Posts tagged education
Bringing Vanport history into the classroom

We spent a week at the wonderful Oregon Episcopal School, where 3rd graders explored the history of Vanport and its legacy guided by their dedicated teacher Kiah Johnson Mousey.

We are so inspired by their reflections in response to our exhibit Vanport: A Story Lived. A Story Told! 

On February 27th, as part of the Oregon Episcopal School Exploring Our Oregon History Through Art and Experience series, we screened Lost City, Living Memories: Vanport Through The Voices of Its Residents, a selection of short oral histories documentaries part of our growing collection. The room was packed with families and community members, including Vanport Flood survivors who shared their own memories. Prof. James S. Harrison helped us understand the impact of this history, and Story Midwife Laura Lo Forti talked about our on-going "memory activism" effort.

We closed this beautiful collaboration by curating a panel with former Vanport residents: an unforgettable intergenerational exchanged that touched everyone lucky enough to be part of it!

Would you like to create a meaningful educational experience and bring community voices to your school or community group? Let's dream up something together! Get in touch with Greta Smith, our educational programming director, at, or comment on this post.

The Vanport Mosaic Festival Education Workshop


The Vanport Mosaic Festival 2017 presents:
May 27th, 2017
11:30-3:00 p.m.

PCC Cascade Campus Terrell Hall Auditorium, 705 North Killingsworth Street - Portland, OR 97217
FREE! Registration is required as space is limited. You can register here.

For questions, please contact Vanport Mosaic Education Program Coordinator: Greta Smith 

In response to the increasing number of inquiries we have been receiving from educators who want to explore the transformative history of Vanport with their students, The Vanport Mosaic offers its first workshop to share multidisciplinary tools and opportunities for curriculum development for formulating lesson plans.  

This year’s festival themes of migration, housing, and displacement are central to the workshop, as well as the question of how unresolved issues with race-based displacement reverberates through future generations.

Educators will have the opportunity to attend three different sessions offered in the disciplines of history, geography, and arts & humanities:

Teaching Vanport through History: 
This interactive workshop prepares you for teaching about Vanport, a significant episode in local and national history. Learn how to craft a 15-30 minute lesson that wows students and helps them gain a new insight and appreciation for our history. 

Lead by James Stanley Harrison, professor emeritus of History at Portland Community College where he has taught since 1993. He is currently working on a book about the wartime housing project of Vanport.

The Landscape of Vanport: 
This workshop will focus on how to use both the past and present day landscape as an opportunity to study a local geography project. The sample assignment will expand on the creation of “learning opportunities” around both human/cultural or physical geographies of the location and place we know as Vanport City, Oregon. 

Lead by Heather McAfee, who teaches geography at Clark College and serves as chair of the Geography Department. 

Vanport through the Creative Lens: 
This workshop will spark ideas about teaching Vanport through creative responses to film and images and will provide several writing prompts and assignment ideas.

Lead by Melissa Favara, a writer and educator who lives in Portland, Oregon and teaches English at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. She writes and publishes creative nonfiction and essays and curates the 1,000 Words reading series.

Whose Story is History? It’s time to teach students about Vanport. Start with our curriculum!

Did you learn about Vanport in school? I grew up an hour and a half’s drive from where Vanport stood and I certainly never learned about it until well after I moved to Portland, and I’m far from the only one.

The story of Vanport is that of an instant and diverse community, one which came together because of World War II, and of the residents of this city that appeared almost overnight, who built the ships that played a pivotal role in winning the war in the pacific.

Even here in Portland where we are so close to the site of this historically significant place, people are surprised to learn that Vanport even existed. We hear from people of all generations at screenings of our short documentaries and in our workshops that they have not been taught about this chapter of history.

We all are left wondering why history books and curricula don’t even mention what once was Oregon’s second-largest city, home to 40,000 people who, between 1942 and 1948, came from all over the country to build a new life.

If Oregonians have heard of Vanport, they usually only know that it was destroyed in a flood; the many visitors to Delta Park, the Portland International Raceway, and the Heron Lakes Golf Course have little reminder of the city that once stood on the land they walk on.

“People in Portland should be proud that our city did something in the war in the Pacific,” Professor James S. Harrison who teaches history at Portland Community College, told me recently.

“There is such a great void in leaving that [Vanport and Portland’s contribution to the war effort] out,” he says. He is committed to filling that emptiness and is writing a book about Vanport’s place in Portland’s history.

We are lucky enough to have several historians and educators like Professor Harrison as part of the Vanport Mosaic team, people who are determined to make this forgotten piece of history available to teachers and students. These members include Tatum Clinton-Selin who, after learning about Vanport and attending one of our free workshops, was so inspired that she decided to devote her Master’s thesis to creating a Vanport curriculum for high school students as a resource for the growing number of teachers who want to share this history with their students.

You can download it here:


While writing her curriculum, Tatum thought about how much she would have enjoyed learning about Vanport when she was in high school. With her younger self in mind, she has created a beautiful and approachable way to learn about Vanport that offers students and teachers primary and secondary source texts, including excerpts from one of our stories, as well as projects, essays and presentations; there’s even an option for students to get involved in our on-going oral history project. 

Great endeavors are always the fruit of strong collaborations, and our Mosaic needs all the pieces that make up our beautiful community. So, a heartfelt thank you to Tatum for creating this curriculum and making it available here; to Concordia University Professor of Education Shawn Daley, and Amy Platt and Denise Brock  at the Oregon Historical Society, for their feedback; to Professor Harrison for his continued guidance; and finally, a note of gratitude to all of you who will share the history of Vanport with the young people in your life. Please drop us a line, here as a comment or at, if you use Tatum’s curriculum, or if you created your own and would like to offer it to the community.


Meredith Lawrence

Meredith is a journalist and multimedia producer with a background in narrative storytelling and education reporting. She's been part of the Vanport Mosaic since its inception, teaching multimedia production skills in our workshops, and producing several short documentaries based on oral histories interviews to Vanport former residents. Learn more about her here: