Sunset Ridge Intermediate School students present innovative ideas about city growth

Fifth and sixth graders completed a unit asking them to tackle the difficult question of how city manages development

RIDGEFIELD — More and more people are moving to the city of Ridgefield.  But how does the city maintain the things members of the community love most about Ridgefield as the city grows? The fifth and sixth graders at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School completed a unit asking them to tackle that difficult question — and they came up with some pretty creative ideas.    

A student-created model (done in Minecraft) for a Ridgefield community pool. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
A student-created model (done in Minecraft) for a Ridgefield community pool. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

The fifth grade group projects addressed three different areas:  business, parks and recreation, and preservation. Each student group selected a specific issue within those areas.  They did extensive research to learn more, including calls and meetings with area experts. The students projected possible solutions.  Then they created detailed presentations for Growth Expo night, many featuring reports, models, polls, and handouts.

A detailed model built by Ridgefield fifth-graders for a proposed Blue Heron Water Park. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
A detailed model built by Ridgefield fifth-graders for a proposed Blue Heron Water Park. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

Principal Todd Graves explained that Project Based Learning (PBL) is an important part of the Sunset Ridge curriculum.  Each year, students answer a question that impacts the community. “We identify something local, that has an impact on the community, and give a few different topics for the kids to explore.  Then we turn them loose. What they do is amazing,” Graves said.

PBL teaches students to use the four C’s — communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity — to assess and address the issues.  “Those are major skills our kids will absolutely need to have as they leave and go into the workforce,” Graves explained.

Ridgefield fifth-grader, Michael Chandler, presents his plan to create a permanent farmers' market in Ridgefield. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District
Ridgefield fifth-grader, Michael Chandler, presents his plan to create a permanent farmers’ market in Ridgefield. Photo courtesy of Ridgefield School District

The thorough assessment of the issues helped the students become extremely knowledgeable about their topics.  During the fifth grade Growth Expo night, one student explained how a hotel could generate new city revenue through taxes.  Another offered cost effective ways to mediate drainage issues on sports fields in Abrams Park. The sixth grade presentation is coming up soon; their PBL Showcase will be on June 6 from 4:30 to 6:15 p.m. in the commons area at Sunset Ridge Intermediate School.  

Some of the students have been invited to present their findings to the Ridgefield Parks Board.  “That’s exactly the kind of interaction we want to see,” Graves said. “If you do things like that, the kids will realize their voice actually matters.”

Information provided by Ridgefield School District.

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