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Counselors at South Ridge Elementary were excited to receive such a large donation of Slumberkins, including their stuffed animals, books, and teaching guides
Counselors at South Ridge Elementary were excited to receive such a large donation of Slumberkins, including their stuffed animals, books, and teaching guides
Ridgefield community lends support to students coping with grief and loss (Photo) - 12/02/22

South Ridge Elementary School recently established a program to help students who are dealing with grief and loss, and two area companies have stepped up to lend their support. Last year, the New York Life Foundation provided no-cost training to South Ridge staff on how to support grieving students in a classroom setting, as well as a $500 grant toward their program. And Slumberkins, a Vancouver company that makes products to support social and emotional learning, donated its entire line of stuffed animals, books, and teaching curricula, including its products focused on grief and love. These generous donations will help ensure the success of the South Ridge program, providing immediate comfort and care for students who have lost a loved one. 

The South Ridge program began when the school was certified as a grief-sensitive school through the New York Life Foundation. The certification training provides resources for school staff to address and assist grieving students and families. New York Life Insurance financial services representative Darren Davidson led the training for South Ridge staff. “Nationwide, one in 15 students will deal with the loss of a sibling or parent by the age of 18,” he said. “But only one in seven teachers has had training in how to assist grieving students.” The training helps close that gap, ensuring that there are more people in each child’s life who are ready to come to their aid.

“The Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative provides a one-time $500 grant to any school that applies, as long as they are willing to complete the training with at least five staff members,” Davidson explained. “South Ridge did it right; they brought all of their teachers together to do the training.” The $500 grant can be spent at the school’s discretion as long as it is used to assist grieving students and families. South Ridge counselors saw several ways they could be proactive in helping grieving students.

They implemented several new ideas, including resource libraries for teachers and parents, “calming corners” to allow students space and time to deal with emotions, and condolence kits for students experiencing loss in their immediate families. To help supply the calming corners and condolence kits with something to comfort students, they held a stuffed animal drive. It was a great success as Ridgefield residents filled five large bags to the brim with brand new stuffed animals. The school was surprised to receive a huge delivery from Slumberkins as well. 

Slumberkins was founded by Kelly Oriard and Callie Christensen, who both have backgrounds in education. Their products, including soft stuffed animals called Kins, are designed to support social and emotional learning. Each unique animal comes with an accompanying book and teaching guide focused on one topic, like coping with change or managing stress. The Slumberkins line of Sprites is designed to provide lessons in grief and love—a perfect fit for the condolence kits. 

“We wanted something we could provide to students and their families in that moment of loss,” said Anna Moskal, a counselor at South Ridge. “It gives the kids something to hold onto, and gives the parents something that helps explain what to do and say in a challenging time.” 

The Slumberkins donation made it possible for South Ridge to expand the program far beyond what they had originally hoped. “The Slumberkins curriculum is something we can use in our Connection Center, and really, throughout the school,” Moskal said. “By providing the Slumberkins animals, along with the classroom books and teaching resources we got from the Grief Sensitive Schools Initiative, we hope to really change how we address the needs of grieving students.”

South Ridge Elementary is the first school in Clark County to display the Grief-Sensitive School certification on its door, but Davidson is happy to see the program expand. “I’m willing to certify any school that applies and can commit to having at least five staff members at training. We just want to help as many kids and families as possible.”

Moskal and counselor Anne Lamping have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support for South Ridge students and are grateful for the assistance from the community, Slumberkins, and the New York Life Foundation. “It shows the power of community working together,” Moskal said. “It’s going to allow us to expand this program so we can provide something special for kids and their families when they are most in need, to help them know how to support each other when they lose a loved one.”

The Cedar Creek Grist Mill opened in 1876 and has been restored to a fully operational mill entirely by volunteers
The Cedar Creek Grist Mill opened in 1876 and has been restored to a fully operational mill entirely by volunteers
Wisdom Ridge Academy students visit Cedar Creek Grist Mill (Photo) - 11/18/22

Just over a covered bridge in Woodland is the Cedar Creek Grist Mill. Since 1876, the mill has been nestled in a thick, green forest beside a rushing creek; it seems to stand still in time. But its history is truly remarkable, its very presence a labor of love on the part of the community surrounding it.

John Clapp, president of Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, welcomes students from Wisdom Ridge Academy to the mill. He hauls out long wooden benches where the Ridgefield School District students can sit, then shares the story of the mill. It started as a grist mill in 1876, he said, but because the community was so small, it didn’t make enough money for its owner. After a few years, the owner relocated to Chehalis to build a new mill and left the Cedar Creek mill to his friend. That friend turned it into a machine shop, where the swift water turned a turbine powering many different machines. But when the machine shop finally closed, the building stood empty.

The building was a central part of the community for a time, serving as a gathering place for meetings, dinners, and parties. Over the years, though, the building fell into disrepair. It was used less and less often, until it finally became a vacant, vandalized shell of its former self. A few farmers removed what was left of the mill equipment and stored it in their barns for safekeeping. 

Clapp explained that the community decided to rebuild the mill in 1979. Bit by bit, the group gathered donations, volunteering their time and labor over months and years to refurbish each piece of the mill. They replaced beams and boards and located vintage mill parts. “Whenever we needed something, it just appeared,” Clapp marveled. 

The group’s goal was to have the mill operational again—no easy feat for a building that had stood vacant for decades. With the help of machinist Fred Schultz, the volunteers slowly learned how to bring the mill back to life. When opening day came, they ground flour and cornmeal with milling stones handcut from French granite, the first in the mill for over a hundred years. 

Clapp was happy to demonstrate how the mill worked for the Wisdom Ridge students. After a brief break while he cleared the flume of leaves, students gathered around the milling equipment. A volunteer on the other side of the room turned a metal wheel slightly, and the entire mill jumped to life. The students stood with mouths agape as the strength of the water started an entire system of belts and gears in motion, powering the mill to grind thick wheat kernels into flour in mere seconds. 

Afterwards, the students ran their hands through samples of corn and cornmeal, wheat and flour. Outside, they wandered down a path for a side view of the mill, where they got a better idea of how the mill worked. They could watch water diverting from the rushing creek into the flume, flowing into the huge turbine and creating power. It was a remarkable field trip for the students who typically do most of their learning online, a lesson that brought them back in time, but also taught them the importance of community.

Cedar Creek Grist Mill is on the National Register of Historic Places as the only grain-grinding mill in the entire state of Washington that has retained its structural integrity, grinds with stones, and is water-powered. The Friends of the Cedar Creek Grist Mill remains all volunteer and donation-driven, running regular events that include Blueberry Pancake Day in July and Apple Cider Pressing Day in October. You can learn more about the mill and support their mission at https://cedarcreekgristmill.org/

(L to R) Ruby Stenbak, Jane Murri, Sophie Lanham collect water samples as part of a science lesson
(L to R) Ruby Stenbak, Jane Murri, Sophie Lanham collect water samples as part of a science lesson
Ridgefield Fifth Graders Return to Cispus Outdoor School (Photo) - 11/16/22

For more than fifty years, the Ridgefield School District has taken its entire fifth grade class to Cispus Outdoor School. Unfortunately, COVID restrictions put Cispus camp on hold for the last three years. This made it especially exciting for this year’s fifth graders to be the first group to return to Cispus. Like many generations before them, they were elated with the life-changing experience of sleeping in cabins, enjoying outdoor classes, and hiking through the woods. 

At Cispus, students do all of their learning outside, rain or shine. They enjoy hands-on activities like soil and water sampling, plant identification, and nature art. But they also learn how to build survival shelters, practice manners at family-style dinners, and keep the cabins and dining room clean. Learning is an all-day activity at Cispus. 

Supervised groups of students explore the campgrounds, trails, and forest, learning about the ecosystems, resources, and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. For many kids, it’s their first time walking behind a waterfall or seeing bats hang in a cave. Moments like this create incredible memories that will last a lifetime. 

Cispus is made possible by the support of the Ridgefield community. Teachers and students are assisted by dozens of camp counselors, high school students who likely attended Cispus as kids themselves. There are also community volunteers who take charge of all kinds of activities, from guiding hikes to teaching survival training. Many of the volunteers have participated for years, even scheduling vacation time from work so they can spend a week at camp. 

All of this makes Cispus a once-in-a-lifetime event for fifth graders. For many of them, it’s a first taste of independence away from home, and a chance to challenge themselves with completely new activities. 

Principal Todd Graves was grateful to see so many students back at Cispus Outdoor School, the largest number of students yet. “It speaks to how important Cispus is to our community, that we had over 270 kids attend this year,” he said. “Cispus is a system that really expands our kids’ learning in a way you just can’t find anywhere else.”

Fifth grade teachers Amanda Burgess and Annie Pintler help plan Cispus each year, and they were equally grateful to see students return to camp after the long break. “For all of us, it was really good to be back,” Burgess said. “The kids and counselors did so well. It was a super triumphant return!” 

For everyone involved, it was a welcome return to a Ridgefield legacy, a week of camp that changes lives.

 Sample plates let students see the exciting new foods they will be trying that day
Sample plates let students see the exciting new foods they will be trying that day
Union Ridge Elementary students tour the world, one bite at a time (Photo) - 11/10/22

Union Ridge Elementary is one of only nine schools nationwide selected for an innovative program that invites students on a journey to explore the unique ingredients and authentic flavors from cuisines around the world. The “Global Eats” initiative is being spearheaded by Ridgefield School District’s Nutrition Services provider, Chartwells School Dining Services.

During the opening four-week tour, students tried foods from Mexico, Italy, India, and China as part of the school lunch pilot program. With recipes created by celebrity chefs, like Food Network’s Jet Tila and Aarti Sequeira, students had a first-class ticket to travel the culinary world.

Director of Dining Services Mike Lee shared how Global Eats got started. “The school cafeteria is often one of the first places a child gets to taste and learn about foods from outside their family’s recipes or traditional cultural dishes.” He hopes to turn food into a global adventure by encouraging students to eat together and taste new foods and flavors while learning about different cultures.

Each week, students are offered three days of global menus. The first week, food from Mexico was featured, with recipes from Chicago-based chef Jonathan Zaragoza of Birrieria Zaragoza. The menu included favorites like horchata parfait (based on the sweet, cinnamony horchata drink), albóndigas con arroz (Mexican-spiced meatballs with rice), and elotes (grilled Mexican street corn). 

The second week offered food from Italy, with recipes from chef Michael Toscano of Charleston’s La Farfalle and New York City’s Da Toscano. The menu included rotini pasta with chicken and broccoli Alfredo, meatballs pizzaioli (pizza-style meatballs with marinara sauce), and Caprese sandwich (with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil).

Last week’s menu highlighted recipes from India, created by Food Network chef Aarti Sequeira. Dishes included tandoori chicken (grilled chicken marinated in Indian spices), beef kofta curry (meatballs in a curry sauce), and sweet potato and spinach vindaloo (an Indian-spiced vegetable stew). 

The final week featured the cuisine of China. Recipes developed by Food Network chef Jet Tila included Sichuan-style mapo tofu (cubed tofu in a spicy red sauce), dan dan noodles (flavorful Chinese street food noodles), and char siu pork (Chinese style barbecued pork). 

The Global Eats program does more than just introduce new dishes to the school menu; it also includes an educational program to engage students in learning about each country. There are themed posters and table toppers at each meal to teach and spark conversation among students. They also launched a website, www.k12globaleats.com that features chef and recipe videos, as well as fun activities for students, families, and educators.

According to Chartwells’ Amber Veseley, the response from students has been enthusiastic. “A lot of the kids are super excited about wanting to try new things,” she said. “They can’t wait to get to the cafeteria to see what they’re trying that day. It has really started them talking about the foods they recognize and the foods they enjoy.”

And Veseley said students are already making suggestions for what foods they want to see next year. “One student said she wanted to have Filipino food because that’s what her grandmother makes. They all want to share something they love with the other kids at school, and that’s amazing.”

Early Learning Center – Sonoma Nelson, Pre-K
Early Learning Center – Sonoma Nelson, Pre-K
Ridgefield School District honors November Employee and Students of the Month (Photo) - 11/10/22

On November 8, Ridgefield School District officials recognized the November 2022 Employee and Students of the Month at the regular Board of Directors meeting. Congratulations to all of this month’s honorees! 
 

Early Learning Center – Sonoma Nelson, Pre-K

Sonoma Nelson is a student who makes all her teachers happy. She comes in each day with a smile and can’t wait to greet her classmates. She is always ready to help others who may need supplies for an art project or maybe just needs cheering up. And she does all this without having to be asked. She gives reminders to her friends when they need it, and always includes everyone when working or while playing. She does a great job following all the routines in the classroom and is kind to all of her classmates. She never forgets her manners and is polite to everyone she meets. She is just a joy to have in class and in the program. It is for these reasons that we are honored to have Sonoma Nelson as the ELC’s November Student of the Month!

South Ridge Elementary School – Ryan Harris, 1st Grade

Ryan Harris is a first grader in Ms. Wood’s class. Ryan is a bundle of joy and positive energy and brings smiles and laughter everywhere he goes. Ryan is a great friend to his schoolmates. He quickly shares with anyone and has a way of making everyone feel like his best friend. He is always kind and willing to help those in need. He works hard to learn new things and practices a growth mindset. Ryan is passionate about space and loves to share his knowledge with others. He also loves to tell funny jokes. Ryan is our student of the month because he brings joy every day to school and goes out of his way to share that joy with others. 

Union Ridge Elementary School – Mai’Ana Skeels, 2nd Grade

Mai’Ana comes to school every day enthusiastic about learning and ready to be the very best Tater Tot she can be. As a young learner, she has already learned how to respectfully advocate for herself and those around her when they need a new strategy to tackle a skill. Mia’Ana seeks out challenges and continues to practice her perseverance when given a rigorous task. Her willingness to share her thinking, especially during math talks, creates an encouraging environment for her and her peers. In fact, Mia’Ana’s entire presence projects calm, kindness, and responsibility wherever she is. Her smile alone can warm an entire room, and definitely lights up her classroom every day! Congratulations Mai’Ana!

Sunset Ridge Intermediate School – Ruby Stenbak, 5th Grade

Ruby is an exceptional student and we love having her as a Sunset Ridge Coyote. She is always sure to include all of her classmates during any activities we do as a class. She is so eager to include others that she spends her recess time ensuring her peers have someone to play with. She is also in the middle of trying to learn a new language. She is taking this on so she can communicate with her new students in our class. Ruby is prepared to learn every day and comes to school with a positive attitude. We are proud to have Ruby Stenbak represent Sunset Ridge as November’s Student of the Month.

View Ridge Middle School – Kaitlyn Lauder, 7th Grade

Kaitlyn’s teachers all agree that she comes to class prepared to work and is actively engaged in the process of learning, whether it is through classroom discussions, making sure everyone is involved or helping classmates. One teacher had this to say, “Kaitlyn is a natural leader in class.  She is always willing to take the time to help others around her and offers her insight when we are coding as a class. She checks in when she needs help, but frequently figures out the problem before I make it over to help her out. She’s an excellent student and I am excited to see what she chooses to do with programming in the future!” Kaityln regularly contributes thoughtful ideas, reasoning, and strategies, while setting an excellent example for her classmates. She manages her time well and puts forth effort to do her best on a regular basis. She has a very positive attitude, shows enthusiasm for learning, and her wonderful sense of humor lifts her classmates. Congratulations Kaitlyn, you are a positive influence for your schoolmates and a great example of what a View Ridge Heron should be!

Wisdom Ridge Academy9th Grader Wisdom Ridge Academy’s selection for this month requested that we do not publicly share their name or photo 

Wisdom Ridge Academy is pleased to select a freshman as the November Student of the Month. Their WRA teacher says of them: “They are a powerhouse Wisdom Ridge-r! They consistently give 100% to everything they do, and it shows. They are curious about the world and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. With their go-getter energy, growth mindset and self-discipline, their future is incredibly bright!” They have been in home-school for most of their schooling and they like WRA the best because they can go to in-person enrichment and help sessions, their teachers are always available for a quick Zoom session, and they like the balance of being at home and being able to go in-person to Wisdom Ridge.  This student is maintaining straight A’s (for the first time ever) and hopes to go into nursing after high school.  In their free time, they enjoy making family dinners and have recently taken a liking to skiing.

Ridgefield High School – Cameron Hagen, 11th Grade

Ridgefield High School is honored to present junior Cameron Hagen as our November student of the month. Staff at RHS feel that Cameron embodies the three R’s and to Cameron, it all stems from how he was raised. With his Dad as his role model for how to be responsible, resilient and hardworking, Cameron has learned how to juggle school work and sports, all while having a positive attitude and a willingness to do the right thing at all times. Cameron shows respect to everyone he meets and strives to be the best student he can be, even sacrificing sleep to ensure that he has his homework done. This self-discipline is also evident on the football field, where Cameron has persevered to be a starter on the offensive and defensive line.  Representing his school on Friday night is just another part of who Cameron is. Cameron’s favorite thing about RHS is the pride that students and staff show for their school and the community. After high school, Cameron hopes to go into an engineering field with welding, in large part due to his most influential teacher, Mr. Shipp, who pushes students forward with positivity and ensures that no student is left behind.  

Employee of the Month – David Jacobson, View Ridge Middle School

David Jacobson, one of our social studies teachers, is an absolute rock star. You may recognize David as the middle and high school Knowledge Bowl coach. He dedicates an incredible amount of time to make sure kids are ready and prepared for competition. In the classroom, David is just as dynamic and determined to support students in their learning. In the words of a View Ridge student, “He is the brightest teacher I have ever had and he is very excited about teaching us things about the U.S. He will go far out of his way to make us understand.” David is intentional in the design of his lessons to have high levels of rigor and engagement for each student. David goes the extra mile to lead and lift his learning communities through collaboration and sharing of project-based learning. “Kind, caring, fun to be around, and an awesome guy,” are words students use to describe David. He is an incredible relationship builder in student-to-teacher and student-to-student situations. Another student shared, “Mr. Jacobson is the best teacher ever! He makes history fun and engaging. He is always laughing and greets the kids as they come in with a big smile. He connects with kids and can have good conversations with them.” David is the epitome of what we want to see in the classroom. View Ridge students and staff are lucky to have him!