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Bridging the gap between school and City Hall

Rosemont Ridge sixth-graders present redevelopment ideas to the City Council


A riverfront boardwalk, an amphitheater and a museum dedicated to the history of West Linn are some of the ideas presented to the City Council recently for the redevelopment of the arch bridge-Bolton area.

However, the ideas didn’t come from city planners or a task force of residents. They were presented by nine Rosemont Ridge Middle School students, part of what teacher Lisia Farley calls an “untraditional curriculum.”

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: CAITLIN TOMPKINS - Rosemont Ridge Middle School students present their plans to redevelop the arch bridge-Bolton area to the City Council. Front row: Jake Starr, Lisia Farley and Dashiell Lipsey. Second row: Lauryn Swinehart, Riley Badnin, Caroline Brandeberry, Kelsey Bjorklund, Lauren Knutson and Paige Rodriguez. After studying other cities’ construction trends and talking to local voters, 125 students in Farley’s sixth-grade social studies classes designed what they think the arch bridge-Bolton area should look like. The students initially presented their projects in groups to a panel of judges. The judges chose nine students in two groups to present their plans to the City Council.

Farley challenged her students to consider the perspective of people of various ages and income groups who may use the redeveloped area. Dashiell Lipsey, one of the nine student presenters, demonstrated an understanding of city planning far above his years as he explained the importance of examining local issues beyond personal opinions.

“You begin to put yourself in their shoes, know what they need, instead of just defaulting (to) ‘What I need is what everybody else needs,’” Dashiell said.

As the finalists put it, a new basketball court will not satisfy every citizen.

The students’ presentations featured a wide range of ideas. One group — comprising Caroline Brandeberry, Riley Badnin, Lauren Knutson, Kelsey Bjorklund and Dashiell Lipsey — incorporated a boardwalk along the Willamette River, an amphitheater and a recreational center in their plans. Each of these structures would be linked by bike paths and trails for safe traveling.

“Our main focus for our group was bringing the community in West Linn together,” Kelsey said.

Development of an eco- and family-friendly gathering area was the focus of the second group, which included Lauryn Swinehart, Paige Rodriguez, Jake Starr and Andrew Harting. The group proposed to create a place for sitting and enjoying nature, and also included a playground and a sports court. Their plan included the use of green and solar roofs on top of buildings and the reconstruction of a historic hotel that would operate as a museum of the city’s history.

“We’re trying to plan for our generation now, but also make it work for future generations,” Lauryn said.

Farley and Sara Javoronok, associate planner for West Linn, provided students with research and scheduled guest speakers, and recruited judges to select the nine finalists. Javoronok served as a liaison between Rosemont Ridge and the West Linn city council, and ensured that the students had the necessary resources to complete the project.

This is the third year that Farley has partnered with the city’s government to provide students the opportunity to delve into local issues.

“The city has wanted to be so involved in this, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Farley said.

Farley hoped that the project would help students develop the skills to understand multiple viewpoints, support educated opinions based on evidence and think critically. By learning these skills, the students are equipped to hold constructive conversations with their parents regarding the issues that voters are facing, she said.

“The kids are actually informing the electorate, which is kind of a neat thought,” Farley said.




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