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Partnership puts college students in classrooms

October 11, 2011

Science lessons get a youthful twist in four PPS schools thanks to a partnership with Reed College.

Featured in PPS Pulse

For an hour each week, a handful of teachers step aside (but never far away) as Reed students take center stage in classrooms at Grout and Lewis elementary schools, and at Beach and Humboldt PK-8 schools.

“They bring a lot of outstanding knowledge and supplies into our school,” says Grout teacher Sally Stephenson, who has worked with the Reed Biology Outreach Program for about a decade.

Lessons are prepackaged and tightly organized. That means teachers know what they’re getting and can fit Reed students’ activities into their plans.

Stephenson says they complement her partnerships with Portland Parks & Recreation, which leads students on tours of Oaks Bottom, and an overnight OMSI coastal ecology trip.

One recent lesson focused on cell parts. Reed student Jennifer Caamano spoke confidently while Brian Gilroy, a Grout teacher, sat in the back.

Other topics are similarly advanced, but Reed students use hands-on activities to help — and they don’t worry if some of it doesn’t stick.

“It’s OK if students don’t remember what the endoplasmic reticulum is, for example,” says Caamano, a physics major who plans to become a high school teacher. “But by introducing these concepts to students now, they won’t be so intimidated by them later.”

PPS students take the teacher switch-ups in stride.

Transitions are quick: Within minutes of the cell lesson’s conclusion, worksheets are tucked inside special red folders and Reed students’ materials are in tubs. Then their regular teacher moves to the front — until next week.

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