Free National Park Passes for Fourth Graders

“Who here owns public lands?”  The gym full of fourth graders seemed surprised.  A few held up their hands.  Sean Davis, from Friends of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, happily said, “ALL of you should be holding up your hands!  All of us own the public lands!”  More hands shot up as students smiled.  “And all of YOU are going to be able to visit the public lands, all over the country!  For free!”

Davis, a Habitat Restoration and Environmental Education Technician, enthusiastically introduced the fourth grade free national park pass program to students at Union Ridge Elementary School.  The free passes are part of the Every Kid in a Park initiative.  Fourth grade students and their families can get out and discover wildlife, history, and resources at national parks and federal lands across the country—including the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge—with no admission charge.

During the presentation, Davis and Juliet McGraw, the Community and Cultural Education Director for the Friends of Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge, had students create the shape of the state of Washington with a rope, showed the geography and resources across the state, and threw in a few history lessons.  Students passed around artifacts like obsidian and elk horns.

Sean Davis challenges students to make the shape of the state of Washington with a rope.

Juliet McGraw shares information about the resources used by the tribes and indigenous people.

Throughout the presentation, students had fun actions to go with code words, barking like harbor seals for the Pacific Ocean, blowing like the winds for the Cascades, and shivering for the cold Canadian climate.  There was even a volcano as a student burst out from between two other students, yelling, “Magma, magma, magma, LAVA!”

Magma, magma, magma, LAVA!  Students act out an erupting volcano.

The students were excited to receive their passes.  The passes are good for the school year and expire August 31.  “It’s good for a carload of people,” said Davis.  “So you might want to tell your parents to get a bigger car!”

The Purple Hands Pledge

Walk the halls at Union Ridge Elementary School, and you’ll see dozens of purple handprints lining the walls.  The vibrant splash of color has a deeper meaning:  Union Ridge students are banding together for anti-bullying month.

The Purple Hands Pledge started in Salem, Oregon as a way to encourage students not to use or tolerate violence.  The simple idea, “Hands and words are not for hurting,” became a nationwide movement.

School counselor Niccele Dunn explained the purple hands.  “The students make a pledge not to use their hands or words to hurt themselves or others.  They trace and cut out their hands on purple paper, which we hang up connected throughout the school.”  It’s a visual reinforcement of the students’ pledge that they can see every day.

The Purple Hands Pledge

Volunteers from the Union Ridge Parent Teacher Organization came to help younger students trace their hands.  Students were able to cut out and decorate their handprints, so every handprint is unique.

Paired with the orange anti-bullying ribbons tied to the school fence, Union Ridge is ablaze with color.  “I’m super excited to have a visual representation against bullying both inside and outside the building!” Dunn said.  “It has great impact!”

Ridgefield Students Show Support Against Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, a campaign to promote anti-bullying awareness in schools, and students in the Ridgefield School District are showing their support for the cause.

Ribbons fill the fence at the Sunset Ridge Intermediate/View Ridge Middle School campus.

Orange is the color signifying support for students who have been bullied.  To kick off National Bullying Prevention Month, Ridgefield students showed their support by personalizing an orange ribbon and tying it to a designated fence at their school.

The fences, emblazoned orange by the multitude of ribbons tied on by students and staff, demonstrate unity against student bullying.  The anti-bullying ribbons will remain on display at each school during the entire month of October in support of National Bullying Prevention Month.

Union Ridge Elementary students personalize ribbons to show their support against bullying.


RHS students pledge their support at tables manned by District Office staff.

Students at South Ridge Elementary tie their ribbons to the school fence.


View of the fence at South Ridge Elementary.

This month, in classrooms and planned assemblies in the district, students are learning how kindness, acceptance and inclusion help to prevent and put a stop to bullying behavior.

Students and staff in the district will be wearing orange on Unity Day, Wednesday, October 24–the signature event of National Bullying Prevention Month–in support of anti-bullying awareness.

Tasting Books? A Recipe for Reading

Twice a year, Kari Hall’s third grade classroom at Union Ridge Elementary School transforms into a café.  There are red and white checkered tablecloths over the desks, background music, and Hall is the chef for an unusual menu:  books.

Hall heard about book tastings from a friend who is also a teacher.  “The gist of it is to get kids excited about reading different genres,” Hall explained.  “Each table is its own genre:  fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, biography, and book series.  The kids have a big platter in the middle of their table with ten to twelve books on it.”

“There’s a difference between tasting and eating,” Hall said.  “So you’re just getting a taste.  And the tasting consists of first, look at all the books.  Talk with each other about what you’re seeing, what looks good to you.  Then settle in on a book to taste.  Read about three pages of the book and take notes about your reaction.”  Students rotate from table to table to “taste” different types of books.

Each student records information in a booklet they can keep and refer back to.  Because all the books they use are from the classroom library, they can choose to continue reading any of those books at another time.

Hall is glad the students enjoy the book tastings.  “Reading should be a joyful thing.  The more they get into the books, the more they’re talking about it, the more they become obsessed with reading.  And you produce these great readers by the end of the year.”  Hall’s creative book tastings are giving students a new appetite for books.

Students Invited to Enter Superintendent’s 2018 Holiday Greeting Card Contest

The Superintendent’s 2018 Holiday Greeting Card Art Contest is now underway!  All students are invited to participate in creating artwork for the district’s 2018 holiday greeting card.

This year’s theme is “Holiday Magic.”

The winner and three semi-finalists will win cash prizes.  Additionally, the winning designs will be printed, bundled and made available for purchase.

Click here for Contest Rules, Parental Permission Form and Holiday Greeting Card Art Label.  All entries must be received in school offices by the end of the school day on Monday, November 5.

Community Education will once again host a free Holiday Card Workshop open to students of all ages.  All supplies will be provided — only creative inspiration is required!  Completed projects, with parental permission, will be collected for the contest.

Workshops will be held at Union Ridge Library on Monday, October 29 (3:40-4:30 pm), South Ridge Library on Tuesday, October 30 (3:40 – 4:30 pm) and at Sunset/View Ridge Library on Thursday, November 1 (2:40 – 3:30 pm).

The workshops are optional.  Although they are FREE, pre-registration is required.  Go to to reserve your spot.  Only students who have completed registration will be able to attend.

The district is grateful to the Ridgefield Art Association for sponsoring this annual art contest.

It’s SOCKtober!

Socktober is a nationwide movement to collect socks for homeless shelters.  Socks are one of the most needed but least often donated items at shelters.  Students from Stephanie Brown’s class at Union Ridge Elementary are helping fill that gap with their own Socktober drive.  Their goal is to collect 1,000 pairs of socks for the Council for the Homeless in Vancouver.

Many of the students in the RISE (Reaching Independence through Structured Education) program are on the autism spectrum, and the students are running every element of the program.  The students visited each classroom in the school to place donation bags.  RISE teacher Stephanie Brown said, “They went into classrooms to say a few words, which can be difficult for them.  They handed out the bags and were able to say, ‘This is for socks.  Thank you.’”

Savanhy Virakitti and Bruce Kizim collect donated socks for their Socktober drive.

Every day, the RISE students walk around school with a big wagon to collect donations.  Then they sort the socks and graph donations to keep track.  It has been part of their curriculum in other ways as well.  They have read books about homelessness, and they colored the posters promoting Socktober around the school.  Using the Socktober drive across multiple subjects has helped reinforce their learning.  “It’s awesome to see the concepts starting to sink in,” Brown said.

Students decorated the wagon used for collecting socks.

“But my biggest drive is to show them that anybody and everybody can make a difference,” Brown explained.  “We have some of the most impacted students in our district, and here they are doing something fantastic and wonderful. “

Socktober runs through the month of October.  If you’d like to drop off new socks for the Socktober drive, please leave them at the Union Ridge Elementary School office.

Ridgefield School District Honors October Employee and Students of the Month

On October 9, Ridgefield School District officials recognized the October Employee and Students of the Month at the regular Board of Directors meeting.

The Employee of the Month is Tamara Hoodenpyl, teacher at Ridgefield High School.  Tami Hoodenpyl, in her four years as art teacher at Ridgefield High School, has involved herself in the school as much as, if not more than any other teacher.  She is an exceptional teacher who challenges her students to excel.  Her classrooms are engaging, thoughtful, and inclusive.  This past summer, Tami, along with an RHS science teacher, spent the summer in Mallorca, Spain, participating in an archeological dig.  Her pottery class is now teaming up with that science teacher’s chemistry class to better understand how ancient art interconnects with science.

Tamara Hoodenpyl

In addition to her teaching duties, Tami has been the head cheer coach, the art club advisor, a class advisor, an assistant director to the school’s annual musical, a student-chaperone on a music trip to Disneyland, a lead teacher in the planning of Spudder Day, and is currently the National Honor Society advisor.  Tami uses her spare time to work toward her National Board Certification.

While it is difficult to pare down the exceptional staff we have at RHS to nominate just one person, Tami Hoodenpyl is certainly worthy of this honor and is representative of the many outstanding employees at Ridgefield High School.

Students of the Month

Hyde Zier, a third grader, is October’s Student of the Month at South Ridge Elementary School.  One staff member describes Hyde best.  “Hyde Zier is brand new to South Ridge this year, but you would never know it because he has transitioned beautifully!  Since the first day of school, he has shown what it means to be respectful, responsible, and safe. Hyde has a smile on his face and a positive attitude as soon as he steps into the classroom every day, and I never see it leave, even when he steps onto his bus. He is extremely respectful to all his peers and teachers and follows the expectations without any reminders.  Hyde is very responsible and is always helping his teacher or his classmates (happily too!) just out of the kindness of his heart.  He shows resilience because he is a problem solver and never gives up, always with a smile.  Hyde is a true role model to his peers and deserves to be recognized.”

Hyde Zier

Jayden Garcia-Bernal, a second grader, was selected at Union Ridge Elementary.  The Union Ridge teachers and staff are very proud of Jayden.  They write, “Jayden is very deserving of the student of the month award.  He exemplifies the three “R”s of respect, responsibility, and resilience.  Jayden is very respectful of other students, teachers, and staff at Union Ridge.  We can always count on Jayden to be responsible, kind, and helpful in the classroom, as well as on the playground.  He is a hard working student and never gives up.  Union Ridge Elementary’s Student of the Month award for second grade is well-earned by Jayden Garcia-Bernal.”

Jayden Garcia-Bernal

April Carvel, a sixth grader, is October’s Student of the Month at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School.  The Sunset Ridge teachers and staff are very proud of April.  They write, “April is a motivated student who always finds a way to smile in every situation. This year did not start as smoothly as anyone would have liked, and my split classroom has had more than its share of hiccups. April has shown resilience every day by finding the positive in every situation that has come up and been flexible in her schedule changes, despite not seeing her peers as often as she would have liked. She has made the best of eating lunch and having recess with a different grade level by seeking her fifth grade brother and spending time with him and reaching out and making new friendships with the students from other grades and has been helpful to the students who are new to Sunset. In every lesson and transition, April can be counted on to do the right thing, make the right choice, and is ready to learn.  She fully engages and participates and is a motivated learner.”

April Carvel

Andrew Wilken, an eighth grader, was chosen at View Ridge Middle School.  The View Ridge teachers and staff are very proud of Andrew.  They write, “Andrew Wilken is View Ridge Middle School’s Student of the Month.  Andrew is a strong addition to the classroom.  He regularly shows genuine interest in others, including his fellow students.  He is admired and respected among his peers and is always courteous.  Andrew consistently contributes to a positive learning environment and maintains high expectations of himself.  He is a valued student leader at our school. As an ASB class representative, Andrew contributes ideas and laughter to our meetings and events.  He is helpful to others around him, and his kindness goes a long way.”

Andrew Wilken

Grace Melbuer, a junior, was chosen from Ridgefield High School.  The Ridgefield High School teachers and staff are very proud of Grace.  They write, “Grace is a student who is tenacious in her quest for knowledge, is a very strong leader, and is always willing to pitch in to help.”  Another teacher says of Grace, “I love her enthusiasm for learning.” Grace is involved in the zero-hour teaching academy class which requires her to be here at 7:00 AM every morning.  She takes four (!) AP classes as well as Spanish III, and is involved in HOSA, Spudder Ambassadors, and National Honor Society.  She is also a member of the RHS soccer and track teams.  Ridgefield High School is very pleased to select Grace Melbuer as October 2018 Student of the Month.

Grace Melbuer

Ridgefield School District is grateful to its sponsor, the historic Sportsman’s Restaurant and Lounge, a local Ridgefield business owned and operated by Terry Hurd.  This is the fifth year that Hurd has provided funding to support the district’s recognition program.

Family Legacy at Cispus Outdoor School

Cispus Outdoor School has been a Ridgefield tradition for 49 years.  Every year, fifth grade students hop on buses and travel to the Cispus Outdoor Learning Center in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest.  They spend a week doing all their classes outdoors, hiking, learning survival skills, and gathering around huge campfires.  And for nearly all of those 49 years, one family has been an important part of its legacy.

Vintage photo of Cispus camp (circa 1930’s). Photo courtesy of Cispus Outdoor School.

Cispus started 49 years ago with John Hudson, the principal at Union Ridge Elementary.  Carla Bonebrake, the health aide at Union Ridge, remembered being part of the inaugural class.  “I was in the first fifth grade class to go,” she said. “We would sleep out in the fields, out under the stars!”  Now, many years later, she attends Cispus as support staff; this is her eleventh year working with the program.  “You know,” she said, “the feeling of being up there is exactly the same.  Very little has changed.  The cabin I stayed in, Dogwood, is still there, still the same.”

Soon after the program started, Bonebrake’s mother, Allene Wodaege, worked with John Hudson to manage Cispus.  Over the years, she taught classes, implemented training for counselors, and then took over management of the program.  Wodaege spent 25 years leading Cispus for the Ridgefield School District.

Allene Wodaege and Cispus counselor with Ridgefield students leaving for Cispus Outdoor School.

When asked what she is most proud of, Wodaege said, “What it instills in the children and the counselors.  Not only knowledge, but their exposure to the out of doors, what it holds and what it can do for all of them, touching nature and being part of it.”  It’s a transformative experience that has impacted generations of students.

As this year’s Cispus class prepared to board the buses, Bonebrake worked with the students inside.  And Wodaege greeted the students outside.  She was glad to see them continuing the tradition she helped start so many years ago.  Wodaege said, “You just put the kids out into a learning environment and hope that they are going to learn and take that knowledge with them.  It’s a stepping stone.”


Harry Potter Room Casts a Spell on Students

Above the Media Center at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School/View Ridge Middle School, there is a small, private room.  Step through the door, and it is as if you have been transported to Hogwarts, the school from the Harry Potter series.

With a warm (faux) fireplace, Hogwarts house banners on the wall, and even the same spell books studied by Hermione, Harry, and Ron, it’s a magical place much loved by students.  And it was created by library aide Tiffany Tamez.

Handmade faux fireplace and Hogwarts house crests in the Harry Potter room.


Items of Hogwarts wizardry add to the room’s decor.

“I heard in the design, we were going to have this little reading room,” Tamez explained.  “I thought, instead of just a blank little room, how about we make it feel like you’re actually sitting in a room at Hogwarts?”

Tamez and her father built the wooden fireplace mantel.  She made banners for each of the Hogwarts Houses and created a faux fur Book of Monsters.  The Sprinters, Ridgefield High School’s marketing and design student team, printed the artwork.  The project took months, with a lot of attention to detail.

L-R:  Sixth graders Sarah Proctor, Shaun Tullis and Jack Radosevich enjoy the Harry Potter room.

“The children really enjoy not just the content, but the atmosphere,” Tamez said.  “We want it to be a really pleasing, enjoyable thing that the kids look forward to, a little positive spot in their day.”

Students can come in directly from class, before school, at recess, or at lunch.  And the room is almost constantly in use.  Sixth grader Sarah Proctor said, “It’s a good space to read.  And it’s a fun room to be in.  Every time I look up, I get another idea.”

Tiffany Tamez, creator of the Harry Potter room, helps a student at Media Center checkout.

Tamez is glad the room is so popular.  “I like that the kids feel special.  They feel transported, like it’s designed for them.”  The Harry Potter reading room casts a spell on students by inspiring reading and creativity.


An Unusual Class Pet: An Axolotl

When you think of a class pet, you might think of a gerbil, hamster, or even a frog.  What you probably don’t think of is an axolotl.

Ridgefield fifth grade teacher, Annie Pintler, saw the rescued amphibian on her Facebook feed.  He was desperately in need of a new home; the people who had him couldn’t afford to care for him, and his tank was in bad shape.  She immediately agreed to adopt him, thinking he might make an interesting—and unusual—classroom pet.

Students in Annie Pintler’s fifth grade class at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School get a close look at their new classroom pet — an axolotl.

“I knew I could build a whole curriculum around him,” Pintler said.  “What are axolotls?  What do they like to eat?”  (As her students can tell you, axolotls are endangered salamanders native to Mexico, and they eat worms, insects, and small fish.)  “The students spent the first week of school doing research to learn all about him.”

Visit her classroom at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School, and you’ll see handwritten posters the students put up, like the one detailing the needs for a good ecosystem for an axolotl.  They originally planned to name him Creepy Buddy, but after doing more research, that changed.  Fifth grader Aiden Jensen explained, “The word axolotl comes from the Aztecs.  We can call him Creepy Buddy Aztec.”

Pintler’s students were excited to see Creepy Buddy Aztec introduced to his tank in their classroom.  They celebrated by writing creative stories from the point of view of an axolotl.  “Use your research to tell his story and make it more real,” Pintler told them.

“The title for mine,” said fifth grader Nelina Anderson, “is ‘They Have a New Classroom Pet—and It’s Magical.’”

Learning Outdoors at South Ridge Elementary Trail

When the weather is nice, students want to be outdoors.  The trail behind South Ridge Elementary School serves as a welcome outdoor classroom where everyone can learn in a different environment.

Linda Wear, sixth grade teacher at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School, utilized the trail often for lessons during her 18 years of teaching at South Ridge.  “The trail is wonderful!” she said.  “Over the years, the trail has been groomed and expanded primarily by volunteer efforts to be a more accessible learning space.”

Parents, teachers, and Eagle Scouts worked together over time to improve the learning space with a pavilion, benches, and educational signs.  Sixth grade students even performed an annual day of trail maintenance as a way to give back to the school when they graduated.

One special donation was a “trail tub” on wheels from a group of parents.  It’s filled with clipboards, pencils, bird and plant guides, and even a Coleman bird finder that plays 50 different bird calls.  “Now teachers have all the resources they need when they go out on the trail with their students,” Wear said.

Students from Margo Manke’s first-grade class at South Ridge Elementary School enjoy the school’s outdoor classroom.

This week, Margo Manke’s first grade students were excited to take their science class to the trail.  They used their Full Option Science System (FOSS) kits to study plants along the trail, learning about plant parts and what plants need to live.

“Our classrooms are filled with eager young scientists who love to experience hands-on learning,” Manke said.  “The South Ridge Trail provides continued learning opportunities as we experience changes on the trail and in nature throughout the seasons of the school year.  We are so appreciative to have this optimum learning environment located on our South Ridge campus.”

Roy Randel Memorial to Relocate to Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex

Amid the major field renovation going on at the old View Ridge Middle School construction site, careful attention is being focused on the preservation of a special monument dedicated to the memory of a beloved varsity baseball coach.

Robert “Roy” Randel, long-time Ridgefield resident, was Ridgefield High School’s assistant coach for the varsity baseball team.  He was also Ridgefield’s Port Commissioner for 27 years until his passing in 2008.  Randel served the community in a variety of ways and touched many lives through his many years in Ridgefield.

Baseball, which he played in high school and college, was his passion.  He coached baseball for 44 straight years, coaching the last eight years at Ridgefield High School.  One of Coach Randel’s favorite sayings was “Get Better Every Day” (GBED).

After his passing, a GBED flag was designed and a flagpole and memorial marker installed in his honor at View Ridge Middle School.  Each time the team won a game, the flag was raised.

In the coming weeks, due to field renovation at View Ridge Middle School, Randel’s flagpole and memorial marker will be relocated to the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.  The flagpole and marker will be placed close to the baseball diamond, visible from Hillhurst Road.

The tradition of flying the GBED flag has never gone away, according to Nick Allen, Ridgefield High School’s baseball coach.  The team recently received an additional flag, thanks to RHS’ Class of 2018.  Knowing that a new sports complex was in the works, the graduates gifted the baseball team with the flag last spring as a way to connect the team’s history with the present.


The new flag, emblazoned with the Spudder mascot, contains the words “Humm Babe”, a popular baseball term used to cheer players on to come through with a big play.  “It’s just what good baseball people say,” said Allen, who learned the phrase from his mentor, Coach Gary Hatch, during his coaching days at Sehome High School in Bellingham.  He noted that former Ridgefield coach Ossie “Oz” Osmundson, also used the term often.

Allen plans to fly the “Humm Babe” flag on all home game days so that the community knows to come to the park to watch the team play.  “Then we will replace it with the GBED flag if we win,” he said.

Youth Therapy Solutions Available In Schools

There are many issues that can affect a student’s ability to function well at school.  Now they don’t have to face life’s challenges alone.

Family Solutions partners with the Ridgefield School District to provide school-based mental health services for students.  Jillany Wellman, program manager, explains, “There are two school-based therapists in the Ridgefield School District who are separate from school counselors.  When students are facing anxiety, depression, self-harm, suicidal ideation, or other trauma, we can help.”

Christine Poppert, director of the Ridgefield Family Resource Center, notes that students who qualify for Medicaid or state-based insurance can be referred to the program by counselors, principals, or teachers.  Those families can also self-refer by calling Family Solutions to request school-based services.

Samantha Seward (on left) and Fiona Everett, child and family therapists for Family Solutions.

“Because we are in Ridgefield, transportation was always an issue to get families connected to mental health services,” Poppert said.  “Now, Family Solutions is removing barriers; we can do intakes and therapy right on campus with a flexible schedule.  We work as a collaborative team to help students, and we’re seeing positive results.”

For more information, contact your school counselor or visit the Family Solutions website at

Student Artwork Beautifies Fenceline Around RHS Construction Site

Driving along Hillhurst Road, there are several construction sites—but only one with student artwork brightening the construction fence.  Students from Tamara Hoodenpyl’s second year illustration class are creating outdoor art panels along the fenceline at Ridgefield High School.

Hoodenpyl encouraged her students to view the project as artwork they were producing for a client.  “They had to create a theme for their client, the high school, so they decided to use athletics and activities from the school,”  she said.

The panels cover a wide range of activities, including robotics, drama, debate, and sports.  Using blue circles and orange lines that appear across each of the canvases, the students selected unifying designs and colors to tie the panels together.

The students are enjoying the creative outdoors project.  Senior Kyshaun Summers, painting the drama and music panel, said, “I didn’t expect this, but I’m glad I get to do it.  It’s something new.”

Kyshaun Summers creates the RHS drama and music panel.

Senior Nolan Brown, working on the speech and debate panel, added, “It’s a good opportunity for everyone to see all the clubs that are available so they can get out here and get involved.”

Keep an eye on the fences to see the finished projects and to learn more about activities at RHS.

Ridgefield High School Stages Surprise Send-Off for District’s School Resource Officer

As he prepares to retire from his position as School Resource Officer for the Ridgefield School District, Howard Anderson, got a surprise farewell this week from the students and staff at Ridgefield High School.

Howard Anderson

Summoned to the high school stadium for what he thought was a typical call, Anderson arrived to find the entire RHS student body gathered there.  Standing together to wish him well, the students had formed the letters of Anderson’s first name on the football field—a poignant tribute to the person the district could always depend on in situations when it counted the most.

Anderson, who has been the district’s School Resource Officer since 2013, will retire this week.

Thank you, Howard for always being there for us.  Happy Retirement!   We will miss you.