South Ridge Elementary Students Visit Senior Citizen Friends

The residents of Highgate Senior Living Center and a fourth-grade class at South Ridge Elementary have a very special friendship.  The senior citizens have visited the fourth-grade classroom.  The students make regular trips to Highgate to see their friends.  And they all exchange letters when they can’t meet.  When they see each other, there are smiles and hugs, joy and laughter.  And it all came about with a monthly kindness project.

The students get ready to visit their special friends at Highgate.


South Ridge fourth graders on a recent visit to Highgate Senior Living Center.

Fourth grade teacher Karen Moses started a project called First Friday Friendship Fiesta so her students could celebrate kindness.  In previous years, students focused on how they could impact their school or community.  But when last year’s class visited Highgate Senior Living Center, it sparked something new; Moses could tell that the inter-generational program meant a great deal to both the seniors and the students.  So this year, she decided to do more.

Building more senior/student events was a group effort.  “Our wonderful PTA gave us a grant for three bus trips,” Moses said.  Principal Jill Neyenhouse gave them funds for a fourth trip.  Moses and class parents donated food and decorated the classroom for events at the school.  The staff at Highgate helped plan and host events at the center.  So far, there have been four visits with the fourth graders and the seniors, including a Valentine’s Day lunch at Highgate.

Each visit builds stronger friendships.  The program bridges the generations, giving the students a window into the seniors’ lives and vice versa.  The students get to learn from a lifetime of experience, and the seniors get to enjoy the unbridled enthusiasm of kids.  They are building community, promoting respect and understanding for all age groups.  But most importantly, they are truly having fun together.

The students look forward to their time with the seniors.  The class spends time writing letters or making gifts before the visits.  And when they see their friends again, the happiness is contagious; they can’t wait to sit down together and catch up.

“The kids are making such special connections,” Moses said.  “To see the joy on the faces of both the kids and the seniors when they catch sight of their special friends is a delight to see!”  They are all looking forward to the next time they see each other in this unique celebration of friendship.  You’re never too young or old to make new friends.


The students were proud to welcome their friends for a visit to their fourth grade classroom.


As the seniors departed South Ridge, the students helped shield them from the rain.


“Dueling Grands” Benefit Concerts Set for Sunday, March 8th

Get ready for a concert experience that is spontaneous, electric and truly unbelievable!  As part of Ridgefield Youth Arts month, award-winning blind pianists, Mac Potts and Nick Baker, return to perform together in two concert performances on Sunday, March 8th at the Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center.

The first concert is a family-friendly matinee at 2:00 pm.  Kids will enjoy a delightful afternoon of singing and dancing to their favorite songs!  Admission is $10 for adults; kids under 18 attend free.

The evening concert performance is set for 7:00 pm.  Prepaid tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students; free admission for children 5 and under.  At the door, tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for students.  Special $30 prepaid adult tickets include a Meet & Greet Social, 5:15 – 6:30 pm, at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex (RORC) before the concert.

Tickets are available on-line at under Events.

Dueling Grands is presented by Ridgefield School District and the Ridgefield Lions Club.  Proceeds benefit Ridgefield High School’s scholarship program and Ridgefield Youth Arts Month.


Ridgefield Youth Arts Month Presents “Ridgefield Arts Experience”

Students in Grades 3-8 will have the opportunity to produce and play music, create scenery and costumes and perform a play in “Ridgefield Arts Experience”, an activity being offered during Ridgefield Youth Arts Month on Thursday, March 19th from 4:00 – 7:15 pm in the Union Ridge Elementary School Commons.  This year’s play is based on a book titled I’m Done by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan.

Register online at .

Ridgefield Celebrates Youth Arts Month

Ridgefield School District is celebrating Youth Arts Month in a big way this year, joining with local businesses, organizations, the city of Ridgefield and local artists to offer an abundance of opportunities for children and the Ridgefield community to discover their creative side through art and music throughout the entire month of March.

The school district established Ridgefield Youth Arts Month (RYAM) to support the district’s commitment to deliver personalized learning experiences for each student through appreciation of the arts as well as to increase support of the arts throughout the community.

To celebrate Youth Arts Month, Ridgefield Community Education is offering a phenomenal array of classes for the community and for kids of all ages.  Many classes are free!  View the schedule of RYAM activities by clicking HERE .

All classes require online registration and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.  If you find a class full, sign up for the wait-list.  With enough interest, a second class may be added!

A variety of classes in arts and crafts or music and dance are offered this year.  Students can take part in the Missoula Children’s Theater production of “Robinson Crusoe”, learn to play Native American instruments in Cultural Drum Circle, or discover fun dance moves in Disco Fever Boogie Down or Introductory Rhythm Tap Workshop.  Art classes are also being offered in its many forms, including ceramics, block carving, mural design, mosaic art, watercolor, and chalk art.  Youth Arts Month events include the District Art Show and musical concert performances scheduled throughout the month showcasing the talents of our amazing Ridgefield students.

This year, Ridgefield School District and the Ridgefield Lions Club will present “Dueling Pianos” special benefit concerts by award-winning blind musicians, Mac Potts and Nick Baker, on stage together in two amazing shows on Sunday, March 8th at the Ridgefield High School Performing Arts Center.  A family-friendly matinee is set for 2:00 pm, and an evening concert will be at 7:00 pm.  Proceeds benefit Ridgefield High School’s scholarship program and Ridgefield Youth Arts Month.  Tickets are available online at under Events.

Ridgefield School District is grateful to its title sponsor, The Modern Orthodontist  (  Additional support is provided by the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation, Ridgefield Art Association and Dance Fusion Northwest.

For more information on Ridgefield Youth Arts Month, contact Terri Cochran in Ridgefield Community Education at 360-619-1303 or via email at

Bond Update from Superintendent Nathan McCann

The following is a letter from Superintendent Nathan McCann that provides updated information regarding the Ridgefield School District bond.

Customized Adaptive Car Delights Mobility-Challenged Ridgefield Students

With a cool red racing seat, multicolored LED light bars, and a Bluetooth audio system, the battery-powered car looks cool to all kinds of kids.  But to one group of students at Union Ridge Elementary School, the car represents a new kind of freedom.  Mobility-challenged kids will be able to spend recess and play time in the adaptive car, custom designed by high school students at Innovation Ridge Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS).

The adaptive car was custom designed for mobility-challenged kids by students at Innovation Ridge for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS).

CAPS students are asked to solve real-world problems as business projects—and in this case, their project deliverable was the actual car.  Malachi Lee, Tyler Poorman, Bridget Donaldson, and Emiley Bell took on the grant-funded project for the Ridgefield School District, modifying a child-sized, battery-powered car so it could be driven by students with mobility issues.

They met with students and teachers to determine how to make the car operable for different mobility issues.  The goal was to make the students as independent as possible, while still keeping them safe.

The design went through a few iterations.  They replaced the gas pedal with adaptive controls in the center of the steering wheel.  For safety, they added a taller and sturdier car seat with padded harnesses.  And they built a remote control with an override feature allowing teachers to drive, steer, and brake the car if needed.

But the CAPS students didn’t stop there.  They added LED light bars that changed colors, a horn button, and a Bluetooth audio system for the students’ favorite songs.  “We took every chance we had to make this special for those kids,” Lee said.  “Everything on here is to make it their own.”

The controls are modified to allow for easy steering, driving and braking–and there is even a Bluetooth audio system.

The big test was introducing it to the students.  Holden Crain and Medade Benedick were excited for their test drive.  Gretchen Lincoln, a paraprofessional, helped Holden from his wheelchair and got him buckled into the car.  He was a little nervous at first—until he pushed the horn button.  Honk, honk, honk, honk!  Holden grinned as he mashed the button some more.

The CAPS students showed Lincoln how to use the remote control to drive Holden around.  In a matter of minutes, he was going backward and forward, straight and in circles.  His face lit up; he laughed and clapped as the car changed directions.  They played the Wheels on the Bus on the sound system.  He was having such a great time he didn’t want to leave the car.  “More!”

Holden Crain is transferred from a wheelchair to the adaptive car …

… and goes for his first drive.

Medade Benedick was next in line.  She wheeled herself up to the car, where physical therapist Gita Hajj showed her how to climb in.  Hajj drove with the remote control at first, but Benedick asked to do it herself.  The CAPS students demonstrated the steering, and she drove off in a long, arcing circle—then did the same circle smoothly in reverse.   She mastered the controls in no time, finally pulling to a stop to pose for some pictures with the CAPS students.

Holden was ready for a second turn and watched Medade drive up.  “My own,” he said softly; he was enjoying the car so much he wanted one of his own.  Fortunately, the CAPS students had thought ahead; they had already drafted plans to show others how to construct the adaptive cars.  And the students will have ample opportunity to drive the car; it will remain with the program at Union Ridge.

Medade Benedick parks the car for a quick photo with CAPS students (left to right) Malachi Lee, Bridget Donaldson and Tyler Poorman.

The CAPS students will be showcasing their adaptive car at a CAPS conference in Seattle in spring.  Two other Ridgefield CAPS groups will also be sharing their projects:  the planning and opening of the Birds and the Beans coffee shop, and the creation of a design for an inclusive playground.  With these and other successful projects under their belts, the CAPS students will be ready to jump into their next big challenge.

The CAPS program plans to continue to partner with area businesses on a wide range of projects.  Mentors and guest speakers are also welcome.  For more information, contact CAPS Business Development Specialist Andrea Reinertson at

Ridgefield School District Honors February Employee and Students of the Month

On February 11, Ridgefield School District officials recognized the February Employee and Students of the Month at the regular Board of Directors meeting.

 Employee of the Month

Kayla Mitchell is the school counselor for all of Sunset Ridge Intermediate and is truly deserving of the Employee of the Month award.  She adheres to the ASCA school counseling model and provides dynamic and comprehensive school counseling services school-wide, in small groups and in support of individual students on a daily basis.

Kayla Mitchell

Kayla coordinated the delivery of bullying prevention lessons in September and October and supported teachers in delivering the Second Step social emotional learning curriculum.  She runs multiple small groups focused on providing targeted skill instruction to support students in acquiring the skills they need for school success and meets with individual students every day.  Kayla oversees fifth and sixth grade student leadership, meeting with this group weekly to develop leadership skills, create informative and engaging monthly assemblies and identify ways to include all students, such as the New Student Welcoming Committee.

Kayla is collaborative, serving on multiple building and district level teams to ensure that multi-tiered systems of support are available to every student.  She constantly engages in professional development to inform and enhance her school counseling including restorative practices, mental health partnerships, a continuum of social emotional learning supports and most recently, high leverage practices to support positive classroom behavior, culture and climate.

This is Kayla’s second year in Ridgefield School District, and she has already made a tremendous positive impact for our students and school community.  Kayla, thank you for all that you do!

Students of the Month

Charlotte Halligan is the February Student of the Month at the Early Learning Center.  Charlotte has been a positive and friendly example for her peers in preschool.  She always comes to school with a big smile and happy disposition.  She is a curious and eager learner.  It has been wonderful to see Charlotte progress these last few months.  She is an important and valued member of our learning community.  Thank you, Charlotte, for always being a friend to your classmates and a responsible learner.  What a wonderful Hashbrown!

Charlotte Halligan

Natalie Green, a fourth grader, was selected for Student of the Month honors at South Ridge Elementary School.  Natalie is a very conscientious student who always makes sure her class’ books are returned ahead of the time it’s due back to the library, even if it means doing it after school.  She is a model of PBIS behavior and sets the bar high for all fourth graders as a library citizen.  Natalie is kind to her peers, helping them when they can’t find what they’re looking for in the library.  She always has a good book recommendation for classmates who “just don’t know what to check out.”  Over the last two years, Natalie has grown into a student that exemplifies what Ridgefield School District is all about:  kindness, a willingness to help other, and a desire to do one’s best.

Natalie Green

Nolan Proctor, a kindergartener, was selected as Student of the Month at Union Ridge Elementary.  Nolan is in Mrs. Stamp’s kindergarten class.  He is a wonderful student!  Nolan strives to do his best on his work and is always first to offer to help clean up, run notes, or anything you want him to do!  He has an upbeat personality and a humorous attitude.  He is kind, helpful and considerate to his peers in class and exemplifies the three R’s – Respectful, Resilient and Responsible.  We look forward to watching Nolan grow and do amazing things here at Union Ridge and beyond.

Nolan Proctor

Marin Fitzgerald, a sixth grader, was selected at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School.  We are so fortunate to have Marin at our school.  What do you call someone who is so kind that she goes out of her way to help other people?  Marin works at being the best student and friend she can be.  She is inclusive and respectful to all.  She chooses her words carefully to build others up in a genuine and sincere manner.  Marin models responsible behavior and holds herself to high standards; yet, she is easy going, approachable to her classmates and has a great sense of humor.  In the classroom, she is a positive, engaged and active learner who strives for quality no matter how difficult the challenge.  You can tell that she values her education and appreciates the opportunity to learn new things.  Marin Fitzgerald stands out as an exemplary student and person.  She embodies our motto of being Respectful, Responsible and Resilient.  Her maturity, kindness and integrity makes her an excellent candidate for Student of the Month.

Marin Fitzgerald

Olivia Matters, an eighth grader, was chosen at View Ridge Middle School.  Olivia is just an awesome person!  She comes to class every day with an attitude that makes her enjoyable to be around and also makes her successful.  She works through things with detail and full effort.  If Olivia doesn’t understand something, she asks the right questions and works even harder.  She consistently puts forth her best effort, even when others around her are not!  Her work ethic is amazing, and she is always such a positive person.  Olivia’s smile is infectious, and her classmates really enjoy working with her, as we all do!  She is a great choice for Student of the Month—an honor that is well deserved!

Olivia Matters

Ridgefield High School’s Student of the Month didn’t fall far from the family tree.  Her mother was Employee of the Month in February 2019, and we are pleased that Tegan Petersen, a junior, was selected for this month’s Student of the Month honors.  Tegan is described by staff members as an exceptional student who is helpful and kind and always exemplifies the three R’s.  She has been nominated for Student of the Month five times by four different staff members.  Tegan carries a perfect 4.0 GPA, is involved in National Honor Society, Leo Club, Ambassadors, choir and jazz choir, and theater.  She is also a member of the varsity soccer team, which placed third at state this fall.  Tegan was in the cast of Chicago, was part of the tech crew for the recent performance of the student-directed One Acts, and plans to audition for the high school’s musical production of Cinderella in the spring.  She also placed third in RHS’ recent Poetry Out Loud competition.  After high school, Tegan plans to study math or physics and is considering a career as an actuary.

Tegan Petersen

Special thanks to the local office of James Schmeling at Allstate Insurance Company, the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation and Ridgefield Boosters for sponsoring the district’s recognition program this school year.

Ridgefield’s Take Your Parent to School Day an Overwhelming Success

“What did you do at school today?”  It’s usually a parent asking a kid that question.  But for one day a year, Ridgefield parents can find out firsthand by going to school with their child.  Ridgefield’s second annual Take Your Parent to School Day was an overwhelming success, with hundreds of parents coming to schools across the city.

Students at all Ridgefield schools had the opportunity to bring their parents with them for a partial or full day of class.  In most classes, the parents were able to participate alongside their child, with some of them conducting experiments, planning podcasts, or running in gym.

Union Ridge Elementary School broke the record for the largest number of parents participating, with over 300 parents in attendance.  Because the school is already operating at capacity and has limited space, they had to break the parent groups into shifts, with each grade having an assigned time for parent visitation.  Parents were still able to enjoy some time with their children in the classrooms.

South Ridge Elementary School also had a huge turnout, with 200 parents attending.  Principal Jill Neyenhouse led a presentation on social and emotional learning to a lunchroom filled with parents.  Afterwards, they joined their students for the day.

Sunset Ridge Intermediate School had 120 parents attending, and View Ridge Middle School had 70 parents joining their kids.  Twenty-five parents came to Ridgefield High School for activities and classes as well.  At every grade level, parents welcomed the opportunity to see students and teachers in action.  Parent Leslie Koch joined her son, Levi, in choir.  She said, “I love it!  I’m so glad I came.”

While there is only one Take Your Parent to School Day each year, parents are always welcome as volunteers in the schools.  Background checks are required, and volunteer forms can be obtained at the school office.

Union Ridge Elementary experienced a record parent turnout for Take Your Parent to School Day.


Dresden Wachsnicht and his mom, Amy, in Jessica Verpoorten’s kindergarten class at Union Ridge Elementary.


Cooper Miller shares a book with his dad in Josie Bleth’s kindergarten class at Union Ridge Elementary.


South Ridge Elementary parents attended a short presentation on social and emotional learning led by principal Jill Neyenhouse before heading to classrooms to join their students.


Kristi and Chase Evans join other parents and students researching rainforests at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School.


At View Ridge Middle School, eighth grader, Allison Orantes, shows her mom, Kari Edgren, the podcast she is writing with her WIN (What I Need) Time group.


Leslie and Levi Koch before choir class at View Ridge Middle School.

The Ridge Color Run 2020 Set for First Saturday, March 7th

On First Saturday, March 7th, come take part in The Ridge Color Run 2020 at 10:00 am at Davis Park.  The two-mile fun run, organized by the Sunset Ridge-View Ridge Association is presented in conjunction with Ridgefield Youth Arts Month and benefits Sunset Ridge Intermediate and View Ridge Middle School.   Run or walk the one-mile loop through downtown while being sprayed with fun color powder at various stations throughout the two-lap course.

Register online at


Ridgefield CAPS Students Design Inclusive Playground

Elementary school playgrounds are a lot of fun, with plenty of places to slide, swing, run, and climb.  But if you are in a wheelchair or have other mobility challenges, the playground can be an unfamiliar and difficult place.  A group of students at the Ridgefield Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) designed a playground for children of all abilities as part of a class project.  They hope the design can be utilized one day for the proposed new elementary school or to upgrade existing playgrounds.

Universal and accessible design is a common theme for homes and offices.  Creating a home or workplace that serves people of all ages and abilities makes sense.  But accessibility in parks and playgrounds has lagged behind the curve.  Often it falls on the parents of children with disabilities to advocate for, fund, and build inclusive playgrounds.

As part of the CAPS curriculum, students are asked to solve a real-world problem as a business project, crafting actionable results and a professional presentation.  CAPS students Brooke Weese, Ethan Barnette, Nathan Neil, Hunter Abrams, and Aida Sinks took on the project of creating an inclusive playground design for the school district.

Their playground project started with extensive research.  They spoke with playground equipment manufacturers and members of Ridgefield’s Parks Board.  They reviewed costs, designs, and building protocols from Harper’s Playground, a nonprofit that spearheaded the development of the first inclusive playground in Portland.  And they polled a group of elementary school students to see what playground features they liked most.

Using this information, they developed a design to accommodate students of all abilities. Their suggestions for playground features included a large play structure that incorporates ramps rather than stairs, an accessible merry-go-round, specially designed swings, a roller table (students use their arms to pull themselves along rollers), and even a safe playground zipline (one with accessible seat and one with standard seat).  The design also has level surfaces between play equipment, so students with mobility issues have easy access.

The students presented their playground design concept to guests at the CAPS Showcase and to the Ridgefield School Board, and the Ridgefield Parks Board will also review the design.  They hope that their project will one day lead to a playground where every student can play.

Ridgefield CAPS students created a design for an inclusive playground. Left to right: Nathan Neil, Hunter Abrams, Ethan Barnette, Brooke Weese, Aida Sinks.


Harper’s Playground in Portland is an example of an inclusive park designed to accommodate people of all ages and abilities.

Ridgefield Early Learning Center Enrollment Soon to Begin for 2020-21 School Year

Families will soon be able to enroll their students for the 2020-21 school year at Ridgefield’s Early Learning Center.  The enrollment period for current students begins February 18th.  For new students, the enrollment period begins March 2nd.

For more details about the enrollment process, visit the Early Learning Center webpage at or call 360.619.1333.


Ridgefield High School Students Dive Into “Shark Tank”

Elijah Engstrom caught everyone’s attention when he rolled a tire into the classroom.  He and his project partner, Leilani Starns, were ready to introduce a (fictitious) new product to market—and they needed help.  Enter the “sharks”.

Shark Tank is the chance of a lifetime for entrepreneurs, who pitch their innovative products to big money “shark” investors.  Students in Andrea Reinertson’s marketing class got a taste of the show’s excitement when they pitched their own product concepts to a panel of “sharks”.

Reinertson asked a number of area businesspeople to participate on the panel.   VaNessa Duplessie from Gartner, Inc., Ashley Jhaveri from Zeppelin, Laura Jhaveri from Killa Bites, Ann Walls from Primerica Advisors, and Michael Bomar from the Port of Vancouver used their business expertise to pose as investors.

Marketing teacher Andrea Reinertson chats with the panel of “sharks”.  Left to right: VaNessa Duplessie, Michael Bomar, Ashley Jhaveri, Laura Jhaveri and Ann Walls.

The students worked in teams to create product ideas and designs.  They researched potential competitive products and set realistic prices and profits.  Then they built a complete profile of their fictitious company, including money invested, sales statistics, and projected revenue.

The teams ended up with a wide range of creative ideas.  One group of students created a solar-powered water bottle with a screen to track water intake and exercise.  Another developed the PortaWave, a portable microwave for campers who were restricted from using fire to cook.

Elijah Engstrom and Leilani Starns tell the panel of “sharks” about their concept for tires with retractable studs.


Luke Price and Alex Fulton explain their toothpaste concept, Purple Plaque Attack.

Starns and Engstrom designed tires with studs that extended and retracted with the push of a button, making them easier to use than chains and standard studded tires.  In addition to their eye-catching entry with the rolling tire, they came prepared with sales and revenue projections, an exclusive three-year deal with Les Schwab, and plans to take their brand nationwide.  The sharks decided it was worth a $500,000.00 investment for 20% of their imaginary company.

Luke Price and Alex Fulton designed a toothpaste that turned any remaining plaque purple after two minutes of brushing teeth:  Purple Plaque Attack.  With proprietary ingredients and a great grape flavor, they were ready to take the toothpaste market by storm.  The sharks liked the concept, and the students won an investment of $400,000.00 for 51% of their fictitious company for the first two years, dropping back to 40% with a ten-cent royalty on every unit sold starting in the third year.  “They get control back of their company after they get mentoring, guidance, and we know they’re set up to succeed,” Duplessie explained.   Fulton and Price readily agreed.

The exercise of creating a product and bringing it to market gave students an idea of the work that goes into startups.  With professional advice from the panel of sharks, they were able to see what the next steps might be for a young business.  With this Shark Tank experience, they’ll be ready to swim with the sharks when they start their own businesses in real life.

TED Talk Project Showcases Students’ Interests, Inspirations and Ideas

TED Talks are a mainstay on the internet.  Experts give short speeches on a wide range of topics, hoping to inspire, teach, and drive positive change.  Ridgefield High School sophomores created their own original TED Talks for English class—and the results were impressive.

Why is breakfast important?  How does music decrease stress?  What are some easy ways to help the homeless?  Is being bored necessarily a bad thing?  Can being more observant impact your relationships with others?  These questions and many more were answered in their TED Talk speeches.

Some presentations were rooted in personal experience.  Emily Vossenkuhl spoke about her family’s annual volunteer work with Bike First, a Portland camp that teaches youth with Down Syndrome how to ride a bike; she asked students not to assume what others could or could not do.  Evan Skerlec, whose family moved frequently, shared what it was like to be the new kid and the importance of talking to new students.

Evan Skerlec gives a TED Talk about his family’s moves across the country and his experiences as a new kid in school.


Emily Vossenkuhl shared a photo of her experience as a volunteer at Bike First, a camp that teaches youth with Down Syndrome how to ride bikes.

Other students found their inspiration in the everyday.  Shawn Will showed how handwriting changes based on the way you hold a pencil, then asked the class to consider trying something new—even for daily activities, like writing.  Aidan Debroeck shared how everyday objects might have uses you haven’t noticed (like the stapler setting that bends staples out rather than in)—and drew a parallel with a friend who he was surprised to learn was a skilled pianist.  He asked students not to misjudge others and to treat everyone with respect.

Other students built their presentations on research.  Taylor Zanas said she spent hours each day on social media (when asked, nearly the entire class agreed they did the same).  Then she shared a University of Pennsylvania study that showed limiting social media use to thirty minutes a day improved sleep and sense of well-being.  She challenged students to try using social media less often.  Lauren Campbell pointed to research by the University of Phoenix that estimated high school students received up to 17.5 hours of homework each week.  She argued that this burden made it more challenging to engage in extracurricular activities, like theater and sports, and suggested students advocate for less homework with teachers, school board members, and parents.

All of the presentations centered around the question:  What immediate changes can we make today in an effort to improve ourselves and our communities tomorrow?  The Ridgefield High School TED Talks educated and inspired many students toward positive change.  To see similar speeches—and maybe find your own change—go to or

Tyler Ochsner’s second period class posed for a quick photo before their TED Talks.


Union Ridge Elementary Students Create Arcade Games from Recycled Materials

The classroom is filled with arcade games.  But there are no video screens or digital beeps, just the voices of kids having a lot of fun.  Every arcade game has been handmade by a second-grade student.  And they did it all from recycled materials.

Sara Eastham’s second grade class participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge, inspired by the short documentary Caine’s Arcade.  A nine-year-old boy, Caine Monroy, spent the summer designing and building an elaborate cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto parts store in Los Angeles.  A filmmaker made a documentary about the arcade that went viral.

The film led to the Global Cardboard Challenge, where students all over the world create new things using cardboard, recycled materials, and imagination.  Eastham’s class uses the challenge as a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) project, teaching the students to be creative, think outside the box, and independently solve problems.

Students and their families spent three weeks creating arcade games from boxes and bottles, paper towel tubes and milk cartons, old toys and twine.  The results were amazingly creative, with a wide variety of game types.  Students made skeeball and bowling lanes, claw machines and mazes.  One student made a wooden catapult to launch plastic frogs onto targets.

Students watch a ball roll through a maze of tubes and boxes.

“The students had to plan, engineer, create rules, and decorate their projects,” Eastham said.  “Presenting the games (other students play the games) gives them a sense of accomplishment and gives them ideas on how to improve or create another.  And they had a blast!”

They were definitely having a great time testing each other’s games.  Cheers went up by the frog catapult as a student got a high score.  Then more excitement by the skeeball.  “This is the most fun I’ve had at school!” one student said.  “I can’t wait to make another game!”

To watch the great documentary and learn more about Caine’s Arcade, visit


Kekoa Warner shows his shark skeeball game.


Ella Lasee demonstrates her frog catapult game.


Noah Jemmott built a ball toss game.




Flat Stanley Leaves Ridgefield to Travel America

South Ridge Elementary School librarian Emily Crawford gave her first grade class a special assignment:  the Flat Stanley project.  Flat Stanley is a series of books about Stanley Lambchop, a boy who is squashed flat by a bulletin board, then goes on many adventures.  He slides under doors, flies like a kite, and is mailed to far-off destinations.  Crawford’s students got to send their own Flat Stanleys off on new adventures.

The first graders colored several paper Flat Stanleys and mailed them off to friends and relatives.  Then those people took photos of Flat Stanley in all kinds of places.  Just from the one WIN (What I Need) Time class, Flat Stanley travelled to twelve states.  He went to a ranch, to a zoo, and to a vineyard.  He flew a plane in Alaska, worked on a television show, and attended an NFL game.  Crawford compiled all 27 of the Flat Stanley adventures into a Flat Stanley book for the students.

Librarian Emily Crawford’s WIN (What I Need) Time class made their own Flat Stanley book.


Flat Stanley had many fun adventures thanks to students’ friends and family.

The students started the project by reading Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures:  The Japanese Ninja Surprise.  Crawford used the book to get her students interested in reading. “I liked that I got to read!” Ammon Neil exclaimed.  They did a literature circle study where they discussed the book, developed questions together, and made a glossary of words that were new to them.

The students enjoyed the book and the project.  They were excited to show which page was theirs and where Flat Stanley went.  Harper Bruno held the book close to her and said, “My favorite part was that we got to make the books.”

Flat Stanley Adventures:  Volume 1 by Ms. Crawford’s First Grade WIN Class now has a place in the South Ridge library, and each student received their own copy.  Now they can read about all of the amazing places Flat Stanley could go.  Maybe they’ll go there themselves someday—but probably not in an envelope.

Teegan Thompson proudly shares her Flat Stanley pages.