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Five Oaks Middle School/Rachel Carson Environmental School

The library at Five Oaks Middle School is expansive. "We have the largest library in the District at the middle school level," says Principal Shirley Brock. Book-lined shelves span the outer wall. In the center, the library sinks down to a cozy, quiet workspace crowded with tables and chairs. On the wall surrounding the library sit small structures made of sticks. They are part of an 8th grade project to test whether the structures would hold up in an earthquake.

The Rachel Carson School of Environmental Science is also located at Five Oaks. Students complete three site visits a month, working with organizations like SOLVE. When the Oregon Food Bank closed its garden site in Hillsboro, the organization joined forces with Rachel Carson. Students and staff members put in irrigation, fencing and planted a garden on the school's west side. That first growing season, they harvested 1,450 pounds of produce. This year, they harvested more than 6,000 pounds. All of the food goes directly to the Oregon Food Bank. Rachel Carson students work in the garden once a month as part of their service learning. They even run some inquiry experiments. Many students volunteer in the garden on weekends and over the summer.

Brock says the teachers at Five Oaks share a close connection to their 900 students, "There's something about that middle school connection. Kids routinely come back to thank their teachers." It's a connection Brock enjoys immensely. "I get so much pleasure when a teacher gets so excited about sparking interest in a child."

Like the other middle schools in the District, Five Oaks is implementing the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) Program this year. Staff members sent 400 letters out to colleges around the country, asking them to send pennants and other paraphernalia. And those colleges responded. Those pennants now line the halls at Five Oaks, hung up by volunteers from a local church group.