An Oregon Grants in Place project engaged school, students, and community in an environmental project with an artistic bent. Cool spaces and places, indeed.
Upon learning of Crook County School District’s intent to close the 80-year old Powell Butte Elementary School at the close of the 2009-2010 school year, the unincorporated community of Powell Butte, Oregon came together to establish a community charter school. Thanks to the efforts of many caring citizens, parents and educators, Powell Butte Community Charter School was opened September 7, 2010 in the 80-year old Powell Butte School building.
Powell Butte Community Charter School is a public charter school operated under the sponsorship of the Crook County School District. Powell Butte Community Charter School is authorized by the Oregon Department of Education and the Crook County School District to provide a “Place Based” education to more than 160 K-8 students. The Powell Butte Community Charter School Board of Directors, separate from the Crook County School District, has fiscal and operating responsibility for the school.
Powell Butte’s commitment to place based education is illustrated by the work of middle school science teacher Marcia Van Horn and her students. Van Horn received a 2016 Grants in Place award from the Rural Schools Collaborative for her “Cool Spaces and Places” project, where students worked with a local design consultant to plan, design and incorporate student artwork into an outdoor education center. Ultimately, the long-term plan is for this space to be used for a farmers’ market.
Van Horn reported that “the project kicked off in the fall, and twenty-one Middle School students participated in our Outdoor Learning Spaces Friday elective class during our first elective term.” Participating students remained engaged in the effort from September through November, which involved two major phases of designing and developing the project.
“All work was student-driven,” said VanHorn. “The work was a collaboration of resources including parent donations, support from our school grounds keeper/custodian, and donated time by a local artist and parent, Julie DeRoest.”
In the Native Plant Garden students researched, designed, developed, and planted a native plant garden. “This will be enjoyed by our entire K-8 student population and a great support to our Place Based Education focus,” Van Horn added, “The objective is for students to be able to identify our native plants, know what their growing needs are, and their life cycles. Identifying tiles for the garden have been painted, and a Plant Guide is being written for visitors to use when visiting our garden.”
Students also designed a Seasonal Mural for the Outdoor Classroom. Van Horn said, “The end result is a colorful environment to inspire and encourage outdoor art and learning.” Van Horn appreciated the support she and her students received from the Rural Schools Collaborative's Grants in Place program. “Thank you for offering the funds for our students to be part of a hands-on project. Many skills were learned and a sense of pride abounds!"
We encourage you to learn more about the importance of place-based engagement to rural schools and communities.
Editor's note: Marcia Van Horn is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. With a double major in Secondary Education and Public Health Education, she has 25+ years experience in the classroom and working in Public Health. Her teaching experience began in a rural setting in Nebraska; since then she has taught in suburban schools, rural schools, an International Baccalaureate school, and most recently at Powell Butte Community Charter School. This is her second year at PBCCS. She looks forward to being a part of the Powell Butte community for the remainder of her career!
Marcia firmly believes in the K-8 model for education and sees everyday the gains that her students are making at Powell Butte with place based education. The connections that students are making to their community, water, and land increase their understanding of the resources and of the problems associated with sustaining a rural community.
Pictured below: Marcia Van Horn:
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