Starting in 2010, parents and community members worked collaboratively with the Scappoose School District for two years to convert Sauvie Island Elementary School (K-6) into Sauvie Island Academy, a K-8 tuition-free, public charter school offering Place-Based Education.
Through this conversion, families of Scappoose, St. Helens and the Portland-area are provided another K-8 education option for their students.
In September 2011, Sauvie Island Academy, SIA, opened its doors as a K-7 (expanding to K-8 in 2012), public charter school based in the heart of Sauvie Island. Our school offers a unique educational experience through the philosophy of Place-Based Education with an emphasis on stewardship of the land and fostering a sense of community in our students.
In 2018, after having a community-wide conversation, we decided to return to and celebrate our rich history by re-adopting the name Sauvie Island School. We are part of the island community, and retaining the historical name further secures our place as the cultural center of the island and make us another chain in the long history of rural, Placed-Based Education.
At SIS, we believe that in addition to the educational standards in reading, writing and math it is important we also offer students a well-rounded education which includes art, language and sciences. Through Place-Based Education we offer a curriculum that integrates our natural environment into our children’s education giving our students the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, excel academically and become stewards of their environment.
Studies show that student achievement improves when educators make lessons tangible and offer hands-on learning experiences that are closely tied to the community. With the abundance and variety on Sauvie Island what better place to implement a Place-Based Education opportunity? In May 2000, New York Time writer Michael Frank, describe Sauvie Island by saying:
“In the landscape, in the very atmosphere of islands, there is often a visceral feeling of apartness. It may have its roots in certain obvious isolating factors of geography and history, but there is a further dimension, less easily pinpointed, a kind of island sensibility, an individuality. A sense that things are done differently on island turf; an attention to old customs and legacies; a respect for nature and a husbanding of natural resources. You feel it in Sardinia and in Sicily and on Patmos. Imagine, though, feeling it on a river island, one connected to a major highway by a bridge not much longer than a freeway overpass.”
Sauvie Island School is committed to preserve the small school environment that was unique to Sauvie Island Elementary School and the strong sense of community where education is a collaborative effort between teachers, parents and community members.
To provide the K-8 children of our broader community an opportunity to learn through the values of stewardship deeply rooted in the uniqueness that Sauvie Island offers. Our school is the heart of the Sauvie Island community. It is a meeting place that fosters an environment where students, parents, staff, and the community are partners in the educational process for the achievement of all children.
SIS will systematically and intentionally integrate the concepts of Place-Based Education, Project-Based Learning and Thematic Instruction into a quality standards-based core curriculum so that students are engaged in their learning and connected to their community. Environmental education helps students make connections between what they learn and how they live. Projects in the community will provide an opportunity for teachers and students to solve real life problems and meet authentic community needs.
At SIS, we talk with our students about what it means to be an active and caring member of the community. A former principal of the school, Tom Ruhl, serves as an example of one who displayed genuine community service, as evidenced in his caring leadership and investment in the school. In his honor, each year at SIS we strive to teach, reinforce and model the importance of “Tom’s Traits.” Tom exemplified leadership, kindness, perseverance, teamwork and joy. At SIS students have many opportunities to apply and experience these traits through Place-Based Education. At the end of every year, each class at SIS will identify and award a local service learning project they completed during the year to be represented on Tom’s Tree.