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Trout Lake Caves, Oct. 2007

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The Lava Tubes of Trout Lake, Washington


October 2007

Caving Trip Summary

By Hannah

We met in the gravel parking lot at Catlin at 8 am. After loading the bus with all our gear and claiming our seats, we set off for two days of caving in the Mount Adams area in southern Washington. Six seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, two freshmen, four adult guides, and one adorable first grader had plenty of room to stretch out on the large yellow school bus. Talking, laughing, sleeping, snacking, listening to music, and taking pictures kept us occupied on the three-hour drive to our destination.

Len, our bus driver, let us out at our first caving spot; Cheese Cave, named for the dairy product that used to be made and kept cool in the natural underground refrigerator. At the entrance, our trip leader, Jeff, gave us some pointers on caving etiquette. Number one: stay together. Number two: repeat number one. This was a high-ceilinged cave, only requiring some navigation of the steep slope at the entrance and some stepping around boulders and the remains of wooden shelves. At the end of the cave, a metal staircase led up to the basement of a Forest Service cabin. We left the cave and walked back towards the bus, where the aboveground part of the cabin stood. We ate lunch around the cabin, and then boarded the bus to our next cave site.

New Cave was narrower and shorter in some parts, requiring more ducking and navigation of sharp lava rock. Then we geared up for our next challenge; Ice Cave. Back in the day, Ice Cave provided ice to the surrounding pioneer communities. We were looking forward to seeing some interesting ice formations, so we bundled up and strapped on our kneepads and helmets. Two of the adults, Len and Jessica, disliking the idea of small cramped spaces, stayed behind. In places, ice lined the cave wall and floor. This cave was considerably more technical, because not only were there sharp lava rocks, low ceilings, and narrower, twisting passageways, but the ice underfoot added the extra hazard of slippage. Soon, the lava tube became much smaller, and we began crawling on our hands and knees or bear walking. Sam led us around pillars, over boulders, and under low ceilings. At one point, we were flattened to our bellies as we negotiated a particularly low spot. Quinn, Kathy’s 6-year-old son, scampered in between the sharp rocks like a monkey in a tree. “Come on, you guys are slow,” he told us. Well, Quinn certainly had the advantage of small size; he is about half the height of Trevor and Eric, the tallest guys on our trip. We all managed to squeeze through the tight spot, and soon the cave opened up so we could at least walk bent over. Once we reached the end, some of the group had a short rave party with the strobe light setting on a headlamp and some techno music from a cell phone. Then we got back down to business; crawling, crouching, stooping, and walking back to the cave entrance. We trekked on a roundabout way through the woods, eventually finding the bus and driving off to our campsite.

At the large group site, everyone pitched in to set up their sleeping areas and to get a nice fire going. As darkness fell, so did the temperature, and a hot meal was warmly welcomed. We sat around the fire playing Taboo. Jeremy was able to make us guess the mystery word with ease, while Chris kept using the taboo words to describe the mystery word. Skyler eventually helped him out. Soon, people began drifting away from the fire to the tents; Mary and Linnea to theirs; Torin, Nathan, and the rest of the boys to Jessica’s five-person tent; and the seniors to their cluster of tents. We stayed up talking, playing cards, telling stories, gossiping, and laughing. But eventually it was time for some well-deserved rest. Sometime in the night, seemingly every coyote in the surrounding area began howling, waking up some of the group while the rest slept through it all.

"Eatery puts a big spin on recycling," about Ali Jepson-Dohrmann '01

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Portland Tribune article, October 07

"Student wins a poetic victory," about Erica Berry '10

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Beaverton Valley Times article, October '07

"Catlin Gabel's classy rummage sale"

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Oregonian blog, October 07

Fifty years of fun facts

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

This year marks Catlin Gabel’s golden anniversary. Fifty years ago Catlin Hillside and Gabel Country Day schools merged to become Catlin Gabel School. Our wonderful history, combined with today’s outstanding program, provides a deep reservoir of fun facts. Here are just a few:

When Catlin Hillside and Gabel Country Day Schools merged in 1957, grades one through five were housed on the former Gabel campus in Raleigh Hills, and grades six through twelve used the Catlin Hillside campus on Culpepper Terrace in Northwest Portland.

The student body numbered around 300 at the time of the merger.

The merged school was named Portland Country Day, but that lasted only a few months. An outcry from alumni and students convinced the trustees to adopt Catlin Gabel instead.

The Barnes Road campus, which the school acquired from Jack and Mary Dant in 1958, was surrounded by dirt roads and open spaces. The property was called Honey Hollow Farm, and the Barn housed sheep and horses.

Before Jack and Mary Dant, Marvelle and Tom Autzen owned the property. Architect Ernest Tucker, father of woodshop teacher Tom Tucker ’66, built the farmhouse for the Autzens. We call the house the Dant House.

Upper School science students will dissect 17 sheep eyes this year.

A rare yellowwood tree (Cladrastis lutea), native to Kentucky, North Carolina, and Tennessee, was planted near the present-day track and field about 80 years ago.

There have been 10 heads of the combined Catlin Gabel School: Esther Dayman Strong, E. Kimbark MacColl, Ed-ward Blair, Manvel “Schauff” Schauffler, Steven Prigohzy, Clint Darling (interim) John Whatley, Jim Scott, Andrew Beyer (interim), and Lark Palma.

Approximately 40 percent of all students during the early 1960s received financial aid, which attracted qualified stu-dents to the relatively new school. The Rummage Sale helped to underwrite the financial aid program, just as it does today.

The Rummage Sale, now in its 62nd year, attracts 12,000 shoppers during the four-day sale.

Teacher salaries in the mid-1950s reportedly averaged $2,200 per year. Adjusting for inflation that is $17,400. Teacher salaries average $54,800 per year in 2007-08.

Former Portland Mayor Vera Katz taught modern dance in the Barn before becoming a state legislator.

Today, 730 students attend Catlin Gabel. The annual budget is $16 million, and our endowment is $22 million.

Number of computers including laptops: 600

The Middle School robotics lab has about 40,000 Lego pieces.

Preschool and kindergarten students, teachers, and parents have come together for 777 Beehive Sings since 1978.

Number of field trips and overnights Lower School students spend away from campus in one year: 60-plus

Lower School students have identified 43 bird species on campus.

The Upper School Chamber Choir has sung in 13 languages in the last 10 years including Latin, Italian, German, French, Spanish, Estonian, Latvian, Russian, Afrikaans, Hebrew, Korean, and Japanese.

64 Middle School students in the past four years have traveled to Costa Rica.

Approximately 8,000 crickets are fed to two bearded dragon lizards in the sixth grade science classroom each year.

Upper School students organized 37 clubs this year, focusing on pursuits that include chess, community service, in-ternational affairs, and mock trial.

We have six international students in the Upper School from Botswana, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Spain, and South Korea.

184 Upper School and 115 Middle School students participated in 32 athletic teams last year.

Catlin Gabel, including our predecessor schools, has 4,787 living alumni representing 44 countries.

The barn served 24,750 meals last year.

Catlin Gabel community members made 2,319 financial contributions last fiscal year.

As we go to press, the Beginning and Lower School library has 1,147 books in circulation.

There is much more to discover about Catlin Gabel. I invite everyone to tour the campus and visit classes. Check in with the division administrative assistant for directions and schedules. If your son or daughter entered the school af-ter sixth grade you will really enjoy peering in on the Beginning and Lower Schools. If you are looking ahead to your child’s Middle or Upper School years you will benefit from knowing what’s ahead. Checking out buildings and seeing classes in action will further your education about what makes our Catlin Gabel remarkable, beyond these amazing numbers.

Rafting the Deschutes River: September 2007

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Deschutes Rafting Trip September 2007

A box of Fuzzy kittens

By Zanny

All rudely awakened before some believed to be humanly possible, our group consisting of three freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors, and three seniors all met around our bus and packed up our gear. The bus headed east and before we knew it we were at our put-in place along the Deschutes River.

We learned some very critical things including: how to effectively pack a dry-bag, swimming position, and potential signals to sea-fated crew members. The river was calm the first day; leaving ample opportunities to consume energy drinks and converse with unfamiliar boat members. Ornithology and geology sprung to life as we drifted down the river sighting herons and columnar basalt.

That night, just before sunset, we all took a hike up to “white cliff” where we enjoyed spectacular views and also preformed some tests on the true durability of Nalgene bottles. After a delicious dinner of spaghetti, the group engaged in a spectacular new game. Involving a circle of flashing flashlights and someone spinning around in the middle, this game provided several hours of true fun while the person in the middle stumbled around or made other ridiculous movements.

The next morning all of the “Spam virgins” were welcomed into the glorious world contained in the cube-shaped can with a peel back lid. Sizzling in the hot frying pan, the delectable scent of spam wafted teasingly through the brisk morning air. Several of the group members’ lives were greatly influenced by their initiation into the “spam fam”, and I think we would all agree it was for the better.

The next two days were filled with big waves, rushing rapids, and extreme splashing, not one of them failed to thrill us. We crossed rapids such as “Whitehorse”, “Buckskin Mary”, “Oak Springs”, and “Elevator Shaft”. One raft even had the feat of naming their very own rapid, by the deceiving name of, “Box of Fuzzy Kittens”.

The final thrilling moment in the trip occurred at the intersection of the Deschutes River and a smaller river, the White river. About a quarter of a mile walk up the White River, natural water slides can be seen. Three of us rode down them. Beyond the shocking frigidness of the water, the water slides were some of the coolest things I’ve done. The final drop at the end was literally breathtaking, and we were left very satisfied.

Finally, at the take-out, we all stripped ourselves of our wet clothes, and loaded up the bus. As we trundled back to Portland, all warm and content, fond memories filled our minds of a weekend well spent.

Trip report coming soon

Plans for 2007-08 and beyond

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by Lark P. Palma, Ph.D.

Every September I have the same thought – I am privileged to be the head of this school. This is the beginning of my 13th year as head of Catlin Gabel, and I know I will be here for at least five more years, thanks to a vote of confidence from the board of trustees. As I buy my school supplies and outfit for the first day of school (a tradition since I was in first grade) I think, too, of the next five years and what I hope to accomplish. Here are six areas of focus.

Global education

Our students deserve programs that are consistent with our mission as a progressive laboratory school, and speak to their needs as 21st-century global citizens. I traveled to Turkey this summer with 25 inquisitive and bold students and three enthusiastic teachers. The trip confirmed for me the vital importance of international experiences for our older students, as well as a continually broadened curriculum that links younger students with the wide world. As I watched our students in Turkey dance, draw, and converse with their host students at school and in Turkish homes, I saw perceptions change and views of Islamic culture recalibrated. Indelible images of an elderly rag-clad woman foraging in a dumpster strengthened our resolve to work toward ending poverty and disparity at home and abroad. We grew to understand that Turkey is much like the United States — a melting pot democracy composed of people from many ethnic groups who are fiercely proud to be Turks.

We will strive for providing all Upper School students and some Middle School students with global education experiences like the Turkey trip, which moved beyond language immersion. Paul Andrichuk, Middle School head, leads our global education work. Paul and others will work to define what makes Catlin Gabel’s global education program distinct. I am certain if you asked any one of the students who met with members of the Turkish parliament, had tea in Muslim homes, played with local children in the park, and enjoyed homestays in Istanbul, they would tell you the trip was life-changing and powerful.

All Kinds of Minds

All Kinds of Minds refers to the work of renowned pediatrician Dr. Mel Levine, who translates current brain research on how children learn into practical teaching methods. Roughly half of our teachers have completed the weeklong All Kinds of Minds workshop and many are engaged in the yearlong follow-up practicum. Our goal is for all Catlin Gabel teachers to take the All Kinds of Minds course. The training elevates our teaching by strengthening our understanding of diverse learning styles. We want our students to evaluate their own balance sheet of strengths and weaknesses so they advocate for their individual learning styles and needs. Pam McComas, Beginning School head, leads the effort. Each division will form a committee of teachers to customize and guide the work in their division. Our plan is to incorporate the exciting research results into our own brand of progressive education.

Urban leadership

We are continuing to explore the concept of an urban leadership program for Upper School students, which is an idea that emerged during the Imagine 2020 conference in spring 2006. A small group of faculty and staff members met throughout last year to consider options for this new idea. This year, the entire Upper School faculty will advance the conversation about how our program can be enriched by using Portland as a learning laboratory. We want students to benefit from Portland’s traditions of environmental awareness, participatory government, social responsibility, enlightened public transportation, and civic and arts activism. Michael Heath, Upper School head, will pick up where former Upper School head Emily Jones left off in leading this discussion of how to involve our students in Portland’s civic life. The urban leadership concept is an exciting and creative approach to renewing the Upper School’s experiential and progressive traditions.


Our sustainability efforts relate to the schoolwide culture, curriculum, and campus operations. Vicki Swartz Roscoe, Lower School head, leads the curriculum component, which is designed to teach students, preschool through grade 12, to be leaders in sustainability and stewards of the environment. Eric Shawn, facilities director, leads the operations side of our sustainability program. Our short-term goal is to integrate environmental considerations into Catlin Gabel’s decisions and daily operations. Our ultimate goal is zero waste by the year 2012. Community commitment to reducing our use of paper and plastics is already paying off. By shifting to reusable and away from disposable products, we have already seen a 7 percent reduction in waste between last year and the previous year. Education efforts are under way to help all of us distinguish recyclables and compost from waste. We appreciate everyone’s willingness to read newsletters like this online, forgo bottled drinking water, wrap lunches and snacks in reusable tubs, carpool, and ride the TriMet or Catlin Gabel buses. Forty-five community members, including staff members, faculty, students, parents, and alumni have been trained in the Natural Step process, which guides and inspires organizations to work together to build a sustainable society.

Financial sustainability

With increased emphasis on deepening our program, we must manage costs and plan prudently. Several board and staff members have sharpened their pencils and adopted a financial planning process created by the National Association of Independent Schools. The financial sustainability group will analyze data, raise questions, and develop principles of good practice for making financially sustainable decisions. We are benchmarking Catlin Gabel’s income and expenses, fundraising levels, costs per student, and employee workload against those of comparable schools. Assessing trends and making policy choices to improve the school’s financial position assures that we can reasonably fund our important initiatives well into the future.

Learning spaces

Our extraordinary curriculum benefits from attractive classroom facilities. Students learn best with proper ventilation, lighting, room to collaborate, and appealing classrooms. Construction crews and facilities staff members worked steadily to make certain the Upper School renovations were completed for the start of the school year. I am delighted and grateful that students and teachers can start the year in the gorgeously refurbished Dant House and Jean Vollum Humanities Center. You are most welcome to walk around the Upper School and visit the remodeled buildings. Students and teachers can tell you all about the before-and-after contrasts. Additionally, the Barn kitchen was remodeled to ease congestion during lunchtime and to better accommodate the daily meal, beverage, and snack service. The board’s buildings and grounds committee and key staff members are focusing their attention on the deteriorating and limited space for the Middle and Upper School visual and performing arts. We are making plans to improve the conditions for programs that are central to our mission.

I will further expand on each of our initiatives as the school year progresses. As I begin my 13th year as head of school, I remain inspired by our dedicated and creative teachers and staff members, delighted by our intelligent and imaginative students, and appreciative of our involved and generous parents. I hope you have a terrific 2007-08 year at Catlin Gabel.

"Coloring Our Maps: Professional Development and Global Vision"

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Article by Lark Palma in Independent Schools magazine

White Salmon Valley: July 2007

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White Salmon Valley: July 19-21, 2007

Through the July mist and drizzle, 12 triumphant middle schoolers explored the White Salmon Valleys whitewater, wilderness trails and basalt caves. We rafted down Class III-IV whitewater, including the 10 foot Husum Falls, hiked into Lake Wapiki in Indian Heaven wilderness, and explored the depths of Ice Cave and New Cave near Trout Lake.

A student report on the trip will be posted here soon!

North Umpqua Rafting: July 26-28, 2007

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Each morning dawned clear and bright, each day was filled with the clear green water and intense rocky rapids of the North Umpqua River. Twelve students banded together to make their way down the river, camping under a lush evergreen forest alongside the rushing water.

A student shall tell the tale.

packing up, heading home
until next time...

Climb of the Middle Sister, July 2007

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Swimming after the climb

Students from Catlin Gabel made a successful ascent of the Middle Sister, a 10,060 foot peak in the Oregon Csacades. The team hiked in from the Pole Creek trailhead and set up base camp at 6700 feet. The climb itself was made up the Hayden Glacier, with students doing much of the leading.

A detailed trip report is below- please have a read!

Middle Sister Trip Report

Love Comes From Below

We met at 7:00 am in the gravel parking lot, a motley crew of three adults, one sophomore, two juniors and two seniors. We loaded our things on to bus number 9 and departed from Portland, heading south through Salem, to Sisters, Oregon. We drove a little ways out of sisters on a bumpy gravel road to the “Pole Creek” trailhead near the three sisters. At the trailhead we parked the bus and unloaded backpacks and food, cooking and climbing supplies. We divided up the group gear, lathered up with sunscreen, got our packs on and started the hike in. The hike was mild at first slight - ups and downs, not strenuous. We hiked for about an hour and reached a stream. How pleasant… I thought at first as I slapped a mosquito on my leg, but then I slapped another, and another. I crossed the stream quickly, threw down my pack and dug through it for the bug repellent my mother had so kindly got for me for the trip. I covered myself with it and was left alone for quite a while. From the stream the trail became steeper. We told stories to keep ourselves entertained as we trudged along in the warm early afternoon. Eventually we hit another stream, at which we decided to begin heading uphill. We missed a somewhat clearly marked path, so we traveled cross-country, occasionally encountering a patch of snow or a clearing with a beautiful view of the three sisters. After what seemed like more time than I was expecting, we reached what would be our base camp.

That evening we relaxed, and had a very nice dinner of salad and sausage macaroni. Mosquitoes ate us alive as we played cards, set up our tents and divided up gear for the climb the following day. However, the mosquitoes were only a mild nuisance at this point as our bites hadn’t really started itching yet. The next morning we awoke at about 5:30. A quick breakfast of oatmeal was consumed, and we began climbing. We stuck to snow as much as we could, since it felt better than rock. After climbing for a while we stopped on a steep slope to hold snow-school. We practiced self-arresting in case of a fall and learned how best to walk in the snow. From there we got harnesses on and divided into two rope teams of four and continued up. We saw crevasses to our left and right, but nothing too close. We continued up the mountain breaking occasionally for water and pictures. Eventually we began to draw near the saddle, which we would climb to the center of and then head up the ridge to the summit. “Greg,” Peter called to our fearless leader, “Head up by that slope on the left instead of up the saddle.” We stayed left and instead of ascending the gentle slope to the ridge we climbed a steep snow face, moving slowly along as Greg kicked in steps. We reached the top of the snow only to find a small rock hill. Greg started up it, dislodging rocks in the process, that had we not been careful, could have sent us home early. The rest of the group gathered at the end of the snow and then one by one climbed the gravelly, dusty slope. We stopped and rested a while, snacking on power bars, energy gel and trail mix. We had a rocky hike ahead of us. The sun shone as we started trudging up the loose rocks in our heavy boots. We still had the rope on, but carried it in coils so as not to get it dirty. We reached another snowfield, which we crossed horizontally, and then on to some more rocks. We left our ropes and began hiking up the rocks that were turning into more and more secure boulders. Finally we reached the summit. Strangely enough it was covered in butterflies. We ate Poptarts and lunch and talked about skin cancer and rested. We were not eager to return to the mosquito-ridden camp. The view from the summit was amazing. We could see all over Oregon, Mt Jefferson, Mt Hood, even as far as Mt Adams in Washington. Eventually we packed up our things and headed down. This time we descended all the way to the saddle instead of going back down the steep snowy slope. At the saddle we put on gaiters and started down, to the north of where we came up, along a cliff that became a ridge. From where we were walking we could see our trail on the way up and all the crevasses from where we were walking. The idea was proposed that instead of returning to the campsite, we head to a lake of collected glacial runoff. The group was split, so we flipped an ice axe and decided to head to the lake. At the lake we washed our feet in the freezing water, swam, and ate, enjoying the sunshine and the serenity of the spot. We named the lake “Little Heaven” on the GPS. We stayed at the sun-soaked, mosquito-less lake for three hours before reluctantly returning to camp and not before I had skipped a rock about fifteen times, throwing it behind me and backwards. At camp there were far fewer mosquitoes than in the morning. Cheesy enchiladas were cooked, and spilled, and cooked some more, but came out alright. That night we celebrated the 4th with a fire, sharing stories of past adventures. Some slept like rocks that night while little circles of fire covering our bodies kept others awake. The next morning we woke up at about 6:30, packed up our camp and had hit the trail by 7:30. The hike out took us about 2 hours less than coming in. On the way back to Portland we stopped for a couple hours at the beautiful home of Peter’s friend, Stan Biles, on the McKenzie River. There we skipped rocks, watched rafts tumble through the rapids and ate a delicious lunch. Another three hours on the road and we were home. Here we saw what we had only felt on the summit: Love comes from below.

City of Rocks: July 10-16, 2007

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Catlin Gabel students traveled east to the high desert of southern Idaho for a week in the wonderland of the City of Rocks. There they spent sunny days climbing the glorious granite slabs and cracks of Elephant Rock, the Breadloaves and Castle Rock. Star-studded nights brought cooler temperatures, fantastical culinary creations, and a talent show to rule them all.

The trip report below was written by one of the students on the adventure.

City of Rocks Excursion

“It’s 6 AM Tuesday morning,” a cheap sounding radio DJ chirped onto my radio-alarm. I rose somewhat automatically considering the 5 hours of sleep I scrapped together the night before. By 6:30 Im out the door, and driving towards Catlin Gabel, on route for sunny, Northern Idaho. Or so I thought.

I arrive at 7:00 AM on the button, and converse with fellow students as pre-trip kinks are worked out by the Peter, Aiyana, and Chris "C-Potts" Potts, such as the fact that neither of our rental vans are waiting for us as promised. When they arrive eventually theres a Mexican hat dance around our faithful, and a little too small vehicles, as we load them up.

By the end of one day of driving, I learned several things: First of all, that there is a Sunday crossword puzzle. Second of all, that the puzzle is harder still than Saturday, which I had previously categorized in my mind as, "reserved for bigger men," and named a, "mind-hurt." I also learned how much can be pulled out of the supple brains of teenage youths, for by the end of the day, wed conquered Sunday.

Upon looking at the Idaho-Montana map during my short-lived stint as navigator, I learned the final lesson for Tuesday: The City of Rocks is isnt in northern Idaho. In fact its quite the opposite, kissing the Utah border. Touché, geography.

We B-lined it to Boise, Burley, and finally through the lovable Almo, turning right part way through town towards the City of Rocks.

Luckily for me, I can see perfectly well. We drove down a gravel, dusty road transitioning from cow fields to hills blanketed with sage brush, cheat-grass, and juniper- not to mention the enormous loaves of granite peppering the hillsides, and valley. As we pressed on, we saw more and more rock, in complex configurations - such that I remember thinking, "theres no way anyone climb everything here." And I was right. Though we climbed from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM or later each day, we climbed only at only 5 crags - Elephant Rock, The Bread Loaves, Bath Rock, Castle Rock, and The King and Throne - the rock within touching distance of our campsite.

The next four days were filled with laughter, exploration, memories, friendship, and blistering, sweltering, unending heat. We climbed thought provoking 5.10s and 5.11s. We spent hours on delightful multi-pitch climbs, clipping bolts on beautiful clean granite. One day we decided to cut climbing short and went in to town to spend the afternoon and evening at “Ranchfest”, a local annual celebration. We played horseshoes, listened to country music, ate home cooked food, and won several raffle drawings. It was fun and relaxing.

Even though we spent the great majority of our time climbing, the trip ended up not being about climbing so much. We returned from the trip slightly different people. Climbing brought new experiences, honed old skills, and instilled new trust. Each night, as temperatures cooled, and the brilliant stars lit up the dark sky, wed have some sort of structured conversation as a group. Our talks ranged from sharing our favorite and least favorite aspects of the day, to an open forum discussion about rural communities, to a talent show finale on Sunday night whose winner received a weeks supply of pop tarts.

Our final conversation occurred after the talent show on Sunday night. Peter asked us, "What memory of the City of Rocks will stay with you for your whole life?"

Each of us retold a story, and explained its significance. The conversation rang true for me at the time, as I know how memories run together as time goes on. But while reflecting on the trip, I realized the lessons learned from experience cant fade. And by the time our memories of the trip are gone, they will have worn away the banks of our minds, leaving in their place knowledge, reverence, and most of all personality.

Mt. St. Helens Climb: June 2007

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Mount St. Helens Climb: June 10-11, 2007

The last few steps to the summit!
We made it! (Check out that crater rim in the background.)

Seven recently graduated 8th graders (plus one incoming 8th grader) huffed and puffed their way through clouds, sleet and sun to the 8365 foot high summit of Mount St. Helens. The effort invested in ascending the snowy slopes of the peak was rewarded with "summit tarts," satisfaction in a difficult thing done well, and a long speedy glissade back down the "hill".

We had planned to spend the day before the climb doing "snow school"--learning how to kick steps, self-arrest (front, back, feet-first and head-first) and glissade (controlled seated slide)--but as we neared the mountain, the steady rain began. Sprinkles soon became a downpour, so we decided that rather than roll about in the sodden snow, we would seek shelter. We headed into Upper Ape Cave for dark explorations

By the time we returned to camp, the rain had stopped, and a delicious pasta feast was prepared. We ate, cleaned, packed, and hit the hay to be ready for the climb the next day.

We rose at six, and began our hike toward tree line. Mist enveloped us, disappeared and returned as we made our way ever upwards. We learned our snow school lessons, and began the true ascent, kicking steps in steep snow and scrambling over boulders from age old lava flows. An hour passed, then another and another, each one requiring goldfish crackers, sips of water, and small beads of sweat. At long last the summit was in view. We reached our goal and collapsed on the rim of the volcano, joyous, tired and satisfied.

Check back soon for a student trip report!

Fleeting view from the summit.
Day before the climb, outside Upper Ape Cave, in the rain.
Inside the dry, cozy confines of Upper Ape Cave.

Did we mention "cozy"?

Preparing for the big feast.

Preparing mentally for the mountain.

Running the last few feet...
...and then collapsing.
The triumphant group.


Bike Trip to Eastern Oregon, June 2007

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Amid perfect weather and empty roads, fourteen students explored the Ochoco Mountains of Central Oregon on bicycles this June. A full trip report will be posted in the coming days.

Salute to Emily Jones and Susan Sowles

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by Lark Palma, head of school

I take this opportunity to share with you my enormous respect and appreciation for Emily Jones, departing Upper School head, who came to Catlin Gabel in fall 1999.

Emily’s leadership has had a profound effect on the entire school. She is utterly honest, highly ethical, deeply intel-ligent, truly caring, and incredibly engaged in her work as an educator.

Each year Emily tells students to take risks within the safety of their Upper School experience. She has encouraged teachers, staff members, and trustees to do the same.

She has been a vital voice in articulating the need for enhancing the Upper School area of the campus. The benefits for students and learning were always at the forefront of her conversations, which led to constructing the new library and modern languages building, and renovating the Dant House, humanities, and science buildings. Emily imagined a distinct Upper School campus where adolescents and their teachers would study and hang out together. Isn’t it ironic that Emily finishes her tenure at Catlin Gabel in an unattractive office in a double-wide trailer while her vision for the Upper School reaches completion?

Emily promoted the Upper School laptop program in spring 2002. Skeptics questioned the wisdom of this plan, but Emily had done exhaustive research and defended the notion with great care and sensitivity. Just five years later, our high school students and teachers cannot imagine academic life without laptops.

We have made great strides in globalizing Catlin Gabel through student exchanges, trips abroad, and curriculum im-provements. Emily, who is a world traveler, has championed the cause. She has encouraged an increasing number of juniors to spend a year abroad (four this year and last). Likewise, she has welcomed students from across the globe to come study at Catlin Gabel. Her experience teaching in Botswana and Thailand has benefited us all. She was an early voice in support of adding Chinese to our modern languages program.

Emily is a font of knowledge about teenagers and how to help them mature into responsible adults. Her sensible views on child-rearing have benefited countless teachers, parents, and children. So often after parent meetings with Emily, I hear from families who credit Emily with giving them advice that changed their family dynamics for the better.

Emily’s focus is on students. At the same time she supports the faculty and recognizes the strengths of each teacher. She is masterful at identifying people’s talents and positioning them for everyone’s benefit. She has developed a “kid team,” a group of adults charged with thinking about the whole child. Emily has hired excellent new teachers, while honoring and learning from the teachers who have long histories with Catlin Gabel.

A strong advocate for keeping pace with new research, Emily has supported the faculty in attending brain research conferences and passing along their new understanding to colleagues school wide. Teaching in classrooms across the divisions now reflects the latest information about how people learn.

The Upper School is in great shape. Emily has made sure of that. Her successor, Michael Heath, has an excellent foundation upon which to build. Thank you, Emily. The Catlin Gabel community will miss you.

Susan Sowles

After 39 years in the Upper School, it is hard to imagine Susan Sowles not teaching art at Catlin Gabel. Generations of students have benefited from her quiet grace, constant support, and wealth of knowledge. Alumni in the arts point to Susan and her influence when they remember their journeys to becoming artists. Susan has led the art department as longtime department chair, taught art history, weaving, ceramics, painting, watercolor, and calligraphy, and served as yearbook advisor. Her elegant calligraphy has bejeweled diplomas for as long as anyone can remember. Susan’s contributions to Catlin Gabel go far beyond the arts department. She chaired the faculty professional development committee, giving voice to the concept of furthering everyone’s educations at Catlin Gabel. She has worked tire-lessly on behalf of independent schools by planning two major PNAIS conferences on our campus. And she has made certain Catlin Gabel is evaluated in the best light, leading us through two self-studies for accreditation. Thank you, Susan, for your lifetime of dedication to Catlin Gabel. I wish you all the best in your well-deserved retirement.


Congratulations to the Class of 2007. You will be missed! Read a summary of the senior panel discussion with the PFA in the Campus Life section of the website.

Seniors Talk 2007

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Q & A discussion between seniors and parents

Toward the end of each school year, we ask a panel of seniors to meet informally with the PFA at a general meeting to talk about their Catlin Gabel experiences. The seniors never fail to impress. They address questions and concerns raised by parents of children in all four divisions of the school.

Kate Grant, college counselor and dean of students, forms the panel by asking students who represent a diversity of experiences and interests. Some students are lifers; others entered at Middle School or Upper School. Some are athletes, others artists or computer buffs. Some are academic superstars, others are more laid back about school.

Eight students began the session; two departed for other obligations and were replaced by others. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

  1. Tell us about the homework rumors. Are six or seven hours of homework accurate? Is there time to do anything else? What are some outside things you’ve been involved with? more
  2. How do you maintain your friendships going from Middle to Upper School? more
  3. How was the transition from Catlin Gabel 8th to 9th grade? For those who are lifers, do you see now the value of Middle School as preparing you in a way you couldn’t have otherwise? It seems like they are very different schools, but there’s intentionality with transitions. What are your perspectives? more
  4. What about laptops? Are they valuable to you? more
  5. Has grading changed how you learn or interact with each other? more
  6. Do you feel the grades you receive represent the work you put into papers, tests, projects, and labs? more
  7. Parents send their kids to other schools so they can get better grades and get into the college of their choice. How do you feel about that? more
  8. Did the college placement office help you plot your course? more
  9. Have you all chosen colleges? Are you happy where you’re going? more
  10. How did you manage your classes during Upper School? Did you do all your required courses in the first years? Did the school help you? How did you select? more
  11. Have you studied everything you wanted to? Could you follow all your interests? more
  12. Reflecting back on different areas of study, what’s the strongest? more
  13. The general impression is that Catlin Gabel is more arts oriented, and less science and math oriented. Is that a reasonable reflection? more
  14. What are your thoughts about drug and alcohol abuse? more
  15. What could be done to reduce that? more
  16. Is there alcohol awareness? more
  17. What are the challenges you faced in the Upper School? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change? more
  18. Are there other things you would change? more
  19. . Is there a perception of CGS being supportive of either females or males? more
  20. . In the real world there is lots of competition. CGS students are confident, but do you ever feel like you won’t be ready to compete compared with your friends who attend more competitive schools? more
  21. What is the theater experience? more
  22. Are any of you involved with the outdoor program? How many students are involved with that? more

  • Tell us about the homework rumors. Are six or seven hours of homework accurate? Is there time to do anything else? What are some outside things you’ve been involved with?
  • All of the students are involved with extracurricular activities from sports, to voice lessons, to robotics and community service. Perfectionists may take a long time to do their homework, but others spend just a couple of hours on homework most nights. The homework load varies depending on the course load, the time of year, and the student’s learning style.

  • How do you maintain your friendships going from Middle to Upper School?
  • In Middle School you hang out with students in your own grade. In Upper School, students from different grades form friendships. Your friendships broaden. You might not have classes with an old friend, but if you value friendship you can maintain important relationships. Lifers have a special bond with each other even if they are not everyday friends.

  • How was the transition from Catlin Gabel 8th to 9th grade? For those who are lifers, do you see now the value of Middle School as preparing you in a way you couldn’t have otherwise? It seems like they are very different schools, but there’s intentionality with transitions. What are your perspectives?
  • The transition was smooth, but challenging – in a good way! The academics in the Middle School were good, but the approach was different. The laptop made the transition a little difficult because it was a distraction at first. Creativity is fostered in the Middle School. It’s not as strenuous academically and it’s more about developing socially. Things like the 8th grade musical build a dynamic in each class that carries over to the Upper School. All the bonding with each other and with teachers helps you relate to people when you are emotionally crazy. It’s touching, really.

  • What about laptops? Are they valuable to you?
  • We have a love-hate relationship with the laptops. The laptops are integral to our academic lives and we’d be drowning in paper without them. It helps with organization, learning software like PowerPoint, and online research.

  • Has grading changed how you learn or interact with each other?
  • The Catlin Gabel style of non-competition endures in the Upper School even though work is graded. Students study and work collaboratively because we are not competing against each other.

  • Do you feel the grades you receive represent the work you put into papers, tests, projects, and labs?
  • Because the school hasn’t succumbed to grade inflation, when you get an A, it really means something. Sometimes you may think the teacher is unfair, but the grades almost always reflect the amount of work you put into an assignment. You compete only with yourself, not other students.

  • Parents send their kids to other schools so they can get better grades and get into the college of their choice. How do you feel about that?
  • They may get better grades, but the education at Catlin is what is valuable. Catlin Gabel prepares you better because the teachers are better. Some of our classmates transferred to other schools and then came back to Catlin Gabel. The small colleges most of us want to attend know Catlin Gabel and our grading system. College freshmen come back to Catlin Gabel and tell us college is easier.

  • Did the college placement office help you plot your course?
  • Emphatically, yes. You are ultimately responsible for researching colleges, getting things written and filled out on time, and taking the lead in the process, but Kate Grant and John Keyes help you starting in junior year.

  • Have you all chosen colleges? Are you happy where you’re going?
  • (Many happy smiles here). We are attending Brown, Middlebury, George Washington, Pepperdine, Columbia, and a couple of us are undecided and considering Whitman, Oberlin, Syracuse, and Lawrence School of Music.

  • How did you manage your classes during Upper School? Did you do all your required courses in the first years? Did the school help you? How did you select?
  • Don’t defer classes, because then you can take more electives during senior year. Taking a range of classes early on led to connections and interests in subjects they might not have thought they would like. Get all you can out of Catlin Gabel so even if you have met all your requirements take a full load senior year.

  • Have you studied everything you wanted to? Could you follow all your interests?
  • Absolutely. If you want to study something you can. The teachers really encourage students to follow their passions. You can do independent study or internships, or go off on a tangent within a class.

  • Reflecting back on different areas of study, what’s the strongest?
  • English!

  • The general impression is that Catlin Gabel is more arts oriented, and less science and math oriented. Is that a reasonable reflection?
  • English is a powerhouse department, and the homework load in English is the heaviest, but the other departments are strong. If you’re good at math and science, it’s there for you and you can excel. (Ed. The makeup of this particular group did not include students who favor math, science, and computer science, though many students do.)

  • What are your thoughts about drug and alcohol abuse?
  • It’s around, but it’s no more so than at other high schools. You can definitely avoid it and it’s okay to say no. It’s not a problem. People are safe.

  • What could be done to reduce that?
  • Trust your child to make good decisions and make yourselves available as parents.

  • Is there alcohol awareness?
  • We have programs such as the trauma nurses who spoke at assembly and showed photos of alcohol-related accidents. Kate interjects: “Freedom from Chemical Dependency is an organization the school has hired to work with students and parents. It was launched this year for 8th and 9th grade families and will come back next year to work with more grade levels.”

  • What are the challenges you faced in the Upper School? If you could wave a magic wand, what would you change?
  • Learn to manage your time. The homework load was too heavy freshman year, and that should be changed. You do acclimate to the expectation. Kate Grant points out here that the school introduced a freshman class called Freshman Toolkit where ninth graders learn to acclimate to the Upper School, how to best use free periods, and how to focus attention.

  • Are there other things you would change?
  • More diversity, particularly political diversity. We get into a liberal bubble mentality.

  • . Is there a perception of CGS being supportive of either females or males?
  • The school and teachers are supportive of everybody, and there is no bias you could point to.

  • . In the real world there is lots of competition. CGS students are confident, but do you ever feel like you won’t be ready to compete compared with your friends who attend more competitive schools?
  • It’s good not to be so competitive. I attended a summer program for high school students at the University of Texas and found that other participants were obsessed with academic competition, SAT scores, etc. I just didn’t care about those things, and it was freeing.

  • What is the theater experience?
  • Academics take the lead, but the theater director, Robert Medley, is fantastic. He allows us to produce controversial work that might not be allowed at other schools. He’s very supportive and a great resource for independent theater projects. There are lots of opportunities for acting, playwriting, and play production.

  • Are any of you involved with the outdoor program? How many students are involved with that?
  • Some students are involved with the outdoor program through a PE class that meets twice a week for activities such as hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. Others participate on trips like the recent Mt. Hood climb, rock climbing at Smith Rock, or cross county skiing near Mt. Adams. Peter Green and Aiyana Hart-McArthur do great things with this program and are really good at getting students and teachers to challenge themselves.

Mount Hood Climb: May 6-7, 2007

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Nearing the summit of Mt. Hood
At the Triangle Moraine, 10,000 feet

When the alarm clock rang it was the second time that day I had been awakened so rudely. The first was about fifteen hours earlier after a late night at the prom. I looked around to see other students getting their packs ready and so I ate some of my doughnut and drank some juice. I stuffed all my climbing gear into my pack and joined the rest of the group as we stumbled into the darkness outside the Huckleberry Inn about 12:20 am to board the bus. We crossed paths with a few local citizens trying to squeeze something more out of the last bit of Sunday, while we were hoping to make our Monday a permanent lifetime memory.

We drove the bus, which started without problems, up the winding road to Timberline Lodge. Traffic was light. Once at the Lodge we dumped everything onto the pavement in the darkness and each person grabbed an appropriate amount of group gear to carry up the hill. We had three radios, a GPS, half a dozen cell phones, two mountain locator units, two tarps, a sleeping bag, a full-length foam pad, a first aid kit, a satellite phone, and also some gear used in climbing. The weather was spectacular, if a little windy. The stars shone brightly and we could see the glow of eastern Oregon towns in the distance. The time was 1:39 am when we made our first steps out of the parking lot and onto the endless snow that would take us to the summit.

The first part of the climb is pretty annoying, a long snow slog up gentle slopes. The wind picked up, but we kept a fast pace, stopping only twice for some brief clothing adjustments. Mostly we were each in our own world- illuminated by a cricle of bluish light cast by our headlamps. The required conditioning hikes paid off, and we got to the top of the Palmer snowfield at 8600 feet in about two hours. Peter told us this was a good pace. We stayed there for a bit too long, as everyone got cold in the wind. Crampons were put on boots and food was eaten. Above here the route steepens and becomes a lot more interesting. Students took turns kicking steps in the new snow from the past week as we made our way past the Triangle Moraine at 10,000 feet. Eventually, after some steep and tiring slopes we found ourselves at the base of the legendary Hogsback, a narrow ridge that points at the summit of the state’s highest peak. Here is where we split into two rope teams. We put on our harnesses and helmets and began the more technical ascent of the peak. No one had summited in maybe a week, so we ended up plowing our own way through the snow and into the standard chute that is known as the Barking Poodle, because its kind of scary, but not really. There are actually two cutes, and we took the left one, the right one looking too steep and difficult. Ian led the narrow and steep bit and placed a number of pickets to protect the rope in case of fall. There were no falls.

Above the chute is a broad gentle slope that leads to the summit. This is the slope known as the curse of the parental lecture, as it seems never ending. At this point we were climbing at over 11,000 feet, and each step was a struggle, both for altitude gained and for oxygen. But there it was- the summit! And the sun shone brightly up there, the sun we had not seen all day on the shady side of the mountain. We embraced all around and ate pop tarts. There was no one else on top, we gazed awestruck at the entire state as it was laid out before us.

The sun shone, it was 8:10 in the mroning, and there was no wind. We could have stayed for hours, but the approach of other parties alerted us to the need to be moving down before the snow got too soft. We made the descent past some friendly climbers, and past some rude ones who were so eager to summit they wouldnt let us pass. Adults, what can you do with em?

Once below Crater Rock we glissaded most of the way down. Glissading is just a fancy word for sliding on your bum instead of walking. It was noon when we got back to the parking lot and there was Len waiting for us with a dozen doughnuts, fresh doughnuts. What a guy.

We sorted out wet gear in the warm sun of the parking lot, filled with happiness and fine memories of a great day.

The summit team
Ascending the Barking Poodle
Rounding Crater Rock and heading for the Hogsback

Class of 2007 college admissions

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by Lark Palma, head of school

This is the bittersweet time of year when we prepare for our seniors to graduate. As their final weeks of high school wane, the class of 2007 is engaged in the life of the school and year-end traditions. At the same time, they are clearly ready to begin their next adventures. Most seniors have decided where they will attend college next year, some are deferring for one year but have determined which college they will attend the following year, and several are postponing their final decisions until they receive wait-list news or financial aid offers.

How did our seniors fare in this year’s instensely competitive college admission environment? Beautifully! I congratulate the class of 2007 on their admission to a variety of outstanding colleges. The list is impressive (and will be published in the fall Caller). Further, I am proud of the support the students have shown each other during the anxiety-producing process, which, unfortunately, includes rejection as well as acceptance letters. The students have remained positive and focused on the goal: being well educated.

As you have probably read in publications including the New York Times, LA Times, and Business Week, this has been a record-setting year for college applications for four reasons: the Echo Boomers (children born between 1982 and 1995) represent a population bulge. More high school graduates are attending college than previous generations. The number of international students applying to American colleges has increased. Students apply to more colleges due to amplified competition and the ease of filing online with common applications.

What are some of the numbers the class of 2007 confronted? According to the LA Times “Acceptance rates for Stanford, Yale, and Columbia were 10.3 percent, 9.6 percent, and 8.9 percent respectively. That means thousands of valedictorians and people with grade-point averages of 4.0 or higher were passed over in favor of whatever form of superhuman DNA now constitutes a worthy Ivy Leaguer. Of course, as admissions officers are quick to point out, you can be an infinitely worthy candidate and still get a no.”

The pressure on our students is enormous, and the stress is compounded when parents have unreasonable expectations. Suppose you had a nine percent chance of getting a job. Would you apply for it? An optimist might, but certainly would not put all her eggs in one basket. The idea of setting your heart on one or two first-choice colleges is an obsolete notion.

We must broaden our minds when we think of good colleges. The big-name colleges represent a small fraction of the excellent schools scattered throughout the country. Great academics and first-rate faculties are characteristics of many colleges and universities with which you may not be familiar. Illustrating this point, Newsweek dubbed 25 lesser-known schools the New Ivies. Their list includes Bowdoin, Emory, Kenyon, Pomona, Reed, Rice, Skidmore, Tufts, and Vanderbilt. Hundreds of colleges and universities that are not household names offer excellent opportunities for our graduates.

Our college counselors, Kate Grant and John Keyes, are knowledgeable about institutions of higher learning nationwide, and make it their business to enlighten colleges about Catlin Gabel. They visit campuses, correspond with college admissions offices, attend conferences, and compare notes with counselors at other high schools. They also communicate with our alumni to gain the inside scoop on colleges from California to Maine. Kate and John are dedicated to building relationships with the students they counsel. They work with juniors to identify the students’ interests and strengths. Early in the senior year, each student meets regularly with either Kate or John to establish a list of good-fit colleges, prepare essays, and line up teacher recommendations. Parents often participate in the process, but we encourage students to take the lead. The personalized attention our students receive from the entire faculty throughout the college application process is extraordinary.

More stats

Talking about grades makes us uncomfortable because we deemphasize grades in favor of non-competitive learning for the sake of gaining knowledge and skills. However, we understand the best way to dispel myths is to address misperceptions directly.

The prevailing rumor that the Upper School’s uninflated grades prevent our students from competing does not bear out. While some high schools hand out 4.0 GPAs like candy on Halloween, Catlin Gabel reserves the highest grades for exceptional students. Currently—and we don’t expect this to change at the end of the year—the majority of this year’s seniors have between 3.0 and 3.5 GPAs. Twelve students have GPAs of 3.5 or more. The average GPA for 2005, 2006, and 2007 has been 3.113, 3.175, and 3.157 respectively.

When colleges see our grade distribution, they understand our grading patterns. They know from experience and from word of mouth that Catlin Gabel students succeed in college. College admissions officers are skilled at matching students to their programs and consider factors beyond grades and test scores. During the last three years our students with grade point averages between 2.8 and 3.3 have been accepted to Colorado College, George Washington University, Macalester, Middlebury, Reed, Skidmore, St. Andrews, Smith, University of California- Davis, University of Chicago, University of Puget Sound, Washington University, and Whitman, to name a few. Carnegie-Mellon, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Middlebury, Oberlin, and University of Pennsylvania have accepted Catlin Gabel students with 3.3 to 3.5 GPAs. And Amherst, Brown, Harvey Mudd, Harvard, Haveford, MIT, Pomona, Princeton, Stanford, Swarthmore, and Yale have accepted our students with 3.5 to 4.0 GPAs.

The numbers and rankings are distractions from our most important goals of creating meaningful and relevant curriculum and educational experiences, and cultivating close student-teacher relationships. We prepare students for advanced learning, wherever their paths may lead, by offering seminar-style courses, engaging labs, myriad extracurricular clubs and activities, and personal attention. Our students know how to work cooperatively and creatively, and communicate effectively. Catlin Gabel’s college counselors and teachers know our students well, advocate for them, and help them select and pursue the best college matches. Our alumni report that they are academic achievers in college because they know how to approach professors, ask for help, manage their time, work with others, and direct their own learning. Members of the class of 2007, like their predecessors, are ready to fully engage in the next chapters in their lives. I wish them all the best.