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.
SHELBURNE—As the school year kicked off here in the hilltowns, many fall sports began, including football, field hockey, cross-country, golf, and girls’ volleyball.
Are you a sports fan? Do you enjoy playing, or following, any of these sports? If so you might know we’ve been in the midst of an exciting season of sports in the Mohawk District.
And if not, there’s still plenty you can do to stay in shape and have a lot of fun. You’re in a great place to do that.
I love sports. I’ve played baseball since kindergarten, and was in Cal Ripken baseball in elementary school. Baseball is the sport I focus the most on, but I go farther in golf than I do in any other sport. My plan is to go to college, and I’m playing golf here at Mohawk again (in middle school), and then I’ll play it in high school and see how far I can take it.
I have to be really good if I want to go pro. It’s the same with any sport, but for me it’s golf. I’ve been told I’m only going to get better. If I wanted to try to do that, and if I play more, there’s a chance I could go pro.
Golf also helps pass the time if I have nothing to do. My dad and my uncle both taught me to play. My dad taught me in fourth grade and I’ve been playing it ever since. As a game it’s frustrating but also relaxing.
Now that I’m in eighth grade I’m playing matches. I feel the eighth-graders are going to be good. I watched some of the kids play last year; it was their first year and I was able to watch them get better as the year went on. Three or four of us ended up practicing with varsity last year.
Here’s my advice for everyone: do something. Get involved. I totally think kids need to get outside and not just end up sitting on a couch. Be active and stuff; it’s good for you.
I’ve made a lot of friends playing sports, especially playing teams from other districts. You meet a lot of kids you wouldn’t get to know otherwise. I like seeing them around. Definitely by high school you’re playing so many other teams you get to meet a lot of different kids.
I loved gym class with Mrs. J. [Mrs. Johansmeyer]. When you get to Mohawk, take gym, because even though we did a lot of cool stuff at BSE, when I got to Mohawk it was all-new. You get to take on new games and activities.
With exercise like that, your physical health is better. You don’t feel down. You feel good, and by being active I feel a little better than when I wasn’t as active. Taking gym as seriously as I’ve been taking it for the past six years, it’s helped.
And I play video games, but not as much as I used to. When I was at BSE I had a lot more time. What with homework and sports, now that’s kind of a weekend thing.
So I’m looking forward to writing this column and sharing what’s happening in the sports world in our area. If you would like your sport, league, or team highlighted, please reach out to me.