Teacher keeps alive field trip when she switches schools

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: BOB LUCAS - Oak Creek Elementary School fifth-graders crossed Broadway Bridge during a bridge field trip last month in Portland.When Uplands Elementary School closed last year to address a school district budget shortfall, teacher Maria Strycker moved to Oak Creek Elementary School, bringing with her a special, annual tradition.

Strycker and other fifth-grade Oak Creek teachers gave students a real-life physics lesson with a Portland bridge field trip that Uplands once held every other year. Teachers haven’t determined if the trip will return next year to Oak Creek.

“It’s one of those opportunities that they remember, that they talk about,” Strycker said. “They’re so positive and happy the whole day. They just love it.”

Leading up to Oak Creek’s inaugural bridge field trip, held last month, students studied the physics of spans, how they bear a load and how drawbridges employ pulleys and counter weights to make way for boats. After the trip, students built bridge models of pasta or toothpicks.

“In Lake Oswego, the purpose of field trips is to enrich concepts in standards and district curriculum,” fifth-grade teacher Jane Lierman said. “As we merge and continue our learning, that is our guiding principle.”

Showing fifth graders the bridges in real life stoked their excitement and the lessons “came alive for them,” fifth-grade teacher Amy Wetzel said.

In two groups on two separate days, 57 chaperoned students visited or viewed the Broadway, Steel, Fremont and Morrison bridges as well as Union Station Pedestrian Bridge.

Oak Creek parent Bob Lucas, who was a chaperone, said his favorite part was stepping inside the towers where operators manipulate the Morrison Bridge. Lucas also enjoyed standing on the street when the drawbridge lifted to make way for a boat.

“The bridges are a defining urban architecture for the city because each bridge is unique,” Lucas said.

His son, Josh Lucas, said he also loved the raising of the Morrison Bridge.

“I learned that mostly all of the drawbridges get held up by huge counterweights,” said Josh, 11.

Sharon Wood Wortman founded the Portland Parks Outdoor Recreation bridge walks in 1991. She was a scholar for Oregon Chautauqua, which was a community-engaging speakers bureau of the Oregon Council for the Humanities.

Wood Wortman also is the lead writer on a book about bridges for elementary students and their teachers, Big & Awesome, and she said more demands, including state testing, make it hard for schools to keep offering special programs.

Other area elementary schools also offer the bridge field trip she inspired, and she said she’s “excited that Lake Oswego has even one school that’s able to do this.”

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