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Innovative Educator: Creative classrooms lead to creative thinking for some Nampa students

The Ridge Middle School teachers Jennifer Keene and Ryan Garrett are fostering creativity with their non-traditional classrooms.

NAMPA, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union.

Imagine going to a class filled with couches or surrounded by mirrors. That's exactly what you'll find at The Ridge Middle School when you step into the classrooms of Jennifer Keene, who teaches Science and Social Studies, and Ryan Garrett, who teaches English Language Arts.

“We've tried really hard to create classrooms and spaces here that the kids are really comfortable in, so it's a little more homey, so that it's a little less industrialized, I guess, for a little more home for them so that they can have a comfortable space,” Keene said.

Together the two teachers believe the creative space will help inspire creativity and create an environment where students want to be and learn.

“Also, a place where students feel that they belong as well,” Garrett said.

That's just a small piece of what they do at The Ridge Middle School. Rather than operate in a traditional teacher-student fashion, both educators prefer to think of themselves as part of a crew.

“We are not necessarily the drivers of all the decisions that are made here, but we want the students to take action to have interesting and amazing ideas, but then also find ways to implement them. and we've done a lot of that,” Garrett said.

For example, at the beginning of the school year, the "crew" came together and developed what rules and expectations they had for each other.

“So instead of having lists or rules on the on the wall, we have a wall that displays our crew rights, and the kids came up with things like we have the right to learn the right to be respected, the right to not be discriminated against. I think they had about 10 that they came up with. They did a really great job. and so those students created rights are then quote, we base what we do every day, and how we function and how we build our company together both academically and socially,” Keene said.

The middle school is housed in a building that also houses an elementary school. Right now, the middle school consists of less than 40 students and four rooms: Jennifer's classroom, Ryan's classroom, a science lab and one final room.

“The kids also have a rec room that they actually put together and design themselves together,” Keene said.

The crew works to create a community and a safe space for the students, and that sense of belonging both inside the cozy classroom and out of it.

“Middle school is a hard time for a lot of kids,” Keene said. “There's lots of ups and downs, there's lots of changes going on, and our goal really at our school is that kids don't get lost; they feel like they belong.”

This is The Ridge Middle School's first year, but they're looking to grow. Both educators told KTVB that, while they are part of the Nampa School District, they are open to any student in the Treasure Valley.

 If you would like to nominate an Innovative Educator who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.

Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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