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School-Based Outreach Program

For Teachers

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Engaging Our Youngest Citizens

As an extension of Multnomah County’s community outreach activities, the Sellwood Bridge Project is engaging our future leaders through the School-based Outreach Program. This program brings the bridge project alive in local elementary, middle, and high school classrooms through interactive educational programs appropriate to the grade level of each student and the curricular goals of their teachers.

"Our goal is to make this once in a lifetime construction project into an exciting learning opportunity for students in our area," said County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, whose district includes the Sellwood Bridge. Project team members representing Multnomah County, TY Lin International, Slayden Construction, Sundt Construction, CH2M Hill and Lois D. Cohen Associates have participated in this program.

Students from Llewellyn Elementary learn how the truss span will be moved to set up the detour bridge.

Students from Llewellyn Elementary learn how the truss span will be moved to set up the detour bridge.

Participating schools include:

  • Llewellyn Elementary School - serving the Sellwood neighborhood on the east side of the bridge
  • Sellwood Middle School - serving the Sellwood neighborhood on the east side of the bridge
  • Capitol Hill Elementary School - a nearby school on the west side of the bridge
  • Architecture, Construction & Engineering (ACE) Academy - a charter school for 11th and 12th graders, drawing from seven high schools in east Multnomah County
  • Benson Polytechnic High School - technical school for Portland Public School students

These schools were selected based on either their proximity to the bridge site, or their curricular focus and area of impact. Project team members will be working with these schools during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years.

Sellwood Middle School students learn how landslide forces are affected by gravity and material surfaces..
Sellwood Middle School students learn how landslide forces are affected by gravity and material surfaces..

Sellwood Middle School students learn how landslide forces are affected by gravity and material surfaces.

The School-based Outreach Program is designed to:

  • Increase awareness of the project among students, their teachers and families
  • Provide opportunities to increase understanding of the technical elements of the project
  • Expose students to a variety of project-related careers, career paths and associated educational requirements
  • Provide students with an opportunity to create bridge-related class projects, such as art work, models, and wildlife habitat structures
  • Use the project as a real life civics lesson and provide students with multiple opportunities for engagement with public officials.

The School Program gives students the opportunity to meet project team members to learn about their roles and responsibilities and to explore career paths related to construction, engineering, design, and public service. More specifically, students learn about the importance of building and maintaining a sound bridge that will enhance our environment and accessibility

What Students Are Learning

In Greg Davis' Integrated Science Design class at Sellwood Middle School, students learned about bridge design and construction through the demonstration of the AutoCAD technology program and by building gum drop bridges. Students were given materials consisting of gum drops, tooth picks, and saltine crackers to build a bridge model based on a bridge design and model sheets designed by the project team. Students found it challenging and fun to take a design and build these structures.

Multnomah County Bridge Engineer Michael Eaton works with a Sellwood Middle School student to calculate the width of an ideal bridge, as part of a class project.

Multnomah County Bridge Engineer Michael Eaton works with a Sellwood Middle School student to calculate the width of an ideal bridge, as part of a class project.

These students, who were given a tour of the bridge site by project team members, also learned about the range of careers needed to implement projects such as the Sellwood Bridge replacement.  After reviewing the range of careers, students selected one that was of particular interest to them, researched that career, and wrote a 400 word essay about it.

At Llewellyn Elementary School, 5th graders built and decorated bat boxes which will be placed underneath the new bridge upon completion. The bat boxes served as a vehicle to teach students about the importance of protecting local habitats which will be affected by construction.   These students also worked on a geography project, mapping the places from which materials for the bridge construction originated.

Representatives of these two fifth grade classes were among the stars of the Sellwood Groundbreaking event as they presented, in a very witty manner, what they had learned as a result of the School Program and their thoughts about the new bridge.

Students from Llewellyn Elementary perform an exercise to learn how flaggers work together to move traffic safely on a single lane.

Students from Llewellyn Elementary perform an exercise to learn how flaggers work together to move traffic safely on a single lane.

On the westside, Capitol Hill 3rd graders gathered in the gym to participate in an interactive program focused on three elements of this project:  the bridge; the soil and rock supporting the bridge; and the water under the bridge.

At the Soil/Rock station, the students had an opportunity to examine gravel, clay, and two rock samples from the Willamette River.  The team member leading this part of the activity discussed the origin of these natural elements so as to increase students’ awareness of Oregon’s geology and how it impacts the Sellwood Bridge project.  The students were also given a glossary of geology terms.

At the water station, the team lead provided the students with a hydraulic map of the Sellwood Bridge and Willamette River. This was a good resource for teaching students what engineers have to consider about water when building a bridge.  Discussion topics included:

  • How can water destroy a bridge if it is not built properly?
  • Why is in-water work only allowed during certain times of the year?

These students were also given a glossary of hydrology terms.

ACE Academy student Josh Koon shows models of the old and new Sellwood Bridges built for his senior project. ACE is a charter school that prepares high school students for careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

ACE Academy student Josh Coon shows models of the old and new Sellwood Bridges built for his senior project. ACE is a charter school that prepares high school students for careers in architecture, construction and engineering.

Putting their technical skills and career-related education into practice, the juniors and seniors at ACE Academy are designing a model of the installation of the Shoofly temporary bridge to present to County Commissioners. They will also create a model of the new bridge.  Prior to presenting their models to the County Commissioners, the ACE students will take the models to their home high schools in the Parkrose, Centennial, Reynolds and Gresham-Barlow school districts and present  to the students and faculty at those schools what they have learned about the Sellwood Bridge Project.

Creating a Sense of Ownership

The School-based Outreach Program has created a sense of connection to the Sellwood Bridge Project among the students with whom we have worked. Students have expressed excitement about the new bridge and are looking forward to the completion of the project and using the new structure, with its wide pedestrian and bike-paths. Furthermore, the program has engaged our young citizens in one of the largest public infrastructure investments currently taking place in our region. Encouraging students to learn about public projects taking place in their communities has been a great way to expand their understanding of civic processes and civic engagement and to teach them about the many interesting career paths available to them.