Sunday, January 30, 2011

February Fun!

There's a lot going on in Portland in February, and my list is noticeably longer than it was in January! This is a list of free and low cost events all around the greater Portland area that have some educational or cultural value. I compile this list for the homeschool group we belong to, which includes kids around age 8 and under, but most of the events have much broader appeal. Please doublecheck any event you plan to attend, as typos and mistakes happen! I am proud to note that this list marks the first anniversary of when I started publishing it on a blog, and the list has grown much, much more extensive!

Mr. Ben”. He’s on the calendar to perform on Saturday, February 12, 10AM at The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave., Pdx. He also has regular gigs around town. They are on Mondays at 10AM at Posie’s, 8208 N. Denver Avenue, Pdx, as well as Tuesdays at 10:30AM at Milagros Boutique, 5433 NE 30th Avenue, Pdx, $3 per walking human, Wednesdays at 10AM (except the 12th this month) at Eco Baby Gear, 2122 SE Division Street, Pdx, $5 suggested donation, and Fridays at 10AM at Branch and Birdie, 8021 SE Stark St., Pdx. He introduces playing the ukulele to kids as young as 3. “Though most people know me as a performer, I think of myself first and foremost as an educator. Music education is the real motivation for why I do what I do. I believe that music should be and can be more accessible to all people. My primary goal is to eradicate the myth that some people are simply “non-musical.” We are all musical, and anybody can learn to play music. Yes, even you.”

Mo Philips”, Mo has regular gigs every Tuesday at 10AM at Posie’s Café, 8208 N. Denver Avenue, Pdx., and every Thursday (except presumably on the 20th) at Milagros Boutique, 5433 NE 30th Ave, Pdx., (10AM on February 3 and February 10, 10:30AM on February 17 and February 24) $3 per walking human, as well as 10AM on Sunday, February 9th and Sunday, February 23 at Flying Cat Coffee, 3041 SE Division St. “Mo performs interactive shows that respect the intelligence of young people with wit and irreverence, without being strictly scatological. This is music built for kids and parents alike! Mo does not dumb down lyrics or melodies for kids to "understand", and therefore sings about things whole families can appreciate. A fine, distilled blend of Americana, Soul and Blues, while not being afraid of a poppy hook or straight rockin' out.”

Lunar New Year Celebration”, Tuesday, February 1, 6PM, at Holgate Library. “Celebrate the Lunar New Year customs of China and Vietnam and welcome the Year of the Rabbit at the library. Watch a spectacular Chinese lion dance, participate in a family craft project, and enjoy traditional food and music. View the spectacular Lion Dance performed by the Lee Family Association Lion Dance Team. This traditional performance will consist of Cantonese lions accompanied by instruments including drums, gongs and cymbals.”

Science Fun”, Tuesday, February 1, 2-4PM, Beaverton City Library Meeting Rooms A and B. “Science learning centers for beginning scientists and their families. Complete with a book corner featuring easy-reading science books. Registration is required. Please phone (503) 350-3600 to register or sign-up in person at the Children's Desk on the first floor of the library. Registration begins one month before the program.” This program is suggested for K-3. 

Earthquake and Tsunami Threats in Oregon”, Tuesday, February 1, 7PM, Forest Grove Library. “Presented by Dr. James Roddey, Earth Sciences Information Officer, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries.” This is an all ages presentation, but of course parents should judge whether it’s completely inappropriate for your child or whether they will be completely fascinated. This caught my eye because the speaker was the subject of a recent story in the Willamette Week:

Raptor Identification Class”, Tuesday, February 1, 7PM-9PM. Gresham City Hall Springwater Trail Room, 1333 NW Eastman Parkway, Gresham, OR. Free. “Get excited about the kings and queens of the air. Join Gresham in welcoming Metro's naturalist James Davis, a local birding guru, as he uses slides and specimens to teach raptor identification. Learn to identify eagles, falcons and hawks. Then use new identification skills at Metro's annual Raptor Road Trip, Feb. 5 on Sauvie's Island. Meet in the Springwater Trail Room at Grehsam City Hall. Free. For more information, call 503-618-2604.” Mr. Davis has done raptor identification presentations before, limiting attendance to adults and teens. This a free presentation that is listed as “family friendly”. 

Symphony Storytime”, every Wednesday in February at 10:15, Hillsboro Main Library. “Storytimes feature musicians from the Oregon Symphony performing music that enhances and deepens the storytelling experience. Each storytime features one of the four families of musical instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. A craft session where children make their own instruments out of common household items and an instrument petting zoo follow the storytimes. Children and their parents also receive a specially made bookmark with suggested reading and recommended CD's featuring the storytime instruments.”

Sweet Words”, Wednesday, February 2, 6-8PM, Forest Grove Library. “As part of the First Wednesday Sweet Words event, the Forest Grove City Library will be hosting Nel Rand, author of The Burning Jacket (2010) and Hannah Hurdle-Toomey, author of More than a Slave (2010). Authors will be answering questions, signing and selling their books, and reading. Wednesday, February 2nd, 6pm Nel Rand, 7pm Hannah Hurdle-Toomey.” “The Burning Jacket” is a young adult book with a strong environmental theme. “More Than A Slave” is a book about the author’s father, who was born into slavery in the American south. (Yes, really!) 

Professor Banjo”, Thursday, February 3, 10:30AM, Capitol Hill Library (free tickets will be given out beginning at 10AM), Thursday, February 3, 3:30PM at Belmont Library, and Saturday, February 19, 10:30AM at Sellwood-Moreland Library. He also plays regular gigs every Monday at 10AM at Flying Cat Coffee, 3041 SE Division St., every Wednesday at 1PM at Milagros Boutique, 5433 NE 30th Ave., Pdx. $3 per walking human; and every Thursday at 4PM at Branch and Birdie, 8021 SE Stark, donation requested. "Paul Silveria performs for families as the banjo-slinging, old-time singing "Professor Banjo" entertaining children with sing-a-longs, dancing games, and stories, all accompanied by lively old-time music that parents can enjoy, too! Professor Banjo's shows are fun for a wide range of ages - from toddlers to tweens who still like to get up and dance around!" Professor Banjo is awesome!

Chinese New Year Celebration”, February 3-17, Lan Su Chinese Garden, 239 NW Everett Street, Pdx. Garden open 10AM-5PM daily. All events are free with admission which is $8.50 for adults, $7.50 for seniors 62 and older, 6.50 for students, and free for kids 5 and under. They will have performing arts, crafts, and stories to celebrate the holiday. Both Clackamas County Libraries and Washington County Libraries have cultural passes available for families to visit free of charge. Check with them for availability. (Both systems, and the Multnomah County Library system, will give library cards to card holders of the other libraries.) 

Hands-On Math for Homeschoolers”, Thursday, February 3, and Thursday, February 10, 1:30PM, Ledding Library of Milwaukie. “Math-based games and crafts for homeschoolers ages 5 & up.” 

Copper Wire Hearts”, Thursday, February 3, 3:30PM, Midland Library, Saturday, February 5, 2PM, Albina Library, and Saturday, February 12, 2PM, at Northwest Library. “Artist Kathleen Karbo will show you how to create a one-of-a-kind valentine using copper wire, pipe cleaners, and colorful beads and ornaments. Gain experience with hammers, anvils and needle-nose pliers. Fun for all ages!”

Connect2science through Nature for K-5 Educators”, a series of 5 classes for adults, Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4 & Feb. 5, 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, and Thursdays, Mar. 10, Apr. 14, & May 12, 4:00 – 8:00 pm. Tryon Creek State Park. “Explore the forest through authentic nature-based investigations. Learn techniques to integrate science learning with outdoor experience based on the new 2009 Oregon Science Content Standards. Explore ways to complete engaging Inquiry and Engineering and Design work-samples beginning with observations of the natural world.”

Timberline Nature Walk With Bruno!”, throughout the winter, Friday through Sunday at 10AM. Meet at the US Forest Service Desk inside Timberline Lodge, on Highway 26 at Mt. Hood. Free, donations appreciated. “Join a Ranger and the 150 pound mascot of Timberline Lodge — the St. Bernard Bruno for some fun on Mount Hood! Depart from Timberline Lodge and stroll through the high country with Bruno on this short 1-2 mile walk (depending on weather) while learning about the winter ecology of Mount Hood. Once the snow flies, be sure to bring your winter gear and an appetite for adventure! For additional information, please call 503-622-2033 or visit”

Prowling For Owls”, Friday, February 4, and Friday, February 18, 7PM-9PM, Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge. “Whooooo goes there? Join us at Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge to find out about the owls who make the Refuge their home. During a night hike we will learn about the mysterious lives of our nocturnal neighbors, discover their habitat, and learn about their amazing adaptations for life at night. Please register by submitting you name, number of participants in your group, and your phone number to Maximum group size is 6. Wear sturdy shoes, dress for the weather, and bring a flashlight.”

Tet 2011, Vietnamese New Year Celebration”, Saturday, February 5, 10AM-6PM, Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall D, 777 NE MLK Blvd., Pdx. Admission $4. A lion dance, a beauty pageant, and performing arts, as well as a free health fair.

Chinese New Year Cultural Fair”, Saturday, February 5, 10AM-6PM, Oregon Convention Center, Exhibit Hall C, 777 NE MLK Blvd., Pdx. Admission $6, kids 6 and under are free. “A lion dance every hour, martial arts demonstrations, Chinese folk dance and music, a Chinese puppet show, and more than 80 booths offering food, products, and services.”

Chinese New Year at the Chinatown Gate”, Saturday, February 5, 10AM-11AM, NW 4th Ave. and West Burnside St., all ages, free. “Lion dance and firecrackers, group photo shoot for anyone of Chinese heritage or anyone who wants to be Chinese for a day, rabbit costume contest for kids and adults, hot tea and hot Chinese dessert.

Graffiti Style Fine Art”, Saturday, February 5, 1PM-4PM, Troutdale Library; Saturday, February 19, 1PM-4PM, St. Johns Library (registration required, call 503-988-5397); and Saturday, February 26, 2PM-5PM, Kenton Library. “During this 3-hour workshop, DeAngelo Raines, artist and founder of the nonprofit organization Art Not Crime, will give a short presentation demonstrating the positive and creative aspects of legal street art. Participants will then use these new techniques to create a small graffiti project. All ages are encouraged to participate in this hands-on introduction to graffiti style fine art.” Recommended! 

Raptor Road Trip”, Saturday, February 5, 9AM-2PM, Beginning at Kruger’s Farm Market, 18330 NW Sauvie Island Road, Pdx., $10 per vehicle, cash only. “Explore Sauvie Island in search of magnificent bald eagles, hawks and falcons that spend the winter on the island. On this special day devoted to raptors, experienced naturalists and hawk experts host activities and answer your questions at four locations around the island. Enjoy guided bird viewing, meet live raptors up close and sharpen your hawk identification skills. Hot drinks and donuts are available in the morning to keep you warm while you breakfast with the birds. Begin at Kruger’s Farm Market and pick up your event map and raptor identification guide. The event fee is $10 per vehicle, cash only, and includes a Sauvie Island Wildlife Area parking permit. To reach Kruger’s, take Highway 30 to the Sauvie Island Bridge and continue straight 1.5 miles (past Howell Territorial Park) to the farm entrance on your right. Carpooling is encouraged. Spotting scopes help with raptor identification and are provided with naturalists on hand to point out the birds. Bring binoculars and field guides if you have them and dress for the weather. This event takes place rain or shine. The road trip is suitable for birders of all skill levels and families are welcome. While you don’t have to be an “early bird” and get up at the crack of dawn to see these birds of prey, you should allow approximately three hours to visit all four locations. What will you see? It all depends on what nature has in store. Frequently sighted raptors include bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and Northern harriers. With a little luck, you might spot a rough-legged hawk, Cooper’s hawk, merlin or peregrine falcon. Beautiful snow geese, sandhill cranes and great blue herons are commonly seen at this time of year.”

Guided Nature Walks”, Saturdays, 10AM-11:30AM, Tryon Creek State Park. “Join a park ranger for a free, guided nature hike to explore the forest and stream ecosystems and natural history at Tryon Creek State Natural Area. Topics will vary from week to week but will be appropriate for all ages. Parents must accompany kids on all hikes.” February 5: Wildlife Detectives; February 12: Drummers of the Forest; February 19: Magnificent Moss and Lovely Lichen; February 26: Winter Twig Identification.

Family Owl Night”, Saturday, February 5, 6:30-8:30PM, Tryon Creek State Park, $6 per child, preregistration required. “Come learn about what makes owls such successful nocturnal predators, dissect a real owl pellet and learn what it had for dinner, and join one of our nature guides on an evening hike to listen for owls.”

Family Valentines”, Saturday, February 5, 1PM, St. Johns Library (registration required; call 503-988-5397) and Saturday, February 12, 11AM, North Portland Library. “Join artist Lisa Kagan in creating valentines for your whole family through a combination of collage, personal photographs, drawing and creative writing. Participants will be encouraged to explore what love means to them as they create their own customized valentines. This project is a great activity for the whole family. Optional: Bring family photographs to incorporate into your project.” 

Chinese New Year Celebration”, Saturday, February 5, 1:30PM, Beaverton City Library, Meeting Rooms A and B. Recommended for grades 1-5. “Come learn about and celebrate the Chinese New Year by making a craft and hearing a story.” 

Red Fans For Lunar New Year”, Saturday, February 5, 11AM, Sellwood-Moreland Library. “Decorate red accordion fans with origami paper, Chinese character rubber stamps, glitter and other materials. The fan is a traditional Chinese symbol and red paper is used to symbolize good luck and happiness throughout the year. Artist Cindy Lommasson brings back this popular craft for the new year.” 

Al-Andalus”, Saturday, February 5, 2PM, Ledding Library of Milwaukie. “These sophisticated artists with extraordinary breadth and creativity soulfully merge classical, jazz and contemporary music with musical traditions from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Thus embodying the new vision of America as a modern society that embraces its cosmopolitan cultural heritage.” 

Superbowl Sunday”, Sunday February 6, 3PM. Many local theatres will be showing it on the big screen for free! This is a way to see it with a bunch of excited fans, in a family friendly environment. Too many to list here…your best bet is probably to check the theatres near you. 

History of Logging Presentation”, Sunday February 6, 2PM-4PM, Beaverton City Library Meeting Room B. This is a program for adults, but might be of interest to children who can sit quietly, who are learning about the history of the Pacific Northwest. “Don Alanen, author of The Logging Encyclopedia, third generation logger, will give a program on the history of logging in Oregon and Washington. This is a FREE program, with refreshments provided.” 

Valentine’s Day Special Studio”, Monday, February 7, 3:30PM - 4:30PM, The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave. Pdx. $10, all ages. “With a huge variety of paper, fabric, tulle, felt, ribbons and much more, we’ll collage, decoupage, stamp, glitter and embellish our way to Valentine's Day. Make valentines or decorate a mailbox to house your creations.” To register for classes, please email:

The Southern Hemisphere’s Sky”, Monday, February 7, 7PM and 8:15 PM, Mount Hood Community College Planetarium Sky Theatre, 26000 SE Stark St., Gresham, OR. $2. “All shows are presented under a realistic representation of the night sky, featuring the latest galactic, stellar and planetary images.”

Art Works!”, Tuesday, February 8, 3:30PM, Tualatin Library. Suggested for kids ages 5-11. “Have you ever wondered how picture book artists make their artwork? This program offers an introduction to art techniques using some of literature’s most beloved picture book authors. Each session will introduce kids to an art concept, a story that demonstrates it, and art supplies that will allow kids to explore their creativity. This month lean about lines: thin lines, thick lines, curved lines, and much more!”

Dragon Theatre Puppets presents, “The Reluctant Dragon”, Tuesday, February 8, 6:30PM, West Linn Library. The puppeteer makes his sets and puppets by hand, and tells the kids all about how he does it after his shows.

South Indian Classical Dance”, Tuesday, February 8, 7PM, Tigard Public Library. “Led by Subashini Ganesan, founder of Natya Leela Academy, dancers in bright, beautiful costumes will demonstrate the athletic and narrative dance form of the Tamil Nadu region of India. This interactive performance will also give you a chance to tell stories with your hand, eyes and bodies.”

Family Sign-a-Long”, Wednesday, February 9, 6PM, Kenton Library. Recommended for grades K-5. “This hands-on workshop incorporates American Sign Language into theme-oriented learning activities. Sing songs, learn new signs, listen to stories and play signing games. This program serves as an ideal opportunity for beginning signers to sample a sign language workshop or for active signers to practice their skills. Taught by local children's author Dawn Prochovnic, MA.” 

The Alphabeticians Play the ABCs”, Wednesday, February 9. 10:30AM, Hollywood Library. Free tickets will be given out beginning at 10AM. They also will be performing on Sunday, February 6th and 20th at 10AM at Flying Cat Coffee, 3041 SE Division St., Pdx; and on Friday, February 11th and 25th, 3:30PM, at The Warehouse Café, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave., Pdx. Half the duo, Mr. Hoo, plays every Wednesday at 3PM at Bullseye Coffee, 1980 Willamette Falls Dr., West Linn, OR ($3 per person), every Thursday at 10AM at Flying Cat Coffee, and Friday, February 18, 3:30 at Warehouse Café. “The Alphabeticians play "Kindie Rock" music that is fun for the whole family! They combine humor, clever (mostly original) songs, and interactive elements in their shows as they sing about numbers, size, dads, metaphors, bags, monsters, extinct fish and multiple alphabet songs. Adults will have as much fun as the kids!”

Lunar New Year Celebration”, Tuesday, February 8, 5PM, Midland Library. “Celebrate the Lunar New Year traditions of China and Vietnam with a traditional dance performed by the Portland Art & Cultural Center Dance Team, music, games, food and crafts!” 

Lunar New Year Celebration”, Tuesday, February 8, 6PM, Woodstock Library. “Celebrate the Lunar New Year customs of China and welcome the Year of the Rabbit at the library. Enjoy traditional lion dancers, crafts and treats! View the spectacular Lion Dance performed by the Lee Family Association Lion Dance Team. This traditional performance will consist of Cantonese lions accompanied by instruments including drums, gongs and cymbals. Celebrate Lunar New Year with artist Jean Choy. The rabbit is the fourth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. Decorate a festive rocking rabbit and receive an auspicious balloon rabbit to bring you good luck throughout the year! 

Tikki Tikki Tembo”, Tuesday, February 8, 6PM, Midland Library. “Don’t go near the well, you will surely fall in,” warned the mother of two young boys. The two brothers played near the well, they walked on the well and Chang fell into the well. Oh no! Can his big brother get help in time to save him? Whew! Yes, the old man with the ladder got there in time. But what happened when Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo, with his great long name, fell into the well? Don’t miss the fun as Tears of Joy Theatre puppeteer Emily Alexander performs this beloved story by Arlene Mosel. 

The Elixir of Love”, Thursday, February 10, 7PM, Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside, Pdx., Sunday, February 13, 2PM, Mattie’s Room at the Hotel Oregon, 310 NE Evans St., McMinnville, OR, and Monday, February 14, 12PM, Portland Center for the Performing Arts, Antionette Hatfield Hall Rotunda Lobby, 1111 SW Broadway, Pdx. “Got kids? Intimidated by the idea of opera? Here is your opportunity to introduce opera to your kids and maybe to yourself, with the Portland Opera To Go series. First up: A rollicking, 50-minute, English-language version of Donizetti's brilliantly funny coming of age tale, The Elixir of Love. Nemorino has a problem. Klutzy and shy, he is madly in love with the beautiful Adina...but she is swept away by dashing fly-boy, Belcore. Enter a charming rogue named Dulcamara, with miracles to sell-including a very potent potion he is calling an elixir of love. Will it change everything for Nemorino? Or do the true answers lie within his heart? After The Elixir of Love, join us for a concert of operas greatest hits-a great way to get familiar with the genre. We guarantee, you won't think of opera in the same way again.”

Oregon Renaissance Band”, Friday, February 11, doors open at 6:45PM and concert starts at 7:15PM, Community Music Center, 3350 SE Francis St., PDX. Requested donation of $5 per person or $15 per family. “A 10 - 14 member ensemble of accomplished musicians plays music of the Renaissance on reproductions of historical instruments which are introduced to the audience before they are played. Fascinating sounds - not normally heard by the average music lover - are produced! Instruments such as violins, recorders, racketts, sackbutts and more make for a very lively evening! Light refreshments for sale.” A must for anyone studying this period in history. 

Juggling Through The Ages With Mag Hughes”, Saturday, February 12, 11AM, Lake Oswego Public Library. “For over 25 years, Scott “Mag” Hughes has taught and performed juggling, circus arts, footbag, Frisbee, flying disc, and clowning in over 5,000 schools throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He’s a pioneer in the sport of Footbag (hackysack) and holds national and world titles in the sport. Hughes is the founder of We Care Sports, a company that specializes in alternative sports school assembly programs and is committed to helping children feel good about themselves. His motto is as follows: “Now if you play a game, not for fortune or fame, and you play it for fun, then you’ve already won!” Hughes’ juggling show is guaranteed to delight and amaze.” 

Portland Storytellers Concert: Love’s Labors Lost”, Saturday, February 12, 6:30-9PM, McMenamin’s Kennedy School Community Room, 5736 NE 33rd Ave, Pdx. $5 for adults, $10 for families. Storytellers Anne Rutherford, Frans, and Pearl Steinberg.

Spring is Coming!”, Saturday, February 12, 10AM-12PM, Leach Botanical Garden, 6704 SE 112 Ave., Pdx. $8. “Whatever the groundhog says, we know spring is coming! In this month’s workshop, we will explore the winter woods looking for signs of spring and learn about the things we find, from beautiful blooming flowers to smelly fly food. Program instructors will dissect plant parts and participants will be able to look at them under magnification. Please dress for the weather (cold, rain, etc.) because we will go outside. These drop-off workshops for children age 7-12 explore a different theme each second Saturday of the month. Participants discover some of nature’s secrets through indoor and outdoor activities and take home a related craft project. Pre-registration is appreciated, but not required. New! Pay for your class online: We look forward to seeing you! 

Lone Fir Cemetery Guided Walking Tour”, Saturday, February 12, 10AM-12PM, entrance at SE 26th Street between Stark and Morrison Sts, Pdx. $10 suggested donation. “Come for an informal history lesson while enjoying the beauty and tranquility of Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery in SE Portland. Friends of Lone Fir Cemetery conducts monthly tours, highlighting Portland’s founders, pioneers, its famous and infamous alike, as well as interesting headstones and monuments. Come visit this hidden jewel! Explore 30 acres of mature trees, a very special rose garden and fascinating architecture in this unique place, the only cemetery in Portland listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Suitable for all ages. No advance registration required. Meet in the center of the cemetery, at the soldiers’ monument.” Lone Fir was the first public cemetery in Portland, and a tour is a must for anyone learning about local history.

Origami Workshop”, Saturday, February 12, 1:30PM, Tigard Public Library Puett Room. Suggested for ages 5 and up. “Try your hand at Japanese paper-folding. Members of Tigard High School's Japanese Honor Society will show you how to create simple figures.” 

Brick Builders”, Saturday, February 12, 10:30AM, Beaverton City Library Storytime Room. “Come and make a connection as we create, build and challenge with all things LEGO. Registration is required. Please phone (503) 350-3600 to register or sign-up in person at the Children's Desk on the first floor of the library.” 

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum”, Saturday, February 12, 11AM, Estacada Public Library, Flora Community Room. Suggested for K-4. Join us for a story time , try on a real space suit and make a rocket ship craft! Program presented by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum.” 

Open Your Eyes to Wildlife--Teacher Workshop for K-8 Educators”, Saturday, February 12th, 8:30AM-2:00PM. This is a workshop for adults, but may be of particular interest to homeschooling parents. “Join this workshop to learn about the tools and resources provided for teachers who want to bring their students to the Refuge. Registration information and details to be announced soon.” 

Can you think of a more appropriate way to celebrate the weekend before Valentines’ Day than with monster trucks?!? “Monster Jam” will be at the Rose Quarter on February 12 and 13, with ticket prices starting at $20 for adults and $5 for kids. All of those ridiculous things your kids do with their Matchbox trucks, except in real life.,_OR/

A Taste of Bellydance”, Sunday, February 13, 1PM, Central Library US Bank Room. “Carol Vance, Director of GypsyHeart and member of Gypsy Caravan Dance Company, will teach you our basic dance moves. The art of belly dance has been around since ancient times. From shimmies to hip bumps, you will get a fun workout while learning our unique and graceful feminine style. Tribal belly dance is for all ages and sizes. Please wear comfortable clothing. We will be dancing in our bare feet.” 

African American Read-In”, Sunday, February 13, 2PM- 4PM, Concordia University, Hagen Campus Center, 2nd Floor, 2811 N.E. Holman St., Pdx. “Local celebrities and community leaders read from works by their favorite African American writers at the annual African American Read-In. Fiction and nonfiction for children and adults will be featured in an afternoon of good words from great works.”

Bookmaking and Binding”, Monday, February 14, 3:30-4:30PM, The Warehouse, 3434 SE Milwaukie Ave, Pdx. $10, recommended for ages 6 and older. “In this class we will be assembling and decorating our own handmade books. We will cover a few different types of books including an accordion fold book, an eyelet binding and a traditional Japanese binding. Students will use an awl and hammer, a grommeter, and needle and thread. Kids can focus on one project or try their hand at multiple styles. Perhaps it will be a scroll-book, comic book, photo album, or mis-matched-body flip-book.” To register for classes, please email:

Stars In Your Eyes”, Monday, February 14, 7PM, North Plains Public Library. “Lecture by Pete Deal, avid astronomer and teacher, speaking on Hailey's comet, Meteor Showers and Beyond. Refreshments provided. All ages welcome!” 

Great Backyard Bird Count”, Friday, February 18, through Monday, February 21. “The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. It takes as little as 15 minutes on one day, or you can count for as long as you like each day of the event. It’s free, fun, and easy—and it helps the birds. Participants count birds anywhere for as little or as long as they wish during the four-day period. They tally the highest number of birds of each species seen together at any one time. To report their counts, they fill out an online checklist at the website. As the count progresses, anyone with Internet access can explore what is being reported from their own towns or anywhere in the United States and Canada. They can also see how this year's numbers compare with those from previous years. Participants may also send in photographs of the birds they see. A selection of images is posted in the online photo gallery. Scientists and bird enthusiasts can learn a lot by knowing where the birds are. Bird populations are dynamic; they are constantly in flux. No single scientist or team of scientists could hope to document the complex distribution and movements of so many species in such a short time. We need your help. Make sure the birds from your community are well represented in the count. It doesn't matter whether you report the 5 species coming to your backyard feeder or the 75 species you see during a day's outing to a wildlife refuge.” Lots more and details about how to participate here:

Bonneville Dam Great Electrifying Event”, Saturday, February 19, 10AM- 3PM, Free. “Bonneville Lock and Dam hosts this educational event designed to teach the basics of electricity and how it is generated at the dam. Geared toward students in elementary and middle school. Fun for the whole family includes hands-on activities, films and a tour inside Bonneville's Powerhouse 2. In the Washington Shore Visitor Center (take Washington State Route 14 to milepost 39, turn onto Dam Access Road about one mile west of the dam or three miles west of the Bridge of the Gods, then follow signs).” we have gone in previous years. The powerhouse tour is not to be missed, as well as the underwater windows to the fish ladder. It’s also fun to visit the fish hatchery and see Herman The Sturgeon. (Bring quarters for the fish food dispensers.) The best visit of all was when we got to watch a boat go through the locks, which happens randomly. The other activities offered at the Great Electrifying Event last year included watching a Magic Treehouse episode in which hydroelectric power was touched on, and completing some kid’s activity sheets that didn’t interest Jasper at all. According to their website, guided tours of the powerhouse are available three times daily at the Washington Shore Visitor’s Complex, so you can still plan a trip on a day that’s convenient for you, and take in all the highlights. 

Cooperative Games and Activities”, Saturday, February 19, 1PM, Troutdale Library. “Children learn when they can play and interact freely without fear of judgment or consequence. When playing without competition, children can bolster their creativity, imagination, self-esteem and interpersonal relationships. Explore ways to interact with children without rewards, punishment or competition and learn specific games and activities you can try at your home or daycare center. Kristen McKee, of Insideout Schoolhouse, has assisted learners in groups for the past 25 years in both English and Spanish. Participants of all ages are welcome and will be playing cooperative games together.” 

Mudeye Puppets and Professor Banjo”, Saturday, February 19, 4PM-6PM, Taborspace Coffee House, SE 55th Ave, Pdx. $8. “Two engaging Portland performers team up to share a wonderful interactive evening with kids and families. There will be pre-show coloring sheets, a puppet performance by the Mudeye Puppet Company, and interactive music and dance by Professor Banjo followed by a “Meet and Greet” to see the Mudeye Puppets and Professor Banjo's instruments up close and personal.

Great Train Expo”, Saturday, February 19, and Sunday, February 20, 10AM- 4PM, Portland Expo Center, 2060 N. Marine Dr., Pdx. Adults $7, kids under 12 free. Parking is $8, carpools of 3 or more people are $7, and the Max yellow line stops there as well. Lots of vendors for model railroading hobbyists, and lots of cool layouts.

Sadih, Discovery of Terrestrial Light Celebration”, Saturday, February 19, 7PM-10PM, Multicultural Center of Portland State University, 1825 SW Broadway, Pdx. Free, all are welcome. “Persia House is pleased to invite you to the annual Sadih Celebration for the year 2011. We dedicate this night to the Persian epic poet Firdawsi (circa 935- 1020). The program includes but is not limited to recitation and selected analysis of the interrelation of Sadih and the discovery of fire, moral values, power of knowledge in the works of Firdawsi but also will include a film about Firdawsi's masterwork Shahnamih, storytelling, naqqali, ballet of Zal and Rudabeh, dance performances of Zurkhaneh, welcome to Persia on big screen, audience participation, and more. Tea and cookies are provided. Please feel free to bring your favorite seasonal food and snacks to share.” Sadih, or Sadeh, is a very ancient Zoroastrian festival celebrating the human discovery of fire. Fire is deeply sacred to the Zoroastrian faith.

Creek Critters in the Cold”, Sunday, February 20, 10AM-11:30AM. $10 per child, preregistration required. Suggested for ages 4-7. Spend the morning as a stream biologist – discover how all of Tryon Creek’s critters survive in the winter. We will explore the behaviors of Crayfish, Macro-invertebrates and Cutthroat Trout as we learn how these amazing creatures manage the cold.

Taekwondo Demonstration”, Sunday, February 20, 1:30PM, Tigard Public Library Community Room. Recommended for ages 5 and up. “Members of the U.S. West Coast Taekwondo Association will demonstrate how this martial art develops balance, flexibility, stamina, focus and confidence. They'll also get the audience up and moving, so wear comfy clothes!” 

PCC Lunar New Year Celebration”, Monday, February 21, 9:30PM-1:30PM, Legin Restaurant Banquet Hall, 8001 SE Division St., Pdx. Free, all ages. “A lion dance, activities for children, music, games, arts and crafts, Asian dances, demonstrations, and discounted food.” Legin is one of the premier places to get dim sum in the Portland area, so any event that they are catering should be pretty good! 

Wooden Train Playtime”, Wednesday, February 23, 10AM, Gresham Library. “Children ages 2 and up (with a favorite adult) who enjoy trains can put together and run wooden trains in the library. This fun-filled program connects junior train fans with creative and imaginative play activities.” 

Snailpeople!”, Thursday, February 24, 11:45AM, Garden Home Community Library. “Join music duo Snailpeople! for classic and original kids music, accompanied with guitar, ukulele, mandolin, banjo, and more! All Ages.”

komedy 4 da kids”, Friday, February 25, 4PM, Hillsboro Main Library. “Angel Ocasio's "komedy 4 da kidz" is a high energy, very funny one man variety show, perfectly suited for family audiences. This wonderfully interactive performance combines physical comedy, jokes, juggling, object balancing, comedy magic and impromptu comedy situations.” 

Family Fun With Worm Bins”, Saturday, February 26, 2-4PM, Tyron Creek State Park, $15. “Join the Friends of Tyron Creek for an afternoon of creepy-crawly fun at the park. Discover worms in their natural habitat and see first-hand how truly invaluable these invertebrates are to the park’s ecosystem. We’ll then warm up inside as we get to work making our own worm bins for our entire household composting needs. This is a family friendly program that will focus on engaging children throughout the whole process while concurrently providing parents with all the worm-bin information they’ll ever need.”

Creature Collage”, Saturday, February 26, 2PM, at the Central Library. “Children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle creates insects and animal collages from hand-painted tissue paper. Under the supervision of artist Addie Boswell, use Eric’s technique to cut and paste your own creatures similar to those in the books "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" and "The Grouchy Ladybug." You may also make a rainbow set of painted paper to take home so that you can collage all year round!” 

Unique Animal Expo”, Saturday, February 26, and Sunday, February 27, 10AM-5PM. Washington County Fairgrounds, Hillsboro. Adults $8, seniors $5, kids 5-12 $4, kids under 5 are free. $1 off admission coupon on their website. “See and buy live birds, reptiles, and mammals, along with animal-related merchandise.” There are exotic pets for sale. Also there are generally some exotic animals that are being fostered which can be seen. In the past, we’ve seen a lemur, a Barbary lion, and a camel.

Carson Ellis”, Saturday, February 26, 2PM, Green Bean Books, 1600 NE Alberta St., Pdx. Carson Ellis is a children’s book illustrator of note who lives in Portland.

Lego Construction Zone”, Sunday, February 27, 1:30PM, Tigard Public Library Puett Room. Suggested for ages 5 and up. “Drop in to work on your creations with other LEGO® fans. We'll supply the building blocks; you bring your creativity.” 

Animal Builders”, Monday, February 28, 3:30PM, Hillsboro Main Library. Suggested for grades 1-3. Animals build many amazing structures and are some of the most accomplished architects on the planet. Let's explore some of the things animals build and learn how and why they build the things they do. (Registration required - online or at the library.) 

Beginning Bead Loom Weaving”, Monday, February 28th, 3:30PM-4:30PM, $10, recommended for ages 6 and up, adults welcome to participate too. “Using hand-made up-cycled bead looms, we’ll learn about warp and weft and begin on a woven seed bead bracelet. Bead Looms to take home will be available for purchase for $5. Patterns and instructions for future projects come included.” To register for classes, please email:

Global Citizens Network Global Gathering”, Monday, February 28, 6PM-8:30PM, TaborSpace, 5441 SE Belmont St., Pdx. “Join your neighbors and other globally-minded folks and families at this family friendly event. You will hear from a Portland family who participated in a volunteer experience with Global Citizens Network (GCN), meet a GCN staff member, as well as a former GCN Director. People of all ages will learn about GCN and get answers to your questions. Light refreshments will be provided. Make 2011 the year for you and your family to explore what it means to be a global citizen. Independent travelers also welcome! Enter to win a $100 gift certificate for future travel with GCN by coming to this event. RSVP encouraged, but not required: or 800.644.9292."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lots More Cultural Events Friday and Saturday!

Native American Family Day”, Friday, January 28, 12:30PM-7:00PM, Mt. Scott Community Center, 5530 SE 72nd Ave, Pdx. “A free afternoon filled with recreational and cultural activities, raffle prizes, presentations, performances, fry bread and taco sale, and much, much more!
12:30-5:30pm Auditorium Activities 
12:30- 1pm – Welcoming / Blessing from Elders (Native American Rehabilitation Association) 1-2:30 pm – Elder and Adult Wellness (NAYA Various Activities for Elders) 2:30-3:30pm – Tribal Mapping Activity (Sherry Scott of Bow & Arrow Culture Club) 3:30-4:30pm – Solomon performance (Native American Rehabilitation Association) 
4:30 – 5:30pm – Face Painting, Air brushing activities (Parks & Recreation) 
1-4pm – Gymnasium – Open Basketball 1-5pm – Roller Rink (skates provided, bring your own socks) 1-7pm – Swimming Pool - 'PLEASE NOTE: Swimmers 48" and over can attend Open Play Swim on their own. Non-swimmers and children under 48" must not be left unattended on the pool deck, and must be accompanied at all time in the water by a person 18 years of age or older (or parent or guardian) who shall be responsible for them and their safety.'” 
Also Friday, January 28, 6:30-8:30PM, at the Mt. Scott Community Center auditorium, 5530 SE 72nd Ave., Pdx, there will be the Asian Pacific American Community Support and Service Association’s Year of the Rabbit Celebration. It’s free and will feature games, a cultural performance, and refreshments. I could not find a website for the sponsoring organization, but I called the Mt. Scott Community Center, and they confirmed that this event will take place again this year. 

Colored Pencils Lunar New Year Celebration”, Friday, January 28, 5:30PM, Ecotrust, 721 NW 9th Ave., Pdx. $15 for adults, $5 for students, free for kids under 12 and seniors over 65. Tickets include food and a nonalcoholic beverage. This is a fundraiser for Colored Pencils. Through art, music, and traditional food, we are creating "New Portland" we want to see. Eat yummy fried rice, spicy basil green bean and other delicious Thai food (all organic ingredients) in all biodegradable silverware/plates by Chai Yo Restaurant. Traditional Ginger Tea from West Java, Indonesia Organic ginger, coconut palm sugar, cloves, cinnamon, lemongrass, lemon juice. This drink is a popular evening beverage in the mountainous villages of West Java by Priska Hillis. Buy tickets for art raffles and bring home amazing art. And after enjoying all program by New Portland performers, learn to Bollywood dance with D.J. Phrashant and dance the night away. More info at: To buy tickets online: Tickets also available by phone by calling 503-314-1127 (will call) or at the door. 
Event Program: 
5:30pm – Fine artist and performing artists reception 
6:30pm – Carmen and Polo welcome us all to New Portland family 
- Ed Edmo (NW River Nations welcome and story) 
- Gauri Shankar Rajbaidya (Nepali Portlander blues) - Polo/Gauri (Lunar New Year traditional djatung/music) 
- Randa BenAziz (Contemporary Moroccan piano) - Master Mashud Neidow/Jeff Strang (Ghanaian dancing drum) 
- Joy Corcoran (Talking-story in lovely Southern drawl) 
- Shayan Nafisi (Contemporary Persian guitar) - Gary Marschke (Americana tender voice and CP volunteers/organizers) 
- Fatuomata Kone (Traditional Mali Dance) 
- Emily Newberry (And his Transfomational journey) 
- Edna Vasquez (Portlandia Latina blues) 
- DJ Prashant Kakad (Mayor of Portland’s Bollywood District will teach and let you rock yourself away.) 
9:30 pm – Event ends 

PSU’s Vietnamese Student Association Presents: Tet Show 2011 Year of the Cat”. Saturday, January 29, 5-9PM, PSU Smith Center Ballroom, 1825 SE Broadway, Pdx. Admission is $7. The celebration includes authentic Vietnamese cuisine, cultural performances, elder appreciation, and a fashion show. 


Feeling Included

When we first moved to Oregon, I really struggled.  I had told myself years ago that I would never be a stay at home mom, because that would just be too boring and too socially isolating.  Well, it certainly has never  been boring!  But moving to Oregon was rough.  It was my eighth long distance move, and I'd always landed on my feet before.  This time was not so easy. 

My son was really too young to fully understand the concept of the cross country move, and he kept asking to see his best friends. He was really lonely.  I had just made up my mind to try homeschooling, which meant I would not be expecting the schools to provide my son with a social life.   I consider myself a resourceful person, and I decided to do everything in my power to meet other moms with children around my son's age.  And I did, only the results were so awful they ought to have been hysterical!  Shall I tell you about them?

  • The mom who was always telling me how much she valued our friendship.  And also about the vicious, nasty grudges she was holding against other friends for seemingly innocuous offenses, and the dramatic confrontations she was planning.  This didn't turn out well.
  • The neighborhood mom, an elementary school teacher with a son just Jasper's age who met us for a playdate.  All was going well until I mentioned my interest in homeschooling.  She literally looked at her watch, said "My, I should be going!", swept up  her son, and left.
  • The mom's meetup I joined where I felt increasingly out of place because I wasn't into shopping, drinking, soccer, drinking, manicures, drinking...  The topics I'd use to attempt conversation starters were conversation enders.
  • The really nice single mom who shared lots of my interests.  I really adored her.  Her son, on the other hand, was very obviously obsessed with topics most parents would agree were a little, ahem, mature for his age.  It wasn't subtle.  I couldn't allow Jasper to play with him.
  • The mom who dropped us like a hot potato after deciding we weren't unschooly enough.   I personally don't care how people are raising their kids, as long as child protective services doesn't need to know.  Whatever works for others sounds great to me.  Back when I was the perfect mom (before my son was born!) I thought it was crucial that I associate only with those that made the same parenting choices.  Later it dawned on me that the ability to be a true friend might be more precious!  I totally get it that there are those who are homeschooling specifically to keep their kids away from others who don't share their faith.  I wasn't expecting to find so many people who want to keep their kids far away from others who don't share their parenting philosophy.  Sadly, there are some things cootie shots can't fix.  I know, I know, why should you have to associate with people who don't share your core values?  I agree- I value friendship very highly and don't like to associate with people who don't. 
  • The mom who lived within walking distance from us, who frequented our playground with her son who was Jasper's age.  The boys clearly loved playing together, and after a few playdates, he started referring to her son as his "best friend".  I liked them a lot and thought we had lots in common.  I'd invite them to join us, and get no response.  Jasper would literally beg.  And beg. And beg.  He would insist we hang out at the playground in case his friend came by.  Why wasn't I allowing him to see his best friend?  I'd ask again.  Sometimes she would allow us to "tag along" when she had plans with another friend.  Her friends never seemed pleased at the intrusion.  She made sure I got the point that we were an afterthought.  Ouch. 
Well, it happens. Some people already have plenty of friends and don't think they need more, some people are happy to admit that friendship doesn't matter much to them, and some people just don't particularly like me!  I know they have their reasons. Eventually it all worked out.  Five other moms and I started a homeschool group, and put a lot of energy into getting it off the ground.  They made all the difference to our family.

Why am I ranting about all this?  Because yesterday I ran into Ms. You're Such An Afterthought at a kids' event.  I was there to meet three other families of homeschoolers, and our kids were having a great time together.  Of course she didn't speak to me.  This made me think a lot about how it feels to be left out.  I'm one of those kids who was really shy in school.  My mom thought she was doing me some good and teaching me some manners by insisting I say good morning to the girl who shared my seat on the bus.  To me, this was a cruel form of torture.  Homeschooling has pushed me way beyond my comfort level, as far as meeting new people.  So now, when I'm with a group of friends, I often find it a lot less scary just to talk to them, and not to say hello to the strangers around me.  People who might be pretty cool, once you get to know them.  Who knows what I'm missing?  So I'm challenging myself, for my own good, to try to me more friendly.  To not make other people feel left out.  Being left out is really no fun!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bomb It! Movie

After experiencing one of the "Graffiti As Fine Art" workshops that Multnomah County Libraries are hosting, I've been looking for more materials to share the story of graffiti with Jasper.  We loved this movie!  It starts with Cornbread, the Philadelphia legend who may well be behind the modern urban Graffiti movement.  The movie goes on to tell the story of graffiti on 5 continents, each culture taking the idea and making it their own.  There is plenty of input from law enforcement and community activists who have nothing whatever positive to say about it.  And it's not for sensitive ears- I think it contains more bad words than Jasper had heard in his life.  But the beauty of many of the creations in this film speaks for itself.  The film asks viewers to think about  who controls public space, the space that moneyed interests often fill with billboards.  Graffiti artists share their reasons for the incredible risks many of them take.  As parents and educators, we often hope to cultivate a greater ability to observe, in ourselves and our children.  We want them to pause and marvel at spiderwebs and ladybugs.  But we often completely overlook the urban environment, which can contain some fascinating details for those who notice them.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Great Winter Homeschooling Day

Looking for creatures in pond water.
We had just about the perfect school day last week.  It began with a big gathering of young homeschoolers hosted by one of the moms in our homeschool group at JJ Jump in Clackamas.  That has to be one of the best indoor play spaces around.  Jasper had a blast and really enjoyed seeing many of his friends.  The day was a beautiful one, so we decided on the spur of the moment to head to Stub Stewart State Park.  It's one of Jasper's most favorite places.  We took a leisurely walk, stopping to peer closely at whatever caught our fancy, and to collect some pond water from the beaver pond to bring home to see under the microscope.  On the way back, we took a wrong turn onto a trail that obviously isn't yet ready for visitors.  We decided to keep going, and Jasper was shocked that we were able to find our way back to the parking area just by noting the direction of the sun and the change in elevation.  He was very concerned that we would be lost, although I kept pointing out that the worst thing that could happen was that we would have to go back the way we came.  We came home and spent lots of time peering into the pond water, fishing teeny beasties out with an eyedropper, and putting them in the lid of a film canister to look at under the microscope. 
Later, while I made dinner, Jasper did some formal lessons. They took him about 45 minutes. I've been trying to help him count higher, thoroughly grasp the concept of place value, and do more complicated addition.  It turns out that simply giving him math problems to do with pennies and dimes helps a great deal with all of that.  We read his phonics lesson together, and as always, each time it seems just a little bit easier for him.  And he wrote a letter to a friend.  One of the moms in our homeschool group had what my husband likes to call "a totally awesome idea":  getting our kids to exchange letters.  (Three cheers for Anne-Marie!)  Since Jasper already knows the kids, he's thrilled to send them crazy messages and loves to find answers in his mailbox.  The things we prioritize the most filled our day- friends, nature, learning, and freedom.   

Friday, January 21, 2011

Beaverton Historical Society Family Day

The Beaverton Historical Society is having a Family Day this Saturday, January 22 from 10AM- 2PM.  They are located at 12412 SW Broadway in Beaverton, OR.  There will be activities for kids of all ages and snacks.  Homeschooling mom Heather is in charge of this, and she rocks, so you know it's going to be cool!  Come check it out and maybe even learn some local history!

Brock Microscope

Jasper only wanted one thing for Christmas:  a microscope.  He's become very interested in the world of the very small, and he just couldn't think of anything he'd like better.  Selecting one might have been a terrifically daunting task for me.  Fortunately, I saw a post recently on a homeschool list about the Brock microscope, which was immediately followed by many more singing its praises.  The more I learned about it, the more I knew this would be perfect.

The Brock is pretty neat.  It was designed for children but it's definitely not a toy.  It's practically indestructible, and if that weren't enough, it has a lifetime warranty that includes accidental damage! Rather than using awkward mirrors, or bulbs that may eventually be difficult to replace, its lighting source is fiberoptic.  It has two eyepieces, 5x and 10x, and three objective lenses, 4x, 10x, and 40x.  When you are selecting a microscope, it is really nice to have a selection of lenses.  Greater magnification is definitely not always better- it depends on what you are looking at. The aperture (or lens opening) is very small indeed for the 40x, which means that you can only see a very small area with it. It also has a much narrower depth of field (the area from near to far that is in focus at the same time), so you need a specimen  that is very flat. We have used it pretty much only with some of the smaller specimens in a set of 100 prepared slides.  Sometimes the stand gets in the way.  In that case, you can just take the microscope off the stand.  They make an adaptor that helps to steady and focus it if you are using it without the stand.  And they claim theirs is the only microscope made in the USA.  So it's your best chance to buy local!

We also invested in a Moticam eyepiece camera.  We got a 1.3 megapixel, and although its their lowest resolution, the images are nice.  Microscope Depot occasionally offers used ones at a discount.  We are still in the midst of our learning curve with the eyepiece camera.  It came with a brochure that explains how to assemble it and install the software, but there is no user's manuel to explain how to actually use the software.  Setting it up and using it the first few times have been quite tedious, because the software seems to offer an endless variety of ways to adjust the image, many of which are kind of bizarre.  I assume some of these adjustments have some sort of mysterious scientific purpose, but who knows? Maybe some of the settings are for designing trippy album covers.  The camera is very much not child friendly, so we would not consider letting Jasper use it by himself yet.  But it's opened up yet another dimension of the microscopic world. It is capable of recording both still images and video.  Our experiments have resulted in some pretty cool images.  Hopefully as we get more familiar with the software, our results will continue to improve.  Here are some of our first pictures, and two short videos. They are both of creatures we found in pond water, a mayfly larvae, and a tiny aquatic snail, smaller than the head of a pin.

A jay feather.
Prepared slide- a butterfly proboscis.
A moldy onion.

Snake Skin.

Prepared slide- "DNA RNA".

Sugar cubes.
Fern spores.

A moldy grape.

Kosher salt.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Graffiti As Fine Art

DeAngelo Raines is giving a series of workshops called "Graffiti As Fine Art" at various Multnomah County Libraries. I decided this was just the sort of thing we needed- a chance to check out something completely different.  This turned out to be one of the best things we've done in a while.  

Mr. Raines started the workshop with lots of big sheets of paper and markers for everybody.  He showed us lots of spectacular photographs and videos of graffiti, graffiti style art, and street art.  But mostly he asked us to think.  

He wanted us to consider how we would define terms like "art", "graffiti", "vandalism", and "street art".  He asked us to consider the problem of making something two-dimentional, such as the flat surface of a piece of paper, look three dimensional.  He asked us to think about the difference that it makes when you decide if a line should be thick or thin, or if the thickness should change.  He showed us how a partially dried up marker can make a great tool for created graduated shading.  And he efficiently explained one, two, and three point perspective, so that everyone, including my son, got it. He talked about the history of graffiti, and what it has in common with the earliest cave paintings.  The workshop was really inspiring, to learn more about graffiti and street art, and to explore the idea of perspective in more, well, depth!

Portland isn't a magnet for the kind of graffiti that has high ambitions beyond just a being a single color tag.  But interesting graffiti is out there, as you can see in this blog.  There are only two months of posts, but it  proves that some pretty neat stuff is there, once you start looking.

The video below is a stop motion animation of the work of David Ellis, making graffiti style art.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Elementary School Report Card

Yesterday we received a fascinating piece of mail.  It's the Oregon Department of Education's annual evaluation of Jasper's local elementary school and school district.  It was certainly eye opening for a number of reasons.  The above chart shows "the percentage of students in your school at the indicated grades that met or exceeded the state standards on Oregon Statewide Assessments during the last two school years.  District, state, and comparison schools are displayed.  Comparison schools are Oregon schools with similar demographics."

Please note that it does not indicate what the "standards" are.  But one out of every four kids in his school is testing below them in reading.  Math is worse, at 68%.  I'm sure they are proud that they have made improvements since last year, but they certainly have a long way to go.

Science scores across Jasper's school district (black) as compared to Oregon (white).
I find the science scores for this school particularly disturbing.  Not only are they at 38%, but they apparently only test for science in Grade 5 of elementary school.  (I am wondering in which years they actually teach any science?)  Elsewhere in the report, it shows that throughout the district, 73% of the kids in grade 5 met the science standards, which means this school has  particularly awful scores within the district.  The district tested 8th graders to receive a 66% average,  and tested 10th graders to receive a 57% average. The older the kids get, the worse the scores get.  Yikes!  Science is Jasper's particular passion.

There are other interesting statistics thrown in. I am thrilled to see that they had no expulsions due to weapons last year at this particular school.  There were 245 expulsions in elementary schools throughout Oregon.  Whether you believe that the "Zero Tolerance" policies are ridiculously overzealous (Johnny forgets to take out his pocket knife), or that the fact that kids are bringing weapons to elementary school is a bad sign for the entire community, expulsions due to weapons are not good.  

Another statistic they shared was that Jasper's local elementary school has 43% of all students in ESL programs.   Jasper does not speak any Spanish.  If he went to this school, I would assume that the language barrier would be very polarizing socially, and I would definitely be giving him Spanish lessons.  

Are you curious about your local school?  All the annual report cards can be found online here:

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Class Dismissed: Education and the Rise of Homeschooling in America

I think this forthcoming film looks fantastic.  I truly hope that it will screen in our area!   The fact that public education is suffering in this economy is no secret.  More people need to know that homeschooling is a viable option, and not just for "overachieving supermoms", and "weirdos" who don't care if their kids aren't "properly socialized".   More about the film can be found on their website:

Pacific Northwest Seed Growers

Jasper in the garden at Champoeg.
I recently picked up a copy of Edible Portland, and found a marvelous article on seed growers in the Pacific Northwest.  Jasper was really excited about having a garden last year, and really wants to grow everything this year from seed if possible.  He definitely finds magic in a seed sprouting from the ground.  I've been hesitating because I'd like to be sure the plants we try to grow will like it in our climate.  The obvious solution is to seek out a local seed grower!  This article lists nine growers in Oregon and four growers in Washington.  Many offer heirloom and organic varieties.  The article is tricky to read online (the list is on page 45 of the current issue).  So I've listed links to each of the growers below.

In Oregon:
Adaptive Seed Co., Sweet Home
Abundant Life Seeds, Cottage Grove
New Dimention Seeds, Scappoose
Nichols Garden Nursery, Albany
Peace Seeds, Corvallis
Siskiyou Seeds, Williams
Territorial Seed Co., Cottage Grove
Victory Seed Co., Molalla
Wild Garden Seeds, Philomath

In Washington:
Ed Hume Seeds, Puyallup
Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, Ellensburg
Osborne Seed Co., Mt. Vernon
Uprising Seeds, Bellingham

On a chilly winter day, there's nothing I like better than curling up in front of the fireplace with a stack of gardening catalogs.  But if you find it simpler to pick out seeds at a retail store, Edible Portland does have an online article listing local retailers that carry seeds from Northwest growers:  Champoeg State Park also sells heirloom seeds harvested from their heritage garden in their visitor's center: