Middle School News

Syndicate content

Science teacher Veronica Ledoux's work with Teachers Across Borders South Africa

Send by email

Upper School science teacher Veronica Ledoux volunteered this summer for Teachers Across Borders South Africa, working for three weeks with 200 South African math and science teachers from rural schools to help update their skills. South Africa has identified the teaching and learning of math and science as national priorities.

Project founder Yunus Peer praised Veronica for her contributions, noting that she is personable, professional, and passionate about her work. "She made a positive difference for teachers who did not have the same academic experience that we are privileged to in the United States," he wrote to Catlin Gabel head Lark Palma.

"As institutions of higher learning, with such talented faculty, I believe the least we can do is share the knowledge we have about our profession with colleagues in the developing world who so desperately need help with content, methodology and the pedagogy of the subjects they teach, under the most challenging conditions," wrote Yunus. "I know that Veronica's presentation will inspire your faculty with the possibilities of service that advantaged private schools like ours can undertake, and by example, will highlight the values we want our students to embrace, too."

Biking the Springwater Corridor

posted in
Send by email
A beautiful summer day

What better way to spend the 5th of July then by biking through rural southeast Portland in the brilliant sunshine?  Eight students from the Middle School covered 25 miles following the old railroad corridor that leads to the town of Boring from the Willamette River.  The biking was easy and there were smiles the entire day.

We Bid Farewell to Michael Heath and Our Retiring Teachers

Send by email

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

Send by email
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.


Thinking About Hunger, Acting Against Hunger

Send by email

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Christa Kaainoa

About 50 of us are on the yellow school bus on a Wednesday morning in April—45 students and 5 teachers—headed to the Oregon Food Bank for our monthly Middle School service day. On the way, students shout out guesses about what we’ll be packing: onions, apples, cereal, potatoes, rice, granola bars . . . we’ve packed them all before and wonder what this day will bring.
We arrive at the Food Bank and are ushered in to a large, clean workspace, where Kyle, one of the friendly volunteer coordinators, welcomes us and explains our project for the day. We don hairnets, aprons, and gloves, then assemble in small mixed-grade groups around five workstations and begin our work.
On this particular day, I stand shoulder to shoulder with a 6th grade girl, at the edge of a waist-high vat of dry oats. I grab a plastic bag from a stack and peel it open. I hold it open for her, and she pours in two heaping scoops of oats. Peel, open, scoop, pour. Peel, open, scoop, pour. Then I hand the bags to another student for weighing, he passes them on to two others to be twist-tied, they pass them to an 8th grade girl who packs them into boxes, and then another student seals the boxes with packing tape and finally hands them off to a group of three 7th grade girls who stack the boxes, seven layers high, onto palettes. We operate like a machine, filling and passing the bags, packing and stacking boxes, and all the while, students socialize with each other and with their teachers. Conversations shift from weekend plans to class assignments, and sometimes, even, to the value of our work at the Food Bank.
I like working next to this particular student on this particular day because she gets tired early on, and I love that because I am her partner, she feels pressure to press on, scoop after scoop.
“I’m hungry!” she tells me. “I know, me too!” I answer, “And just think, there are kids in Oregon who feel this way EVERY DAY, and what we’re doing RIGHT NOW will end their hunger for a whole meal! Isn’t that cool?!” The student doesn’t really know how to respond to my enthusiasm, but she smiles, and then she leans down and starts scooping again. We’re both hungry, but we’re in it together, and what we’re doing matters.
After two hours of work, it’s time to clean up. We put supplies away, push tables to the side of the room, sweep the floors, and assemble to hear our grand totals for the day. We packed 5,610 pounds of oats. That’s 5,178 meals! Kyle explains that individually, each of us packed approximately 208 meals. We all clap and cheer, and exchange high fives. We say goodbye to Kyle, and file out the door and back to our school bus, proud of our accomplishments, and ready to come back and do it again next month.
Christa Kaainoa has been teaching 7th grade English at Catlin Gabel since 2004. Her daughter Amare ’24 just completed kindergarten at CGS.
For more information about the Oregon Food Bank, check out this video.


Why Garden in School?

Send by email

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.


All families: please update your forms for 2012-13

Send by email
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

Send by email

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.

Nine amazing 8th grade graduates reach the summit of Mount St. Helens

Send by email
Kicking off the summer from the crater rim!

We couldn't have asked for a better day on the mountain!  The wintry weather that had started the month of June dissipated with a gentle wind, and the sun emerged early in the morning on Sunday and would stay with us for the enitre duration of our twelve hour climb.  Nine strong, and excited 8th grade graduates joined David Zonana, Mary Green, and Erin Goodling for this year's annual climb of Mount St. Helens.  Their hard work payed off, as everyone in our group reached the crater rim, where we soaked up the early afternoon sun and looked out to the surrounding Cascade volcanoes.  Mt. Hood, Adams, Rainier, Jefferson, and the craggy Goat Rocks were all exposed and draped in a new layer of late-season snow.  While the snow level was higher than last year's climb, the road to the Climber's Bivouac had not yet melted out, forcing us to start our climb from the Marble Mountain Sno-Park.  This variation on the climbing route - known as the "Worm Flows" - adds an extra one thousand feet of elevation gain and several trail miles to reach the summit.  But that didn't slow down this hearty group!  Another climber on the trail remarked to me, as I was literally running to catch the students in the front, "Is that your group way up there?....man, they are MOTORING!" 

And motoring, they were!  Marty did not sit down once in the seven hours leading up to the summit, Jacob carried a large snow disk to the top (that, at times, doubled as a sail), Sam neglected to wear anything more than a T-shirt, Hayle was simply having an easy time of it all, and Gregor made himself a commitment that "I am going to climb this mountain!"  The glissading on the way down was nothing short of spectacular, with one glissade chute even leading over a small cornice that resulted in some hang-time!  It was a tremendous effort on everyone's part, and a highly enjoyable day in the sun!  Please enjoy some photos from our adventure and a big thank you to Ian, Ethan, Parsa, Nic, Marty, Jacob, Erin, Mary, Hayle, Gregor, and Sam for making this such an incredible and memorable weekend!  Happy Summer!

Video: We Love You, Seniors

Send by email
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

Send by email

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.