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Alumni News, Spring 2014

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

MEET ALUMNI DIRECTOR SPRINAVASA BELL BROWN ’02

My inspirational Catlin Gabel moment
I was lucky enough to be a student when esteemed author and lecturer Mark Mathabane was a faculty member. He was a soft-spoken man with intense eyes, a gracious spirit, and somber intensity about him. He was a true kindred spirit. He led a trip to New York hosted by the student group SPEED/UJIMA, during which I realized my eagerness to learn more about the enigma of race, diversity, class, and social injustice not just in America but worldwide. He influenced my love of African history and African American literature and inspired me to obtain a degree in African American studies from Oberlin College.
 
What is most different about Catlin Gabel 12 years later?
This is a tough question, but if I had to choose one thing it would be the food. I remember having sandwiches in the Barn, and bagels, lots of bagels. Yesterday for lunch I had an amazingly flavorful Vietnamese pork sandwich, and last week a delicious patty melt with locally raised beef. Hen Truong brings traditional and international flavors to the Barn menu. By doing so he is planting the seed for appreciation of the global diversity of food, which is truly Portland.
 
The future of alumni engagement
I envision a unique model for alumni relations built around the pillars of Catlin Gabel: focus on bold thinking, embracing innovation, and service to the community at large. I believe the future of alumni engagement includes the use of technology to provide access, bringing our community and our network closer while underscoring the value of personal connections. It’s also in recognizing our past challenges and facing them head on. My goal is to achieve Catlin Gabel’s unique alumni model with intentionality in programming, events, and engagement opportunities. Please stay tuned to further developments!
 
It’s all about relationships
The alumni relations office would love to hear from you! Please send us an email with your up-to-date address, phone number, and email, and let us know if you have changed jobs or career fields, got married, moved, or had children. Stay in touch by following us on Facebook @ CatlinGabelAlums, joining our Linkedin group, and signing up for the e-news.
 
If you want to go one step further, then consider joining the alumni board or regional chapters. As part of the alumni board you can help plan service opportunities and events, take part in the oral history program, plan alumni weekend, and much more. Please contact Owen Gabbert ’02, alumni board president, at ogabbert@gmail.com or Sprinavasa Bell Brown ’02, alumni program director, at browns@catlin.edu for more details.
 
Office of Alumni Relations, alumni@catlin.edu, 503-297-1894 ext. 424

Catlin Gabel News, Spring 2014

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

NEWS FROM HONEY HOLLOW

Lark Palma was celebrated with the “Ovation for Lark,” a performance of the music and dance that she loves. “The talent and heart that came together warmed my soul,” she said. . . . Middle School head Barbara Ostos has been accepted to the National Association of Independent School’s Fellowship for Aspiring School Heads. . . . A Caller article by Lower School head Vicki Roscoe, “Grades Get a D–,” was reprinted in Independent School magazine. . . . Upper School history teacher Dave Whitson is the new director of the Palma Scholars Program. . . . Julia Cooke ’01 and Bosnian writer Ismet Prcic were this spring’s distinguished visiting writers. Julia read from her book about Cuban culture, The Other Side of Paradise. . . . PLACE director George Zaninovich facilitated a workshop at Punahou School’s Wo International Center in Honolulu focused on partnering classrooms and schools with surrounding communities. . . . U.S. Congressman Earl Blumenauer met with students from the CatlinSpeak newspaper and student government before speaking at an assembly.
 

OUR AMAZING STUDENTS

For the fifth consecutive year, Catlin Gabel sent a mock trial team to the state competition. . . . Catlin Gabel’s team won the Oregon History Bowl Competition. . . . Katie Zechnich ’14 is a National Merit Scholarship winner. . . . Ian Fyfield ’14 and Kallan Dana ’15 were solo finalists in the Oregon Thespians Northwest Regional Acting Competition. . . . An essay by Annika Holliday ’20 about the “uselessness of stuff” won the middle school section of the YES! National Student Writing Competition. . . . Emma Latendresse ’20 and Charlotte Speyer-Stocks ’19 tied for 2nd place in the Oregon Poetry Association contest for grades 6–8 . . .The New York Times ran a photo by Zulema Young- Toledo ’17 in a series about “light in the city.” . . . Valerie Ding ’15 won a gold medal and a $1,000 scholarship, and Kristin Qian ’14 won a silver medal, at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artists Competition. They were also winners in the Van Buren Concerto Competition. . . . Kellie Takahashi ’15 won a silver key for science fiction and fantasy writing in the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers Scholastic Awards contest. . . . Grace Masback ’17 is one of 10 high school students nationwide to participate in the U.S. State Department-sponsored Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program. . . . Daniel Chiu ’17 won 1st place at the regional U.S. History Bee, and went on to national competition; he also won the Oregon History Bee Individual Championship, where Ian Hoyt ’17 came in 3rd. Ian also qualified for the U.S. Geography Olympiad.
 

SCIENCE AND MATH KUDOS

Daniel Chiu ’17 was one of fewer than 200 students nationwide to qualify for the USA Jr. Math Olympiad exam. . . .The Middle School Science Olympiad team placed 2nd in state, and the Upper School Science Olympiad team placed 3rd in state. . . . After winning regional fairs, Valerie Ding ’15 and Nikhil Murthy ’17 competed and won numerous awards at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair. . . . The team of Evë Maquelin ’16, Gregor Peach ’16, Kellie Takahashi ’15, and Y Yen Gallup ’15 took 3rd place in a statewide computer programming contest sponsored by the Technology Association of Oregon Foundation. . . . Team Startstruck, a Middle School robotics team, won 1st place in the software category at state.
 

FLAMING CHICKENS FEED THE FIRE OF SUCCESS

Our robotics team won the Championship Innovations Controls award, which recognizes the team with the most creative software, at the FIRST world championships. That followed the district Chairman’s Award for increasing appreciation and expansion of STEM education.
 

KUDOS TO OUR ATHLETES

Several students won national recognition in their sports: Luke Selliken ’16, kart racing; Chloe Lewis ’18 and Logan Bye ’16, ice dance; Isabella Pozzi ’19, gymnastics; Alex Lam ’15, fencing; Anushka Gupta ’21, squash. Receiving state or regional recognition were Matthew Bernstein ’15, racquetball; Tristan Furnary ’16 and Adrienne Tam ’24, swimming; Mahala Lambert ’24, Sydney Slusher ’23, and Li Kamau Lambert ’20, taekwondo.  
 

Students at the Center of Their Learning

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8th grade teacher David Ellenberg empowers his students to find their voices

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Adopting an idea from the ancient Greeks, 8th grade history teacher David Ellenberg provides a way for his students to reflect deeply on their studies—and for their voices to be heard. His classroom is enlivened over the course of the year by innovative ways of teaching and learning as they delve into American democracy, the Holocaust, and modern politics from the Cold War on. His students have opportunities to express what they’ve learned, ask hard questions, and engage these complex topics in two key ways: debates and Socratic seminars.
 
By having his students take part in debates about difficult topics, David teaches them the critical skills of taking a single point of view and defending it, and learning how to articulate and defend both sides of an issue. “Topics such as privacy, death penalty, abortion, student rights, end of life decision-making, and marijuana use will face these soon-to-be voting 8th grade students,” he says. David encourages them to go beyond basic information as they prepare for debates. “They dig for supporting quotes, statistics, and personal stories. These elements enrich their arguments,” he says. They improve their skills in public speaking by taking on a classmate who is arguing against them, and their peers score the debates and share their own ideas. In the process of these debates, these controversial topics come alive for the students in a way they will never forget.
 
The Socratic seminars bring a different focus—one that teaches students to dig into their materials for aspects that excite them, confuse them, or just make them see history in a new light. These open-ended discussions bring an element of unpredictability into their studies as students learn from each other by talking through ideas that spark them.
 
One sunny day in April, David’s 8th graders took part in a Socratic seminar centering on their readings about the Cold War. They entered a totally rearranged room, with a cluster of tables in the center of the room—the “fishbowl”—and the remaining tables around the edges. As they filed in, the students seemed chatty and happy to have this change of pace, and nervous and eager to share the questions they had for one another.
 
“What are seminar techniques?” asked David. The 8th graders’ respond: “Pay attention.” “Are they thinking, listening, responding, speaking?” “Is everyone participating equally?” “Do not dominate!”
 
“We should encourage others, saying things like, ‘as Lydia said.’ There should be lots of answers to a question. Extend it, go deeper,” says David. He divides the students into two groups, with partners who will observe them and give them notes at the end of the session. The first group moves to the fishbowl, then the next after several minutes, and what takes place is a real and provocative conversation among students who have not only read their materials, but absorbed their import and placed them into the context of their prior learning in history.
 
They pose their questions and observations for the group to discuss, and they’re good ones: “Do you think war solves problems of control?” “What would make someone believe someone else is a Communist?” “What made Joseph McCarthy who he was?” “Why is war good for business?” “What is it like to grow up and be given your opinions?” “Would American attitudes have been different if the media wasn’t creating fear?” After initial hesitation common to 13–14-year-olds, they take comfort in the fact that everyone has something to offer, and begin offering their ideas. They are careful to include their classmates and keep the conversation moving. The atmosphere is respectful and non-judgmental during this freewheeling sharing of ideas, although the students don’t hesitate to disagree or challenge each other. It’s an exhilarating example of a teacher meeting his goal: for David, that goal is having students at the center of their learning, building critical thinking skills and their own understanding of complicated world affairs.
 
“Studying government and society brings students to the moment, to the ‘now’ where they live. It’s their first time to begin thinking about citizenship,” says David. “It’s so natural for children to look at the world around them and take it for granted. When you study society and government, you realize it’s not just there: it comes from a long process.
 
“I like to think that by the end of the class they pay more attention to current events and are more excited about becoming voters in four years. When we study the founding documents of American society, I bring modern-day topics into the curriculum. Students consider themes from the civil rights movement, the use of Native American images for high school mascots, and marriage equality, for example. I like to think that they recognize that what a government does really affects life on a personal level, and that they can confront inequalities that they come across—that they can speak up and won’t stay silent,” he says.
 
David prepares his students for this discussion-based class—and makes sure their voices are heard—using many other techniques besides debate and seminars. Students read at home and respond to guiding questions. His 8th graders write in classroom journals to “prime the pump” of discussion and often work in small groups to prepare for larger class discussions. “We use shared documents. We teach them to take ownership of their learning. I put them in front of the class and remind them that they can do better, that learning is a team sport,” he says.
 
David is undeniably a masterful teacher. Students respond easily to his calm and firm manner in the classroom, where he always shows the consideration he asks his students to show one another. When there’s a little too much typical 8th-grade talk or squirming in the class, he simply calls attention to it, and miraculously, those students stop and refocus. He commands respect because he gives it generously.
 
David’s own interest in the world led him to teach history, he says. After earning a BA at Brown University in biology, he taught both science and history at the Athenian School in Danville, California. Catlin Gabel hired him in 1991, and after teaching the 6th grade core class, science, and history, he found his niche in 8th grade history 10 years ago. It turns out that’s the sweet spot for his passions and talents. “History for me is personal,” says David. “Our stories are a part of history. I wonder how historians in the future will sift through so many millions of tweets and emails. We’ve done well moving away from history as a study of wars and treaties among European powers. What we know is that individual stories are what really matter.”

Nadine Fiedler is the Caller editor and Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations.

DAVID'S STUDENTS' INTERPRETATIONS OF COLD WAR THEMES

 

 

Critically acclaimed author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore ’94 reading at Powell’s on July 1

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Alumna Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s third novel, Bittersweet, is a suspenseful and cinematic beach read. Join her at Powell’s on Burnside for a reading on Tuesday, July 1, at 7:30 p.m.

About Bittersweet: Secrets unfold when a scholarship student at a prestigious East Coast college visits her roommate’s pedigreed New England family.

“A page-turner riddled with stubborn clues, a twisty plot and beguiling characters.” —Kirkus, starred review

“Beverly-Whittemore’s novel is suspenseful and intriguing… Her short chapters, with their cliff-hanger endings, will keep readers turning pages late into the night.” —Booklist

“The theme of Paradise Lost courses through this coming-of-age tale tinged with mystery.” —Publishers Weekly

“A suspenseful tale of corruption and bad behavior among wealthy New Englanders.” —Library Journal

“Evokes Gone Girl with its exploration of dark secrets and edge-of-your-seat twists.” —Entertainment Weekly, A- review

“Like a Downton-in-Vermont, Bittersweet takes swift, implausible plot turns, and its family secrets flow like a bottomless magnum of champagne, but Beverly¬Whittemore succeeds in shining a light into the dark, brutal flaws of the human heart.” —New York Times Book Review
 

Gabby Bishop '14 on her experiences as CatlinSpeak co-editor

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

I came to Catlin Gabel in my sophomore year from Grant HS. . . . I had never done any journalistic writing before.
 
One of the favorite stories I wrote came about because I heard that a friend was involved in a protest against austerity measures in November 2012 with the Portland Student Union. There was no permit to walk in the street, but they walked near Lloyd Center, and the police pepper-sprayed them. Researching it was a very long process of asking for and being denied access to public records. . . . It was a fun article to write, but I found the process to be the most interesting part.
 
Editors Simon McMurchie, Nico Hamacher, and I each lead groups of three to four people, and each group publishes every third week. It keeps the workload lower but allows for more in-depth articles. The editors lead the groups, create schedules, help students come up with ideas, and edit the articles.
 
Our advisers Pat Walsh and George Zaninovich review the ideas and content to see if we are on the right track with angles and help facilitate class discussions. We talk about current events and about possible articles. We talk about how to pump an article up or offer angles so a student can choose a direction if they are having trouble writing.
 
CatlinSpeak is a creative outlet for me. Catlin Gabel has an open curriculum, but CatlinSpeak is astronomically more open. Writing about what I’m interested in is very rewarding, especially when I think I’ve done a good job or learned from it. As editors, it’s gratifying to see other students fulfill their full potential. The education offered here is amazing, and students accomplish wonderful things. CatlinSpeak is just one way.
 
I guess I just have an open mind. I’m very determined about things and have opinions, but they’re not set, and I want to learn more. If people ask me for my opinion and I’m not educated enough, that drives me to find out more.
From an interview in March 2014

»Read about her co-editor Simon McMurchie '15

My Introduction to Journalism

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The CatlinSpeak newspaper provides an incredible learning opportunity

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Simon McMurchie '15

I had little idea what to expect when I entered into CatlinSpeak, the student newspaper, in my sophomore year. I was aware that it had only just become an official class, moving beyond its traditional club status, and it was clear its presence in the community in the school community was growing from year to year. Still, I wasn’t quite sure how I would fit into it, especially as a feckless youngster in a class of accomplished juniors and seniors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I was welcomed right away. My editor, Fiona Noonan, who graduated at the end of that year, was a phenomenal writer and leader in the class, and as much could be said of the rest of its members. What at first had been a typical course, consisting of semiimportant assignments that begged to be completed half-heartedly, quickly transformed into a wonderful opportunity to be ambitious and creative in a loosely structured system.
 
I wrote an article on the quirks of the electoral college, I attempted to tackle the complex and convoluted relationship between federal and state legislation, I submitted a 4,000- word piece that previewed each and every one of the 32 college football bowl games that was met with a smile and an editor’s critical eye (the final version was a tidy 1,500). I interviewed, among others, a member of college basketball’s March Madness selection committee, and gained the valuable experience of teasing out the words and phrases I needed for a quality piece.
 
With little instruction, and a healthy dose of freedom, I found I could research any topic I found interesting, learn how to synthesize it into something meaningful, and then publish and share it with the community. Suddenly the pieces I wrote for school extended beyond the essay process: my grandfather emailed me about a piece; I found myself speaking to friends and classmates about something I had written; Peter Shulman, a history teacher, approached me and said one of my articles had sparked an interesting debate between him and a friend.
 
In January of 2013, CatlinSpeak’s advisers, Upper School teachers George Zaninovich and Patrick Walsh, reached out to non-seniors working on the paper to feel out interest in filling the positions of the graduating editors. I leaped at the opportunity, sensing the chance to push further my role in the class, and was lucky enough to be selected along with Nico Hamacher, a fellow sophomore, and Gabby Bishop, then a junior.
 
Changes were proposed for the new year, including a switch to daily news updates in place of the traditional weekly editions. Most ideas were student-driven, and the structure of the class was largely left up to discussions between the editors-to-be and the advisers of the course. All of a sudden I found myself helping to design a curriculum, the type of responsibility I would never have expected of myself, but which presented a wonderful and exciting opportunity.
 
Summer came and went; with its departure came the arrival of a new crop of writers ready to forge a new identity for the class. Daily news began without a hitch, and even as new writing styles and heavier workloads were introduced, students produced an incredible number of quality pieces.
 
Lauren Fogelstrom, a current junior and a newly appointed editor-to-be, followed an interest in the issue of youth homelessness, writing a piece focused specifically on the issue in Washington County. While it would have been simple and easy to do the entirety of the research online, Lauren reached out to nonprofits in the area and directly interviewed kids on the streets. She wrote an article that felt authentic and relatable, going beyond the requirements to produce something with a greater level of meaning.
 
Trevor Tompkins, a senior fond of writing about basketball and hip-hop culture, visited De La Salle North Catholic High School for its Black History Month celebration and reacted so positively that he wrote an article both describing his visit and, to some degree, pointing out the lack of effort by the Catlin Gabel community to promote discussion on issues of racial diversity.
 
Trevor’s story is key to what makes CatlinSpeak important. This is one of the few opportunities for students to have a voice in the community, to speak up and, at the very least, start the discussions that need to happen. Often, Catlin Gabel’s biggest problems are student-driven, and thus the response needs to come from within the student body. CatlinSpeak provides both a forum and a firestarter for meaningful discussion and, hopefully, change.
 
Looking to next year, fewer students have signed up than in years past, but to look at the numbers as a negative would be a mistake. With the ability to scrap the class structure and start from scratch at our fingertips, CatlinSpeak’s future is thrillingly malleable. Perhaps we’ll be a monthly periodical, with students required to report on topics within the school community. Perhaps we’ll make each edition focused on a particular issue, ranging from climate change to election coverage and more.
 
What makes CatlinSpeak such an incredible and unique opportunity is its nature as a class that will give back however much a student puts in. All it takes is a few inspired kids to create something great, and with some effort, those kids can make a difference in a community they care for deeply.
 
Simon McMurchie will be a senior this fall at Catlin Gabel.  

The Best Place to Live in the U.S.

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4th graders learn about our nation by becoming informed regional advocates

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Keli Gump

How can 4th graders learn lasting lessons about the variety and complexity of the United States? This year, for the first time, we’ve approached this question through the study of migration. This theme provides for authentic integration across all content areas, and weaves the richness of identity, diversity, and culture with geography and history in a way that is engaging and deep. We began close to home, learning about how we all come to be in Oregon today. Then we looked at how people came to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. The next layer to our migration study was all about the regions of the United States
 
Some of our guiding questions included:
What are the regions of the U.S.A. and why are they important?
Who moved to this region? When? Why?
Why do people stay? Why do people leave?
What is the relationship between people and the environment in each region?
 
Our students began with research about all of the regions of the U.S.A.—which we defined as the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West—and enjoyed trying to name all of the states from memory. No easy task! They formed literature circles around books set in the five main regions, all of which included geography, history, culture, and dilemmas specific to that area. Our conversations have been full and varied; students come prepared to pose complex questions to the group and explore regional vocabulary along with visualizing life in these areas.
 
From the novels we moved to in-depth study of the regions, naturally creating five groups in both 4th grade sections. Led by my colleague Maggie Bendicksen, 4th grade team members Courtney Plummer and John Hellman, and me, students immersed themselves in learning about the immigrants, history, topography, geography, natural and man-made resources, culture, language, weather, and traditions of their particular region. Some students spent most of their time on one project while others worked on two or three projects, depending on the needs of the teams and the requirements of the projects. Some were short and sweet, others much more in depth.
 
Another goal was to help students access a variety of resources; for this we received valuable help from Lisa Ellenberg and Dan Woytek in the Lower School library. The My America State Collection had a wealth of information on regional weather. Our weather experts were excited to interview KATU-TV meteorologist Rhonda Shelby in person to find out how to best create their weather reports. Our brochure experts pored over a collection of travel brochures the 4th grade team had collected. Students discovered helpful online resources such as “Learn About the States” at kids.usa.gov, National Geographic’s kids’ world atlas, and Wiki for Kids, which provided information about natural and manmade resources, political map features, and popular tourist attractions. Catlin Gabel parent Mike Ferron-Jones spoke about the main facets of marketing, which helped students develop a message for their target audience. Having kids get their hands all these resources helped them to become the experts themselves, while learning how to cite those sources.
 
What are the factors that help people choose where to settle?
We hoped to help children truly understand this question as they sought to answer it through our culminating project. Each group created a booth for our Regions Fair, which took place in March. We opened the doors to our students’ families as well as the greater Catlin Gabel community of adults.
 
Using their persuasive powers and now-vast knowledge of these regions, students tried to entice their visitors into moving to their region. From inside their carefully crafted and painted refrigerator-box booths, our 4th graders were armed with digital timelines, carefully designed travel brochures, hand-made souvenirs, giant maps, regional weather report videos, and foods from the regions that they had brought with them.
 
Our students took the food part of their research very seriously. They created recipe proposals using regional cookbooks from our library and presented them to Catlin Gabel adults who had lived in the various regions, who made the final food selections. Sumptuous Key lime pie from the Southeast was a huge hit. Who knew hasty pudding was made from corn meal? Kids from the Northeastern region group now do! From the two West regions, kids created applesauce and fruit kabobs. The Midwestern region groups were pleasantly surprised to find out how delicious cherry cobbler and cheesy potatoes turned out. The students learning about the Southeast region were so inspired by its foods that Nayan Murthy and his mother baked a king cake at home to bring to the fair, and Jake Andrichuk’s mother and grandmother cooked Frogmore stew in our kitchen.
 
The fair was a tremendous success, with a huge crowd of interested adults moving through, sampling the food, viewing the videos, and most of all engaging the students in discussions about their region. The students loved becoming mini-Chambers of Commerce, armed with the fruits of their research.
 
When asked at the end of our study what one challenge was to living in the West, Noga Tal showed how deeply she was immersed in her studies when she quickly answered, “For me, a challenge would be to work with the tough winters. Every five years, there is a major storm, but I successfully got through it this winter because school was let out.”
 
We love these kinds of units of inquiry because they offer authentic opportunities to integrate our work in literacy, math, and social studies. The students read about characters who live in the region, discuss challenges that real people have, learn to writing persuasively about a topic, study the distances between places, and conduct meaningful research. Along the way, students had opportunities to practice time management, teamwork skills, organization, and the art of persuasion.
 
As with all of our units of inquiry, we used the Understanding by Design model to think through what is enduring and essential for students to learn, and plan backwards from there. As Judith Pace wrote in Education Week in 2007, “depth of historical, political, and cultural understanding” is essential if this democracy is to survive and thrive. “Powerful social studies teaching helps students develop enduring understandings in the core content areas of civics, economics, geography, and history, and assure their readiness and willingness to assume citizenship responsibilities. Powerful social studies learning leads to a well-informed and civic-minded citizenry that can sustain and build on democratic traditions.”
 
We were thrilled to receive this email from parent Lorraine Guthry after the culminating event: ‘Thank you for putting on a terrific fair this afternoon. The kids were so excited and engaged and really putting the shine on their presentations. It was clear they all thought their region was the place to be! So many good ideas and sooooo much work! A very nice way to pull together the variety of things they studied and learned. . . . I especially loved that you allowed them to mix refrigerator boxes and glittery cootie catchers equally with videos on iPads and neat digital timelines on laptops. The kids seemed to consider them all equally valid media for expressing their ideas. That is great!”
 
Keli Gump has taught 4th grade at Catlin Gabel since 2011, and has also taught 4th grade for many years in several other regions of the USA. Thanks to parent Alex Ho for some of the Regions Fair photos.  

Who Tells the Stories? Who Benefits from the Stories? Who is Missing from the Stories?

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

Ann Fyfield’s 6th grade humanities class centers on these three key questions as they explore the world from ancient civilizations through modern notions of gender. Eight of her students reflect here on their year of learning, posed with the selfies they took for their unit on gender studies.

Aarushi

I loved the unit on ancient India. You can see from the past how they made great advances and made us who we are. . . . We can change the course of history. If a woman doesn’t fit a stereotype, she’s not accepted into society and is put into a box. Men are in a box, too, but it’s bigger. When we put up this wall of selfies, we put girls under “strength” and boys under “beauty.” But if we separated it by gender, which is who you are in your mind and not your body, it would be turned around and look different.
 

Kean

I originally thought history was boring and bland. With Ann, I find it more fascinating. She lets you state your opinions, and brings in creativity and interactive activities. Our project with imaginary civilizations made me really understand that civilizations aren’t black and white and are not at all simple. Our gender groups are a great place to talk about sexism and LGBT people. We can talk a lot more when we’re with our own gender. Stereotypes do not define who we are.
 

 

Samma

I never thought before about the fact that we’ve had no woman president, although half the people in the U.S. are women. . . . . Learning about the people who lived before us and the stuff that isn’t here now interests me.
 

Eamon

We talk a lot in class about social justice and gender issues. There’s an ancient Greek ideal, arête. It combines beauty and strength. The Greeks didn’t care about gender equality, but they still thought women could be strong. I like the recitation I did from Socrates’ Apologia. The meaning was that no one knows anything until they realize they don’t know that much.
 

Emma

We watched a video about beauty and how you perceive yourself. It’s a problem that people try to look a certain way, and maybe not eat. If you change the way you think about yourself you can change everything. Ann’s class is the most creative of my Middle School classes. One of my favorite things in her class was at the beginning of the year, when we interviewed someone in class and learned something about them. It made us feel like people cared about us, and the new kids got to meet somebody. . . . Middle School is different from Lower School because everything has higher stakes. You can’t turn in something that isn’t good, and you have to put in 105 percent to do your best.
 

James and Britt

James: We studied gender stereotypes in Ann’s class to see if gender affects learning. We were separated into boys’ and girls’ groups. I learned that most legends and myths are written by men or based on ideas from men.
 
Britt: I was surprised by girls’ stereotypes about boys. . . . I also liked the ancient civilizations project. My group studied Egypt and had to write an essay and do research. I chose to research the kingdoms, and James did the dynasties.
 
James: We made a video, with a green screen and fancy lights, and wrote the scripts.
 
Britt: Right now we’re inviting people to an imaginary dinner. I researched and invited Black Elk, Cornel West, St. Marcella, and Pericles.
 
James: We wrote about why these people merited invitations, and some were famous and some we hadn’t heard of. I invited Demosthenes, Chief Seattle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, César Chávez, and Jimmy Carter.
 

Ramya

One of Ann’s projects that made me think was the creation of an imaginary culture: how would I want a civilization to be? My partner and I made it powered by women, and it intrigued me. . . . If women were treated as equally as men, what would the world be like? I hope we have a woman president soon. A parent named Jason Stevens came and talked to us about ancient Greece. We found out that their culture was similar to ours right now because men overpower women and have more rights. When I’m an adult I want to make a difference, even if a small one, to advance my community and make it better.

What Does it Mean to Thrive?

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Third graders go beyond the tap, studying water from local to global

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Katie Boehnlein

The aim of the social studies curriculum in the Lower School has long been to engage students in the world through meaningful questioning and research. In 1st grade, students are introduced to big ideas such as community, family, and courage, moving on to study forests in 2nd grade, discover the depth of water issues in 3rd grade, simulate immigration in 4th grade, and research the food system in 5th grade. Social studies, by nature an interdisciplinary subject, teaches students writing and research skills as well as how to ask good questions about the world. And at Catlin Gabel, students are curious, Herb Jahncke and Marcelle Donehower’s 3rd grade classrooms being no exception. At the beginning of the school year, Herb and Marcelle pose an over– arching question to their students that guides much of their studies all year: “What does it mean to thrive?”
 
Throughout the year, the students identify what helps them succeed as learners as well as study what is essential for their communities to flourish. They anchor this study through the lens of our greatest resource: water. Over the course of their 3rd grade year, Herb and Marcelle’s students will discover the origins of their drinking water and expand their awareness of how water is used around the world. Walking into their classroom reveals an excited buzz of activity and learning. Some students are hard at work on individual computers editing stories, some meet in small groups with teachers, others sit in quiet corners, reading. The walls are lined with class projects, from math conjectures, to a map of Oregon showing its watersheds, to reports about marine animals, to class guidelines written inside rain drops. From the soft cushions overlooking the Catlin Gabel woods to a poster recording daily campus temperature, the classroom is a laboratory, rich with discovery.
 
Herb Jahncke has taught at CG since 2007 and was joined by Marcelle Donehower in 2012. They both have backgrounds in environmental education: Herb as an outdoor educator in Jamaica, Virginia, and on Catalina Island, and Marcelle in the West Linn/Wilsonville School District and at Springwater Environmental School in Oregon City. Their backgrounds make them perfectly suited to their task of teaching their students about local and global water issues. Both teachers say that they love teaching 3rd grade because the students are energetic and excited about learning. At this age, students are feeling more empowered and confident in claiming independence with their learning. They demonstrate an adept ability to grasp complex ideas, such as how maps are visual representations of our physical environment. Both Marcelle and Herb relish the opportunity of actively engaging their students in meaningful, interdisciplinary experiences, particularly in social studies.
 
Third grade social studies would be incomplete without expanding the classroom to the diverse ecosystems of Oregon itself. Students begin by visiting the city’s water source, the Bull Run Watershed; Eagle Creek to study salmon migration; and Bonneville Dam to investigate how water is used for power. They also visit a wastewater treatment facility to see what happens to water after it goes down the drain. During this first phase of field study, the students identify a water question that deserves more research and embark on their own inquiry project, where they independently research a topic and teach their new knowledge to the class. The entire Lower School social studies curriculum has embraced the “inquiry cycle,” where students ask questions rooted in prior knowledge or experiences, research these questions, present their knowledge, and then ask more questions. It is a cycle that is never complete.
 
Marcelle says, “If I do my job well, I expect that my students will not only be asking more questions, but craving more answers. To make this type of curriculum work the classroom community has to embrace the idea that every person in the classroom is both a student and a teacher.” Herb reflects that when both teachers and students enter into a practice of asking rich questions, a trusting community of learners develops, which allows students to take charge of what they are learning. Some examples of this year’s inquiry projects include researching the Port of Portland, looking at the use of water in agriculture, researching water in recreational activities, reading about bridges, studying salmon, and finding out how to build a dam.
 
As the year progresses, 3rd graders revisit the question, “What does it mean to thrive?”—but turn to the global community for answers. They investigate how people in other parts of the world get their water and what kids around the world need to thrive. These questions lead to a study of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, in which the 3rd graders examine similarities and differences in what children throughout the world deserve in their lives. Focusing on personal identity leads these students to understand more deeply their role as global citizens.
 
Marcelle and Herb also talk about how learning about differences can teach students about important qualities such as empathy and perseverance. In the classroom, students watch videos of how kids around the world help their families collect water (sometimes carrying several gallons for miles at a time!). During PE class, the students try this themselves by each carrying around the track milk cartons or buckets filled with water. One student said, “Today when I carried water, I got sooo wet. It was much harder than it looked. I can’t imagine doing that every day.” Students synthesize all this learning by picking a country that they want to know more about. After researching their country, they write realistic fiction stories about a child in their country and include a piece on water access.
 
Though Marcelle and Herb observe their students learning and growing immensely during their 3rd grade year, they recognize that creating effective curriculum is always a work in progress. They continually evaluate each unit, keeping what works and revising what doesn’t. Marcelle says that she is grateful to work in a place that values evolution of curriculum and student experiences. “We are always pushing the boundaries of what we can do,” she says. Both teachers already have ideas for improvement. This spring, they hope to add a service learning component to their study of marine ecosystems by picking up garbage at the beach. They also hope to build on this year’s excitement with global studies by working more on letter writing and civic engagement and evolve their use of technology in the classroom, perhaps Skyping with students from other countries. The 3rd grade year is one of discovery, with students learning about the civic and natural world through hands-on field experiences and studies of other cultures. At Catlin Gabel, water is used to illuminate so much more than just what we drink.
 
Katie Boehnlein has been the 5th grade teaching assistant at Catlin Gabel since 2012. She is an environmental educator and active writer about place-based education and experiential learning. Read her blog at kboehnlein.wordpress.com.

A Fanatic for Service

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Nkenge Harmon Johnson ’93, spokesperson for Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber, has worked in political communications for the U.S. Congress and President Obama

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Political nerds are service fanatics. You can’t really shake it off,” says Nkenge Harmon Johnson ’93. She should know. Three years shy of turning 40, she has already carved out a notable career in public service in U.S. and state politics. A brilliant, curious, and resilient woman, her driving force is her love for this country and an overwhelming ethic of inclusivity and giving back.
 
Since January 2014, Nkenge has served as communications director for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and as a member of the Governor’s executive team. “I deal with the media, elected officials, and the public about really important issues that affect lives today and affect the future of the state. It’s no small matter,” she says. It’s her voice you hear discussing state issues and policies, her words that you will read in the media about the Governor’s stance on crucial matters.
 
Nkenge does much more than talk about policy, though: she is an instrumental player in shaping the work of the Governor’s office. “Not only do I help define how to discuss the work at hand, I also identify ways to focus the work to the greatest effect,” she says. “It’s about identifying commonalities and differences where that is most important. The job is not just talking to people but helping us to listen.”
 
Nkenge began her work in political public service 11 years ago. After Catlin Gabel she attended Florida A&M University as a business and engineering major, and then attended Howard University Law School, which had recognized her potential and vigorously recruited her. Nkenge’s law school class was the first to graduate after 9-11, and the job situation was brutal for her and her peers because of the economic downturn. Her family has a strong military tradition, and she recounts the day when she was in D.C., trying to figure out how to serve her country in a time when the employment outlook for budding lawyers looked bleak. She looked up and noticed the Capitol, and realized: that’s what she could do to serve.
 
But Oregon was calling her back, so Nkenge returned home to take the Oregon Bar exam. She passed the Bar, and went as far as accepting a job at Legal Aid in Portland. She grabbed a chance to take a road trip before she began working—and was in a terrible car accident in Texas. “Every now and again I feel as though the universe puts its hand on my shoulder and says, ‘Slow down,’” Nkenge says. “I was lying on a hospital bed looking up and saying, Oh! Was I not paying attention to something?” That’s when she decided to act on her moment of inspiration and seek work on Capitol Hill.
 
When Nkenge finished her rehab and recovery from the accident, she began working as legislative counsel for U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, of Texas. Nkenge’s first experience with the duties of a press secretary came when she realized the haphazard nature of the communications coming from Lee’s office, and decided to be the gatekeeper for all public material. Although she yearned to practice law, she says, “The job was a natural fit for me to be talking to reporters and talking to the public and helping to shape messages, because I understood the underlying policy and motivations behind what I was saying. There’s nothing better than that.”
 
Growing weary of the politics of being in the minority party in the House, Nkenge worked for two years supporting national political campaigns as deputy press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her focus was outreach to stakeholders and media such as the African American, Spanish language, and faith press, a great learning experience. When the election cycle concluded, she earned an MBA and worked as a lawyer in New York and D.C.—and found a way to fulfill her intense entrepreneurial drive.
 
Before she turned 30 Nkenge bought a mixed-use housing development in D.C., one she owns to this day. She started this business in 2005 partially to see if she could put into practice principles of highest and best use. “I had some theories and ideas about housing issues, homelessness, and finance. I wanted to see if I could walk the talk,” she said. She lived in the building and maintains close relationships with her tenants, some of whom have been living there longer than she has been alive.
 
After her business was up and running, Nkenge’s thoughts turned to working on the Hill, stirred again by her love of public service. She took a job as director of outreach communications for Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Shortly after, she became communications director in 2009 for Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a state that resonated for Nkenge because of its economic similarities to Oregon. Nkenge admired Sen. Stabenow’s strength of character, and enjoyed the work of helping her build a strong national presence.
 
And then the President called: the Obama administration tapped her to help move forward the country’s trade agenda. When that happens, you act. She joined the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a position she held for three years, working to help solidify trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. “Our schedule was unrelenting,” she says. “But it’s a great honor to work in service of my country and this President. I have to start and stop with these points.”
 
When the three trade agreements were signed, Nkenge saw that as an opportunity for change. Once again, Nkenge left D.C. to return to Oregon, this time for a very personal and important reason. In September 2012 she married Erious Johnson, a classmate of hers from Howard University Law School. She had been based in D.C., and he was successful attorney in New York. Moving to Oregon was their chance to make a life together. Nkenge and Erious moved to a house in south Salem above a Christmas tree farm, with sunsets, great views, deer, and space to grow. They established a law firm of their own, where she worked until she was called upon to serve Governor Kitzhaber.
 
“Success for me means finding people from whom I can learn and who are supportive of my decision to work hard to build my dreams,” says Nkenge. At Catlin Gabel, headmaster Jim Scott, science teacher Paul Dickinson, and most of all Spanish teacher Roberto Villa were those people for her. Nkenge had been part of a cohort of students who came from Harriet Tubman Middle School, which brought what she saw as interesting challenges. Jim Scott was someone she went to for help with finding solutions to those challenges, and was a hugely supportive presence. Nkenge loved science and says that Paul Dickinson allowed her to “play with ideas and participate in events outside of school, like the Bickleton bluebird trip, which I did every year at Catlin Gabel.” Roberto Villa is most memorable for her because he challenged her when she didn’t want to do what she saw as a tedious and boring part of her classwork. He urged her to do work that was more complex and interesting, and earned her trust by supporting her to do the work her own way and in turn learn more deeply. She still credits him with her love of and facility with the Spanish language, which she used daily as a lawyer in New York and D.C.
 
Nkenge says that one of her biggest challenges is helping others see the greatness of her community and state the way she does. “I reject conventional theories about diversity in Oregon. I figure I have a reason to know,” she says. “What’s important is not census numbers or language or heritage, but opportunities that need to be available for all of us. I reject the idea that one has to look a certain way or be from a certain place to succeed. It’s a challenge to make it true that everyone can do what he or she makes up their mind to do—in education, employment, arts and culture, sports, or health care. As long as we think about the state as homogenous it lets us off the hook. Oregon is not so. What the state looks like calls us into account to make our organizations resemble the state,” she says.
 
“And the same is true nationally. In the Senate I was one of two African American communication directors out of one hundred. There were two Asians and no Latinos. The numbers of persons of color were far underrepresented, and this was true of every level of senators and their staffs, and it is still true,” she says.
 
Another great challenge for Nkenge has been her equal desires to be both a public servant and an entrepreneur while working in jobs that are difficult and consuming. She was always interested in business, had thought in college that she would work in finance, and always had the sense that she would work for herself at some point in her life. “Being a public servant means being focused on issues of others. It’s very external. Being an entrepreneur means being mostly focused on oneself and the business, and the mission to build a going concern. Both are different and important to me! I’ve spent most of my time, though, in public service. It’s a challenge to find a way to embrace the entrepreneur in me. It’s probably also a success in that I continue to believe I am able to do more than one big thing at the same time,” she says.
 
When she looks back on the years since she began working on Capitol Hill, Nkenge feels fortunate to have had an exciting and fulfilling career, and to have been nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities that came to her, even at inopportune times. “I’m not a written-in-cement planner,” she says. “I’m lucky to get to do interesting work. I’m committed to making choices that allow me to do what I want most of the time. I’ve been through pay cuts, moves, leaves of absences, starting businesses on a wing and a prayer. I’m willing to allow myself the chance to do what’s satisfying personally and of most use to the society in which I live. I’m trying to learn from experience.”
 
Nadine Fiedler is Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations, and the editor of the Caller.

What Happens When the Bullets Stop?

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

In their own words: Dave Whitson and his Transitional Justice students on examining hard questions of genocide and reconciliation


FROM DAVE WHITSON’S CLASS SYLLABUS

How can a country, scarred by genocide, ever recover and regain a sense of normalcy? How can two rival factions, guilty of committing horrible atrocities against the other, ever learn to live together in peace again? How can victims of torture rebuild their internal worlds while their external circumstances remain equally fractured?

What is transitional justice?

Countries and the international community endeavoring to move from chaos to stability, punish the guilty, document the historical truth, and help victims heal.

Three central concepts

Truth. How do you establish historical truth? Why is truth critical for peace and healing? How can the pursuit of truth compromise peace?
Justice. What is justice and who is justice for? Is justice possible following mass atrocities?
Reconciliation. Is this an external or internal process? How can one heal and forgive? Is reconciliation predicated upon forgiveness or punishment? International cases: Canada and South Africa, international tribunals devoted to the Yugoslav Wars and Rwandan genocide, the aftermath of the military dictatorships in Chile and Argentina, the civil wars in Liberia, and the Holocaust.
 

DAVE WHITSON: “THIS CLASS LIVES VERY MUCH IN THE GRAY”

The ideal history class feels highly relevant to students’ lives, speaks to important contemporary issues, challenges students emotionally and intellectually, and defies simplistic black-and-white thinking. This class lives very much in the gray, with no easy answers or definite routes to success. The hope offered here is not Pollyanna-ish. It’s a hope that twists in your gut and yet also uplifts. That’s the realm I want students to inhabit in class.
 

JULIANNE JOHNSON ’12: “A TRULY FORMATIVE EXPERIENCE”

Transitional Justice was a truly formative high school experience for me. It introduced me to the critical thinking that I have employed at Vassar College and the areas of study that I am continuing as a women’s studies major and Native American studies minor. Dave Whitson’s class was the first academic experience at Catlin Gabel where there was never one “right” answer to the question at hand (whether it be about the ethically complex conditions of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the morally ambiguous actions of Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, or the reparations feasible for survivors of Canada’s Indian Residential School system).
 
Frequently Dave didn’t have a set answer either, and the whole class was able to cooperatively puzzle through the moral gray areas of the implementation of transitional justice. This ideological structure of the course, where students and teacher are on even footing and all trying to make sense of the complex nature of transitional justice, is the same as many of my classes in college. In these classes, students are expected to respectfully assert their opinions while also listening to and truly considering the differing beliefs of others. In this way, Transitional Justice gave me the tools to quickly adapt to and succeed.
 

DAVE WHITSON: SERVING AS WITNESSES AT CANADA’S TRUTH & RECONCILIATION COMMISSION

We attended the BC national event for Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The TRC is devoted to Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, which carried out a sort of cultural genocide (a loaded and controversial term, but many support the notion in this case) on Canada’s First Nations youth, with the intent being to “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to boarding schools where they were physically, psychologically, and sexually abused. Upon being released, many took up alcohol and drugs as a form of self-medication; tragically, many repeated the violent acts that had been perpetrated against them on other indigenous people living on their reserves. The result is a cycle of violence and a complete destabilizing of First Nations populations across Canada. The last residential schools closed in the 1990s, so this is still a relatively fresh wound.
 
The TRC is part of a nationwide initiative to acknowledge the historical wrongs and begin to pursue healing. At the commission, survivors of the schools testify about their experiences. Thus, for three days we sat and listened, serving as witnesses to the events. All students were also asked to initiate a one-on-one conversation with someone attending the event. In some cases, those conversations lasted for more than an hour.
 

JONATHAN BRAY ’14: “A LIFE-CHANGING EVENT”

Transitional Justice, especially when coupled with the experience of attending the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, was a highlight of my academic career so far. The class simultaneously exposed me to riveting historical events and stimulating intellectual and ethical dialogue with my classmates. We strove to answer the question that is consistently posed to the modern world: how to achieve reconciliation and recovery following widespread tragedy, initiating conversation that stretched beyond the challenging readings and into our own morals and views of right and wrong.
 
Our visit to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was truly a life-changing event. To witness the survivors of Indian Residential Schools tearfully recount their heartwrenching experiences brought the classwork to life. I was able to extensively converse with a particular survivor, coming face to face with the effect nationwide tragedy has on the individual, and how far it can extend past those directly affected.
 
Transitional Justice was an unforgettable class, and the knowledge I acquired through it has aided me in my everyday thoughts on modern events.
 

DAVE WHITSON: SHIFTING FOCUS TO HOW PEACE CAN BE WON

Growing up, my perception of history was that of a succession of wars with only brief flashes of peace. It’s a discouraging narrative, one in which we humans continually screw things up and display a consistent incapacity to get along. I think it spreads a fatalistic way of thinking, in which students develop a cynical view of human nature, one in which we are all inherently greedy, intolerant, and doomed to conflict. To make things worse, when I first developed a course on the modern world, I found myself falling into the same pattern, constructing units around the Napoleonic Wars, the Latin American Revolutions, the Age of Imperialism, the World Wars, and the Cold War! It’s hard to break out of that dominant narrative.
 
And yet, that narrative misses a critical piece of the picture. All history classes emphasize the tragedy of the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. However, that treaty is reflective of many that came before it, promoting victor’s justice and the absolute punishment of the enemy. There is no attention paid to rehabilitation, to recovery, or to reconciliation. It’s small wonder that another war developed within the next two decades.
 
Instead of focusing on how wars are won, I think it’s more instructive—and probably more useful—to focus on how the peace can be won. Not many students will have a practical application for the lesson of not invading Russia in the winter. However, they’ll all benefit from some consideration of how former enemies can overcome their animosity and the legacy of violence in pursuit of healing and a constructive relationship. It’s also just generally more life affirming to think about forgiveness and justice than the optimal methods for killing off the enemy.
 
It also happens that this is a major point of emphasis in the contemporary world. While the Nuremberg trials were an early attempt at international justice, only after the Cold War ended did the international community begin to take this seriously. Over the last two decades, many states have recognized the importance of these issues and academic circles have followed suit. This is an issue of immediate relevance in the world today
 

JEMMA PRITCHARD ’12: “THAT CLASS CHANGED ME”

When I was in Dave’s class as a senior, something clicked for me. Though I had studied history throughout my time at Catlin Gabel and knew what kinds of wonderful and awful things people were capable of, it was in that classroom that I really started to be able to comprehend just how deep human hatred and compassion can run, and what that means for nations politically and socially. I became so passionately interested in the subject, and my classmates and I spent all kinds of time both in and outside of class discussing our emotional reactions to the material that we had covered and our opinions on the mechanisms and politics we learned about. The trip to Canada then really solidified that feeling.
 
Experiencing a transitional justice mechanism first-hand and being able to interview survivors was an experience that I find myself returning to almost every day. At the moment I am actually pursuing a career in comparative politics, focusing on transitional justice. That class changed me as a student and as a person and I will never stop being thankful for it.
 

DAVE WHITSON: “WE ARE NOT CONDEMNED TO AN ENDLESS CYCLE OF VIOLENCE”

Genocide is depressing. War is depressing. Oppressive political regimes are depressing. Often, though, our study of the material ends there. In this class, we start there, and then examine how people have endeavored to move beyond those tragedies. This is not a fairy tale. Everybody doesn’t live happily ever after. The first reading in the class acknowledges the bitter truth: when someone you love is killed in an act of injustice, closure is not possible. However, when you see stories of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of acknowledgment by a government of past wrongs, you start to believe that we are not condemned to an endless cycle of violence. In South Africa, we met a man named Thulani Mabaso. He had been imprisoned in Robben Island with Nelson Mandela. Today, he leads tours of the island with his former warden. The men have reconciled and today they are colleagues. It’s a small, isolated case, but it speaks to what is possible.
 

DAVE WHITSON: THE SATISFACTION OF TEACHING

When I decided to do this, I thought that the big draw was a life devoted to learning. And that has certainly happened—my understanding of history and the world has deepened a great deal over the last ten years. I am also a performer at heart, and there’s something invigorating about “performing” every day, even on the smaller scale. As a young, aspiring teacher, I didn’t fully appreciate how meaningful working with students would become. I derive a great deal of meaning from seeing my students in all of their different activities and seeing their growth over the course of a year, and over the course of their four years in the Upper School. Being an active, invested part of a community has become my overriding priority.
 
Dave Whitson has been teaching Upper School history at Catlin Gabel since 2011, and spent spring break with students on a trip to Argentina and Chile to study pursuits of justice there. He is also the director of the Palma Scholars Program. Jonathan Bray graduated from Catlin Gabel in June. Julianne Johnson ’12 is a women’s studies major at Vassar College. Jemma Pritchard ’12 is studying comparative politics at the University of Oregon.

Startup Camp

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Economics teacher Meredith Goddard brought an exciting focus for student entrepreneurs to Catlin Gabel

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Last summer Upper School economics teacher Meredith Goddard took action on her belief that education in entrepreneurship was lacking. “I say to my students, ‘Your future is not dependent on what college says yes to you, or what some potential employer says yes to you. It’s based on what you say yes to,’” she says.
 
Sparked by Catlin Gabel parent Monica Enand’s idea of a Startup Weekend, run by a national organization, Meredith branched out on her own and created a homegrown event to give students an intensive experience in entrepreneurship. She and a large group of committed volunteers, including CG parents and alumni, contacted the many local entrepreneurs they knew—and the response was overwhelmingly positive. With these entrepreneurs’ support and commitment to mentor students, Meredith and her team put together a three-day weekend in February 2014 that exceeded all their expectations.
 
Eighty students from Catlin Gabel, Oregon Episcopal School, and Lincoln High School came to campus to pitch a product or service, form teams, write a business plan, get support from mentors and the local community, create websites and apps, and quickly actualize their innovative ideas. The judges were deeply impressed by the students’ energy, enthusiasm, savvy, dedication, and ambitions. They awarded the top team prize to the group that developed a new way of advertising using crowdsourced videos. Other prizewinners came from teams that developed plans for a new kind of ice cream cone, an app that helps people find friends to play sports with, an app that links youth with volunteer opportunities, and an online newspaper catering to teens.
 
“I can honestly say that Startup Camp was one of the most inspiring few days in my professional life,” says Meredith. “I feel that we need people to believe in innovators, and that entrepreneurship is a natural career path.”

»Read about Meredith Goddard's hard-hitting economics class

Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and the school’s publications and public relations director.  

Economics Like It Matters

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Meredith Goddard teaches hard-hitting economics with conviction and verve

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

It’s early in the day, first class of the day, the time you think high schoolers would be sleepy and taciturn. But these eight students in this Catlin Gabel classroom are bright eyed and engaged, right in there with their whip-smart economics teacher, Meredith Goddard. And what’s more, they’re grappling with one of the thorniest issues right now in economics—the U.S. health care system and reforms.
 
Focused and intense, Meredith shoots off the first of the many rapid-fire queries she’ll ask during this session: “I’d like you to investigate how much it costs to get an appendix out.”
 
Her students turn to their laptops, and the room is filled with the tapping of keys. “$1,530,” answers one boy. “Is that a good price?” asks Meredith. “Is it in the U.S?” “Hmm, might not be,” he answers. More tapping, and students start yelling out prices: $1,500, $9,000, $55,000, $186,000. It turns out the $1,530 price came from a Washington Post article. “But in which hospital can you get the operation? The Washington Post doesn’t say,” says Meredith. Several minutes go by. No one can find the answer.
 
By investigating the question themselves, her students have come around to the point Meredith hoped to make by doing this exercise. “So it’s an impossible question. You can find a $5 candy bar, but you all are stellar researchers, and you can’t find affordable surgery,” she says. And again, she prods them to think further: “Why?”
 
“We’re not the customers, Medicaid and Medicare are,” says one student. “The insurance companies are the customers,” says another. “There are no easy answers,” she replies. “We’re going to be dealing throughout our lives with a very messy healthcare situation.”
 
Meredith’s aims for this elective class are ambitious. She would like students to develop fluency in the language of economics, to be able to read and understand articles in the Economist and tune in to economics news in the media instead of tuning right out. She says, “Once they have this vocabulary and this new language they seem more confident and able to engage as citizens in conversations they hear adults having. They can engage in powerful conversations because they’re not jaded, and they have unique ideas and solutions that are powerful and need to be heard.”
 
She ends this course’s journey through key issues such as college costs, supply and demand, problems of cheapness, minimum wage, the moral limits of markets, unemployment, the causes of the Great Recession, monetary policy tools, the environmental marketplace, and global markets with a week of discussions with students about their own personal financial futures. Most of all, though, she wants to teach an economics that is live, relevant, and meaningful. “I try to think about not just cultivating economic fluency among my students, but cultivating social justice in thinking about economics,” she says. “A huge focus of my class is thinking about solutions to economic crises and issues of increasing economic inequality, one of the most dire crises of our time. Those at the bottom don’t have the power or the money to advocate for themselves, so if we don’t start talking about it more widely and about creating an economy that works for most people systemically, then people are going to fall further and further behind.”
 
Meredith comes to her convictions about how to teach economics well armed by her own Economics 101 learning experiences. She had always been fascinated by economics, was a model student, and wanted to know more—but felt that her economics education was inauthentic and lacking. Originally a teacher of U.S. history and a voracious learner, when Meredith transitioned into teaching economics she worked with fierce determination to figure out how to right those wrongs for her students. Along the way she found herself among a groundswell of students who felt that the way Economics 101 had always been taught was not applicable to their lives. “We were given this blind faith that markets were working—then along came the Great Recession. And there were no good solutions from economists for the crisis,” she says. Being part of this movement gave her the tools to become the strong and committed teacher she is now, creating classes in which her students are fully engaged and on their way to a useful and lifelong understanding of economics.
 
Her own journey to Catlin Gabel was also intensely personal for Meredith. She had been teaching in Chicago public schools, but felt stifled by the overwhelming burden of continual preparation for testing. She traveled to Walden, Massachusetts, to study Henry David Thoreau, whom she had long admired, and whose theories she deeply identified with. “I was swimming in Walden Pond and thought to myself, ‘I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be in this place thinking about Thoreau. This is my one life. This is my chance to do something really meaningful. I decided at that moment to find a way to live a freer life, with more choices.” She found her way to Catlin Gabel—and the school is now lucky to have this talented teacher who has added immeasurably to our school.

»Read about Startup Camp, which Meredith brought to Catlin Gabel to encourage student entrepreneurs

Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and the school’s publications and public relations director.

As History Changes, So Must the Teaching of History

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Peter Shulman

In 2003, when I became the first new history teacher at Catlin Gabel in decades, I worked alongside titans. John Wiser, Harriet Wiser, and John Keyes emanated academic rigor and challenged students to think critically, write incisively, and wrestle with defining moral quandaries. In addition, I was fortunate enough to become friends with the just-retired Dave Corkran, and quickly came to know his legendary intellectual intensity and fierce moral integrity. The eloquence, industry, and ethical consideration of our alumni are a living legacy of their teaching.
 
As the last departmental link between this revered generation and a new, dynamic cadre of colleagues, I often find myself considering a central problem identified by students of change: excelling in one context often diminishes adaptation to new circumstances. After all, why change what’s been working extremely well? Qing China is a classic governmental example of decline in spite of strength, while Western Union’s strategic error of protecting its telegraph monopoly by giving away mastery over the telephone wires speaks volumes about the perils that accompany success. Education is of course rife with strategic decisions, fueled by prognosticators of decline and evangelists for the latest workshops promoting “education for the 21st century.” Suffice to say that there is a lot of hype about transformational education, but it would be equally foolish to ignore that the times, they are a-changin’.
 
The 21st century’s dizzying pace of change has turned old realities upside down. The U.S. is now a net exporter of petroleum products, the Blackberry phone teeters on extinction, and marriage equality, decisively defeated at polls in the century’s first decade, seems an unstoppable force in its second. Karl Rove predicted, with apparent justification in 2004, a “permanent Republican majority,” only to find a Democratic congress by 2007. Meanwhile, a century that began with Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi firmly in power is a distant memory in a roiling Middle East, and the giddy optimism of Tahrir Square has chilled into an Orwellian winter. The speed of change should give any pundit pause.
 
These heady transformations are joined by a communications revolution whose scale rivals the Gutenberg press. The increasing power of the individual to publish text, imagery, and music is collapsing massive hierarchies, while the merging of the human mind with computer databases forces a central question: what must students “know” when so many answers are a click away? As such, the department confronts its own version of the “innovator’s dilemma”: how to keep the best aspects of an esteemed program while adjusting to an increasingly globalized, digital society.
 
Our goal is to maintain the core, non-negotiable assets of our predecessors. Effective writing, careful reading, measured analysis, and the strong teacher-student relationship must always be central to our work, and each of these requires one element that isn’t changing: the finite nature of available time. But we have launched several new initiatives to adapt to a changing world:
 
Greater focus on contemporary issues and problem-solving: Historians focus on great cataclysms that we should never forget, but a diet of man’s inhumanity to man can demoralize students. Hence, instructors have built solution-oriented explorations into the curriculum. Freshmen tackle family-planning strategies to address overpopulation, while sophomores use historical case studies of Poland and Yugoslavia to offer prescriptions for mitigating conflict in multi-ethnic states. Recent electives in Public Health, Race and Class in Portland, Economics, and Environmental Politics are all built around getting a better understanding of key challenges confronting the 21st century. Patrick Walsh changed the Globalization curriculum to include an imperative for students to propose and enact solutions to climate change.

Experiential education

Experiences” are easy enough to create, but truly meaningful experiential education takes genuine savvy and keen intentionality. Freshmen engage contemporary businesses on the nature of global production, and supplement their study of religion with visits to unfamiliar houses of worship. Sophomores had the opportunity to meet with Bosnian refugee and Jonske speaker Ismet Prcic in the context of studying the disintegration of Yugoslavia. George Zaninovich’s PLACE electives have long pioneered experiential forays, as students produce plans for a variety of real-world clients, including the Portland Parks Department, Zenger Farm, and Lincoln High School. This year, Dave Whitson led his Transitional Justice students to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools in Vancouver, B.C., where his class sat in on hearings and interviewed indigenous participants. Dave also brought students to Chile and Argentina to directly engage transitional justice issues in the aftermath of military rule. Finally, Meredith Goddard’s new Economics of Innovation elective, coming on the heels of her wildly successful Startup Camp, has students champing at the bit to try out their entrepreneurial chops.

Increased global perspective

The first two years of the Upper School core curriculum have been totally reconstructed in the past two years, with greater focus on India, Japan, China, and sub-Saharan Africa. New classes over the past three years include 9/11 in a Global Context (cited as exemplary innovation by Bill Gates in his 2012 NAIS keynote), Modern China, and Revolution in the Middle East. Research: Given the transformative access of the internet, efficiently finding and carefully evaluating online materials are crucial skills. As such, teachers have opened up space in the curriculum for greater research opportunities. Sophomores interrogate the invention of nationalism in distinct countries through research, while U.S. History has traded in an exam on the Cold War in favor of student research projects that evaluate the impact of U.S. foreign policy in countries such as South Korea, El Salvador, Angola, and Pakistan. In Revolution in the Middle East, students assess the stability of the Saudi monarchy and the economic clout of the Egyptian military, while Economics students research the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Transitional Justice students have posted their research on Wikipedia, and have found that editing the historical record can elicit contentious resistance from those with a great investment in a particular version of the past.

Public speaking

Catlin Gabel’s small classes are uniquely positioned to provide robust speaking experience. A given day might find students teaching about the Japanese response to Western encroachment, debating U.S. military intervention in Syria, or running an Upper School assembly on contemporary income inequality. Patrick and George’s Journalism students have staged two Portland mayoral debates; on the latter, the Oregonian’s Steve Duin wrote that “the student organizers at Catlin— who moderated the forum, asked the questions and publicized the event—were at the top of their game.”

Current events colloquium

Recently, thanks to librarian Sue Phillips, two dozen students spent their free period with history faculty to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. The students’ intellectual hunger and sophistication was great evidence of their ability to use history to understand, and, indeed, to teach. What hasn’t changed is the importance of having a historical context. It helps us to ask the right questions, identify true outliers, and fact-check the scurrilous and misleading uses for which history is too often deployed. It gives us practice in the art of multi-variable analysis, for unlike a science lab, human interaction has too many variables to control. It will always be a way to understand the diversity of human experience, and at Catlin Gabel, it strives to be an essential aspect of the credo “inspired learning leading to responsible action.”
 
Peter Shulman has been teaching history at Catlin Gabel since 2003.

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.

Learning in Action

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A Chat with First Graders

Our first graders are studying food and have selected topics of deep interest to study using an inquiry process. Three students came in to see me.
 
Child 1:  Can we ask you some questions about dairy products? We heard you are an expert about dairy products because you raised cows! (Always nice to know you are considered an expert at something…)
 
Vicki:         Sure! When?
 
Child 2:     Right now!
 
Vicki:         Okay! (Well, I have a few minutes before my next meeting.) The three enter my office and open their “Field Study Journals”.
 
Child 3:     We are going to take notes in our Field Study Journals!
 
Vicki:         Great idea! What are your questions?
 
Child 1:     Well, actually, we only have one question. (He flips through several pages of notes.) WHAT IS A CURD? (Feeling less and less like an expert by the moment….)
 
Vicki:         So what is a curd? (Stalling tactic, how am I going to answer that for three 7-year olds? Now really, how would YOU answer that for three 7-year-olds?)
 
Child 2:     Right, we think it might be for making cheese.
 
Vicki:         Yes, have you heard the rhyme, “Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey… (Using great expression and a sing-song voice)
 
All three children scrunch up faces and purse brows: No.
 
Child 1:     What’s a whey? (Oh dear, better see if I can answer the curd part first…)
 
Vicki: (Leaps over to desktop, googles CURD.) Here’s a picture of a curd! (The children all gather around my computer.) You were right, it’s part of the process of making cheese. To make a curd you mix vinegar with milk. (Wikipedia saves the day)
 
Child 2:     Wow! Let’s write that down! (They sound out v-i-n-n-a-g-u-r-r…)
 
Child 3:     I’m bored. Can I go back to class now? (Guess she’s done….)
 
Child 1:     Well I’M NOT BORED! WHY DO COWS HAVE FOUR STOMACHS?
 
Vicki:         (I explain the stomachs and show a poster of the cow’s stomachs.) When cows eat grass they eat in a hurry and it goes into the first stomach to hold it until they have time to chew it up. Then later on, when they’re relaxed and have the time, they gulp it up and chew it up. That’s called “chewing their cud.”
 
Child 2:     (Looks horrified) YOU MEAN COWS EAT THEIR PUKE?
 
Child 1:     THEY CHEW THEIR THROW UP?
 
Vicki:         No, they just gulp up the grass so they can chew it up later so it can go to the second stomach….well, actually, I guess it’s sort of like throwing up (Explaining this stuff is indeed humbling…)
 
Child 1:     WOW! THIS IS SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING THAN READING A BOOK! (Great, this will likely be dinnertime conversation. Your hard-earned tuition dollars at work….)
 
Child 2:     Can we make curds?
 
Vicki:         I don’t have any vinegar but I can show you creamy milk and watery milk (We go into the faculty lunch room and I get both out of the refrigerator)
 
Child 2:     OH! This is so much more fun talking to you than reading a book!
 
Child 1:     Do you have any vinegar? (Points to the cupboard)
 
Vicki:         Sorry, this is where we keep tea and coffee (I open the cupboard to prove my point and there in the middle of the second shelf is – you guessed it – a bottle of vinegar.) OH! It’s your lucky day! (How in the world did a bottle of vinegar get there?! We talk about first grade as being magical and I guess it really is!)
 
Child 1:     WE’RE MAKING CURDS! (We mix milk with vinegar and it curdles)
 
Child 2:     LET’S GO SHOW EVERYONE! (They race off to the first grade…)
 
Inquiry in action – a reminder of why we’re all in this business!
 
 

Lark's farewell BBQ photo gallery

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The sun always shines on the righteous!

 

Biking the backroads of Lane County

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Sunny weather and covered bridges

A classic Oregon adventure-- biking the old roads of the Willamette Valley, crossing covered bridges, and having fun on a warm and sunny afternoon.  

The adventure began Friday night with a showing of Buster Keaton’s 1926 silent classic “The General.” A small group of trip students and parents enjoyed the film greatly and looked forward to sighting familiar settings during our trip.  We departed Saturday at 8:20, the expeditionary force consisting of 6 students and 2 leaders. We pulled into Baker Bay Campground, in a Lane County Park, right on the lakeshore.  We arrived 3 hours after leaving Catlin.  Despite the governor’s drought declaration for Lane County, the reservoir was completely full. We ate our lunches around a huge table in the midst of a fairy-tale ring of our camping tents that had sprung up, thanks to our busy group, all around the periphery of the site. After lunch we secured the campsite against roving animals and the (highly remote) possibility of rain, and climbed on to the bikes to set off on our explorations. We started with a fun 2 mile descent, past the earthen dam, through open fields filled with yellow and white daisies, and by the Army Corps of Engineers campground at Schwarz Park below the dam. We crossed the outlet stream well below the spillway, and cycled west to where the Row River Trail crossed the road.

 

The Row River Trail is a former logging railroad that has been converted to a trail.  The entire 15.6 mile length from Cottage Grove to Culp Creek is paved and wonderfully smooth for biking on. At Harms Park we looked high and low (even taking a detour up a hilly side road) to look for a trestle used in “The General.”  We didn’t see anything remotely like what we’d seen in the film.  Disappointed and let down by the guide book, we stopped for a rest in the park. After our break we headed eastward again along the lake.  The trail emerged more into the open as we got to the marshy upper end of the reservoir.  Our route continued on past the town of Dorena, and climbed ever so gently up the inlet river. After milepost 13.5 the trail became wilder. None of the bridges we saw on this trip are usable by cars anymore, but we were able to bike and walk on all of them.  We headed back on Shoreview Drive to the campsite. It was about 5:00 when we returned to camp, and there were still many hours of daylight left.  After settling chore duties for the rest of the trip, an expedition to the lake shore was mounted. Near the floating barrier protecting the mooring area there was a clear path into the lake.  The floating barrier consisted of long sections of corrugated plastic pipe linked end to end like a long lake-snake.  The pipes were a meter in diameter, and closed at the ends so they would float.  They looked highly roll-y, but the students were able to get up on them and sit or stand on them.

 

We returned to the campsite to change and prepare dinner.  The meal was burritos with all the fixin’s, followed by triple chocolate brownies.  Nobody went hungry, and despite many dirty dishes, a very efficient clean-up crew dealt with them quickly.

 

We walked down to the lake shore to admire the sunset over the water and the trees across the bay. A game of Presidents was quickly organized.  The rules were explained to the neophytes, and all 8 of us played. When it finally became too dark to see the cards, we started a fire in the fire ring in the midst of the tents. Once sufficient coals had developed, s’mores were toasted, constructed, and consumed.  This was a first introduction to these traditional camp treats for several members of the party.  All agreed that they were deliciously tasty.

 

As the night was so fine, several of the students decided to sleep out on a tarp, rather than in tents.  They were still cocooned in their sleeping bags when the wake-up call sounded at 7:30, and the traditional Frying of the Spam commenced at 8:00 to begin the day properly. Lunches were made and stashed for eating later in the day.  We washed up, packed away the kitchen gear, struck the tents, and loaded the bikes in the trailer.  By 9:15 there was no sign we’d ever been in the campsite, and we drove away to Cottage Grove.

 

In Cottage Grove we cast about to find the city end of the Row River Trail.  After searching for parking, we unloaded the bikes, stashed the gear from the trailer in the bus, and set off to follow the bike trail eastwards.  There was a huge organized bike ride going on for the weekend which had all the downtown section of Main Street closed off to car traffic.  There were ride volunteers at many of the street crossings, which eased our ride to the city outskirts. We came to the day’s first covered bridge at Mosby Creek.  We crossed the river on a steel railroad bridge a few yards away.  The next covered bridge we saw across a field, with no direct access.  We had to cycle beyond it then back on Row River Road to see Currin Bridge.  When we continued on, such was the enthusiasm of the group that all members charged gung-ho on up the trail beyond the road crossing before the last in line realized that that crossing had been the intended turn around point; it was where we had first gotten on the trail the day before.  We ended up doing the climb to the dam again.  After a full afternoon of biking a wide variety of roads, including some particularly steep sections which required a few riders to walk their mounts up the inclines, we rode to a nearby Dairy Queen (scouted when we first entered Cottage Grove the day before) for a well-earned treat.  Then it was time to return to the bus to load up the bikes for the drive back to Portland.  On the 2.5-hour drive north the gray skies cleared, leaving smudgy clouds like pencil-erased holes in the blue sky.  We arrived at Catlin on schedule at 5:00 pm.

 

This was a marvelous trip.  The weather was fine, the spring greenery and flowers very scenic.  The biking was easy and low key, the on-trail parts particularly beautiful and soothing.  The covered bridges were plentiful and varied.  The crew was wonderful: friendly, inclusive, enthusiastic, helpful, adept at keeping themselves amused, and despite the wide range of biking, camping, and outdoor program experience, they stuck together and enjoyed themselves and the group.