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We Bid Farewell to Michael Heath and Our Retiring Teachers

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From the Summer 2012 Caller

Michael Heath

After five years at the helm of the Upper School and as assistant head for co-curriculars, Michael Heath has accepted the position of head of Heathwood Hall Episcopal School in Columbia, South Carolina.
During his time at Catlin Gabel, Michael was the thoughtful overseer of many changes in the academic program. Advances made under Michael’s leadership include the realignment of the grading structure, the adjustment of the homework load, and greater emphasis on cross-disciplinary teaching.
Michael drew upon his background in philosophy, and his great sense of personal and community ethics, to insist that the moral and ethical lives of students are central to the school’s mission. He was a key figure in the establishment of the Knight Family Scholars Program, and in the growth to prominence of the PLACE and Global Online Academy programs.
With his move to South Carolina, Michael and wife Dido, and children Harry, Annie, and Sophie, will be closer to their families in Virginia and in England. Michael has been succeeded as Upper School head by Daniel Griffiths, who has served as assistant head of the Upper School, science teacher, and head of the science department.
Michael spoke at the Upper School year-end assembly about leaving Catlin Gabel, and his remarks are excerpted below.
I came to Catlin Gabel and found this community that fought for the underlying meaning of knowledge and goodness in a way that decried reputation and the flashiness of plastic accolades.
Because of you I know what the real pursuit of knowledge and virtue can look like. I know what it looks like to have students carried away with an idea, and how different that looks from a 5 on an AP exam.
So I guess I’m saying that I’m going to miss this and I’m going to miss you. I really am. But I’m also imploring you NOT to lose sight of these ideals. Guard them because there will be those who will challenge them. There will be those reputation-mongers who think that getting into this or that college, becoming a doctor or lawyer or whatever, is an intrinsically valuable thing simply because of appearances.
Two final pleas—be KIND to these people. Don’t be mean. Love them but convince them of their folly. And secondly, don’t be fooled. We all know what lasts, we all know that being an idealist isn’t easy, but we also know how much this world needs idealists!
For you, my beloved students, I would say, I’m so proud of you. I will miss you. Thanks very much. It’s been an honor to be a part of this school.


Monique Bessette

Monique Bessette has been Middle and Upper School French teacher at Catlin Gabel since 1997. She’s embarking upon the “Umpqua chapter” of her life, setting up a water turbine and learning to use a chainsaw lumber mill, and plans to travel spontaneously and be more of an activist.
This community has been a great model for me: I felt supported in whatever endeavors I attempted and challenged intellectually. I felt at home with my colleagues who take their profession seriously, but who don’t take themselves too seriously. I have truly enjoyed all my years here at Catlin Gabel!

Laurie Carlyon-Ward

Upper School art teacher Laurie Carlyon-Ward has taught Draw/ Paint, Honors Art Seminar, 3D Design, and Ceramics since 1985. After retirement, Laurie plans to spend more time doing her art work, traveling, volunteering with nonprofits, and enjoying her family. She will invoke two rules about time during retirement: no meetings before 10 a.m. and no firm commitments for one year.
I hope I gave students the opportunity to explore ways to express themselves visually, yet in a safe environment. Our society is so left brained, and I hoped the curriculum in the art department gave the school a place for the right brain to flourish.

Véronique de la Poterie

Véronique de la Poterie has been teaching French at Catlin Gabel for 25 years. Her plans for her retirement include an 800 km bike challenge trip through Europe, world travel, kayaking, nurturing relationships, and getting involved in the political scene.
I am grateful to this community for having helped me raise my two wonderful daughters with both a heart and a mind, for its academic freedom that allowed me to unleash my creativity and show all of my passions, and for the devotion of its teachers and the commitment of its students. Most of all I will miss the intellectual dialogs I have had (in French) with my amazing honors students, who have been such a source of sustenance and inspiration.

Joanne Dreier

Joanne Dreier was part of the Beginning School for the past 25 years. She is inspired in retirement to become as involved with her family as she has been with her work at school.
Being a part of this place has been more than a career to me. As I accepted a position as kindergarten teacher, then-head Jim Scott said, ‘Welcome to Catlin Gabel. May you stay forever.’ I was profoundly touched. I still want to experience ‘forever’ at Catlin Gabel. It will just be in a new way. Thank you to everyone for everything.

Susan Lazareck

A Catlin Gabel teacher since 1994, Susan Lazareck taught 1st grade for “11 joyful and creative years” before moving to 3rd grade. She is looking forward to a mountain of books, travels to Hawaii and back East, and volunteering for CASA (court appointed special advocates) and the new Randall Children’s Hospital.
I will miss the Fir Grove, Experiential Days, digging deeply into topics with kids and working with my amazing colleagues. And I look forward to finding good things to do in the future.

Karen Talus

Upper School history teacher Karen Talus came to Catlin Gabel in 2008 after teaching since 1968. She taught 9th grade Early World History and 10th grade Modern Europe and the World. In retirement she’s interested in serving as a docent at the art museum and volunteering in adult literacy.
I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to teach just a few more years, and I think it’s great to be ‘graduating’ with the class I came in with!

Dave Tash

Dave Tash has taught Upper School math, from Algebra One to Calculus One, for eight years.
I have enjoyed teaching at Catlin Gabel more than anything I’ve done since I left the Navy. I’ll miss Catlin Gabel, but I believe I will enjoy retirement and traveling with my wife, Karen, a great deal.

Wally Wilson

Wally Wilson has retired after 32 years teaching Spanish in Middle and Upper School. He hopes to travel and read many books in retirement.

Like Middle Schoolers, I prefer to be actively engaged with something real, something I like. And that’s why I have thrived at Catlin Gabel and why I can’t help but think back with fondness on the 22 trips and some 300 students who have traipsed through the pyramids of Mexico and the cloud forests of Costa Rica with me.


The Big Green Center of Campus

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The Barn keeps everyone happy and nourished

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Enter Catlin Gabel’s big green Barn at the start of lunchtime, and here’s what you’ll see. Hundreds of students line up, talking and laughing, to order the day’s hot entrée—which might be Phnom Penh rice noodle soup, vegetable or ham panini, quesadillas, grilled fish or tofu, stuffed poblano peppers, or a host of other tasty and healthful dishes. Others rush for the salad bar, stocked with brilliant greens from a local farm, veggies picked just hours before from the school garden, and beautifully prepared grain and vegetable salads. Teachers and staff members sit together at one of the many round tables, eating their lunches and catching up on what’s going on around campus, surrounded by tables of students. It’s a loud and lively place, centered on the Barn’s fresh, local, nutritious, irresistible offerings.

It’s A Whole New World of Food at Catlin Gabel.

The revolution began in the summer of 2006, when Hen Truong joined the staff as food services director. The food service until then had been loving and attentive, but it was time for Catlin Gabel to catch up with advances in food and nutrition to best serve its 740 students and their growing bodies and brains. Hen’s background as a member of a restaurant family, a graduate of the Western Culinary Institute, and a fast-rising young manager of food services at colleges and universities made him a perfect candidate to renovate the Barn’s approach.

A Necessary Diversion: Who’s Hen?

It’s almost impossible to talk about how the Barn has changed without talking about Hen Truong, and what motivates him so strongly. His determination has driven all the changes the school has made over the past six years, and will continue as he fulfills his vision.
Hen lived in Cambodia until age 3, the son of a Chinese restaurateur father and a Chinese-Cambodian mother. When the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia began their relentless genocide in the country’s “Killing Fields,” Hen’s family escaped to Vietnam amidst great hardship, starvation, and chaos. They were rescued by a boat captain whom his father had adopted as an orphan years earlier, but had not seen for a long time. The family lived in Vietnam until Hen was 7, when they had to flee again because Hen’s brother and sister were about to be conscripted into the army— which meant a life expectancy of a few months at best. After secretly arranging transit, paid with gold, they walked right out of his father’s restaurant during lunchtime into a rainy afternoon with nothing but what they had on. They lived in a crawl space in a safe house in Saigon for three weeks, then boarded a boat that took them to Thailand—and to three years of refugee camps there and in the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Hen’s father made and sold steamed buns in the camps. “Life there made me realize what not having material wealth feels like, and what hunger feels like,” says Hen. He was surrounded by people from many Southeast Asian cultures, and remembers playing with kids speaking a bewildering number of languages. Finally they located an aunt in San Antonio, Texas, who sponsored their immigration. Hen began his life in the U.S. at age 10 in cold, wintry Texas, speaking no English, in a new school. He learned the language quickly, thanks to an ESL teacher who devoted extra time to his education.
After two years in Texas, the family moved to Oklahoma City for another two years, then moved to Portland. Hen’s father opened the East Restaurant in north Portland, and the whole family chipped in and worked. Hen yearned to be a cook there, propelled by his admiration of Pat Transue, his 9th grade home economics teacher at Jefferson High School. “I did a lot of whining before my dad let me cook at East Restaurant. He wanted me to be more than a cook,” says Hen. Mrs. Transue, touched by Hen’s desire to become a chef, helped Hen enroll at the culinary institute.
After receiving a thorough grounding in the culinary arts, Hen decided to go to college to learn more about business, so he could run a restaurant. He enrolled in Concordia University and met another influential mentor: Robert Bjorngriebe, the head of the food service. Robert was doing what Hen was later charged with at Catlin Gabel: revving up a food service that had stayed the same for many years. Robert took Hen under his wing, hired him to work in the dining hall and kitchen, and taught him everything from catering to how to conduct oneself as a chef. Hen was also attending classes full time, and working at East Restaurant on weekends. Although Hen was set on going to a big city to become “the next Wolfgang Puck or something,” Robert convinced him that school food service was a sane career that would allow him to have a family life. After graduating from Concordia and completing several internships, Hen stumbled into a food service job at Oregon State University in Corvallis—by commenting about the food when he was visiting a friend there.
With OSU’s director, Richard Turnbull, Hen oversaw a huge project: the complete renovation of OSU’s dining services and construction of a new dining hall. As general manager he learned how to motivate staff people, and how to have them take pride in their food. He managed a new concept in food service, with seven restaurants for different food concepts, such as deli, coffee shop, grill, and Italian food. It was a huge success.
After 10 years there, Hen yearned to direct a dining program and move back to Portland to be nearer to his parents. He worked briefly for a food contract service at a small college in Portland, but didn’t like the politics of serving two masters, the contract service and the school, and their vastly different goals.
Hen and his brother set out to open their own restaurant, and that was the plan—until the summer of 2006, when a friend told him about the job at Catlin Gabel, which was similar to what Hen had done so well at OSU. Hen interviewed, just to keep his skills sharp, but says the unexpected happened: “The minute I stepped on the beautiful campus I felt great. I met with the committee, and I went from ‘I’m not in’ to ‘Please hire me. I can do a lot for you!’” And he has, in these six years since.

Hen’s Philosophy

“My philosophy is simple. I want to create good, fresh, seasonal, and thoughtful food, so that customers find value in it. Food service is my passion. Every hour of the day I plot and plan how to improve it and make it better. I feel vested in Catlin Gabel. I save us money wherever I can and do things as economically as possible. It’s very powerful for me to know I get support from the faculty-staff, students, and parents. It drives me to do more personally. I want to do everything.”

Changing the Status Quo

After meeting with retired food service director Terry Turcotte, Hen spent the summer of 2006 figuring out what he could do to make the system more efficient. In a whirlwind of activity, he met with vendors to find the most healthful food and consolidated them to keep traffic down and the quality high, centralized the ordering of coffee for all offices, and created a regulation commercial kitchen. He rewrote the menu to do as much seasonal, from scratch, local, and fresh cooking as possible. He met with staff members, divided up responsibilities, and hired more people. By the time school started that fall, the Barn was already radically changed. “Although there’s still a lot more to do,” says Hen.

The Barn’s Daily Work

Hen’s core crew is made up of kitchen supervisor Sara Gallagher; Robin Grimm, in charge of front of house; Chris Sommer, salads; Yuri Newton, deli and grab-and-go; kitchen help Woming Chen; and dishwasher Jonathan Sarenana-Belten. Hen is always interested in furthering their skills with cross-training and classes. “The way the staff works so hard drives me to work harder,” he says.
Every day the Barn feeds 400 to 450 kids, with about 350 eating hot lunches, plus around 50 adults. The students’ dietary restrictions are a big focus for the Barn crew. Every meal includes gluten-free foods and vegetarian or vegan options. They accommodate children with nut and dairy allergies, and they try to use less sodium and as much organic food as possible.
When Hen first came to Catlin Gabel, every office did outside catering, which meant paying premium prices. Hen offered to do all the school’s catering, reducing costs significantly. Anyone on campus can place a catering order, from two to hundreds of eaters, and the Barn now does 99 percent of the school’s catering. The cost for food is much less, and the food is much fresher.
The Barn crew produces food for special events, such as commencement, Spring Festival, and alumni Homecoming weekend. They’ve taken on providing food for field trips, to relieve teachers and parent volunteers, packing food and supplies for cooking. Hen also does on-campus cooking demos, and offers special dinners as school auction items.

The Sustainability Loop

Hen works with teacher Carter Latendresse, head of the school garden, to figure out what to grow that can be used in Barn meals. Carter sends email to Hen when a vegetable crop is ripe, and they go up the hill, harvest the vegetables, and use them quickly in the Barn. All food scraps, including those from diners’ plates, go into buckets, which go right back into the garden, when they’re ready, as compost. “You can’t get more sustainable than that,” says Hen.

The Future

In the drive to use as much local and seasonal food as possible, the Barn received a grant to buy dehydrators, a greenhouse, and a juicer, all of which will extend the usable life of produce into the cold-weather months. Hen is excited about being able to offer fresh fruit and vegetable juice blends. Given Hen’s motivation and drive, we can expect the Barn to improve and keep surprising its happy customers. “I want to continue sourcing new products and support other departmental programs. I want to continue to provide a place where people can come to collaborate, a social place, a place to talk over food or coffee,” says Hen. “Mostly, I want to continue to encourage and excite people about food.”

A Recipe from Hen

Quinoa, Roasted Beet, and Walnut Salad 

Ingredients for 4 servings
3–4 medium beets, washed
1 C. dry quinoa
2 C. water
1/2 C. toasted walnuts
2–3 cloves crushed garlic
Zest and juice of one lemon
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 F. Wrap beets in foil and bake until tender, about 45 min. to an hour. Let cool, then peel off the skins and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Set aside
Bring water to boil in a small heavy saucepan. Rinse quinoa well and add to water. Return to boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Allow to simmer for at least 25 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Uncover pan, allow to cool.
For dressing, heat oil in a nonstick frypan. Add garlic and lemon rind. Cook and stir for 2 minutes, then add balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and sugar. Remove from heat.
Add beets to cooled quinoa. Break walnuts into pieces and add to the bowl. Pour dressing over, add cilantro, and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

 "Market" curtain backdrop in photo of Hen Truong was painted by Claire Stewart '07.

Nadine Fiedler is Catlin Gabel’s publications and public relations director and the editor of the Caller.


Why Garden in School?

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From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Carter Latendresse

During the fall months in our 6th grade classes, my colleagues and I teach gardening, ancient flood stories, contemporary dystopian literature, and ancient Mesopotamia. We ask our students to look backward to identify essential characteristics of the first human civilizations, so that they might look forward and imagine remaking Western civilization in the 21st century.
During these lessons, my history teacher partner, Ann Fyfield, focuses on the development of agriculture in the Neolithic Age (8000 BCE to 3000 BCE), the rise of Sumerian city-states, the four empires of Mesopotamia, and the characteristics of ancient civilizations. In my English class, the curriculum parallels and interweaves with that of my colleague at crucial points, especially around issues of soil, water, food, climate, environmental justice, and the stories we tell ourselves as humans to orient ourselves to Earth, to one another, to other animals, and to the cosmos. We can often be found outside during September and October, harvesting apples, grinding wheat, learning about bee keeping, planting overwintering lettuce, or baking pita bread in the garden cob oven. Several people have asked, “What does the garden have to do with English or history class?”
Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, in their seminal curriculum design text, Understanding by Design, show that while the best teaching prepares students for college, it is also rooted in solving today’s problems and celebrating today’s wisdom. The garden is our place of intersection for the teaching of ancient history, the novel, writing, economics, politics, anthropology, religion, myth, and science.
We have many reasons for teaching the Sumerian empire in our organic garden behind the Middle School building. These reasons grow out of the four enduring understandings we want our students to chew on for the rest of their lives.
The first enduring idea or understanding is that the aims and desires of most people on Earth have been fundamentally similar since hunter-gatherers first domesticated crops and animals in Iraq 10,000 years ago, and we can empathize with those people because we too desire, at bottom, the same things, which are connection and belonging. Focusing on new research involving empathy, mirror neurons, the lives of women, the colonized, and ordinary people throughout history, we unearth, as historians such as Howard Zinn, Winthrop Jordan, and Riane Eisler have done, representative stories of everyday people that could stand for the great silent majority of human history. We also presuppose, along with Jeremy Rifkin in The Empathic Civilization, that the deepest unconscious desires of Homo sapiens include companionship in towns that provide nutritious food, clean water, and safe homes for our children. By studying Mesopotamia, we get a snapshot of people putting these desires into action when they created the world’s first cities.
At the same time, I try to show that balanced relationships pervade, indeed define, naturally occurring ecosystems and gardens that are intelligently designed with permaculture principles. We try to dispel centuries of fearing dirt and insects. No topsoil, no life, we tell students, and No honeybees, very boring food. We teach them about life cycles, collecting seeds, planting and transplanting from the greenhouse, companion planting, pollination, mulching, rain gardens, bioswales, native plant diversity, harvesting, cooking, eating, flower arranging, good table manners, composting, and the symbiotic relationships that pervade the cosmos. Reconnecting to the first civilization in ancient Iraq, with their reading, writing, gardening, food preparation, and eating, our students embody the oldest desires of civilized humans striving for community.
Our second enduring idea that we want our students to return to throughout their lives is that a phalanx of interrelated environmental problems faces the human species today, each of which is exacerbated by overpopulation. While these global issues may feel both overwhelming and unapproachable, during the autumn of the 6th grade year, we teach that these problems are linked, while several are causal, one giving way to the other, and all have their roots in practices found in Mesopotamia.
First, I share excerpts from both J.F. Rischard’s book High Noon and Jared Diamond’s history Collapse. These texts detail mutually supporting environmental troubles (Rischard lists 20; Diamond 11) that work today in a kind of grim synergy: global warming, deforestation, biodiversity loss, fisheries depletion, and water shortages, among them. Then I share excerpts from Clive Ponting’s A New Green History of the World, in which he argues that each empire, whether Sumerian, Egyptian, Roman, or Mayan, follows the same paradigm during its downfall: first they clear the land of trees, then erect massive irrigation systems, then they farm monocultures, which leads to erosion and overwatering of inadequate soils, then desertification follows, and eventually the empire collapses.
Another issue we want our students to investigate, as part of this second enduring understanding, is that these difficulties are mutually supporting spokes of a wheel that continue today to roll over the backs of billions, especially in the Southern Hemisphere. “It is wrong to grow temperate-zone vegetables [as monocrops for export, such as bananas] in the tropics and fly them back to rich consumers,” Vandana Shiva writes in Soil Not Oil, articulating some of the sometimes hidden interplay between injustice and ecology. “This uproots local peasants, creates hunger and poverty, and destroys local agrobiodiversity. . . . Since vegetables and fruits are perishable, transporting them long distances is highly energy-intensive, contributing to climate change.” When lands are cleared for these exports, pesticides and inorganic nitrate fertilizers are typically poured into the diminishing soil, which then invites pests and disease—as monocultures have easier genetic codes to crack than biodiverse fields—which in turn increases the need to clear and deforest more land for cultivation. Healthy economies and ecosystems overseas are compromised, even ruined, by the industrialized global food system.
Instead of simply cataloging wrongdoing across the world and assigning blame, though—which in the end is counterproductive to the empathic civilization that we hope to create—we 6th grade teachers like to move quickly to our third enduring understanding, which seeks to empower the students with problem-solving strategies.
The third enduring understanding we unpack for our students is that just as the current global crises are interwoven, multiple solutions will be employed this century on an international scale, but we, paradoxically, might most easily help on campus by studying local, organic food, responsible water use, and enlightened community engagement. If we grow organic vegetables at school in raised beds using low-evaporation drip irrigation, using seed we’ve collected from the previous year, and then we later harvest and eat that produce at lunch in our salad bar, we show the students how to support healthy, local, biodiverse economies—and overseas farming economies, by extension, who might convert their fields back to feeding their own people—while also reducing the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as diminishing global warming that follows energy-intensive global packaging, refrigeration, and shipping.
It’s our job as educators to resist dichotomous, simplistic, silver-bullet thinking; rather, we strive to admit the complex truths and to problem-solve collaboratively across coalitions and issues. We resist cynicism, hopelessness, and paralyzing guilt as we explore these topics with our students. When we look to the past with our students, we can see the choices our ancestors made when they settled around reliable food sources in the Middle East at the end of the last ice age, building the world’s first cities, and we can imagine remaking our future cities this century with smaller carbon footprints.
Our fourth enduring understanding is that the stories a culture tells itself about its origins, its purpose, and its future will determine to a large extent that culture’s ability to survive the tests of time. I find that I am able to present both the intersecting predicaments of our contemporary world and the possible solutions by retelling the oldest stories humanity has told itself about its creation, its place in the cosmos, its meaning and purpose. I therefore teach Gilgamesh, the first of all written stories, from Mesopotamia, as well as Genesis, perhaps the world’s most influential narrative, plus a host of Greek myths, from the beginnings with Gaea and Uranus, through Cronos to Zeus, Prometheus, and Pandora, ending with Deucalion and Pyrrha. Similarities jump out when the three narrative strands are laid side by side: gods create the world, including humanity; humans either lose or try to gain eternal life and fail; gods become displeased with humans and send a flood, killing all except for a favored few, who survive in a boat and then go on to repopulate the world with the gods’ blessings. The fact that the oldest stories all focus on an ecological catastrophe similar to the ones featured on our contemporary nightly news is not lost on our students. They see, for example, that global warming is melting the polar ice caps today, threatening coastal civilizations with flooding. If the ice caps melt, our students know, hundreds of millions worldwide will become ecological refugees. Studying the ancient stories in the contexts of both the founding of human civilization and our current ecological predicaments makes sense, then, as we want the students, ultimately, to imagine new narratives for the coming century that will help them create a just global village.
In addition to studying the world’s oldest stories, I also teach contemporary dystopian literature (titles include Shipbreaker, Hunger Games, and The House of the Scorpion) to explore a number of possible reactions to our numerous ecological predicaments. Further, I pair the dystopian novels with nonfiction reading of four National Geographic articles on the first civilizations, food insecurity, topsoil loss, and water scarcity. We direct students to identify reasons for civilization collapse in their novels and articles and to imagine resurrections based on sustainable principles involving soil, water, food, housing, and energy production. In groups they create their own civilizations in this century, given certain definitions for advanced civilization, while also not ignoring the ecological challenges we are facing right now.
Taken together, these four enduring understandings undergird our reasons for teaching in the garden. We want to provide students with the backstory for how we got to 2012 as a human species, emphasizing that the study of human history should elicit our empathy rather than condemnation. We also want to provide our students with interpretive lenses through which they can analyze both our current human impact and utter reliance on Earth. Last, we want to offer students the schemata to remake a more sustainable, just, and enjoyable civilization for the world’s citizens in the 21st century.
Carter Latendresse has been teaching 6th grade English at Catlin Gabel since 2006. He is also a husband, the father of two including Emma ’20, and the garden coordinator on campus.
You may also like to read the full text of this essay.


The Pitchfork to Plate Journey

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5th graders learn about food systems--and much more

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Maggie Bendicksen

Seven years ago, our 5th graders weren’t as engaged in social studies as much as we would have hoped. Unlike the 3rd grade Lewis & Clark curriculum, there was nothing for the kids to see, hear, taste, or smell about our study of colonial America. In their reflections, students often remarked that social studies was their least favorite subject. This seemed like such a shame, as social studies can be the backbone of an engaging, integrated, and progressive curriculum. Something needed to change.
At the time, in early 2005, the West Coast was abuzz with a curiosity about the food we eat. Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse fame) started the Edible Schoolyard in the Bay Area, and Eric Schlosser had recently published Fast Food Nation, followed soon after by Chew on This, a corollary for children. Next up was Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and the New York Times re-discovering Portland as the food capital of the country.
People were talking about how our food moves from pitchfork to plate, and we were intrigued. Could this be our new focus? After carefully reviewing national social studies standards, we realized that we needed to include a “system” of something being produced from start to finish, as well as a significant and developmentally appropriate global connection for the kids to explore.
Once we had a basic framework in mind, we gathered together all of the history teachers, grades 6 to 12, and asked for their blessing to make the change. I remember Upper School history teacher Peter Shulman asking if we would still teach the kids how to question, research, analyze, and synthesize. We answered yes, and our pitchfork to plate journey began in earnest.
At the same time, the school hired a new food services director, Hen Truong, who was interested in reshaping the Barn’s offerings. We quickly partnered with Hen to discover what the school community’s “dream Barn” might look like.
The timing seemed perfect.
After a busy summer of planning and with the help of David Yudkin (father of Koby ’11 and Sadie ’12, and co-owner of Hot Lips Pizza with wife Jeana Edelman ’77), we began to develop a list of essential questions, as well as a conceptual framework and skill benchmarks. We decided to focus on helping students understand how food moves from farms to farmer’s markets, processing and packaging facilities, warehouse distribution centers, supermarkets, and restaurants, and ultimately to our plates. With so many resources just a bus ride away, the students would be able to experience firsthand this complex and fascinating set of systems.
We kicked off the study in the fall of 2006 with a string of field trips so the kids would be immersed in the pitchfork to plate process. We visited a wheat farm in Eastern Oregon, an organic family farm near Hillsboro (where kids munched straight from the vine), the Portland Farmer’s Market (to stay within a budget and interview farmers), the Wheat Marketing Center, where we studied the science, trade, shipping, and economics of different varieties of wheat, and Norpac, a massive conventional food processing and packaging facility in Salem. We challenged ourselves to plan, shop, and cook a 150-mile lunch for Valentine’s Day, a difficult task in Oregon in February! We also visited restaurants for behind-the-scenes tours and to discover the many decisions restaurant owners make when purchasing food, designing menus, and serving the public.
Over the years, we have modified the curriculum. Some field trips have been added, others dropped. More age-appropriate nonfiction materials have been published, which has made researching easier for our 5th graders. When What the World Eats was published in 2008, we added it to our curriculum and created a fully integrated research project, with the help of librarians Lisa Ellenberg and Dan Woytek, that focuses on how different cultures approach food production and consumption. When something relevant bubbles up, we make room for emergent “real time” action projects. The students threw themselves into the One Ounce Campaign, which challenged each person on campus to reduce daily waste by one ounce per day to meet the school’s “zero waste” goals.
What has remained the same is our commitment to helping this age group (situated at the fascinating crossroads of concrete thinking and abstract thought) engage in true social studies, nudging them to see not only the facts and history of food, but the many shades of gray that go into how families make the decisions they make. It would be easy for the kids to take an all good/all evil approach to the organic/conventional debate or the whole/local/slow food vs. fast food conversation. What’s harder and far more interesting is to try to understand why people make the decisions that they do and how economics, culture, and practicality figure into the equation.
After our trip to New Seasons to shop for our 150-mile lunch, the kids reflected on how surprised they were at all of the 87 (and counting) considerations we brainstormed about that consumers go through when buying food for their families— including price, availability, seasonality, taste, packaging, and whether it is prepared or not.
One part of the curriculum that we’ve kept is Chew on This, an extremely opinionated and sensational “history” of the fast food industry. Kids are fascinated and repulsed, then fascinated some more by this book. The quote, “A single fast-food hamburger now may contain meat from hundreds or even thousands of different cattle” catches kids’ attention, as does the section that describes the bugs that create the color additive that makes McDonald’s strawberry shakes pink. It’s not hard to grab the 5th graders’ focus with factoids like these, so we run with their interest while taking the opportunity to talk about the author’s intent, sources, and persuasive techniques. We also examine how advertising and marketing affect our choices, whether we realize it or not. One of our favorite things to do when kids tell us they aren’t affected by advertising is to ask them to pile all of our shoes in the center of the room and sort them by brand. “Oh,” is the collective response. “Maybe the ads do work.”
In honor of Michael Pollan’s now-famous quote, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” and to balance Chew’s negative bent of what not to eat, we started a series of Wacky Wednesdays, a chance for parents to bring in a whole food that kids might not have tasted before and to share a personal connection with it and fascinating facts about the plant. Students have tried jicama and lime, starfruit, unsweetened coconut, edamame, and other delicious and appealing treats they might have balked at if served at the family dinner table.
Throughout the five years, we’ve tried to be mindful of creating room for hope in the curriculum. Our study can be heavy and frightening at times, filled often with what not to do instead of what to do. At the close of Chew on This, we team with art teacher Peggy Schauffler ’78 to dream about what kids can do to create a more hopeful future. We’ve made a hope quilt, hope prayer flags, and t-shirts that we hope will spark conversation.
We also often end the year with an action project so the 5th graders feel they are capable of having an impact on their own community— part of the school’s mission of supporting “inspired learning leading to responsible action.” Last year, for instance, Spring Festival coordinators came to us with the challenge of reducing the number of disposable water bottles at the festival, a real problem the kids decided to try to solve. Leslie Stiff Arm ’18 remarked, “Honestly, I have learned so much about sustainability that sometimes my head hurts thinking about it. Like the fact that the 5th grade got the whole Lower School to participate in a contest to keep plastic water bottles from going to the ocean. It wasn’t a huge impact on the earth, but hey, every act counts. Also, I have started being more aware of composting and recycling as much as I can, without going insane.”
One spring, we teamed with Hen and facilities director Eric Shawn on what we called the “blue plate special,” a research project that helped the school decide to move from disposable to reusable plates. For another year-end project, we received a grant to seed various student proposals, which included an anti-idling campaign for cars on campus, planting the Lower School garden, and creating sustainability presentations for other schools.
Matthew Bernstein ’15 felt that the action projects helped him want to be a part of positive and significant changes in the world around him. He wrote, “I now live and breathe sustainability! We are next-door neighbors with my grandparents, and I am teaching them about sustainability. This has been a great year for me. I really enjoyed learning about all of the large and small ways to improve the health of the planet. I was encouraged to do lots of little projects on my own, and I have liked that.”
As a teacher, there is nothing better than witnessing students realize they are capable of changing the world, even one water bottle or ounce at a time. I am so grateful to work in a school that encourages teachers to take risks and to create meaningful, relevant curriculum with children. It truly doesn’t get any better than that.

150-mile Lunch: In February?

We had a challenge, a yummy challenge. The 5th graders had to make a palatable lunch for Valentine’s Day from ingredients that all come from within 150 miles of Catlin Gabel. The menu: leek soup, salad, baked potatoes, apples, and pears. We went shopping, we prepared, we cooked, we did everything ourselves. And we had a good time! Here’s how we did it. We hopped on the bus to New Seasons, and entered en masse (much to the terror of innocent shoppers), each got assigned a product to buy, and spread out in small groups, taking a tour and picking up items along the way, considering price, quality, past experience, packaging, and how far away the food was grown. Eventually we finished and headed home. Cooking commenced immediately. Everyone pitched in and with minor adult supervision we shredded, dried, sliced, smashed, cooked, and served. And boy, was it worth it. Try it sometime. I dare you! —Rowan Treece ’19

Maggie Bendicksen has taught 5th grade at Catlin Gabel since 2002. Her sons Jacob ’16 and Liam ’18 survived 5th grade and its pitchfork to plate curriculum, and no longer beg for McDonald’s French fries as they drive down Burnside. Burgerville is another story.


All families: please update your forms for 2012-13

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Lark's letter with instructions

May 23, 2012

Dear Catlin Gabel families:

As we approach the end of the school year, we are already preparing for next year.

Whether you are a new family joining us in the fall or a returning family, we have a very important homework assignment for all parents and guardians.

Completing four online forms will ensure that your student’s medical records are up to date, your family’s directory listing is accurate, and student security is assured.

First, you need to log on to the Catlin Gabel website. Recently admitted families can use the same user names and passwords used during the application process.

Review and make appropriate changes to the following REQUIRED online forms.

There are four separate tabs on the update web page, and each tab contains one form. You must complete all four forms.

Form One: Your family’s contact details for our records and your directory listing

Form Two: Your family’s emergency contacts and emergency care authorization for your child/ren

Form Three: Your child/ren’s medical history and authorization to dispense medications

Form Four: Photo ID denial and external website permission

Please complete your homework assignment as soon as possible and no later than Monday, August 1. We will send reminders during the summer to families who have not completed the forms.

You will find the forms in the Parent section at http://www.catlin.edu/parents/update/contact-details

If you have any technical questions about the forms, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Mike Maynard in the IT office, maynardmi@catlin.edu. For other questions, please get in touch with a division administrative assistant.

Enjoy these last exciting weeks of the school year.

Sincerely yours,

Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.
Head of School

P.S. I have another bit of optional homework if you would like to join the Upper School students and teachers in reading this summer’s assigned book. We are all reading Mink River by Portland writer Brian Doyle. The award-winning author will visit classes and give a talk next year under the auspices of our Jean Vollum Distinguished Writers Series.


Graduation 2012 Photo Gallery

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After a week of steady – sometimes torrential – rain, the weather brightened on the class of 2012. The sun came out just in time to catch photos of a great group of seniors just before they became alumni.

Click on any thumbnail to start the slide show, and see larger and downloadable images.

Video: We Love You, Seniors

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Thoughts from the community on the class of 2012

Video produced by junior Cody Hoyt. Props also to Jesse Kimsey-Bennett '11, who filmed many of the interviews. Jesse is a film major at USC.


Lifers 2012 photo gallery

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Twenty-one members of the class of 2012 have attended Catlin Gabel since preschool, kindergarten, or first grade. They joined Beginning School students, teachers, and family members for a special Friday Sing. The seniors shared memories, gave advice, and sang along to favorite Beehive songs such as "Old Dan Tucker," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider," and our favorite tear-jerker "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You."

Thank you, Sara Dier, for taking pictures.

Click on any image to enlarge it, download it, and start the slideshow.

Video: Senior lifers' advice to Beehive students

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Graduating seniors who had been at Catlin Gabel since 1st grade or before give advice to preschoolers and kindergarteners at the June 2012 Lifers Celebration.


Time to update family records

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New and returning families enrolled for 2012-13

» Link to updates page

Lark Palma sent the following letter on May 23.

Dear Catlin Gabel families:

As we approach the end of the school year, we are already preparing for next year.

Whether you are a new family joining us in the fall or a returning family, we have a very important homework assignment for all parents and guardians.
Completing four online forms will ensure that your student’s medical records are up to date, your family’s directory listing is accurate, and student security is assured. 

First, you need to log on to the Catlin Gabel website. Recently admitted families can use the same user names and passwords used during the application process.

Review and make appropriate changes to the following REQUIRED online forms.

There are four separate tabs on the update web page, and each tab contains one form. 
You must complete all four forms.

Form One: Your family’s contact details for our records and your directory listing

Form Two: Your family’s emergency contacts and emergency care authorization for your child/ren

Form Three: Your child/ren’s medical history and authorization to dispense medications

Form Four: Photo ID denial and external website permission

Please complete your homework assignment as soon as possible and no later than Monday, August 1. We will send reminders during the summer to families who have not completed the forms.

You will find the forms on our website at http://www.catlin.edu/parents/update/contact-details

If you have any technical questions about the forms, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Mike Maynard in the IT office, maynardmi@catlin.edu. For other questions, please get in touch with a division administrative assistant.

Enjoy these last exciting weeks of the school year.

Sincerely yours,

Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.
Head of School

P.S. I have another bit of optional homework if you would like to join the Upper School students and teachers in reading this summer’s assigned book. We are all reading Mink River by Portland writer Brian Doyle. The award-winning author will visit classes and give a talk next year under the auspices of our Jean Vollum Distinguished Writers Series.


Senior Mariah Morton wins long and triple jump championships, girls 4x400 team wins at state

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In addition to winning two state championships as an individual competitor, Mariah was also a member of the championship 4x400m relay team along with freshman Adele English, senior Cammy Edwards, junior Fiona Noonan, and sophomore Gabby Bishop.

The girls 4x100m relay team took 2nd place with runners Mariah Morton, Adele English, Cammy Edwards, junior Audrey Davis, and freshman Talia Quatraro.

Cammy Edwards placed 2nd in both the 300m hurdles and the high hurdles.

Junior Hannah Jaquiss placed 3rd in the 3000m and 7th in the 1500.

Junior Mckenzie Spooner placed 6th in the 3000.

Junior Hannah Rotwein placed 6th in the 1500.

The girls track team came in 2nd at state.

Senior Parris Joyce took 3rd place in the boys 800.

Senior Eli Wilson Pelton placed 6th in the high hurdles and 7th in the 300 hurdles.

Junior David Lovitz took 8th in the high jump.

Sophomore Ian Smith, Eli Wilson Pelton, Parris Joyce, David Lovitz, sophomore Chris Belluschi, and junior Cody Hoyt placed 7th in the 4x100 relay.

Senior Kate Rubinstein took 2nd place at the state tennis tournament.

Senior Andrew Salvador took 2nd place in tennis.

The doubles tennis team of junior Evan Hallmark and senior Sammy Lubitz finished 3rd at state.

The boys tennis team took 2nd place at state.


Video: Senior panel

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Presented by the Parent-Faculty Association

Seven seniors spoke at the May 17 parent community meeting. It was great to hear them talk about what they loved about Catlin Gabel (relationships with teachers!) and what they would change, their paths to college, what was fun during their years at the school, and more.

The video runs for one hour.

Junior Terrance Sun and freshman Valerie Ding were finalists at the Intel International Science Fair in Pittsburgh

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Participants in the international fair had top projects at regional or state fairs.

Terrance entered a project titled "Improvements to Automatic Translation of Legal Text" in the computer science category.

Valerie entered a project titled "Shining Like the Sun: A Novel Quantum Mechanical Approach to Property Analysis and Energy Efficiency Algorithm for White-Light LEDs" in the physics and astronomy category.

Valerie's project won a Fourth Award. In addition, Valerie was one of only 12 students (from over 1,500) to win an all-expenses-paid trip this summer to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, where the students will meet with researchers and see the experiments they are working on.

Congratulations to Valerie and Terrance!

Class of 2012 college plans

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» Video: seniors talk about
their college



Members of the class of 2012 were accepted to the following colleges and universities.
Unless otherwise noted, one student is attending each of the bolded colleges or universities.

Agnes Scott College
Akita International University
American University, 3 admitted
Amherst College
Bard College, 4 admitted
Barnard College
Bates College, 5 admitted, 3 enrolled
Beloit College, 4 admitted, 1 enrolled
Bennington College, 2 admitted
Boston College
Boston University, 2 admitted
Bradley University
Brandeis University, 3 admitted
University of British Columbia, 2 admitted
Brown University
Bryn Mawr College, 3 admitted, 2 enrolled
Bucknell University
California Lutheran University
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
University of California at Davis
University of California at Riverside
University of California at San Diego, 2 admitted
University of California at Santa Cruz
Carleton College, 4 admitted
Carnegie Mellon University
Carroll College
Case Western Reserve University
Chapman University
University of Chicago, 2 admitted
Claremont McKenna College
Clark University
Colby College, 5 admitted
Colgate University, 2 admitted
Colorado College, 4 admitted, 2 enrolled
University of Colorado at Boulder, 3 admitted
University of Colorado at Denver
Columbia University
Cornell College, 2 admitted
Cornell University
Dartmouth College, 3 admitted, 2 enrolled
Davidson College, 2 admitted
University of Denver, 3 admitted, 2 enrolled
DePaul University
Dickinson College
Drew University
Drexel University
Duke University, 2 admitted
Earlham College
Eckerd College
Emerson College
Emory University, 4 admitted
Eugene Lang College the New School for Liberal Arts, 2 admitted
Evergreen State College, 2 admitted
Fordham University, 4 admitted
Furman University
George Washington University, 3 admitted
Georgetown University, 2 admitted
Gettysburg College
Gonzaga University
Goucher College, 2 admitted
Grinnell College, 4 admitted
Guilford College
Hamilton College
Hampshire College, 2 admitted
Harvard University
Haverford College
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Hendrix College
Hofstra University
Howard University
University of Idaho
Illinois Wesleyan University
University of the Incarnate Word (Honors College)
Ithaca College, 2 admitted
John Carroll University
Johns Hopkins University
University of Kentucky
Kenyon College
University of La Verne
Lawrence University
Lehigh University
Lewis & Clark College, 5 admitted
Lindenwood University
Linfield College, 2 admitted
Loyola Marymount University, 2 admitted

Loyola University New Orleans
Macalester College, 3 admitted
University of Miami
McDaniel College
Middlebury College, 4 admitted
Mills College, 3 admitted
Montana State University, Bozeman
Mount Holyoke College
New College of Florida
New York University, 4 admitted
Northeastern University, 2 admitted
Northwestern University, 4 admitted
University of Notre Dame
Oberlin College, 5 admitted
Occidental College, 13 admitted
Oglethorpe University
Ohio State
Oregon State University, 4 admitted
Oregon State University (Honors College)
University of Oregon, 18 admitted, 3 enrolled
Honors College at the University of Oregon, 7 admitted
Oxford College of Emory University
Pacific University
University of the Pacific
University of Pittsburgh
Pitzer College, 2 admitted
Pomona College, 3 admitted
University of Portland, 2 admitted
Pratt Institute
Prescott College
University of Puget Sound, 8 admitted
University of Redlands, 4 admitted
Regis University
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 3 admitted
Rhode Island School of Design, 2 admitted, 2 enrolled
Rice University
Rochester Institute of Technology
University of Rochester
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Saint Anselm College
Saint Joseph's College-ME
Saint Louis University
Saint Mary's College of California
University of San Diego, 5 admitted
University of San Francisco, 7 admitted
Santa Clara University, 4 admitted
Sarah Lawrence College, 2 admitted
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Scripps College, 4 admitted, 2 enrolled
Seattle University
Simmons College
Skidmore College, 3 admitted
Smith College, 2 admitted
University of Southern California, 5 admitted, 4 enrolled
Spelman College
St. Lawrence University
St. Olaf College
Stanford University
Stevens Institute of Technology
Swarthmore College, 2 admitted
Syracuse University
Trinity College, 2 admitted
Trinity University, 3 admitted
Tufts University, 2 admitted
Tulane University
Ursinus College
Vassar College, 6 admitted
University of Vermont, 7 admitted, 2 enrolled
University of Virginia, 2 admitted
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Wake Forest University
Washington and Lee University
Washington University in St. Louis
University of Washington, 2 admitted
Wellesley College, 4 admitted
Wesleyan University, 3 admitted
Western Washington University
Wheaton College MA, 2 admitted
Whitman College, 10 admitted, 3 enrolled
Whittier College, 2 admitted
Whitworth University
Willamette University, 2 admitted
College of Wooster
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 3 admitted
University of Wyoming


Class of 2012 college destinations

Talbot Andrews
Neil Badawi
Jade Bath
Chloe Bergstrand
Annika Berry
Yelena Blackburn
Cameron Boyd
Schuyler Brevig
Amanda Cahn
Rachel Caron
Jade Chen
Ilana Cohen
Alex Compton
Gus Crowley
Emrys Dennison
Brooke Edelson
Cameron Edwards
Devin Ellis
Lauren Ellis
Zoë Frank
Graham Fuller
James Furnary
Genevieve Gideonse
Qiddist Hammerly
Andrew Hungate
Julianne Johnson
Parris Joyce
Thalia Kelly
Holly Kim
Diana Ko
Sarah Koe
Alex Liem
Chloe Loduca
Sammy Lubitz
Esichang McGautha
Grace McMurchie
Lizzie Medford
Walker Michaels
Andrea Michalowsky
Anaka Morris
Mariah Morton
Tapiwa Nkhisang
Nathan Norris
Koichi Omara
Grant Phillips
Jemma Pritchard
Ramtin Rahmani
Kate Rubinstein
Divesh Sachdev
Andrew Salvador
Danielle Shapira
Dylan Shields
Henry Shulevitz
Emily Siegel
Logan Smesrud
Cydney Smith
Taylor Smith
Lauren Spiegel
Megan Stater
Mint Tienpasertkij
Katy Wiita
Cole Williamson
Eli Wilson Pelton
Brandon Wilson
Will Wilson
Jeremy Wood
Jared Woods
Kenny Yu
University of Portland
University of Southern California
Bryn Mawr College
Carleton College
Rhode Island School of Design
University of Oregon
Colorado College
Hampshire College
Colorado College
Barnard College
New York University
Pomona College
Evergreen State College
University of Vermont
Whitman College
University of Denver
University of Rochester
Gonzaga University
Duke University
Swarthmore College
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Dartmouth College
Beloit College
Northwestern University
University of Chicago
Vassar College
Willamette University
Rhode Island School of Design
Cornell University
University of Oregon
Bates College
Montana State University, Bozeman
University of San Francisco
Bates College
University of Southern California
Whitman College
Scripps College
University of Denver
Johns Hopkins University
University of Southern California
Emory University
Smith College
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
University of Oregon
Washington University in St. Louis
Sarah Lawrence College
Dartmouth College
Whitman College
University of Southern California
Bates College
University of Colorado at Boulder
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Oberlin College
Bryn Mawr College
Oregon State University (Honors College)
Rice University
Georgetown University
Scripps College
Columbia University
Rochester Institute of Technology
University of the Incarnate Word (Honors College)
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Harvard University
Trinity University
University of Vermont
Stanford University
Chapman University
Northeastern University

Video: 2012 seniors talk about their college choices

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Catlin Gabel seniors are excited to be off to college! Several students talk a bit about where they're going, and why their college choice is a good one for them.

» Link to class of 2012 list of college acceptances

 Eli's going to Harvard!

 Megan's going to Columbia!

Ramtin's going to Dartmouth!

Logan's going to Oregon State University Honors College!

Grace is going to Whitman College!