Build the Ripple: A Report Back from Our 2019 National Signature Project Award Winner

February 12, 2020 |

Devon Barker-Hicks with her students on their newly built playground in New Meadows, Idaho.

We are excited to share a report from our 2019 National Signature Project Award recipient Devon Barker-Hicks of Meadow Valley School in Idaho. Her place-based project, "Build the Ripple," involved students in building a new playground for their community. This project was made possible through a collaboration between the National Rural Education Association and the Rural Schools Collaborative. You can learn more about the National Signature Project Award here.

We started this year off by Building the Ripple. We were able to finish a Pay it Forward project that was started by six of my students in 2016 who nicknamed themselves the "Six Super Kids."

Through the support of the Rural Schools Collaborative National Signature Project Award I was able to make a dream come true for these students, my current students, and my community.

I teach in a small community in New Meadows, Idaho. The City of New Meadows also partnered with us to Build the Ripple by supporting the effort for new playground equipment in the city park. The city and community had been saving funds for replacement equipment for years. With the support of Rural Schools Collaborative, the city, and the profits of selling our Mountaineer Tiny Home the year before, students and community volunteers were able to work with local contractors to build our new playground. During the fall, the students worked with mentors to learn how to draw concept maps of the equipment and learned the skills needed to assemble the playground equipment. Many days we were dirty and satisfied with our hands-on work in the field. Other days students were civic minded. They spoke at public meetings, researched playgrounds around the world, wrote speeches, sent invitations, and planned the grand reopening for our community. Watching the students take an active role in their city government was a special part for me. They were dedicated to making their community a better place. Their thoughts were captured well in this podcast. They shared that they were proud, enjoyed working toward a common goal, and liked the civic engagement.

For me, I am a little surprised each time I see the playground. I am proud and invigorated in my teaching by what students can do with support! They want to make their world a better place, and I want to be there with them. Margaret Mead words sound in my head, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” I am so thankful my students pushed me to be in their small, rural group.


Devon Barker-Hicks is a native Idahoan of Basque heritage with 20 years of experience teaching children from 3rd grade through high school. She earned a BA at the College of Idaho, a Masters in Teaching at the University of Idaho, and National Board Certification in 2001 and again in 2011. Devon currently teaches middle school English Language Arts and Social Studies at Meadows Valley School, with a focus on place-based education.

“Watching the students take an active role in their city government was a special part for me. They were dedicated to making their community a better place.”

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