The end of the 2020-21 school year means that Ridgefield School District’s fourth grade students will be “moving up” to Sunset Ridge Intermediate School when school resumes in the fall. While these students said goodbye to South Ridge and Union Ridge elementary schools, they left behind a pair of painted rock gardens at the schools, which will serve as lasting reminders of the class of 2029.

To celebrate their “graduation” to Sunset Ridge, District fourth graders painted personalized rocks representing the lasting memories of their time in elementary school and as a visible reminder of the students moving onward and upward in their education.

A group of fourth grade students displays their decorated rocks.

At South Ridge Elementary School, fourth-grade classes created a rock garden. Students painted rocks with their class color and their first names. Then they gathered outside the classrooms in a sheltered spot to place the rocks in the rainbow-colored Resiliency Garden. Proud of their graduation to a new school, the students smiled brightly as they picked just the right place in the bark dust to nestle their rocks together.

South Ridge Elementary School's Resiliency Garden is filled with hand-painted rocks by all of the students who are graduating from the fourth grade.

Being able to paint the rocks together in person was especially meaningful to them, as the entire group started the year in remote learning. “The Resiliency Garden was installed with a plaque to recognize the challenges this group overcame this year,” Principal Jill Neyenhouse explained. The colorful rocks will remain at South Ridge to remind future visitors of how resilient young people can be.

Union Ridge Elementary School’s rock “river” has been in place for two years, inspired by the book “Only One You” by Linda Kranz. In the book, a fish learns some wise advice from his parents as he sets out on his own, including “Look for the beauty wherever you are, and keep the memory of it with you,” “Always be on the lookout for a new friend,” and “Find your own way. You don’t have to follow the crowd.”

Teachers read “Only One You” aloud to their students before the fourth graders designed and painted their rocks. “We really wanted to highlight the uniqueness of each student and the impact they’ve had on our Tater Tot family and their community beyond,” said school counselor Niccele Dunn. “We’re hoping the river will remain there and continue to be expanded for many years to come. So if the graduates come back to visit, they’ll be able to see their rocks and remember their time at Union Ridge.”

Union Ridge Elementary School has a similar rock "river" to recognize students graduating from fourth grade.

These fourth-grade students “rocked” their move up to fifth grade, and the personal reminders of their resilience and achievement will stay in place to inspire future elementary school students for years to come.