Upper School News

Syndicate content

Sign up now for ski bus

Send by email
Six weeks of Saturday skiing begins February 6!

The snow is flying and it’s not too early to start planning for this season’s Catlin Gabel ski bus program! The ski bus will roll out every Saturday morning for six weeks beginning February 6. If you are looking for a fun holiday gift for your 5th grader, middle or upper schooler, this may be the ticket. Mt. Hood Meadows’ 6 week package options are listed below. Sign ups and payments for these programs will be made online this year, but transportation by Catlin Gabel school bus is paid directly to Catlin Gabel and is an additional $150 for the six weeks. The required forms are available electronically below and in the Middle School and Upper School offices. Financial aid is available.

 5-8th grades  
 (lessons required for first four  weeks)                                      
 9-12th grades
 Lesson only (4 weeks)
 Helmet Rental
 Lift only


 Download Forms below:



Service and Kayaking

Send by email


Upper School Central Oregon Service and Wilderness Kayaking, November 2009

Soaring highs.  Frigid lows.  Bald eagles fighting in the air.  Vultures.  Green sheets.  A rainbow stretching from one end of the lake to the other.  Deer hunting.  Service.  Roundabouts.  Never. To. Be. Forgotten.

Our crew of eight students and two leaders left Catlin a bit after 8am on Friday morning and headed out to Alder Creek Kayak on TOMAHAWK Drive (ominous).   They had our ten kayaks and drysuits (more on this marvel of technology later) and PFDs and booties all ready for us on a trailer.  We loaded up and, very cautiously, drove toward Bend.

After some interesting student-provided directions that took us in an unusual pattern through some of Bend’s finest roundabouts, we made our way to the Deschutes River Trail for our community service.  After a brief safety talk during which we saw glaceirs pass by, we signed four green sheets, carried our tools, took a tour of the trail network, learned some more, talked some more about safety… and then did an incredible amount of trail work before the sun went down.

We drove away from Bend, toward Lake Billy Chinook, stopping to fill up in a Redmond gas station with an absurd collection of “Outdoor Cutlery” (read: big knives!).

We had the whole South Perry Campground to ourselves!  Pulling in late on Friday night, we made our basecamp and had the first of many incredible dinners.

Saturday brought us good weather and, we launched our Kayaks, heading out for our first day on the water.  The experience was magnificent.  A snow-draped Mt. Jefferson served as our beacon to the east and we paddled to a large island in the middle of the placid gorge that is Lake Billy Chinook.

It turns out that the island was host to a huge population of deer which, obviously, needed a good chasing.   We set off on our mission, covering the length and breadth of the island, always hot on the trail of our prey.  To our surprise, the deer had a navy!  The experience of the group chasing a herd of deer across the island was simply unforgettable.

After a night with meteoroligical conditions that left something to be desired, we set out for Sunday’s objective: an assault on the Metolius River.  The plan was to make our way on Kayaks as far as possible and then hike upstream toward the headwaters of this incredible river.  We made it maybe 100 yards up the river to the first rapid when we realized the impossibility of this plan.  Most of us flipped our kayaks over, fell out, and swam--we all laughed at the folly!  We paddled home, somehow the joy outweighed the lack of “success” and we took a short hike up to the rim of the lake.  Atop an incredible and overhanging cliff, we looked out across an incredible landscape and scoped out Monday’s goal: the highest point in the surrounding landscape—the top of an ancient and exfoliating lava flow.

On Monday we were on a mission to have lunch atop this viewpoint.  We went up and up and up, and found an incredible and safe passage to the summit.  Atop a pile of rocks, we had the last of our amazing meals together as a group.  A snowball fight and some light forestry management were highlights of the descent.  

We returned to our bus, secured the kayaks, and headed back to Portland, enjoyably slap-happy after such an amazing trip.

Click on a photo from the gallery below, press "play," and share some of our experience.  Enjoy!









Students find lost logging camp

posted in
Send by email
The sole remaining steam donkey in northwest Oregon

In early November six students and two leaders from Catlin Gabel set out to find the last wild steam donkey in the northern Coast Range. The drive from the school took the group over the complex of old logging roads in the Tillamook State Forest  that cover the hills above the Salmonberry River. Six students ages 13-17 made up the intrepid group. 

Most of the first day was spent learning about the logging history and equipment that shaped the Northwest. A basecamp was set up above the Salmonberry River and a large smoky fire kept the group warm. After a dinner of flaming chicken and multiple pies the group turned in for the night.

The day of the search dawned rainy and a bit chilly. Two miles of hiking brought the party to the Salmonberry River. The search through the dense woods followed shortly thereafter. Using information provided by local historian Merv Johnson, who had visited the donkey in the late 70s, the group combed the steep hills above the river. Brush and sword fern, soaked thoroughly from weeks of rain, was scoured in the quest for the large piece of iron machinery. Shortly after noon the cry of "The burro has landed!" crackled across the two way radios in the party. A mad sprint through the brush followed and soon the poor donkey was surrounded.

The students clambered over the beast and could piece together the history of the huge machine. Back in the 1920s, before the great Tillamook Burn swept through the watershed of the Salmonberry River, these steam powered "yarders" were used to haul logs up and down the steep hillsides to a central location from where trains could take them to the mill. Once a particular operation or "show" was completed, the machine were hauled through the woods on a wooden sled to the next show. In some cases the machines were just left in the woods. This donkey was built in Seattle, probably during the early part of the last century. It has sat on this forested bench above the Salmonberry River since the day when the loggers walked away from it, many, many years ago.



Boys and girls soccer teams head to state finals

Send by email
Congratulations, Eagles!

The boys varsity soccer team faces OES for the state title after beating St. Mary's of Medford 1-0.

Game time for the boys: Saturday, 1 p.m., Wilsonville HS.

The girls varsity soccer team won their semifinal match against Sisters, 4-3, and take on Gladstone for the championship.

Game time for the girls: Saturday, 6 p.m., Wilsonville HS.

Adults - $8, Students - $5 at the door
VISA / MasterCard accepted

Come cheer on the mighty Eagles as they play for the state championships!

Video of game-winning shot from the boys semifinal game against St. Mary’s of Medford. Thanks go to Jennifer Davies, parent of alumni, for shooting video.


Upper School Head Michael Heath's podcast from Grandparents and Special Friends Day

Send by email

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Stephen Venables appears at Catlin Gabel School

Send by email
Community event brings famous climber to poirtland


Stephen Venables, considered one of the world’s great mountaineers, spoke to a crowd of 160 students and adults from around the Portland area on November 17th at  Catlin Gabel School.  He is one of the very few Westerners to have reached the summit of Everest without supplementary oxygen. His night alone near the top, without tent or sleeping bag, has become one of the legends of modern mountaineering. In this stunning slideshow, Stephen recounted some of his many adventures around the world. Highlights include the North Face of the Eiger, Uganda’s Mountains of the Moon, explorations on Snow Lake, and several groundbreaking Himalayan climbs including the new Anglo-American route up Everest.

Venables is also an award-winning author, photographer, and public speaker. He wrote the screenplay for the IMAX movie The Alps and appeared with Conrad Anker and Reinhold Messner in Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure. His books about his mountain adventures have won the Boardman Tasker Prize, the King Albert Medal, and the Grand Award at Banff International Mountain Literature Festival. Venables’s special visit to Portland is the last night of a tour that has taken him to New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, New York, and the Western states. For more about him, visit www.stephenvenables.com.

Catlin Gabel’s outdoor education program focuses on educating the whole student. By providing opportunities for students to face and overcome challenges, learn group living skills, and understand the way the natural world works, the program supplements the academic rigors faced by the individual student. The program broadens the education of both Middle and Upper School students by fostering their self awareness, exposing them to new environments and challenges while providing important leadership opportunities.





Rummage Sale generates $274,000 in sales

Send by email
Retiring in style

The 65th and final Rummage Sale was an AMAZING success thanks to energetic volunteers and loyal customers. We generated $274,000 in sales, just $1,000 shy of last year's total.

The Catlin Gabel community spirit is epic. We do great things together — we always have and we always will.

Thank you very much!

So, what’s next?
Do you have ideas about what Catlin Gabel might do to recreate the wonderful sense of community and commitment to service we have experienced through Rummage? Share your after-Rummage Sale ideas with us on the After Rummage Forum or send your ideas by e-mail to AfterRummage@catlin.edu. Ideas will be considered at a community-wide meeting in January. Stay tuned for details.


Junior volleyball powerhouse McKensie Mickler named Oregonian athlete of the week

Send by email
Oregonian article, November 09

Eagles athletes fall season most successful in decades

Send by email

This has been the most successful fall season in decades for Upper School athletics with four out of our five varsity teams making the state playoffs. After more than thirty years without a state berth, our girls volleyball team completed the regular season with a 13-1 record, going into the seeding game on November 4. A win on November 7 will take them to the state tournament in Eugene on November 13 and 14.

The boys varsity soccer team finished as league champions with a 7-0 sweep of the competition, sending them into the league playoffs as the number one seed against OES on November 4, and a spot in the first round of state competition on November 10.

Our girls soccer team also completed their league season as champions with a 9-1 record and secured an automatic berth to the state playoffs. They will play Valley Catholic on November 3 to determine who enters the state tournament as the first and second seeds from our league.

The girls cross-country team repeated as district champions. On November 7 at Lane Community College, they will attempt to wrestle the state title away from St Mary’s of Medford who narrowly won last year’s championship.

The Middle School has seen wide participation in sports this year with athletes competing in cross-country, soccer, and girls volleyball, The girls Blue volleyball team made it to the league semi-finals before being eliminated in a close match. The boys Blue soccer team competes for the league championship next week.

Catlin Gabel News Fall 09

Send by email

From the fall 2009 Caller

7th grade history teacher Paul Monheimer was awarded a Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching from the United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to conduct research in Israel. He plans to spend the spring semester in Israel researching and creating meaningful virtual exchanges, using graphic software to overcome language barriers. . . . Upper School Spanish teacher Lauren Reggero-Toledano received a grant from the American Immigration Law Council to work with students on a project about the Hispanic presence in Oregon during the Great Depression and today. Students will create interactive, multimedia presentations for display at Teatro Milagro/Miracle Theater.

The 2008–09 Annual Fund reached its goal of $892,500 by June 30. Thanks to everyone who participated and gave so generously, especially during this economically challenging year. Big thanks to Eric ’83 and Tiffany Rosenfeld for co-chairing the 2007–08 and 2008–09 Annual Fund.
The campus was jumping during Summer Programs, with more than 20 instructors, 43 classes and programs, and 300 participants. . . . Catlin Gabel was selected by Oregon Business magazine as one of the 100 best nonprofits to work for in Oregon, based on staff responses to a survey about workplace satisfaction.
Poems by Conner Hansen ’15 and Annika Carfagno ’15 were published in A Celebration of Poets, a national anthology. . . . The Upper School chamber choir placed 4th at the OSSA state choir contest. . . Erica Berry ’10, Flora Field ’13, Guillem Manso García ’09, Fiona Noonan ’13, Sage Palmedo ’14, and Yu (Victor) Zheng ’12 placed in the top five in the nation for their level on the National French Contest exams. Rahul Borkar ’13, Brynmor Chapman ’10, Casey Currey-Wilson ’12, Rose Perrone ’10, and Leah Thompson ’11 came in first in the state for their level in the national Spanish exam.
The boys golf team won the state championship and set a team record.
The girls track and field team also won a state championship and set a new state record. Hayley Ney ’09 was state champion in the 3000m and 1500m. Leah Thompson ’11 was state champion in the 300m hurdles, set a new school record, and was second in state in the 1500m. Isabelle Miller ’09 was 3rd in state in the 400m. Calley Edwards ’09 was 4th in state at both the 800m and the 3000m. Cammy Edwards ’12 was 2nd in state in both the 100m hurdles and the 300m hurdles. Eloise Miller ’11 was state champion in the triple jump. Mariah Morton was 4th in state in the long jump. The 4x100m relay team was state champion: Mariah Morton ’12, Linnea Hurst ’11, Isabelle Miller ’09, and Eloise Miller ’11. The 4 x 400m relay team was state champion: Hayley Ney ’09, Isabelle Miller ’09, Eloise Miller ’11, and Leah Thompson ’11. . . . In boys track and field, Nauvin Ghorashian ’10 was 3rd in state in the 110m hurdles, and Ian Maier ’10 was 5th in state in the 300m hurdles.
The girls tennis team set a team record and was 2nd in state. Kate Rubinstein ’12 was state champion in singles, and Rivfka Shenoy ’09 and Ainhoa Maiz- Urtizberea ’09 were 2nd in state in doubles. . . . The boys tennis team also set a team record and were 2nd in state.
Andrew Salvador ’12 was state champion in singles.
Katy Wiita ’12 won numerous top places nationally for synchronized swimming, as did her sister Elli Wiita ’15, who was named to the 11–12 national team with the second highest score.
Devin Ellis ’12 won gold for his age group in scratch bowling at the State Games of Oregon and qualifies for the 2011 State Games of America.


The Class of 2009

Send by email
Our newest grads, and their college plans and awards

From the Fall 2009 Caller

Marshall Allender
University of St. Andrews (Scotland)
Christopher Allport
American University
Media Arts Award
Brad Bourque
Willamette University
Music Award
Trevor Burtzos
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Nat’l Merit Semifinalist, Technical Theatre Award
Jonah Butman
Global College at Long Island University
Andrew Cannard
Evergreen State College
Annie Coonan
Stanford University
English Award
Christopher Dietrich
California State University, Monterey Bay
Tara Douglas
Lewis & Clark College
Calley Edwards
Emory University
Visual Arts Award
Kushatha Fanikiso
Williams College
Natalie Farci
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Christina Fillmore
Villanova University
Dakotah Fitzhugh
Oberlin College
Nat’l Merit Semifinalist
Andy Goodman
Claremont McKenna College
Liza Goodstein
Wesleyan University
Nat’l Merit Semifinalist, Wilson Poetry Prize
Benjamin Graziano
Babson College
Nathan Greenberg
Boston University
Hilary Gross
Wellesley College
Theatre Award
Antonia Henry
Lake Forest College
Juliet Hillman
Lynn University, Florida
Fiona Hoffman-Harland
Hamilton College, New York
Caroline Hooper
Loras College
Injete Imbuye
Barnard College
Miranda Johnson
Gap year
Awards in English & Modern Languages
Rachel June-Graber
Carleton College
Tara Kumar
University of Chicago
Jack Lazar
Whitman College
Pat Ehrman Award; Awards in Photography & Outdoor Leadership
Anthony Lin
Duke University
School Ring
Colin Logan
Montana State University, Bozeman
Rekha Lyons
Loyola Marymount University
Ainhoa Maiz-Urtizberea
Emory University
Guillem Manso García
University in Spain
Modern Languages Award
Joseph Marlitt
Whittier College
Media Arts Award
Maddie McMonies
Chapman University
Skyler Middleton
Chapman University
Isabelle Miller
Grinnell College
Madeleine Morawski
Georgetown University
Nat’l Merit Finalist
Blake Morell
Claremont McKenna College
Karen Morse
Franklin College, Switzerland
Hayley Ney
Santa Clara University
Athletics Award
John Olsoni
George Washington University
Anna Orban
Gap year
French Award
Jeremy Orban
Gap year
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar, Media Arts Award
Johnny Paige
Macalester College
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar, Computer Science Award
Cole Perkinson
Reed College
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar; Japanese Nat’l Honor Society; Awards in Music, English, & Science
Lauren Pfiffner
Chapman University
Emma Pfohman
Fordham University
Community Service Award
Sana Pierce-Wright
Vassar College
Alani Premer
Colorado College
Deepa Ramprasad
University of Southern California
Cody Reese
Whittier College
Nick Rinehart
Northeastern University
Jack Rossing
Montana State University, Bozeman
Athletics Award
Julia Ruby
Oberlin College
Bhakthi Sahgal
Bryn Mawr College
Community Service Award
Dastan Salehi
University of Dundee (Scotland)
Pat Ehrman Award
Hilary Sehring
College of Wooster
Rivfka Shenoy
Washington University in St. Louis
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar, Pat Ehrman Award, Science Award
James Shoaf
University of Oregon
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar
Peter Shoaf
Oregon State University
Christopher Skinner
Lawrence University
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar
Sabrina Stanley-Katz
Chapman University
April Strid
Denison University
Ryan Takahashi
Harvey Mudd College
Nat’l Merit Finalist; Awards in Math & Japanese
Hayden Todd
University of Redlands
Monica Tolosa
Loyola University, New Orleans
Mackenzie Treible
Davidson College
Media Arts Award
Victoria Trump Redd
Dartmouth College
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar, Spanish Award
Ben Turner
Portland State University
Nat’l Merit Commended Scholar
Abby Tyo
Santa Clara University
Caitlin Utter
Mount Holyoke College
Tom Vogt
Whitman College
Thespis Award
Brian Weller-Gordon
University of Puget Sound
Emma Wood
Williams College
Nat’l Merit Semifinalist
Tyler Young
Willamette University
Maiya Zwerling
Bryn Mawr College
Community Service Award


Words and the Future

Send by email
A brief excerpt of the commencement address by David Shipley '81, deputy editorial page and op-ed editor of the New York Times

From the Fall 2009 Caller
A while ago, I asked members of the senior class to answer, anonymously, the following: “What is your biggest question about your future?” I then took the answers and ran them through a computer program called Wordle, which creates word clouds. It sizes the words according to how many times they are used. The more frequently a word is used, the bigger it is. This piece of paper is the result. What do we see?
Well, for starters, no misspellings. Thumbs up, English department. “Jail.” A little troubling. I’m sure there’s a good reason. And the rest of it? Let’s ignore “future,” because that was part of the question. But that aside, look at what’s big. “Content” or “con-tent.” A positive either way. “Wonder. Work. Concerned. Life. Choose. Happy. Find. Figure. Matter. Know. Love. Able.”
And notice not just what’s small— Want, Need—but what’s not there at all. “Personal” isn’t there. Nor is “Mine.” “Own.” Possess. Deserve. Status. Due. Win. Entitle.
This is language about others, not about the self. It is language about connection, community, intellectual life, and service. It is language that is purely reflective of the Catlin Gabel ethic. . . .
What you have been taught here isn’t neutral. It has an ethical dimension. For that reason, it’s likely lodged in your head good and tight. And what’s been lodged? What you learn and experience here dies hard. If you keep close that knowledge, if you stay in touch and remind one another of it, then you will be equipped not only to make your own way, but also to repair this fractured world. For many years to come.


How Do I Learn?

Send by email
At the Learning Center, students learn how they learn--and how to advocate for themselves
From the Fall 2009 Caller

By Ann Fyfield

The Learning Center during finals week last May was a busy place—and it showed well what we do there and why we do it. The seven quiet study rooms and one large table were filled to capacity. Students were studying alone or in small groups, making tea at the counter, or discussing upcoming plans for their summer. My coworker Kathy Qualman and I were busy that week too, talking with teachers and parents about student transitions for the next year, and passing along test-taking strategies to students just before their finals.
Most emblematically, some students came to tell us that they had spoken with their teachers about finals. They asked if they could take some of their exams in a quiet space in the Learning Center, without the distractions that can so often deter their test-taking performance. They knew how they learned best, knew the way to articulate their needs, knew with whom they could communicate, and knew where they could go.
This self knowledge and ability to self-advocate is essential to learning at any stage in life, essential to all students—whether they are faced with learning challenges or not. The key lies in knowing how they struggle and how they shine. Helping guide Catlin Gabel students in finding this path towards self-advocacy is one way in which teachers and the Learning Center work together to ensure that the student is the “unit of consideration.”
As we work together with teachers and students to understand a child’s learning strengths and needs, we work towards building trust. This in turn helps a student identify personal goals and strategies, and fosters an ability to communicate with teachers without fear of reprisal or failure. It doesn’t happen right away; in fact the process can take many years. What can start with a student’s frustration that causes her or him to avoid teachers or classwork— for many different reasons—often ends in that student becoming a successful partner with teachers and parents in his or her own learning.
Over the years, Catlin Gabel has developed a number of approaches to helping students learn about their learning. Foremost, we value the school’s generosity towards professional development, which has encouraged countless teachers to benefit from brain research conferences and training in the All Kinds of Minds initiative. This allows teachers and learning specialists to use and understand consistent concepts and vocabulary needed to discuss and track students and their learning. Above and beyond that, the learning specialists, including Sue Sacks in the Lower School, have been trained to administer the Woodcock Johnson tests of cognition and achievement, which reveal student strengths and weaknesses. We use the test results to create a learning profile for each student and as a springboard for discussions with students, teachers, and parents about the most efficient and productive ways to build on individual strengths in a classroom setting. We work from this profile to help the student set personal goals and study strategies that can lead them to success in school. Sometimes we refer a student out for further testing, but mostly we use the information to help teachers, parents, and students understand and value the student’s learning strengths.
Depending on the student’s own passion for learning and perseverance, sometimes this testing helps the student get immediate results, while for others it may take a while to bear fruit. We often find that as students mature and take on a more active role in their own learning, the ability to use what they have learned from the tests increases. Sometimes a student will knock on the door and say, “Hey, can we look at my profile again?” We will then sit down to see what has changed and talk about additional strategies to use based on increasing demands as they go through their years at school.
The point at which a child begins to understand and use the information from a profile is joyous, for both us and them. A 6th grader who came to me early this year began her testing reluctant to participate and fearful of the findings. As she came to grasp the reasons why she sometimes had a hard time in class, her fear of the unknown lessened, and she was able to freely talk about what tripped her up and where she felt confident. We came up with goals and strategies that built on her strengths. By the end of the year, I was receiving emails from her with her own ideas about preparation, what worked and didn’t work for her learning. She had taken on the challenge of her own success. What was once a fear of a retake test became an opportunity to refine her study efforts. She learned to advocate for herself, confidently talking with teachers about ways she could better understand the classwork.
Catlin Gabel is best at building relationships between students and teachers. As a support system outside the classroom, we also value our role in helping students identify and build one-on-one relationships with trusted mentors and advocates. We have built a network of peer and adult tutors who can help a student and a teacher manage time and workload. We facilitate the Middle School study hall, where students can get help from Upper School students who have “been there and done that.” The older students often help the younger ones navigate their way through homework assignments or show them that they can talk about homework with teachers. When parents, teachers, and students meet after outside testing, students grasp that their teachers are allies who are eager to understand how they learn and what helps build success for them. This is another step towards a student becoming a partner and self-advocate for learning.
Kathy and I always end our year with a walk to the senior awards assembly. We remind ourselves that more than 80 percent of Catlin Gabel students use the learning services of the Lower, Middle, or Upper Schools at some point in their school career. We nudge each other as student after student takes that walk to receive an award for academic or community achievement. These are the students we worked with. Sitting right alongside their parents, having seen these students grow in self-confidence from children to strong young adults, we are with them in awe of this transformation and proud to have played a small part in their support.
Learning specialist Ann Fyfield has been at Catlin Gabel since 1989. Her roles have included teaching Japanese, and this year she also teaches 6th grade humanities.  


Reader's Paradise

Send by email
How the Upper School library contributes to a great education
From the Fall 2009 Caller

By Sue Phillips

Before school on a foggy fall morning several students enter the library and gather quietly at their favorite table. Others are tucked away at study carrels near the windows, reviewing their notes for a quiz, or reading a chapter before the busy day begins. By 10 a.m. the room has long been humming with activity as waves of students enter and exit, use the copy machine, track down a short story, or ask the librarians for help in citing a source for their essay draft. A shy freshman approaches to ask whether the library has any good books set in the Middle Ages, and while the librarian helps her with some recommendations, teachers trickle in to find a quiet place to scan the New York Times or write comments on students’ recent in-class writing assignment.
Librarians are collaborators who know that the key to success is rooted in a thorough understanding of the academic life of the school. We must be curious and persistent to seek out the information that we need to reflect and enhance Catlin Gabel’s intellectual climate. The process begins with a solid knowledge of the curriculum, and we engage in regular conversations with colleagues and departments to establish a firm understanding of what the faculty is teaching, and how their assignments change from year to year.
New programs provide opportunities to enhance the collection. When Peter Shulman and Dan Griffiths began teaching their interdisciplinary environmental studies class, we added a substantial number of titles to our collection on topics such as recycling, alternative fuels and energy, habitat preservation, and environmental ethics. Sometimes new areas of knowledge emerge in a discipline and receive thought-provoking attention in the classroom. Students learn about nanotechnology, for instance, and come to the library for help finding a book or an article to feed their interest. The arrival of the outdoor program several years ago led to a surge of interest in books on outdoor survival and adventure, and we make certain that these books are prominently on display at least twice a year. When the new Chinese language program begun, the library began purchasing classics in translation as well as a good range of bilingual titles on Chinese art, social issues, and culture.
Sometimes an assignment presents a perfect opportunity to collaborate. The English department has worked closely with the Upper School library for years to enhance student learning. When the English faculty introduces their students to the poetry of William Butler Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, or the British Romantic poets, they inform the library, and we place a selected group of books on reserve for the students to consult. Gradually, as students become more sophisticated and independent learners, we offer them more complex and powerful tools. Students in senior electives in English work with their English teachers and a librarian as we show them how to use academic databases such as JSTOR to find journal articles on a closely defined topic. While the initial classroom visit is a small group experience, many of the students later visit the library to consult one-on-one with the librarian, and to obtain feedback on their search strategies. This spring, many of Patrick Walsh’s students in the U.S. Constitution course sat down with a librarian to locate electronic and print information on case law for a classroom debate. Many of these students had already had exposure to database searching through their fall English electives, and they were able to rapidly translate those skills to another discipline. The goal of this teaching is to give students the confidence and specific skills they need to locate reliable information on any subject of interest to them.
Librarians firmly believe in the importance of independent reading for information and pleasure as part of the private intellectual life of a student. We know that during the academic year it can be difficult to make time to read for pleasure, so we create busy and varied book displays throughout the year, with particular emphasis before the school holidays and summer break. Our summer borrowing program, introduced several years ago, helped get books and magazines off the shelves and into circulation over the summer for students, faculty, and staff to enjoy. This June, hundreds of titles were checked out, and we spent a considerable amount of time consulting with students and adults to fill their arms with summer reading. To our delight, the staff of the school are regular and energetic participants, making summer borrowing a truly schoolwide program enjoyed by students, parents, bus drivers, development staffers, faculty, and many others.
Everyone knows that Catlin Gabel students are intellectual and inquisitive. Over the years, as we welcome students daily in the library, we begin to gain their trust, and they tell us more and more about their interests. A few years ago, one student expressed an interest in game theory, and we bought several books on the topic that have checked out regularly ever since. Several students have acquired an interest in classic British mysteries, so our collection is growing. Students can and do request specific titles and authors, and smile with delight when they see that we are listening, and that we frequently make purchases on their behalf. The Karl Jonske ’99 endowed fund, established in memory of a Catlin Gabel alumnus who was a prodigious reader, permits us to purchase more than a hundred new titles each year that are chosen specifically to enhance the library’s selection of books for independent reading pleasure.
By the time our current students graduate from college and begin their professional lives, the specific search tools they are now using will change, and new technologies will alter the appearance and function of traditional sources of information. Books in print are very likely to be around for a long time, but we will continue to see developments in ebooks, the electronic dissemination of news, and the digitization of millions of pages of print materials available through searchable databases. New ways of packaging information, electronically and otherwise, are not values-neutral. Fortunately, Catlin Gabel students are well prepared for these challenges. They have learned how to evaluate online sources for commercial advertising and bias, and have the skills to think critically, define their questions, and make competent and ethical choices. It all begins with a shy freshman visitor who thinks the library is just a good place to read, and culminates in an assertive, thoughtful, sophisticated senior who knows how to research a topic, defend an assertion, cite a source, and recommend a favorite book to others. This makes being a librarian a great and interdisciplinary joy.
Sue Phillips has been Upper School librarian since 2004.  


College Counseling from the Inside Out

Send by email
From the Fall 2009 Caller

By Nancy Donehower

One of the bedrock truths of the college admissions process is counter-intuitive, and a bit surprising: The successful college search and application process should focus on the individual student and not on any one college, or group of colleges.
These days, we live in a culture that encourages us to do our shopping before we know what we want, and this is especially true of the college search process. So many students work from the outside in: bombarded with college information in every medium, they try to make sense of their options by picking up a college guide or set of rankings before they take the time to assess themselves and their goals. The result is that the college search process becomes focused on a loose idea of finding a “good college” as opposed to finding the colleges that are good for that particular individual.
In Catlin Gabel’s college counseling office, Kate Grant and I work instead from the inside out to help students understand that there is no one “best” college, only a set of colleges that will be the best matches for them. With this “inside-out” approach, we encourage students to understand themselves and what they’re seeking before they start to research and compare different colleges. We hope that students see this process as a learning experience during which they have the opportunity for self-reflection and growth of awareness about their individual skills, strengths, and the qualities they prefer in an educational environment. This approach fits well with Catlin Gabel’s educational philosophy, and makes the college application process a natural extension of the individualized education that students have become accustomed to here.
At its core, the college search and application process is about getting to know yourself, working effectively and discerningly with large amounts of information, and learning how to make choices that are right for you. So our juniors begin the process with a retreat that combines various group and individual exercises to encourage self-reflection. This past year, we used a version of the “Fifteen Random Things About Me” task (popularized on Facebook) and a comprehensive written questionnaire to start things off. The discussions and writings that emerged from the retreat were wonderful—helpful to us as we get to know each student, and helpful for the students as a source of good material for those inevitable college essays. We followed up the retreat with small-group college counseling sessions and individual meetings with students through the spring. This way, we could get to know the class as a whole, as well as all the interesting, energetic and distinctive individuals in it.
Based on our knowledge of each student, we’re able to suggest colleges for them to consider, work through the pros and cons of various choices, and help them assemble a final list of colleges to apply to that has the right balance of optimism and realism. Both the small group meetings and our individual student meetings will continue through the fall of the senior year, so that we are always in touch with each student’s progress and are ready to offer assistance each step of the way.
Once each student has a clear idea of what he or she is looking for, the search process becomes more manageable. Students develop individual “yardsticks” with which to compare colleges, and are better able to see how each school they consider does or doesn’t meet the criteria most important to them. This isn’t to say that the decision process is entirely logical (it wouldn’t be half as interesting if it were!), but that students who have taken the time to really think about their preferences have an easier time sorting through the options.
Throughout this process, we rely on each student to make use of the resources and individual attention we offer. We count on each student to take responsibility for himself or herself and for the progression and outcomes of the college search process. We offer help, advice, and skilled advocacy all along the way—as we tell each student, “We’ve got your back”—but a student must engage with us and put time and effort into the process if all is to go well.
As the application process moves into high gear, our “inside-out” approach to college counseling helps each student present a thorough, thoughtful, and engaging written self-portrait on the application materials. The self-reflection exercises and writing that students do as part of the college counseling program dovetail nicely with the self-reflection that occurs when students write the “Who Am I?” essay for the junior English class. By the time our students sit down to write their application essays, each one has a head start on thinking in depth about his or her personal qualities, philosophy, and talents. Each one has already had an opportunity to write a substantial personal essay. This preparation is a significant asset to our students, and as a result, they are generally quite comfortable with the type of thinking and writing required for a college application essay. As you might expect, given the range of interests and talents within any given group of Catlin Gabel seniors, the application essays themselves cover a variety of topics. We enjoy working with each student to craft the essays so that the final application well represents each student’s unique perspective, strengths, and voice.
The positive feedback we receive from college admission officers affirms that our students do a terrific job with their applications. Admissions officers frequently tell us how much they enjoy reading essays from Catlin Gabel students, and we also receive thanks and praise for the wonderful letters of recommendation that accompany each application. (As a general rule, each application is accompanied by one letter of recommendation from a college counselor, and two letters of recommendation from teachers.) These letters further personalize the application, and give admission officers a vivid sense of each applicant. The outcomes of our “inside-out” approach to college counseling are impressive. The variety of colleges our students apply to is a testament to their ability to think for themselves, and to find those colleges that really match the individual criteria each student has determined to be most important. It’s not easy to swim against the tide, and at a time when so much media attention is mistakenly given to rankings, ratings, and simplistic measures of assessing colleges, our students are to be commended for looking beyond these shorthand metrics as they investigate, compare, and ultimately choose the group of colleges to which they will apply.
At the end of each college application cycle, we ask three questions to determine the success of our college counseling program: Do our seniors have options? Are they making good choices? Are they happy and successful at the colleges they choose to attend? The answer to all of these questions is a definite “yes,” and we are proud of the thought, care, and independent judgment our students demonstrate as they navigate the road to college.
Nancy Donehower, co-director of college counseling, came to Catlin Gabel in 2008 after many years of experience in admission in both colleges and independent schools and as a consultant.  


The Child as Unit of Consideration: So, What Do You Teach?

Send by email
From the Fall 2009 Caller

By Paul Dickinson

One of my students sat there in tears. She was only one month into her freshman year and sadly disappointed with her science test results. She told me she had never gotten such a bad score—13 out of 30 on a difficult test. She was a keen participant in my class, so I knew she should have done better. Going over the test with her later, I quickly came to see why it was so hard for her.
One test question asked: “An evaporating dish with a total mass of 79.56 grams of liquid was boiled until all that remained was a white solid. The dish with the solid was found to have a mass of 59.39 grams. After the solid was removed, the dish had a mass of 51.86 grams. What mass of water was boiled away in the process?” I asked her to illustrate the test question as if it were a comic strip, labeling each stage with its quantities. Using this visual approach, she quickly found the correct answer. When she retook the test, she answered 24 of the 30 problems correctly. She couldn’t help being pleased.
It is precisely this kind of mastery after struggling with something difficult that builds a student’s self-confidence. I see and hear my colleagues working to help students experience such efforts and successes nearly every day. Another simple yet helpful technique that I teach was suggested by my colleague John Wiser, during a discussion of how I could help one of my advisees. He said that each paragraph should be viewed as the answer to a question, and that my student should read carefully and reflectively enough to figure out what question was answered by each paragraph. Science texts, like history texts, are densely packed with information. So, with freshmen, I begin the year with some practice reading of paragraphs. They learn to pin down the question, and identify the topic sentence. It teaches students, early on, how to engage the material and how slowly they must read a science text to gain understanding.
Because of learning differences, students find different methods to their liking. What works for one is not helpful to another, so I introduce different methods as the year progresses. In many cases I sit down with an individual student to try a series of methods. This year, my student Lauren was perplexed by physics problems that involved organizing and keeping track of all the numbers needed to solve equations. She and I worked out a data table that she could fill in to identify the variable she had to solve. When we presented it in class, it proved helpful to many other students in the class. From now on I will call that method the “Laurenian diagram” in her honor for her contribution to the all of our learning as well as future students. I have another trick in my bag.
When I took a two-day seminar from Mel Levine, the originator of the famous “All Kinds of Minds” program, we read lists of the many things that have to go right in the human brain for someone to focus, hear, analyze, and act, just to follow a single instruction. Those lists gave me a wealth of knowledge to fashion different strategies for different students.
So when someone asks, “Do you teach science?” I smile to myself, and for the sake of simplicity, I answer “That’s what it says on my contract.” What we know now about how people learn and how we apply that, and the individualized methods we work out with our students, are what “teaching” really is—and science merely gives me the wonderful, exciting, and timely activities that provide the vehicle for teaching.
Upper School science teacher Paul Dickinson (“Mr. D”) has been a faculty member since 1969.