Creekside, Grand Ridge students create city of the future

June 14, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Students work on their Polyhedraville futuristic city project. Fourth-graders from the SAGE programs at Creekside and Grand Ridge elementary schools spent the school year creating the city. By Ron Ciraulo

The day after Ron Ciraulo’s fourth-graders presented their futuristic city project to city leaders, Kameron Gurol, Sammamish’s director of community development, personally commended the teacher for the students’ high-quality work.

“For somebody like that to go out of his way to stop and tell you, ‘Hey, we were really impressed with that’ … The surprise for me was that it was such a huge hit for council and staff members,” Ciraulo said. “ I think they were really impressed with the quality of work these kids were doing.”

Ciraulo’s gifted fourth-graders (the SAGE program) at Creekside and Grand Ridge elementary schools recently finished their yearlong Polyhedraville city-building project. As a team, the 29 students presented the 8-by-8-foot, 3-D model to the Sammamish City Council on June 7. Group leaders had rehearsed facts and features to highlight about the project, which covered lessons in math, social studies, community planning, building codes, communication and government.

“It was actually kind of fun. I was a little bit nervous,” said Cole Hinkelman, a Creekside fourth-grader.

On the first day of school last August, the students were given a challenge: It’s 200 years in the future and the world is overpopulated. Compete to design a community for one of the few remaining undeveloped areas of the world.

“My favorite part would probably have to be creating our ideas, building our buildings,” Grand Ridge student Brian Park said. “Through your imagination, you can kind of roam free and create whatever you want.”

The students had to address what types of buildings would be used, how the city would be organized and what city planners have to consider when planning development. To help the students understand using a comprehensive plan, Emily Arteche, a lead planner with the city of Sammamish, visited each class, Ciraulo said.

“I felt good and proud of myself because we worked hard on it. It turned out to be a really good city,” said Sami Bening, of Creekside. “To show it to the City Council was really fun with my team and my friends.”

Early in the process, the students learned about polyhedrons — three-dimensional geometric solids with flat faces and straight lines. They were tasked with designing their own idea of a futuristic city. Each class then voted on the best one. For the next eight months, they worked in small groups on eight smaller portions of the city grid.

All the while, Ciraulo taught about architecture, engineering, collaboration, self-assessment and budgeting — each student had $50,000 to build a house and one other building, he said. Because the students were working at two different schools, Ciraulo developed the online Polyhedraville Wiki, which stored important project files, facilitated class votes and helped the students ask each other questions.

“Certainly, one of the greatest challenges to the success of the project was constructing the city in two different locations,” Ciraulo said. “This made effective communication critical.”

Ciraulo said this was the ninth year he’s conducted the project with fourth-graders.

“I really liked the project because it’s very unique. I’ve never experienced anything like it,” said Aubrey Wisdom, a fourth-grade SAGE student at Grand Ridge. “My favorite part was designing the buildings, because there were many different polygons you could choose from.”

Students said they had never completed such a large project, but it was rewarding in many ways.

“I like how we had to work together to create the whole city,” Cole said.

He said it was challenging to build the larger buildings to scale from the miniature model.

“We kind of had to move some stuff around,” he said. “My favorite part was actually making my building and my house, because I could design it however I wanted.”

Aubrey said one of the more difficult parts was to make sure the roads from the Grand Ridge half connected with the roads on the Creekside half of the city. The classes joined their halves together two weeks before the City Council presentation, Ciraulo said.

“The project touches on so many of their capabilities,” he said. “To see how much they invested through the year, I think the rewards were significant for them.”

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or Comment at

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