AT 6, many girls have on their Christmas lists Barbie dolls and other toys. Una Jensen wanted a guitar.
Having an excellent ear as a child, Una quickly learned the four basic chords and started putting vocal melodies to rhythm structures. She was turning out vocals and arrangements far beyond her years, and with only little training.
With strong support at home, the preteen began dominating local talent competitions. The first time Una took her gift to the public was an appearance at the local singing competition Valley Idol. She practiced hard on a few selections and pulled out a first-place victory.
Una tracked her first demo at age 12, and shortly after that caught the attention of top music producers, who invited her to Orlando, Fla., to co-write and record two more songs.
The collaboration was an eye-opener, she says.
“I write because it feels amazing to sit down and put together something that makes you, or someone else, feel a certain way,” she explains.
Una, who graduated BSE in 2008, is focused on her art. Now 17, and home-schooled in Shelburne, she’s eager for more. This BSE graduate isn’t done learning by a long shot.
“I want to record more and learn more about the process of recording. I want to collaborate. I want to be experienced. I want to know more about music in general,” she says.
Since her days as a student at BSE she’s gone on two national tours, met some of her musical heroes, and worked hard. She also remembers one of the first times she performed for an audience.
“It was right in the auditorium of BSE. I remember my days there like they were yesterday. And here I am, about to graduate from high school and on the verge of releasing my second single and music video,” she tells The BSE Flow.
“I still love visiting BSE and I’m proud to say I was a student there.”
THIS APRIL some of the most talented kids I’ve ever met signed up to learn a little bit of what it means to work at a newspaper and have fun doing it.
As their after-school spring enrichment adviser I wanted to see how far we’d get in six hours (one hour a week for six Mondays) by interviewing each other, asking follow-up questions, and talking about how and why news is covered in our larger community.
In our art room-turned newsroom we talked about times we’d appeared in a newspaper — whether in quotes or photos — and how that felt. We interviewed friends and family, came back with copy (with direct quotes, all attributed), and had fun talking about it.
We pored over the papers serving our region, discussing the elements of story, page, and section. We noted ads and comics. We began to think of ways to serve the reader.
Everyone showed heartening enthusiasm.
When we could grab someone out in the hallway for a photo or an interview we did that too, and came back with a great profile of a school dog, a lively Q&A with patient school staffers, and a chat with our librarian.
We voted on a name for this paper — three contenders were proposed, and “The BSE Flow” won — and I thought we’d have fun opening a Word newsletter template and typing our stories in.
The kids looked at me like I didn’t understand.
“No. We want a newspaper,” they said. They pulled a broadsheet, with all the cool stuff in it, out from the pile of papers before us. “This.”
“Uh… OK,” I said. “Let me see how we would print something that large. I’ll get back to you. Hold that thought.”
And I checked with the Daily Hampshire Gazette, which owns just such a press, and they promptly offered to donate 250 copies of a four-page Flow, two pages in color. And then I reported to my bosses — all in grades three, four, and six — and they got to work.
They organized a list of story ideas and decided who would work on what. They wanted to explore, for readers, what it’s like to learn here, create here, contribute here.
They took the project seriously and laughed often, which in my opinion is the perfect balance of life skills.
We had planned to cover everything — all the other enrichment programs, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the eclipse, news from every class, and big events scheduled for May and June.
We worked on stories together; they voted on photos to use out of a dozen or so per subject we’d met.
I roamed the halls on their behalf, taking pictures, interviewing teachers, and … that was a problem. We’d run out of time. I wanted this to be their paper, not mine, so to finish now, without them, to get photos they wouldn’t get to see or vote on, to get quotes they wouldn’t get to consider for follow-up, would defeat the purpose.
I wanted them to lay the thing out, write headlines and captions, and proof pages. I’d help, of course.
Then I learned Jacqui Goodman’s class won that prestigious award, our new lead story. Thrilling for them and for the whole school. This was news! A BSE Flow exclusive! We have such potential. (This also “bumped” other material we had planned for you. It happens.)
So the project ended, and work remains, and we can certainly do this again and build on our experience and add staff, as the kids asked me whether we might, way back on Day One.
I hope you enjoy reading this newspaper with your family. The one at home and the one we share as BSE.
Here’s to the conversation.
— Words and pictures by John Snyder, publisher and adviser
BSE—Mrs. Tomlinson’s kindergartners have been learning all about the properties of matter in science.
She writes, “We learned the differences of solids, liquids, and gasses, and we can find a lot of matter in our classroom.”
Mrs. Tomlinson also says that her students learned a song to help them remember the different types of matter.
She adds that by the time you read this her students will have experimented with changing matter from one state to another, like a solid ice cube to a puddle of water, or a puddle of water to gently drifting vapor.
For anyone who doesn’t know yet, solids have a definite shape; liquids take the shapes of their containers; and gasses lack shapes and are present all around us.
Biography Blast in Second Grade
The students in Mrs. Miller’s second-grade class were hard at work on biographies in April. Biography, or the story of a real person’s life written by someone other than that person, is a great way to get to know someone.
A contributor from the class explains:
“We read biographies about Theodore Roosevelt [author, naturalist, explorer, historian, and 26th President of the United States], Ellen Ochoa [former astronaut and the first Hispanic woman to go to space], and Wilma Rudolph [Olympic athlete considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s]. Some of us made a timeline of Theodore Roosevelt’s life. We all wrote autobiographies about our own lives. Then we did our own self-portraits.”
An autobiography is a biography one writes about oneself.
Mrs. Miller adds, “We learned a lot about the lives of some famous people as well as our classmates.”
Popsicle Sticks Make Storytelling Fun in K-2 Pod
Could you write a story about a dragon on a spaceship that encounters a tornado? How about an owl that’s stuck in the mud in a bedroom? Or a mermaid who lives in a cave, lost a shoe, and has a broken magic wand?
The students in Mrs. Rush and Ms. Deveney’s K-2 intervention group can tell you how. They’ve been using multicolored Popsicle sticks to bring such stories to life.
Here’s how it works: They select a yellow stick for a character, an orange stick for setting, a green stick that describes a problem, and a blue stick that contains special information.
After making a plan based on those sticks, the students are ready to use their imaginations to tell a story like none other.
Third-graders set for Plimoth Plantation Sleepover
Ms. Funk’s third-grade class is getting ready for its big overnight field trip to Plimoth Plantation, a “living museum” in Plymouth, Mass., that shows the original settlement of the Plymouth Colony established in the 17th century by English colonists, some of whom later became known as Pilgrims.
She writes, “During our visit, we will have the opportunity to experience, hands-on, what life was like for the Wampanoag people back in the 17th century. Students will make clay pots similar to those traditionally used to cook in.”
Also, she adds, “we’ll learn a game that the Wampanoag children played.”
The class will explore the colonists’ village, the Wampanoag Homesite (on the banks of the Eel River), and the Mayflower II, a replica of the ship that brought many of the Pilgrims to the New World.
According to Plimoth Plantation’s website, the original Mayflower that sailed to Plymouth in 1620 no longer exists. Plimoth Plantation’s full-scale reproduction, Mayflower II, was built in Devon, England, and crossed the Atlantic in 1957.
The site also says the staff in the Wampanoag Homesite are proud of their Native heritage and know well the traditions, stories, technology, pastimes, music, and dance of the people who have lived in this region for more than 10,000 years.
“Ask lots of questions. You may be surprised what you’ll learn,” the site suggests.
One of Ms. Funk’s students, Bennett Snyder, told The BSE Flow he is particularly looking forward to the field trip’s dinner, which he said would be “a real Indian feast.”
He said he also is looking forward to his trip — his first to the plantation — “because it will be very fun having a sleepover with all of my classmates.”
Paper Bag Book Reports Shed Light on History
BSE Flow third-grade sources say there’s been much activity surrounding a project to learn more about African Americans who’ve helped change the world.
The project also was a chance for students to prepare and deliver presentations.
Students wrote us, “For paper-bag book reports, you’re assigned a person and their biography. While you’re reading, you write down dates and notes that tell their significant events. Then you write them all down on a timeline and make a cover for the front.”
Then, “you choose five or six items that relate to that person’s life. We had a lot of fun presenting them and listening to the other [students’] work. When we were presenting, the person who was up had two questions that everyone else tried to answer with the information that the presenter gave.”
— Ainsley Bogel and Lily Heaten
Here’s an activity recommended by Aidan and Bennett in Ms. Funk’s third-grade class: vivid visualization.
“Our class started doing this a while back,” the friends say.
You can do it too. Here’s how:
Darken the room. Turn off the lights, close the door, and pull the shades.
One person will choose a book and start to read.
Everyone else … close your eyes and listen to the words.
While you’re listening, picture in your mind what the speaker is describing. Try to see that world and hear its sounds. Use all your senses.
Share with a partner what you visualized. Did you imagine the same things? How were your visualizations different? How might they have been similar?
What’s in a Moon?
Ms. Funk’s third-grade is “going to look at the Moon for 28 days to see how it changes,” several of her students wrote The BSE Flow.
The students said that they made a Moon phase calendar to keep track of their observations. They knew that on the night of April 15 there was going to be a lunar eclipse, so “we are waiting to see that,” they said less than a week before the astronomical event.
The students also said, “We are waiting for a Full Moon that then will shrink into a New Moon again. We found out that when the Moon is growing it is called a waxing Moon. (And the opposite is called waning.) We are waiting for it to go around in a full cycle.”
Of course, the Moon isn’t really getting bigger or smaller, it’s just that it reflects more or less sunlight to us depending on where it, the Earth, and the Sun are at the time. Because the Earth and Moon orbit the Sun in a regular, predictable way, around and around and around, we know what phase the Moon will be in every night of the year.
— Eliza Bogel, Hannah Chase, Grace Crowley, and Rheannon Shepard, with staff reporting
Fourth-graders Welcome Timbers the Hamster
Ms. Hyer’s fourth-grade class have recently acquired a new hamster, named Timbers, a golden ball of fluff with a dark stripe down his back.
“We are not making this up when we say his favorite food is peanuts,” several of Timbers’ new friends say.
Timbers has a miniature car that he can run around in but that he doesn’t particularly like. He also has a clear, plastic running ball.
According to reports from inside the classroom, “When Timbers gets aggravated he gets feisty and starts nipping. Also, if you scare him, you will get a surprise on your hand.”
Students said they organized a penny drive to buy Timbers and his cage, and that they’re still collecting money for extra supplies.
Donations are greatly appreciated, and visitors are welcomed to say hello.
“Remember,” the students say, “a cent a day lets the hamster stay!”
Ms. Hyer adds, “Our hamster has arrived in our classroom thanks to Tammy and Kylie Lowell and is doing well. Timbers is adjusting to our routines — joining us during morning meeting while roaming in his ball.”
She notes Timbers is fortunate to be cared for by these students, “as they are very responsible kids and experienced in caring for a hamster.”
— Leah, Areia, Octavia, Jacob, and Olivia
Science Shines in Fifth Grade
The natural sciences are hopping in Ms. Eklund’s fifth-grade class, where students have started a science unit on energy, exploring magnetism, sound, light, heat, and electricity.
According to Ms. Eklund, her students have been busy making predictions and testing hypotheses in hands-on labs.
First-place win for reflections to Holocaust novel in art, poetry
SHELBURNE—Sixth-grade students at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School have just won the 2014 Charles A. Hildebrandt Holocaust and Genocide Studies Award for Middle School Students, held annually at Keene State College.
Seventeen students participating in teacher Jacqui Goodman’s spring unit on the Holocaust and genocide had submitted a class project, “Remember,” which consisted of their reflections of a class reading of area author Jane Yolen’s historical fiction novel “The Devil’s Arithmetic.”
The award honors Charles Hildebrandt, Keene State College’s professor emeritus in sociology, and founder, in 1983, of its Holocaust Resource Center. The award is given in recognition of excellence in Holo-caust or genocide studies.
An award ceremony was scheduled Sunday, April 27, at 7 p.m. The center invited winners and their guests to a reception at 5 p.m.
Presentations are given by the award-winning participants, and monetary and book awards are granted. BSE’s cash award is $100, which will be mailed to the school.
Entries, judged by committee, were evaluated on their depth of vision, insight, creativity, originality, and technical ability. BSE entered in the category for grades 5-8.
Reached in Seattle, where she was visiting one of her daughters on April break, Ms. Goodman told The BSE Flow, “What I’ve known about BSE sixth graders is that they’re creative thinkers who love learning about places beyond Shelburne Falls and human experiences beyond their own.”
She said her students, having read “The Devil’s Arithmetic,” “seemed deeply affected by the story and then wanted to do something about what they’d learned.
“I’m thrilled that they moved beyond a school assignment (reading the book) to wanting to share something with the larger community (recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day was completely student-generated). Their activism bodes well for our future,” she said.
She described the project as a large display, backed by burlap, of students’ “reflections” in art and poetry to pages of Yolen’s award-winning novel.
The class also planned to hand out brochures they’ve made to passersby in Shelburne Falls on the occasion of the Holocaust Day of Remembrance, on Monday, April 28, the day students returned from their spring vacation.
Students also have prepared a 12-foot banner reading, “Remember” that Ms. Goodman was working on displaying downtown. She said she hoped to find a business owner who will donate wall space.
As described by its publisher, Puffin Modern Classics, “The Devil’s Arithmetic” follows Hannah, a Jewish girl living in New Rochelle, N.Y.:
“During a Passover Seder, Hannah is transported back in time to 1942 Poland, during World War II, where she is sent to a death camp thought to be Auschwitz and learns the importance of knowing about the past,” promotional copy reads.
The Seder is a ritual feast that marks the beginning of Passover, which commemorates the story of the Exodus as described in the Hebrew Bible, in which the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt.
Passover began this year on the evening of April 14, and ended the evening of April 22.
“The Devil’s Arithmetic” was nominated for the Nebula Award for best novella in 1988 and won the National Jewish Book Award for children’s literature in 1989.
Art flowed from art
Days before learning her class had won the award, Ms. Goodman told The BSE Flow that her predecessor, Larry Wells, routinely assigned “The Devil’s Arithmetic” for sixth-grade reading and discussion on the strength of its clarity and accessibility for the age group. “When he retired and I moved into his place I thought I’d give it a shot, and it’s been incredible,” she said.
As for the resulting project that landed her students the Hildebrandt Award, Ms. Goodman said she’d discovered the “reflections” technique in an exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. She said she thought her students might try their hand at it.
The class project was shepherded to Keene State College by Maggid David Arfa, father of one of Ms. Goodman’s students, and a storyteller and environmental educator. Mr. Arfa’s storytelling performance, “The Jar of Tears: A Memorial for the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto,” won the 2009 Hildebrandt Award in honor of its artistic excellence, depth of vision, and technical mastery.
A fifth-grader re-discovers Chile, sunsets,
and his mom’s hometown
SHELBURNE—He saw aunts and uncles and 37 cousins, and his grandparents. He slept in one house after another after another. He knew how to ward off the town’s stray dogs. He photographed gorgeous Pacific sunsets. He ate octopus.
I listened, amazed. This wasn’t the typical back-from-vacation carpool story.
Jeffrey Buck, a BSE fifth-grader, had been gone for two weeks to Chile, where his mom, Elizabeth, is from — at a town called Tomé. This was Jeffrey’s third trip there but the first he’s old enough to remember. He had just returned to the village and was fitting back into daily life, happy to play with my son Will.
Jeffrey was excited about his trip. He showed us lots of pictures and told a story of romance and adventure: his parents’.
His father, Phil, is an adventurer, Jeffrey said with just a trace of a Spanish accent. He explained his parents met when Phil traveled to Santiago, the capital of Chile, “to seek adventure,” and he sure found one: He and Eli met within an hour of his landing — his first-ever
South American trip — and the two traveled the world.
In 1994 they got married.
Eli joined Phil in the States, leaving her birth family behind to start her American family. Mark was born first; he’s now an athlete who’s just graduated Mohawk Trail Regional High School. Jeffrey came next.
While Eli raised her sons she worked for Community Action’s WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program. She taught Spanish at Mohawk High School for four years, and now teaches at the Academy at Charlemont.
The adventure that drew Phil to Chile 20 times so far started as a seed in his heart. He was a boy when he read a book by Thor Heyerdahl called “Kon-Tiki” (1947) that told of Heyerdahl’s long sea voyage on a balsa raft.
According to Jeffrey, it was then his dad decided to help validate Heyerdahl’s theory — that ancient peoples could have taken 8,000-mile sea voyages on rafts, creating contacts between separate cultures — by building an ancient-style reed raft when he grew up. So, in 2000 he built a 64-foot replica and sailed from Arica, Chile, to Easter Island.
The journey of his boyhood dreams came to fruition in the company of a group of men and two ducks. (Sadly, one of the ducks jumped ship.) They’d brought the “animal friends,” as Jeffrey described them, because Heyerdahl and his crew had brought a parrot on their voyage.
The story Jeffrey told about his father following Heyerdahl seem larger than life and bring to mind Alex Rover from “Nim’s Island.” But the telling is accurate. Heyerdahl wrote up his accounts and documented them on film, winning an Academy Award in 1951.
Phil followed Heyerdahl into print, too: Journalist Nick Thorpe overheard Phil and his crew planning their voyage, joined them on the trip, and wrote “Eight Men and a Duck: An Improbable Voyage by Reed Boat to Easter Island” (2001).
Jeffrey continued telling the story of his mother’s family and country with passion — and that slight accent that mirrors his mother’s full, beautiful one.
The family visited Eli’s family in Chile this summer because they wanted to see Jeffrey’s grandfather, who is ill.
The sights, sounds and smells of Chile came to life with Jeffrey’s rich description. “I felt so much like I belonged there. I felt like I actually lived there,” he said.
His aunt Priscilla took him and Eli around to visit. And there was much good food. The country sounded practically famous for its food. Jeffrey particularly enjoyed the ribs.
And all the stores had candy. So much candy. “Boxes everywhere,” he said in wonder.
And there were more stories: Jeffrey and his cousin Bastian enjoyed parkour, rock-wall climbing, and the circus. There were sea lions, too: perhaps the highlight of the vacation, he said.
The only time he pronounces Chile as “chili” is when he explains that most people in Chile “don’t even like to eat chili.” Otherwise he uses the proper Spanish vowels: “chee-lay.”
Now our playdate carpool chit-chat has taken on a new flair. My son Will is determined to learn Spanish, and he and Jeffrey compete to see who knows more words. Jeffrey wins these games.
Jeffrey, with his home here, said he looks forward to a life of travel and adventure: His parents, brave and curious, inspire him. How can you not be swept along into a story like that?
Kara Bohonowicz is a Flow adviser.
Independent, student-led media for the greater Shelburne Falls area