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'tis the season TO SPREAD JOY

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Cathy Resmer

cathy@kidsvt.com COPUBLISHER

Colby Roberts

colby@kidsvt.com MANAGING EDITOR

Alison Novak

alison@kidsvt.com ART DIRECTOR


Corey Grenier

corey@kidsvt.com ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE

Kaitlin Montgomery kaitlin@kidsvt.com PROOFREADER




John James, Rev. Diane Sullivan CIRCULATION MANAGER



Keegan Albaugh, Meredith Bay-Tyack, Cat Cutillo, Heather Fitzgerald, Astrid Hedbor Lague, Eliza Järnefelt, Matt KillKelley Amy Lilly, Ken Picard, Benjamin Roesch, Brett Ann Stanciu PHOTOGRAPHER


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Rethinking Tradition


or the 16 years my husband, Jeff, and I have lived in Vermont, we’ve been making the five-hour pilgrimage to Westchester County, N.Y., every November to celebrate Thanksgiving with our families. Our parents live just 20 minutes apart, so it’s easy to see both sets of relatives on the holiday. Each year, we alternate where we eat the main meal. My parents always host a sprawling gathering of at least 30 extended family members. The turkey is impossibly huge, the side dishes are plentiful, and the house gets really loud. My dad makes his famous stuffing with sausage, celery, pecans and Craisins. My mom whips up her mom’s famous Alison and her family on onion pudding, a silky, savory Thanksgiving in 2019 custard — made all the more delicious by multiple sticks of butter — which I’ve never eaten anywhere else. Before the meal, my mom sets up her camera on a tripod and we gather for a family photo op that inevitably includes someone saying something inappropriate to make everyone else laugh. We celebrate guests with fall birthdays by crowding around cakes and pies lined up on the Ping-Pong table and singing a rousing, off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.” At Jeff ’s childhood home, my mother-in-law sets the tables with fancy napkin holders and elaborate autumnal centerpieces, leaving a little gift on everyone’s seat. My father-in-law chimes his fork on his glass and gives a speech lauding the guests’ accomplishments over the past year, taking a moment to remember family members who have passed away. After the meal, we retreat to the basement, where the group’s musically gifted contingent jams out to the Rolling Stones and Bon Jovi, and the less musically inclined sit on the couch, banging tambourines and cheering on the subterranean band that has exactly one gig per year. This November, because of travel restrictions and recommendations against large gatherings aimed at halting the spread of COVID-19, we’ll be abandoning our traditions, at least temporarily. For the first time ever, we’ll be staying put in Vermont for Thanksgiving. It’ll likely be just the four members of our nuclear family sitting at the table for the big meal. While the change feels a little unsettling, I’m also trying to make the best of it. Cooking and baking have been a source of comfort, especially for my 13-year-old daughter and me, during this time. We’ve already started brainstorming a gourmet menu of ambitious, from-scratch dishes like wild-rice-stuffed peppers and cranberry curd pie. Since my husband and son are vegetarians, we might even skip the turkey, which feels somehow liberating. Whatever our final menu is, we’ll be buying the bulk of our ingredients locally, as Meredith Bay-Tyack suggests in “Growing Up Green” on page 8. We might even make a Gratitude Tree as a centerpiece and fancy place mats using the abstract art techniques Emily Jacobs describes in “Art Lessons” on page 18. During Thanksgiving week, we’ll likely curl up on the couch for a movie night — or three. Matt KillKelley, a recent New York University film school grad who grew up in Vermont, has suggestions for under-the-radar films the whole family will enjoy on page 22. And no movie night is complete without something crunchy and delicious to snack on. Flip to “Mealtime” on page 12 for Astrid Hedbor Lague’s Middle Eastern spin on chips and dip — pita chips and Muhammara, made with roasted red peppers. For a little exercise, we might take a trip to Sucker Brook Hollow in Williston, which Heather Fitzgerald describes in “Good Nature” on page 11. In “Use Your Words” on page 27, Elisa Järnefelt compares holidays to anchor points, places where we are able to rest, for a moment, on our journey through the pandemic. We’ll get back to boisterous gatherings and basement jam sessions one day, but for now we’ll take comfort in small celebrations. ALISON NOVAK, MANAGING EDITOR

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish, and why? My family’s favorite side dish is lightly steamed BRUSSELS SPROUTS, sautéed with garlic and plenty of bacon. BRETT ANN STANCIU, “BOOKWORMS” COLUMNIST

I remember trying a TOFURKEY roast during my first year as a vegan and thinking it tasted pretty horrible. Twelve years later, I’m still a vegan, and my taste buds have adapted quite a bit, and I now salivate just thinking of a tofurkey. The dish reminds me how important it is to be inclusive of everyone’s dietary preferences at the table. KEEGAN ALBAUGH, “POP CULTURE” COLUMNIST

My favorite Thanksgiving dish is really three dishes — TURKEY, STUFFING and MASHED POTATOES — because I like to get a little bit of each in every single bite. I don’t particularly like each of these dishes without the other two, and I generally only eat this trifecta at Thanksgiving, so it feels nostalgic for me.


For me, it’s all about the mashed potatoes with gravy. Also the TURKEY SANDWICHES from the leftovers. I like toasted white bread, a thin slice of turkey breast, lots of mayo and maybe a piece of lettuce. HEATHER FITZGERALD, “GOOD NATURE” COLUMNIST

CONTRIBUTOR’S NOTE KIRSTEN THOMPSON is the art director of Kids VT and a designer at Seven Days. She joyfully returned home to Vermont in 2009 with her four busy children: Rebecca, Charlotte and Owen, who attend Mount Mansfield Union High School; and Amelia, who is now out exploring the world while attending Reed College in Portland, Ore. Between wash cycles, running errands and ferrying kids around, she enjoys a bit of maniacal gardening, creating a cozy home, and exploring local bike paths and trails with her kids. KIDSVT.COM JULY 2020




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Williston Office 802-878-5323

9/29/20 9:57 AM

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Laws of Abstraction Creating abstract art with kids


Columns Growing Up Green 8 10 Checkup 11 Good Nature 12 Mealtime 13 Musical Notes 14 Bookworms 15 One to Watch 16 Pop Culture 19 Virtual Learning

Vermont Visionaries: Iri Sunj A youth soccer coach cultivates kids’ skills and passion


Birthday Club .....................................24 Coloring Contest Winners .........24 Word Search Puzzle .......................25 Puzzle Answer .................................. 27

Coloring Contest! Three winners will each receive an annual family membership to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. Send Kids VT your work of art by November 23. Be sure to include the info at right with your submission. Winners will be chosen in the following categories: (1) ages 5 and younger, (2) ages 6-8 and (3) ages 9-12. Winners will be named in the xxxxx issue of Kids VT. Send your high-resolution scans to art@kidsvt.com or mail a copy to Kids VT, P.O. Box 1184, Burlington, VT 05402.

Movie Night Picks

Title _______________________________________ Contest sponsored by

Artist _____________________________________ Age ______________ Town __________________ Email _____________________________________ Phone _____________________________________



Just for Kids 13 Puzzle Answer 24 Coloring Contest 25 Birthday Club Winners

As the weather cools, curl up with these family films



Coloring Contest Winners Word Search Puzzle

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10/26/20 8:45 AM

On the Cover


Anchor Points Seeing holidays in a new way this fall

Welcome 3 Editor’s Note Contributors’ Question Contributor’s Note

Short Stuff Trending 7 In the News Yoga Pose of the Month #InstaKidsVT

Follow us on Instagram A family of squirrels make merry on Thanksgiving in this illustration by Vermont artist Julianna Brazill.

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The Kids VT Spectacular Spectacular, sponsored by McKenzie Natural Artisan Deli, is happening virtually this year — on WCAX Channel 3 — between November 30 and December 18 during the 4 p.m. newscast.


Tune in to see kids, between the ages of 5 and 16, from all over the state showcase their talents!


Visit kidsvt.com/talentshow for more details. 6


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The American Institute of Architects recognized Norwich University architecture students for building the Nest, an outdoor playhouse/classroom at Union Elementary School in Montpelier. It’s way cooler than the precariously steep metal slides of our youth.

The state announced that all Vermont youth- and adult-based recreational sports will be restricted to in-state activities, and attendance at indoor sporting events will be limited. One upside for hockey moms and dads? A lot less driving.

MacKenzie, a 4-pound Chihuahua with a cleft palate, was named the American Humane Hero Dog of the Year for her work nurturing baby rescue animals born with birth defects. Good things come in small packages.




Since 1964, the Vermont Teacher of the year Susan Rosato with students Agency of Education Steldie Mabiala (left) and Peas Liu has named a teacher of the year. In October, Susan Rosato, a teacher of English learners in the Colchester School District, was awarded the honor for 2021. In her role as an English learner teacher for grades 9-12 at Colchester High School, Rosato works with dozens of students, many of whom are New Americans, to support their language skills and help them navigate the educational system. In October, Kids VT spoke with Rosato about her work and what she hopes to accomplish in her role. Read the full interview at kidsvt.com.


The Rutland School Board voted in October to change the name of its mascot, the Raiders, because of its roots in Native American stereotypes. Out with the old, in with the new.


Kids VT: You’ve been an English language teacher in Colchester for 17 years. How has the program changed over time? Susan Rosato: When I first started working at Colchester, I was just at two days a week and we had over 40 [ELL] students. And there was a teacher who worked [part time with ELL students] at the high school. Over time, I’ve gone to the school board and presented the case for needing more ELL services. It’s really not OK to have a 40 percent ELL teacher for 40 students. It was woefully underserviced when I joined those many years ago. KVT: What are some of the ways you build relationships with your students? SR: I go to their sporting events. I help them make sure that they have rides to and from the different sporting events. Joining a team is always a really good way to feel a part of the school. In my classroom, we work on collaborative book projects. Over the last three years, we’ve worked as a class to create a book that we publish at the end of the unit, which is a lot of fun. It involves artwork and writing and rewriting their different pieces, and then sharing those with one of our sixth-grade classrooms at Colchester Middle School. KVT: What are you working on with your students right now? SR: We are in the middle of a group project that connects all of my students. My instructional aide, Megan McLoughlin, is taking photos of each student, and we are recording sound portraits. Each student will be recorded talking about what’s important to them and what they believe. The photos and recordings will be produced into a short film and shared with other classes. Our communications director, Meghan Baule, will help us produce the film. The project is an example of how I work to showcase student voice and choice in my teaching. How do you plan to use your Teacher of the Year platform? SR: When I spoke with the Board of Education, I let them know that my platform would be equity in education. Mainly, my hope is that we’re able to [look] at, “What are the materials that we’re offering our students?” so there’s not bias in our curriculum. And for me, as an ELL teacher, making sure my colleagues are able to put together lessons and assessments that are at the students’ second-language acquisition level so that they’re comprehending their content area work. That’s really been the focus for me for most of my career. 

Builds core strength

Stretches arms and legs

Improves concentration and balance

Boosts energy

Balancing Bear pose


Sit on the floor with your spine tall and legs bent in front of you.

Hold on to your right foot with your right hand.

Try lifting your right foot into the air while engaging core muscles. Keep your left hand and foot on the ground for balance.

Switch sides.

For an added challenge, try straightening one leg and then the other with hands behind you or with both hands on feet.


Read and act out Yoga Bear by Sarah Jane Hinder or Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson.

Go on a bear hunt.

Pose description courtesy of Susan Cline Lucey, owner of Evolution Prenatal + Family Yoga Center in Burlington and Essex Junction. For more information about kids and family yoga classes, visit evolutionprenatal andfamily.com.


Tag us on Instagram !

Thanks for sharing your photos with us using the hashtag #instakidsvt. We loved this picture of young Vermont cyclists taking a break in front of the Statehouse in Montpelier. Share photos of your family exploring new places this month. HERE’S HOW: Follow @kids_vt  on Instagram. 

Post your photos on Instagram with the hashtag #instakidsvt. We’ll select a photo to feature in the next issue.




Grateful, Not Wasteful Meaningful ways to celebrate Thanksgiving


hanksgiving gatherings will likely look different this year, but feasting and giving thanks are still important ingredients. However you choose to celebrate, here are a few ways to make the occasion feel special.

prolific author and storyteller well known in New York, New England and beyond, and James is his son, also working to continue to uplift Indigenous people and share Abenaki history. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MEREDITH BAY-TYACK

FEAST LOCALLY Whether you prepare a meal for two vegetarians or 10 carnivores, it’s easy to feature Vermont food at your table. Challenge yourself to shop locally as much as possible. Yes, this helps the environment from a shipping perspective. But supporting local food producers is also more important than ever this year, as the pandemic has disrupted many of our Vermont industries and small businesses. If you typically support local farms and shop at independent stores, examine whether there are areas you can improve. If a locally grown Thanksgiving meal isn’t the norm for you, choose one dish or dessert that can be made with entirely local ingredients. If shopping in person at multiple stores or visiting farms doesn’t work for you, check out local delivery services such as BBz Delivery Collective and Local Maverick. In addition to vegetables and meat, these businesses offer special desserts and other treats. Your favorite farms may also be offering delivery this year. Go in on an order with a neighbor, family or friends to split the delivery charges. While prepping food, and after the meal is over, honor the food (and your wallet) by reducing food waste. Save veggie scraps and turkey bones for making stock. Make sure to give leftovers to your dinner guests. I like to save large yogurt tubs and takeout boxes for this purpose. Then there’s no need to ask people to return the containers.

Leaves on the gratitude tree



The history of Thanksgiving many of us were taught as kids — and many kids are still being taught — revolves around a false tale. We were told that Native people and early American settlers met up as friends to enjoy a joyful, celebratory Thanksgiving dinner at a long table. Many of us are now working to unlearn these untrue histories and honor the Indigenous people whose land we currently stand on. We are all on land forcibly taken from Native Americans. Finding ways to learn about, honor and wrestle with this fact may feel daunting. Start with Vermont-specific organizations, such as the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association (abenakiart.org). There is currently an exhibit at the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum in Burlington showcasing “an exploration of Vermont Abenaki Spirituality through regalia, art, and ceremony,” and there are videos and resources on the museum’s website, ethanallenhomestead.com. In my house, we read the children’s book Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message year-round, but we make a special point to read it together as a family during our Thanksgiving celebration. At a past Shelburne Farms Harvest Festival, we picked up several kids’ books at the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association tent, including a now-favorite, Turtle’s Race With Beaver by James and Joseph Bruchac. Joseph is a

My family typically kicks off the Thanksgiving season by building a “gratitude tree.” Before I had kids, I stumbled upon a kit for a simple standup tree in a craft store and was enamored. I realized I could make one myself with reused materials, and the low-waste (but high-value) tradition began. The tree also serves as a table decoration during our Thanksgiving meal. You will need pieces of cardboard as big as you’d like your tree. I try to choose pieces that are at least 24 inches so my tree will be about that tall. Use a grease pencil (an eco-friendlier version of a Sharpie marker) to sketch out a tree outline, with branches and a trunk. Look up “simple tree icon” if you want more direction, but in my experience any general treelike shape ends up looking great. Cut out your tree shape with sharp scissors or a detail knife,



and then lay it on top of another blank piece of cardboard. Trace the tree shape and cut it out so you end up with two identical pieces. Now, put the two pieces together to transform the tree into a three-dimensional decoration. Choose one of the tree pieces and cut a slit up the center of the trunk from the bottom of the tree, ending an inch or so before the top of the trunk. Now grab your other tree piece and cut an approximately one-inch slit down the center of the tree, starting from the top of the trunk. Slide the two trees together perpendicularly, adjusting the length of the cuts as needed to make the tree sit stably on a table. There are clear photos of this process on jumpstart.com/common/ giving-thanks-tree. You could also skip this craft project altogether and put a bunch of sticks into a vase to act as a mini tree. The next step is to gather members of your household to write down what they’re thankful for. Cut out leaf shapes from colorful paper. Affix them to the branches with glue or washi tape, or get a little fancy with a hole punch and yarn to make leaf “ornaments.” Add new leaves every day, or whenever the mood strikes. Save the tree base for the following year, or simply toss it in the compost or recycling when the holiday is over. This year I might leave the tree up long past when I’d typically take it down. I think we may all need more reminders of what we have to be thankful for during this challenging time. K

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* Current loans need to be from another financial institution and in place for at least 60 days. ** 1% cash back based on a loan amount refinanced and subject to loan approval. Funds will be deposited into a NEFCU Share or Share Draft account. KIDSVT.COM NOVEMBER 2020


10/28/20 1:02 PM


What Should Parents Know About Bacterial Skin Infections?


he human body is home to a variety of germs that can cause skin infections. Viruses can cause cold sores and warts. Fungi can cause ringworm, athlete’s foot and jock itch. And allergens in the environment, such as those on poison ivy, can cause itchy rashes. Among the most common childhood skin infections are those caused by bacteria. Dr. Lewis First, chief of pediatrics at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital, explains the best way to treat these infections and how to prevent their reoccurrence.

KVT: Are boils contagious? LF: A boil is not contagious unless it’s left open and other people touch it. These infections should be covered with a clean dressing and loose bandage when a child is out and about.

KVT: When do bacterial infections become more serious? LF: When bacteria goes below the upper levels of the skin and into the bloodstream, it can cause cellulitis. The skin becomes warm, red, tender and streaky. The infection can cause fever, chills and swollen glands. This will require an oral antibiotic. Sometimes a child will need intravenous antibiotics to get the infection under control because, on rare occasions, staph can be life-threatening. Infections caused by strep can also cause scarlet fever, which looks like a light red rash over the entire body and feels like sandpaper. Untreated strep can progress to cause rheumatic fever, which in turn can infect the heart and kidneys.

KIDS VT: What are the primary causes of skin infections? LEWIS FIRST: There are two major causes of bacterial infections: Staphylococcus aureus, also known as staph, and Group A streptococcus pyogenes, otherwise known as strep. Most, if not all, of us have these bacteria on our skin, and most of the time they live harmlessly in our bodies until the skin is broken through a cut, scratch, bite or puncture wound. When bacteria get under the skin, they can start to grow and multiply. KVT: What do these infections look like? LF: They can create rashes, redness, itchiness, sometimes pain and discomfort, and when they become more severe, fever. Different locations of infections result in different types of rashes. A staph infection that occurs in the inside lining of the eye is called a sty. If staph gets under a hair follicle, it can cause little white spots at the base of the hair that ooze pus, called folliculitis. If the pus can’t get out, it builds up and can become a furuncle, or boil. And if the boil grows larger and goes deeper into the skin, it can become more painful and become a carbuncle. That, in turn, can develop into an abscess. KVT: What’s the best way to treat bacterial skin infections? LF: Soaking the area with a wet, warm washcloth is a good way to start. Applying a heating pad or hot water bottle for 20 minutes at a time several times a day will help bring the boil to a head and allow it to drain. Light pressure may also help it to open, but if it doesn’t or feels painful, stop! The harder you push, the more you’re pressing bacteria deeper into the skin. If the infection is small, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment, or if it’s more severe, an oral antibiotic. Ibuprofen can help reduce some of the inflammation, and that or acetaminophen will reduce the pain. Your health care provider may lance a carbuncle. Only puncture the lesion yourself if your health care professional approves of you doing so, rather than having it done under sterile conditions in a medical office. In those cases, the parent should first sterilize the needle with rubbing alcohol or a lit match, then briefly allow it to cool. 10


gauze or a loose bandage and try not to scratch it. The more the blisters are scratched, the more they run the risk of scarring. Because impetigo is contagious, you must thoroughly launder the child’s linens, towels and clothing in hot water to prevent spreading the bacteria to others.

Whenever antibiotics are ordered, children should take them for the full duration recommended by their health care provider, even if the infection has already disappeared. KVT: What is impetigo? LF: Sometimes children develop little red pimples with blisters that appear around the nose, mouth and, sometimes, on their legs or buttocks. When the blisters pop, they can cause a yellow, scab-like crust and can itch. This is called impetigo. If you touch it, it can spread. Kids who have impetigo are likely shedding staph or strep. For this reason, they shouldn’t go to school until they’ve had at least 24 hours of antibiotics. If the blisters are small, often you can treat them with an antibiotic ointment. If they’re more widespread and appear on multiple areas of the body, your doctor may recommend an oral antibiotic. Be sure to wash the skin well with an antibiotic soap, such as one containing chlorhexidine, which will help kill the infection. Cover the area with

KVT: Are there concerns about the overuse of antibiotics? LF: Over the years, as people increasingly have used antibiotics, especially for nonbacterial infections, some bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics. That has happened with staph. So if a family discovers that a routine, penicillin-like antibiotic is not working to treat a simple staph infection, then it’s possible the child has acquired methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. This type of resistant staph bacteria was once limited to hospitals and nursing homes. But over the last 15 years it has spread into the community and can spread easily within a family. Many people have MRSA on them and don’t know it. But once they break the skin and a skin infection occurs, it can be harder to tackle. MRSA is treatable, but it requires a more advanced antibiotic, which can also have side effects. Whenever antibiotics are ordered, children should take them for the full duration recommended by their health care provider, even if the infection has already disappeared. Conversely, parents should never use old antibiotics if they see redness or rash on the skin because it may not be the appropriate treatment for that rash, or the infection may not be bacterial in nature. KVT: How can parents prevent bacterial infections? LF: The best thing you can do is to reduce the amount of bacteria on your skin through thorough handwashing as often as possible, and not just because we’re in a pandemic. Taking a daily bath with antibacterial soap, particularly if the child has experienced a staph infection, will reduce the level of bacteria on their skin. Keep wounds clean and covered, and don’t share towels, sheets and clothing, especially with someone who’s being treated for a bacterial skin infection. K



The view from Sucker Brook’s Five Tree Hill overlook

A Well-Traveled Trail Exploring Williston’s Sucker Brook Hollow


bout a year ago, I enticed my 11-year-old to go on a “quick hike” with me at Sucker Brook Hollow Country Park in Williston. He consented after I agreed to bring him to a store where he wanted to make a purchase when we were done. It was a glorious day, with blue skies, moderate temperatures and no wind. Within moments, my son said, “Mom, I like this hike.” When I asked why, he said, “Because there are lots of little ups and downs, lots of bridges and interesting stuff to see.” Even before the pandemic, Sucker Brook, which can also be accessed from the Five Tree Hill trailhead on Sunset Hill Road, was one of the more popular trails in Williston. (The town owns a few small parcels along the trail; the rest of it passes through a privately owned easement.) But since March, there has been a “crazy uptick” in use, said Melinda Scott, a friend of mine and the town’s senior planner. That’s caused some wear and tear to the trail. To show respect to any trail you love, practice “leave no trace” principles. Really, all you have to do is only walk on the trail — don’t stray off of it. This sometimes entails walking right through the center of a mud puddle. Skirting the edge of a puddle may not seem like a big deal, but when multiple hikers do it over time, the spot gets inexorably wider and more eroded.

On our hike last year, we saw some beautiful old trees along the trail. It took me years to realize I was only seeing adolescent trees on most of my Vermont excursions. (In tree years, 60- to 80-year-old trees are considered adolescents.) But once I saw some truly venerable specimens, I realized that, just as the skin of a teenage human looks different than the skin of their middle-aged or elderly self, so does a tree’s bark. Young tree bark tends to be smooth and taut; it gets shaggier over time. Along the Sucker Brook trail, we admired huge shagbark hickories, sugar maples, beeches and ashes. If you’re curious about comparing young and old tree bark, Tom Wessels’ book Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape has a section with side-by-side photographs of both for many common Vermont species. Just for the record, I prefer the bark of older trees. We also stopped to check out a lovely hemlock grove, an impressively intact stone wall and a bus-size glacial erratic (a boulder that was dropped by a glacier). We tried to figure out whether the wall was built around a cultivated farm field by looking for rocks as small as a fist, removed from the field so they wouldn’t break the plow. A wall next to a former pasture would likely contain only larger rocks. (Our best guess was that Sucker Brook once bordered a pasture.) The going was easy and interesting for both of us. And yet, before we got to the overlook, my son asked me



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if we could turn back. He was concerned about the dog, he said. We had forgotten to bring water for him, and he was panting a little. Perhaps eagerness to get to the store also played a role. I, however, wanted to get to the top. It was only 1.1 miles from the trailhead to the overlook, and the dog was fine. The first time I had been to Sucker Brook, with the Williston team of Vermont Master Naturalists, we had barely made it halfway because we had been wandering, with the man who had donated land for the trail as our guide, exploring interesting spots including a former mill site where Sucker Brook jumped its banks and carved a new course during a bad storm in the 1980s. That had been a fantastic walk, but I was curious about what was beyond the halfway point. So I urged my son to forge on. He didn’t push back much. We made it to the overlook on pleasant terms, and our dog enjoyed a lot of love from the family sitting on the bench at the overlook when we arrived. We made it back to the car and to the store in about an hour and a half, all told. In hindsight, I wish I’d listened better. It was a perfect opportunity to hear what he was saying and be responsive. I fear that sometime in the future, when I want to go on a short hike with him, he might remember that my definition of “short” doesn’t align with his. Thinking back to my son’s explanation of why he liked the trail, I’m reminded of a passage I read years ago in a book called The Geography of Childhood that has really stuck with me: One of the authors reflects on how adults are always scanning for the next dramatic vista, but kids are happy to drop to the ground and look for pine cones and rocks. “Wilderness is not some scenic backdrop to gaze at,” the passage from the book goes. “It is responsive to our exploratory urges. It is where you can play with abandon.” K Heather Fitzgerald teaches field ecology and environmental science at the Community College of Vermont, University of Vermont and Saint Michael’s College. To volunteer for a Sucker Brook trail workday, contact Melinda Scott at 878-6704, ext. 4 or mscott@ willistonvt.org.

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Muhammara and Pita Chips Take your chips-and-dip game to the next level MUHAMMARA


round my house, we love dips. I have a lot of them in my repertoire and, before COVID-19 put a kibosh on entertaining, my friends looked forward to sampling them at my frequent parties. One time, my best friend even asked if, instead of a dinner get-together, we could just have a dip-and-spreadthemed party. One of the best things about dips is their cultural diversity. Name a cuisine, and you can likely find a dip that’s part of it. Muhammara is one such dip, hailing from Syria. The name means “reddened” in Arabic, which is fitting, because the main flavor in this dip is roasted red peppers. You can, of course, roast your own, but I used the jarred variety as a shortcut. This dip gets its richness from walnuts, a slight tang from pomegranate molasses and a thicker texture from bread crumbs. If you can find ground Aleppo pepper (mine is from mail-order spice company Penzeys), it really does add a great smoky 12


flavor, but if you can’t, try substituting Hungarian sweet paprika and a pinch of cayenne. Ground sumac is also a traditional ingredient (also available at Penzeys), but you can substitute with lemon juice in a pinch. Pomegranate molasses is available online and at some international markets, or you can make your own by carefully boiling down pomegranate juice. This dip comes together in minutes and is wonderful as a spread for sandwiches, a sauce for kebabs or vegetables, or as a dip. If you’re making it, it’s fun to also make homemade pita chips as an accompaniment. They couldn’t be easier. Just get some store-bought pita bread (white or whole wheat), cut it into wedges, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic powder and bake. This chips-and-dip combo is fun anytime but would be especially awesome to snack on during a family movie night! K



2 7-ounce jars of roasted red peppers

• 1 1/3 cup bread crumbs


• 2/3 cup toasted walnuts

• 1 package store-bought pita bread

• 4 cloves garlic

• 1-2 tablespoons olive oil

• 2 teaspoons ground Aleppo pepper

• 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder


• 1 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 2. Cut pitas into wedges and lay on a baking sheet. Brush lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with garlic powder. 3. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until crispy and lightly browned.

• 8 tablespoons olive oil

• 4 teaspoons pomegranate molasses 5 tablespoons tomato paste

• 1 teaspoon sugar

DIRECTIONS Drain and rinse the roasted red peppers. Combine with other ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until relatively smooth (you can leave some chunks if you prefer). The dip will keep in the fridge for about a week, covered in an air-tight container.


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ne likely outcome of the COVID19 pandemic is that parents will never again take teachers for granted. As a father of two and a former teacher, it only took a couple of days of chaotic homeschooling in the spring before I was dreaming of the day when schools could reopen and teachers could get back to educating our kids. Teachers of all subjects and grade levels are facing unprecedented challenges, but music teachers have an especially tricky job these days. With students unable to sing or play wind instruments indoors due to concerns about these activities creating airborne respiratory droplets, music teachers have had to completely rethink their teaching methods. I recently spoke with two Burlington educators about teaching music in the age of COVID-19 — and how they’re still smiling through it all (even if it’s hidden under a mask). For Edmunds Elementary School music teacher Betsy Nolan, 2021 Vermont Teacher of the Year runner-up, teaching during the pandemic has required flexibility, creativity and teamwork. In the summer, she and other teachers took a course through Music-COMP, an online mentoring program for young composers, which helped inspire new methods for keeping music education fun and dynamic. She then developed virtual learning environments using Google Slides so students could access the full curriculum from home on their devices, as well as an online “farm,” where she posts sing-along videos to farm-themed songs for younger students. To keep kids safe while strengthening their musical skills, she often has students recite poems and clap or stomp rather than sing during in-person instruction. Her workload has increased, said Nolan, because she always develops two lesson plans — one for nice weather, when her classes can be held outside, and one for rain. And there are frustrating moments, like when she’s not able to hear her students through their masks or has to deal with the “lack of half of my face to support kids with nonverbal reminders.” But Nolan sees an upside, as well. The hybrid learning model means smaller in-person classes this fall, which she says is a huge benefit to students who need extra support. Nolan also believes her job as a music educator is more important than ever right now.

“In times of great struggle, the arts give us needed language to express our experience,” she said. “People of all ages are leaning into music to support them through this time of stress and anxiety about not only the pandemic but also the ongoing systemic racism and civil unrest in our country. Robust music education is the foundation upon which this support is built.” Burlington High School choral director Billy Ray Poli welcomed his students to the new school year with a song to the tune of You’ll Be Back from Hamilton: An American Musical. His tongue-in-cheek performance, which displays his sense of humor and soaring voice, was even featured on “Good Morning America” in September. When the high school was forced to close its doors and go entirely remote for at least the fall semester due to unsafe air quality in the building, Poli had to rethink his role. “Try to teach choir 100 percent remotely, with everyone on mute but you at the piano singing every part and never hearing what your kids sound like!” Poli said. Choir is all about voices working together in nuanced, subtle ways, but online, he said, “there’s no way for students to be able to balance, blend and hear other people’s parts.” But Poli has found creative ways to keep learning rich and his students

inspired. His choir has been staging pop-up concerts in the community so his students can still experience the thrill of live performance. “Now anyone passing by will be able to see and hear us,” he said. At the choir’s first pop-up concert, which took place in the rain under a tent in front of the high school, all 50 choir students showed up. “That gives me so much hope that no matter what, music will always win the day,” Poli said. Upcoming pop-up concerts will take place on the steps of City Hall Park and at Elley-Long Music Center. What he misses the most is the sense of camaraderie and spirit that happens when people gather together to make music. “The normal humor and banter with my students is no longer there because there is no ‘reading of the room.’ As a person who feeds off my students’ energy, to try and feed off of Zoom boxes is not the same.” As this school year progresses, Poli hopes that parents will be understanding about what teachers are going through. “Just as the students are trying to learn how to be students during this time, we as educators are learning how to be educators again.” Through it all, he said, “My students give me hope. They are being as resilient and understanding as we teachers are.” 

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Dollars and Sense An engaging workbook teaches kids about money matters


helburne financial writer Allan Kunigis had always written for adults, from articles to reports, when he received an unexpected email from Jason Schneider, editorial director for Skyhorse Publishing in New York City. Schneider had read an article Kunigis had written for Synchrony Bank about raising financially savvy kids and asked whether he’d consider creating an activity book aimed at teaching young people about money. The offer piqued Kunigis’ interest, and A Kid’s Activity Book on Money and Finance: Teach Children About Saving, Borrowing, and Planning for the Future — 40+ Quizzes, Puzzles, and Activities was published in September. The 80-page book, featuring illustrations by John Kurtz, combines easy-to-understand financial basics on topics such as earning, saving and smart money choices with engaging workbook activities. Aimed at readers ages 5 to 8, the book intersperses vignettes with crossword puzzles, dot-todots and word searches. Below, the father of two grown daughters shares some insights about kids and money.

fourth grade in Williston, David Bolger. He gave me permission to be silly, to rhyme, to have fun, to channel my inner child or my inner Shel Silverstein. That was a critical breakthrough for me. I just sat down, and ideas would come. The goal was [to] write an age-appropriate book that was both fun (otherwise, why would the kids read or participate in the activities?) and educational — the whole point. I wanted to entertain the kids at the right comprehension level and slyly educate them about money.

Kids VT: Was it challenging to write for kids instead of adults? Allan Kunigis: [After I received that inquiry email], I reached out to a good friend of mine, a wonderful teacher who had taught my daughters in third and

KVT: Can you offer parents a few words of encouragement when it comes to teaching their children about finances? AK: It’s corny, but invest the time with your kids, and it will likely pay dividends. Yup, I’m a walking dad joke! Seriously,

KVT: Why is it important for kids to learn about money? AK: As a society, we have issues revolving around money. Financial literacy is an enormous concern. Why do so many of us do such a bad job managing our money? We need life lessons taught to kids at a young age, when it can really resonate or make a difference. My understanding is, there is probably no age at which your child is too young to learn something about money — even the most basic things about how we get and spend money, and simple choices we have to make every day or week or month.

Financial writer Allan Kunigis

just talk with them about money in an age-appropriate way, and give them opportunities to earn it and to save it. Give them an allowance. Start a bank account. KVT: Can you share a lesson you taught to your kids? AK: Here’s one of the coolest things I ever did with my girls. I borrowed the concept of “matching contributions” from workplace retirement savings plans, in which some employers will match a certain portion of what you, as an employee, save. I applied it to allowance and saving. I told my girls that I would match the difference in their bank account at the end of the year. If they started with $100, and it grew to $250, I would match that $150 that they had saved with another $150. That was highly effective in getting them to think

about saving, and then tangibly rewarding them for it. KVT: How can parents encourage kids to think altruistically about money? AK: Instead of giving kids a piggy bank where the money just disappears, give them three clear jars, which they can divide their money into: saving, spending and sharing. The idea is to raise children who not only know the value of saving money, rather than just spending it as soon as they get it, but this also teaches kids the value of giving to those who are less fortunate, and entrenches that value so it’s a normal part of money management. Teaching kids about money is also teaching them about values.  Find Kunigis’ book at the Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne and Phoenix Books in Burlington.

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Maddie’s Students Demand Action group at the Statehouse in March

A Force for Change Fed up with gun violence, an Essex teen advocates for reform


Chalk drawings made at an October event organized by Maddie


ssex High School sophomore Maddie Ahmadi has grown up inundated by news headlines about school shootings and gun violence. NAME: MADDIE AHMADI By 2019, she realAGE: 16 ized she no longer TOWN: ESSEX found it shocking that students could be gunned down at school. “I could feel myself becoming desensitized to it and, honestly, frustrated and fed up,” she recalled. “I didn’t feel like it was fair for students to go to school with the fear of losing their life.” So she decided to channel those feelings into something positive by starting Vermont’s first high school chapter of Students Demand Action. Founded by nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety after the February 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the grassroots organization has 400 chapters around the country composed of high school and college students committed to ending gun violence in America. In October, 16-year-old Maddie was the youngest of 16 members named to Students Demand Action’s National Advisory Board, a role which will give her the opportunity to strengthen her leadership skills and help shape the group’s strategy. Maddie first learned about Students Demand Action in 2019, when she visited her aunt’s workplace in New York City. One of her aunt’s coworkers had a connection to Everytown for Gun Safety and told her about the youthfocused arm of the group. “Immediately, I knew I wanted to be a part of that,” she said. Despite being just a first-year at the time, Maddie decided to start a Students Demand Action chapter at Essex High School. She emailed a few teachers to see whether one of them would be an advisor. Amy Phillippo, Maddie’s humanities teacher, signed on. Phillippo described Maddie as “a force,” both in and out of class, who displays a dedication to learning, debating and challenging ideas. Said Phillippo: “She’s just somebody who gives 100 percent.” Phillippo recalled walking into the library last year to see Maddie standing in front of a large screen, expertly leading a Students Demand Action meeting of mostly older students. Last year’s senior class had been involved in a traumatic lockdown situation when they were first years. They’d had to stay in their classrooms for four hours as armed police officers patrolled the hallways because of a shooting threat — that later turned out to be false — posted on a student’s Facebook account. Maddie’s Students Demand Action chapter gave those students their first opportunity to express their feelings about that experience and work toward change, Phillippo

said. Maddie understood the importance of giving them the time and space to process that event. In March, just days before the state legislature shut down due to the coronavirus, Maddie led a group of around a dozen fellow students on a trip to Montpelier as part of an advocacy day. They met with elected officials including Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/PChittenden) and Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/ Democrat, and spoke with them about the stronger gun laws they hoped to see enacted. Changes they support include instituting a waiting period to buy firearms and closing a gap in the background check system, known as the “Charleston loophole.” Seton McIlroy, a volunteer with the Vermont chapter of Moms Demand Action — another branch of Everytown for Gun Safety — also attended the Statehouse event and was impressed by Maddie’s poise and professionalism. Maddie and the other students in her group were at ease walking up to the legislators to share their thoughts, remembered McIlroy. “I did not have that kind of confidence at her age,” she said. Maddie takes an across-the-aisle approach when she recruits peers to join Students Demand Action. The emphasis of the group is gun safety, not taking guns away from people, she said: “All people can join the group. It is not partisan. You can be a gun owner. We don’t care. We just want you to be involved.” Maddie also believes that concrete action is more important than symbolic gestures when it comes to reforming gun laws. Seeing the student walkouts across the

country after the Parkland shooting was inspiring, she said, “but I also knew that in order to actually make sure these things don’t happen, I needed to do the work and talk with legislators, and that’s the way we make change.” Though the coronavirus has temporarily halted many of Students Demand Action’s in-person events, the group has remained busy this fall. Its members set up virtual field offices and have been phone-banking and texting, encouraging people to vote this November for “gun sense” candidates — those who are committed to governing with gun safety as a top priority. In October, Maddie organized an event at which students chalked colorful messages in the entryway of Essex High School, encouraging eligible students and teachers to vote. As of mid-October, Students Demand Action had registered 100,000 voters nationally. Outside of her advocacy work, Maddie plays soccer on her high school team and coaches younger players. She’s also an avid fan of University of Vermont basketball — as she put it, “I’m obsessed.” She aspires to be a journalist one day and recently got involved in VTDigger.org’s Underground Workshop, a new platform for journalism from Vermont students. “I think it’s really important to be a part of the story,” said Maddie, “but I also think sometimes it’s more important to tell the story.” Whatever career path Maddie takes, teacher Phillippo thinks her future is bright. Said Phillippo: “You’re going to read about Maddie Ahmadi doing good in the world someday.”  KIDSVT.COM NOVEMBER 2020



When Parenthood Gets Real Tips for combating postpartum depression in dads





he month following the birth of my first daughter, Coraline, in June of 2016 was unlike any other period in my life. After spending a couple of days at the hospital, my partner, Stephanie, and I eagerly returned to our home in Burlington’s New North End. We were both fortunate enough to be able to take time off from work to be together during this huge transition. The weeks that followed were full of joy and excitement. The time off allowed us to devote 100 percent of our attention to becoming a family of three. Because we had no commitments besides caring for our newborn, the concept of time had little meaning. I remember happily sitting in a chair night after night, clutching Coraline to my bare chest for skin-to-skin contact, a practice which has been shown to help with parental bonding. Most evenings after dinner, we strolled our daughter to the newly renovated Bessery’s Butcher Shoppe for Italian ice. A meal train had been set up for us, so every other day, friends stopped by to drop off some food and visit for a bit. This was the first grandchild for both sets of parents, as well, so we were consistently showered with love and attention. I must have taken a few thousand Keegan and photos during that first month. It felt newborn Coraline almost surreal. And then the excitement started to wear off, and it got real. I returned to work after three and a half weeks at home, while Stephanie stayed at home for the remaining nine weeks of her leave. The visitors stopped coming, and we were responsible for cooking our own meals once again. Many of the friendships I once considered strong now just felt disconnected. Time, once again, had meaning, and suddenly the option of taking a nap alongside my child in the middle of the day was no longer a possibility. I’d return home from work feeling exhausted, only to find Stephanie even more exhausted from flying solo with Coraline all day. Piles of spit-upsoaked laundry seemed to multiply. I socialized less, ate more handfuls of chips in between doing tasks at home, and suddenly had a lot less time to myself. I certainly loved being a father, but I also struggled with the transition and experienced periods of feeling down. I had attended most of Stephanie’s prenatal doctor’s appointments, and I remembered hearing a handful of conversations about postpartum depression in new mothers, but my understanding of the topic was minimal. I thought it was something that only mothers

“got,” and that it was mostly due to a sudden change in hormone levels. I really didn’t understand that there were a bunch of factors that contributed to a mother becoming depressed after the birth of a child, including sleep deprivation, social isolation and feeling overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood. And I certainly didn’t think about postpartum depression happening to fathers. But it does. A study published in Pediatrics in 2014 showed that depression increases by 68 percent for new dads during the first five years of a child’s life. And, according to Dr. Will Courtenay, a psychotherapist who specializes in postpartum depression in men, “the fact is, one in four new dads in the United States become depressed — which amounts to 3,000 dads who become depressed each day.” The existence of other risk factors can dramatically increase the likelihood of postpartum depression in fathers. These include financial instability, housing uncertainty, employment struggles, a history of depression and/or other mental health challenges, and having a baby with complicated health issues. The presence of postpartum depression in one’s partner also increases the risk.

The range of emotions new parents experience during the months following the birth of a child can be huge, and it can be extremely difficult to distinguish between minor baby blues or just feeling a little down from time to time and having diagnosable depression. No matter what the official diagnosis is, there are proactive things new parents can do to feel better. • Seek professional help. You don’t need to wait for things to hit the fan before you address your mental health. Connect with your primary care doctor, your child’s pediatrician or a therapist to talk about the moods you are experiencing. • Call 2-1-1. Don’t know where to go or who to talk to? You can always call 2-1-1 to speak with someone about what types of supports exist in your community. • Talk honestly, openly and consistently with a peer network. Identify people in your life you feel comfortable getting vulnerable with, and share how you’re doing often. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends how you’re really feeling. • Get dressed and get outside. I know when I start and end the day in the same pair of pajamas, I don’t feel great about myself. Having a small goal, like putting on a pair of pants in the morning, can have a really positive impact. Then, once those pants are on, put your kid in a stroller and soak up some vitamin D. Movement and fresh air are great for the brain. • Keep visitors coming. Set up a schedule for friends to come over, even if just for a short (socially distanced or outdoor) visit. Prior to having children, hanging out with friends was as easy as picking up the phone. Once kids enter the picture, scheduling visits ahead of time is helpful and keeps relationships intact. • Prioritize sleep over house cleaning. New parents are universally sleep-deprived, so catch those Z’s when you can. A 45-minute nap when your kid is sleeping can be more beneficial than emptying that laundry basket. • Get a meal train. Prior to the birth of your child, talk with family, friends and coworkers about helping you with prepared meals. Although a lot of folks just focus on the first month, I would suggest thinking beyond that. Having one less thing to worry about is huge. When Coraline turned 18 months in December of 2017, both Stephanie and I hit our breaking point and finally sought out a therapist. I remember sobbing in front of my supervisor at work, admitting that I needed help and would need to take time off work to address my mental health. I remember filling out a questionnaire prior to my first therapy session, and my therapist saying that I sounded depressed during our first meeting. It felt strange to hear someone say it, but I’m glad they did. Acknowledging and accepting that I was experiencing some level of depression allowed me to start taking more active steps in addressing my mental health. K


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9/1/20 12:57 PM


Laws of Abstraction Creating abstract art with kids


ome artists — young and old alike — just don’t like realistic drawing. The task of portraying something exactly as it appears in real life can be daunting, and many find the process frustrating. For these artists, and even for those who do enjoy realistic drawing, abstract art can be fun and freeing. Abstract artwork features NONREPRESENTATIONAL or NONFIGURATIVE shapes, lines and markings, which means that abstract pictures don’t represent things or figures that we can recognize. Instead of portraying a person, a landscape, a dragon or a bowl of fruit, an abstract drawing might include, for example, lots of overlapping shapes, wavy splotches of color, or line markings repeated over and over. When I teach my students about abstract art, I first teach them about types of lines (thick, thin, wavy, straight) and types of shapes — namely GEOMETRIC and ORGANIC SHAPES. Geometric shapes are made up of straight lines or neat, consistent curves — think circles, ovals, squares, rectangles and triangles. Organic shapes, on the other hand, are free-form and natural. Teardrops, clouds, and flower and leaf shapes are all examples of representational organic shapes. Abstract organic shapes might look like curvy or wavy blobs. Some successful abstract artworks use both geometric and organic shapes. However, abstract artworks often appear more cohesive and have stronger unity if they stick with only geometric shapes or only organic shapes. There are limitless ways to go about creating abstract art, and the final products can look infinitely different as a result! One popular exercise for creating abstract art is to draw or paint abstract designs while listening to music and painting what you hear. For example, a sharp staccato violin might “look” like quick, repeated brushstrokes of

paint on your paper. A slow, peaceful piano melody might translate to wavy overlapping lines of color. What you draw or paint for your abstract composition depends entirely on how your brain experiences the music, and how your body transposes it onto paper.

Famous historic abstract artist Wassily Kandinsky often followed this technique, creating his world-renowned abstract paintings as visual interpretations of musical compositions.  “Untitled” by Cole, age 8

“Ocean of Thoughts” by Jose, age 13


blog.animationstudies.org/?p=1349 (Watch a helpful video clip from Disney’s Inside Out!)

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Materials: crayons, markers and/or colored pencils; paper

Materials: paper; any drawing or painting material you want (oil pastel, crayon, watercolor paint, marker, pencil or charcoal, colored pencil, etc.)

1. 2. 3.

Practice drawing organic shapes and geometric shapes. Create one abstract drawing using only geometric shapes. Create one abstract drawing using only organic shapes.


Materials: oil pastel or crayon; paper; watercolor paint


REFLECTION QUESTIONS Some artists prefer geometric shapes, while others like organic shapes best. Identify which kind of shapes you prefer. Which of your two abstract drawings do you like best? Which feels the most like your style?

2. 3.

BONUS PROJECT Try creating a third abstract drawing that uses an equal amount of both organic shapes and geometric shapes.


“Untitled” by Yimailis, age 11



Using your crayon or oil pastel, draw one continuous wavy line on your paper, allowing it to swirl and crisscross back over itself, creating connecting and overlapping organic shapes. Once you have created many overlapping shapes, connect your line back to the point where it began. If any parts of your line are too light or not quite “solid” (meaning you can see some specks of white paper in the line), then retrace the line to make sure it is solid. Use watercolor paint to fill in the many organic shapes with different colors.

1. Play a song (instrumental pieces work especially well for this) and listen closely to the different, layered sounds you hear. 2. Draw or paint shapes, lines and markings on your paper to represent the different sounds in the song. Don’t be afraid to layer and overlap. 3. Repeat this process with a new paper and a different song. REFLECTION QUESTIONS How do the two different abstract artworks differ from each other? When you look at each work of art, can you “see” the different sounds or instruments in the markings that you made?


Tuning In Vermont Symphony Orchestra introduces instruments to kids through the screen PHOTOS COURTESY OF VERMONT SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA


efore the pandemic, elementary school children interested in learning about the instruments of the orchestra could gather round Toby Aronson, the “zookeeper” of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Petting Zoo. Aronson used to visit 10 to 12 schools a year with more than a dozen instruments in tow. After listening to his boisterous spiel about the string, brass, woodwind and percussion instrument families, students could line up for a chance to whale away at a trombone, clarinet or whatever struck their fancy. Imagine the airborne droplets in that room! Inspired by the no-longer-possible Petting Zoo, the VSO has come up with the best imaginable alternative: Musical Chairs, a series of five virtual classes for K-6 students. The 45-minute videos are currently being released on the organization’s YouTube channel every Tuesday. They started on October 27 and will be posted every Tuesday through the end of November, but they can be viewed at any time. And they’re free. Filmed at different kid-friendly locations — including the Bixby Memorial Free Library in Vergennes and the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory in Shelburne — the classes are hosted by Aronson but explore the orchestra in greater depth than Petting Zoo sessions. Each of the first four is dedicated to one instrument family, and the fifth will feature orchestral guest instruments such as the piano, accordion, saxophone, guitar and harp. Elise Brunelle, the VSO’s new executive director, opined that parents and teachers alike will appreciate access to high-quality educational videos. “With teachers already inundated with COVID protocols and online schedules, they’re actually looking for content,” Brunelle said. And Musical Chairs will reach more people than the Petting Zoo could, noted education and ensemble coordinator Patricia Jancova, who wrote the episodes’ scripts and is helping to edit the classes with video producer Justin Bunnell of RetroMotion Creative.

Toby Aronson, the “zookeeper” of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s Musical Petting Zoo

“I think the fact that the platform is open to the public, not just schools, [means] it has the potential to reach a lot more of the community online,” Jancova said. Musical Chairs classes are all about fun. They begin with an animation created by students in Northern Vermont University’s department of animation

and illustration. They feature actual VSO musicians talking about their instruments and at least one school-age musician demonstrating their chops. (The string-family class features 9-year-old violinist Mia Chen of South Burlington.) Each episode also highlights a non-Western instrument from the same

family. For the string class, it’s the Nepali sarangi, an instrument that rests on the knee and is played with a bow. The idea is to reflect the musical traditions of groups of people from other countries who live in Vermont. For a hands-on component, each episode teaches its young audience how to make an instrument out of household materials. According to Jancova, the brass-family class will introduce the soda-bottle trumpet, with a mouthpiece cut from the top of a plastic bottle, a paper-towel tube for the body and a construction-paper funnel for the bell. And every episode ends with musicians playing a version of the Vermont state song, “These Green Mountains.” Educational videos about the orchestra are nothing new; indeed, they date back at least to Leonard Bernstein’s televised “Young People’s Concerts,” which ran from 1958 to 1972. Jancova, who has been creating online content for the VSO since the pandemic hit, thought carefully about how to distinguish Musical Chairs from the other “millions of videos about the orchestra.” What sets the VSO’s series apart, she said, is that “it’s Vermont [venues], it’s our musicians, it’s the students who are from the state, it’s ‘These Green Mountains.’” For his part, Aronson enjoys his new role as master of ceremonies. The classical guitarist and parent of a 2-year-old daughter uses the same entertaining “zookeeper” persona that he brought to school visits, even introducing the brass family in the same way — by buzzing his lips on a conch shell. Now, though, said Aronson, “I get to interview experts who actually play in the VSO. It’s a reminder of how talented these musicians are — they’re playing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’ in the highest register possible, or playing really fast. It’s fun making their talents accessible for kids to check out.” K Watch Musical Chairs on the Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s YouTube channel: youtube.com/user/vermontsymphony. KIDSVT.COM NOVEMBER 2020



Iri Sunj A youth soccer coach cultivates kids’ skills and passion WORDS & PICTURES BY CAT CUTILLO

Vermont Patriots founder and coach Iri Sunj


t’s the day after a heavy rain and the mud puddles are deep, but they’re no match for the stampede of young soccer players running laps around the Patch of Passion, their well-loved and aptly named field. The group of kids, ages 10 and younger, are members of the nonprofit soccer league the Vermont Patriots. The league’s founder and head coach Iri Sunj sends one player to wait for a picture-day portrait, leads the rest of the team — including his 6- and 7-year-old sons — in a stretching exercise, and pauses to catch a glimpse of his 3-yearold mingling on the sidelines with the other parents. Carved out of the corner of Landry Park in Winooski, the Patch of Passion was created by Sunj, along with parent volunteers and the Patriots’ five other coaches. They built a storage shed, purchased goals, and even hooked up night lighting with the help of a licensed-electrician parent and generators borrowed from the city.



Despite the mud, the rain and the players’ masks — a coronavirus protocol — Sunj said the children model the same gumption as the grown-ups, often choosing to miss friends’ birthday parties rather than skip practice. “It was set up to be a community project ... a true nonprofit where we will volunteer as much as we can volunteer,” said Sunj, who formed the club in 2018 with the goal of making soccer affordable to all children. Winooski residents pay just $20 per season; nonresidents pay $25. In return, players get a jersey, shin guards, shorts, socks, a soccer ball and structured, high-quality coaching. If families can’t afford to pay, the club covers the cost, thanks to donors including the City of Winooski and the George W. Mergens Foundation. Sunj said this model is like the European one he grew up with, where local

community sponsors and organizations — not parents — funded soccer programs. “It relied on your ethics, on your behavior, on your getting along, on listening to instructions and working hard. It didn’t depend on how much my parents can pay,” he said. Born in Bosnia, Sunj and his family fled to Germany when he was 11, after the Bosnian War broke out. Sunj spent his teenage years playing soccer there before immigrating to the United States in the late 1990s, when he was 18. He now lives in South Burlington with his wife, Ines Ogorinac, who also fled Bosnia as a child, and their three children. “I’m really happy my family decided to move to the United States,” said Sunj. “It gave me opportunities that I would not have anywhere else. Same for my kids, the first-generation Americans.” Sunj continued playing soccer in

the United States for Vermont Voltage, an elite soccer club. At age 23, he was preparing for Major League Soccer tryouts when he broke his leg. “I’m not superstitious, but sometimes things work out or they don’t,” he said. Instead of pursuing soccer, Sunj earned his nursing degree in Florida. He was working as an intensive care nurse at the University of Vermont Medical Center during the onslaught of COVID-19 but transferred to the hospital’s Outpatient Infusion Center in September so he had more time to focus on opening up a Williston location of Salon Vermont, the hair salon he co-owns with Ogorinac. The couple opened the first branch in South Burlington in January 2019. Despite his busy schedule, Sunj still volunteers a dozen hours a week coaching the Vermont Patriots. Soccer has always been much more than a sport to him, he said. It’s medicine. “We would be playing soccer in the streets [of Bosnia], and the grenades

He is teaching kids the game of soccer, but also how to be a good teammate, how to listen, how to be part of a bigger community. CHARLOTTE BLEND are flying and bursting. You didn’t just run to the basement. [Soccer] protected my psyche quite a bit,” said Sunj. When he fled to Germany, “I didn’t speak a word of German,” he said. “This kid sees me playing soccer and calls me into his club, so soccer started normalizing things for me and connecting me to people in the community. It was the same here in the United States.” The Vermont Patriots currently has 50 players, split between three teams, and nine adults who volunteer their time as board members and coaches. Practices are held three days per week, with games every Sunday. The club operates yearround, renting indoor space in Burlington at the Robert Miller Community and Recreation Center and the Boys & Girls Club during the winter months. Sunj said that for the vast majority of his players, the Vermont Patriots is their first foray into organized sports. “Our main goal is really to develop these kids into productive citizens that do not abuse substances. We are integrating a lot of the Icelandic model for substanceabuse prevention, [which] basically says to replace your unhealthy high with a healthy high,” said Sunj. “You build relationships, self-esteem, skills and stay healthy. If kids are not worth investing in, then I don’t know who is.” Winooski resident Charlotte Blend has identical twins on the team and was so taken with the club’s mission that she enlisted as both a coach and a board member. “I started to realize that Iri had this bigger vision about bringing soccer to Winooski and to kids who don’t have other opportunities, which aligns with the way I feel about the work that I

Check o ut th version e online story at of this kid for a vid svt.com eo of Su nj and the V Patriots ermont in actio n.

need to do in the world. I really wanted to be involved,” said Blend. “He runs a tight ship. He [is] teaching the kids the game of soccer, but also how to be a good teammate, how to listen, how to be part of a bigger community.” “He tries to make sure that everyone feels included and that everybody feels like there’s a spot for them here on the team,” said Alma Mujezinovic, the parent of two Vermont Patriots players. Before ending practice with a team cheer, Sunj complimented the players’ corner kick progress and reminded them to shower, eat dinner, brush their teeth and head to bed early. Then he took a more philosophical tone. “Remember we

talked about relationships and moving forward in life and succeeding? You need all the friends and family to have good, trusting relationships. A lot of integrity is built on that trust and honesty. All right, one, two, three,” he called. The team responded with a cheer: “V-T-P family!” Sunj said his own childhood is a testament to the power of resilience and luck. “We had to pick up so many times from the ground up,” he said. “I know from experience that the right break at the right time can completely change your trajectory towards success.” K Visit vermontpatriots.org to learn more.



Movie Night Picks As the weather cools, curl up with these family films


(recommended for ages 4 and up) Directed by legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, this feel-good film was released in 1989 by Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation studio famous for its fantastical anime films. Viewers will be blown away by Kiki’s impressive animation and charming storytelling. While purists can watch the film in Japanese with subtitles, there is also a fantastic English language version, starring Kirsten Dunst and Phil Hartman, which makes it more universally accessible. The story: Kiki is a witch — a young girl who possesses the ability to fly. At age 13, witches leave their families’ homes for a year to find a town that requires their skills — which range from fortune-telling to potion-making. When Kiki comes upon an unoccupied town, she establishes a delivery service, transporting packages via broomstick. Kiki struggles with the hardships of moving to a new town, including self-doubt, ostracism and homesickness. Her situation becomes even more complicated when she loses her ability to fly. Why it’s a good family movie: Kiki’s Delivery Service offers a realistic depiction of life’s true antagonist: the self-doubt within ourselves. In one instance, Kiki believes the other kids who invite her to hang out with them are looking at her funny. In another, she questions why one girl in town would want to paint her if she is “ugly.” The movie may help kids dealing with similar issues realize that many of their worries are not as serious as they perceive them. The film also conveys the importance of doing things that inspire you. Kiki begins to feel she’s failing at her delivery service and, because of this, loses her ability to fly. Upon realizing that flying makes her happy, her abilities are restored.



Kiki’s Delivery Service

the Iron Giant must contend with a government agent who is set on the giant’s destruction. Why it’s a good family movie: When making this film, Bird asked the question, “What if a gun had a soul and didn’t want to be a gun?” At one point, the giant even wonders whether he can ever have a soul, as he was a machine built for the purpose of killing. Hogarth tells him, “You’re made of metal, but you have feelings, and you think about things, and that means you have a soul.” The film conveys the important message that you can become the type of person you want to be, rather than what society dictates. On the technical side, the film combines the handdrawn animation of old with the computer animation of new. This works well, as the computer-animated giant looks more technologically advanced and imposing in comparison to everything else that is hand-drawn. The film’s animation feels nostalgic, with a small-town New England vibe and autumnal colors. It almost seems as if the story is set in our own Green Mountain State.



Filmmaker and animator Brad Bird has been lauded for many of his high-profile movies over the years, including The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. His films have a sense of fun that pays homage to 1950s B movies, while maintaining strong attention to visual detail and incorporating a sense of heart that is missing in many contemporary animated films. Bird’s first animated feature, The Iron Giant, is one of his best. The story: In the 1950s, at the height of the Cold War, a 9-year-old boy named Hogarth Hughes lives with his widowed mother. Hogarth is an intellectually advanced kid with an overzealous imagination. On a night that will change everything, he discovers a robotic alien that has crash-landed in the woods and appears to be designed as a killing machine. However, through his interactions with Hogarth, the Iron Giant learns peace and friendliness, and the two become friends. When everything seems to be looking up for Hogarth, he and

Released in 2000, this stop-motion film was created by British animation studio Aardman Animations, most

(recommended for ages 7 and up)


Chicken Run

4. SCOOBY-DOO ON ZOMBIE ISLAND (recommended for ages 8 and up)



(recommended for ages 8 and up)

notable for its droll Wallace and Gromit films. While the hens in Chicken Run are not as well known as that duo, this is a well-written film brimming with British humor, exceptional clay models, action-packed animation and imaginative sets. The story: In rural England, a farm of chickens produces eggs for the malevolent Mrs. Tweedy. Chickens are expected to fill a daily quota, and those who fail are executed and turned into food. One chicken, Ginger, often devises escape plans that are met with fruitless results. As business on the farm suffers, Mrs. Tweedy decides to manufacture a line of frozen food and begins working on a machine that will turn chickens into pot pies. A rooster named Rocky, who seemingly possesses the ability to fly, shows up — and brings with him the last-ditch possibility of escape. Why it’s a good family movie: While film cameras can capture motion effortlessly, that’s not the case with Claymation. Each frame is individually shot as a photo, with many photos making up just one second of the film. Furthermore, each frame needs to be meticulously planned so character movement appears natural. Chicken Run was shot at 20 frames per second. At a running time of 1 hour and 35 minutes, that’s roughly 114,000 photos taken to make the film! Viewers may be inspired to make their own short films after seeing how clay and photography can come together to create a compelling story. This film also serves as a family-friendly introduction to adult prisoner-of-war-themed films. In fact, it’s a spoof of sorts of the 1963 World War II POW movie The Great Escape, directed by John Sturges. Shot from the chickens’ point of view, Chicken Run is a hellscape with chicken coops, watchtowers and barbed wire overexaggerated to look like a prison camp. From artistic direction alone, you can immediately sympathize with the chickens’ plight. Following a motif of many POW films, the hens band together to overtake a common threat, offering a positive message about teamwork and collaboration.

This 1998 animated film is a hidden gem in the lucrative and well-established Scooby-Doo franchise, which is composed of 12 different television series and a staggering 47 movies. It perfectly blends mystery, comedy and friendship, while sustaining an underlying horror vibe that isn’t gratuitous or cliché. The story: The members of Mystery Inc. have gone their separate ways due to the monotony of solving too many mysteries where the monster is invariably some guy in a mask. As their current careers start to flounder, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and his anthropomorphic dog Scooby-Doo reunite for one last shot at finding a real ghost. However, the gang is in for more danger than


his bullies. It never really matters if Bastian actually became a character in the book or if it was just in his mind. What matters is that, through reading and imagination, he learns to accept himself.


(recommended for ages 12 and up)

(recommended for ages 8 and up) Released in 1984, this live-action film was directed by Wolfgang Petersen, with whom film buffs may be familiar from his classic German film Das Boot. The NeverEnding Story is a fantasy film that not only features unrivaled practical effects (a precursor to the computer-generated effects in contemporary films) but also expounds on the importance of imagination, reading and self-confidence. The story: Bastian Balthazar Bux is an introverted 10-year-old coping with the death of his mother. He is frequently bullied by other children and mistreated by his unsympathetic father. To escape this harsh reality, Bastian finds refuge in books. One of them is The NeverEnding Story, which chronicles the plight of a boy named Atreyu trying to save Fantasia from an apocalyptic entity known simply as “the Nothing.” As Bastian gets further into the book, he discovers that he has entered the story, and that the choices he makes will be pivotal to how it ends. Why it’s a good family movie: While there are important life lessons in this movie, families are also in for a magical time due to the impressive creature effects. Because this film was released when computer-generated imagery was in its most primitive state, many of the characters were created through puppetry, animatronics and stop-motion animation. While this may alienate some children due to the perceived notion that “old = boring,” the effects are so impressive that young viewers will likely get drawn into this fantastical adventure. In the film, the idea that books help us find ourselves is taken to a literal level. By the end, Bastian is able to overcome trauma and accept himself for who he is, then use his restored confidence to save Fantasia. He rides a dragon through the sky and stands up to


it bargained for when it is called on to inspect paranormal happenings on Moonscar Island in the Louisiana bayou. Why it’s a good family movie: This film subverts the classic Scooby-Doo formula to create a mystery that is original and exciting. This time, the monsters are real, and the stakes are higher. Just as fans may be fatigued by the repetitive narrative of earlier Scooby-Doo stories, the characters in Zombie Island have also become tired of the same old routine. The narrative draws Mystery Inc. back in with a new mystery, just as it brings viewers back to the classic Scooby world with something fresh and different. The darker horror elements of the movie are softened by its offbeat sense of humor, which is often quite metacontextual. For example, Shaggy’s suitcase, filled with multiple pairs of the same exact clothing, is a reference to the fact that cartoon characters always dress in the same outfit.

The East Corinth site of the bridge in Beetlejuice


Tim Burton’s 1988 horror-comedy film Beetlejuice takes place in Connecticut, but its exterior shots were filmed in rural East Corinth, Vt., about an hour-and-15-minute drive from Burlington. Though the premise of the film suggests horror, instead it’s a goofy family movie that lampoons the haunted-house scenario, with stellar performances from a cast of talented actors. The story: Young couple Barbara and Adam Maitland are horrified to discover that they have died in an automobile accident. Doomed to haunt their countryside house, they soon learn that an insufferable family, the Deetzes, has moved into their beloved dwelling. With help from the Deetzes’ alienated teenage daughter, Lydia, the Maitlands scheme ways to drive the Deetzes from the house so they can rest in peace. When their scaring tactics fail, the Maitlands decide to enlist the help of a mischievous ghoul known as Betelgeuse, whose ulterior motives prove to be more sinister than the couple initially perceived. Why it’s a good family movie: The film features cast of well-established actors still working today, including Winona Ryder, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis. However, the standout performance is clearly by Michael Keaton, whose zany energy and intense commitment make for an absurd and entertaining experience. While his character’s misogynistic humor feels outdated, there’s no denying Keaton’s brilliance, as displayed by the sheer uniqueness and over-the-top psychosis he brings to Betelgeuse. His overacting is an homage to German expressionism, an art movement of the early 20th century notable for its idiosyncratic and abstract staging, makeup and cinematography. Much of Burton’s directorial work is influenced by this artistic style. 

I was obsessed with reading and writing as a kid, fascinated by the worlds you could build and the escapism you could find through books, pen and paper. I often wrote fictional stories in homemade books. My favorite genres were humor, adventure, horror or a mix of the three. When I was 9 years old, I rented Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and my fascination with film began. I found that movie, and the subsequent films in the trilogy — Spider-Man 2 and 3 — deeply relatable. You know a superhero film is good when the person behind the mask is more interesting than the persona he adopts. I connected with Tobey Maguire’s portrayal of an introverted Peter Parker, and with the way his character struggled through everyday life. After watching hundreds of movies growing up — from the animated Japanese films of Studio Ghibli to the pulpy Indiana Jones series to quirky indie dramas like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind — I took a screenwriting class for high school students at New York University when I was a junior. Spending one week in the heart of New York City was life-changing. My professor’s positive feedback about my writing, the way the city became so alive at night and the friends I made through the class made me determined to pursue my college degree at NYU. I applied and got accepted through early admission. Having lived in Vermont almost all my life, moving to New York was certainly an adjustment. I felt like a tiny ant among millions of other ants. The lackadaisical cows and graceful deer I grew up surrounded by were replaced by squirrels, pigeons and cockroaches. In Vermont, I could get away with daydreaming as I went about my daily life. In the constantly bustling streets of New York City, I had to be alert at all times. And while Vermont virtually shuts down when the sun sets, New York feels almost nocturnal. Despite the adjustments I had to make, New York City was a great place to attend college. It’s full of diverse people from all walks of life. At NYU, I encountered professors and fellow students with great talent, knowledge and experience in filmmaking from whom I could learn. Screenwriting soon became my passion because it allowed me to merge my love of writing and reading with film. I was able to find friends with similar interests yet unique perspectives to work with and broaden my craft. Sure, there were those who would cite Citizen Kane, The Boondock Saints or any Wes Anderson film as their favorite movie for the sake of appearing artsy, but most students I encountered just wanted to tell a fun, emotional and creative story — and watch, write and talk about films. One professor I really liked taught a class about blockbusters — and the importance of making films the audience wants to see — that changed my perspective on filmmaking. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m not sure what the future holds. But wherever I go, I’ll bring the unique perspective of being a Vermont kid who, for four years, was steeped in the no-nonsense attitude and urban grittiness of New York City. M.K.



JUST FOR KIDS Coloring Contest! Three winners will each receive an annual family membership to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium. Send Kids VT your work of art by November 23. Be sure to include the info at right with your submission. Winners will be chosen in the following categories: (1) ages 5 and younger, (2) ages 6-8 and (3) ages 9-12. Winners will be named in the December/January issue of Kids VT. Send your high-resolution scans to art@kidsvt.com or mail a copy to Kids VT, P.O. Box 1184, Burlington, VT 05402.



Birthday Club .....................................24 Coloring Contest Winners .........24 Word Search Puzzle .......................25 Puzzle Answer ..................................13

Title _______________________________________ Contest sponsored by

Artist _____________________________________ Age ______________ Town __________________ Email _____________________________________ Phone _____________________________________


Birthday Club



to these November Birthday Club winners!

Join the Club!

To enter, submit information using the online form at kidsvt.com/birthday-club. Just give us your contact info, your children’s names and birth dates, and a photo, and they’re automatically enrolled.

Our judges were wowed by the fabulous submissions mailed in as part of this month’s coloring contest. Sophie, 5, filled the page with energetic strokes of vibrant color and a cheery jacko-lantern face. Seven-year-old McKenzie created a happy pair of pumpkins wearing socks! Anya and Flynn, both 9, worked together and sent us a Halloween party, complete with costumed guests and a full bag of treats. Thanks to all who entered! We can’t wait to see what you have in store this month.

The winners of annual family memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium are…


Elan Leach-Slater, 4 Colchester

5& under

“Rainbow Jack” Sophie Felix, 5 BURLINGTON


Enzo and Jeydan each win a special prize!

Willa Saunders, 9 Burlington “RAINBOW CAT”

Ammi Allen, 8 Milton


Schyler Grace, 11 Huntington


Spending Time

with the Fam?

Enzo lives in Waitsfield and turns 4 on November 4. He loves biking, climbing and giving bear hugs. He is a big fan of his big brother, Arlo!

The Kids VT team is rounding up resources for parents looking to entertain and educate their children at home. Find inspiration in the Wee-Mail newsletter.

Subscribe at kidsvt.com

Say you saw it in

Jeydan lives in Colchester and turns 3 on November 10. He enjoys riding in his wagon, jumping on his trampoline and being read to by his mama. He loves when his Nini and Uncle Billy come over to visit.


Carly Stone, 12 Springfield “CRAZY PUMPKIN”

Arthur Lewis, 3 Shelburne

“The Festival” McKenzie Kirchhof, 7

6 to 8



Ruthie Frietze, 5 Burlington “BOB”

Rowan Crawford, 5 Jericho

Wee-Mail sponsored by:

K12V-WeeMail0620.indd 1

Lacey Girard, 9 Brookfield

5/28/20 10:47 AM


Henry Miller, 5 Northfield

9 to 12


Arawan Azarian, 9 Calais “AGENT PUMPKIN MAN”

Jenny Blanshine, 12 Charlotte

“Costume Party” Anya Codling and Flynn Ryan, 9 EAST MONTPELIER KIDSVT.COM NOVEMBER 2020



“Wolfie, Wolfie, what’s your worry?” Asked his pal, a mouse named Murray. “I miss my friends, so nice and furry!” “Well, you can find them, if you hurry!”

Can you help Wolfie find the mixed-up mammals in the word search puzzle? Some are shaggy, some are not, some get chilly, some stay hot. And here’s hot news: There are two Gnus!

ACROSS Gorilla Rabbit Boar Zebra Buffalo Panda Gnu (1st) Mink

DOWN Goat Orangutan Giraffe Lion Gnu (2nd) Elk Yak

DIAGONAL Grizzly Bat Pug

ANSWER P.13 26



Anchor Points

Seeing holidays in a new way this fall




ESSAY CONTEST! NASA is taking remote learning to the Moon! 2020 has been a year of working and living at a distance. Now consider what it might be like if you were living with a pod of astronauts 250,000 miles from Earth. Your challenge is to imagine leading a oneweek expedition at the Moon’s South Pole – with the whole world cheering you on.

GRADES K-4: Essay, up to 100 words

GRADES 5-8: Essay, up to 200 words

GRADES 9-12: Essay, up to 300 words

Every student who submits an entry will receive a certificate from NASA and be invited to a special NASA virtual event – with an astronaut! Selected semifinalists will be invited to represent their state or territory in a series of Artemis Explorer sessions with NASA experts. Nine finalists will travel with a parent to NASA’s Johnson Space Center next summer to learn about lunar exploration, and the national winner in each grade division will win a family trip to see the first Artemis test launch to watch the most powerful rocket in the world launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Godspeed and good luck!



10/26/20 5:54 PM

Profile for Kids VT

Kids VT — November 2020  

Youth Soccer in Winooski; Making Thanksgiving Feel Special; Family Movie Night Picks; Teaching Music During a Pandemic

Kids VT — November 2020  

Youth Soccer in Winooski; Making Thanksgiving Feel Special; Family Movie Night Picks; Teaching Music During a Pandemic

Profile for kidsvt