What is PLACE?

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Program Elements, Curriculum, and Faculty



PLACE includes different program components

  • Catlin Gabel curriculum: Urban studies at Catlin Gabel will be enhanced through targeted curriculum and experiential learning opportunities. PLACE’s unique public-private partnerships and relationships will provide Catlin Gabel students and faculty unparalleled access to civic leaders and activities, thus advancing the school's mission of progressive education in the true spirit of "forming bold learners."  

  • Public schools’ curriculum: Urban studies in PPS will be enhanced through targeted curriculum and experiential learning opportunities. PPS students and faculty will benefit from access to and collaboration with the Pacific Northwest's preeminent center of excellence for progressive, experiential learning in addition to civic leaders and activities. 

  • Collaborative learning: Diverse students from CatlinGabel, PPS, and more distant communities in Oregon and Washington benefit from learning together in focused summer and extracurricular programs, modeled on Catlin Gabel's innovative progressive education techniques and delivered in an urban center famous for sustainable, community-centered planning and development.  

Curriculum Details

All PLACE classes are structured as a seminar based on experiential learning and youth as empowered and engaged citizens. In other words, it is to learn by doing and lead by actively making decisions in the classroom and in the community. In our experience with youth in planning, it is critical to have a peer-to-peer model of engagement, generating more authentic and potentially more actionable recommendations that we refer to as “youth voice.” While each class has an individually tailored curriculum based on the project requirements, here are the fundamental curricular components.


 1.     Urban Studies 101: The Portland Experience

  • This component covers topics such as local government, regional planning, urban design, public health, citizen involvement, sustainability, urban renewal, youth empowerment, real estate development, gentrification, transportation planning, and land use planning.  There is a consistent focus on social equity in all lessons.

 2.     Service Learning: A Student-led Planning Project

  • This component builds on the knowledge and experience of the Urban Studies 101 section by giving students the opportunity to apply themselves to a project with tangible community benefit.
  • For each project, the students form a planning firm and work with a client on a project proposal, work plan, and the completion of deliverables, which include a planning document and public presentation.
  • Examples of student projects can be found here.

3.     Leadership Training: Being a Leader for Positive Change

  • This component of the curriculum is ongoing throughout the program.
  • Youth empowerment and youth voice as a method for positive community development, inspired and supported by both City of Portland and Multnomah County youth in civic engagement programming.
  •  There will be a blog to document the process, which all students will work together to maintain and update. Leadership training will also include self-reflection, self-evaluation, peer evaluation, support to group dynamics, stakeholder mediation, teamwork, and team-building.

Students have a discussion in the Metro Council Chambers.



The programs are…

  • experiential, project-based and progressive

  • a chance for all Catlin Gabel students to participate in learning about, and shaping, the Portland metropolitan area through service learning

  • a collaboration between Catlin Gabel students and those from other schools in the area

  • a unique opportunity for all interested students in the region to learn how Portland works from community leaders and to practice effective citizen engagement and leadership

  • a partnership between Catlin Gabel and public schools, other private schools, Portland State University, nonprofits, and local government agencies

  • a one-of-a-kind, interdisciplinary and hands-on educational experience for youth


George Zaninovich has taught leadership and community outreach for 11 years and is currently program director/lead teacher for PLACE at Catlin Gabel. George earned a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a master's of urban and regional planning from Portland State University, where he focused on community involvement and social equity issues. While at Portland State, he received the National Student Project of the Year Award from the American Planning Association for the Oregon Land Use Stories Project and became the first Sidney Lezak Social Equity Fellow.

Peter Shulman has taught in independent schools for 17 years and is currently history department chair at Catlin Gabel. Educated at Haverford College and University of Michigan, his graduate work focused on the evolution of police and community relations in U.S. cities. Peter started the Oregon Urban Leadership Program, PLACE's predecessor program, in 2005. He is currently the PLACE associate director. 

David Ellenberg has been an independent school teacher since 1983. Prior to teaching, David was an urban park ranger in Brooklyn, New York, patrolling and interpreting the beauty and history of Prospect Park. As a product of the urban environment, his teaching has been informed with the cultural, social, political and religious diversity that cities offer. David currently teaches 8th grade history at Catlin Gabel School and Urban Exploration, the PLACE summer program for 7th, 8th and 9th graders.