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The Mandate for Teaching History Well: A Farewell From Outgoing Head of School Lark Palma

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Lark P. Palma

If taught well and thoughtfully, history helps a student develop a unique capacity for comprehending human situations. It fuels a conversation about the importance of action from the lessons of history. It’s meaningful to me that my last article for the Caller is about history and social studies, as I believe history is the single most powerful discipline for analyzing the past, living the present, and predicting the future. Most importantly, studying history well helps us become thoughtful, informed, and committed to exercising our rights as citizens, especially our right and privilege to vote. This issue is a testament to how well our superb faculty teaches history, and their eagerness to fine-tune the curriculum, create experiences that make history immediate and important, and seek connections to social, political, artistic, and economic situations.
 
Recently, when packing boxes to move back to South Carolina, I came across my 8th grade required history text, The History of South Carolina by Mary C. Sims Oliphant. She found it adequate to talk about slavery for one and a half pages, and the glorious generals of the “War Between the States” for several chapters. The economic justifications for slavery were never connected to the immorality of the war. What if I hadn’t come from a progressive family that had lively debates at the dinner table? What if I had not been exposed to any other points of view? My ability to participate in our fundamental right to express our citizenship would be severely compromised.
 
Catlin Gabel and the teachers who teach history and social studies understand well the mandate of their work.
 
• Students learn how the past shapes the present and probably informs the future. The Transitional Justice course clearly shows the direct effect of a law, its enactment, and the success of social change as a result.
 
• Students learn to develop empathy by reading original texts written by the people experiencing the events. For instance, 6th graders study the context of the Civil War and write a first-person journal.
 
• They learn to read critically to distinguish between evidence and assertion and understand competing points of view. In doing so, they learn to interrogate the text and artifacts, make hypotheses, and draw conclusions so that they extract every bit of meaning. Through these interrogations, students come up with real questions. Who is not represented in the study of history, and why? Why is the history of real lives of the poor, women, minority groups, or children so sparse in relationship to the history of political leaders, wars, politics, treaties, and policies? Why isn’t there more work published by women and minorities? In a sense students are calling for a wider exposure and deeper content to intensify their understanding of the course of history.
 
The study of history reveals its evolving narrative. Students learn that what happened in the past is not the final truth, so what they study and how they study it has to change. Courses that have been added to the Catlin Gabel curriculum include Middle Eastern studies, the Sixties, 9-11, Islam, gender studies, and other courses that emphasize social history and bring in more interdisciplinary learning.
 
I leave Catlin Gabel this summer to contemplate a curriculum for another school, in Charleston, South Carolina. The first plaque acknowledging that city’s role in the slave trade was erected in the 1990s. It is clear how the teaching of history should develop there, with the city itself as the curriculum. If any of you travel there, I will be a willing and proud guide. I will miss Catlin Gabel deeply. I will miss writing for the Caller, but there are books and blogs inside me ready to emerge.

Lark's farewell BBQ photo gallery

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The sun always shines on the righteous!

 

Lifers ceremony photo gallery 2014

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So long, it's been good to know you (BUT STAY IN TOUCH!)

Students who have attended Catlin Gabel since preschool, kindergarten, or first grade, and their parents, join Beginning School families and teachers for a very special Friday Sing.

Click on any photo to enlarge or download the image.

Video: 2014 seniors talk about their college choices

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Catlin Gabel seniors are about to embark on an exciting new chapter in their lives. Five seniors speak here about their college choices, and how they found a good fit for them.

»Link to list of where all seniors are going to college
»Link to article by college counselors about the admission year and college trends

Thomas is going to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago!

Emmarose is going to the University of Southern California!

Chris is going to Princeton University!

Liban's going to Swarthmore College!

Sadie is going to Barnard College!

College list for Catlin Gabel 2014 seniors

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Here's where the class of 2014 is going to college!

(as of 5/22/14)
 
Amherst College
Barnard College
Bates College
Berklee College of Music
University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Brown University
Case Western Reserve University
Chapman University
University of Chicago
Claremont McKenna College
Colorado College (2)
Colby College
University of Denver (2)
DePaul University
Dickinson College
Hamilton College, NY
Harvey Mudd College
University of La Verne
Lewis & Clark College
Macalester College
McGill University
Montana State University, Bozeman
Mount Holyoke College (2)
New York University (2)
University of Notre Dame
Oberlin College
Occidental College
Oregon State University
University of Oregon (2)
Portland State University
University of Portland (2)
Princeton University (2)
University of Puget Sound (3)
University of Redlands
Reed College
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rice University
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2)
Scripps College (3)
Smith College
University of Southern California (2)
Southern Oregon University (2)
Stanford University
Swarthmore College (3)
Tufts University
Tulane University (2)
Union College
Whitman College (5)
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
 

Summer Borrowing is Underway in the US Library!

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8th grade films win awards at Middle School Media Festival

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Three films by Catlin Gabel 8th graders received awards at the Middle School Media Festival at Bush School in Seattle:

"Free Yourself" by Andrei Stoica and Katie Truong: Honorable Mention

"Welcome To The Hood" by Stuart Ryan, Mason Snider, and Elliott White: Audience Award

"One Fish Two Fish Dead Fish Chewed Fish" by Piper Kizziar, Kathryn Putz and Rachael Underwood: Audience Award & Teacher’s Choice Award

Congratulations to the filmmakers and their teacher, Brendan Gill.

Nic Bergen '16 wins Grand Prize at International Silent Film Festival

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Sophomore Nic Bergen's film "Continuous Quest" won the Grand Prix--first place, best film--last night at the selective International Youth Silent Film Festival, competing against films from the U.S., Canada, and China. Nic received a generous cash prize and time on the set of "Grimm," and will be featured in the Rose Festival. Watch for news of a public screening on June 4. Congrats to Nic and our other finalists, Søren Anderson, Becca Dunn, Gus Edelen O'Brien, Zulema Young-Toledo & Elena Lee, Ben Waitches-Eubanks & Javin Dana, and Vikram Nallakrishnan & Reuben Schafir!

Valerie Ding & Nikhil Murthy win awards at Int'l Science Fair

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Catlin Gabel sent two finalists this year to the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair held the week of May 11 in Los Angeles. Both Nikhil Murthy ’17 and Valerie Ding ’15 came home with awards.
 
Valerie Ding won four awards:
1.      4th Place Grand Award in Physics & Astronomy
2.      3rd Place Internationally & 1st Place Nationally (USA), SPIE International Society for Optics and Photonics
3.      Top 6 Nationally, from American Association of Physics Teachers and the American Physical Society
4.      New American University Provost Scholarship, Arizona State University (awarded to 22 projects nationally).
 
Nikhil Murthy won 2nd Place Grand Award in the category of Chemistry.

Congratulations, Nikhil and Valerie!

»Link to Oregonian article

Ten students named international film festival finalists

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Four individuals and three teams of two and have made it to the top 46 Pacific Northwest Regional Finals of the International Youth Silent Film Festival. As finalists, their work will be showcased May 19 – 21, from 7:30 to 9 p.m., at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland.

Congratulations to individual finalists freshman Gus Edelen O’Brien, and sophomores Søren Anderson, Becca Dunn, and Nic Bergen; and to team finalists freshmen Reuben Schafir and Vikram Nallakrishnan, Elena Lee and Zulema Young-Toledo, and Ben Waitches-Eubanks and Javin Dana.

The International Youth Silent Film Festival is a nonprofit organization that gives youth the opportunity to show their work at an annual competition. To purchase tickets, contact the Hollywood Theatre or call 503-281-4215.

Students join international conversation about food equity

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10Students in the PLACE urban studies class joined forces with students from Rex Putnam High School in Milwaukie, Oregon, to give a presentation about food security at a virtual international youth conference.

Other presenting groups were from Grand Rapids, Michigan; Medellin, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. The conference was at 6 a.m. PST, so the students from Oregon awakened at 4:30 to set up at Rex Putnam at 5:30 a.m.

The mayor of Grand Rapids addressed the conference and said he was grateful to have youth tackling the important issues of food sustainability and equity.

Representatives from the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability also attended the virtual conference from locales in Germany, Bangladesh, and Brazil.

The presentations were informative, the questions were rich, and everyone learned a lot about local food issues in different countries.