Sunset Ridge Students Return to Outdoor Learning with Mini-Cispus Program


Sebastien Rubino / [email protected]

After a two-year hiatus, the Ridgefield School District’s Mini-Cispus program returned in April as fifth and sixth graders from Sunset Ridge Middle School descended on Whipple Creek Regional Park to enjoy the full air and learn new skills.

Professors Amanda Burgess and Annie Pintler curated this year’s program.

“Mini-Cispus was an alternative outdoor school experience for two classes who didn’t get a chance to go to camp due to COVID,” Burgess said. “Instead of our four days at night, we ended up with two two-day trips to a local park where they got to experience a small sample of the activities we do at regular camp.”

Burgess said it was good to bring back a modified version of the event for kids.

“We kept the fires burning and we were definitely ready to go back,” she said. “It was a good reminder, and I’m glad these kids got a bit of something that otherwise wouldn’t have had any outdoor school experience.”

Pintler said the Mini-Cispus program is a more than 50-year tradition in the city.

“It was nice to be able to at least give them a taste or a snapshot of the learning and experience that so many people at Ridgefield talk about and share,” Pintler said.

The Mini-Cispus program was started in 1969 by Ridgefield resident and principal John Hudson Sr. The program’s curriculum is based on that of the Cispus Learning Center in Randle.

Burgess said children gain a sense of independence during the program because they get away from their teachers a bit.

“The way we handled that part was that the teachers were stationed in one place and we had 30 high school counselors who were in charge of the fifth and sixth graders, so the counselors moved around with the younger ones from one post to the other. They would hike with them and move on to their next learning goal,” she said.

Pintler added that teachers taught students mini-lessons on things like soil and water testing on trails that had access to water near ancient trees.

“It was completely new ground for us,” said Pintler, who noted that this was the program’s first time at Whipple Creek.

The organization of the program this year involved flexibility and changes because the teachers knew that the interests of the children would vary. They also had to change the locations of some activities to lessen their impact on the park.

Besides water and soil testing, Burgess said there are a plethora of other activities to keep students engaged.

“These heavy science components that involve chemical reactions and stuff are super memorable,” she said. “We also had nature writing where the kids wrote poems (and) we did oral storytelling, which was a lot of fun. This time we had an art project with bracelets the kids made from pony beads that represented the life cycle of salmon. Between science learning, math learning, and arts learning, we cover many different programs and concepts. »


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