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Will Richardson’s visit sparks controversy, conversation, and ideas

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When we invited Will Richardson to speak at Catlin Gabel, we knew his theories about the future of education would trigger a range of responses from skepticism to agreement to “we already do that.” And Will did not disappoint! At both his evening talk for parents on October 17 and his talk for teachers the next day, Will raised more questions than he answered—and that was his intent.

Changes in technology during the past 20 years have had more impact on culture and education than anything in the previous 200 years (including brain research). Will did not provide quick answers to the question of how technology affects our thinking, the acquisition and delivery of information, and the value of content. Rather, he challenged educators to think and talk together about complex questions and work toward a shared vision.

Among his provocative ideas is the notion that to best serve students for the digitally connected, globally networked, and information-saturated future, the role of teachers needs to evolve from providers of information to master learners who model inquiry and connect students with specialists who can engage in dialogue related to subject matter. Will asked us to think of classrooms as part of a world network connected to other classrooms and experts.

He raised some eyebrows with another concept: institutions aren’t needed for content anymore. They are needed for nurturing students, getting the most out of them, and preparing them for modern learning with a mindset and disposition for self-organizing.

In asking how much people need to know given our world of ample access to information, Will asserts that the job of educators is to help students build skills to assess information, to persist, to create, and to work with people from different cultures. He further recommends that students do something with their learning – produce authentic work for real audiences for real reasons – to create work that lives in the world.

Regardless of what any one of us thinks about the specifics of what Will had to say, we are delighted that his visit to Catlin Gabel sparked conversations about the future of education among parents, teachers, and staff members.

Following Will’s presentation on the in-service day, faculty and staff broke into morning and afternoon discussion groups. Each cross-divisional group focused on one essential question. The discussion titles, suggested by teachers, reveal a great deal about what educators at Catlin Gabel want to explore. Will's book and presentation prompted some of the topics, but his is just one voice among many. We consider the vast body of research related to teaching and learning in our ongoing conversations about how our program should evolve to best serve students.

Some of the many complex questions teachers and staffers considered on our in-service day

• What are we afraid of that's stopping us from creating our ultimate school?
• How does assessment and feedback to students need to change to align with progressive values?
• How can students become self-determined challenged learners and maintain the balance in life so needed for health?
• What should the graduation requirements of 2027 (current preschool class) look like?
• How can we wed individually centered learning with communitarian goals and collaborative skills?
• What does progressive learning look like and how is it demonstrated in the language classroom?
• What is our vision for tech use in the classroom at CG?
• How might we bring making and tinkering into the classroom?

We asked division heads to share some of their takeaways from Will Richardson’s visit and our in-service day.

Beginning School Head Hannah Whitehead

The question that most interested me, coming from Will’s talk and the reading I’ve done, is: what is the school’s role in preparing our children for a world of ubiquitous learning, when experts and information are available to anyone with connection to the Internet? When just-in-time learning is available, whatever our passions and curiosities might be? When we are moving as a society from institutionally organized learning to self-organized educations? This is a lot to chew on!

With a tsunami of information coming our way and the need to, in Will’s words, curate it, there is much for teachers to do. Helping students become digitally literate springs immediately to mind, as does guidance in critical assessment of information, creative use of it, and supporting persistence in problem-solving. Helping students create “authentic work for real audiences for real reasons – work that lives in the world – not just the classroom,” is exciting to think about at this expanded scale!

I found myself wondering, however, about students who struggle with organization, and with determining what is important, even in a structured text. Think about facing an avalanche of un-curated material with these challenges in mind! We need to think hard about how to support these students so they can be successful, perhaps in part by using technology to help out.

I also have been thinking a lot about Howard Gardner’s work Five Minds of the Future as I consider what our Beginning School students will need as they grow up. Gardner and the folks at Harvard’s Project Zero have delineated the “minds” we all need to cultivate in the world of globalization and digital revolution. Lifelong learning is certainly required! Here is the CliffsNotes™ version:

• The disciplined mind (digging deep and subject mastery)
• The synthesizing mind (critical for the digital flood of information so that it is possible to do something with it)
• The creating mind (poses important questions, doesn’t expect everything to work out, keeps trying, creates the new)
• The respectful mind (diversity is a fact of life, so being able to understand and respect others’ perspectives is essential when we are working with people of all cultures)
• The ethical mind (we need good global/earth citizens if humanity is to continue)

It was rewarding indeed to have the time with colleagues to mull, debate, explore, but not conclude our thinking about these important topics. I can’t think of a better use of time.

Lower School Head Vicki Swartz Roscoe

Will Richardson’s ideas provoke a great deal of spirited conversation among teachers and parents. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in our lives. How does this play out with our young children? How much screen time is healthy? How much is too much? What about the balance with playing outdoors and interacting socially?

We are working on developing digital citizenship with our students and, since Will’s talk, have shared a variety of resources with parents. We have committed to having a parent meeting to talk about this topic head-on. Additionally, we are exploring our next steps with integration of the “maker movement” also mentioned by Will. How can our students be involved in making and building things that help solve problems? We have a team of teachers looking closely at what happens in woodshop and art class, and how we might integrate more projects with the homeroom. A number of Lower School teachers are keenly interested in this idea.

However, Will’s assertion that today’s technology means that students no longer need teachers in schools is not one I embrace. Teaching is all about relationship building, and Catlin Gabel’s greatest strength is the extraordinary teachers who connect deeply with our students. Online connections are not, and will never ever be, the same. I assert that once healthy bonds are made between the teacher, the student, and their parents, there is no limit to the learning that can take place. And I’m talking about healthy in-person bonds. Bonus points for a beautiful school environment.

Middle School Head Barbara Ostos

Among the many great things about our professional development day with Will Richardson were leaning in to discomfort, pushing pedagogy, questioning the industrial model of teaching and learning, discussing who we are and what we do, and asking who we want to be and what we want to do.

But the topics themselves are secondary to the wonderful synergy created when teachers from across the school engage in the same line of inquiry. The opportunity to gather our entire faculty to ask questions and spend extended time discussing answers was by far the best aspect of that day! Days like these allow us to remember that regardless of where we teach – be it the Beehive or Dant House – we are essentially facilitating the same type of learning lab, designed developmentally to meet students where they are. I heard this concept time and time again on October 18 from teachers from all four divisions. This synergy affirms our mission and vision as a school, and perhaps more importantly, allows for relationships to build between teachers across the campus so they see one another as resources and colleagues. This is what good schools do!

Upper School Head Dan Griffiths

The best thing about Will Richardson’s visit was the way his in-service day talk with faculty inspired our discussions for the rest of the day. It’s rare that we have the time and space for the entire faculty – preschool through high school – to really think about Catlin Gabel’s mission and consider together important ideas about educational philosophy. We were able to break from the day-to-day operations of running this great school, get out of our silos, and have substantive discussions from many different viewpoints. His talk and the pre-reading stimulated a wide variety of takes on several topics. Each group took a different topic that we were allowed to pick up and run with. The unmeeting format allowed self-selecting a topic of interest, which translated to full investment, deep engagement, and energized teachers. I particularly appreciated how many of my colleagues critically examined what a CG graduate should look like, asking ourselves what skills and knowledge students need when they leave us in today’s rapidly changing world.

Girls soccer team advances to state quarterfinals

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Go Eagles!

The girls beat Umatilla  8-0 on Tuesday.

They play Western Mennonite on Saturday, November 9, at noon at Amity High School

» Link to Google map

Varsity teams celebrate successful weekend

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Congratulations to both the boys and girls cross-country teams, and the girls soccer team

Cross-Country

The boys took 3rd place in state with freshman Max Fogelstrom placing 17th overall.

The girls took 6th in state with freshman Samantha Slusher finishing in 5th place and freshman Grace Masback in 15th. Samantha qualified for the Nike Border Clash race on November 23.

The Oregonian newspaper named Samantha the Beaverton leader athlete of the week. »Link to article. They also ran a fun story about Samantha’s broken medal. »Link to article. 

Soccer

The girls soccer team qualified for the state playoffs when they defeated Westside Christian, 1-0. Their opening match is on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. here at Catlin Gabel. Come cheer on the mighty Eagles as they face the Umatilla Vikings!
Students $4
Adults $6

MS Halloween photo gallery

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Boo!

Thank you, Mark Pritchard, for taking these photos. And, thank you 6th graders, for your spontaneous human tunnel offering a special greeting to the kindergarten students when they paraded through the Middle School in their costumes.

MS boys soccer team wins 2nd consecutive league championship

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Way to go, Eagles!

In the final game of the season, Catlin Gabel beat OES in penalty kicks after battling it out in regulation time and two overtime periods. The future looks bright! 

"The Tempest" photo gallery

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Thank you to Thomas Newlands '14 for the photos.

Shakespeare's  "The Tempest," performed by Middle and Upper School students, was the inaugural play in the Creative Arts Center's black box theater.

Varsity cross-country teams qualify for state

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Congratulations to the boys and girls teams!

Freshman Samantha Slusher won the district championship with a season best time of 19:34.

The top 10 placers at districts were

Girls: #1 Samantha Slusher, #3 Grace Masback, and #5 Kelsey Hurst

Boys: #5 Max Fogelstrom, #7 Garet Neal, and #10 Luca Ostertag-Hill

The state championships are on Saturday, November 2. For more information, go to http://www.osaa.org/docs/bxc/xcspecinfo.pdf

Science research class publishes scientific journal

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The Upper School science research class has launched Elements, an annual publication showcasing student research. The publication's mission is to increase awareness about what a scientific research project entails, and to create a hub where our community’s researchers can learn, ask questions, collaborate, and see their hard work in a formal science journal format. The inaugural edition features the work of students in the classes of 2013 through 2016.

Open the PDF below.

Students part of citywide Shakespeare collaboration with “The Tempest”

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Catlin Gabel Middle and Upper School students are taking part in Portland Playhouse’s Fall Festival of Shakespeare, a series of plays produced by eight area high schools and two middle schools. The plays will be performed first at each individual school, and then all schools will bring their plays to Portland’s Winningstad Theatre on November 2 and 3.
 
The Catlin Gabel cast will perform Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” on Friday, October 25, and Saturday, October 26, at 7 p.m. in the black box theater in Catlin Gabel’s Creative Arts Center. They will perform again at the Winningstad Theatre on Saturday, November 2, at 2 p.m. Tickets for the Catlin Gabel performances are available at the door: $9 general admission, $7 for students and seniors. Tickets for the Winningstad performance are available online through Portland’5 Ticketing. Tickets are $15, with a $7.95 fee per transaction.
 
“The Tempest” is the first mainstage production in Catlin Gabel’s new black box theater. The building was designed to bring Middle and Upper School students together, and they have collaborated on every aspect of the production. Students designed the set, costumes, makeup, lighting, publicity materials, sound, and music. The Catlin Gabel rock band will accompany the play with both originals and covers. See the video below for a preview of the play.
 
“The process has been so deeply driven by our students,” said Upper School theater teacher Elizabeth Gibbs. “A lot of what you see will come from their minds and imaginations.”
 
“Our students have built a creative community between Middle and Upper School students, as well as with students from other schools,” said Middle School drama teacher Deirdre Atkinson. “Our students’ insatiable curiosity and infectious enthusiasm has inspired the adults who have helped shape what they create. In turn, we teachers have collaborated with our peers at the other schools to read and engage with Shakepeare’s texts.” Both Elizabeth and Deirdre trained last summer with Shakespeare and Company, funded by a summer innovation grant from the school.
 
Deirdre and Elizabeth chose “The Tempest” because its compelling roles would be inviting to a wide variety of students and audiences, and they accepted all students who were interested. Deirdre remarked on the relationship between “The Tempest” and the new Creative Arts Center: “We are such stuff as dreams are made on. . . . How wonderful to reflect on Prospero’s words as we gather together in our beautiful theatre in the Creative Arts Center. In the theatre, so many people—actors, designers, dancers, and musicians—come together to bring a story to life ‘out of thin air.’ The building was once merely a dream; as in the theatre, so many members of the Catlin Gabel community came together to bring the dream to life. It has been a delight to watch our students build creative community while exploring Shakespeare’s text and coming to realize the possibilities of this brilliant new creative space.”
 
From the Portland Playhouse website: The Fall Festival of Shakespeare is a non-competitive region-wide collaboration between Portland Playhouse and area high schools. The Festival is a spectacular theatrical event, in part because student actors connect well to Shakespeare; they understand the passion, the large stakes, and the disaster. High school is not unlike an Elizabethan Tragedy.
 
The students are not only performers in the festival, but a large and vocal component of the audience. They are most active and vibrant theatre patrons you will ever encounter. They “oooh” and “ahhh”; call out “Oh no she didn’t”; scream and laugh. It’s the closest thing we have to how an Elizabethan audience at Shakespeare’s Globe might have reacted. It’s an unforgettable experience for the students involved, and an engaging cultural phenomenon for everyone to witness.
 
The collaborating high schools are Catlin Gabel, Ridgefield, Trillium, Roosevelt, Franklin, Ft. Vancouver, Hockinson, and De La Salle; middle schools taking part are St. Andrew’s and King.
 

Lemelson-MIT program announces $10,000 grant to student engineering project

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Congratulations, engineers!

Catlin Gabel’s Global Community Engineering Club is one of 15 teams across the country that was awarded $10,000 through the Lemelson-MIT 2013-14 InvenTeam initiative. Thanks to the grant, the team now takes the new name, Catlin Gabel InvenTeam.

The Catlin Gabel project, ScumBot, addresses the real-world problem of duckweed infestation in Aspen Lake in Sunriver, Oregon. ScumBot is an autonomous robot that propels itself around inland bodies of water collecting algae and duckweed and depositing that cargo in designated areas. With the grant money, the team will work to build the Scumbot under the leadership of Alexandra Crew '16, president; Anna Dodson ‘16, communications manager; Max Armstrong '15, mechanical manager; Jacob Bendicksen '16, control systems manager; and Vincent Miller '15, software manager. For more about the project visit the Catlin Gabel InvenTeam website

A respected panel of invention and academic leaders from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Lemelson-MIT Program, industry, and InvenTeam student alumni selected the InvenTeams from a national pool of applicants.

Members of Catlin Gabel’s InvenTeam will travel to MIT’s EurekaFest  in June to present their project, meet other teams, get behind-the-scenes tours of MIT labs, and engage in hands-on challenges.

Dale Yocum is the dedicated faculty advisor of Catlin Gabel’s InvenTeam. “InvenTeams isn't a competition, it's more of a celebration of the creative spirit,” said Dale.

“Our team is thankful for the support of Lemelson-MIT in bettering our local Oregon community through invention,” said CG InvenTeam president Alexandra Crew. “We are proud to be doing our part to help the environment.”


Sixth grade farm overnight photo gallery

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An outdoor education adventure

Students enjoyed a snapshot of farm life, from playing with the animals to harvesting their own food for dinner. Click on any photo to view a larger image, download the picture, or start the slide show.

Catlin Gabel names Timothy Bazemore new head of school

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Board chair Steve Gordon's letter to the community

Dear Catlin Gabel community members,

At the recommendation of the head search committee and on behalf of the board of trustees, I am delighted to announce that we have appointed Timothy Bazemore the next head of Catlin Gabel School.

Tim is currently the head of school at New Canaan Country School, a preschool–grade 9 coed school for 630 students in Connecticut. He is a proven leader with invaluable experience as both a classroom teacher and an administrator in independent schools. He brings to Catlin Gabel an exceptional background in progressive education and commitment to our lasting values: diversity, sustainability, and innovation in the classroom. During his interactions with the search committee, board, students, parents, faculty-staff, and alumni Tim demonstrated outstanding communication and interpersonal skills with wisdom and humanity. We are confident that Catlin Gabel will continue to serve as a national model for progressive education and to flourish in ways that are right for our school under Tim’s leadership.

Tim will begin his tenure as head of school on July 1, 2014. We look forward to a seamless transition, thanks to Lark Palma’s continuing leadership, our strong and seasoned administrative team, and our world-class faculty and staff.

“I am tremendously excited and honored to join the Catlin Gabel community next year,” wrote Tim. “During the search process, I was impressed by the energy, joy, and sense of purpose shared by everyone I met on campus. Under Lark Palma’s inspired leadership, the faculty and staff have created an extraordinary learning environment. I look forward to working in partnership with teachers and parents to ensure that every Catlin Gabel student benefits from a dynamic progressive education in the years ahead.”

Tim has been the head of New Canaan Country School since 2000. Through his work as vice chair of the Independent School Data Exchange (INDEX), Tim is leading the national conversation about progressive education and student skills assessment. Born and raised in Lewiston, New York, Tim graduated from Hotchkiss School in 1978. He earned a BA in history from Middlebury College and an MA in history from the University of Pennsylvania. He began his career as a 6th–12th grade humanities teacher at Chestnut Hill Academy, a K–12 school of 550 students in Philadelphia. During his 13 years with Chestnut Hill, Tim assumed increasing responsibility, moving from classroom teacher to director of middle and upper school admission, and then to head of the middle school. He and his wife, Lisa, have two sons, Luke, 15, and Tyler, 23.

The board and I are extremely grateful to the head search committee, chaired by Peter Steinberger, for leading a meticulous and inclusive process in which all voices were heard.

Thank you to the many parents, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends who participated by attending presentations and providing feedback. Community devotion to Catlin Gabel’s future was fully evidenced by your more than 1,000 survey responses, all of which the search committee read thoroughly.

We look forward to welcoming Tim and his family to Portland and Catlin Gabel.

Sincerely,
Steve Gordon, MD, board chair

>Link to Oregonian article

Video about Drawing Together Day and installation in Creative Arts Ctr.

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Inspired by former arts faculty members, Drawing Together Day on September 9, 2013, brought back a tradition to campus: a time when people of all ages take time to draw. When the drawings were done, they were assembled into a chandelier-like structure and installed in Catlin Gabel's new Creative Arts Center. Visitors to the building are inspired by the demonstration of creativity, and the school's commitment to the arts. And the students love to find their drawing hanging there!

Farewell to our Retirees

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From the Summer 2013 Caller

Ron Sobel retired after 42 years at the school. Although most recently he has taught Upper School Spanish, he has taught several other subjects in both Upper and Middle School; served as head of the Middle School; directed admission and financial aid, international programs, and summer programs; and coached several sports. For many students and alumni, Ron was a huge part of Catlin Gabel.
 
“Catlin Gabel has been a very large part of my life both personal and professional. I began here as a young enthusiastic recent college graduate and spent much of my life on this campus. I have always loved it here, and am so appreciative of what the school has given my family and me. I shall miss the daily inspiration and laughter of my colleagues and students, and of course this amazing piece of land, which I have had the privilege of calling home for much more than half my life,” he says.
 
As for his retirement plans, Ron thinks he may become active in the National Association on Mental Illness’s program that supports families who struggle with adult mentally ill loved ones. “All kinds of things are flying through my head as great possibilities,” he says.
 
Michael de Forest retired after 17 years of teaching Lower School wood shop. “Wow!” wrote Michael. “Seventeen years at Catlin Gabel! I never imagined I would teach my craft in such an exceptional place. I have found eager girls and boys coming into our space enthusiastic about learning and making things. Almost every child I have met in our woodshop couldn’t wait to create! What a great setup for a teacher.”
 
Allen Schauffler retired after 45 years at Catlin Gabel. Since coming to the school in 1968 she has taught preschool and kindergarten as well as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades, and served in many positions, including acting Beginning School head and director of multicultural affairs.
 
“I have loved being so well supported professionally. I have loved spending my days with so many good, kind, sharp, funny, generous, flexible, professional, sometimes off-the-wall kids and adults who are embarked on a journey that I find endlessly fascinating—with all its twists and turns. And when in need, I have loved knowing that the wagons were circled,” she says.
 
“I have helped to launch, formally, something over 880 kids and who knows how many others around the edges,” she says. “I have written at least twice that many reports. I have held the hands of parents through naughty child moments, great highs, great lows, births, deaths of pets and close family, divorces, and, yes, even in vitro fertilizations. With the help of fabulous colleagues with whom I have disagreed, agreed, fought, and danced, I raised my children here. So, thanks for a most enlightening experience. It has played a huge role in shaping who I am.”