OES Community Unites for Mount Hood Climb Observance Day

OES Community Unites for Mount Hood Climb Observance Day

On May 8, the OES community came together to honor the students and faculty we lost during the Mount Hood tragedy in 1986. The sun came out from behind the clouds and shone on the Belltower during the opening prayer by Head Chaplain The Rev. VJ Sathyaraj. Chaplain Mel Robinson and The Rev. Marianne Allison, interim rector of St. John’s Episcopal Parish, also led prayers during the ceremony.

The OES Harmonies, which includes third through fifth grade students, plus the Upper School Choir, sang “Why We Sing,” their voices sounding clear and strong in the morning air.

Head of School The Rev. Michael Spencer, reflected on the importance of honoring those whose lives were lost while affirming the advances that grew out of the Mt. Hood tragedy: “It was an event of consequence that caused the light of hope to break out from the darkness of tragedy … What happened on that mountain pushed advances in mountaineering and rescue operations, it pushed medicine forward in new treatments for victims of severe hypothermia, it helped schools think differently about managing risk in their experiential education programs, and in the development of policies for a deeper commitment to safety. Nine lives were lost that day, yet over the past 38 years, thousands of lives were saved.” You can read Rev. Spencer’s full remarks here.

In addition to honoring those we lost, Mount Hood Climb Observation Day marks the launch of the OES Season of Commitment, the third Season of Engagement and one that will last through the end of the school year. During this season, OES students engage in actions that make a positive impact in our community and end the year with a focus on our power for good.

All School Community Engagement Coordinator Kristen Haferbecker shared a ripple jar that they use in the Lower School to demonstrate how one person’s positive action can make ripples across our community. Speaking at the close of the Belltower, she invited all students to commit to positive action: “And so today, and stretching onward throughout our Season of Commitment and beyond, I encourage you to take the intricate shapes of who you are—your skills, your passions, your knowledge, your convictions—and start a ripple.”

Upper School students Edwin Y. ‘27, Carmen W. ’27, and Emily O. ’27 spoke about a commitment they made through their love of music. Edwin, who plays piano, Carmen, who plays the cello, and Emily, who plays the violin, decided they wanted to share their musical joy and took their ensemble to a senior center. The three were touched by how much the residents appreciated their music, and they made a commitment to go back once a month. Carmen shared, “Our connections with the elders were built far beyond the music; we chatted with them about our fun stories in school, we talked about our spring break, and we talked about the pressure we sometimes feel. In these conversations, our experiences often resonated with their memories of raising children and watching grandchildren grow. Our commitment to these visits goes beyond just playing music; it’s about fostering deep emotional connections and sharing meaningful moments with them.”

At the launch of the Season of Commitment on Wednesday, many students jumped right into their own commitments, and many other actions are continuing throughout the season. 

In the Lower School, for example, Primary students continued their care for the wetlands by picking up trash, while Kindergarten students planted flowering bushes around their play yard to encourage animal and insect friends to visit. First graders made crafts for OES community members they interviewed for their community project, and third graders continued their stewardship connection to our land by pulling ivy. Second and fifth graders used empathy and ideating exercises to determine their impact projects for our campus and for the Portland resettled refugee community, respectively. Fourth grade researched local farmers and started thank you cards for their help with their sustainable food system unit.

In Middle School, all sixth graders continued their focus on eco-justice by caring for our woods or planting spring crops in Fariss Community Garden. They will continue this garden work through advisories all through the spring. Next week, seventh graders will write advocacy postcards to the Oregon State Legislature about bills impacting food insecurity in Oregon. And eighth graders will be creating summer learning packets for first graders at our neighboring school, Montclair Elementary. 

Many social impact classes in Upper School include projects in the Season of Commitment that put their learning into action for the community. In addition, committed students are hosting a table in the Great Hall starting next week to highlight ways their classmates can take action, including knitting squares for Warm Up America quilts and showing them how to build mason bee homes.