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Two-week Gresham-Barlow summer program centers on solving problems, creating community

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - About 50 rising freshman from Gresham-Barlow district schools are finishing up a two week design camp. They got a chance to question a panel of business and civic leaders in the Gresham City Council chambers. About 50 rising ninth-graders in the Gresham-Barlow School District are wrapping up two weeks of "design camp," which has them buzzing all over Gresham, sizing up civic issues and brainstorming ways to solve problems and enhance the community.

Despite the name, the design camp wasn't about creating logos or other graphic-design projects.

"Design is really about a way in which we solve problems by keeping the end-users in mind as a way to help us creatively solve problems," said Carla Gay, the district's executive director of innovation and partnerships.

The budding designers created videos, took tours of schools under construction, grilled a panel of prominent local people and conducted the classic experiment in which they design containers for raw eggs and drop them off a roof to see which designs kept the egg intact.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Lyle Pullom (left) and Samantha Schmitt try out their best problem-solving construction faces before touring the Gresham High School building site. The students are learning how to do "empathy interviews" chatting with each other, first responders and others. Empathy interviews attempt to understand other people and their choices by trying to draw out their thoughts, feelings and motivations. That helps people to innovate and create better products and services.

All rising ninth-graders were invited to participate in the camp and those that counselors thought might need a boost before heading to high school were especially urged to attend.

"The students are building confidence and creating community," Gay said.

The students who attended the camp regularly, from Monday, June 17, through Friday, June 28, also earned one-half credit for high school.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - The design camp students tour the new black box theater being constructed at Gresham High. Some Gresham-Barlow teachers worked with the camp and teachers from the Center for Advanced Learning, which hosted and led the camp, to sharpen their skills in this area of problem solving and designing solutions. The charter school, CAL, focuses on these types of topics as part of its career and technical education for juniors and seniors. The two-week design camp's home base was at CAL, 1484 N.W. Civic Drive.

In the panel discussion with local notables, Cory Price, owner of Gresham's Grocery Outlet and Core Coffee, urged the students to work on solving Gresham's image problem.

"The narrative on the news is about shootings and that Gresham is an unsafe place," he said.

To the contrary, Gresham's "future is really exciting," he said.

"We need your help to dictate that narrative over the next 10 years. We have a beautiful community here," Price said.

PMG PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - All the students in the design camp got a cool T-shirt, reminding all of the principals of design. Half the students toured the Gresham High School construction site and half went to Barlow.

The students, sporting snappy "design camp" T-shirts, were fascinated with the complexities of the building projects and imagining what the buildings would look like when completed.

The students got a firsthand look at how multi-faceted problems can be solved in the real world.


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