JUST AFTER SCHOOL ended back in June I was offered a full-time position as art teacher at Mohawk, and I accepted.
While I am excited about the change and the challenges ahead, I am certainly feeling the bittersweetness of it as I say goodbye to BSE.
For five years I have been lucky enough to work in a fabulous school community with an awesome group of creative young people in a beautiful art studio. We have made lots of spectacular art happen and I have enjoyed every art show immensely as I see the pride of the faces of students and parents alike.
I have grown as an educator here and learned so much from my colleagues and students. Leaving is not easy. Hopefully it’ll only be a matter of time before I get to teach my BSE gang again at Mohawk. Until then, I thank you all for your support of the arts — and of me over the years. I will always be grateful for that.
— Fondly, Rachel Silverman
Asked a bit later
how she was settling in at Mohawk,
Mrs. Silverman told the Flow…
I’m trying a lot of new things and learning a ton about gearing art education toward middle- and high-school students. I miss my elementary school kids a lot, but I’m enjoying the new challenge of creating a rich and meaningful art program at the older level.
I realize that my experiences at BSE and Heath have taught me so much about what is important and developmentally sound in art education and I am really just building on that and taking my practice beyond the sixth-grade year into what comes next.
I’m also piloting a new course next semester and looking forward to launching more in the future.
I feel excited and grateful to be in this community. The kids aren’t as small but they are still pretty sweet, up for trying new things and exploring different ways art can be a part of our lives.
Hence the Quick Chat…
Our staffers wondered what some of their fellow students might have to say on the occasion of Mrs. Silverman taking her new job. We enjoyed taking these photos, and getting the quotes into and out of our reporters’ notebooks…
THE TIMING worked out well on a clear day in late September. The fifth grade had planted garlic. Plans were set for braiding it for sale for next year’s class trip to Nature’s Classroom.
It’s a community effort. Shelburne Falls Farm and Garden had donated that garlic, and retired teacher Karen Eldred worked with a preschool teacher to cut sunflower heads — her students were about to line them up by size.
Timing is the key for success at the school gardens, where Eldred and a passel of school and community volunteers tend to herbs, vegetables, and flowers. There’s a bounty of education here as well as food for the table. Eldred spent a little time with the Flow recently to explain what the school’s eight gardens really grow…
Flow: We always see kids out here. It looks lovely.
Karen: Thank you, it is lovely. Jacqui Goodman’s [sixth-grade] class just came out and we cut up the sunflower stalks and added them to the compost bins; another preschool teacher came out and we decided what to do with the scarlet runner beans that we planted last year on big poles that a storm knocked over. We opened some up and they were just beautiful. And then we went through what she could do with them, whether it was eat them or save them for next year for crafts.
Flow: Do you plan activities class by class, or…
Karen: It works perfect! The timing was really good today. A couple of clases were expecting me, and others I ran into and it just worked. Ms. Funk and I talked about kale — her class is going to harvest kale over the next two weeks and the kitchen is going to make kale chips.
Flow: How is all this organized? Is this all volunteer effort?
Karen: All these beds are put in by the Garden Committee. We still need parents’ support. I’m here as a liaison, working with families and school and the gardens and the teachers.
I’ll do a little work with the kids in the classroom on what’s going to happen — this is instruction time — and with others it’s just random.
The preschool kids happened to just come out and they had their wagon with them. It was just coincidental. And then we took 15 to 20 minutes and did some instruction with them and cut some sunflowers.
Now I’m doing cleanup, which is hard to teach kids to do. This is fall cleanup and I’m just waiting for Becky’s [Becky Ecklund’s fifth-grade] class.
Flow: You said you’re looking for more help. What can community members do to help?
Karen: We’re looking for people to get involved. There are always things that can be donated. Right now we’re looking for bales of hay to mulch the garlic with. But we need a parent representative, which is what Emily Crehan was doing, and had been doing for a year. That would involve making flyers and organizing a date for a work crew. We need someone who can help with fundraising and grant writing – that’s a critical need right now.
We also need supplies and stipends. Red Gate Farm sends people down here and they get a stipend, I get a stipend, and we want to add Emily’s position as a stipend. It’s not a salary; it’s not anywhere near the hours that we work but it recognizes that this can’t be a purely voluntary thing if it’s going to work.
Flow: What are you hoping kids take from all this?
Karen: I want children to understand where their food comes from because children really don’t. I want children to get outside. They don’t get outside anywhere near as much as they should. There’s science involved; there’s math involved. Being able to make connections to the curriculum. Really connecting back to what used to be part of their lives and really isn’t anymore. Children really don’t know where their food comes from; children really aren’t getting outside and getting dirty. They don’t realize what compost is.
Flow: I’m surprised to hear that. I’d think, living around here, more kids would have a sense of the earth.
Karen: There’s a certain amount but it’s not like it used to be, where it was part of life. Now it’s if a family chooses to garden and it’s kind of a hobby. And with some families, yeah, they do still grow their own potatoes and can their own food but there’s a lot who don’t. Everybody used to have a kitchen garden and that’s not true anymore.
Flow: Why is it important for kids, for families, to have this sense?
Karen: Well, it’s educational. It’s lifelong. It’s a lifelong connection to living. If you don’t grow your food, to at least realize when you walk into that supermarket where that potato came from, what the parts of a plant are, that the carrot is actually the root, that you’re actually eating the root… When you’re eating corn you’re eating seeds.
Flow: That’s a great vocabulary to have at your disposal too, to know how you’re supporting yourself with the planted life.
Karen: There’s this whole cycle that continues. We can either help it continue or we can asphalt it over. [Laughs]
Flow: So anyone can help in the gardens here? It doesn’t have to be a school parent or a teacher?
Karen: I’d love some community members. A master gardener would be really cool. I’m self-taught. My grandparents gardened, my mom gardened, I garden. In another lifetime I canned my own food. I worked with adolescents in residential care when I worked as a special-ed teacher and we used to have gardens and chickens and exhibit at the fair. [Those were] hard-core city kids who did really bad things and they’re finding a different part of themselves. Gardens are for everybody. These gardens are for everybody.
The Flow catches up with BSE music teacher Sandy Carter on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Kids In Concert, set for Thursday, April 30, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Mohawk’s auditorium. Music students from all our elementary schools will join in for an evening of great performances…
THE BSE FLOW: What’s it like preparing for the 10-year anniversary of Kids in Concert?
SANDY CARTER: First of all, I’m very excited it’s the 10th. Because when we first started we had no idea that we would do this every year for 10 years. So it’s kind of cool that we have this consistent, ongoing thing.
The other neat thing about it is we have some things that are exactly the same from the first and some things that have changed, and this particular concert some things that I’m excited about is that we’re bringing back a couple of the pieces we originally played in the first one, for example, the “Ode to Joy,” which is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, written by Beethoven, and to do that again like we did 10 years ago, it’s very exciting.
The other thing I’m really excited about is that we have a piece of music that we did in the very first concert, and we gave it to Alice Parker, who is a very well-known composer who happens to live right near here, and that she has written a new arrangement of the song that we did the first time. So we’re doing the same song but with a new arrangement. And she will be there to hear it.
The third thing is that we haven’t kept track of how many students I’ve had participating but I am really excited about BSE participating because I was just counting and getting everybody’s permission slip, and there’s just about 50 kids from BSE participating, and that seems to me like a really good anniversary number.
BSE FLOW: How do you feel? A little nervous, or…
SANDY CARTER: You always get nervous when you perform no matter how many times you’ve done it, whether you’re a fifth-grade flute player or a piano player or a conductor who’s been playing for many, many, many years. You always have that little bit of nervousness.
But I always like to think that’s important because it makes you stay focused: That keeps you in the game and not treat the concert like it’s just something else. It gives it that special feeling. Even though I’ve conducted “Ode to Joy” before it’s with a whole new group of people, so it could be completely different than how we’ve done it before. So that part makes me nervous and excited.
FOR THE FINAL THREE springs of her BSE career she was a Shelburne Falls Huskie. Now she plays softball for Mohawk Middle School, and No. 27 Erika Looman says that school presents new rules.
“At Mohawk, to play any sport, you have to make sure you aren’t failing any classes. If you are, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association will simply say you have to sit out for the season,” she tells us.
That’s in contrast to elementary school softball, where “your grades don’t necessarily affect you playing softball.”
Second, she says, her new team is a mix of many of the people she played against in the Hilltown League, “so your enemies are now your friends.”
Erika’s advice for Mohawk softball success: Dedicate yourself to it.
“In the beginning of our season, which started mid-March, my coach warned us that if we stopped going to practice she wouldn’t let us play in games. In the elementary league, it was ‘come if you can,’ which led to some teammates not being as strong as others.”
She’s having fun though, and invites you to check out Hilltown Softball during April vacation at the Arms Softball Field in Shelburne Falls.
Joe Bompastore of 16U Tournament Softball says a team meeting is set for April 26 at 4 p.m. at Mohawk.
Interested players and parents are welcome. For more information, call Joe at 413-386-6162.
Girls 14U tryouts May 9
Jennifer Sinistore of Mohawk girls 14U suburban softball league writes to say that tryouts are Saturday, May 9, on the Mohawk varsity field from 10 a.m. to noon. Rain date is Sunday, May 10, at the same time. Age cutoff is Jan. 1.
Sinistore adds that there are many people to thank for helping make this season fun and successful:
“Dave Fried for the AMAZING photos; Grampa Johnston for the bathroom key; Fred Redecker for the field; the Townsleys for lime and willingness for always wanting to do more; Jon for keeping the book and helping coach; Nick for coaching bases when needed; Nick, Mike, and Pat for helping with the field; Rich and Joe for assisting; Cindy and Chantal for asking me to coach; Olivia, Carol, and Gramma Sinistore for the snacks; the parents for your endless support; and the FANS FANS FANS… It truly is a community effort.”
Summer rec registration open
Registration is open for the Mohawk Summer Recreation Program, which runs 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from June 22 to July 31. To register and for more information, visit mohawksummerrec.org.
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