Creekside provides new educational model in Tigard
Durham Education Center was eager to shed its image as an alternative school, so the campus ditched its old identity, underwent a major remodel and embraced an educational model that is anything but ordinary.
After a roughly $6 million construction project in 2018, the site now hosts just over 280 students in classrooms among open, community-style features. The school now bears the name Creekside Community High School and houses former Durham students, along with the HUB program and Tigard-Tualatin Online Academy students. Each component of the school is inter-connected, representing a holistic teaching model that emphasizes real-life skills.
"I'm just happy to be here," said Creekside senior Serma John. "It's a beautiful building, and the students know they can go up to any of the teachers and ask for help, both in their academic and personal lives."
Creekside is also the Tigard-Tualatin School District's first "net zero" energy building, with rooftop solar panels and a meter inside that allows students to see the campus's energy usage in real time.
"We've been undertaking a substantial redesign of our academic program," Creekside Principal Russ Romas explained.
He outlined five new career and technical education pathways that emphasize leadership. Every lesson plan translates into a hands-on class in one of the school's career and technical education programs.
Students can delve into design and manufacturing, sustainable agriculture, community culinary and leadership paths.
"We're moving away from an expectation of competence and toward an expectation of collaboration," Romas said. "A lot of what we're trying to do here is empower youth toward leadership."
On the inside, Creekside is anchored by a large communal kitchen and cafeteria, where students and staff can cook with fresh vegetables from the garden.
On a recent Wednesday afternoon, two students hovered over a brand-new range top, where Radha Rodgers watched as they sauteed chili peppers and made cheese sauce. Across the room, others washed dishes and did kitchen preparation work.
"I love cooking. I've always done it since I was a kid, but I've never made anything from scratch like we do here," Miguel Amaya, a senior at Creekside, said as he watched over the hot pan. Amaya said he appreciates the model at his school, which affords him a "closer relationship with the teachers."
Outside, a sizable chunk of the school's footprint is taken up by a garden, where students and staff grow produce that they use to cook with and sell at regional farmers markets.
"We make sure we grow food that's representative of our community, and stuff that's actually going to sell," Jon Landolfe, who leads Creekside's sustainable agriculture pathway, explained.
Landolfe is an educator with the Supa Fresh Youth Farm, which works to engage teens and young adults — especially those from low-income households or considered "at risk" — in the process of growing and selling organically grown vegetables. The farm is located in Metzger, just north of Tigard.
Creekside's garden is easily the most visible manifestation of its educational model. Students who tend to the garden help prepare vegetables for CSA boxes sold at regional farmers markets. Garden beds were built by student volunteers and CCHS students get stipends for their involvement with the farm fresh program. School administrators are also planning for a permanent farmers market stand at the parent pick-up area, for easy purchase of farm fresh produce.
The first week of school, students made scones. On this day, they were trying their hand at a fresh caprese salad — with produce from the garden on site.
"They love it," Rodgers said of the culinary course. "It's their favorite class of the day."
Don't tell that to Mario Ruiz, who's teaching math to students in a woodworking space. First, they measure, then they cut and build.
Ruiz partners with woodshop teacher Michael Collins to combine geometry lessons with elementary carpentry projects.
"The math they're going to learn in period five, they're going to use in period six," Ruiz said. "I'm never going to get the question, 'When am I ever gonna use this?'"
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