All posts by John Snyder

John Snyder publishes The BSE Flow. Got a news tip? Want to support the project (and your business) with an ad? Write news@bseflow.com.

‘Breakfast,’ with compound words underlined, by Rikku

"Birch Collage" by Reuben Bassett
“Birch Collage” by Reuben Bassett

AS THE SUNSHINE comes into my bedroom and wakes me up, I push off my bedspread and go barefoot into the living room to find my grandfather and grandmother reading the newspaper and waking up.

When they see me, one of them offers to make my breakfast. I want pancakes with strawberries.

Afterward, we all have places we need to go.


Rikku is a BSE fifth-grader. Reuben completed this collage in sixth grade; he is now at Mohawk. We welcome student work that reveals something of who we are as a community. These pieces are perfect.

LEC: ‘School Improvement Plan stronger with you’

LEC seeks family, community voices;
Shelburne seat still open

Dear Flow readers,

Our LEC (Local Education Council) is an advisory board to the principal. Members consist of parents of current students, teachers, and members of the towns of Buckland and Shelburne.

This year’s members are  parents Jennifer Martin, Elizabeth Garofalo, Rachel Silverman, and Amanda Kingsley; school staffers Sandra Carter, Kate Dwyer, and Lillian Black; and community member and Buckland resident Mary Brooks.

A seat is open for a Shelburne resident as well.

Flow staffer Myah Grant, then in 4th grade, is determined to report on the Dec. 17, 2014, LEC meeting.
Flow staffer Myah Grant, then in 4th grade, is determined to report on the Dec. 17, 2014, LEC meeting.

The LEC creates the Family-School Connection portion of the School Improvement Plan. Some schoolwide initiatives that have come from the LEC include the school garden, after-school enrichment programs, and the back-to-school Community Night.

[The SIP also covers Effective Instruction, Student Assessment, and Tiered Instruction and Adequate Learning Time. — Ed.]

The LEC aims to respond to the needs of Buckland-Shelburne families to help strengthen the relationship between home and school that is so important for our students.

There is always time in our agenda for community comment, and we welcome input from any member of the Buckland-Shelburne community. We just ask that you contact Principal Joanne Giguere first so that you can be put on the agenda.

The LEC meets at the school library at 4 p.m. on the second Monday of each month and follows the open-meeting laws. Sometimes decision-making happens over the course of several meetings, as we carefully consider concerns brought to our attention.

We hope to hear from you.

— Jennifer Martin, on behalf of the LEC


For more information on the LEC, contact Jen Martin at 625-3054 or jem1024@gmail.com. For copies of the district’s educational improvement plan, including BSE’s School Improvement Plan for 2015-2016 and its Action Plan, visit mohawkschools.org and click the tab for Buckland-Shelburne.

What’s on your mind? The Flow welcomes a diverse range of family friendly views on pertinent topics.

Eyes on the prize for health and fitness

MARY JOHANSMEYER is approaching 20 years teaching gym in the district. She says she believes the gym is a great place to instill teamwork, stamina, and self-confidence for a happier, healthier life. She looks for new ways to tie other classroom instruction in with fitness.
MARY JOHANSMEYER is approaching 20 years teaching gym in the district. She says she believes the gym is a great place to instill teamwork, stamina, and self-confidence for a happier, healthier life. She looks for new ways to tie other classroom instruction in with fitness.

SNOW HAS YET to fall in our neck of the woods but the great outdoors are lovely all around, and we can certainly take a walk or enjoy a hike. Sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country and downhill skiing aren’t far off. According to BSE physical education teacher Mary Johansmeyer, kids will rise to the challenge of physical fitness and healthy lifestyle choices if given the chance — and clever encouragement.

Flow: We were just speaking with Cafeteria Manager Sonya Hamdan about healthy eating and student success…

Mary: It’s essential. I’m on the Wellness Committee, which is setting our nutritional policy for the district. The state came up with this requirement for a committee to oversee nutrition, physical education, and a healthy lifestyle. I’m on it along with Sue Mitchell, the nurse liaison for the district; Denise Dunbar, the nurse from Sanderson; the other elementary P.E. teacher and high school P.E. teacher; and we’re trying to get the health teacher on board.

The goal is to make sure our kids lead healthy lifestyles. We’re looking at health as much as we can, including what the kids eat in school, like at parties. We try to dictate what is allowed for parties. It used to be all what I call junk: good[-tasting] junk, but is it healthy?
We’ll meet monthly and present our recomendations to the School Committee. This isn’t new: We’re just revisiting it.

Flow: What are the kids working on now?

Mary: The young kids work on movement concepts: spatial awareness and basic skills just so I can hook them in to kind of get them excited about moving.

The older kids, I always start out with teamwork so they can get used to working with one another. I just introduced a game called Hover Ball. The kids saw it on TV. I don’t watch a lot of TV. It’s half of a soccer ball and you kick it and it just sort of glides across the floor. It was great for the older kids because I always start soccer later in the fall: the grass is always soaking wet in the mornings and I hate bringing them out in it where their feet are soaking, so I’m always stuck with, How do I teach soccer without being outdoors? This is awesome because we learned our basic skills, and then once we got into game-playing we were able to play in the gym. We have goals. They were ready.

Flow: What’s your goal for P.E. this year overall?

Mary: My goal is just to keep them motivated and excited to move and just want to keep exercising and moving and having fun. We’re always trying to come up with new, fun ideas.

Flow: Many kids say they want more recess. Principal Joanne Giguere points out there are only so many hours available for that, given the requirements on instruction time. What’s your view?

Mary: I feel that recess, or just running and moving, is so important. That’s how kids learn: by doing. If they’re just sitting at the desk all day, yeah, I can teach you by talking, but if you do it, if you learn through moving, you’re going to remember it much longer.

In here a lot of the time I’ll try to incorporate what they’re doing in the classroom, like math facts. The sixth graders are working on it and getting better at their multiplication. They work in pairs: One person is the jumper and someone else holds the math fact cards. They might get “seven times seven” and have to jump on the answer, and do as many as they can in 30 seconds. You’ve got to know those numbers, and you’re jumping and it just plants that in your brain. Whatever the classroom is doing I try to pick up on something and make it physical.

Flow: How long have you been teaching here?

Mary: About 18 years. I didn’t start until Kelly, my youngest out of four, started first grade. I came back to teach. My degree was phys. ed. When I first got married I taught up in New Hampshire a little bit and then when we started having kids we moved back here. I didn’t want to be a working mom. I didn’t want to be away from the kids so I did daycare and I took in a lot of teachers’ kids, and our vacations were the same, and my husband was a teacher, so it worked for us around vacations.

Flow: As parents, what are we up against in terms of keeping kids active: screen time?

Mary: Definitely. Kids need to be moving. I just did the pre-fitness test for fifth grade, and just looking at the fitness components I talked to the kids about — abdominal strength, muscular strength, upper body strength, endurance, and flexibility — we talk about why each of those pieces are important to be healthy.

In many cases we’re finding where we need improvement, where we see a health risk. Now I’m going to go over their results with them and send these results home. It shows them, “I need to be outside; I need to be more active.” How many curl-ups can you do in a minute? How many 90-degree push-ups? How flexible is your reach? How fast can you do 2,000 steps? These are our standards. It gives us a measurement we can improve on.

Flow: Do you teach the kids how to perform an effective push-up?

Mary: I teach them that from Day One: how to do the exercise safely and effectively. We’ll do different things, not just pushups. Pushups are hard. It’s motor planning. There’s a lot to think about, so I always think of additional things to do to work on upper-body strength.

Flow: Is there anything else you think parents should know?

Mary: I only have the kids an hour a week. Their success depends on what they do when I’m not around, though I’m always happy to help. Kids need to be doing more at home. I am seeing that.


Teachers, parents, students, community members: You can write for us too! Tell us something new about who we are and where we live. We’ll help!

Today’s comics, graphic novels educate, inspire, dazzle

Melissa Lewis-Gentry, manager at Modern Myths in Northampton, says today’s comics and graphic novels can bring many more kids into the world of reading — and can open up many more types of adventures than did comics of yesteryear. For more information visit modern-myths.com.
Melissa Lewis-Gentry, manager at Modern Myths in Northampton, says today’s comics and graphic novels can bring many more kids into the world of reading — and can open up many more types of adventures than did comics of yesteryear.

IT WAS ALWAYS Melissa Lewis-Gentry’s dream to run a comic store. Growing up on the adventures of superheroes such as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man and the angsty, cosmic Silver Surfer, her tastes grew to include the likes of Neil Gaiman’s layered Sandman series and other titles that took their stories — and readers — more seriously.

She worked 10 years in finance then took the chance to follow her dream. She’s been managing Modern Myths Comics & Games in Northampton for nearly a year and enjoys spending her time in a wide, bright, rich, beautiful — and sometimes shadowy — world where anything can happen.

Often that involves helping families and libraries help kids get into reading.

“I’m really big into education and using comics as education. Whether it’s for family members or through the Springfield library system, I provide comics and give recommendations at different reading levels,” she told the Flow.

She also said she’s “really big into having comics where the content crosses any kind of gender stereotyping,” so kids can feel free to enjoy the adventure without being told it’s for them or not for them.
Asked for her top picks for elementary and middle school readers, Lewis-Gentry makes a bee-line for a colorful section devoted to all-age readers.

Here are a few of the titles she said kids, families, and teachers have told her they’ve enjoyed:

Amulet‘Amulet’

Amulet, a graphic novel series by Kazu Kibuishi published by Scholastic in six volumes since 2008, offers what Lewis-Gentry calls “a lot of life lessons and beautiful, lavish art. It’s not the comic strips you’re imagining from being a kid,” she says.

BONE‘Bone’

Bone, a critical and commercial smash, is an independently published comic series written and illustrated by Jeff Smith. There were 55 irregularly released issues from 1991 to 2004.

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins — Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone — are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert. One by one they find their way into a deep forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures.

Lewis-Gentry hails this as a new classic especially awesome for younger readers struggling to read.

“There are a lot of words but you can tell what’s going on with the story [through the art] and it really encourages kids to keep reading.
“It’s a fantasy story, a quest. He’s this silly kind of kids’ cartoony creature but he’s going on this epic adventure, meeting dragons, fighting monsters, and making friends. There’s a lot of text and a lot of context clues as well.”

Lewis-Gentry cites academic studies that she says show comics engage different parts of the brain that stereotypical or standard reading does not.

“So people who might have difficulty reading, whether it’s a learning disability, dyslexia, or anything like that — can read comics and understand the same level of content as someone who’s reading just prose. Books like Bone are really, really great for things like that.”

Sisters‘Sisters’

Raina Telgemeier delights with Sisters, her Eisner Award-winning companion to her comic memoir, Smile.

“This is awesome. The art is interesting; it’s about family dynamics; there’s a decent amount of reading level in it; and the content is great,” Lewis-Gentry says.

And her store does sell superhero titles by the shelf-full, as well as games and gaming modules.

“But,” she says, “not everyone is interested in superheroes. And there’s this stereotype that graphic novels for girls have to have princesses in them; that’s gone away. Now there are more expansive options out there. There’s lots and lots of good stuff.”


For more information visit modern-myths.com.

Ashley Walker aims to inspire community service

BSE ALUMNA and Mohawk sophomore Ashley Walker (above, with sister Kate) is driven to help others. Volunteering at the West County Community Meal at Trinity Church has been a huge part of her life, as are field hockey, lifeguarding, and scholastics, and she plans to go on to the Air Force as a critical care nurse.
BSE ALUMNA and Mohawk sophomore Ashley Walker (above, with sister Kate) is driven to help others. Volunteering at the West County Community Meal at Trinity Church has been a huge part of her life, as are field hockey, lifeguarding, and scholastics, and she plans to go on to the Air Force as a critical care nurse.

MOHAWK—Sophomore Ashley Walker is approaching her 10th year of volunteering at the weekly Friday night West County Community Meal at Trinity Church.

She tells her friends, “The good feeling I get after volunteering is indescribable. Oftentimes it’s a struggle for families or individuals to enjoy a healthy, home-cooked meal and good company. I’ve developed memorable relationships with each of the diners, and we treat one another just like family.”

For anyone new to the supper, she promises a warm welcome:
“We’re always looking for more volunteers and workers. Feel free to contact me about lending a helping hand.”

Ashley attended BSE from pre-K through 6th grade and says she loved it, particularly the community service aspect.

Asked her views on community service during a break in her lifeguard duties at the Buckland Rec one day this summer, she said participating in BSE’s recycling program, where students took the initiative to go room to room collecting recycling bins at the end of every day, made a lasting impression.

“I was inspired by so many people. I looked for ways to contribute to the community ever since, and the community meal is so big to me.”
She credits her elementary school teachers for leaving her with the drive to get involved.

“I loved BSE. Teachers still stay in contact with me. If they see me on the street or something they’ll have the biggest grin on their face.”

At the community meal, Ashely says, volunteers serve 40 to 60 people a week. She puts in four to five hours a shift. The meals themselves are prepared by different West County groups.

Ashley also gives her all playing field hockey but makes sure to fit the community meal into her schedule. It’s tough but I love it. I’ve written several articles [for school] on community service and the community meal,” she says.

Her life plans include joining the Air Force as a critical-care nurse, and she’s taking advanced coursework now to prepare.
Naturally, she’s also focused on doing good right here at home, hoping to inspire kids to get involved where they can:

“I don’t think many people realize how much the community needs your help — teenagers especially.”

Trinity Church is at 17 Severance St. For more information, call 625-2341.