Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

The Value is in the Telling

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016
Cheryl Tierney and her husband, Bill, stand outside the vault where they keep a rare coin Cheryl inherited on behalf of her children from her father, Gordon Ash.

Cheryl Tierney and her husband, Bill, stand outside the vault where they keep a rare coin Cheryl inherited on behalf of her children from her father, Gordon Ash.

It was a perfect day in 1945 when Gordon Ash and a high school friend set out to go fishing. The sky was blue, the ice-cold stream rushed down the mountainside and, best of all, the fish were biting.

Fishing the creek upstream toward Lost Lake in the Warner Mountains, Gordon ran out of worms. Kicking the duff near the water’s edge, he unearthed not a worm, but a coin. As he stooped to pick it up, he knew that even if he did not catch a fish, he would at least be a little richer.

He does not remember if he caught a fish that day, but as he slipped the coin in his pocket, little did he realize how important it would become.

When he got home, Gordon washed the dirt off the coin. It didn’t look like a regular quarter. When he saw the date of 1871 on it, he thought it was just an old coin. Gordon put it on his bookcase, where it became a reminder of a great day fishing with a friend.

The year passed. Gordon finished high school, joined the military, earned a college degree and got a job back in Modoc County. All the while, the quarter remained on his bookcase, a keepsake reminder of his youth.

Gordon loved telling people about the old coin he found on a fishing trip. The coin became “bait” for the start of many lively conversations.

About 30 years later, he scheduled a trip to Reno and decided to take the quarter to a coin dealer to see if it was worth anything.

“He walked into the coin dealer’s shop and handed the man his quarter,” recalls Bill Tierney, Gordon’s son-in-law. “The man looked it over and hastily got out his loupe. After examining the coin, he looked at Gordon and asked, ‘Do you know what this quarter is worth?’”

Gordon answered, “No, I was hoping you could tell me.”

The clerk went on, “Well, first off, I just wrote a book on rare coins. In it I wrote that only 35 of these quarters were known to exist. Now you’ve shown up with the 36th one. I will have to rewrite that part. I am a dealer and can’t give you full price, but I’ll give you 17 for it.”

Gordon took the coin back and looked at it again, then hesitated.

The coin dealer rephrased his offer, “That’s $17,000.”

Gordon took a closer look at the coin, then said, “I’ve had this coin a lot of years. It holds lots of good memories, and I don’t need the money. I guess I’ll just keep it.”

He slipped the quarter into his pocket, thanked the man for his time and left.

This time when he got home he did not just lay the coin on the bookcase, he placed it alongside other treasured mementoes from his youth in a locked glass case sitting on top of the bookcase.

He loved setting the bait to friends: “Let me show you this old quarter I found.”

It never was long before the “fish” took the bait and Gordon was reeling them in with his story of the coin.

Sometimes he would go to buy an expensive tractor part and then ask the salesman if he would take a quarter for it. As time went by, it turned out that he could have bought the whole tractor with his quarter.

The coin sat in the locked glass case in the hall for another 30 years until Gordon decided to get it appraised again and encased in plastic before he accidentally spent it. He sent it to one of the major coin dealers in the U.S., and it appraised at $54,000.

“To him it was worth more as conversation bait than its monetary value,” says Gordon’s daughter, Cheryl Tierney. “We would shudder when he’d dig out that coin, show it to complete strangers and tell his story. When finished he’d just lay it back in the glass case, in plain sight. We worried that someone would come back and take it. But no one ever did.”

The seated Liberty quarter was minted in Carson City in 1871. The mint produced gold and silver coins from 1870 to 1893. It was built at the height of the silver boom in Nevada. Gordon’s coin is 90 percent silver, with the metal valued at approximately $3.21. The collector’s value of an 1871 quarter ranges from $2,000 for a coin in poor condition to $115,000 for one in perfect condition. Gordon’s coin is in good condition. A “CC” can be seen under the eagle on the back of the coins minted in Carson City.

For obvious reasons, the tale of that perfect fishing trip could never be published for fear of someone breaking in and taking the coin. Gordon would joke that when he died, his story could be told to the public.

Sadly, in 2014, he and the coin parted company forever. His daughter Cheryl inherited the coin on behalf of her children.

Today, when Cheryl and Bill take the coin out of their safe deposit box at the bank, they and all who know the story, cannot help but remember Gordon with his crooked smile and a twinkle in his eye, holding out his bait for all to see and saying, “Hey, let me tell you about this old coin I found a long time ago”

Presidential Memorabilia Merges Politics, Collecting

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
Steve Ferber with a rare Barry Goldwater cowboy hat from the 1964 presidential campaign. It is signed by several celebrities, including Ronald Reagan.

Steve Ferber with a rare Barry Goldwater cowboy hat from the 1964 presidential campaign. It is signed by several celebrities, including Ronald Reagan.

Steve Ferber has never met a U.S. president, but he certainly knows a lot about them. He and his wife, Lori, have more than 10,000 presidential memorabilia items in stock at their warehouse.

Together, they own Lori Ferber Presidential Memorabilia.

The company bears Lori’s name because “she works harder than I do,” Steve says.

The items they sell range in price from 99 cents to more than $15,000.

“The more expensive items tend to be presidential autographs,” says Steve.

He says he is often questioned about why he carries such a wide price range of collectibles.

“Collecting is for everybody,” he says.

Steve, 62, got his start collecting in junior high or high school.

He can’t remember which.

“I guess it was a little bit by osmosis,” he says. “I had an interest in politics and an interest in stamp collecting.”

The two loves eventually merged. His first big attempt at cashing in happened when Steve was 19. It was 1973 and Richard Nixon was about to be inaugurated as president.

Steve hired an artist and had a portrait card of Nixon designed. After having 4,000 cards printed, he drove from his home in New York to Washington, D.C., to have the cards postmarked. His intent was to capitalize on Nixon’s inauguration and sell the cards.

While showing a lot of initiative, the idea was about as successful as Nixon’s presidency. Steve still has plenty of those cards available today.

Steve has refined his business model in the past 40 years.

“I used to sell at shows and exhibitions through the years,” he says. “I had fun and I was making some money at it at a young age.”

Those shows are how he got Lori interested. He says he dragged her along when they were still dating and in college. Eventually, she starting enjoying them, too.

Today, Steve and Lori do most of their business through the internet. They recently moved their office and warehouse to a new location to better house their growing collection.

Steve says there are three types of collectors: The hardcore collector, which is the smallest group and getting smaller; those who have an interest in a particular president; and casual buyers who show up every four years, when a new president is elected.

John F. Kennedy is the most collected president, followed by Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, Steve says.

“Today we sold a Frisbee from Ronald Reagan’s inauguration,” he says, noting it went for $20.

While the entire presidential genre appeals to Steve, his past ties with the newspaper publishing industry make one item stand out a little more than others.

“I would say that for me that would probably be the Dewey defeats Truman newspaper,” says Steve.

Prices on that iconic Chicago Daily Tribune newspaper front page from November 3, 1948, range from $2,500 to $3,500, depending on its condition. When the paper was printed, it sold for 4 cents.

Other than election years, Steve says current events have little effect on buying patterns.

“Sometimes, when a president passes away there might be some pickup, but other than that it is pretty steady,” he says.

With 40-plus years in the business, Steve and Lori are well known in the collecting community. Those contacts are how they acquire a lot of their items.

“We’ve been doing this for so many years that so many people know who we are,” Steve says. “Items come from just about everywhere. I don’t think a day goes by when somebody doesn’t contact us about a collection of items from their parents that passed away and they think they have found the Holy Grail.”

That prized collection usually includes Life magazine copies with photos of Kennedy on the cover. Steve says he has to deliver the bad news that there is little value in those magazines.

But sometimes he gets to deliver good news about the value of an item.

“We had someone contact us that had an item from the Kennedy inauguration,” Steve says.

It was a plaque from one of the inaugural events. Steve did some research and discovered an old photo showing the plaque on the dais with Kennedy standing there.

“That $300 item went from $300 to $10,000,” he says.

Steve has a simple criteria to judge how collectible an item is.

“To have value it has to have scarcity and demand,” he says.

For more information, contact Lori Ferber Collectibles at moc.rebrefirolnull@irol or call (888) 477-9222. Visit to see items for sale.

How It Looks or Feels

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
Rockies fans react to a come-from-behind home run at Coors Field in Denver.

Rockies fans react to a come-from-behind home run at Coors Field in Denver.

“Don’t just show me what somebody is doing, show me how your subject feels about what they are doing,” I teach.

I see thousands of photographs a year of people doing things: fishing, fighting, building, dancing and, most recently, hunting Pokémon. But few published images reveal how someone feels about what they are doing.

Most photos published in journalistic publications are of portraits or people doing something. Real, spontaneous moments are rare because they require too much of an investment of time to capture. They are too expensive to produce. Consequently, we are bombarded with a plethora of published pictures that are mere records, proof the photographed showed up. I call these “We were there” pictures.

But pictures that express honest human emotion get my attention. Just as words or actions can reveal the intent or character of our heart, captured fragments of our expressions or gestures can say a lot about what we feel.

Emotions are born in the heart, climb up into the eyes and move the muscles on the face. We see joy, sadness, anxiety, fear, hope, love and many subtle emotions.

Here are a few thoughts/techniques that should help you make more real pictures:

  • Ask questions that evoke expressions. The next time you are photographing somebody doing something, ask them why they do a particular thing. What does it mean to them? Be prepared to capture the answer in the emotion the face and body language offer. This one technique can be the difference between making photographs that engage or those dismissed with a casual glance.
  • Observe and anticipate. Wait for fleeting moments when your subject quits doing, drops their guard and momentarily internalizes the experience. Be quiet, watch and anticipate those unguarded moments when people quit posing and reveal how they feel about what it is they are doing. Are they bored, excited, indifferent? The visual story-teller is separated from the photographer by the ability to capture real, unguarded moments. Documenting beautiful human behavior requires observation, anticipation, patience and quick reflexes.
  • It is not over when it is over. Stay alert. Often it is when the cameras are turned off and a microphone removed that the subject reveals the most and offers the richest, honest emotion.
  • Consider captions. Help the reader share the experience by explaining what your subject’s expression is in reaction to. What question was asked that stirred the expression?
  • Challenge yourself to show the “why.” Photographs that tell me why, not just how, are usually rich with informational and emotional layers.

One of the best examples of “why” came from a student in a basic photography class.

The assignment was to spend some time with a subject, visit him or her several times and produce a biographical profile on the individual with a narrative line.

The student captured pictures of a young woman working at her job as a server, doing chores and resting at home. But her best pictures were of the heavyset woman working out feverishly at a gym. She even provided a detail picture of the woman’s dinner plate at home showing the tiny portions of healthy food. It was obvious the woman was on a plan to lose weight. But why?

Her final picture in the essay—a beautiful, old-fashioned wedding dress hanging in the young woman’s closet—whispered her motivation.

No more words were needed. With one photograph, the student had answered the “why.” The young woman was getting married soon and wanted to be able to fit into the dress her mother had worn when she married.

Remember: There is a huge difference between what someone looks like when they are doing and how they feel about what they are doing.

daveL_mug_2011David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit

Better Days Ahead

Sunday, September 25th, 2016
Jennifer Kunz is director of operations at Dutchess Sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon.

Jennifer Kunz is director of operations at Dutchess Sanctuary in Oakland, Oregon.

Today is just like any other day at Duchess Sanctuary. A herd of mares lazily graze beneath oak trees in the hills outside of Oakland, Oregon. Jennifer Kunz leans against the gate of the large enclosure, her arms folded along the top rail, admiring the herd she has dedicated herself to protecting.

But life has not always been as pleasant for these animals. The sanctuary is home to almost 200 horses that have been saved from abuse, neglect, exploitation and abandonment.

In 2005, nonprofit animal welfare organization Ark Watch Foundation rescued a herd of mares from a pregnant mare urine operation in Canada.

“All the mares were going to slaughter,” says Jennifer, director of operations at the sanctuary. Of the 89 mares rescued, 60 were pregnant.

Before being rescued, the mares were subjected to standing all day attached to urine-collection devices six months out of the year. The urine was used for hormone therapy for women. Most of the mares’ foals were either raised to be on the urine production line or sent to feedlots to be fattened for slaughter.

After their rescue, the mares were kept on 5,000 rented acres in Alberta, Canada. Meanwhile, the foundation searched for a permanent piece of property.

In 2008, Duchess Sanctuary was born and with it the Fund for Animals. The Fund for Animals, which works in partnership with the Humane Society, took over operations of the ranch.

Jennifer accompanied the herd to its 1,120-acre forever home in Oregon.

“It was never my intention to leave my beloved Canada, but I got pretty attached to the horses,” she says.

Many of the horses at the sanctuary have been saved from starvation. Another herd is comprised of wild mustangs deemed unadoptable by the Bureau of Land Management.

Horses at the sanctuary are from all across the West. There is a limit on how many animals it can take.
“We get requests all the time, but there is no fair way to do it,” says Jennifer. “We cannot overburden our resources and compromise the care of the horses already here.”

While the original herd roams the ranch together, other horses that have joined the sanctuary are kept in separate pastures, pens or stalls depending on their needs.

“We spent more than seven years building fence, roads and structures,” says Jennifer, who also lives on the property.

One of the most unique aspects of the sanctuary is its dedication to maintaining the well-being of local wildlife.

“This sanctuary exists solely for the horses and the benefit of the wildlife in the area,” says Jennifer. “We take the wildlife habitat into account when building anything.”

It is also important to Jennifer to maintain the beauty of the land. The herds are moved from one pasture to another every few days during grazing season to avoid overgrazing and other damage associated with having an abundance of animals on the property.

“It’s easy to overburden the piece of ground you’re on,” says Jennifer. “It’s hard to fix the land when it’s ruined. These are stunningly gorgeous acres. We want it to stay that way.”

Volunteers help with the sanctuary’s mission. The nonprofit runs on more than 2,500 volunteer hours a year, along with four full-time staff.

“Most volunteers are hands-on with the horses, grooming and feeding,” says Jennifer. “Also, manure shoveling, which is never ending.”

The sanctuary hosts two fundraising open houses a year, spring and fall. This year’s fall event Saturday October 15. These events are a great way for the sanctuary to recruit volunteers.

“Nowhere else will you see a herd of 120 horses together,” says Jennifer.

From sunup to sundown, the original herd of horses and the many others that have joined the sanctuary are safe to live out the rest of their lives in peace.

“Our motto, unofficially, is we don’t want them to have another bad day,” says Jennifer. “Their bad days are over.”

For more information, visit

Politics, Presidents and Power

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

Ted Case, executive director of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association, spends much of his time roaming the halls of the state Capitol in Salem, trumpeting the electric cooperative message to state legislators. Photo by Mike Teegarden

As the 2016 presidential candidates debate current issues facing the country, many rural Americans—whether they know it or not—owe the ease of access to electricity to a man who served in office more than 80 years ago.

But Franklin D. Roosevelt was not the only president who played a large role in electrifying the country.

Ted Case, executive director of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association, has spent the past three years sharing what he learned as he studied numerous presidents’ roles in making public power what it is today.

Case began his research while working as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association on Capitol Hill.

“NRECA had a wonderful library in Arlington,” he says. “Iconic photos of leaders and presidents lined the walls. It started me thinking. I didn’t know a whole lot of the history and where the presidents fit into it. I realized there was not a real body of work on it.”

His interest led him to presidential libraries around the country, where curators brought him boxes filled with letters and speeches—including original notes—from such presidents as Lyndon B. Johnson and Harry Truman.

“It was just fascinating what I found—things no one else had uncovered,” Case says. “Electric co-ops had more impact on the presidential campaigns than I imagined.”

His work culminated in “Power Plays,” a 250-page book that explains how several U.S. presidents—from Roosevelt through George H. Bush—transformed rural electrification.

“The book has struck a chord with people,” Case says. “People have come up to me and said, ‘I was there on Truman’s whistle-stop tour.’”

A 52-year-old Klamath Falls, Oregon, native, Case has a bachelor’s degree in communications and political science from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, and a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

“I’ve always been interested in the presidency, even as a kid,” he says. “In college, I started to think, ‘I want to be in D.C.’ I’ve been able to merge my professional life with an inherent interest in the U.S. presidency.”

In 1985, Case’s interest led him to Washington, D.C., for Ronald Reagan’s second presidential inauguration. Due to bad weather, the outdoor proceedings were cancelled and moved indoors.

Disappointed, Case was determined.

“I called up and asked if I could get into the inauguration,” he says. “I was asked, ‘Are you a member of Congress? No? Then you’re not invited.’”

“I didn’t get inside,” he says with a laugh.

In 1986, Case became a staff member for Congressman Bob Smith during his bid for re-election. Smith’s Eastern Oregon territory covers 90,000 square miles and includes 10 electric cooperatives. Case’s position took him on another route to D.C. the following year.

“NRECA approached me about a job lobbying issues such as the federal hydroelectric program,” he says. “It was a difficult decision to leave Capitol Hill because it’s an exciting place to work. I really toiled over it. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

He spent 11 years in D.C. before returning to his home state.

Since 2008, Case has been executive director of the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association. He describes his work as “largely legislative,” and spends a lot of time at the state Capitol in Salem when the legislature is in session.

Several times a year, he takes his work to Washington, D.C.

Case says his work with politicians is an uphill climb.

“My biggest challenge is convincing legislators and other leaders that electric cooperatives are locally controlled and don’t need mandates telling them how to do business,” Case says. “It’s also a challenge to convince a Portland-centric legislature that rural Oregon should have a voice, too.”

Many urban Oregonians who do not get their electricity from the Bonneville Power Administration think they do, “which allows me to describe how different we are,” Case says. “We’re 95 percent carbon free, but we don’t get a lot of credit for that contribution. Hydropower doesn’t get the respect it deserves.”

Case is working on his next book project, “Poles, Wires and War,” which takes a close look at LBJ, electric cooperatives and Vietnam. Johnson strongly supported electric co-ops as he watched them transform his home state of Texas. He believed co-ops could do the same in Vietnam, and supported pilot projects to electrify the country.

“People have no idea the extent that rural electrification played a role in the Vietnam War,” Case says. “Lyndon Johnson was convinced it was a key part of his campaign to win the South Vietnamese’s hearts and minds. He thought they could beat back communism. They tried, but with tragic results. The Viet Cong blew up dams and cut power lines. It’s not the same as Texas Hill Country.”

Although Case’s interest in politics remains behind the scenes—he has no interest in running for office—several family members have served the public. His aunt, Mary Lou Reed, was a state senator in the Idaho Legislature. Her son, Bruce Reed, served as Joe Biden’s chief of staff and President Bill Clinton’s domestic policy adviser. Another relative, Bryant Williams, served as a Klamath County commissioner.

Case’s concerns for the future of electric co-ops are forefront in his mind as the presidential election approaches.

“How do we become relevant to the White House again?” he asks. “We have to get on their radar screen and ask, ‘What is your plan for reliable, affordable power?’”

For more information, go to

Full STEAM Ahead at Oregon Middle School

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
From left, Tanner, Zoe and Hunter secure their rescue litter with their injured “person” to a helicopter for its final test in a backcountry rescue project. Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Paris

From left, Tanner, Zoe and Hunter secure their rescue litter with their injured “person” to a helicopter for its final test in a backcountry rescue project. Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Paris

Jocelyn Paris is a self-described mad scientist in training, technology guru wanna-be, engi-nerd and math believer—and she is changing things up at The Dalles Middle School in The Dalles, Oregon.

Given the excitement of her students and the waiting list for her STEAM classes, her efforts appear to be working.

“The old way to teach was to talk at them, and we know that doesn’t work,” says Jocelyn. “How do we acquire knowledge? It is through hands-on doing. For every two minutes of me talking, there are seven to 10 minutes of doing.”

When developing her curriculum, Jocelyn meets with social studies, math, science and language arts teachers to learn what they are covering.

“I try to hit every grade level and content, and then pick STEAM projects that fit those,” she says.

Students work in teams on four major projects that build in complexity and require less teacher involvement as the semester progresses.

Jocelyn’s STEAM students have developed early-warning systems for natural disasters, created prosthetic devices for animals and built Roman aqueducts to move water from place to place.

During a backcountry rescue project, teams used math, science, language arts and design concepts to create a device to evacuate a person who suffered a spinal injury.

They began by creating models of the spine, studied the effect of spinal injuries on the body and researched evacuation devices called litters.

Next, they created blueprints of their prototype on the computer, incorporating specific design criteria and constraints (supplies).

Each team built a three-dimensional rescue litter that could immobilize an “injured” potato person and be carried by the team to a helipad across the classroom, where it was clipped to a toy helicopter and sustained 10 seconds of turbulence (shaking) during liftoff.

Supplies were simple: a few straws, duct tape, a sheet of paper and two Popsicle sticks.

Each group also created a map to locate the injured hiker using math equations and the square classroom floor tiles as graph paper.

After testing their litter, students used critical-thinking and writing skills to answer questions, suggest adaptations and reflect on the project.

During the testing phase of each project, community partners—including local Google employees—act as judges.

“It’s good for the kids to present to outside people and show what they know,” Jocelyn says.

It also builds community support as the adults experience STEAM learning.

“A lot of people look at STEAM and see technology,” says Jocelyn. “What we are teaching are 21st-century workplace skills: How are we working together, how can we adapt, how can we look at a project and break it into smaller, manageable parts.”

All in the Family

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
At their home in White Salmon, Washington, the Hoyt family shows essential tools of the trade. From left, Krista with a McLeod, Daryl with a pick mattock and Pulaski, and Avery with a sledgehammer.

At their home in White Salmon, Washington, the Hoyt family shows essential tools of the trade. From left, Krista with a McLeod, Daryl with a pick mattock and Pulaski, and Avery with a sledgehammer.

Avery Hoyt doesn’t remember a single moment of his first venture into the woods: not the 10-mile trek into old-growth forest, not the cold journey over a 6,000-foot pass and not the two weeks huddled in a tent.

Avery doesn’t recall any of his time in North Cascades National Park, because he was just 16 days old.

Avery’s mother, Krista Thie, had just given birth when work called. She and her husband, Daryl Hoyt, swaddled the baby and hiked into the woods.

For the family of professional trail builders who live in White Salmon, Washington, this was just another day at the “office.”

Three decades later, they still work in remote places with difficult access. Founded in 1979, Twin Oaks Construction is one of the oldest trail-building companies in the Northwest. The family has built and improved more than 50 wilderness trails, with most of them in Oregon and Washington.

“They have done work on trails, trail bridges and other trail structures that is unequaled in the world,” says Michael Passo, executive director of the Professional TrailBuilders Association. “Quality trail construction requires a specialized set of skills that other types of construction companies simply do not have. The only way to get these skills is through extensive experience and collaboration with other quality trail builders.”

Their work typically includes building new trails, bridges and stairs, as well as maintaining existing paths and structures.

Daryl, Krista and Avery are the core of this niche business, but they often bring in friends and family to help.

“I never imagined this would turn into a business,” says Krista, a botanist, who grew up hiking with her family in and around Whidbey Island.

“We favor difficult and challenging projects,” says Avery, 32. “We’re interested in making the natural world accessible for everyone.”

The trio often hikes 10 to 20 miles just to get to the work. Sometimes the site is inaccessible by foot, and they must ferry crew and equipment across water. Such was the case with the Lake Chelan, Washington, project, an effort that consumed two seasons and experienced 16 inches of snow in mid-September.

“That was a rude awakening,” says Daryl, who comes from tough stock. His father was a logger and his grandfather ran a lumber mill.

Adding to the remote access is the challenge of working in difficult terrain. Every project is compact and requires small equipment. Because hauling heavy gear long distances is impossible, every tool is chosen—or custom-made—for size and efficiency.

“The power wheelbarrow is the backbone of the trail business,” Avery says.
Narrow and hydraulic, with a 1,000-pound capacity, the wheelbarrow is essential to haul rock, compressors and tools.

In wilderness areas where chainsaws are prohibited, “old-fashioned” hand tools are essential: a crosscut saw, pick mattock, McLeod and Pulaski.

Armed with these essentials, the crew adds its own strength, endurance and experience to drill rock, haul gravel, cut roots and remove fallen logs.

To keep the project moving, the family stays as close to the work site as possible, usually camping in tents and trailers. They typically stick with a project until completion. That means sleeping under the stars and beneath the rain—for weeks and sometimes months—on end.

There is one thing Daryl does not want to hear: “You build trails? That must be fun!”

For this work, he says, you must be physically fit, willing to work in the woods for three and four months at a stretch—without internet, phone, friends or conveniences—and endure bug bites, heavy rains and early snow.

“When you’re out working weeks and weeks, it has a special quality to it,” Daryl says. “The woods become your home. But when the snow is crushing your tent, and the rain is measured in inches, you have to take the outdoors as it comes.”

The test, Daryl says, is, “Can you keep a chainsaw running in the rain?”

“It’s construction work,” says Avery. “But it’s family from the start.”

Avery was just a child when he joined the team. Krista’s father was 97 when he joined them on a project

“As a society, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to do something physical together,” Daryl says. “It’s really special to have a sense of doing something together.”

Now, after 36 years, Daryl and Krista are ready to share the business they have honed. They are handing shovels and saws to Avery.

“It’s really special,” Avery says. “And it’s a lot of responsibility.”

As trails have improved and use has expanded to include cyclists and other recreationalists, the Twin Oaks team is happy to see more people than ever have opportunities to enjoy nature.

“I had tears at Lake Serene,” Krista says, referring to a project an hour outside of Seattle, in Washington’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. “To see so many people go up those 600 steps we built, there’s something so satisfying.”

Solving Real-World Problems

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Heidi Vosbein, right, the science teacher at Mt. Graham High School in Safford, Arizona, works with students, from left, David, McKenzie and Josh, testing materials for the enzyme catalase, which speeds the breakdown of hydrogen peroxide in the cells. Students conducted multiple tests using different variables—including gauging the effect of temperature and pH on the reaction rate—recorded the results and used the data to draw conclusions. Photo by Mike Teegarden

Blended curriculum aims to engage students through relevant hands-on learning designed to equip them with critical-thinking skills

Teachers have heard it. So have parents. Many children in classrooms across the nation ask the same question as they face down a math worksheet, chemistry lab or physics equation: “Why do I need to learn this? I will never use it in real life.”

For an increasing number of students from kindergarten through high school, the answer can be found in STEM—a blended curriculum of science, technology, engineering and math—that engages kids in solving real-world problems.

Some STEM programs also incorporate the arts (STEAM), encouraging students to think and communicate creatively and to consider the aesthetic design of their project—not just its function.
“Educators have known for a long time that what we are doing is not the best way for kids,” says Cindy Moss, senior director of global STEM at Discovery Education.

Discovery Education partners with school districts around the world to transform teaching and learning and improve student achievement. It serves 3 million educators and more than 30 million students around the world.

“We have to make school more relevant to kids so they are engaged,” Cindy says. “It is about creating a culture to help kids solve problems that matter to them.”

Creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication are the foundation of STEAM. Whether considering how to rescue an injured person from the wilderness or how to provide clean drinking water to an increasing population, students work together to break the problem into smaller steps, research efforts already underway and deepen their learning through hands-on projects.

“It gives them a reason to dive into the science and weave the math together, to collect the data and be able to record it, to use the arts and drama to communicate what they learned,” Cindy says. “That’s what has been missing in schools for the last 25 years.”

Educators across the nation are finding that when kids engage in learning and solving problems that matter to them, test scores go up and absenteeism—for both teachers and students—drops.
“STEAM puts the fun back in fundamentals,” says Cindy. “It makes school a place kids want to be.”

The initiatives are not just effective in engaging students’ interest, they are essential for developing a future generation of U.S. workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in STEM-related fields are expected to grow to more than 9 million by 2022. That is an increase of 1 million jobs from 2012 employment levels.

Employers need workers who can solve tough problems, gather and evaluate evidence, and make sense of information.

“There are 3 million open STEM jobs that employers can’t fill because they don’t have people who have STEM skills,” says Cindy.

Several federal initiatives support expanding access to rigorous STEM courses, improving teaching, supporting active learning and expanding opportunities for all students.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program supports schools in providing students with more personalized learning—in which the pace of and approach to instruction are uniquely tailored to meet students’ individual needs and interests—often supported by innovative technologies.

Teachers across the country are receiving resources, support, development and training through federal programs such as President Barack Obama’s Educate to Innovate campaign, which has raised more than $1 billion to improve STEM education.

Increasingly, educators are seeing STEM instruction as a way to help students from low-income areas find good jobs after graduation and escape poverty.

“We need to show kids what cool careers are available and explain that engineers can start in jobs earning $75,000 to $80,000 per year,” says Cindy.

To fill jobs related to STEM, the U.S. needs to develop teaching strategies and role models that encourage and support all students—including women and minority students, who are currently poorly represented in STEM fields, Cindy says.

Learning by Experiencing
Heidi Vosbein is not your typical high school teacher. She holds a doctorate in physics, a master’s in mathematics and has studied the interstellar medium, solid rocket fuels, sound-seafloor interactions and sound propagation in the ocean.

For the past four years, Heidi has taught math and science at Mt. Graham—an alternative high school in Safford, Arizona. Her students are kids who have not been successful in a traditional high school setting due to poor grades, behavior or life circumstances.

When Heidi first began teaching at Mt. Graham, there were no science textbooks or lab equipment. She has rewritten curriculum and secured grants to buy such basics as lab tables, glassware and safety equipment. She also solicits donations through, a website where individuals can donate directly to public school classroom projects.

Students work at their own pace in Heidi’s classroom. Despite teaching six to eight science classes and the same number of math classes all at once, she fits in up to three labs a week. She only has enough safety equipment for nine students at a time, although the average class size is 26.

“Kids don’t learn science by reading,” Heidi says. “They learn it by doing and experiencing.”
Her students have made mummies from carrots and apples, and analyzed water samples and bread mold.

After learning how to use the telescope at the local observatory, Heidi created a solar astronomy class and taught her students how to use the solar filter and radio telescope.

“Labs are a lot of work,” Heidi admits, “but you don’t learn it until you experience it. We can tell students what the wind is, but until they go out and experience it, they will never know.”

Heidi assigns online videos of experiments that cannot be done in the classroom to deepen her students’ learning.

“My approach is different because I came to teaching from a different approach,” she says.

Rather than just teach content, Heidi focuses on problem-solving principles her students can use the rest of their lives.

“If they say, ‘I have never seen this, but I know I can figure it out,’ if they come out with that attitude, they can do it,” she says.

Reaching the Youngest Students
Many learning programs begin in middle school and continue through college, but Learning Point Alaska Inc. partners with Alaska Native organizations to deliver technology-based STEM education camps to elementary-school students in villages throughout Alaska.

The organization was recognized during the 2016 White House Symposium on Early STEM.

Molly Hull, director of education for the nonprofit, brings her own equipment and often sleeps at the school when traveling to Hooper Bay—a remote coastal village 530 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by plane.

She offers robotics, coding and engineering camps for elementary school students, and trains members of the Alaska Native Yup’ik community to teach them.

“We have had students who attended the advanced robotics camp—including a second-grader—become youth leaders for the beginning robotics camp,” Molly says. “If kids can be introduced to STEM (in elementary school), they might choose a STEM course at school later on.”

Parents and grandparents play an important role in encouraging and supporting a child’s curiosity and learning.

“Adults don’t have to know the answers to a child’s questions to participate,” says Molly. “You can use the approach, ‘How can we learn this together?’”

Resources are Plentiful
Teachers, parents and community groups can access the resources they need online to promote and provide more personalized learning that fits the needs and interests of their students. Teachers can find lessons at different reading levels and in different languages. Parents can watch videos with their children about interesting STEM-related occupations and projects to do at home. helps support more than 500 U.S. K-12 schools expand their access to computer science. Students and teachers anywhere in the world can join in The Hour of Code—a free event each December designed to teach the basics of computer coding.

There are also STEM and STEAM summer camps and afterschool programs in Spanish, and those just for girls.

Almost 6 million youngsters in the U.S. participate in hands-on learning projects through 4-H.

School districts are looking to their communities for assistance. Professionals from local businesses, industries and colleges can help develop the type of workers they will need in the future by talking with students about careers in STEM-related fields and providing internships for current students, jobs for graduates and resources for the schools.

“School districts need to develop a plan and provide professional development for principals, teachers and curriculum people to help them engage students, parents and businesses to grow the capacity of everyone to teach this new and transformational way,” says Cindy. “We need to help kids understand that no matter where they live and no matter what they look like, they can learn problem-solving skills and can make the world a better place.”

Entire Troop Earns Highest Rank

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Tillamook, Oregon, Troop 582 Eagle Scouts, from left, Noah Hoefler, Sam Johnston, Garryn Crist, Deacon Fladstol, Travis Princehouse and Colin Farrier. Photo by Mark Farrier

Tillamook, Oregon, Troop 582 Eagle Scouts, from left, Noah Hoefler, Sam Johnston, Garryn Crist, Deacon Fladstol, Travis Princehouse and Colin Farrier.
Photo by Mark Farrier

In one of the rarest events in Oregon Boy Scout history, six teenagers in Tillamook—the entirety of Troop 582—earned their Eagle Scout rank, the highest rank a Boy Scout can attain.

Five members of the troop received their Eagle Scout rank in a special ceremony last April. They were Sam Johnston, Garryn Crist, Noah Hoefler, Deacon Fladstol and Travis Princehouse. The sixth member, Colin Farrier, was awarded his Eagle Scout rank in 2015.

“In all my scouting experience, I have not personally known of a whole Scout troop receiving their Eagle Scout awards,” says Russ Dewey, who has been involved in scouting for 40 years and is the Tillamook District commissioner with the Cascade Pacific Boy Scout Council.

In 2014, the most recent data available, only 6 percent of the nearly 860,000 Boy Scouts in the U.S. earned this honor, according to On average, since 1912—when scouting was established—only 2 percent of Scouts have earned the rank of Eagle Scout.

Russ says he has never heard of five Boy Scouts receiving their Eagle Scout rank at a single Court of Honor—a special ceremony to honor both the Eagle Scout and his parents.

Troop 582’s ceremony drew a packed house. It was marked by speeches by each Scout chronicling his path to Eagle and thanking those who helped get him there.

At the ceremony, Troop 582 Scoutmaster Mark Farrier was honored with a District Award of Merit “in recognition of his dedication and performance,” says Russ.

“To have all six of my boys make Eagle has been a great honor,” says Mark. “It is a milestone event that both the boys and I will cherish forever.”

How You Dress Matters

Thursday, August 25th, 2016
Hanging with college students in a park setting allows for casual dress, but sometimes the venue calls for a coat and tie.

Hanging with college students in a park setting allows for casual dress, but sometimes the venue calls for a coat and tie.

It is important to dress for success. Most of us have heard this since our early years.

Without delving into the psychology of “the clothes make the person,” how you dress might be the difference between making a memorable picture and being denied access to record emotion-filled moments. Getting in position to make a storytelling photograph is more than half the equation for success.

Bill Allard, a celebrated National Geographic photographer, tells of an internship assignment that took him to photograph the Amish. After his first attempt was unsuccessful, Allard left, bought a pair of overalls, boots and a hat—dressed for the occasion—and returned. The rest is history. It was the beginning of a friendship with a family Allard has followed for 40 years.

Another photographer, Dan Dry, was sent to photograph a rock concert. When he showed up dressed casually, like a concert-goer, he was denied access. Dry went home, changed into a suit and returned. He told the people at the gate something like, “Look at me. Do I look like I want to be here?” They let him in.

Sometimes it serves you best to blend in, and not call attention to yourself. Other times, being seen as different and noticed is important.

Either way, your dress can be an important ingredient in the recipe of your success.

A biblical quote, attributed to the apostle Paul, says, “I became all things to all men that I might save some.” He is speaking about modesty, dress and respect for custom and culture.

The principle of modesty—respecting another’s custom and culture, with the hope of assimilating and not offending rather than imposing one’s liberty to act or dress any way we feel—is a good lesson for photographers.

Immodesty comes in different packages. Too much gear, inappropriate dress such as revealing clothing, the way you move—aggressively or intentionally calling attention to yourself—can ruin any chance for authentic, intimate or even sacred moments.

Sometimes, less gear—a cellphone camera instead of intimidating-looking DSLR cameras—is in order.

Overshooting is another way we can become immodest and draw unwanted attention. It can be like fingernails on a chalkboard in sensitive situations, and might lead to being shown the nearest exit.

The goal is not to frighten or impress people with your gear, but to blend in and not offend.

Sensitivity and modesty also require observation and respect for the environment in which you are working.

While photographing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, I removed my baseball cap, in what I thought was a gesture of respect. Immediately, I was approached and asked to cover my head.

Growing up, good manners suggested removal of a hat upon entering a house or a restaurant. Though I am familiar with some Jewish customs and teachings, my upbringing temporarily dulled my good judgment.

Dressing for a rodeo is different than dressing for the Oscars or to meet a president or dignitary.
Obvious occasions call for respectful dress.

Covering a funeral takes the utmost in respect and sensitivity, both in choice of clothing and behavior.

Sadly, there are many who couldn’t care less if they offend others. It is always about them, and being a photographer is merely food for the ego.

To be successful in creating meaningful, intimate photographs, we must, in the words of Dorothea Lange, lose ourselves. We have to allow our subjects to take center stage while we blend into the background, much like the technical crew at a performance.

Often, this begins with how we dress.

daveL_mug_2011David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the United States and taught at three universities. He applies many of the lessons he learned during his magical boyhood years in rural California to photography. For more information, visit