K-3 students (L to R) Ammon Caine and Ele Kuhn perform an experiment with Glow Lab at Wisdom Ridge Academy

Building robots, creating colored flames with chemistry, and making intricate rangoli sand art designs. These may sound like descriptions from a high school or even a college class, but the  kid-sized goggles and gloves give it away. These are Lauren Pinkleton’s K-3 students at Wisdom Ridge Academy, Ridgefield School District’s K-12 alternative learning experience program, who are bringing school lessons to life with incredible enrichment activities. 

For K-3 students at Wisdom Ridge, day-to-day classes are guided by Pinkleton but held online, so the onsite enrichment opportunities provide a welcome time to enjoy hands-on activities together. Their enrichment classes are largely self-guided, with students choosing what to do for independent time and discussing or voting when it comes to group activities. 

Today, Archer Woods, Ammon Caine, and Jakob Wagoner gather around a tabletop pinball machine the class built last week. They arrange the pegs, rubber bands, and point markers in a new way, then take turns propeling a marble, trying to bounce it off rubber bands at the top into the highest point areas. “Did that work?” Archer asks. “Did you get 50 points?” Jakob and Ammon shake their heads. After some discussion, they reconfigure it and try again. 

Sawyer Smith and Ele Kuhn are gathering crystals from another class experiment. There are white crystals where students poured a “diamond” solution on rocks a few days ago—but stray crystals have also grown on the table. This is puzzling, so they follow the small crystals under the rocks, onto a pencil, and even under the table before deciding the solution must have leaked and been exposed to air. Now it’s a different activity–carefully scraping and gathering the extra crystals into a bag to take home. 

“I like to let students learn by doing it themselves,” Pinkleton said. “Which means sometimes the activities go in unexpected, but interesting directions.” 

This flexible learning environment provides a great balance for some young students, allowing them to complete the same benchmarks as in-person school but with the benefits of a more customized path. “I’ve been inspired by what it can do for families,” Pinkleton said. “The flexibility allows them to spend more time with their kids while also getting them really involved with their student’s learning. Cool things can happen!” 

For those families, Wisdom Ridge provides more choices in how their students learn. “It’s not like Ridgefield Remote where students had to be in online class at a certain time every day,” Pinkleton said. “Now we can work with your family’s schedule. Parents can be more hands on at a time that works for them, and the kids get more one-on-one time with their teacher. Some kids really flourish in this environment and make substantial progress right away.” 

Students can enroll in Wisdom Ridge Academy at any grade, and some Ridgefield families are surprised to learn that K-3 is an option. No matter whether students are at, above, or below grade level, they can still enroll. 

“Wherever they are, that’s where they start,” Pinkleton said. 

The close partnership between Wisdom Ridge and families helps guide students to success. Today’s enrichment class is almost over, and the students line up. They talk about what they did to help each other that day, and how soon they might earn a party for their acts of kindness. 

Before they leave, Pinkleton asks what they would think about more students signing up to join their K-3 class at Wisdom Ridge. Sawyer beams with happiness. “I’m so excited!” she says, “because I would love to make new friends!”

Wisdom Ridge Academy is a flexible alternative learning option for families. WRA is a state approved school that meets the same academic standards and graduation requirements as in-person learning. WRA uses online learning platforms to allow students and families to access their work on their own schedule, and the program is available to all Washington residents in grades K-12. For more information on enrollment, please visit www.ridgefieldsd.org/o/wra/page/enrollment.