Irene Reither Elementary School students created lightbulbs featuring their big ideas to help make the school better. These ideas were collected and grouped into broader ideas that school staff are now evaluating and tackling to see if they can make them reality. (Brent Lindquist/Lynden Tribune)

More recess, classroom pets, food variety are ideas disclosed via lightbulb art project

LAUREL — An art specialist, a student garden, cultural celebrations, more recess and classroom pets are all dreams Meridian kids have for their school.

A project of Irene Reither Elementary School students in December took those ideas and put them on display for everyone to see.

The 2019-20 school year is the first for Dawn Christiana as IRE principal, and part of her entry process involved listening to and learning from people in the Meridian School District.

“As a new principal, we usually go through this entry planning process,” Christiana said. “As part of your entry plan, the big idea is to listen and learn what the community wants, what’s in place that’s great, that you want to nurture and keep going, and what you want to change. Not what I want to come in and change, but what the community sees as a need.”

As soon as this school year started, IRE administrators began listening to families and students, who shared what they want to see at the school in the future.

Then, in mid-December, a day came when the school had many substitute teachers working in classrooms. Christiana decided to have kids read “What Do You Do With an Idea?” by Kobi Yamada. Then the kids were instructed to write their ideas for the school onto paper lightbulbs, which are now hung near the ceiling right at the school’s entrance.

Christiana said the ideas are quite varied. More food choice was a common one.

“That ranged everything from healthier food to can we have McDonald’s,” Christiana said.

Many students requested classroom pets, and some asked for more recess and physical education.

Fourth-grader Mason Simmons has an idea for an unused portion of the IRE playground.

“Because we really use the other playground, we could put something else there. Maybe a spike ball or something like that,” Simmons said.

Cohen said he wanted a Gaga Ball pit and a track around it. He explains that Gaga Ball is a sports played in an octagonal pit, and it is similar to dodgeball. McKinley Anderson would love classroom pets, especially a fish for her class, and a room specifically dedicated to art.

“We’re thinking about how those lightbulbs inform what we do as adults so the kids can benefit from that, and also see that when they say things, we listen and then action can come from that,” Christiana said.

Christiana said Irene Reither Elementary staff are getting together to talk about which lightbulb ideas they want to implement at the school. Students’ lightbulbs are strung across the front hallway at IRE and in a glass case to the left of the entrance. Some bigger lightbulbs have been placed with some of the overarching ideas provided by students and staff.

Some of these ideas are already in the works at IRE. Christiana and her staff are considering adding a track and walking path, and they have partnered with the Ferndale High School FFA to purchase more playground equipment.

“I don’t know about the pets. We’ll have to look into that. That’s definitely a school board conversation,” Christiana said.