Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013, September 05, 2003, Page 29, Image 29

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    September 5. 2003 - ( H t M t j g
la, the skill, but they don’t understand
what it is they’re doing or how it works."
When the Emerson School begins
classes Sept. 8, nine educators (two of
whom are openly lesbian) will wel­
come to its River District home more
than 100 diverse students, represent­
ing a wide range of socioeconomic,
geographic, religious, ethnic and ra­
cial demographics.
“We have every
kind of family imagin­
able,” explains Sig­
mund, a lesbian parent
whose daughter will
enter first grade. “Single
parents, grandparents,
multiracial, multireli­
gious families, gay fami­
lies, lesbian families—
you name it and we’ve
got it. And every family
in our schtxil is honored
and respected.”
And should it arise,
conflict is viewed as
another opportunity for
Sigmund education, especially
when it involves diver­ Basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic fall into place when kids are passionate and excited about
sity and gender stereotyping.
what they're doing, says Emerson School co-founder Jo Sigmund. Charter school educators include
“ In public schools, they don’t talk (left to right, back to front) Michaela Garzelloni, Liz Levy, Lara Hubschmitt, Brandy H ussa,
about religion and they don’t talk about Sigmund, Anne Heimlich and Allegra Dahan Ruggles.
homosexuality," notes Sigmund, “which
schools namesake, summarizes the schools phi­
is interesting because what you’re doing is tak­ That people love each other, that they’re there
for each other, that they support each other.
losophy when he says, “The secret to education
ing huge pieces of a child’s life and saying that
lies in respecting the child.” J H
Wow, look at that. We have that in common.
they do not exist.... T hat’s my opportunity to
Our families look different on the outside, but
say let’s talk this out: What does your family
Features Editor TIMOTHY KRAUSE can be reached
look like? How are they same? How are they dif­ really, ultimately, this is what it’s about.”
at tim@justout.com.
Sigmund says Ralph Waldo Emerson, the
ferent? What is really important about families?
“This is a place
where gay and
lesbian families
can come and
be gay and
lesbian
families_They
can be out and
be part of our
community.”
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PHOTO BY
Far from a standard axikie-cutter classroom,
Portlands third public charter school strives for
hands-on, real-world applications tn a project-
oriented environment that reaches kids at a
variety of levels, in a manner best suited for
each child.
Using a bridge as an example, Sigmund pro­
poses: “ If I read about it in a textkxik, 1 can tell
you what facts 1 read. If 1 go and touch it, and
1 draw it, and 1 take it apart,
and I talk to an expert about
it, and 1 go back and lixik at it
again, I’m going to get a whole
different level that incorpo­
rates math and science and
social sciences and history and
public speaking.... So, project-
based learning lets kids do
that in-depth learning and
then find ways to represent
what they learn.”
The public schcxil system,
comments Sigmund, isn’t set
up to support that environ­
ment for a number of reasons.
Kids need to leave the class-
rcxim, for one. An individual­
— Jo
ized approach can take time
and cast money, too. More
importantly, it bucks the traditional mtxlel for
public education, which is having a teacher
lecture to kids or get information out of a book.
But learning how to learn won’t replace basic
skills.
“Kids need to have exceptional writing skills,
exceptional reading skills, to understand math,”
says Sigmund. “They need to understand it so that
they can actually apply it—especially with math
and science. Very often, they're taught the formu­