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Illustration students at Ridgefield High School created art inspired by classmates' student essays
Illustration students at Ridgefield High School created art inspired by classmates' student essays
Ridgefield's students created murals, ceramic tiles, and sewing projects as final projects in art classes (Photo) - 07/27/15
Monday, July 27, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Throughout Ridgefield School District, art students at each school finished the 2014-15 school year with amazing art projects including creating ceramic tiles, painting a permanent mural, sewing device cases, and compiling an illustrated book of student essays.

Creating ceramic tiles inspired by the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

At South Ridge Elementary School, fifth and sixth graders in Heather Fukuchi's art classes created ceramic tiles inspired from animals native to Ridgefield's wildlife refuge. Students started by choosing and researching their animal using the Internet and then drew sketches from which they created prints.

Students used the prints to create tiles made from clay which they glazed and fired to create the ceramic tiles. "Timing was the biggest challenge for this project because there were so many different elements to coordinate," said Fukuchi. "Many students even came in during their lunch recesses so they could finish up their projects."

Fukuchi will create a mosaic mural of the tiles made by the sixth graders which will be installed in the new South Ridge building, "All of the tiles turned out so beautiful that it will be a wonderful project for the sixth graders to leave behind as they head to View Ridge Middle School." Fukuchi received a $500 grant from the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation to help purchase the equipment and material used for the project.

Students leave their mark by painting a permanent mural

Each year, Alan Adams' sixth grade art students paint a mural on one of the walls of Union Ridge Elementary School. This year, Adams selected a reproduction of a mural painted by the famous pop artist Roy Lichtenstein for the World's Fair in 1964 to support the students' studies of pop art from throughout the year. "I try to connect the material the students study throughout the year with the end-of-year mural," said Adams. "I want the final project to help students further understand the material they studied by creating a bit of it themselves."

On the day of painting, Adams introduced the students to the subject of the mural and explained the techniques the students would use to paint the mural. Adams used a grid enlargement technique to sketch the mural onto the wall, and then instructed the students how to paint the mural itself.

Adams believes that being an art teacher involves a lot more than just loving art. "Working with kids is what really moves me," said Adams. "You can't be an art teacher if you simply love art; you also have to love working with the kids."

Learning to sew both as a life skill and to create art

At View Ridge Middle School, Michelle Hankins teaches seventh graders how to sew as a way to create useful art projects as well as to help them throughout life. "Learning to sew is one of the most requested projects from my students; students just love learning to sew," said Hankins. "One of the things I hear all the time is how students go home and use the skills they learn in class to fix their own clothes!"

Hankins used a Google app, Google Classroom, to create videos of her sewing lessons, a total of ten videos that teach students the variety of sewing techniques they need to know to begin and finish the project. "The kids can use Chromebooks during class or their own computers at home to learn how to sew and finish their projects," said Hankins. "By using videos, I can show kids the really small details of sewing which I wouldn't be able to do in a classroom with 30 students."

This year, students used the sewing techniques they learned to create cases for their cell phones and portable electronic devices. "Students' phones are almost their lifelines to the world now," said Hankins. "By creating cases for their phones, I found that this project really helped make a connection with my students." Hankins' used leftover supplies from an advanced eighth grade sewing project for the seventh graders' device cases.

Students truly took to the project, creating complex designs for their device cases. "I've sewed before, but I was never very skilled at it," said Brooke Weese, a seventh grader in Hankins' class. "The most challenging part is making sure all the pieces are lined up, but Mrs. Hankins is such a good teacher and really helps out; plus, she's really nice and enjoys interacting with all the students."

Erik Fabyanchuk, a classmate, agreed with Weese. "Mrs. Hankins is my favorite teacher: she's easygoing and fun, but still keeps the classroom on-topic and under control; art is one of my best classes."

Art collaborates with English at Ridgefield High School

At Ridgefield High School, art students collaborated with the language arts classes to create a book of student essays compiled along with student-created illustrations. Jill Uhacz, a language arts teacher, teamed up with Tamara Hoodenpyl, the illustration teacher, to develop the project.

"All of the essays were so different from each other but all revolved around the same theme," said Uhacz. "It was wonderful to see how the students from all the classes really came together to embrace the project."

To learn more about the collaborative art project from the high school, you can read the previous Did You Know covering the project by visiting this link: http://bit.ly/RHS-Illustrated-Essays.

Dodi McCombs taught kindergarten for 34 years at Ridgefield School District
Dodi McCombs taught kindergarten for 34 years at Ridgefield School District
Ridgefield teacher retires after teaching kindergarten at the district for 34 years (Photo) - 07/20/15
Monday, July 20, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Parents, community members, colleagues, and past students joined in celebrating Dodi McCombs' retirement at a party thrown in her honor on Thursday, May 21, 2015. McCombs taught for 40 years, serving as a kindergarten teacher for the Ridgefield School District for the past 34 years.

Photographs of McCombs past classes lined the hallways of the new facility at South Ridge Elementary School. Past students signed their names next to their photographs while parents, students, and colleagues alike shared their experiences with McCombs and congratulated her on years of service as a dedicated teacher.

"Dodi began and ended her career the same way with abundant enthusiasm and dedication to the success of every life she touched," said Janice Sauve, Principal of South Ridge Elementary School for the 2014-15 school year. "She touched the lives of generations of families in the Ridgefield community; there will always be a Mrs. McCombs kindergarten story to tell at a family gathering."

McCombs began teaching eighth grade art classes at age 20 in 1961 after receiving a two-year degree in Toledo, Oregon followed by sixth grade in Creswell, Oregon so she could attend the University of Oregon with her husband where she earned her Bachelor's Degree in Education. Over the following years, she lived in Cincinnati, Ohio; Buffalo, New York; and Westport, Oregon before landing in Ridgefield in 1975.

McCombs started working in South Ridge Elementary School by offering assistance to Marilyn Moberg, a first grade teacher with 30 students who needed help. "I missed teaching so much that I offered to help out in her class," said McCombs. "I told her that I wanted to do more than run off copies or correct papers - I wanted to teach." After Moberg learned of McCombs' qualifications, Moberg requested that McCombs attend class daily, managing three groups of student reading groups. McCombs then taught two years of preschool before receiving a half-time kindergarten teaching position became available at South Ridge Elementary School in 1981. "Whenever I saw my paycheck, I always thought, 'I'm doing what I love and they're paying me, too!'," said McCombs.

McCombs' coworkers commend her for her dedication to her students. "I have known Dodi for 15 years both as a colleague and my own son's teacher," said Karen Moses, a fourth grade teacher at South Ridge. "Dodi knows each of her students personally, and she always comes to work with a cheerful and positive attitude which makes her a joy to be around."

McCombs always had the desire to teach, and kindergarten students were her favorite. "I love their personalities, their unique interpretations of the world, their group hugs, and the looks on their faces when they grasp a concept for the first time," explained McCombs. "Teaching kindergarten is a lot of work, but it's worth every minute of it."

Even in retirement, McCombs intends to volunteer to help out in Ann Tracey's kindergarten class at South Ridge one day a week for group time, and to spend another day each week to help out McComb's daughter, Wendy, who teaches kindergarten for Vancouver School District. "One of the biggest challenges teaching kindergarten is getting enough volunteers to be able to use small group instruction effectively," said McCombs. "Smaller groups are much better at offering individualized student learning, so I truly want to continue to help out wherever and however I can."

Union Ridge Elementary School kindergarteners
Union Ridge Elementary School kindergarteners
Ridgefield School District to offer full-day kindergarten at Union Ridge Elementary School (Photo) - 07/17/15
Friday, July 17, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Ridgefield School District officials received confirmation on Thursday, July 16 that state funding would be provided for Union Ridge Elementary School to offer full-day kindergarten beginning with the upcoming 2015-16 school year starting September 1. All kindergarten students in the Union Ridge Elementary School boundary will be eligible for the program.

"We are very excited to continue to expand opportunities for our students at all levels," said Dr. Nathan McCann, Ridgefield School District Superintendent. "Studies have demonstrated that early childhood education is key to a student's development and full-day kindergarten is a big part of that development."

State funding for full-day kindergarten continues to be phased in across Washington State based upon the number of students in each elementary school who qualify for free and reduced-price lunches. Ridgefield School District's two elementary schools were in line to receive funding from Washington State should other districts turn down their eligibility which is how Union Ridge Elementary School received funding. South Ridge Elementary School does not meet the state's current threshold to receive funding at this time and will not begin offering full-day kindergarten until the 2016-17 school year.

"I'm very excited to offer full-day kindergarten to this year's newest Tater Tots," said Tracey MacLachlan, Union Ridge's Interim Principal. "I think Union Ridge is fortunate to receive this opportunity for our students; early learning is essential and being able to provide this consistent instruction will be a tremendous benefit for our kindergarteners."

Kindergarten and new student registration information for all Ridgefield schools can be found on the district website at www.ridge.k12.wa.us and parents may submit registration paperwork to the school offices beginning Wednesday, August 19. Parents and community members who have additional questions are encouraged to contact the district office at (360) 619-1301.

Art students used symbols to represent the ideas presented in the essays
Art students used symbols to represent the ideas presented in the essays
Ridgefield High School's English and Art classes team up to create an illustrated essay compilation (Photo) - 07/13/15
Monday, July 13, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Ridgefield High School students joined forces in a cross-curriculum project where essays written by Language Arts students inspired students in Illustrations Class to create artwork based on their counterparts' written content. Jill Uhacz, Language Arts teacher, and Tamara Hoodenpyl, Illustrations teacher, developed the project jointly with the goal to have students' work from one class inspire the work of students in another.

Language Arts

In Language Arts, sophomores studied the concepts of the American Dream including reading the book "Of Mice Men," reviewing various pieces of nonfiction, and reading this year's State of the Union Address by President Obama. "I asked the students to consider what they personally believe and what values they will take with them when they leave high school," said Uhacz.

Following their studies, the students wrote essays for National Public Radio's "This I Believe" contest, a nationwide contest encouraging high school students to explore their own belief systems. Essay topics ranged widely including ideas such as disliking the way cable news coverage dramatizes different events; adopted students who never met their parents; and students speaking of faith and what faith means to them. "I wrote about how I believe in faith and how everything will get better no matter the situation," said Dominic Bright, a sophomore. "When I grew up, I had problems with my dad and I used dance as a coping mechanism; the most challenging part of writing the paper was talking about my dad and my life without him."

Autumn Bochart, a sophomore, looked at the symbolism of superheroes in American culture. "I understand the terrible things happening in the world, but I think superheroes represent the good in people," she said. "It's the little actions people take in everyday life that can make the world good."

After students wrote their essays, they exchanged them with one another to read, and used markers to write keywords they found in each other's essays onto butcher paper Uhacz hung around the classroom. "These essays represent very personal statements of what the students believe and why they believe what they do," said Uhacz. "It's incredibly important for students to be able to articulate their beliefs in this way."

The act of writing and reading the essays inspired the students. "The Language Arts classes decided they wanted to create a book compiling their essays," said Uhacz. "I came up with the idea of inviting Ms. Hoodenpyl's Illustrations Class to submit different cover ideas and having the students vote on their favorite."

Illustrations Class

Students in Hoodenpyl's Illustrations Class read all of the student essays from Uhacz's Language Arts classes. Then, the art students used the butcher paper brainstorms from the Language Arts classes to come up with inspiration for their illustrations. "As a class, we discussed how to illustrate concepts as a 'big picture,'" said Hoodenpyl. "As we worked our way through the essays, we realized the project would be a lot more challenging than we initially thought."

In order to properly demonstrate the ideals presented in the student essays, the art students studied the idea of symbols and using illustrations to depict large concepts. In addition to reading the essays, the Language Arts students provided the Illustrations students with reference points and lists of expectations for their drawings in much the same way a client would provide guidelines to a hired artist.

The art students greatly enjoyed the project. "This project is particularly cool because cross-curriculum collaboration is not typically done in high school," said Isabel Mocca, a sophomore in Illustration class.

The End Result

Both teachers viewed the final product, a book compiling over 90 essays and illustrations, as a huge success. Students from both classes pointed to their teachers as the key for the success of the project. Students in the Illustrations class were motivated by the freedom of creativity offered by Ms. Hoodenpyl. "She is just awesome and super-cool," said Mocca. "She really encourages students to find and explore their own personal inspiration."

In Language Arts, students appreciate the way Mrs. Uhacz encourages a warm learning environment. "Mrs. Uhacz teaches and treats the class like a family," said Bright. "In addition, she uses humor to make the class more engaging." Bochart agreed, "Mrs. Uhacz is always energetic and excited to teach us which really motivates the class to work hard."

"All of the essays were so different from each other but all revolved around the same theme," said Uhacz. "It was wonderful to see how the students from all classes really came together to embrace the project."

Students competed to have the most loops and corkscrews in their roller coasters
Students competed to have the most loops and corkscrews in their roller coasters
Ridgefield middle school students studied oil spills, earthquakes and roller coasters using STEM experiments (Photo) - 07/06/15
Monday, July 6, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-As the 2014-15 school year drew to a close, seventh and eighth graders at View Ridge Middle School used Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) experiments to study earthquakes, oil spills and roller coasters in order to learn more about physics, energy conversation and Earth science.

In three separate experiments, students at View Ridge Middle School designed roller coasters with loops and corkscrews; constructed bridges and simulated earthquakes to test their bridges' earthquake-resistance; and simulated oil spills in an artificial ocean environment to test different methods of removing oil from water.

Building Earthquake-Resistant Bridges

Matthew Whitton taught his students about earthquakes and their effects on bridges. Earthquakes build up slowly, shaking starting from a low frequency of cycles per second to powerfully shaking with many cycles of waves per second.

Students formed groups to construct bridges that, in theory, would replace the Interstate-5 bridge between Washington and Oregon. To replicate earthquake-resistant model bridges, the groups constructed their bridges using construction paper, sticks, tape and other materials.

Each group received an artificial budget of $100,000 with each different supply type carrying a different cost. Groups needed to track their budgets and write physical checks for the supplies their group purchased for the bridge construction. "The project took on a double purpose because of the budgeting," said Whitton. "In addition to tracking their budget, many students learned how to properly write a check which they hadn't known before."

After constructing their bridges, each group placed their bridge in a bucket on dolly-wheels with a LabQuest electronic sensor attached to the bottom which measured the acceleration of the bucket in both the X and Y axes. Whitton used an online metronome to help students maintain the rate at which each group needed to shake their boxes. Students moved their boxes about 5-10 centimeters from side-to-side and forward-to-backward for 60 seconds in order to simulate a powerful earthquake with an 8.0 magnitude rating. Some students' bridges experienced catastrophic failure, collapsing during and following the simulated earthquakes while other groups' bridges survived the earthquakes and were still usable following the experiment.

Simulating Oil Spill Cleanup

Melissa Maslyn taught her students about oil spills in the ocean including the effects of oil on wildlife and the difficulties facing cleanup crews who remove petroleum from oceans and land masses using booms and special ships which vacuum water onto the ship and then use filters to remove the petroleum from the ocean water.

In order to safely study oil spills in a classroom environment, students formed groups and filled plastic vats with water, placing a rock and feathers inside the vat to simulate a land mass and wildlife. Then, students measured and poured a specific amount of Canola cooking oil into their vats to simulate an oil spill.

Maslyn instructed students to observe the oil's movement in their vats for one minute before attempting cleanup. Students were shocked by how quickly the oil spread on to their rocks and feathers, simulating the damaging environmental effects of oil spills on land masses and surrounding wildlife. Students observed whether the oil would affect wildlife based on if the oil in their vats made its way on to the feathers.

To simulate buoyant booms, vacuum ships and other methods used by oil spill cleanup crews, students used yarn to encircle the oil spill and then used mats, pads and plastic spoons to soak up and skim the oil from the water. The teams placed the oil-water mixtures they removed from their vats into graduated cylinders to estimate the efficiency of each method, measuring the amount of oil removed as it separated from the water in the cylinder. Students also estimated how much it would cost to clean up their spills based on the estimated cost for each of the cleanup supplies they used during their cleanup.

At the conclusion of the experiment, students discussed the efficiency of each method as well as the environmental aspects of cleaning up the materials used to clean up the oil themselves. "The goal of the experiment was to analyze data from the point of view of an engineer," said Maslyn. "Many students were truly surprised by the extreme difficulty of removing oil from water."

Roller Coaster Physics

In order to study concepts of force including gravity, speed, velocity, acceleration, friction, potential energy, kinetic energy, and g-force, students in Katie James' and Matthew Whitton's science classes created roller coasters using foam tubes, tape and marbles which acted as the roller coaster cars. James and Whitton jointly designed the experiment as a way for students to apply the concepts they learned about physics throughout the year. "We felt the project was a great way for students to get practical experience applying the science they learned in class," said James.

Before designing their own roller coasters, students analyzed actual roller coasters to identify where in the ride the roller coaster held the most potential energy, and how roller coasters lose energy due to the friction between the train cars and the track.

Students formed groups and created sketches of the roller coaster they wanted to design. Each group received two meters of foam tubing and masking tape to create the track, a marble to model the train itself and a cup to catch the marble at the end of the ride. Students measured the highest points of their roller coasters as well as the number of loops and corkscrews. Each group competed to create the roller coaster with the tallest height, most loops, and most corkscrews.

Learning through Application

Students in all the science classes greatly enjoyed using experiments to learn, particularly the collaborative group work. "I like experiments and activities with group work," said Jillian Christian, an eighth grader. "I like how you can collaborate with one another to see what other people think."

Matthew Trenn, another eighth grader, pointed out the importance of the group getting along to a successful experiment. "I like group work if the group can get along and get the work done without becoming chaotic," said Trenn. "In addition, you often get to meet new people which is a lot of fun."

The science teachers commented on the importance of using physical experiments to cement the lessons taught during class lectures. "I love how excited students become when they try something new and learn while they're doing the experiment," said James. "As teachers, experiments like these truly support the science we teach by making the students apply the theory to real life situations."