary art and education organization that celebrates and supports writing in the classroom and in the community. Their annual festival of books, writers, and storytelling runs October 6 – 9 at the Oregon Convention Center.
Carl will share the Attic Institute Stage with poet Maxine Scates on Sunday, October 9, from 2 to 3 p.m.
Thanks go to media arts teacher Brendan Gill for taking these great photos of the community gathering in the Barn, fans at the field, the jazz band at halftime, and awesome JV and Varsity girls soccer.
How is Portland treating you?
Really well. We’re definitely still tourists. The other day I was able to navigate from my house to Sauvie Island and back successfully. I’m beginning to understand how the 405 freeway loops around. Every week we try to do something new, which is easy here.
I hear you are a dancer. Tell us more.
I love to dance for that feeling you get when movement takes over. My husband and I met at a salsa club, and we used to go salsa and merengue dancing a lot. We choreographed and practiced a dance for our wedding reception. Dancing is a big part of who we are. Lydia loves to dance. [Lydia is Barbara and Carlos’ toddler.] One of my favorite moments during Discovery Days was square dancing with 6th graders. It was great to see them take the risk, especially given the whole boy-girl dynamic at that age.
Can you reflect on a couple more highlights of your time here at Catlin Gabel?
Two Fridays ago at assembly a group of teachers—Tom Tucker, Deirdre Atkinson, Mark Pritchard, Spencer White, and Brendan Gill—played musical instruments and led 185 kids and 30 adults in a community sing. The high level of participation and incredible vibe was impressive. I’m going to make sure we have many opportunities for group singing.
Another standout moment was at Back-to-School Night. I tried to get around to see bits and pieces of all the teachers’ presentations. I sat in the 6th grade classroom filled with parents listening to the teachers talk about their work with students, and the real trust that we ask of parents. That was inspiring. And hearing about the teachers’ expertise and experience, not just the teaching and pedagogical experience and all that good stuff, but the life experience, too, kind of brought me to tears. I’ve really joined an outstanding faculty.
The spirit of team work and shared responsibility for everything we do—which is something I philosophically believe in—is a highlight that repeats itself over and over multiple times on any given day. Everyone pitches in, and there’s no sense that it’s any one person’s show. We're doing this together for the benefit of the kids.
What is your educational philosophy?
At the core I think the purpose of school goes much further than teaching reading, writing, math, and science. The fact that our students spend the great majority of their waking hours here on this campus with us implies a responsibility not just as educators but also as mentors in guiding young people to become socially responsible adults. The job of every teacher in our community is to engage with students and help them understand that they can pretty much do anything they want, but that they need to understand that there is right and wrong and they have a responsibility to each other. Maybe 96.12 percent of the time it’s not what you do but how you do it.
Our goal is to engage students in fully participating in everything we do. You’ll never have 100 percent participation, but schools should create an atmosphere where students can take risks, even pretty high-altitude risks, and feel safe trying.
This morning we saw a great example of high-altitude risk taking. A 6th grade girl had the lead part in a skit at assembly. I thought, wow, here’s a girl who’s been in this building fewer than 3 weeks and she’s putting herself out like that, not just in front of 6th graders, but 7th and 8th graders, too.
In terms of curriculum the idea of progression and partnerships is vital. Sixth, 7th, and 8th graders are all in such different places. Great schools and great educators meet kids where they are. It’s about the progress, not necessarily about the final outcome, because each one of our 7th graders is starting at a different place and ending at a different place. It’s about knowing our students well enough to recognize where they started and to give them support and kudos as they grow and progress.
We also need to teach kids that we’re not perfect, and everyone isn’t great at everything all of the time. It can be hard to give kids that kind of honest feedback, but that’s life. The bottom line is that we’re preparing these kids for life, not just for the next grade level. Sometimes people choose independent schools for the bubble it creates, and that makes it even more onerous on us to prepare them for life. Competition exists, and you’re not always going to be the best at what you’re doing. The way students can grow and really become better is through the critical feedback we offer them. It doesn’t serve anybody to always hear that they’re doing a great job. We can create an atmosphere where hearing supportive and empathetic criticism is the norm because our students understand everyone wants you to improve. Catlin’s narrative reports are a good piece of that, and I’m just discovering what those look like.
What are the academic tools Middle School students need for success in high school?
The ability to put thoughts together and connect ideas, which leads to critical thinking and comparisons. The ability to analyze, speak, and write clearly about ideas. The ability to put things together, figure things out creatively, and use core scientific inquiry skills, which of course includes math. The ability to be thoughtful in everything you do.
How do we reach students who have a wide range of skill levels at a stage in their lives when their maturity levels are so varied?
You need to meet students where they are. We can’t have the same expectation for every single 7th grader, because some kids will end up feeling like failures. No two people are the same, and if we don't recognize the individual child as the unit of consideration then we’re doing them a disservice. If they’re writing an expository essay about a hero in their life, for instance, and we know where that child started and ended, we can provide effective relevant feedback about their work. If they don’t feel like we are taking the time to really see what they’ve produced and offer them immediate feedback, then they wonder why are they really doing this.
Commenting about where a student started and ended is meaningful to them. At this age you really need to be concrete. You can’t just say, “Great job.” You have to say things like, “I’m impressed by how you used alliteration,” or “I noticed you connected this unit of math to what we did three months ago.” It’s very important to be specific both in accolades and in comments for improvement.
With all the distractions of adolescence, how do you keep Middle School students focused on school work?
You have to get them engaged. If they’re not bought into what is going on then it’s not meaningful. So the real question, and the challenge for each of us, is how to make something meaningful for a kid—especially in Middle School! You can make a student sit down and do 26 million math problems and lose their attention, or you can ask them to work out five math word problems that bring in things they actually care about. Then they’ll be interested and think through the problem. In language classes, you could have them fill out worksheets where they enter the right verb, or you can make their learning relevant by asking them to write about what they’re going to do this weekend. Connecting academics to their interests is something we really need to keep in mind, because Middle School students perceive themselves as the center of their universes. We need to be very clear about what we’re asking them to do, or the academic engagement isn’t meaningful to them. Does that mean that every single assignment in every single class is going to do that for every kid? No, that’s not realistic. But that should be our goal and our constant aspiration as educators.
What do you think of the myth that our math and science programs are not as strong as our writing and humanities?
Our math and science program is really strong. We need to do a better job of talking about what it is and being very clear about what we do in classes. I’ve noticed it’s a little ingrained in the culture of our teachers to be very humble about the work they do with kids. What’s happening in classrooms is amazing—and that includes math and science. There’s always room for improvement, but one of my goals this year is to tease out and share the excellent work we’re doing in math and science.
Do you have thoughts about our 8th graders considering other schools for their high school experience?
It would be my hope that all of our 8th graders move on to our 9th grade. While the school is broken up into four divisions—and appropriately so for children’s developmental stages and from a teaching and management point of view—I really hope that people see Catlin Gabel as a preschool through 12th grade program. I see it that way! It’s pretty amazing to have a place where you can be one school that is connected and interconnected in so many ways while appreciating the differences of age and what that brings.
As an aside, I am really impressed that the Beginning School is its own division. Science tells us there is a significant developmental difference between kindergarteners and 1st graders. That was one of the things I found very attractive about the school and its thinking about what’s best for kids.
Getting back to the 8th to 9th grade transition, it’s important to recognize that Catlin Gabel, just like every other school, may not be the right place for every student. The desire to look around at alternatives is something that’s probably natural to some. But I really caution against making decisions around assumptions. I’ve already had conversations with a number of 8th grade students and their parents where they have inaccurate assumptions about the Upper School.
Families that are considering other options need to keep in mind a few things. Don’t make decisions about what you think our Upper School program is. Look at our Upper School program and make informed decisions. Talk to US teachers, talk to me. Research Catlin Gabel as well as you research the alternatives you’re considering. Also, the decision to leave should not be solely made by the student or by the parent. Decision-making at this age really needs to involve parents and students in a way that all voices are heard. Parents must try to understand why students want to leave and consider if the reasons are good ones, and visa versa.
What is your hope for our graduates?
My dream for all seniors going to college, not just Catlin Gabel students, is that they are fully prepared, they know how to carry themselves, they understand how they learn, and they understand the space they take up not only in their school, city, and state but also in the world. We teach those things extraordinarily well and differently than other places. What is it to be a global citizen? Answering that question well is a really important 21st-century skill.
John Mayer’s students had a conversation about how they think the brain works as they launched into a lesson about neurons, dendrites, and axons.
"I know there are different sides of the brain. Maybe it's that all the stuff you do know is one side of the brain and all the stuff you don't know is on the other side. So then the more you grow and learn, it's like a wave goes over your brain from one side to the other."
"That’s right. There are sides of a brain but I think it's different. It's like you do reading from here, riding your bike from there, and like math from over here (pointing to different spots all over her head). So it's like a highway between cities to connect them. Sometimes there might be something on the road…"
"Or the road got washed out."
"Yeah, or the road got washed out and that's the stuff you don't know. Then maybe you learn stuff and the road gets fixed."
John: "Hmmm… I guess we have a lot of thinking to do. Should we start by trying to figure out more about how our brains are put together?"