“Are there any BIG things that kids can do to help?”

“Are there any BIG things that kids can do to help?”


This was one of the questions that Catherine G. from Ms. Busick’s class asked in her reflection after visiting “Forced From Home,” an interactive exhibit put on by Doctors Without Borders at Pioneer Courthouse Square from October 16-22. Ms. Busick’s class is spending the year digging deeply into the experience of refugees, both abroad and locally. They will share their knowledge and experiences with the Lower School community in advance of Giving Chapel, as they act as “information ambassadors” for Refugee Care Collective, one of our Giving Chapel participating agencies.

The “Forced From Home” exhibit highlights the plight of refugees around the world. As Catherine describes, “On our field trip we experienced the life and feelings of an immigrant/refugee. We visited stations that showed the steps of a lot of the things that they would have to go through. We got a new identity, and were forced to leave our homes, and venture out on a boat. There were so many things that I wanted to take with me, but I was limited to only five items. I chose water, my passport, some money, medicine, and a phone.” However, along the way, participants were made to give up items they had chosen to bring, to pay for the water crossing, for example, and ended up with one single item. The tour also included visits to medical tents and make-shift housing typical of refugee camps around the world. The tours are led by Doctors Without Borders aid workers, who share direct knowledge of what it is like in the field.

Catherine continues, “One thing that really stood out to me was how many people were going through this. I was really upset knowing that the numbers were still so huge even though so many people are helping.” 

Catherine’s questions and comments struck me as such a great encapsulation of the work of Service Learning at OES. Through Service Learning, we hope to build in our students a capacity to understand an issue but then also the agency to act. The Service Learning cycle takes students through information gathering, planning, action, and reflection. Even though after gathering information Catherine recognizes the enormity of the issue, she is motivated and empowered to act, in small and big ways, on behalf of issues that are in her heart. We want students to understand that even as youth they have the power to make a difference. “Are there any BIG things that kids can do?” she wonders. Our tour guide, a vaccination specialist who had just returned from South Sudan, told us the best ways we can help is to stay informed, act locally, support local organizations doing this work, and spread the word. Catherine, like so many of her peers who experienced Forced From Home on Monday, are ready to go about that work. I am excited to see how they choose to spread their passions to others in our community.

The class is included in the background of this KGW news story about “Forced From Home.” KGW Forced From Home

Consider visiting the “Forced From Home” exhibit for yourself, now through October 22. Doctors Without Borders Forced From Home Portland






Mount Hood Climb Service Day: a culmination to a year of service

On Wednesday, May 10, at 8:10am, the bell in the bell tower rang out, singing to the gathered crowd of students, employees, and parents. It marked the beginning of Mount Hood Climb Service Day, a chance for every member in our community to honor the tragedy of the Mount Hood Climb that occurred over 30 years ago, by putting their hands and their hearts into service.

In the Lower School, the day offered a way for many students to dig even deeper into topics they had been studying all year, a culmination of a year of service. I like to say that this is the process of moving from the “what?” to the “what now?” or “what next?” What do you do with the information you have learned? How do you act upon your knowledge for the betterment of our school? Our city? Our world? How do you use what you know to exercise your own power for good?

The cycle of Service Learning is a continual one–gaining information, planning what to do with that information, acting, and reflecting. Mount Hood Climb Service Day represents a beautiful snapshot of this process at work. Kindergarteners creating bug necklaces based on their insect students to sell at the 5th grade art fair to benefit Refugee Care Collective; Second Graders understanding the heart of a hero and then acting as ‘everyday heroes’ at the Oregon Food Bank; Third Graders passionately advocating for more city-wide recognition for the site of the former city of Vanport; Fourth Graders using their water studies to act as stewards for our local wetlands; and many more! It was beautiful to see the hearts of our students so generously on display on this day and through so many other service projects this year.

I hope you enjoy the two blog posts that follow this one, which will give you a snapshot view of just a few of the projects kids engaged in on Mount Hood Climb Service Day.



Another Mt. Hood Climb Service Day (MHCSD) has come and gone and we are left to reflect on the power and beauty of a day where our entire community comes together to remember and serve. Our Beginning and Lower school students did just that!  Though the deeper purpose of the day may be a bit beyond some of their young minds to understand, the children do understand their Power for Good.  PreK through Fifth Grade students were busy making art for the Refugee Care Collective Art Fair, removing ivy from the OES woods, making books for children in Haiti, and helping at The Oregon Food Bank.  No matter where the children were or what they were doing, there was plenty of sunshine and smiles to go around.

“How do you use your hands to share your heart?” was the theme for the Lower School this year on MHCSD.

“We Cleaned!” (Kindergarten Student))

“We pulled ivy because it was choking the trees and it shows our heart because it helps the trees and Mother Earth.” (Primary Student)

“We use our hands to show our heart by making art!” (Fifth Grade Student)

Thank you to all the students, parents, teachers, faculty, and alumni who made this year’s MHCSD so memorable for everyone involved.  Mark your calendars for next year, Wednesday, May 9, 2018, where we will all gather as a community once again to use our hands to share our hearts!

-by April Gilster





Mt. Hood Climb Service Day was a special one for Deborah Bridgnell’s Kindergarten class this year. While many OES students left campus to spread goodness around the greater Portland area, Room 12 decided to give back to the wetland’s community, by creating a nature inspired “restaurant” and book to advocate for our natural spaces.

How they went about it was super creative and quite a collaborative effort sparked by their own classroom’s focus this year of nocturnal animals. Their year-long enthusiasm and study led to quite a day of invention and enthusiasm.  With the help of Coach Corris, they set out to create their “restaurant” by taking turns drilling holes all along a large tree stump, ensuring insects would have a fantastic new home and in turn help our nocturnal animals to thrive!

They then painted and created a lovely laminated book that will teach others about nature, trees, and nocturnal animals to inspire the community give back in their own way to our spaces. Giving and reflecting. That’s what this day is all about and this class succeeded in doing their part which made me very proud!

by Jen Nicolazzo

Thank you for this year of service! We look forward to delving deeper into service with you all next year!


Sharing our love of reading

Written by Ms. Akehurst’s 5th grade class

Following our class’s passion, we have presented the importance of literacy and giving books for Giving Chapel. Together we researched two different community agencies that build literacy skills, the Woodburn Family Learning Center, and the Portland Children’s Book Bank. We’ve visited the Learning Center, where we shared our love of reading; we also hosted our own classroom used-book drive for the Book Bank. During our workshop presentations to younger students on 12/2 and 12/6, we presented our research, read our favorite used-books, and created book marks. Room 28 is buzzing with excitement to deliver our gifts to the agencies on Friday’s day of Giving Chapel.

Why do we read? 

To dig more deeply about what The Children’s Book Bank does and why their work is important, several students of different ages answered the questions, “Why do we read?” “Why are books and stories important?” “What do books and stories do for you?”

Here are their answers:

Jack B. (Kindergarten)

Why do you love books? I love books because it means that you can read and learn. How do you learn to read? You just have to practice and sound out the words, and then you can start to learn. Who reads stories to you? My mommy and daddy. What type of story do you like best? Picture books. What happens in your heart when you hear a good story? I like it and it makes me want to learn to read.

MacLean (2nd Grade)

Sometimes when I read books, I get really into them and they change my life. I want to be the characters, and I might pretend to be them at recess. I draw pictures of the characters and the scenes. I put the book to life. Once I was reading a book, and something bad happened to the main character, and I didn’t want to read it anymore, but when I picked up the book again, the character gets back up, and he was inspired to save the day, and I feel like maybe I could do that, too! It gives me ideas of how to save the day. Without books, I wouldn’t learn you could be a hero. I wouldn’t learn a lot of stuff. Reading a book is really glorious.

Porter (5th Grade)

Why is reading important? To get sucked into a story. To see how other people think. To learn about a type of thing. To learn about your favorite thing. How does it feel to share books? It feels great.  I got to see a kid’s face light up when I was reading to them. You could tell it was a gift to them. When you receive a book you want to open it up and read it right away. It is exciting, because you have a new story to go through and share with others. I think all kids should have books. My parents read to me every night, my brother gets read to a lot, and he stays up trying to read books on his own. It is so important for people to have books. It opens up a whole new world. All around you there is something to read! In life, when you come up to a problem, sometimes a book can show you ways to solve that problem, or what worked. It can help you see how to take actions that make the world and other’s lives better.

Ava (5th Grade)

To me reading is important because I do it every time I have free time. Reading can throw you into a completely different world. Once you’re there, you can be anything you want to be. You can put your feet in a character’s shoes and walk around in them a little bit. Once you understand one character’s emotions, you can understand other character’s emotions better, and you might understand your own emotions better. You can take a character and take yourself and see things you have in common. Also, you can learn new and interesting facts while reading books. You can develop passions for things that you never would have given a second thought to previously. That’s how you learn. Stories can make you emotional, they open up your heart to feel different ways. If there was a world with no books, we miss out on opportunities, on information, on inspiration. If you are read to from an early age or experience books from an early age, it changes your heart and it becomes a part of who you are.




How Do You Create A Welcome?


“What would it feel like to move far away from your home?” “What can we do to create a welcome place?” These are just a few of the questions that were posed by 5th graders in Ms. Busick’s class as they introduced one of the agencies participating in Giving Chapel this year—Refugee Care Collective. What followed was a session in which several classes in the Lower School were invited to write welcome notes to refugee families who have just moved to Portland. Refugee Care Collective will include these notes in the Restart Kits they deliver to refugee families.

Megan Tragethon, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Refugee Care Collective, believes that the Restart Kits—and the welcome notes that go inside—are important ways to communicate a feeling of welcome to a refugee family. She says, “For a refugee family, it has a profound meaning, because it represents a family who is thinking of them and investing in them. It carries a ‘we want you here’ message.”

After participating in the 5th grade welcome note project on Friday, Anya (1st Grade) talked about her experience and what she had learned about refugees: “They had to leave the country because it was just too hard for them. We said words like ‘welcome, I hope you get a nice home.’ We were trying to give encouragement that this is a good place for them to live.”

If you wish to support the work of Refugee Care Collective as part of your Giving Chapel bag, they have requested Oregon calendars, diapers, wipes, new or gently-used winter coats, paper towels, laundry detergent, and toilet paper, as well as full-sized toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and hand soap. You are also invited to write your own welcome cards to refugees to include in your Giving Chapel bag.

A Gift of Literacy

There is no better set up than when your good intentions are met with reciprocal intentions.  This is how it is when our Oregon Episcopal School (OES) 5th Grade Spanish Students have the opportunity to share their gifts of literacy with children, babies to preschoolers, at Woodburn Family Learning Center (WFLC).     The 5th Graders’ skills in reading are countered with preschoolers teaching them Spanish.   A beautiful give and take that benefits everyone!   Maestra Kelola recognizes that not only do our 5th graders get to practice their Spanish but also get to “be teachers in the moment” by “role modeling the gift of reading.”

On returning back to OES from a recent trip to WFLC, some of the Fifth Graders were asked to reflect on their experiences that day by writing about a small moment they shared with a child, something they might have learned from the children, and similarities and differences with their own lives.  The Fifth Graders’ words speak for themselves:

“I noticed that when I started looking, paying attention to, and really focusing on the book, others did too.  I hope that they develop a strong love for reading too. “ Lahna

“I learned that books can be very calming and soothing for children, even babies. “ Mia

“Our lives are similar because they have people who care for them and their parents can’t be with them all the time.  Our lives are different because they move around a lot for work.” Ria

Our lives are similar because “We both like to draw and talk quietly.”  Our lives are different because “I have access to most books while they do not.” Ava Rose

Woodburn Family Learning Center is a non-profit childcare center founded to care for the children of migrant farmworkers.  Since its inception in 1970, the program has grown in both objective and support.   Along with low cost/free childcare, WFLC also strives to “try and enhance parenting skills, improve childhood and adult literacy and increase developmental skills through research-based reading readiness activities.”  OES has been part of this effort for seven years.  Students from Lower School through High School visit the WFLC campus to read and play with the children.  Our 4th and 5th graders make 1-2 trips to WFLC each year, depending on schedule.

We are pleased to participate alongside WFLC at Giving Chapel this year. If you wish to support WFLC with a gift in your Giving Chapel bag, their wish-list includes:

  • Diapers and wipes
  • Personal Hygiene products
  • Clothes, shoes, and toys from ages 12 months to 12 yearsleaf-man-woodburn

Honoring Our Veterans

On Veteran’s Day, students across the Lower School found lots of ways to connect to the amazing service provided to us by United States veterans and active-duty service members. Many classes began the day by writing thank-you notes to those who have served or are serving in the military. Some chose to write to family members who were veterans. Students wrote phrases such as, “Thank you for your bravery,” and “We appreciate what you have done!” Joel (second grade) remarked, “It is important to honor them. We owe a lot of gratitude to soldiers and others who fought in wars. It’s a big deal not to honor them, so I think we have to do it.”

The 5th Graders continued expressing their patriotic pride by marching in the Veterans Day parade. They waved flags, sang the preamble the US Constitution, saluted, and thanked local veterans. Before the parade, each 5th grader researched family members who have served in militaries around the world, and created posters to represent them and their service.

This year as part of your Giving Chapel donation, we will accept thank-you cards written to veterans or to active-duty service members. One of our 5th grade classes will hand-deliver the veterans cards to the VA hospital on Giving Chapel day. They will be visiting the hospital to spread cheer by caroling through the hallways.  Cards that are written to active-duty service members will be sent to a platoon currently deployed in Iraq of the son of a member of the staff at OES. You can put these cards straight into your Giving Chapel bag!

You may begin your letter with a greeting such as “Dear Veteran,” “Dear Warrior,” “Dear Service Member.” Consider writing a few sentences to thank the veteran or service member for their service, dedication, sacrifice, hard work, or time away from home. Go on to say something about you. Children should sign the letter with only their first name.

Thank you for thanking our veterans with us!


“Who needs a good assist?”

“Who needs a good assist?” “How can you work together with them to alleviate their need?”

In preparation for Giving Chapel on Dec. 9, Lower School students have thought about needs in the community and their desire to help. The fifth grade classes identified specific needs among refugees, immigrants, animals and the education and mental health systems. Once needs in the community were identified, we posed two questions to our community: “Who needs a good assist? and “How can you work together with them to alleviate their need?” Tuesday’s Chapel spoke to the contagious nature of our words and actions. The words we choose to describe needs and the actions we take affect others, much like what happens when someone laughs and then smiles burst throughout the room. The fancy theological term of creating a community of being or dancing with another is perichoresis. Ask me about it. The students are ready to embrace the giving process of taking themselves out of the center of attention and to instead, assist another to work together to accomplish that person’s dream. Our inner intentions that are followed up by actions create a kinder world. Please join us in this season of giving, its contagious!

From Mother Heather Wenrick, Lower School Chaplain

Look for posts over the next few weeks that outline organizations that are participating in this year’s Lower School Giving Chapel, and that describe ways we can make a heart-connection to those organizations and their good work.