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Weekly teacher feature: National parks project emerges from love of travel, history

Shannon DotsonName: Shannon Dotson

Hometown: Beaverton

City of residence: Forest Grove

School: Banks Middle School

Grade: Sixth

In Banks School District: 11 years

Other interests/hobbies: Watching my kids in their sporting events, traveling, reading, scrapbooking, crafting. Married to Sean Dotson for 22 years. Three kids.

Fun fact: One of Dotson’s passions is early American history. “I love sharing my passion with students through our Washington, D.C., trips,” she said. She’ll embark on her 12th student-led trip this December.

Teaching style of note: Dotson has created a National Parks elective for her students. She grew up camping in the California Redwoods every summer and participating in the Junior Rangers Program, which encourages kids to complete specific activities during their visit and share accomplishments with a park ranger.

She still enjoys exploring and this year her family visited Oregon’s southern coast and jet-boated the Rogue River.

They also trekked through the Northern California Redwoods. “I felt like I was 10 again,” Dotson said. “We learned about their pinecones, growing conditions, heights and circumference and took lots of pictures.

“That was when it dawned on me [that] my elective at school needed to teach my students about our National Park System and these treasures we have so close to home. I created a workbook for the students, pulled in Common Core standards for reading, writing, science, social studies, math and technology.”

Her students just recently learned about Yellowstone National Park and will research their own national parks in groups this year. Each group will put together a Google Slides presentation that teaches the class about their national park. The information will include location, main features, geology, plants and animals. The presentation will include direct instruction, pictures, videos and an art project. Each group will be given two class days to present its park.

“My hope is that the students begin to build a love for the outdoors and a desire to visit and protect these treasures of our nation,” Dotson said.

Each week the News-Times will feature a creative teacher who is teaching “outside the box” in the Forest Grove, Gaston or Banks school districts. If you know someone like that, call or email Stephanie Haugen at 503-357-3181 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..