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Sixth graders studied Holi (pronounced
Sixth graders studied Holi (pronounced
Union Ridge Elementary School holds Second Annual Cultural Parade (Photo) - 05/18/15
Monday, May 18, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Every student from every grade level at Union Ridge Elementary School marched through downtown Ridgefield in the 2nd Annual Culture Parade featuring their social studies research projects celebrating cultural diversity on Friday, May 1, 2015.

The Annual Culture Parade started last year as a display of each grade's Classroom-Based Assessment (CBA), a project that represents the culmination of the state requirements for educational standards. Anja Felton, Nani Mack, Mindy Morris, and Kelly O'Boyle, all teachers at Union Ridge, organized and coordinated the school-wide event this year. "The annual Culture Parade represents the emphasis placed on cultural awareness at every grade level," said Morris.

This year, the Culture Parade represented the kickoff event for the City of Ridgefield's new First Saturday series which features a festival atmosphere including a Farmer's Market, outdoor music, food, local artists and family-friendly activities. "We had great support from the City of Ridgefield, the Ridgefield Police Department and our administration team," said Mack. "The school staff was excited to that the city wanted us to hold the parade again."

Superintendent Nathan McCann and Principal Angela Freeman served as Masters of Ceremony at the Ridgefield's Overlook Park, announcing each class and describing each grade level's projects for the gathered crowd.

This year's topics for each grade level featured:

* Kindergarteners created "See Me Grow" timelines of their lives from birth to six years old featuring major events that they displayed to parade attendees.
* First graders studied different pets from around the world. The first grade students researched different pets, learning about geography and discovering where pets come from which included familiar pets like cats and dogs and ranged to more exotic pets like tigers and penguins. The first graders then created masks which they wore during the parade to demonstrate the pet they studied.
* Second graders studied Children's Day, a holiday celebrated in Japan on May 5, when families fly kites shaped like carp called Koi Nobori to symbolize each family's hope for their children to grow up strong and brave. As an added spin on the idea, Ridgefield's second graders fashioned their kites as mighty salmon to honor the Pacific Northwest.
* Third graders studied the physical and cultural characteristics of the regions of the United States. Students learned how each region is unique in regards to food, customs, music, and art. They also selected a single state to study and created a display board featuring the state's capital city, flower, bird and other characteristics.
* Fourth graders studied "Authors on the Move," with each student selecting a Newbery Award-winning author to research. Students examined the impact their author had on culture in the United States, specifically literary culture. Students then dressed up as their subjects and presented short speeches three times during the parade route in the voice of their author.
* Fifth graders studied how one person can change the world. Students read biographies of people who contributed to shifts in culture. Then, students dressed up as their person and created signs indicating who they were and what major contribution their subject had on society.
* Sixth graders studied Holi (pronounced "Holy"), the Festival of Colors celebrated in India. Holi welcomes the coming of Spring and is marked with bonfires, singing, dancing, and the throwing of colored powder and colored water at friends, family, and neighbors. The sixth graders held their own Holi celebration at the school, creating shirts of vibrant colors which they wore during the parade.
* The View Ridge Middle School Marching Band closed the parade, playing songs throughout the route and demonstrating their marching skills as practice for their upcoming competition.

Community members and citizens of Ridgefield lined the city's streets, cheering as each grade presented their projects. "It always excites me when I walk around the corner and see the streets lined with people," said Mack. "I also love how the parade becomes a community event with everyone willing to help organize and ensure the safety of our parade participants by making sure the streets are closed with volunteers at each roadblock."

Even more pictures from the Culture Parade can be found on Ridgefield School District's Facebook page located at www.Facebook.com/RidgefieldSchools

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View Ridge Middle School (from Pioneer Street)
View Ridge Middle School (from Pioneer Street)
Student advisory council seeks Ridgefield volunteers to beautify middle school (Photo) - 05/11/15
Monday, May 11, 2015-Ridgefield, WA-Students on Ridgefield School District's Superintendent's Student Advisory Council (SSAC) invite any and all interested Ridgefield community members to volunteer for a day of service to help beautify the View Ridge Middle School campus on Saturday, May 30, 2015.

Community members of all ages are invited to participate as volunteer opportunities of all varieties and skill levels will be available starting at 8:00 a.m. and going until approximately 2:00 p.m. In addition, both breakfast and lunch will be catered by the district's food services.

The Superintendent's Student Advisory Council (SSAC) is made up of 12 student representatives from each of the district's schools who meet each month throughout the school year. The council includes representatives from both elementary school's fourth, fifth and sixth grades as well as a representative from each grade 7-12. "The council was developed with three goals in mind: to give students a voice to advise the superintendent directly, to enhance connectedness among the district's four schools, and to allow the students to create a service project where they could feel they made a difference in the district," explained Dr. Nathan McCann, Ridgefield School District's Superintendent.

The students on the SSAC developed the idea of beautifying View Ridge Middle School after meeting at the school during one of their regular monthly meetings. Students on the committee pointed out that View Ridge Middle School didn't receive any improvements from the district's recent bond. "When we met at the middle school, I saw all of these different parts of the school both inside and outside which could look better with a little work," explained Jordan Jhaveri, the council's representative of the freshman class. "We felt that improving the school here and there will make middle school students more comfortable with their school and improve their time spent there."

After deciding on View Ridge as the location for their beautification project, the students brainstormed ideas to improve the school. "We discussed ways to make the learning environment better," said Haidyn Woodside, the eighth grade representative on the council. "Improving cosmetic elements inside and outside View Ridge will help students have more pride in their school."

As a result of the council's meeting, Dave Newman, the district's head of maintenance, Chris Griffith, View Ridge Middle School Principal, and Dr. McCann took the students on a walking tour of the school so the students could point out specific areas which could use improvement. "The main focus of this project was to improve the student experience at View Ridge Middle School," explained Tyler Lehnertz, the seventh grade representative on the council.

The day of service held on Saturday, May 30 will include several projects addressing different needs in order to improve the curb appeal of View Ridge Middle School and help the school feel more inviting to students inside, too. Projects include:

* Fabric and bark installed in the school's courtyard
* Fabric and bark added to the east and west sides of the school's library
* Plants and bark installed on the side of the school facing 5th Street
* Sanding and painting of the school's many down spouts
* Irrigation lines and flower beds will be installed on the side of the school facing Pioneer Street

"I am very appreciative and incredibly proud of the work already performed by our SSAC members who identified this project and developed the plan," said McCann. "This is an inter-generational effort: we will spruce up the Pioneer Street and 5th Street sides of the school to enhance curb appeal as well as completing interior projects for current students to enjoy."

Plans include renovations to the stairs on Pioneer Street to commemorate the original Ridgefield High School which existed at the middle school's location until the early 1970s. The stairs themselves will be repaired by a concrete contractor with volunteers painting the retaining walls surrounding the steps. The district is also working on a project at the top of the steps to commemorate the original high school.

The variety of the projects will provide enticing opportunities for community volunteers from all walks of life. "I think it will be a really fun time," said Jhaveri. "We'll all do some good work, and, in the end, help the Ridgefield community by making one of the prime downtown locations, View Ridge Middle School, look more welcoming."

Students have different reasons for participating on the advisory council. "I'm serving on the council to prepare myself for the future as I want to continue participating in community service projects," said Lehnertz. "I think this project is ideal for View Ridge; improving the school will benefit not only our current students, but also new students entering the school each year."

Other students participated so they could have a voice in their schools. "I chose to participate in the advisory council because I appreciate the idea of having a say in what's going on around the school district," said Jhaveri. "Ever since I was little, I've loved doing community service because you get to know people you might not have met otherwise, even if it's just other students from my own school." Woodside agreed with Jhaveri, "I like being able to represent my school and also know what's going on in the community along with our schools."

"I'm very excited for this day of service and I'm also very proud of our students," said McCann. "This project provides a great example of what makes Ridgefield special and what makes our students so special; I'm in awe of their leadership and their desire to give back to their schools and the Ridgefield community."

Community members interested in participating should plan to arrive at View Ridge Middle School on Saturday, May 30, 2015 at 8:00 a.m. with projects taking place until approximately 2:00 p.m. As mentioned previously, both breakfast and lunch with be provided free-of-charge by the district's food services.

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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."

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