A boy, around the age of ten, seated at a table behind a microphone. He is wearing headphones and smiling at the camera.

Talking with Kids about Belonging

For the final episode of our series on belonging, we talked with students at Fern Hill Elementary School in Forest Grove and Crestview Heights Elementary in Waldport about where they feel they belong and how to help others feel like they belong. You'll also hear from a few adults who work at these schools about how they create a welcoming community inside and outside of the classroom. 

Show Notes

Thank you to everyone at Fern Hill Elementary School and Crestview Heights Elementary for welcoming us into their schools.

Thankyou also to Rafael Otto, Celeste Yager-Kandle, and everyone at the Children's Institute for their partnership on this episode and for the work they do in the world. 


Adam Davis: Have you been in a situation where you've had another kid come in and you can kind of tell that kid doesn't feel like they yet are part of the group? Yeah. How do you deal with that?

Student: I'm like these people are really nice, just, if you want, like come and play tag with us and get to know us better and all of that. So, what I wanted to do if a new person, came, and I didn't know them, I would like, if they tagged me, I would talk something about myself.

Adam Davis: That was Elijah, from Fern Hill Elementary School. This is Adam, with The Detour, from Oregon Humanities. For this final episode in our series on belonging, I want to start by asking you to think about where, as a kid, you felt most connected, most comfortable, most able just to show up and be a part of things.

Can you identify what made these places that come to mind so welcoming? What was it about that one teacher's class, or the playground in fourth grade, or lunch with those three good friends, that helped you feel like that part of the world was so clearly your part of the world? A part of the world that wanted you to be in it, and in which you knew you wanted to be?

These same questions, questions about where you feel like you belong and why, seem worth asking about in any stage of our lives. But this episode focuses on belonging in childhood for three reasons. First, that sense, as a kid, of where you belong and where you don't belong can be pretty strong, pretty visceral.

And for many of us, it can be not only memorable, but also defining. Second, the communities we enter as kids are often more deliberately structured than those we walk through as adults. And the shape of kids lives can tell us a lot about our culture's goals and hopes. Kids worlds are a revealing reflection of the lives we say we want to build.

Third, and maybe most important, kids tend to speak clearly and directly, which doesn't mean that adults don't do so, but we may, as we age, get more practiced at putting layers of words and gauze between ourselves and our experiences. This is often not the case with kids, and that's why this episode revolves around conversations with young people at Fern Hill Elementary School in Forest Grove and Crestview Heights Elementary in Waldport, and with a few of the adults who, in large and small ways, help shape those schools and the communities they deliberately and thoughtfully create.

We want to thank everyone at Fern Hill and Crestview Heights for how welcoming they were. And we want to thank Raphael Otto, Celeste Yeager Candell, and everyone at the Children's Institute for their partnership on this episode, and for the work they do in the world. So, back to young people, like Elijah, who you heard from at the open, speaking clearly about belonging and community.

First, you'll be hearing from the young people at Crestview Heights School, in the coastal town of Waldport, about halfway up the Oregon coast. Here's Cheyenne, in sixth grade. 

Cheyenne: My name's Cheyenne, and I'm in 6th grade. 

Adam Davis: 6th grade. So Cheyenne, how's 6th grade going for you? 

What's 6th grade feel like? 

Cheyenne: It feels a lot harder than 5th grade, and it's going pretty good.

Adam Davis: What feels harder about 6th grade than 5th grade? 

Cheyenne: A lot of the work, especially reading for me. 

Adam Davis: How does your class and your teacher, how do they help you deal with harder work, with reading or anything else? 

Cheyenne: My classmates help me by trying to figure out the words for me. And my teacher helps me by trying to read fluently and gets me to stop at periods, punctuations, and others.

Adam Davis: So does Crestview feel like a pretty tight community for you? What has led to it feeling like a comfortable, tight community? 

Cheyenne: All my friends and how encouraging they are and how kind they are. 

Adam Davis: So if you've been here for six years or so, if you can imagine helping a first grader or a kindergartner start to recognize how they might help build that kind of community, what would you say to them to help them start to show up in the ways you're talking about?

Cheyenne: Just try and be nice to everybody and if someone's being excluded, just go up to them and ask them if they need help or want to be friends. 

Adam Davis: When you walk into school in the morning, what does it feel like? What's it feel like to walk in? 

Cheyenne: Tiring, but good at the same time because I'm gonna get to go in my classroom and learn and see all my friends.

Adam Davis: If you had to say like the top two things you like or even love about school, what are the top two things you like or love most about school? 

Cheyenne: Seeing my friends and getting to do math. 

Adam Davis: That's good. I would have answered the second one differently for myself, but I'm impressed. That's good. This is a strange question, maybe.

Do you feel that your teachers respect you, and how do you get that sense either way? 

Cheyenne: Yes, and Sometimes it's really hard because if we're doing a test, she won't help us really, because it's a test and obviously she can't tell us the answers. But I feel like she's really respectful and kind. 

Adam Davis: Do you feel like you and your teachers and the other students and the people that work in the school are all part of the same community, even though different ages, different backgrounds, all of that?

Cheyenne: Yes. 

Adam Davis: How does that work? How is it that people from different backgrounds and ages and jobs get to be part of the same community? 

Cheyenne: Working in a school district means everyone has to be nice to each other and friends. And even though if you don't, if you may not like each other, you still work in the same school together.

Adam Davis: So, you have to find a way to get along, and then that's your community. I love that answer. You have the school in common, you have to find a way to get along, that leads to the community. When you think of away from school, where do you feel the strongest sense of community? 

Cheyenne: Probably my house with my family.

Adam Davis: And what helps that at your house feel like a, a community? 

Cheyenne: I really don't know. 

Adam Davis: That's how family works. It's a mystery. I think we're getting to the end, but let me ask, if you imagine people listening to this podcast or radio show, is there any stuff you would want to say to them about either community or anything else that's on your mind?

Cheyenne: Just be nice to everyone you meet. You'd never know what they're going through.

Dylan: My name is Dylan and I am in 6th grade.

Adam Davis: How's 6th grade feeling to you? 

Dylan: It's good. I have a lot of friends in my class. 

Adam Davis: That's a good feeling. Yeah. Have you been at Crestview for a little while? 

Dylan: Yes, I've been here since 3rd grade.

Adam Davis: And has it always felt the way you just described 6th grade as feeling, when you said 6th grade feels good, you have a lot of friends? Do you remember what it felt like to start here? How did that feel? 

Dylan: It felt really awkward, and I didn't think I would fit in, but then I eventually got a lot of friends.

Adam Davis: So that's interesting. How did you move through that initial awkward feeling? Like, what was it that allowed you to feel more comfortable? 

Dylan: Well I had my best friend come up to me, and she reassured me. 

Adam Davis: Was this someone you knew before, or someone you got to know here? 

Dylan: Someone I got to know here. She was my first friend.

Adam Davis: That's amazing. How did you two recognize that you were friends for each other?

Dylan: We just started talking at one point in third grade and we became best friends. 

Adam Davis: That's awesome. When you think about younger kids, like first, second, or even third graders, what do you think would help them know how to welcome other students?

What could you say that would help them see how to build that community?

Dylan: I think maybe that they could give them a warm welcome and try to be their friend.

Adam Davis: Does Crestview work on teaching that? Like, do you feel like your teachers are helping you all understand how to do that? And if so, how are they helping you understand?

Dylan: Yeah, I think so, because we have a lot of, we have a lot of talk about friendships and how we can make them better. 

Adam Davis: Well, let me ask, outside of school, what feels like your, your sort of most comfortable community outside of school? 

Dylan: I would probably say at the park, or with my family at my house.

Adam Davis: How does, how do you have that sense of community at the park? What, what makes that feel like a comfortable place? 

Dylan: I don't know, it's just something about the park, it reassures me. 

Adam Davis: It's interesting, because reassure sounds like an important feeling. When you say it reassures you, do you know what it reassures you of, or can you say more about that feeling?

Dylan: Well, it kind of reassures me, like, I kind of feel like it's, like, safe there, and it just feels, like, very open, and it's a safe place. 

Adam Davis: Safe, open, that makes for a reassuring feeling. Feels like a good place to be. Hey, are you reading anything, any book in your head these days that comes to mind? 

Dylan: Yes, I am reading an [unspecified] book. It's for, I'm reading "The Blackbird Girls."

Adam Davis: Is there a character in there you especially like? 

Dylan: I would probably say Valentina. 

Adam Davis: What do you like about Valentina? 

Dylan: She's very confident, but she can get very worried at times.

Adam Davis: Do you think, when you read books, do you feel like, is there stuff you're learning from books that you can apply to your life?

Like, does that happen at all? 

Dylan: Oh, yeah. 

Adam Davis: You said, Oh, yeah, with a great degree of confidence. Do you have an example or can you say a little more about that? 

Dylan: Yeah. So in "The Blackbird Girls", they have to, like, become friends with other people so they can, like, because Valentina was an enemy with someone but they got closer together, and that's kind of how I feel sometimes. 

Adam Davis: How do you do that?

How do you get closer to people who you might feel different from or feel like you don't like?

Dylan: I think we could learn more about them and maybe found out find out if we have any interest that we like. 

Adam Davis: That makes a lot of sense. What do you think, how do you do that with someone who you already feel some tension with?

How do you take that first step to learning more about their interests? 

Dylan: Well, we could say well, we could find something that we both like and talk about that. 

Adam Davis: Makes sense. Who do you eat lunch with at school?

Dylan: I usually eat lunch with my two friends because my other, some of my other friends are in the other class. I usually sit with Gracie Lynn and Santos. 

Adam Davis: And what happens if, does it ever happen that other people want to come up and sit down with you and how do you respond to that? 

Dylan: I respond, I say yes, you can.

Adam Davis: I like how you say that, like it's just obvious, of course you say yes, yeah. Yeah, do you think it's obvious that the answer is yes?

Dylan: Yes, I do think the obvious answer is yes. 

Adam Davis: That's great, I agree with you. How about if you know that there are people that are going to be listening, and that they're listening to you and some other students here talking about community, what would you want to say to them?

Dylan: Always be kind to other people.

Maya: My name is Maya. I am in second grade. 

Adam Davis: When you think about community, what comes to your head? 

Maya: I think it's just like, being nice, so you don't have to just, like, be mean in the community. So you can just pick up things if people drop them. 

Adam Davis: That's nice, picking stuff up when people drop them. Do you think your second grade class, do you think of that as a community?

Maya: Yes and no. 

Adam Davis: Can you say a little bit more about both parts, the yes and the no? 

Maya: Well, the yes is because most of the time we're reading books and and learning different stuff, which is important because you need that to learn how to do different stuff so you can be better at it, and the no is because sometimes it's hard because, like testing it's really hard because like some things you can't know, like we're doing this math on iReady and they're teaching us kindergarten through fifth grade, and I don't even know what we're doing.

Adam Davis: It's interesting that you said, yes, your second grade class is a community, and then you talked about learning. And can I ask, what's the, how is a community connected to learning for you? 

Maya: It's pretty much just like you have to learn what to do, but before you just do it. So if you like, I would say if you had like, like there, so you drop something on the floor. Okay, that's fine. You can pick it up, but if you're just walking around not learning, you won't learn, and you won't be able to know what to do. 

Adam Davis: Interesting. So when what you just said, it sounds like your teacher is a big part of shaping your community. Your friends are a big part of shaping your community.

Are there other people who are part of shaping your community?

Maya: I would say my mom, my whole family, because I'm half Mexican, half Native American, so I pretty much, I pretty much just go with the other sides of what to do, but, like, you don't need to be scared for somebody to do anything, but it's fine.

Adam Davis: You don't have to be scared about it. So you said half of your family is Mexican and half is Native American. Does it feel like both sides are part of the same community, or does it feel like different communities? How does that feel, having the two? 

Maya: I think it's like different community, but the same community, because you have to— So I'm Tlingit and Haida, so I have to, like, I stay with the Native American side. So you, what you do is, so our ancestors used to catch fish with a stick. 

Adam Davis: Do you and your family, the Tlingit and Haida side, do you ever do stuff like that anymore? 

Maya: No. But we do, what we do, since there's fishing poles, we use fishing poles. But we, the Native American— Our ancestors used to eat fish and different kinds of meat to to help them stay alive. But if they didn't, they would die. So they had to eat something. What they had to eat was either fish, some kind of animal, or you're gonna have to like, try to find something. Well, what we do is we kill deer so we can get fresh meat. 

Adam Davis: Got it. So on the Native American side, on the Tlingit and Haida side, your family, maybe their ancestors used to get fish, but now they're getting deer.

Can I ask on the Mexican side of your family? What kind of food are you eating? 

Maya: We use—So quesadillas are like these, so you have, so you can eat, so this is what it is. So you grab a tortilla, which is the Mexican— So you grab a tortilla, and then you put either chicken or cheese in. And then you warm it up in the microwave, then you just eat it. And then, then nachos— nachos are actually really good for you because they do have meat, cheese, chips, and beans. And, so what you do is you mix up, like, so you make the chicken, like the ground beef or the chicken. You mix that, then you start, then you grab the chips, put it all over it, and then, and then put a little bit of cheese in, and then you put it into the microwave, and then you grab it out, then you put the the ground beef on it, and then you put the sour cream on it.

My dad is Native American, my mom Mexican, and I'm in this class where you get to learn all about the Native American, because you see my hair? I am Native American, and this is what kind of hair they used to have. But you could not cut it. Not Native American, nobody can touch my hair, but that actually happened.

I won't tell you that story because that, it's a long story, but if you want to hear, you can. 

Adam Davis: Well, I'm curious.Do you feel like, so you've mentioned, I think now, three communities because you mentioned your second grade community. Your Native American community, your Mexican community, how do they all fit together? How in your head do you understand how they fit together? 

Maya: It's complicated, because you have to get second grade, and then you have to get the Native American, then you have to get the Mexican. So how do they come together? That's actually a question. My Tlingit and the Haida is called a tribe. And the Mexican is, like, really hard because you have to...they speak Mexican. I don't speak Mexican, but I want to learn how to, but I'm not a...I look like a Mexican kid from my skin color but I don't speak Mexican. 

Adam Davis:Interesting. So you talked about like the traditions from different sides related to what you eat, you talked about language, you talked about even like the color of your skin and how you look and your hair and traditions around your hair. Are you comfortable with sitting with anybody? Do you ever run into kids who don't know where they're going to sit and how do you help them feel like, okay, it's cool for them to join? 

Maya: That actually doesn't really happen, but if it did, I would say, okay, you can sit here, or you can sit here, or you can sit next to me.

Adam Davis: Any last things you want to say to anybody listening? 

Maya: Be a good person, and don't be mean. 

Dulce: My name is Dulce from Fern Hill Elementary School in Forest Grove, and you're listening to The Detour. 

Oliver: My name's Oliver and I'm in 5th grade. 

Adam Davis: How's 5th grade going for you so far? 

Oliver: Pretty good, I guess. 

Adam Davis: What makes it pretty good?

Oliver: Like, my friends and I guess, like, all the stuff we learn, too.

Adam Davis: Does school in 5th grade, does it feel like a pretty welcoming place? Like, is it a place you're comfortable? And if so, what makes it comfortable? 

Oliver: I mean, most of the time, yeah, it is. You asked me, like, what makes me comfortable here? Yeah, like, again, my friends, I guess, and teachers.

Adam Davis: This is a weird question, but how do you know who you're going to be friends with? How do you, how can you tell who you're comfortable hanging out with? 

Oliver: I guess, like, their personality and how much stuff they have in common with me. 

Adam Davis: What kinds of things do you have in common with your friends these days?

Oliver: Me and my best friend, we both play soccer and basketball together. And I guess that's a big thing. And also, we're both pretty smart, not to brag. 

Adam Davis: So you got some sports and some school stuff, some academic stuff. When you said you feel comfortable most of the time, it sounded like, and itlooked like, maybe you were also thinking some of the time you don't feel comfortable. Can I ask you, when do you not feel comfortable and what's going on then? 

Oliver: I mean, sometimes at recess, lots of kids are mean to other kids, like calling them babes and laughing at them. 

Adam Davis: That is hard. What do you do to try to make it less likely thatthat stuff will happen.

Oliver: I stand up for people sometimes.

Adam Davis: What's that look like? How do you do that? 

Oliver: It's kind of hard to explain.

Adam Davis: What does it feel like when you're standing up for someone? What does it feel like inside you to stand up for someone? 

Oliver: I feel annoyed by the other person. Because those people are being mean to them. 

Adam Davis: How did you learn— this is a tough question——how did you learn how people should act towards other people? 

Oliver: Mainly from my parents. 

Adam Davis: And did your parents teach you by showing or by telling you? Like, how did they teach you that? 

Oliver: Both, by telling me and showing me. 

Adam Davis: Do you try to do the same thing with your friends or with younger people? 

Oliver: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Well, if you were going to tell older kids, like, here's how I hope you'll act towards other kids, what would you tell those older kids, or even towards you, how you'd like to be treated?

Oliver: I'd tell them, treat people the way you want to be treated. 

Adam Davis: That sounds kind of simple the way you say it, does it feel simple? 

Oliver: Sometimes. Yes. 

Adam Davis: Sometimes yes, what makes it sometimes no? 

Oliver: Because sometimes, like, it's hard to do that when there's kids that are just going to be mean to you no matter what.

Adam Davis: How does Crestview help you and your classmates see how to act towards each other? 

Oliver: Teaching kids how to be nice, I guess. Like, all the teachers do that. 

Adam Davis: So part of every class is thinking about not only, say, math or reading, but also how to act towards each other? 

Oliver: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Can you tell me how that shows up in a classroom? Like, can you give me an example or two of how you see that happening? 

Oliver: After kids come in from recess and they tell the teacher about something, then the teacher, like, tries to solve it and tells kids how to be nicer. 

Adam Davis: So you're working on that stuff together? What about on the basketball court, or the soccer field, how do you help everyone be part of the game?

Oliver: Encourage my teammates and give high fives. 

Adam Davis: High fives are good. Do you have a favorite basketball or soccer player, and if so, who is it and why? 

Oliver: In soccer, for the MLS, I like Lionel Messi. I really like him because he's, like, really good, and he's left footed just like me. 

Adam Davis: Any last things in your head when you think about community as an idea? Like, what comes to your head when you think about community? 

Oliver: I think of, like, people helping each other and usually, like, neighborhoods, I guess. 

Adam Davis: Does your neighborhood feel like a community? 

Oliver: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: What makes it feel like a community? What makes your neighborhood feel like a community? 

Oliver: Well, there's two things. My mom and another, and two other people host, like, a a barbecue every summer. And they do cookie decorating for Christmas, yeah. 

Adam Davis: So, for starters, can you tell me what your full name is and what grade you're in? 

Tommy: Tommy James Towne, and 4th grade [unspecified]. 

Adam Davis: Tommy James Towne, 4th grade. Hey, how's 4th grade going?

Tommy: Good. 

Adam Davis: Why? What's making 4th grade good? 

Tommy: I like learning new stuff. I like to listen to music. It makes it good. 

Adam Davis: How does your class feel? Like, how many people are in it and how, how does that class feel to you? 

Tommy: The only thing is there is 31 of them. 

Adam Davis: Thirty one feels big. Does it feel big, or how do you, how do all thirty one of you feel like you're part of one class? What allows all thirty one of you to feel connected? 

Tommy: We like do the same thing, but some of us go to different places. 

Adam Davis: What are the kinds of things that you all do together? 

Tommy: We like, do some math, and some people go on Prodigy when we have some free time. 

Adam Davis: Can I ask you, what do you like most about school?

Tommy: Times. I like the math. I like computer time, because it's like, good. 

Adam Davis: Computer time, math. How do you like hanging out with your classmates? 

Tommy: Good. Some of them. 

Adam Davis: And how about, like, away from school? Where do you, who are the people you feel most connected to when you're not at school? 

Tommy: My family. 

Adam Davis: How many people are in your family these days?

Tommy: Like, in my house, five. Like, a couple. I like, I have two sides of family. 

Adam Davis: What do you think leads you to feel like connected with either your classmates or your family? Like what makes you feel like you're connected with them? 

Tommy: It makes me feel like connected when you're like, like my family's noisy including my classroom. That makes me feel like connected. 

Adam Davis: The noise is a way to feel connected? 

Tommy: Yeah. 

Adam: Can you say why? Why does noise help you feel connected? What do you mean? 

Tommy: Because like, some of my family members are noisy, some of them aren't. 

Adam Davis: And the ones that are, you feel more connected to? 

Tommy: Yeah, including the non-noisy ones.

Adam Davis: Do you think of yourself as part of the noise? 

Tommy: Yeah.

Adam Davis: That was a deep sigh. What were you thinking when you just took that sigh? 

Tommy: About my family. 

Adam Davis: What were you thinking about your family then? 

Tommy: Thinking about my grandmother, like when she died. 

Adam Davis: I'm sorry. 

Tommy: ——was at that time when she died.

Adam Davis: That's sad. I'm sorry. You doing okay? Yeah, that's one of the hard things, for sure. I hear ya. Let me ask this. Do you have pets in your family? 

Tommy: I have a bearded dragon, and I have two dogs. One little, one is big. 

Adam Davis: What's the little dog's name, and what's the big dog's name? 

Tommy: The little one's Snapples, is like a husky, the other one's named Fiona and is like a guard dog. 

Adam Davis: And do you think they're part of your family?

Tommy: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: What makes those two dogs part of your family? 

Tommy: They make me feel like, they act like my family, my own cousin. Like, they're like crazy and they're including my cousins. Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Well, so you're in fourth grade, which means you're one of the older kids in that part of the school. If you were thinking about a kindergartner or a first grader and you wanted to help them understand how to be part of the school community, what would you say to them?

Tommy: I would say like...try to listen to the teacher and don't, don't act crazy. 

Adam Davis: If you saw younger kids at the school and you want them to show up, you want them to be the kind of kids you want to be in school with, how would you help them know how to do that? What would you tell them? 

Tommy: I would tell them, like, act responsible. 

Adam Davis: I think acting responsible is good. It can be hard though, right? 

Tommy: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Maybe my last question, how have you learned to act responsible? 

Tommy: It's by like my family. Yeah, they like tell me stuff, like what to do. I like it. Listen what they're saying to.

Adam Davis: Tommy, how's it felt to have this conversation with these big headphones and this funny microphone? 

Tommy: Good. 

Adam Davis: Any last words you want to give to anybody listening? 

Tommy: Yeah. Any kids who are listening, you better listen to your parents. 

Sandy Battles: My name is Sandy Battles, and I'm the principal here of Crestview Heights. 

Adam Davis: Thank you for being the principal.

The vibe here has been great. Seriously, both talking to each of the kids, but also the vibe in the hall, like I just was walking to the office, and this little girl was walking out of her class, little boy, and she looked at me, made good eye contact. I nodded and she said, hi, I said, hi, how are you? She said, good, how are you? How do you, in your work, try to build culture that leads to that sort of interaction in the hallway? 

Sandy Battles: We definitely believe in supporting our students and building that culture. One thing that we do, it starts with our staff. And we have something that we call Four Before the Classroom Door. So when students arrive in the morning, whether they are being dropped off by a parent or a guardian or ride the bus, our goal is that they hear their name and good morning four times before they even get to the classroom door. So we have staff that open doors, you know, car doors, and welcome them. We have staff that get on the bus and wish them well in the morning and say good morning, say their name as they get off of the bus.

We have a couple of staff members at each of our doors that say good morning to every single student using their name. They go to the cafeteria. We have a couple of staff members in there that do that as well. And then on their way down the hallway, so at least four times before they get to their classroom door, they're hearing their name and good morning. 

Adam Davis: You emphasized several times the importance of kids hearing their name. So I want to ask you both, why is that so important? And how does your staff learn how to remember and use people's names? 

Sandy Battles: It's really important for kids to hear their names and that we see them as individuals and not just a whole cluster of them walking down the hallway. It gives us an opportunity to check in with them. Oftentimes, if we notice that a kid isn't doing well, there's a couple staff members that can go to the teacher's classroom before the kid gets there and says, Hey, I noticed, you know, this kid getting off the bus, and he didn't seem like it was a normal day, so maybe we should check in with him, I'll be back when he gets to the classroom. 

Adam Davis: How do you teach people to learn individuals' names, and not just their names, but sort of who they are? How does that skill grow? 

Sandy Battles: So luckily, we're a pre K through sixth school, and we get to have students for seven years. So that's a really big part of it. So for a lot of our returning staff members that serve all of our students in different roles, our office staff, our support staff, they get to learn the kindergartners' names, the preschoolers' names, and any new students. And then we are just a small community here in Waldport, so a lot of people know each other as well, and it just feels like a small school here. And sometimes people say it's bigger, almost 300 students, but to us it just feels like a small school, a small family.

Adam Davis: Which is great. And it does feel that way. The building does not feel small, but the vibe feels small. This is maybe an unfair question. When you think about the relative priority or importance of the goals, one, academic, and two, building community, is one of those more important? 

Sandy Battles: They're definitely equally important, and without having our relationships and our community and without students feeling safe and loved here, then academics doesn't happen. And so that's what we focus on first and foremost. All of our staff right now, we have a round of what we call two by ten. So all of our staff are choosing one student and they talk to that student every day for ten days about nothing academic. About their families, about their home lives, about what they love and enjoy, and they just do rounds of that where they choose a student and they just consciously spend time with them outside of what they would normally talk to them about.

And so that also builds that relationship and without those relationships, the academics can't happen. 

Adam Davis: That's great. I want to ask you about third grade for you. Where were you in third grade and what did the community feel like at that school? 

Sandy Battles: It's funny that you choose third grade. That's the teacher that helped me, I guess, solidify that I wanted to be a teacher. I remember her so vividly, and I just loved everything. She had a very structured classroom. We knew that she cared about us, but she was very strict. I remember learning a lot. I remember connecting with my classmates, and whenever I think about why I wanted to be a teacher myself, I think back to my third grade teacher.

Adam Davis: Great to hear that, and I should say, look, I'm here from Oregon Humanities, and Celeste is here from Children's Institute, and I know that Celeste is going to be doing some talking in Salem with you know legislators and staffers before too long, and I guess when you think about the systemic conditions that come down, related to education, that make it more or less likely that you can build that kind of community, are there things you would want legislators to know about the conditions that underlie the school here?

Sandy Battles: I think we would love support with early child care, especially being so rural. We have very minimal opportunities for early child care. We know that there's so much that happens before we get them at our door, and that's something that we love working with the Children's Institute with. And in Waldport, we have a couple childcare providers. We have our preschool here in the building, and we have a preschool in Yachats, a couple of home daycare preschool programs. But for the most part, our students aren't receiving that support before they get here. And if we had the opportunity to provide more of that, then our students would have what they need before they get here. We could definitely have a huge impact. 

Adam Davis: Initially, we were thinking about this series of episodes as around the theme of belonging. As I've been talking with kids, especially say second to sixth graders, it seems like talking about community is an easier way to understand that. When you hear the word belonging, what comes to your mind?

Sandy Battles: I think everybody feeling like they have a place here. Like we see them, that they're important. We care about them, and we know about them. 

Adam Davis: And if you imagine someone listening to young people, especially young people in your school, thinking about community, anything in particular you would want listeners to know or be thinking about?

Sandy Battles: I guess just don't underestimate the little things, the things like saying good morning to a student by their name or checking on them. Noticing how they're doing. It's little things that I think help build that community and culture here. And we notice and we pay attention and we care. 

Adam Davis: That was Sandy Battles, principal at Crestview Heights.

Now we'll hear from the young people of Fern Hill Elementary in Forest Grove, a school tucked into the North Plains about 30 miles west of Portland. Here's Abigail.

Will you say your first name and what grade you're in? Kind of into the mic? 

Abigail: My name is Abigail, and I'm in second grade. 

Adam Davis: You're in second grade. How's second grade going? 

Abigail: It's going good. 

Adam Davis: Why? What's going good about it? 

Abigail: I don't know. I just like learning. It's fun. 

Adam Davis: That's awesome. How about your class? How do you like your class?

Abigail: I don't know. There's sometimes a lot of [unclear]. 

Adam Davis: A lot of what? 

Abigail: [unclear] That means stuff that you're not supposed to be doing. 

Adam Davis: Oh, I see. 

Abigail: There's people rolling in the ground sometimes. And under their desk. Yeah. 

Adam Davis: I see. I've been there. I've been rolling under my desk sometimes when I'm not supposed to be, so I get what you're talking about. Hey, the reason we're wearing headphones and talking into the mic is because we're working on a radio show. And we're thinking about, like, the idea of community. Who are the people that you feel like you're most part of a group with? 

Abigail: Maybe my friends that I've had a long time. I'm comfortable with them because I feel different when I'm with different people.

Adam Davis: Do you ever go to a group of people and you're like, I'm not sure if I feel like I'm gonna be in with this group?

Abigail: Sometimes, but sometimes not. 

Adam Davis: How do you deal with it when you feel that way?

Abigail: I kind of just walk away. 

Adam Davis: What about the other side? If someone's coming in and they feel that way, how day ou help them?

Abigail: I don't know.

Adam Davis: Don't know? Maybe, let me ask a question. Do you have pets at home or anything? 

Abigail: I don't have indoor pets, I have outdoor pets. I have chickens. and I also have two bunnies. 

Adam Davis: Chickens and two bunnies. Do you think the chickens or the bunnies are part of your family? 

Abigail: Oh, I think the bunnies. 

Adam Davis: The bunnies but not the chickens?

Abigail: Nooooo. 

Adam Davis: Why do you say that, what makes you think the bunnies are and the chickens might not be? 

Abigail: We never let chickens inside our house except our bunnies. 

Adam Davis: What does it feel like inside when you're with your friends? Just what, can you describe like what it feels like to be with them? 

Abigail: I feel happy, and sometimes if they're new friends, I feel a little, like, weird inside of me. And it just makes me feel kind of worried if they're not going to be doing something good. 

Adam Davis: I see. But with older friends you kind of know it's cool? 

Abigail: [tentatively] Yes. 

Adam Davis: Kind of. Okay. Any last thing you want to say my way? 

Abigail: I think that's it.

Adam Davis: Can you just say your name and what grade you're in? 

Carlos: Okay, I'm in third grade, and my name is Carlos.

Adam Davis: Who are people you feel most comfortable with?

Carlos: My friends. Like, they're always by my side and stuff. Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Yeah. Do you remember what it felt like to come to Fern Hill and become part of the community? What was going on that let you become part of the community here? 

Carlos: Nervous. 

Adam Davis: You felt nervous when you were kind of coming in? 

Carlos: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: And how did you get through that?

Carlos: By like, making new friends and stuff. 

Adam: That helped bring your nervousness down? 

Carlos: Yeah. 

[distant voice 1]: How's it going? Are you with me? 

[distant voice 2]: Yes, I am. 

[distant voice 1]: I'm Adam. 

[distant voice 2]: Hi. 

[distant voice 3]: I'm Celeste. 

[distant voice 1]: How's the day going? 

[distant voice 2]: Good. 

[distant voice 1]: Yeah? So, you get to sit down and we'll talk a little bit. You want to put those funny large headphones on? Yeah? Now, if you get close to the mic and talk into it, you'll hear yourself.

How's that sound? 

[distant voice 2] A little weird. 

Adam Davis: A little weird? Are you hearing me okay? 

Student: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: And are you hearing you okay? Then we're set. Do you know what we're doing here? 

Student: A little bit. 

Adam Davis: What do you think we're up to? 

Student: Asking a few questions. That's all I know. 

Adam Davis: That's great. Alright, so we're making a radio show. We're working on a radio show. How's that sound? 

Student: Cool. 

Adam Davis: Yeah, I feel the same way. It's called The Detour. When you hear detour, what does that make you think? 

Student: Detour, like when you're on the road, and there's like some work going on, and you have to take a detour. 

Adam Davis: Exactly. That's exactly why we call this show The Detour, because sometimes we don't go in a straight line, we kind of go like the other road. And for this one, which I should say people all over Oregon and even people around the country sometimes listen to, we're asking people like you, who are still in school, what you think about community and belonging, If I ask you, so if I say, Whitney, when you think about community, what does that first bring to your head?

Whitney: It brings to me like the community of our school, and our town. 

Adam Davis: How do you think——how is the community of your school built? How is it made strong? 

Whitney: It's built strong because people are kind here, and it's built strong because people are honest. 

Adam Davis: So because people are kind and because people are honest that makes the community strong? That's good. That's actually one of the best definitions of what makes a community strong that I could think of. Do you think people just know how to be kind and honest, or is it something that you think people have to learn? 

Whitney: We learn it in school, and some people know it from their house, and like being nice to each other, like sharing is caring, and all that.

Adam Davis: Huh. And can you remind me, Whitney, what grade you're in? 

Whitney: I'm fourth grade. 

Adam Davis: You're fourth grade. Do you feel like you were learning about things like this from the beginning, or did you have to, like, can you remember when you started learning about this? 

Whitney: Yes, I have been here since kindergarten. So, I've been learning all of this. We have a counselor that teaches us. So, she's been teaching us how to do that. 

Adam Davis: Do you remember, like an example of a specific lesson or a specific time when you learned something about...? 

Whitney: Yes, we have these things where we go from, we learn about kindness, responsibility, to every assembly we have this thing where it's like, monthly, we announce like fairness sometimes, responsibility, kindness, it's different things each month. 

Adam Davis: So you kind of focus on a different part of it. Are there places, well let me ask this, are there people where when you're with them you just feel like, hmm, these are my people, these are the people with who I most belong? 

Whitney: Yes, my family and a few teachers here. 

Adam Davis: That's cool to hear. What is it about being with them that makes you feel like, hmm, yeah?

Whitney: Because I've known them for a few years, and one of my older brother had a few of them. 

Adam Davis: Okay, so——and they kind of knew you then even? 

Whitney: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Can I ask the other side of that? Do you ever find yourself in situations where you feel like, hmm, I don't quite fit? 

Whitney: A little bit.

Adam Davis: Yeah? What's going on there, or what do you do to deal with it?

Whitney: I usually just take a break.

Adam Davis: Could you just say your first name and what grade you're in?

Elijah: Elijah, fourth grade.

Adam Davis: That was perfectly done. So the name of our radio show is The Detour, and we're thinking about community and belonging. And if I say the word community to you, what does that make you think? 

Elijah: Like the community of Fern Hill, like everybody here. 

Adam Davis: Everybody here? Who, who makes up the community of Fern Hill? 

Elijah: Michelle Martinez and Counselor Keegan. 

Adam Davis: You mean they're helping shape it? 

Elijah: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: And who's a part of that community?

Elijah: Me, my friends, and everybody that goes to the school. 

Adam Davis: So that feels like a pretty big community.

Elijah: Mm hmm. Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Are there other communities that you think that you're a part of? 

Elijah: Yes. 

Adam Davis: What sorts of, what else comes to mind? 

Elijah: My family, the school, and everybody that I know. 

Adam Davis: So your family, one community. Your school, one community. Everybody that you know?

Elijah: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: Those sound like different sizes of community. How do you know, for example, that like you fit into a community? What's going on with either your family or your school or people you know that helps you go, yeah, I fit in here. 

Elijah: So, at Fern Hill, the people that make me fit in, my teacher, Mrs. Martinez, Counselor Keaton, my friends, and other teachers.

Adam Davis: How do they, can I ask, like, how do they do that? What are they doing that helps you know you fit in? 

Elijah: Like, if I'm in a bad mood, they try to get me back into a good mood. 

Adam Davis: Okay, so they notice you're in a bad mood? 

Elijah: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: And then what do they do that helps you get back into a good mood? 

Elijah: So my teacher asks me if I want a break, and my friends like stick around and ask me questions that help me feel better.

Adam Davis: Huh. Those sound like good friends, et me just say that. That's good to hear. That's cool. Do you feel like that kind of stuff, like being a good friend and helping people fit into the group, is that something you think you have had to learn or did you just know? Like, how does that develop in you? 

Elijah: I had to like learn it and then after I got it, I knew how to do it.

Adam Davis: Huh. Do you remember when that happened? 

Elijah: Kindergarten. 

Adam Davis: Wow. Do you remember how it happened that you learned? 

Elijah: My teacher in kindergarten asked me like, I don't know, yeah, my teacher, and then she, like, taught the class how to do it, and then it was a different counselor, and they were, like, telling us about friendship and kindness and all that.

Adam Davis: So they were telling you about that stuff, and you said they helped teach you how to, do you remember what? 

Elijah: Yeah, so there was like people that were in the front of the classroom, and she pretended she was a student and like did the demonstrations. 

Adam Davis: Do you remember one thing about the demonstration that helped you understand, here's how I would do that?

Elijah: Yes, so when she did it, so there was someone acting that they were in a bad mood and then she like asked them, are you okay? And if they said no, she walked away and let them have space. 

Adam Davis: That's great, actually. So giving people space when they need it helps them then come back in. Have you been in a situation where you've had another kid come in and you can kind of tell that kid doesn't feel like they yet are part of the group?

Elijah: Yeah. 

Adam Davis: How do you deal with that? 

Elijah: I'm like these people are really nice. Just if you want, like come and play tag with us and get to know us better and all that. So what I wanted to do if a new person came, and I didn't know them, I would like, if they tagged me, I would talk something about myself.

Adam Davis: Will you just say your name and your role here? 

Rogelio Martinez: Rogelio Martinez, and I'm the principal at Fern Hill. 

Adam Davis: Rogelio, how long you been the principal here? 

Rogelio Martinez: This is my sixth year now here. Yeah, it doesn't feel like it, just with COVID being right in the middle of it, but it's my sixth year. 

Adam Davis: I notice you're fist bumping everybody——kids, teachers. Is that something, is that the practice from before COVID? 

Rogelio Martinez: Oh yeah. Yeah. The high fives, fist bump, hugs. I mean, I'm never going to turn a child down for a hug, know what I'm saying, a side hug. Give 'em a hug, especially if they need it. 

Adam Davis: Yeah. And is that something that's like who you are? Is it a strategic way of helping people feel involved? Like how did that develop?

Rogelio Martinez: It's just part of who I am. Same thing with family. Like, I teach my kids, too. It's like, we're going to shake everyone's hand, or we're going to hug somebody. Like, every single person, it takes us 30 minutes to say hi to our family and it takes 30 minutes to say goodbye. 

Adam Davis: That's awesome. It feels like there's a strong sense of and emphasis on community here. And in your role as principal, how much do you think about belonging and community when you think about this place? 

Rogelio Martinez: You know, growing up here in Oregon as a brown Chicano I didn't always have that sense of belonging, so I know that for me becoming an educator, honestly, that's mostly about what I felt my purpose was, was that belonging piece, so that students that didn't have to have that feeling. I know that some students are going to have that feeling regardless, but I think it's just a part of who I am and, and how I like to lead.

We believe in identity safety here in our building. And so we don't want students to have to leave part of themselves at the door to be a part of our community. You know what, we want to build this place with, with everyone in mind. 

Adam Davis: And when you said identity safety, can you just say another word about what that means?

Rogelio Martinez: Yeah, and so that really comes from the work of Dr. Fryberg out of, actually I'm not sure where she's coming from right now or where she's doing her work out of, but Dr. Fryberg really talks about identity safety, you know, a place that's free of stereotypes about themselves. So again, for us, it's like representation in our curriculum. Our walls in our classrooms is really important. So that students, because we hear all kinds of messages all over the place, and not all of them positive, right? And so to be able to have that counter narrative within our classrooms or that they could see their worth. I definitely believe there's a worthiness gap within our society as well. And so for students to feel worthy of whoever they are. So again, they can come into our building and just be them, be a child. 

Adam Davis: How do you make it possible like, concretely for people to just walk in and be themselves and feel like, yeah, they're there? 

Rogelio Martinez: You know, that's a great question. And I think part of that is just really as a staff of saying, like, this is our job. Our job, yes, physical safety. But again, like if we're producing students at the end of pre-k through fourth grade, so at fourth grade, if they're not comfortable with who they are, they're embarrassed with who they are, then we haven't done our job. Right? And so it's just about being intentional and reading stories in the classroom or books in the classroom, having visuals, providing examples of students so they can see themselves in a positive way. I think, so again, just the intentionality. You have to be, you can't just be status quo. You have to be very intentional in the work that you do with it. 

Adam Davis: I like the way you're, I mean it's interesting hearing how clear it is for you that this is what you are working on. You've been in the room while we've been talking to some of your third and fourth graders. What are you thinking while you hear them talking about belonging or community? 

Rogelio Martinez: Pride. Just seeing the students in a different environment. They're not used to headphones on like this, speaking to somebody that they don't know. And so, you know, just so proud of the students themselves is what I'm thinking. And, and again, just how important a community is, whether it be a school community. I mean, it could be a sporting community, church, music, whatever it is, of just that belonging, that, that sense of of community and, you know, and so often we really focus on like this independence within our school system, but really we have to think about the interdependence as well, you know, of just how we all work together.

Adam Davis: I so wholeheartedly agree with you, not just about within our schools, but beyond our schools too, I couldn't agree more. I'm aware of how much you're doing today, and I don't want to take too much more of your time. I want to ask maybe just the last thing that I asked Melissa, which is like, is there a question in your head about belonging and your work?

Rogelio Martinez: I think the better we know ourselves and the better we understand who we are the better we're going to be able to work with others as well. And so I think, like, there's just so much intersectionality with who we are as people that we can always find similarities and we can always find differences, right? And so, it's about really better understanding who we are so that we can, again, build those stronger relationships, whether it be cross-cultural, cross-racial, cross gender, cross whatever it is. But it starts with us. 

Melissa Aranda: My name is Melissa Aranda, and I'm a third grade teacher here at Fern Hill. 

Adam Davis: Alright, so we've talked to a couple of third graders, and it's been kind of delightful already.

Melissa Aranda: They're the best. 

Adam Davis: Seems like it. Thank you for doing that. It's super important work, so thank you. How do you build, like, community in your third grade class? 

Melissa Aranda: So one of the ways that I do, in the morning, we have a morning greeting each morning, and they have several options on the door that they point to, whether that's giving me a hug, whether that's giving me a high five, whatever they feel comfortable with. So they get to make a choice in the morning. And so that's one way that I build community. Another way is making sure that the students have plenty of opportunities for interacting with each other. I think that's really important. We always talk about how we're a class family and how we, you know, take care of each other. And so in the mornings, during our morning meetings, we have a which do you prefer? Could be a lollipop or a gummy bear. And they have to go around and say good morning to three students and tell each other what they prefer. 

Adam Davis: So it sounds like you put a lot of thought into the interpersonal, the intersubjective part of it.

Melissa Aranda: Sure. 

Adam Davis: Why do you put so much thought into that? 

Melissa Aranda: I just think it's really important that they have that, like you said, sense of belonging in the classroom. I think that's my job as the teacher to make sure that they feel loved and cared for inside my classroom. 

Adam Davis: And it sounds like not just by you, but also by each other.

Melissa Aranda: Yeah, definitely. 

Adam Davis: Do you remember third grade for you? 

Melissa Aranda: Actually oddly enough, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher in third grade. 

Adam Davis: Really? 

Melissa Aranda: Yeah. So now that I'm a third grade teacher, it's just kind of funny, full circle. But I remember feeling really loved and accepted by my third grade teacher. And so I think that's where, like, I want to make sure that my students feel loved and accepted inside the classroom. 

Adam Davis: And do you feel like, like if you had to rank information and skills next to feeling loved and accepted, like, is there a ranking between those two? 

Melissa Aranda: So I think it's most important to first come in and establish those relationships and making sure that your students feel loved and cared for and feel safe in your classroom. And then the academics can come. 

Adam Davis: Is that stuff that you carried inside you, that belief? Is it something that, like, you learned when you were working on becoming a teacher? How did that become so clear for you? 

Melissa Aranda: So, I've actually been here at Fernhill for, this is my 10th year at Fernhill. And I started as an instructional assistant in the special education department. And I think those things, I learned it there, over the years. 

Adam Davis: I see. So maybe the last question I want to ask, When you think about belonging in your work here, do you have a question that you kind of carry around with you? Is there something in your head that's open and you're wondering about?

Melissa Aranda: I think the thing that I carry is just looking at every student and asking myself, do they feel like they belong here? And what can I do to make sure that I'm making sure that they feel belonging?

Adam Davis: That was Melissa Aranda and Rogelio Martinez of Fern Hill Elementary in Forest Grove. Back in April 2023, we released our first collaborative episode with The Children's Institute. We explored what kids think about success and where their ideas about success come from. In that episode, like this one, our approach was pretty simple. We talked with kids, 2nd, 5th, and 6th graders from Vose Elementary in Beaverton and Yoncalla Elementary in Yoncalla, who have some really helpful, clear, thought-provoking, and moving stuff to say. You can find the full episode linked in our show notes. The detour is produced by Kieren Bond. Kyle Gilmer is our editor.

Ben Waterhouse, Karina Brisk, and Alexandra Silvester are assistant producers. I'm your host, Adam Davis. A big thank you to all of the young people brave enough to talk into a big mic with big headphones on. And to Sandy Battles and Melissa Morgan from Crestview Heights. And to Rogelio Martinez and Melissa Aranda from Fern Hill.

We're all very lucky you do the work you do. See you next time. 

Student: You can find links to your guest work in our show notes. And——

Adam Davis: Yeah, that says Oregon humanities dot org.

Student: ——humanities dot org. At and every other episode of The Detour online and Oregon Humanities dog org.

Thanks for listening, see you in the next——see you next time.


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