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Guccini created March Book Madness, a bracket system to determine students' favorite books
Guccini created March Book Madness, a bracket system to determine students' favorite books
Ridgefield School District's librarians have transformed their schools' libraries into amazing places to read and learn? (Photo) - 05/04/15
Monday, April 27, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Ridgefield School District's two librarians, Jill Guccini and Jubilee Roth, have revitalized all four schools' libraries with dramatic changes ranging from cosmetic makeovers to completely new online resource catalogs and much, much more to make the libraries places to read and learn. Guccini serves as school librarian for Ridgefield High School's and View Ridge Middle School's libraries while Roth serves as school librarian for South Ridge and Union Ridge Elementary Schools' libraries.

Welcoming students to their library

At the start of the school year, Guccini and Roth teach students how to find books and resources in the library by using the Dewey Decimal System. "Showing kids how wonderful books are and getting them excited to read is the primary objective, of course," said Roth. "We read books aloud on occasion, watch book trailers, and have reading programs such as Accelerated Reader at South Ridge and the Reading Olympics at Union Ridge to spark an interest in reading."

In order to make students more likely to use their school's libraries, Guccini and Roth renovated the libraries at all four schools this year to make them more welcoming to students. "I have been slowly working on reorganizing the physical layout of the libraries both for their aesthetic atmosphere and to improve the accessibility of materials," said Roth. "We have moved shelves; changed the flow and location of books; created labels and signs for students to locate materials independently; and placed featured books around the library." In addition, Roth created comfortable reading areas at both elementary schools called "Reading Corners" complete with colorful bean-bag chairs so students will want to come and read. "The kids love it," said Roth. "The libraries are turning into a place where reading is fun!"

View Ridge Middle School received a cosmetic overhaul complete with murals painted by library aide, Tiffany Tamez, with assistance from students and the community. "We held a 'painting day' where parents, community members, principals, and even the superintendent helped paint the walls," said Tamez. "The paint and supplies were provided by parents and our PTO and we are extremely grateful for everyone's help!"

In addition to the murals at View Ridge, Guccini is planning a total rearrangement of shelves and furniture for the next school year. "I want to create an open floor plan in the library so large groups of students can be instructed at once," said Guccini. "In addition, I want to create a comfy reading corner with bean bags and lamps in one of the library's corners so students will feel comfortable and want to visit the library on a regular basis." At Ridgefield High School, Guccini rearranged the furniture and computer labs to open up more space and added comfortable furniture for students to read or just to hang out. "I feel like it's important for students to have at least one 'safe space' in school outside of their classrooms or places like the cafeteria," said Guccini. "School can often be overwhelming and I want my libraries to be that safe space for students."

At Union Ridge, Roth painted the library as part of a team effort, something that hasn't been done in more than 20 years. Poster-sized silhouettes of students' favorite characters from books line the walls. "Our new look sports artwork created by our very own sixth graders in Alan Adams' art classes," said Roth. "We have also added light filters to library to help reduce the glare of the fluorescent lights since we have no natural lighting in the elementary libraries," added Roth. South Ridge received similar treatment with a new reading corner and reorganized shelves.

Keeping libraries relevant

Another important element to modernizing the district's libraries is ensuring that the resources are up-to-date and modern. "Around 25-30% of the books in our libraries were either outdated or damaged and no longer relevant," said Roth. After removing the outdated materials from each library, the librarians reorganized each school's library so students can easily find the materials they're seeking. "The libraries are now easier-to-search, easier-to-use, and contain higher-quality, relevant reference materials," said Roth.

The next step is to fill in the gaps of subject areas that are new to Common Core with new materials. "We can now keep time-sensitive materials up-to-date such as astronomy, computer sciences, technology, and current issues," said Roth. "Increasing the amount of relevant material and removing outdated materials makes finding a book easier since patrons will not have to search sections of materials filled with inaccurate or irrelevant resources."

Transforming libraries with technology

Roth and Guccini modernized the district's libraries by implementing a district-wide resource catalog called Follett Destiny. "This technology element is brand-new for our district," said Roth. "Technology can add a lot of fun to learning for the kids, so it's incredibly important to make sure it's a large part of how libraries work." Students can access the Destiny system from any Internet-enabled device including their home computers and even their smartphones and tablets to see what resources the district's four schools have available.

Implementing the new online catalog system was no small feat. "Installing the brand-new Destiny catalog system was quite intense," said Roth. "In order to enter the books into the system, we had to convert our databases from an older program and transfer them into the new system." In addition to making finding reference materials easier, the library system is now connected to each student's Skyward account which makes it easier for students to know when they have overdue books that need to be renewed or returned.

Teachers at every school can use Destiny to create suggested reading lists for their classes. "We can make resource lists using Destiny for teachers and students which can include both books we have in our collections as well as useful online resources related to a topic," said Guccini. "Students can keep track of the books they have out and even write reviews of the books they read." Since the catalog tracks which books are the most popular, the librarians can more carefully select the resources they add to their inventories. "We get more data from the backend of Destiny so we can make wiser decisions on getting the books students want to read as well as fill in our needs on Common Core standards and subjects," explained Roth. "We are now able to process our book collection more efficiently and perform search queries that are more relevant than ever before."

Going Beyond Google

Using computers has become a key part of library research. Introducing a greater focus on technology in libraries means introducing changes to the curriculum, too. "We are emphasizing digital citizenship at all grade levels which includes how to be smart and safe online," said Guccini. "We also teach students how to find and use reliable resources and how to think critically about the sources students use, especially online."

The librarians teach students how to analyze websites to determine who's written the material, what the author's credentials are, why the author created the website, and whether the students can trust the websites to provide quality, relevant information. "We want students to 'Go Beyond Google,' an idea that includes learning how to use college-level academic databases like ProQuest at the middle and high school levels," said Guccini. "Elementary school students are introduced to online databases through the World Book Online, another academic database subscription."

Working as part of a teaching team

In addition to working with students, the librarians are working with teachers to help them discover the new resources the libraries now offer. "I have visited classrooms to teach lessons on online research, databases, and how to find reliable websites," said Roth. "I am trying to help connect teachers to the library to give them access to resources they might not know the district has." In addition, the librarians regularly reach out to teachers to find what topics are being taught so the libraries can stock more books and resources on those topics.

Guccini and Roth are part of the Google Apps for Education Cohort, a group of teachers from throughout the district who learn and introduce Google's new software applications to students and teachers alike. "The cohort is a two-year training program which we bring back to the staff as a professional development opportunity to help teachers learn and feel more comfortable using technology in the classroom in meaningful ways," said Roth.

Making libraries extracurricular

Outside of regular school hours, the libraries have held events called Read-Ins where families came to the library to enjoy art, eat snacks, and hear stories as well as view and purchase books from the annual Scholastic Book Fair. "The fair was a big hit with 60-75 people attending each event," said Roth. At the middle and high school, Guccini has started book clubs where groups of students select a book, read it and then come together to discuss what they thought of it.

During March, Guccini held a March Book Madness event at both the middle and high schools. "I received book nominations from every Language Arts class in each school, compiled the results and created a big bracket at each school for students to vote on each week," said Guccini. For each round students voted, they received an entry in a raffle for a gift card at Barnes & Noble bookstores. At the middle school, the Hunger Games trilogy won the bracket while the Harry Potter series won at the high school.

Librarians plan for continuous improvement

Even with all of these changes, the district's librarians are not done transforming the schools' libraries. Future plans include bringing e-readers to the libraries and to continue making the libraries places where students want to come, read, learn and just hang out. "I want the library to look and feel like a place you want to come just for the sake of reading and also to come here to find information," said Roth.

Roth wants to update the DVD collection, add supplemental materials for the Common Core, and install updated projector and computer systems using grants and funds from the schools' PTO and PTA organizations. "This year, I have received a few grants and other monies from the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation," said Roth. "I will continue working to find other funds in order to continually improve our libraries for our students and staff." At the high school level, Guccini wants to add and expand on an audiobook collection thanks to grant funds received from the Ridgefield Public Schools Foundation.

Libraries are key to student learning

Research has shown that schools that have licensed teacher-librarians who are able to promote all of these kinds of things result in higher reading scores and academic success overall in their students. Roth and Guccini intend to make the libraries a more prominent and important part of each school. "Many people still think of librarians as just people who check out books, but, really, we're teachers who help integrate 21st century skills, promote a lifetime passion for reading, and push for technology innovation," said Guccini. Roth agrees, "We want our libraries to be the heart of the school, providing a central location for students who love to read as well as to provide a resource to search for information on assignments or just to learn more about particular topics, or just to have a 'safe space' in the school where they can come and hang out."

The new grant will help encourage female student participation in STEM classes
The new grant will help encourage female student participation in STEM classes
Ridgefield's Science and STEM teachers teamed up to create an innovative project; District wins grant for future STEM projects (Photo) - 04/20/15
Monday, April 20, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Science and STEM teachers at View Ridge Middle School collaborated to create an innovative project where students created artery-clearing devices like those used by heart surgeons to remove a frosting blockage from a model artery. In addition, Ridgefield School District helped win a grant to introduce new projects to help increase female participation in fields involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

The collaborative project between Science and STEM classes resulted from View Ridge's science teachers Katie James, Melissa Maslyn and Matthew Whitton teaming up with STEM teachers Sheila Davis and Tylor Hankins. "We wanted to create a project that combined the ideas of engineering with the theoretical nature of science," explained Whitton. "Sheila and Tylor were instrumental in helping us come up with the engineering aspect of the project," said James. "These kinds of projects are great for the students as they get to see the practical application of the scientific theories they learn in class."

Students used plastic tubing blocked with frozen frosting to simulate a clogged artery and blocked with plaque. Students used stir sticks, straws, pipe cleaners, balloons and electrical tape to create devices to remove as much of the clog (frosting) as possible without damaging the artery. On the first day of the three-day project, students examined the artery and the clog, received their materials and began to draw up plans for their devices.

On the second day, students spoke via Skype with Dr. John Greves, a heart surgeon with The Vancouver Clinic in Vancouver, Washington. "Students were surprised how the devices they planned to create were similar to the actual tools used by surgeons," said James. "In addition, Dr. Greves was able to actually see each team's device over Skype and teach the students the techniques surgeons use to remove clogs in arteries." Greves taught students that surgeons must be careful to only enter the artery once in order to prevent permanent damage to the artery walls as well as to take extreme care when using delicate surgical instruments. "Students were surprised by the size of the actual tools; the devices are bigger than the students thought," said James. "In addition, the tools weren't as complicated as the students thought with many teams' devices looking quite similar to their real-world counterparts."

On the third day of the project, students used their devices to remove the frosting clogs from their tube arteries and tested their success by timing how long it would take to pour two liters of water (colored red with food coloring to simulate blood) to flow through their freshly unclogged artery. To provide a baseline comparison, Whitton and James timed how long it would take to pour two liters of water through a completely unclogged tube. The team who created the best artery-clearing device received the quickest time.

"The biggest benefit of this project was the real-world application students were able to observe," said James. "Students had a great time creating a scientific model of a complex real-world surgical process."

Ridgefield School District helped win a grant to encourage girls to become interested in STEM fields

Matthew Whitton worked with Vickei Hrdina, Regional Science Coordinator for Educational Service District 112, to win a Math and Science Partnership grant provided by the state to encourage young girls to become more engaged in math and science announced by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) on April 9. "Girls have a tendency to not be as interested in math and science as their male counterparts," explained Whitton. "We want to explore ways to engage girls with classes and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)."

The grant will be used to help increase female student involvement in math and science classes including STEM. "Specifically, the grant allows for partnerships between schools and STEM faculty at institutes of higher education," said Whitton. "Partnerships like these help develop and implement programs which will focus on the education of mathematics and science teachers as a career-long process in order to give teachers the tools they need to engage both boys and girls with STEM classes and fields."

According to Hrdina, ESD 112's regional science coordinator, only 24% of STEM careers in the United States are held by women. The ESD 112 project, called nPower Girls, will connect classroom teachers in some of the most geographically-remote districts in southwest Washington to experts in STEM fields. The grant will also provide participants, both girls and their teachers, the chance to attend week-long summer workshops to apply STEM content to solve real-world problems.

"I heard about the grants from a press release on the OSPI website and I was excited for Ridgefield School District to take advantage of an opportunity to increase female participation in STEM fields," explained Whitton. "I reached out to Vickei, and she generously invited us to be a part of the nPower bid that she pioneered and submitted."

Whitton worked on the application process for math and science teachers in Ridgefield School District by conducting a survey of Ridgefield's teachers to see how the district's teachers perceived female participation in their classrooms. "I asked our science and math teachers in grades 4-8 about their student demographics and how they addressed STEM needs in their classrooms," said Whitton. "In addition, our teachers interviewed their female STEM students to gain insight on the female student experience in our STEM program."

Because of Ridgefield School District's participation in the ESD 112 bid, the district will have the opportunity to provide one elementary and one secondary teacher with three years of training to strengthen instructional practices that support female students' learning in STEM and connect the teachers with mentors around the state. "These teachers will explore community-based STEM businesses and meet with women working in these positions," said Whitton. "The two teachers will also take part in professional development over three years including summer workshops and developing action plans to meet the needs of girls in STEM subjects."

Part of the grant is making more connections with women organizations as well as other STEM companies. "We want girls to see successful women as role models for our students," said Whitton. "Also, the female students will learn techniques to break into the field."

The grant will develop the action plan to address the current deficit in girls taking up STEM careers. "For me, I was just really glad we had this opportunity to win this grant, train staff, and really address this need for more girls in STEM fields," said Whitton.

State funding for the projects totals $1.9 million, to be split among the seven grantees. Awards, which have yet to be determined, range from $500,000 to $1.5 million and will be distributed during the course of the three-year grants.

Three Ridgefield Schools win a total of seven Washington Achievement Awards - 04/15/15
Wednesday, April 15, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Three Ridgefield schools - Ridgefield High School, View Ridge Middle School and South Ridge Elementary School - were selected by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) as three of 20 schools in Clark County to receive 2014 Washington Achievement Awards.

Ridgefield High School received awards in three out of the six categories: Overall Excellence, Special Recognition for Reading Growth and Special Recognition for Math Growth. South Ridge Elementary School received awards in three categories: Overall Excellence, High Progress and Special Recognition for Reading Growth. View Ridge Middle School received an award for High Progress for the second year in a row.

To achieve Overall Excellence, schools must qualify in one of two ways: they must either meet Annual Measureable Objectives (AMOs) for all students in reading, math and graduation rates for the three most recent years or rank among the top 5% of schools on the 3-Year Composite Index Rating.

Schools who receive recognition for being top performers in the High Progress category must be in the top 10% of Title I schools for performance improvement in both reading and math for the past three years.

In order to receive Special Recognition for a specific content area (Reading, Mathematics or English Language Acquisition), schools must rank in the top 5% highest performing schools based on median growth across the state.

Ridgefield High School Principal Tony Vandermaas, View Ridge Middle School Principal Chris Griffith, South Ridge Elementary School Principal Janice Sauve and Superintendent Nathan McCann will attend an award ceremony on April 28 hosted by Spanaway Lake High School in Bethel School District.

Jack Hipple and Cohen Andre used electronic circuits to create a working fan
Jack Hipple and Cohen Andre used electronic circuits to create a working fan
Fourth graders create electronic inventions and demonstrate them during an Invention Fair (Photo) - 04/13/15
Monday, April 13, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Fourth graders at Union Ridge Elementary School created inventions using electronic circuits as part of their science classes and demonstrated the inventions during a special Invention Fair for family members and other attendees.

The project stemmed from a science project from Full Option Science System (FOSS) kits typically used to teach students the basics of electronics including the differences between parallel and series electronic circuits. "The students enjoyed learning about the different circuits so much that I built on the basic project to create the Invention Fair," said Kelly O'Boyle, fourth grade science teacher at Union Ridge. "The new project takes what the students learned to the next level by inspiring them to create their own electronic inventions."

Unlike preset scientific experiments, many students' inventions didn't work on the first try. "This is a very challenging project for my high-level thinkers because they're learning how inventions often don't work correctly the first time," explained O'Boyle.

As part of the project, students were asked to describe their invention, draw scientific diagrams and create schematic drawings showing how their inventions work. Some students even brought items from home to help create more elaborate inventions. In addition, students studied other inventors including Alexander Graham Bell, Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.

Throughout the process of creating their inventions, students kept records of their changes. "The recordkeeping can become quite tricky because it adds deliberate methodology to the process of creation," said O'Boyle. "Students get very excited to change their invention, but recording the changes is almost as important as the change itself so students can see what works and what doesn't work."

To help reinforce the concepts students were learning in their English Language Arts classes, O'Boyle assigned students a writing assignment asking students to describe their experiences creating their inventions. "With the new Common Core standards, I try to reinforce what my students are learning in their English classes by having them reiterate the concepts in my science classes," said O'Boyle. "The quotes the students wrote about their experiences creating their inventions were almost as powerful as the inventions themselves."

Some student quotes included the following:

- "It's not about the fun of building the experiment, but about if you learn something or you enjoy it." -Alexander Raymond
- "Inventing is important, and even though things get rough you should never give up." -Carl Molina
- "Inventing is fun and hard at the same time. It also a work of art." -Jayson Volkoff
- "Inventors' inventions are far from perfect, but it doesn't mean you don't try to make it perfect." -Paige Stepaniuk
- "Scientists are never perfect, so they are always changing their experiments." -Jordyn Davies

Parents and family members attended a special Invention Fair to see the inventions their students created over the course of the project. O'Boyle intends to assign this project every year as part of every fourth grader's science studies.