Posts Tagged ‘education’

Taking Flight in Oysterville!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Steve and the Test Pilot

You could have heard a pin drop.  The classroom absolutely thrummed with  concentration.  Twelve young scientists hard at work making… paper airplanes!

It was about 9:30 yesterday morning and I had walked over to the Oysterville School at Diane Buttrell’s invitation.  “Come on over to the Science Academy and see what the kids are up to.”  It was an open invitation and it just happened that yesterday was the day that one of my Oysterville neighbors, Steve Romero, was serving as GE, Guest Expert.

I’m not sure precisely what his topic was – I walked in after the class had begun.  But it seemed like an engineering class to me – or a class in aerodynamics.  Already, after just a half hour into their day, the fourth graders were using terms such as ‘lift’ and ‘thrust’ and ‘nosecones’ and ‘ailerons’.  One youngster served as the test pilot – with Captain status.  They were experimenting with shapes and designs – what did wider wings do?  How about narrower?  Double wings?

Did a plane with a blunt nose do better than one with a pointy nose?  One young scientist attached a paper clip to his plane’s nose.  “Oh!  Good idea!  Let’s see what the extra weight does,” Steve encouraged.   And how about a bigger body?  Or more ailerons?  What if we turn the ailerons up?  Or down?

Diane Buttrell, Founder and CEO – Oysterville Science Academy

In between, the GE suggested kids speculate, analyze, predict, experiment.  He wrote findings on the board – dictated by his fourth-grade engineering crew.  Good results: a happy face.  Poor results: the opposite. How do you spell aileron?  Someone look it up, please.  And all the while, he complimented, expressed amazement, gave suggestions and tested some of the planes himself.  And dignified every single response! When a student chose to not follow directions, Steve pointed out the innovation that had been made and praised that, too.

A teacher extraordinaire!  In the 39 years I taught elementary school, I had many opportunities to observe other teachers – student teachers, colleagues, master teachers, college demonstration teachers.  Great teachers, poor teachers, mediocre teachers.  Steve Romero could hang out his shingle with the best of the best. Why am I not surprised?    This is a man who does well at whatever he sets hand and mind to.

The Oysterville School

Last winter, for instance, he decided to learn how to make pottery – bought the clay, bought the glaze, bought the wheel, set up the garage…  His pots are fabulous!  He’s interested in wines, especially champagnes.  His collection has been sampled by a French champagne vintner.  For nearly two decades he had his own software company in Portland and was recently bought out by e-Bay.  He grows mushrooms in the woods behind his house and, along with his wife, Martie, made fabulous macramé curtains for the windows in their new house.

Is there anything Steve Romero won’t try or doesn’t enjoy?  If there is, he hasn’t let us in on it yet.  He never ceases to amaze.  And those Oysterville Science Academy kids were one lucky group of engineering students yesterday!  I doubt that they have even an inkling.  But I have no doubt that the lesson designing paper airplanes will be long remembered.

Cuddling in the Coop?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

Chicken Coop in the snow

These days, Farmer Nyel heads for the coop about 4:30 in the afternoon, just as it’s getting dark.  By that time, the girls have returned to the coop from their daily endeavors and are settling in for a good night’s sleep. Nyel has only to check the nest boxes for eggs and to close and latch the coop door against the possibility of midnight marauders.

His first duty (the egg gathering) has been complicated a bit lately by those two girls who have decided to sleep in the nest boxes rather than on the roost.  Nyel has a choice.  He can either reach underneath each of the ladies to see if they are atop an egg, or he can wait until morning.  He usually chooses to wait, disliking the annoyed rustling and clucking of disturbed hens.

Sleeping Tail-to-Beak

As reported here some days ago, only one of our four girls has been sleeping on the roost lately.  Besides the two in the nest boxes, one recalcitrant hen has been sleeping above the nest boxes – ‘on the shelf’ as it were.  But last night there was a mystifying change in the sleeping arrangements.

For whatever reason, the girl above the nest boxes has returned to the roost… sort of.  Nyel was flabbergasted to see that she was resting comfortably right on top of her sister on the perch.  Now, we’ve all heard of kids in big families who need to share a bed and who sometimes sleep in toe-to-head fashion.  These two hens were asleep tail-to-beak style, one on top of the other.  Definitely a first, at least in our coop!

Exemplary Roosting – Image from Cyberspace

It’s certainly not because of crowded conditions.  The entire remaining four feet of roost was totally empty.  Both girls were apparently comfortably asleep.  What the heck?  We can only assume that at least one of them didn’t get the memo explaining the protocol of roosting.  Actually, maybe none of them did.  They are arguably the most creative snoozers who have inhabited the coop since it was built eight years ago!

We’ve considered trying to educate the girls, perhaps by showing them pictures of ideal roosting situations.  But… educating chickens is a difficult task.  So…whatever floats your boat, we say.  Or in this case, whatever tethers their feathers…

A Conversation across the Generations

Sunday, December 11th, 2016

My Great Grandfather R.H. Espy

On Monday morning when the phone rang, I was ready.  It was a conference call coming in from ‘somewhere near Issaquah’ which sounded pretty exotic in the first place.  The call had been set up by the tutor who was helping eighth grader, Bella, with a special project and I had agreed to a long distance interview – about my great-grandfather, R.H. Espy.

Bella had lots of questions – What kind of man was he?  Did I know any family stories about him?  Was the family still in the oyster business?  Did I live in his house?  How had Oysterville changed since R.H.’s day?

I shared a few stories – how he had resigned shortly after being elected sheriff because the County expected him to buy his own badge.  And that though the R. H. stood for Robert Hamilton, he didn’t go by ‘Robert’ or ‘Bob’ but by ‘Hamilton.’  And that his mother had apprenticed him to a tailor when he was ten.  That, at 19, he signed a promissory note for $50 so he could leave his indenture a year early and that he paid it back ten years later, walking from Oysterville to Pennsylvania and back here again.


I had some questions of my own, too.  Most importantly, how did Bella happen upon information about R.H. Espy in the first place?  “He’s mentioned in my Washington State History book,” was the answer.  Who knew?  And, how did she discover me?  She ran across my website, put two and two together and decided to make the contact. Wow!

Bella had two more questions for me:  “How does it feel to be a celebrity?”  “Do you consider yourself a pioneer like your great grandfather was?”  I don’t know that my answers (“I’m not.” and “Not at all.”) and my total delight at both questions were satisfactory.  But we ended our conversation with the possibility that Bella and her tutor will visit Oysterville in the spring.  I hope that happens.  When I think about it, Bella could be my great-granddaughter!  And how great is that!

Told you so! Told you so!

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

506afc27dbd0cb30770014f1._w.1500_s.fit_As far as I can determine (and I’ve actually done the research), the current political embarrassment of the United States (read: the leading Republican presidential hopeful and followers) is all related to M&Ms. Yes! M&Ms! Plus, of course, the constant ad nauseum commentary “Good job!” to little kids.

First of all, psychologists and other experts are beginning to speak out about the possibility that Mr. T likely suffers from NPD – Narcissistic Personality Disorder. An article in “Psychology Today” by Randi Kreger lists five main NPD traits:
An exaggerated sense of self-importance and exaggerating achievements
Obsession with image; needs to be the focus of attention
Feelings of entitlement
Lack of empathy
Relationships largely superficial and exist for personal gain and to inflate self-esteem

168605_600All of which may explain something about the candidate, but what is his apparent appeal to millions of potential voters? Perhaps some of the answers can be found in The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, a book by Jean M. Twenge and W. Keith Campbell. It was published in April 2009 by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. These paragraphs jumped right out at me:

There is no single cause of the narcissism epidemic; instead we point to several contributing factors in the book. Admiring oneself is now considered crucial to success in life. This began in earnest in the 1970s, became more influential with the self-esteem movement in the 1980s and 1990s, and today is taken for granted in American culture. We see this in slogans like “You have to love yourself before you can love others” and at preschools with young children singing, “I am special/Look at me.”

At the core of narcissism is the fantasy that you are better than you really are (and better than those around you). Any process that allows that fantasy to exist despite the less glamorous reality is an opportunity for narcissism to thrive…

007 and the QueenOh, how well I remember being the voice in the wilderness at faculty meetings during the 1980s and 1990s, when I spoke against giving kids those meaningless compliments for following the rules or for learning their math facts or for waiting patiently in line.

“Why are we making a Big Deal out of kids meeting normal expectations?” I kept asking.

“The kids know false praise when they hear it,” I kept saying…

“What values are we instilling?” I kept wondering…

“My Kids” — All 800+ of Them!

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015
A Quiet Chat


On more than one occasion, I’ve written about the teachers who I remember and who (maybe, probably, certainly) influenced my life. I wonder if they knew. I hope so. Perhaps even more than that, I wonder what impact I might have had on them.

That’s no doubt a retired teacher’s thought. In the 39 years I spent in the classroom – 16 in California (1962-1978) and 23 here on the Long Beach Peninsula (1978 2001) – kids influenced and shaped my life in so many ways. I doubt if that ever occurred to them.

From their point of view, I was Mrs. LaRue and, later, Mrs. Stevens. They knew me to be strict and fair and demanding – or so some have told me in later years. They loved the stories I read to them and the social studies projects we did and the field trips we took. And, of course, so did I.



But what I remember best and am most grateful for are all the ways they caused me to grow and learn and become better than I could have been without them. There were the kids with so much courage – dealing with a dread disease or with the loss of a parent or a sibling. There were kids who persevered against every possible learning disability to finally “get it” with a shout of exultation or a quiet smile of satisfaction.

There were kids who were so gifted and talented that they made my head spin, yet they were patient with me and the others who struggled to find proper challenges for them. There were the naughty kids who always managed to find a special place in my heart. And there were the kids who knew just how to push my buttons and, often as not, there were other kids who were so socially astute and dependable they could diffuse any situation, even as my own patience was unravelling,



Mostly these were first, second, and third graders. Six, seven and eight year olds! Many times I taught the same kids for three years in a row. We knew each other inside and out – you know, for better and for worse. Then they moved on. I grew older; they grew up. The girls married and changed their names. The boys got their man-faces and man-voices and I no longer recognized them.  Some are still in touch, but most I’ve lost track of and vice-versa.

Would we still recognize each other? I don’t know. But I will never forget the things they taught me and I’d like them to know that. Every single one of them.

The Last Hurrah!

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

1This evening will be the final gathering of our “Putting the Story Back in History” class. I’m polishing up my notes with mixed feelings – glad to have the rest of the summer without a weekly obligation, yet already feeling bereft and missing the ‘Stalwart Thirteen’ – the dedicated class members who always seem so interested and eager. What a fabulous group they have been!

Tonight’s topic seems a fitting finale. I’ll be talking about “Simple Pleasures” and the way early Pacific County residents spent their leisure time – picnics, parades, and beachcombing, of course, but with panache and exuberance that is a little different from now.

Getting AcquaintedThe class has covered a lot of territory in our eight weeks together. We began with “Where the Settlers Came From and How They Got Here” and then looked at “Creating Communities and a Sense of Place.” Week three was “Boom, Bust and Subsistence: The Realities of Making a Living” and that was the week Tucker gave his demonstration of tonging oysters and Mary Garvey came and sang “The Oyster Shell Road” – both fabulous additions, if I do say so myself!

Week four was “Governance and Law and Order” during which I treated (or subjected, perhaps) the class to my one-woman rendition of several of the most dramatic Shoalwater Storytellers pieces – the kidnapping of the county seat, the Frederiksen murders and the hanging of Lum You. The next week we looked at more humdrum matters – “Meat on the Hoof and Flour Sack Clothing.”

IMG_9331The title of session six, “Good Old Golden Rule Days” is pretty much self-explanatory and last week we took a look at “The Saved and the Damned” which included, wouldn’t you know, a ghost story! Last week, too, Michael Lemeshko came and talked about his Briscoe Burying Ground project which, in itself, is history in the making!

Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface! Our area is rich with history and even richer with stories. My fondest hope is that the Stalwart Thirteen have been inspired enough to document some of their own history or, perhaps, delve into a subject that has piqued their interest. For my part, preparing for tonight’s class has put me in the mood for a summer of simple pleasures! What could be better?

Unstable in Oysterville

Sunday, June 14th, 2015
In the Classroom

In the Classroom

It’s disconcerting when things just disappear from your computer. You know they are ‘there’ somewhere but…

As with other computer mysteries, my tried and usually true method is to go to Google, pose the problem, and see what pops up. I’ve never yet run across a situation that is unknown to someone out there – usually to a lot of someones. And, invariably, there are several options given by people with or without credentials. Usually, I can’t understand what the hell they are talking about.

Currently, my problem has to do with PowerPoint. The 2013 version. I’ve been using it as a ‘teaching aid’ in my “Putting the Story Back in History” class at Grays Harbor College. Each week I show a dozen or more photographs on the ‘big screen’ to illustrate the stories I’m telling – mostly history photos from the Espy Family Archive or images I’ve gathered from other local historians.

"Stay, screenshot!  Stay!"

“Stay, screenshot! Stay!”

I’ve added photos to the presentation each week and now I’m up to 90 or 100 images in the presentation. I’ve added as I go, saving each new version with the thought that the completed eight-week program might come in handy at some time in the future. But, suddenly things have become unstable and the images have disappeared. Not in every version. And not all the images. Maddening.

Today’s challenges are twofold: to see if I can get the images back and, if not, to see if I can re-invent my wheel (so to speak) for next Tuesday night. Maybe. Maybe not. As we often say around here when I find myself chained to my office chair… it keeps me off the streets.

Hey, you history buffs…

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

The Columbia Education Center, IlwacoThe current Grays Harbor Community College catalog says this:

Putting the ‘Story’ back in History – a Look at the Early Days around Shoalwater Bay and on the Long Beach Peninsula, the course will examine Long Beach Peninsula’s past through early correspondence and diaries, family stories and period newspapers, and the oral histories of those who lived here in the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition, methods of documenting and perpetuating contemporary history will be scrutinized and students will be given practical tools for putting their own stories into historical perspective.
            Item 9867                    SYDNEY STEVENS
            5:30 PM-7:20 PM      Columbia Education Center
            Days: Tu                     Address: 208 Advent Ave SE, Ilwaco, WA 98624
            Sessions 8                   Room 106
            5/5/2015 – 6/23/2015 Fee: $69.00

Sassy Twosome, 1896

Sassy Twosome, 1896

Admittedly, this blog post is shameless advertising but, as of yesterday, there weren’t enough folks registered for the class to fly. I’ve had great fun getting ready for it – choosing more than 100 stories to tell or read along with accompanying images to show on screen. Now, I’m in the sharing mode and I’m hoping there will be a surge of sign-ups today and tomorrow.

For those who have never taken a class at the Columbia Education Center and maybe aren’t even aware of its presence – it’s a spiffy newish building near the port in Ilwaco. Call them up at 642-9433 and register. Quick! And I’ll see you Tuesday evening!

Of Reality and Hard Decisions

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014


Good Morning!

Good Morning!

Today was the beginning of Week Two in Nyel’s program: Twelve Weeks of Immobility. We are beginning to sort out some of the logistics – things that the two of us can manage together, and the things that one wimpy woman can do to make life easier for a six-foot-plus man with a gazillion pound cast from groin to sole on his left leg. And, of course, the things that we cannot do.

As in what was I thinking when I said I could teach a ten-week course at Grays Harbor College this fall? Granted, it’s only once a week for two hours – three counting my commute time to and from Ilwaco. But even so, depending upon neighbors and friends to be here or even counting on the fact that Nyel won’t have a doctor’s appointment at the wrong time or… it just seemed too iffy. So, I took a deep breath and called Bethany Barnard, the Continuing Education Coordinator.

She was lovely about it. Never mind that they just sent out 8,000 (did she really say that?) brochures describing the class and urging people to sign up. She seemed to be aware of our situation (did she say she reads my blog?) and was very understanding about all of it. Which in a way made me feel worse.

I don’t know if I’ve ever made a commitment such as that one and then had to opt out. It’s a horrible feeling. Besides which I was really looking forward to the class, “Putting the Story Back in History.” I’ve asked to do it in the Spring instead. If they’ll have me…

Grief Counselor...Almost!

Grief Counselor…Almost!

Plus I promised that I’m still “on” for the October 11th ”C for Cranberrian Fair” EdVenture. It’s an all day excursion which includes time at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum for the Cranberrian Fair,, a tour of the Cranberry Museum and a self-guided tour of a cranberry bog. Plus lunch.  Plus a copy of my book “C is for Cranberries” and who knows what else? I have a few weeks to work out a tag-team Visiting With Nyel Day which should be do-able.

On the plus side today, I got my computer back, complete with a new hard drive and all my files saved!! I’m having to hunt a bit; things are not in quite the same places, but bless Mike Challis! He definitely saved me from a lot of grief!

So… I can’t say that it was a day like any other day in Beautiful Downtown Oysterville. Or was it?

Preparing for Life as a Couch Potato

Friday, September 12th, 2014
Dinner Is Served!

Dinner Is Served!

When Nyel’s surgeon said, “I wouldn’t be at all unhappy if you told me at your next appointment that you had spent the intervening time as a complete couch potato,” we sort of laughed. Yesterday it began to sink in.

Except for necessary transport to doctor visits, it seems likely that Nyel will spend the next three months in bed. For everything. So, we’ve been in training. First there are Exercises-for-Two-Arms-and-One-Leg. Then there are the Turn-to-the-Right-and-Prop-with-Pillows positions to master. Next, the same thing to the Left Side. Always being careful to support the bad leg and make sure the muscle is not tightened, even inadvertently.

“You have to guard against bed sores,” said one worker bee. “Remember to keep your leg ‘quiet’ even when we’re moving you,” said another. “Don’t try to do anything by yourself,” they all say. “Not at first, anyway.” “Pretend your leg is dead,” said someone else.

Moving the Good Leg

Moving the Good Leg

And speaking of dead – someone came in late in the day and said, “Oh good. You’re nice and pink!” It seems that the monitor was reporting that he had flat-lined. All I could think was, “So why weren’t you running? Or at least not sauntering?” It was scary.

Meanwhile, the hospital computers were down most of the day so communication was pretty limited. We don’t know if arrangements have been made for a hospital bed. Nor do we know if any progress has been made on home health care. The last we heard is that it is not possible but, of course, we know it is. I think it’s time for the non-combatant (that would be me) to go into the Ramona-Quimby-Great-Big-Noisy-Fuss mode.

We still have tomorrow morning to get these ducks in a row. So maybe it will be one of those “all of a sudden” things. We can but hope. We want to give Number One Couch Potato every chance to be successful and to make his doctor proud. But it ain’t easy…