Dear Portland Public Schools:
I’ve heard you are cutting Outdoor School and that is a bad decision. Also I have heard that you are cutting something with Bilingual Education in the district. I don’t think you’re realizing that Outdoor School is a benefit to ESL students as much as English speakers.
When kids go to Outdoor School, the forest is their language. They might not understand anything that they learn in school because they don’t speak the language or their parents don’t. But at Outdoor School, it doesn’t matter. They learn with their hands and everybody learns better this way. Kids help each other understand what the Student Leader is saying.
Once when I was a SL, I was teaching a group and their teacher told me that a couple of kids just moved here from Somalia. They didn’t speak english and they dressed differently than everyone else. Sometimes people who wear scarfs on their head and long robes are stared at. Maybe it’s racist, or not. But the girls in my group wore scarfs on their head and I didn’t want the other kids to make fun of them. So I treated them just like any other kid, even if they didn’t speak much english. Everybody else did too. These girls were wearing long robes and they took their arms out to touch the trees. I thought that was pretty cool because they wouldn’t have that opportunity anywhere else. I found out later that they did know a little english because they remembered the stuff I was teaching them. I remember they knew how to identify a Big Leaf Maple, a Western Red Cedar, and Sword Fern.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think they would have learned anything like that at school. They probably get made fun of all day long and they just needed someone with a little bit of patience. I was glad I could be that person.
Maria Dunham “Starfish”
Franklin High School
Namanu Outdoor School