From the Fall 2009 Caller
By Paul Dickinson
From the Fall 2009 Caller
By Roberto Villa
I am fortunate to teach in a school where “each child is the unit of consideration.” This philosophical tenet, as expressed by Ruth Catlin a century ago, is the guiding principle that should govern our teaching. I confess it has taken me almost 25 years to fully understand what it means to teach the whole child, and to develop an eclectic teaching method that addresses the unique ways that our students learn. Over the past 20 years we have learned a lot about multiple intelligences, learning disabilities, and brain research, and this new knowledge has helped teachers (especially the modern language teacher) create and implement a holistic approach to language learning.
Seniors and first graders lucked out with a perfect autumn day for their field trip to the the pumpkin patch. After lunch, they returned to campus to carve jack-o-lanterns. Many seniors remembered this favorite tradition from when they were first graders.
Click on any photo to start a slideshow.
Seniors Yale Fan and Kevin Ellis named semifinalists in the Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology
Each student completed an original scientific research project and wrote an 18-page paper describing his or her work. Only six Oregon students were named semifinalists (4) or finalists (2).
The Siemens competition is considered the nation’s leading original research competition in math, science, and technology for high school students. A record 1,348 projects were submitted this year. Three-hundred-and-eighteen students were named semifinalists along with 96 students being honored as regional finalists.
The Outdoor Program Recognizes the International Day of Climate Action, October 24, 2009
We did it! The Outdoor Program's first wilderness backpacking trip without the use of a single drop of fuel! We went deep into the heart of the Gorge using human-powered transportation and electric-powered public transit. Hugely rewarding, it was an incredible feat of transportation and logistics...
Our group of eight students and two leaders met on Saturday morning at Catlin and loaded bikes and trailers for our self-supported adventure. We then jumped into the saddle and rode to the Max station, riding a brand-new train east to the third-to-the-last stop. Departing the Max, we biked through Gresham and Troutdale, over the Sandy River, along the Columbia River Historic Highway, over Crown Point, down a thrilling and long hill, eventually making our way to Angel's Rest Trailhead. We locked our bikes and went a la pie up the south side of the Gorge to Angels Rest, one of the most prominent viewpoints in the Gorge. Atop the anvil-shaped rock formation, we unfolded our kits and ran along the rim of the Gorge in the spirit of environmental action and freedom. Enjoying a fantastic sunset, we made an amazing dinner and camped in a primitive campsite, and then returned to Portland on Sunday via the same route we took to the Gorge. Though it wasn't always easy, or convenient, we were given an indelible experience that will not soon be forgotten.
Ultimately this trip was about learning how to make a respectful and appropriate political statement, experiencing a unique sense of hard-earned liberation, and working together as a group toward sustainable living and transport.
Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience. Enjoy!
Those dark, cold October evenings are a great time to read some Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, or a good gothic novel. We have books, werewolf and vampire movies, and all kinds of deliciously hair-raising things to watch or read. Stop by and browse the book display. It's the one at the front, covered in cobwebs. --Sue
Outdoor Leadership and Adventure, Fall 2009
The Fall 2009 OLA was a tremendous success! Every Tuesday and Thursday we set out in a little, yellow bus and went out for outdoor challenges, adventures, and personal growth. We will all have great memories of hiking in Forest Park, learning about tents and shelter, canoeing on the Willamette, ecological restoration, maps and navigation, visiting a farm, biking on the Leif Erikson, disc golf, rock climbing, and a forestry hike. Students also participated in a rafting or a backpacking trip! It's amazing to think that we crammed so many adventures into such a short period of time.
Ultimately, OLA is a great opportunity to spend some time learning about the abundance of recreational opportunities in our region, enjoy the outdoors with a great grout of students, devlop personal leadership skills, and learn to work as a group to meet unique challenges.
Please click on a photo, press play, turn on some music (the evolution of rock was en vogue this fall), and watch the slideshow. Enjoy!
Ten teachers attended our professional development day today. Seven also presented! Interestingly, all but two were from the Upper School. We followed a model in which teachers did all the presenting and led the group discussion, which led to an energizing day that focused squarely on teacher interests. Here is a summary of content covered.
Ginia King shared the sophomore English Moodle site, which is organized by type of assignment (tests, recitations, essays, etc.) instead of unit or week. Forum is more useful than chat for "decentered discussion." Encourages different voices to speak in the class. Art Leo reported that education research in modern language acquisition has found that success in written, online discourse has transferred to oral participation in class. Teachers differed on how firmly they held students to proper writing form, though people agreed on the desire to do so. The best tools allow one to print a single document from the discussion of the day. English teachers use the forum tool to set up a space where students may post essay drafts and other students may post replies and response papers. It can be difficult to compare three drafts of an essay posted to Moodle. Ginia reflected that students don't automatically think to check the website for course information. They appear to be more mindful of paper. Lisa and Daisy speculated that upcoming students will be more automatic about this due to online experiences in the younger grades.
Tony Stocks built on Ginia's presentation by showing the junior English Moodle site. He used one discussion forum for students to write and improve their questions in preparation for the upcoming Tracy Kidder assembly next week. The site uses the Moodle groups feature to keep section discussions separate. The site is most valuable to keep all of the drafts of the writing process in one place for the teacher and student to access. Can be a challenge for the kid who has a hard time staying on task, but teachers can help by monitoring computer use in the room.
Paul Dickinson commented that the English program may have led to students' higher comfort level with typing lab reports in science. While this has improved the quality of presentation, students are struggling to produce good diagrams in this format. This has led to a trend in which many students prefer to find an existing diagram and copy it into their document instead of drawing an original illustration. It's interesting that the use of Photoshop here is widespread, yet use of Illustrator is rare.
Lauren Reggero-Toledano shared a community service learning project with which her students are currently engaged. She won a small grant to fund this project, working with our development and communications departments to refine her proposal. Her class is creating an online presentation of the Hispanic presence in Oregon to complement a production at Portland's Miracle Theatre. Their project compares the Hispanic presence during the depression to the present day. The curriculum has evolved as opportunities have appeared to interview good subjects around town. They have found no interview subjects from the Depression era, but an author helped them understand that the lack of found information is useful information in itself. Contextualize this finding and move forward.
The theater director challenged the kids to make the site truly interactive. So far, they have decided to add a comment box to their website, in order to gather more stories. Also, students will be present at each performance in order to explain the project and potentially collect interviews on the spot! Students are collecting footage with Flip cameras, notwithstanding the lack of proper video lighting. The historical archives has commented that a serious deficit of raw material exists on this topic. The students' footage has the potential to become an important research source, especially if the site persists and continues to collect footage after the theater performances are over.
Students are using the course Moodle site to manage the project, including notes, interview forms, and links to web-based resources. The teacher has stepped back and left room for the students to plan and execute.
The class built and distributed a survey using our internal survey tool. They received 79 responses to a survey about Hispanic Heritage Month, including a giant collection of narrative comments, which were really useful in guiding their work.
Lisa Ellenberg shared new work she is doing with students to post book reviews into our Follett Destiny library catalog -- really exciting work. This has potential to change student perception of the library catalog from an external authority to a community resource. Already, fourth grade students are excited about adding items to this resource. They also rate the books on a five star system. We'd like to post audio reviews as well, and while Destiny may not support audio file playback, we may post them elsewhere and then post links to the catalog. Lisa also demonstrated how a teacher may create a public resource list of library items for students or other teachers to view.
Roberto Villa shared a long-distance correspondence between a Catlin Gabel alum in Quito, Ecuador, and Catlin Gabel students. Topics include poverty, energy consumption, and women's rights, among others. Spanish V students are using an online bulletin board for this purpose.
Roberto also underscored the value of his document camera, which he uses every day. It helps him save time and paper. Roberto uses it for flashcards, homework correction, and editing. Lauren has used it for coins and maps.
For two years, Roberto's Spanish V class has not used books. All of the resources are posted online. The Spanish I, II, and III textbooks have an online site that includes online activities and audio components. This has been especially valuable for students with learning differences or who want to slow down the audio to listen to it more slowly.
Pat Walsh demonstrated his use of the social format in Moodle courses, which transforms the course home page into a student discussion center. He also demonstrated the use of embedded images, YouTube videos, and RSS feeds within his course Moodle sites.
Dale Rawls showed how he uses the school website and email system to engage parents in narrative discussion about student artwork well before the semester reporting period. He posts photos of student illustration to the website and then sends an email message to parents with suggestions for what to discuss about the artwork with their children.
On one of the last sunny weekends of the Summer, a group of 14 Middle School students, accompanied by 6 Upper School student chaperones visited Bumblebee Organic Farms.
It was two days of fun, two days of laughing, a campfire beneath a harvest moon, a grape eating contest, amazing food, a pair of sheep (or were they goats?), tractors, barns, sleeping through an incredibly loud rainstorm, amazing farm-fresh pancakes, and learning about life on a small, organic farm.
We met at Catlin after Saturday morning's storms had passed and loaded into an activity bus. A drive toward the mouth of the Sandy river took us into Troutdale, home of Bumblebee Organic Farm. We played a couple of challenge and team-building games before we broke off into three teams (Wolf Pack, Inner Power, and Firebirds) to be farmers for the rest of the weekend.
We performed farm chores such as harvesting grapes and tomatoes, working rows of beans, and shucking corn before it was time for dinner: an amazing pasta and salad night from produce straight off the vine.
Some exciting campfire skits were a highlight of the evening before we tucked ourselves into cozy (and dry!) tents before a midnight rainstorm took us through the night. We woke up to clear skies and huge pancakes on Sunday and worked our way through a pumpkin patch before heading home in time to spend the rest of the weekend with our families. It was sad to see the trip come to an end, but we walked away as friends, having learned so much more about farming, and more connected to the food we eat.
Last night at back to school night . . .
We had an enjoyable time visiting the various classes that our sons and daughters move through everyday. Hopefully, it gave you a sense of their experience on an ongoing basis at Catlin Gabel—a taste of the intellectual life. I often say I want the Back to School Night phenomenon to leave you with the feeling that you want to go back to high school. At the end of the evening, as we were saying goodbye to everyone, one parent came up and said, ‘Sign me up, I want to go back to school!’ I hope most of you felt that way.
In my opening remarks last night I offered you a small part of a speech I gave to the students in our opening day assembly. As promised, here is a link to the whole speech I did as a podcast (to download click here or scroll down to listen below). As I say in the introduction, I hope you find it engaging.
With kind regards,
Upper School students rocked the Rummage Contest on Saturday, October 3. The weather cooperated despite threatening skies in the early hours of the day. Thank you, Blue Team and White Team captains for organizing a great event. Thank you, Upper School students and teachers for collecting and sorting an awesome collection of items to sell at our last, best Rummage Sale.
Click on any photo to start a slide show.
George Thompson, US Counselor and faculty advisor to the Peer Helpers, shares this May, 2008 news article about peer helping:
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a dilemma between two of your friends with nobody to help solve it but yourself? Have you ever noticed how often your friends come to you for advice or consolation? Have you ever asked yourself why you are being singled out for this purpose? Do you know the difference between a problem, a crisis, or an emergency?
This spring, the Catlin Gabel Peer Helpers are observing their twelfth anniversary, and the event has snuck up on them! Although alert and outgoing by nature, Peer Helpers are unaware of their own success as an organization, or their impact on the Catlin Gabel Community. Given the nature of what they do, This is probably as it should be.
In these past twelve years, Catlin’s Peer Helpers and their faculty advisors have dedicated themselves to the welfare, morale, and safety of their friends and schoolmates, and they represent virtually every social and interest group in the School. To fulfill the goal of supporting their friends, their presence in the school community has been a quiet one. The volunteer attracted to peer helping has been a person who wants to become a good listener, a solver of problems, and someone in whom others can safely confide.
Peer Helpers are self selected, and to join one has simply to commit to the time necessary to train with a weekly group for the year. These regular training meetings convene according to the schedule chosen by the six or seven people who comprise each small group. The whole membership varies between thirty-five and forty students from all four classes, and it meets regularly for the October Retreat, occasional planning meetings, and two annual evening sessions. Volunteers understand that to become Peer Helpers, they have merely to be who they already are and the training they receive involves the refinement of skills they naturally possess.
In the spring of 1998, a group of Peer Helpers met to define the Group’s Mission. Following several meetings, the Group selected the following statements as an accurate description of our purpose:
Catlin-Gabel School Peer Helpers’ Mission Statement: Peer helpers are naturally caring people. They are trained to be good listeners, ready to adopt an attitude that is both alert and non-judgmental. Peer helpers are prepared to guide their friends and fellow students to find their own solutions to problems. They understand that to have this happen is preferable and more effective than for people to have advice imposed upon them. Peer helpers know when to refer a student with a problem to another source of assistance. They understand both the limits and requirements of confidentiality.