Field Trips & Streetcar: One Teacher's Story

Since 2015 when Next Adventure generously stepped forward to sponsor field trips, approximately 5,000 students and chaperones have ridden Portland Streetcar for free. With the start of a new school year, we wanted to highlight how this community-focused program impacts our city’s students and their teachers, so we reached out to Lisa Colombo, a 6th grade teacher at Southwest Charter School (changing its name to Cottonwood School of Civics and Science) who is one of many teachers who have made use of the School Field Trip sponsorship.

Tell us about your teaching career. How long have you been with Southwest Charter School? What do you teach there? 
I started working at SW Charter in 2007 when it first opened. I came from the informal education world -- science museums mostly -- and was drawn to this model of place-based education. I love working here because of the flexibility, community and trust. I feel very lucky that I get to explore the world right along with my 6th graders, guiding them to become involved citizens in their communities and to really care about the place they live. In 6th grade, we explore the chemistry of food, the human body through a simulation of medical school and the civil rights movement with a focus on local Portland history through a social justice lens.  

What do you find most rewarding about teaching? 
The most rewarding part of teaching is the connections I make with people. It is so fulfilling to get to know my students as people, their hopes and dreams and to help them grow into themselves. I also get to develop real friendships with their families. I am kind of an extrovert so being around people is super rewarding.  

What do you like about field trips? What is a challenge?  
Getting out into the community is a huge focus at our school and only few locations are within walking distance. We are lucky we have a streetcar stop only one block from our school. We use public transportation for most of our trips, only relying on parent drivers for the youngest students and for extended trips because so many parents work and have limited flexibility during the day. Our students are well versed in how to get around using public transportation and we often get compliments from other riders. The best part is seeing how much learning happens outside of the classroom and giving students an authentic reason to do work.  

How do field trips fit into the experiential learning that is so integral to the curriculum of Southwest Charter?  
We do make a distinction between field trips and field work. Field trips tend to be more geared towards enrichment and may be a one-time experience, like going to see a play at Northwest Children’s Theater or exploring the Portland Art Museum. Field work is about going to a place multiple times to collect data or perform a service or research.  Each classroom has a special place they have adopted and visit many times over the year to practice stewardship with Portland Parks and Recreation and Tryon Creek. We also connect with local organizations like Oregon Food Bank and Zenger Farms for service learning and many classrooms make monthly visits to the library for research. Visiting and making a connection to these places and people is a crucial element to our mission of place-based education. Students would not care as deeply about these places without spending time there and learning how to interact with integrity and curiosity.  

Is there anything you would like to tell Next Adventure about their sponsorship of Streetcar rides?
Next Adventure is a model of civic engagement and they are so supportive of not only our school but the health and wellbeing of all our citizens. By allowing all students to ride the streetcar for free, they are empowering them to develop deeper connections to this area. Thank you so much for all your support!!  

Could you share any specific anecdotes about your students taking Streetcar?  
One year, I had a group of students who were very aware of others and super compassionate. They would go out of their way to offer their seats to people. It was a badge of honor if they could give their seats up and after one trip to the library, one student ran up to me and shared, “We set a new record!” They had been keeping track of how many times they had done it and were so proud!  

Another favorite memory is when our trips happen to line up with other classes. Our 6th graders were coming back from the Northwest Children’s Theater last year and when our streetcar arrived, we ran into our 7th & 8th graders! All the kids happily compared their stories as we traveled back to school together. Impromptu community building!

 


2016 was a big year for Portland Streetcar as we celebrated 15 years, 50 million riders and so much more.  Take a look back with us at all that occurred this past year.

January

  • We kicked off the year with our #GoesWell campaign.  Signs were placed at all unsponsored shelters and we celebrated many events throughout the year.


  • Freezing rain and ice halted service just after the New Year began.

February

  • Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Mayor Charlie Hales and our former Executive Director Rick Gustafson celebrated the opening of the DC Streetcar in Washington, DC.
  • In an effort to increase the speed, safety and reliability of Portland Streetcar, we began a trial closure of 5 stations: NW 10th & Everett, NW 11th & Everett, SW 10th & Stark and both directions at SW 1st & Harrison.
  • Our Executive Director Dan Bower was named one of the 40 Under 40 by the Portland Business Journal.

March

  • The Broadway Bridge closed for the final time as part of the Painting Project.   The project, which began in 2015, removed all of the lead paint on the Broadway Bridge to make it safer for generations to come.
  • Updated schedules began in March after the first 6 months of service on the Loops to provide more reliable service to our riders.
  • At the end of March Portland Streetcar permanently closed the stations at 1st & Harrison, 10th & Stark and 10th & 11th at Everett.

April

  • As part of their series "10 That Changed America", PBS debuted their special "10 Towns That Changed America" featuring the Pearl District and Portland Streetcar.
  • Portland Streetcar, Inc. Board Chair Jim Mark and former Chair John Carroll celebrated the opening of the Kansas City Streetcar at the Streetcar Summit in Kansas City, Missouri.

May

  • "Free Ride First Thursday" begins.  Internet provider Wave G sponsored free rides for all riders each First Thursday from May to October.
  • Streetcar 002 was "named" Desire in honor of the production at Portland Center Stage.  Several lucky riders were randomly selected to win 2 tickets to see the show!


June

  • We were proud to join our partners at TriMet to march in the Pride Parade.
  • After digging through all of the old photographs and memories from 2001, we began our "Then and Now" series depicting the same places along the alignment in 2001 and 2016.

July

  • On July 20, Portland Streetcar celebrated 15 years of service between NW 23rd & PSU.  
  • BikeTown opened adding to the many ways Portlanders can get around the City.  Three of the closed stations were converted into BikeTown stations.

  • The 7th Streetcar Mobile Music Fest was held in celebration of 15 Years of service.  9 bands played on the alignment that first opened 15 years earlier.
  • In an effort to improve information and offer more to our riders, we launched our new, updated website with arrival times, news feed and more.

August

  • The 15-Year celebrations continued with our first ever Art Contest.  27 artists from around the area participated in two categories.
  • We held our first ever "Storytime on Portland Streetcar" reading to kids and then taking them on a Scavenger Hunt in the Central Library.
  • Executive Director Dan Bower welcomed on board our 50 Millionth rider since July 20, 2001.


September

  • Celebrated the 1st Anniversary of the Loops opening and the 4th Anniversary of service to the east side.
  • Debuted our newest version of "Off the Rails" including an online interactive map.
  • Held a photo contest with Portland Center Stage for Little Shop of Horrors.


October

  • Reached our highest ridership to date of 15,921 average weekday riders.
  • Released new development numbers totaling $6.5 Billion in new buildings.
  • Released data showing that for each new housing unit that opens along the Streetcar line, Portland Streetcar realizes one new rider.


November

  • Protests and Rioting all along the alignment caused delays and service interruptions following the election.  

December

  • Snow and ice events caused disruptions two weeks in a row and even shut down service one morning due to freezing rain and ice overnight.

We look forward to 2017 and bringing you our video "From Concept to Reality: The Story of Portland Streetcar" as well continuing the work to improve reliability and safety around the system.  Thank you for 15 years and for a wonderful 2016 with all of you.