Tara is registered with her school as an American Indian because the school receives more money for more Indian students as part of the No Child Left Behind initiative. (She is able to use my Cherokee number there, but I still intend to register her with the Nation as well.) The Title VII Indian Education Project in Portland Public Schools tracks her personal school progress now. They publish a newsletter of Indian news that includes high scores and personal achievements of students in the program, and she receives congratulatory certificates for good attendance. People come to her school periodically to ask each child in the Title VII program if they need anything, have any questions, are having trouble with anything, etc. at school.
Tara and the other students in the program filled out an index card with particular interests at school, and turned it in. Later, when the Title VII person showed up, she was able to talk with Tara about it. The woman called me later to tell me about their conversation. Tara said that she loves to study science, and was hoping to go to college and study trees. I knew this because Tara has been saying she wants to be an arborist for some time. The woman told me she was calling because there was going to be an American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) weekend at Portland State University, and Title VII was willing to pay her fee to get in if we wanted to go.
We reviewed the itinerary and decided to go. There would be three days of speakers and something called “digital storytelling,” and a nighttime powwow Friday and Saturday. Our Friday was too full, with school and work of course, so we didn’t try attending. Saturday quickly became full, and after ballet practice we didn’t have the energy to bundle up and drive into town to find the powwow. We set everything else aside to attend the breakfast, OMSI tour, and lunch gathering on Sunday.
Unfortunately, we never found AISES. We circled the PSU campus with no idea where to go (since the website did not give locations, and the phone number of the Title VII person – if she could even help me – was still in my email inbox). The website did provide the address of a conference center that turned out to be a hotel, but the hotel front desk people were very helpful in giving us directions to the gorgeous Native American Student and Community Center. We found a nearby lot, parked, and when we got up to the building, found it dark and locked. Our next plan was to wait around at Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) till the group showed up. We arrived before opening time, so we drove back into town to find some breakfast!
It had been a frustrating and disappointing morning thus far, driving around the city of Portland from 8:30 to 10:00am on a Sunday morning and getting nowhere, knowing some organization had spent money on Tara but we couldn’t return the kindness by at least joining them. Tara says, “Let’s just forget them! It’s too frustrating and stressful. We both want to go to OMSI. Let’s just go to the museum without the group and do whatever we want and stay as long as we want.” It was an excellent plan. We spent the whole day there.
The Lost Egypt exhibit was new to us, and I particularly enjoyed it because of our trip to Egypt a year ago. I found little things that had extra meaning for me that I am sure most people did not even notice. For example, the placards placed in a couple of locations were illustrated with the five-pointed stars I had seen painted on the ceilings of Egyptian tombs, but did not explain this fact to the readers. The museum had more basic education about traditions, symbols, reading hieroglyphics that I wished we had received when we were in Egypt. There was a whole area dedicated to teaching visitors how satellites are used to help archaeologists find new dig sites. Tara was bored out of her mind in the Egypt section, and eager to move on. “I’ve already seen the real thing,” she says. Ha ha!
As in the past, she had the most fun in the hands-on science section, building paper airplanes, using huge robots to play connect-four with another girl, building boats to sail in chlorinated water troughs, trying to solve puzzles at the puzzle stations. On this visit she spent the most time in the Ball Room. This room contains a thousand small blue balls and has forced air piping through at all times. Kids can turn valves to start or stop the air flow, or connect tubes to change the air flow. Place balls in the path of the wind and that results in dozens of balls flying all directions in all parts of the room. The walls are covered in a variety of structures designed to play with the air and the balls, so that if you tire of one way to launch balls, you can move on to many others. Baskets are mounted on most parts of the ceiling, in case you need a particular place to aim your launched balls.
We also took advantage of the OMNIMAX theatre to watch a new film called Born to Be Wild, narrated by Morgan Freeman. It’s an inspiring story of orphaned elephants and orphaned orangutans getting another chance at life. The women who founded facilities in Borneo (for the orangutans) and in Kenya (for the elephants) believe that their primary role is to prepare the young ones to be released into the wild again.
We also watched an interesting show, Journey to the Stars, in the Kendall Planetarium, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. The movie made full use of the planetarium-style dome, making it seem as though we were gazing up at the night sky most of the time. Journey to the Stars is an educational presentation about the formation of stars, the types of stars, and the death of stars – and what it all means to us here on earth. When Whoopi was explaining about the eventual death of our own star, one child in the theatre could take no more and shouted, “I wanna get out of here, now!” The poor thing burst into tears and was never released, though he did eventually calm down.
Though we never found AISES, I spotted one old Indian grandpa with a little boy. That made me think our group must have eventually arrived. Or maybe the two were simply random visitors. In any event, I credit the Title VII program and AISES for getting us to the museum… so the program works! As is the case with so many aspects of our lives: it turns out just as it was supposed to, but not necessarily the way we were expecting.