As a place-based school we are always looking for ways to lead our students in local explorations. But by the time they reach middle school, students are ready to further investigate how local issues connect to the bigger picture.
This winter, our 7th and 8th graders searched out these local-global connections through their unit on globalization. As part of this study, students researched the “invisible stories” behind several everyday objects. They also learned about the history of trade including the silk road, the black plague, and colonialism.
In terms of fieldwork, students traveled to Creo Chocolate in the NE for a tour and to learn about the differences between direct trade and fair trade.
New Seasons’ Sellwood Market hosted them for a tour and discussion about local versus global food sourcing. Students were also able to visit the Nike campus to hear from Susan Rohol, a trade lawyer, and another local trade representative. During this visit they had the opportunity to ask questions and tour the grounds.
Back in the classroom, students demonstrated their learnings through in intensive journalism project. With the help of professional journalist Garrett Andrews, who served as a writer-in-residence, students crafted articles about local products or companies who have global ties. Garrett explained the role of a journalist and gave students tips in interviewing, organization, and editing. As part of this process, students conducted an interview with someone involved with their local company or product. At this point, Jenica Caudill of Equal Exchange visited the classroom to help answer any last questions.
Students then created podcasts based on their articles. To learn more about podcasting, students visited OPB’s headquarters on Macadam and heard from experts. Mikey Neilson, a local podcaster, also visited the class to offer examples and tips.
As a culmination, students shared their articles and podcasts with the community on April 19th. The oregon chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists shared select articles, including Zoe Downer and Noah Mandac’s awesome article on Mississippi Records’ mixtapes.
This project is a great example of how social studies, language arts, and local investigations can combine to help our students make sense of a complicated and timely topic. Well done!
Meanwhile, the first and second grades delved into a mountain study. In the classroom, students discussed the elements of a mountain and researched the different ways mountains are formed.
They built class mountains out of paper mache and gave each a unique name: Nesa’s class- Mt. Willy, Angie’s class- Mt. Angie.
Despite the snowy start to the trimester, both classes were able to visit Mount Tabor and learn about the formation of local mountains from PPR staff naturalists. Portland mountaineer, Guy Wettstein, visited the classrooms to share photos from the top of Mt. Hood and introduce students to climbing equipment.
In February, students learned about climate zones and added appropriate plants to the different parts of their classroom mountains. When studying erosion, students visited Tryon Creek State Park (on a very rainy day!) to better understand how water helps to create and change landforms.
In March, storyteller Will Hornyak visited the classroom to tell mountain
tales based on local myths. Students went on to craft their own mountain myths which they turned into short plays and performed for the community.
The 1st and 2nd grade classes celebrated the end of their unit with two events. First, both classes visited Timberline Lodge where Ian Cary from Mount Hood National Forest gave them a tour and shared mountain facts and animal pelts. Students also had an opportunity to play in the snow! Lastly, both Mt. Willy and Mt. Angie turned out to be volcanoes and erupted at the end of the trimester. What good timing!