It's Banned Books Week! Titles from the Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon to Truman Capote's In Cold Blood have at times been challenged or banned by individuals and groups of people around the country. Our students read many of these books, and often find them on their course reading lists. Catlin Gabel celebrates the freedom to read during Banned Books Week. Stop by and learn more about the controversies that have raged over these books. And yes, you CAN check them out!
On September 26, 2009, Dave Corkran accepted a Regional Forester's award from the Mt. Hood National Forest for Catlin Gabel's volunteer partnership with the Barlow Ranger District. The National Forest honored the school for our many years of volunteer work restoring degraded land, through the Elana Gold '93 Memorial Environmental Restoration Project and other student volunteer work. Since 1991, Catlin Gabel students have contributed more than 15,000 hours of labor. Read more about the Elana Gold project.
OLA Backpacking in the Columbia River Gorge
As another amazing Oregon summer began to close its doors, a group of Catlin students from the Outdoor Leadership and Adventure class dashed out for a long weekend of backpacking and fun in the Columbia River Gorge.
We met in the Catlin lot and rocked an activity bus up to the Eagle Creek trailhead. Hiking up Eagle Creek, we saw waterfall after waterfall after waterfall. Punchbowl Falls, Oneonta Falls, Loowit Falls, Tunnel Falls, and High Bridge kept us excited and anxious to see what was around every bend.
We arrived at a secluded camp on the river, journaled, and made a home for the night. Waking up, we watched the sun gradually climb and bathe our gorge with light before packing up for our big day. Covering a huge portion of our loop, the trail took us up and around Tanner Butte, through old burn sites, over streams, up hills, through meadows full of blueberry and hucleberry to our beloved Dublin Lake, which we reached just as night descended.
After maybe too many laughs around a campfire and an amazing dinner, we headed into our tents and sleeping bags to enjoy a windy-but-clear night, full of shooting stars.
The next morning, we said goodbye to our camp and lake and made our way back to the bus... through one of the last hot days of 2009!
It was a great weekend of bonding, sightseeing, and getting away from the bustle of our school lives. We can't wait to get out again!
Click on a photo below to check out a slideshow from the trip.
Kevin Ellis '10 is presenting at the International Symposia on Implementation and Application of Functional Languages IFL 2009 conference at Seton Hall University. After winning two major prizes at science fairs last year, Kevin submitted his paper to IFL, and it was accepted. He is presenting along with graduate students and university professors from around the world. Take a look at the list of other presenters to get an idea of the company Kevin is keeping. Conference participants.
IFL brings together researchers and practitioners to present and discuss novel work on the implementation of functional and function-based programming languages and applied functional programming. This is a forum to discuss new ideas, preliminary results, work in progress, and publication-ripe material.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
- If you develop flu-like symptoms of fever, aches and pains, sore throat, coughing, trouble breathing, runny nose, or nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting, you should contact your health care provider. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing and treatment is needed.
See TV and print stories online:
KPTV Fox12 news: http://www.kptv.com/video/21000918/index.html
KGW Channel 8 news: http://www.kgw.com/video/video-index.html?nvid=392262
Beaverton Valley Times: http://www.beavertonvalleytimes.com/news/story.php?story_id=125138855686978400
See the Zoo's video at http://www.oregonzoo.org/VideoArchive/CatlinGabelStudents.htm
Choose how you cruise
On this symbolic day, the Catlin Gabel community will join in an effort to empty the parking lot!
Choose how you cruise
- Carpool (link to carpool map)
- MAX or TriMet
- Ride the Catlin Gabel bus for free – one day only special
Beginning and Lower School parents: Ginny Malm has access to the online registration information so you don't need to call her if you sign up online by Thursday, October 7.
We invite you to join us at an upcoming Parents of Seniors Book Group meeting. We started this book group when our kids were in their sophomore year in order to provide parents with an opportunity to connect with class parents on a regular basis. Our meetings are part book discussion and part social. We’re pleased to say that we’ve formed some great friendships through this group and we encourage you to join us at a future meeting. Here’s what’s happening in the coming months:
Wednesday, October 7
City of Thieves, A novel by David Benioff (New York Times Bestseller)
Wednesday, November 4
Portland Noir, Edited by Kevin Sampsell
Wednesday, December 2
To be announced.
All meetings are from 7:00pm to 8:30pm in the Dant House faculty lounge. We hope you will join us.
Patty Barker and Jeanette Weston
Welcome! I hope you are looking forward to the 2009-10 school year as much as I am. Some fabulous new students are joining us in all four divisions. I know that returning families will join me in welcoming our new community members.
We are proud to open with full enrollment. We were able to increase this year’s financial aid budget by 41 percent, which allowed us to keep our community together despite the recession. This is a real testament to our board members and their commitment to making financial aid a school priority. While we have never been frivolous spenders, faculty and staff worked hard to trim budgets without negatively affecting the academic and co-curricular programs. The school’s long-term financial health is in great shape.
To our parents: sending your child to Catlin Gabel is a big commitment, and we deeply appreciate the trust you have placed in us. Your child will have a great year in school. Your daughter or son will be enthusiastic about learning and will grow in ways you do not expect. Our extraordinary teachers, librarians, counselors, and support staff members will work side by side with students to make learning engaging and challenging.
Teachers and staff members were busy throughout the summer preparing for students to return. The much-needed new coat of paint on the Barn symbolizes our approach to education: honor our traditions while making things fresh and new. We launch the year fully invested in all our students’ success at school.
Catlin Gabel teachers are extraordinary, as exemplified this spring and summer by four faculty members who received honors of note. The United States Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board honored two teachers with awards: Paul Monheimer, 7th grade world cultures teacher, was awarded a Distinguished Fulbright Award in Teaching to conduct research in Israel spring semester, and Cindy Beals, Upper School math teacher, received a Fulbright Teacher Exchange grant to teach in Turkey for the 2009-10 academic year. I am pleased to welcome 6th grade math teacher Nagame (pronounced Nah may) Karamustafaoglu from Turkey, who came as part of the Fulbright Teacher Exchange. Upper School English teacher Nichole Tassoni attended a seminar on Dante in Italy this summer sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The American Immigration Council awarded Upper School Spanish teacher Lauren Reggero-Toledano a grant for her project, “The Hispanic Presence in Oregon During the Great Depression and Today.” Read more about the awards that speak to the excellence of our faculty in the “Congrats!” article.
As the 2009-10 school year begins, I invite you to join Upper School students and teachers in reading Mountains Beyond Mountains. We are fortunate and thrilled to welcome the author, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder, to campus for this year’s Karl Jonske ’99 memorial lecture on Tuesday, October 13, at 11:30 a.m. in the Cabell Center Theater. You are all welcome to attend this special Upper School assembly.
I look forward to seeing everyone on campus again and finding out about your summer and your hopes for this new year. It’s going to be a great one!
Head of School
Send your kids to school on the Catlin Gabel bus! Riding the bus is good for the environment, reduces parking lot overcrowding, and saves you time and money.
The 2009-10 bus schedules are posted on the school web site on the Bus Service page in the Parents section.
Parents must print out, complete, and sign two 2009-10 required documents (Department of Education Regulations and Parent Guidelines) authorizing bus ridership for this year. The documents are posted as PDF files on the Bus Service page. Please return the completed documents to the administrative assistant in your child’s division.
Two Catlin Gabel high school teachers have been selected to participate in prestigious international programs. Cynthia Beals was awarded a Fulbright Teacher Exchange grant to teach in Turkey by the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and Nichole Tassoni was chosen to attend a seminar on Dante in Italy sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Cynthia Beals will teach mathematics at Eyuboglu High School in Istanbul during the 2009-10 academic year. In return, Turkish teacher Nagme Karamustafaoglu will teach middle school mathematics at Catlin Gabel. Both were selected to take part in the prestigious and competitive Fulbright Classroom Teacher Exchange program, which is open to classroom teachers of any grade. Beals is one of approximately 60 U.S. teachers who will participate, one of only five teachers from the Pacific Northwest, and the only teacher going to Turkey.
After a three-day orientation in Washington, DC, Beals will travel to Istanbul to begin teaching on August 10. “I’ve always been interested in other cultures, and teaching abroad has always been a dream for me,” she says. “Head of school Lark Palma and Upper School head Michael Heath have been very supportive and positive. This is a great opportunity for my professional development, and for Catlin Gabel to broaden its community and learn from a teacher from another country. We will all benefit from a new perspective on a fascinating culture.”
You can read about Beals’s Fulbright Exchange and residence in Istanbul on her blog .
Catlin Gabel high school English teacher Nichole Tassoni is taking part in a six-week summer study of Dante’s Commedia in a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar based in Siena, Italy. The high school teachers in the seminar have been exploring Dante’s world by visiting cultural and artistic sites important to Dante and his poem in cities that include Florence, Rome, Orvieto, San Gimignano, Ravenna, and Assisi. “The visits have really enriched the poem and its sense of history and culture,” says Tassoni. Discussion, collaborative learning, and writing are key components of the seminar experience, which ends August 6.
“I chose to apply to this seminar because I had never read Dante’s masterpiece before, and wanted to do so with a group of scholars,” says Tassoni. “The experience has been all that I hoped for. Our two instructors—Ronald Herzman from SUNY-Geneseo and William Stephany from the University of Vermont—are passionate, life-long experts on Dante, and the 14 other teachers in the seminar are amazing to work with. Of course, being in Siena has been wonderful!"
We gathered at the Catlin parking lot early Monday morning, 8 students and 2 adults. After loading the bus and trailer with all our gear, we set off for the long drive to the Wallowa Mountains in NE Oregon. On arrival in Richland we were trained in the care and loading of llamas, who were to carry most of our gear for the next 6 days. We said goodbye to the llamas after this brief meeting and went to our forest service campsite on Eagle Creek for a chili and cornbread dinner and a lot of Frisbee.
The next morning we packed up and headed off to link up with the llamas. After a loooooong drive on dusty dirt roads we finally arrived at the Main Eagle trailhead on the southern edge of the Wallowas. Getting the llamas saddled and loaded the first time took a long time. Fortunately their owner Gary patiently stayed and helped us do this. Finally we were ready to set off into the wilderness. We filled out our wilderness permit and started up the trail along Eagle Creek. In places the trail was narrow and bush lined, so we had to hike single file. The llamas could be linked together like a train, so that 7 students did not each need to take one. The trail crossed the creek twice on sturdy wooden bridges. We stopped for lunch at a narrow gorge, the first spot in a long while where the trail widened enough for us to get off it. After the second bridge, the way got wilder as the trail continued up the glacially carved valley. We had to ford the next stream. There was a log for humans to cross on, but the llamas had to be led through the icy water. At the next junction, the sign was gone, but it was pretty obviously the fork we were seeking. We forded the main stream to find the steep climb to Bear Lake. The water was so cold it was almost unbearable. It was quite late at this point, due to the long drive, and the slowness of the loading and leading of the llamas, so we decided to camp in the beautiful streamside meadow, instead of making the freezing crossing and the steep ascent to Bear Lake. We found a wonderful campsite, even complete with showers! (Some previous campers had left two sun showers hanging on a log.) We unloaded the llamas, pitched tents and made dinner.
The next day we pushed on up the valley. We reached its end and climbed up a side trail to Eagle Lake, formed in the cirque left by the glacier that once filled and carved this valley. The llamas had trouble negotiating the switchbacks and the llama trains had to be uncoupled so that the llamas could be led individually. As the students had already become quite fond of the llamas, and knowledgeable about their quirks and characteristics, this was actually a welcome turn of events. Although it was July, there was still a lot of ice floating on the lake. We had lunch on a rock with grand views over the lake and down the valley we had ascended to reach it. The descent to the junction with the main trail went more smoothly that the climb up had gone. We continued up the main trail towards Cached Lake. The trail had just emerged from being covered with snow, and no maintenance had yet been done. We ran into an area with a lot of downed trees. Some we were able to skirt by leading the llamas around them. Some we cut out of the way with a collapsible saw. But then the trail-blocking trees became too big and too numerous to deal with. It took a half hour of scouting to find a way around the extensive blow down (or perhaps avalanched down) area. Finally we arrived at Cached Lake, and set up camp. There was snow in the area, so we could refrigerate our milk and dessert pudding. We had a fire that night, and smores were made and enjoyed.
The following day we hoped to make it over the pass and down to the Minam River. We broke camp and loaded up the llamas. The trail led ever higher. We got above the tree line, which meant ever grander vistas opened to our eyes. It also meant increasing snow cover, and the trail became ever more challenging to find and follow. In spots we had to go cross county considerable distances in order to try to keep the llamas happy. (They didn’t like crossing the snow.) We were successful in getting the llamas to within 200 feet of the pass. Right at the pass a steep cornice on a lingering snow bank covered the trail. Despite extensive scouting, we could not find a safe way to get the llamas over or around this obstacle. We left them picketed on a relatively level spot by the trail, and made our own way up to the top of the ridge. Here there was a wide, level meadow, a great place for lunch. It was also high enough that we once again had cell phone reception, in the heart of the wilderness, and could call and change our pick up point for the end of the trip, as we would now have to backtrack on our route, instead of making a loop as originally planned. We admired the panoramic view from here – back down the valley up which we had come, and on into the deep, green valley of the Minam River, from which the llamas were now excluded. Entranced and enticed by this tempting view, we followed the trail some distance along the ridge, until it began to descend more steeply. Reluctantly, we turned around, returned to the llamas and led them back to Cached Lake, where we remade camp. As it was yet early, a group of adventurous explorers set off to investigate the far end of the lake and beyond. They climbed up a long snow bank to cross a rocky ridge. On the far side was an unexpected, hidden lush green meadow beside a burbling, crystal clear stream. A fine place for a delicious snack. They were tempted to linger there, but the call of the higher places upstream sang siren-like. So they went on. The way got steeper and looser and slipperier, but they persevered, even when forward progress slowed to creeping on hands and knees. Finally a summit with a wide level space was reached. After a rest, with congratulations and commendations all around (and a bit of first aid work), it was decided that descent was too dangerous by the route taken upward, so rather than go down again, the group continued upward to link up with the trail from earlier in the day. The adventure thus became a loop hike, and ending up circling the lake (and then some).
On the day after this, we returned to our magnificent meadow campsite by Eagle Creek. As this was a short, all downhill hike, we set up camp early, then set off to ford the creek and hike without the llamas up to Bear Lake, where we had intended to camp the first night. Once we got there, we found that we actually had a much better campsite down by the creek in the meadow. We ate our lunch in a much smaller campsite beside the lake, which was surrounded on two sides by immensely high, steep cliffs, and on the others by low banks with small, scraggly trees on them. After lunch we split into two groups. One (the sheep) returned to camp to nurse their burgeoning blisters, while the goats hiked a spur trail to Looking Glass Lake. It seemed much farther than the 1.6 miles indicated on the map to this dammed lake, but once the initial steep climb was over, the trail was scenically spectacular. We crossed small snow banks which provided cool, refreshing melt water for our water bottles. A small tarn nestled in a broad meadow of blooming heather, transporting us momentarily to Scotland. Our first view of our destination lake was from above, and we had to descend on extensive snow banks (by skiing on our shoes) to its banks. This lake was surrounded by granite rocks that plunged directly into the deep water. On some of them the glacial polish and striations left by the glacier that carved out the lake bed were quite evident. The clear water was so enticing that all the students plunged into the water for a refreshing, icy dip. Well, most of them plunged - the last whined and whinged his slow way in. A swim out to a drowned tree was followed by a hasty retreat to dry off on sun-warmed but snow-surrounded rocks.
Our final full day started with a short hike down the valley to a campsite not so far from the trail head. We found a shaded site right by rushing Eagle Creek. After setting up camp and picketing out the llamas, we set out to explore the “not maintained” trail to Arrow Lake. It climbed steeply up the side of the valley. Up and up and up it went. After a stream crossing we found a well situated rock with a grand view for lunch. But we were not yet at the top, so we continued on, going up ever more slowly, but keeping at it, until we’d climbed over 2000 feet, and were back in the land of snow. False summits kept taunting us, making us think we were nearly at our goal, only to find another, higher ridge behind the one we had just topped. At last, though, we reached the actual top, and the trail began to descend. In the distance, too far in the distance, across a too deep canyon, we spied the lake we thought we were heading for, a snow free pond glimpsed from the snow blocked pass two days earlier, that we had thought to gain more easily by this alternate route. But it was too far, the time too late, and the feet too tired to try to reach it today. With heavy hearts we turned around and returned to a small, ice berg infested lake at the pass we had just crossed. We sat down wearily for a well deserved peanut M&M break. Careful perusal of the topo map revealed that this was actually the Arrow Lake we sought, not the tantalizing traitor we had seen in the distance. Although disappointed in our ambition of being able to swim in the lake, deterred by the icebergs and the wind blown surface dust that collected at our end of the lake, we were nonetheless encouraged to realize that we had in fact reached our goal after all. The descent went much more quickly and easily. We were able to appreciate things we had missed on the way up, like the wild beauty of a corkscrew tree burned out in a spiral by lightning.
The last morning we got up an hour earlier than the previous mornings, to be sure of making the trailhead pickup for the llamas. We were all such practiced hands at breaking camp and llama loading that we managed our quickest wake-up call to walk out time ever. Even the llamas knew something was up, and for the first time all trip hiked at a pace over 2 miles per hour. (Previously the best we’d been able to average with them was 1 mile an hour.) As a result, we were back to the bus quite early, and were able to unpack and organize our things, as well as have some lunch and play some Frisbee before Gary and his family showed up to claim the llamas. All too soon they were gone, and we began the long drive back to Portland.
Now we are left with great memories of the camaraderie of camp and trail; the magnificent scenery; the fabulous, filling food; the foibles of the llamas; the evenings of smores, Frisbee flinging and card playing; and the adventures of drinking melted snow, steep scrambles, shoe skiing, swimming, wilderness cuisine preparation and consumption, and trail finding. Oh for another such trip!
Please watch the slideshow of this trip by clicking on any of the below photos and pressing "play." Enjoy!
This past July a group of eleven headed south from Portland with two ambitious goals: to surf the fabled breaks of NoCal and to make a traverse of the Grayback Massif (the highest peak in the Klamath Range). What started as an experiement became an unforgettable road trip. Waves were ridden, summits were tagged, friends were made, laughs were abundant... we were sorry to see it all end. Please click on a photo, press play, turn on some music (Baba O'Riley!), and watch the slideshow. Enjoy!
From the Spring 2009 Caller
By Mike Moran
Thanks to our grant from the Malone Family Foundation, we can award scholarships to the brightest and most deserving students
In 2005 Catlin Gabel received an extraordinary $2 million gift from the Malone Family Foundation to establish the Malone Scholars Program. This program allows top-level students to obtain scholarships at the finest independent secondary schools in the country. In awarding the grant the Malone Foundation acknowledged Catlin Gabel as a national leader in independent education.
Selection criteria included academic caliber, quality of the staff, accommodations for gifted and talented students, strong enrichment programs, attention to the individual student’s needs, financial strength and stability, commitment to financial aid, and an economically, culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse population. Catlin Gabel is the only school in Oregon to have received this honor and one of only 25 in the country.
Currently we have eight Malone Scholars in the student body. Their talents are extraordinary and diverse, each with the passion for learning that motivates them to be such remarkable students. From the moment they stepped on campus each has displayed the traits that make Catlin Gabel students exceptional—individuality, creativity, and a willingness to succeed.
We checked in on Malone Scholar Cameron McClure ’07 to see what was going on in her life. Cam was a terrific student while at Catlin Gabel, and she shows how the generous gift from the Malone Family Foundation allowed her to reach for what might not have been possible, and how Catlin Gabel’s progressive education shaped her desire for learning.
After graduating from Catlin Gabel, Cam headed to Columbia University in New York. She flourished at Columbia, but she left after she realized it was not a good fit for her. She craved a more intimate community where she felt she could make a difference. Cam says she missed Catlin Gabel, where the faculty and staff encouraged dialogue, and the students were the focus of the school.
“I am currently in Portland, tutoring math at Catlin Gabel and working on transfer applications to a smaller liberal arts college in the same spirit as Catlin Gabel,” says Cam. “This summer I’m heading to New York to work as a residential teaching assistant for Upward Bound, as I did last summer. The program serves New York City high school students who are either low-income or first-generation college bound. The program provides academic help, support, and college guidance to teenagers. At least on a small scale, I can pay forward the gift Catlin Gabel and the Malone Foundation gave me.
“At Catlin Gabel, I was so grateful to the Malone Foundation because the scholarship allowed me to attend, but I don’t think I grasped the significance of the gift,” says Cam. “If I had not received full aid—if I received just enough to make it impossible to turn down, and thus had to work a part-time job—I could never have participated as fully at Catlin Gabel.”
The Malone Scholars Program is just one of our many scholarship funds provided by foundations and individual donors. What our students on financial aid have brought and will continue to bring to the school is of enormous value. Catlin Gabel would not be the caliber of school we are without these students. Financial aid scholarship funds, like the Malone Scholars Program, help keep us strong.
Mike Moran is Catlin Gabel’s director of foundation relations.
From the Spring 2009 Caller
Farewell, Pam McComas
Pam McComas, head of Beginning School and associate head of school, left Catlin Gabel in June to become director of the K-6 division of the 860-student Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California. Pam was instrumental in leading many large-scale projects during her 14 years at the school, including the process for evaluating faculty and administrators, the Imagine 2020 conference in 2006, and the creation and implementation of a schoolwide curriculum map. She also served for a year as interim head of the Upper School.
“I often say one of my wisest decisions was to hire Pam the summer I arrived at school,” said school head Lark Palma. “She has been a mentor for me in early childhood education, a wise counsel, and the creator of the professional development program and curriculum rubric we use today. If you have been in a meeting she has facilitated, you know her talent for bringing folks to consensus. Most of all, her heart, her progressive education DNA, and her voice always reminding us to walk our talk and live our philosophy has helped keep us centered. I know how lucky her new school, colleagues, and school head are in bringing her into their community.”
“I am thrilled with the prospect of a new adventure and sad to be leaving this remarkable school. This life transition brings me close to my two-year-old granddaughter, Rita, and that’s a good thing. I will miss Catlin Gabel and everyone here terribly, and the Beehive will always hold a special place in my heart. Interestingly, after 14 years at Catlin Gabel, I will be leaving in June along with the graduating ‘lifer’ seniors who started at the same time I did in the Beginning School,” said Pam. Hannah Whitehead, 6th grade humanities teacher and former Beehive teacher, will serve as interim head of the Beginning School.
A Brief Musing on My First Two Years at Catlin Gabel
By Michael Heath, Upper School head
Here’s what amazed me first when I arrived at Catlin Gabel in the fall of 2007—that students shape their lives a lot more here than at other schools, that we expect them to take an idea and make it happen. I just came back from our annual kidnap day (a student idea!), where the Upper School student government whisks away their classmates. The student officers stayed behind to clean up the community center where they had spent the day, and I was so proud of them. They had done it all, and done it all well.
The collective wisdom of Clint Darling and John Keyes in my first year made a significant difference. It speaks volumes about both of them that even though they had each held my position, not once did either of them say, “Well, when I was Upper School head, we did it this way!” And the other faculty members have proved to be extraordinary, and supportive. I’d like the faculty to see each other in action more, because they are so uncommonly good, and sometimes when you’re teaching in that bubble, working hard with your head down, you don’t hear that enough.
Parents here genuinely trust the teachers, the school, and the peer groups their sons and daughters find themselves in. It makes such a difference to be in this kind of school. When I hear feedback from parents, it’s typically a good point about how to make something better—or we end up having a great conversation about the various facets of an issue. It shapes the way we do things, to a large extent.
It is difficult to capture the totality of my first two years. So much has happened, and there is so much I love about this community. But what I quickly learned about Catlin Gabel people is that they are inspiring, generous, and welcoming.
Cindy Beals's students survey Rummage shoppers for vital info
From the Spring 2009 Caller
By Nadine Fiedler
Catlin Gabel students are all over the Rummage Sale, but Cindy Beals’s statistics students are unique: they’re the ones with the clipboards politely asking shoppers to fill out surveys.
Cindy and her honors math class have worked for the past five years to provide information the school needs to run a better Rummage Sale. The project was the brainchild of Rummage coordinator Lesley Sepetoski, who wanted to find out more about the demographics of the sale’s shoppers. Who’s buying what, and when? How far did people drive to get there, and is Expo a good location? What were they hoping to find? Lesley asked Cindy if she might be interested in involving students in finding the answers, and Cindy knew it would be a perfect fit for her yearlong statistics class. It would allow her and the students to apply the theory they learn, and it would give them a chance to see the messy process of statistics in the real world.
The cycle begins early in the fall, when Lesley tells them what she’d like to know. The class thinks about possible questions: how the question order makes a difference, or how slightly different wording can provoke different answers. Then they create their questionnaire.
An important aspect is learning the right way to approach Rummage shoppers so they see the students as respectful and will take the time to answer. “It’s scary for some kids to approach the shoppers, but that’s another part of the learning experience. All of them end up talking to people they wouldn’t have much chance to otherwise, and it gets them to see a different part of Rummage,” says Cindy.
When the sale arrives in late fall, each student first samples shoppers in one location for just one hour; the information from all the students shows the changes over the course of a day. Next the students all go at once, and each samples shoppers in a different department to see how that varies. The students learn to analyze the data, and in the spring they present their finished report to Lesley and the Rummage committee.
The students’ surveys have resulted in real improvements to the sale. When it was clear from the survey that long lines were a serious problem, the committee decided to have seniors work as cashiers, speeding up the checkout process. “Having their work result in actual changes inspires them to do a thorough job so that we affect future Rummage sales,” says Cindy.
Cindy is a huge fan of the Rummage Sale, which makes this a doubly fulfilling project for her: “It’s exhilarating for me to see learning happen. And Rummage is such an amazing thing we do for so many reasons: because it provides financial aid for our students, as a service to the wider community, for getting out our name, for recycling, and for drawing the Catlin Gabel community together, including alumni. I love that I can support Rummage as a part of my job.”
Cindy was honored with a Fulbright Award to teach in Turkey in 2009-10. She says she has “insatiable wanderlust,” and took a sabbatical in 2000–01 for a trip around the world. At CGS she has led or chaperoned trips to Turkey and India, where many members of her family have lived for generations. A native of northern California, Cindy earned a BA in math from Michigan Tech and an MS from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Before coming to Catlin Gabel in 2004, she taught at two schools in Michigan and at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire.