MARCH 2021 LEARNING THROUGH THE WALDEN PROJECT
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ENCOURAGING KIDS’ SELF-SUFFICENCY
AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY TO HOMESCHOOLING
10 FUN THINGS TO DO THIS MONTH
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We’re ready for summer! Make this summer a fun and safe one for kids at these day camps. Camp Koda : Weekly themes, 3 or 5 day option. In Burlington, Fletcher, Georgia, Underhill, & Waterbury. State subsidy accepted. Camp IGNITE: STEM and nature-based girls camp at Rock Point Camp Propel: Leadership and teamwork through sports Register and more info at
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The Novak family’s Monopoly board
What’s your favorite board game?
STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS
SETTLERS OF CATAN is our family’s go-to game.
It mixes strategy and chance — and we always make plenty of buttered popcorn when we play.
COPUBLISHER/ EXECUTIVE EDITOR
BRETT ANN STANCIU, “BOOKWORMS” COLUMNIST
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Our family’s current favorite is SPOT IT!, especially since we discovered a new variation where you put nine cards up at once. We are also loving a new-to-us find, RHINO HERO.
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MEREDITH BAY-TYACK, “GROWING UP GREEN” COLUMNIST
y family recently started playing Monopoly while we eat dinner. My 11-year-old son somehow convinced us that we needed the more expansive Mega Edition, so we’ve stationed its huge square board in the center of our round kitchen table for our nightly game. The four of us have just a sliver of surface to balance our plates of pasta or black bean tacos, plus our piles of money and properties. Sometimes the competitive nature of the game can lead to squabbles over the rules or one player’s gloating, but playing Monopoly while we nosh also seems to have broken up some of the monotony of Day 300-and-something of the pandemic. Instead of talking about the particulars of our not-always-super-exciting days, we can escape for a bit into the world of Marvin Gardens and Boardwalk. One of the many lessons I’ve learned in the course of this COVID-19 ordeal: Novelty is important. Especially in the winter, it can feel really depressing when there’s nothing on the horizon to look forward to. So, in the absence of concerts, parties, vacations and visits with extended family, I’ve found that it helps to manufacture our own special occasions. Sometimes that means signing up for an online lesson, like the Japanese cooking class my daughter and I just took with my mom and sister through New York City’s League of Kitchens. Other times it’s a new, pandemic-safe destination. We recently found the perfect sledding hill to bomb down in the Mad River Valley. This weekend, we’re planning to skate the 4.3-mile loop at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee. Sometimes it’s as simple as watching a TV show that makes me laugh really hard. This issue of Kids VT marks a year’s worth of issues produced during the pandemic. While we’ve all weathered this storm in different ways, I think it’s fair to say that none of us could have expected last March that things would unfold the way they have. In “Use Your Words” on page 31, Kate Farrell writes about her unexpected journey — from teaching high school, to being on the cusp of starting a new business, to homeschooling her kids. She chose a new routine for her family when she realized the one they had fallen into felt uncomfortable and unsustainable. On page 15, Keegan Albaugh writes about the depression and hopelessness that many parents have faced as the pandemic has worn on. He offers ideas for lifestyle changes that may help boost the mood — ones that have worked for him. And on page 23, Meredith Bay-Tyack writes about ways to set up your home to encourage self-sufficiency in younger kids — in everything from getting dressed to getting snacks — and take a little burden off parents in the process. This month in “Vermont Visionaries” on page 25, Cat Cutillo writes about Vergennes Union High School teacher Matthew Schlein. Twenty-one years ago, Schlein founded the Walden Project, an innovative outdoor program for students based on the teachings of Henry David Thoreau. I felt inspired learning about his fresh approach to education. We’ve also included a calendar of 10 fun things to do in March on page 20. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find something that feels a little novel to you.
My favorite board game is PICTIONARY. As far as nonboard games, I love playing CELEBRITY and DRAWFUL. EMILY JACOBS, “ART LESSONS” COLUMNIST
I have a long-deferred childhood desire to play HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS and OPERATION, two games I wanted as a kid but never got. I am pretty sure if I actually played either of them, it would be quite anticlimactic. HEATHER FITZGERALD, “GOOD NATURE” COLUMNIST
CONTRIBUTOR’S NOTE KATE FARRELL
(“Use Your Words,” page 31, and cover image) is a photographer, writer, endurance athlete and former science teacher. Find more at katefarrell photography.com.
ALISON NOVAK, MANAGING EDITOR
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
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Pulled Pork Flatbreads and Maple Brussels Sprouts Celebrate sugaring season with these sweet dishes
Good Citizen Challenge
Columns 10 Good Nature 11 Bookworms 14 Musical Notes 15 Pop Culture 17 Art Lessons 18 Mom Takes Notes 20 Calendar Page 31 Use Your Words
Some of our favorite recent activity submissions
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DIY Kids Designing areas of the home to encourage self-sufficiency
Just for Kids 28 Coloring Contest 29 Coloring Contest Winners 30 “Crack the Code” Puzzle 31 Puzzle Answer
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On the Cover
Vermont Visionaries Walden Project founder Matthew Schlein Welcome Editor’s Note 5 Contributors’ Question Contributor’s Note
Short Stuff Trending 9 Kids in the Community #InstaKidsVT
In late March 2020, Kate Farrell captured her then-4-year-old daughter Annika noticing a sign of spring — crocuses peeking up in the garden.
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TRENDING Out-of-state residents who’ve received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine no longer need to quarantine when traveling to Vermont. We predict lots of heartwarming grandparent-grandkid reunions in the near future.
TikTok users from all over the world are sharing videos of themselves singing — wait for it — sea shanties. Kids these days!
An entire school board in northern California resigned after its members were overheard disparaging parents during a Zoom meeting. If you have nothing nice to say...
General Mills and Cold Stone Creamery have teamed up to produce a Lucky Charms-flavored ice cream just in time for St. Patty’s Day. Cue the sugar high!
KIDS IN THE COMMUNITY
Learning for Good BY ALISON NOVAK
ince last April, 12-year-old Orion Cooper of South Burlington has sewn 75 masks from brightly colored bandannas. He’s donated them to the University of Vermont Medical Center, the South Burlington Food Shelf, and friends and family. By this April, he said, he’s hoping to reach his goal of 100 masks. In Judaism, a mitzvah is a good deed. At Ohavi Zedek Synagogue in Burlington, students like Orion who are preparing for their bar or bat mitzvah — a Jewish tradition that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood — create a Mitzvah Project, based on issues important to them. In the age of COVID-19, both the Mitzvah Project and the bar or bat mitzvah that follows look different, explained the synagogue’s Hebrew School principal, Naomi Barell. In normal times, Barell explained, she meets with seventh-grade students in person to discuss what issues speak to them. During an annual Mitzvah Day in January, students present their work to their families and other Hebrew School students and explore an issue indepth. Last year, students learned about the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and made fleece blankets for patients there. This year, the presentations and bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies have all been done via Zoom. Still, the projects are making an impact on the community, as well as the students who carry them out. Orion, a fan of the fashion competition show “Project Runway,” said making masks has not only helped him improve his sewing skills but taught him a larger lesson. “I learned that even when things are really hard and you’re really frustrated with something … in the end, you’ll learn that it’s really worth it just to see the smile on someone’s face when they say thank you,” he said. Twelve-year-old Zoe Smith of Burlington decided to support Steps to End Domestic Violence for her Mitzvah Project after her mom told her about the nonprofit organization’s work to help people who’ve experienced domestic abuse. She organized a drive, using an Amazon Wish List, to collect personal hygiene products, household items, and diapers and wipes. With the help of her
Right: Zoe delivering a carload of supplies; below: Orion sewing bandanna masks
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parents, she’s delivered several carloads of items to a shelter the organization runs. Seventh Generation also donated 37 cases of products. Zoe said she appreciated learning more about the work of the organization. She plans to continue to support them, even after her Mitzvah Project is finished. Another benefit: Because her presentation about the project was virtual, her extended family was able to log in and watch. Barell said that, over the years, students’ work has been “magnificent.” One student raised thousands of dollars for Heifer International, an organization that helps purchase farm animals for people all over the world, by throwing dinner parties in which she cooked food from the countries the organization supports. Another student volunteered with Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports at Bolton Valley Resort and now works there as a ski instructor. Whether in-person or virtual, “there’s never a Mitzvah Day that passes where I’m not awed,” said Barell. “My comment always is, ‘Look what a 12-year-old can do to change the world.’”
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GOOD NATURE B Y H E AT H E R F I TZ GE RA L D
‘Slow Birding’ Is Good for You Vermont’s Bird Diva explains why you should take time to stop and see the birds
ast October, I signed up my family, with great enthusiasm, for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s yearly citizen science survey, Project FeederWatch. The premise is simple: You watch birds and report what you see. I paid the $18 fee and received a cool poster and some simple directions in the mail. I went out and bought birdseed and a bird feeder, which I set up outside our kitchen window. The only part I remember from the directions is this sentence: “Even if you only count once all season, your data are valuable!”
Mapping birds’ feeding habitats
Guess what? We still haven’t submitted a single tally. Life has been overly full lately. So, when I talked recently with Bridget Butler, a local naturalist also known as the Bird Diva, the first thing I did was ask her, in a slightly challenging way, “Why should I pay attention to birds? It just feels like another thing to add to my already overwhelming to-do list.” She met my energy with the story of the first time she paid attention to birds in a particular way. She calls it “slow birding,” which she explains as “a fresh approach” to observing birds. Rather than competitively logging lists of species seen, the focus is on creating “a deeper connection to yourself and the place you live.” “Once I got into slow birding, I realized it was helping me in other ways,” she recalled. “The first time I did a 45-minute sit paying attention to bird language, I broke down crying. I didn’t have to be the mom, or the leader, or do anything else except be in the moment with birds. It was such a relief. Primary caregivers need to give ourselves a break. And nature is free!” If yoga or other self-care techniques don’t calm you, maybe birding will, said Butler: “I don’t care if it’s a pigeon. This morning we went out for a walk behind our house and took a moment to sit by the creek, quietly listening to the birds. It was peaceful and soothing for that one 10
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
PHOTOS: BRIDGET BUTLER
The focus is on creating “a deeper connection to yourself and the place you live.”
Building a nesting platform
minute of silence together ... and that feeling was carried back inside with us. We were much less likely to get on each other’s nerves.” Research shows that using your senses can help relieve stress, promote productivity and serve a restorative purpose, said Butler: “I am finding it so valuable to go outside, step away, and let the birds call me
to awareness and let everything else slip away for a little bit.” Butler will offer a virtual Slow Birding for Families session in April, which she describes as “a playful framework for experiencing nature with your kids.” Participants will have access to five bundles of content. Each one has a video, a couple of activities, a featured bird and resources to help deepen your knowledge. There will be opportunities to interact with nature by
going to a “sit spot” or just looking out your window. Butler will also provide prompts to help you know what to look for. Without them, she said, “It can be overwhelming. Where do you start?” The program is flexible, allowing participants to access the content any time they want. In the last week in April, she will hold a guided discussion, providing motivation for people to share their stories. A private Facebook group will help facilitate a community of learners who can continue sharing their observations and insights after the session is over. While the course is meant for families, Butler advised: “Do it for yourself, not just for your kids.” I’m planning to sign up ($50 at birddiva.com), even though my teenager is a little older than the intended target audience of school-age kids. I’m planning to do it for myself. What if an organized session isn’t in the cards for you right now? Well, just go outside and check out the pigeon on your roof or the chickadees in your yard. Heather Fitzgerald teaches field ecology and environmental science at the Community College of Vermont, University of Vermont and Saint Michael’s College.
BOOKWORMS B Y BRE TT A N N S TA N CI U
Winning Reads Engaging picture books to get your family through mud season
arch is cabin-fever month. While your family might be itching to be outside, the weather often doesn’t cooperate. Although many libraries offer curbside pickup or are open by appointment or for short visits, these systems don’t always work when you’re looking to choose picture books. Requesting books from the Red Clover Book Award lists is a simple way for parents and caregivers to obtain award-winning titles for younger readers. Founded in 1995 by the nonprofit literacy organization Windham County Reads, the Red Clover program was conceived by children’s author Eileen Christelow and named by children’s author Jessie Haas. The program is designed to encourage appreciation of picture books by young children. Every year, a committee of school and town librarians selects 10 picture books for children in kindergarten Librarian through fourth grade. Abby Johnson Nominees must have been published in the previous year, both the author and illustrator must be living at the time of the selection, and both fiction and nonfiction books are eligible. In the spring, thousands of Vermont kids read the books and submit votes for their favorite through schools or the state Department of Libraries. While the 2021-22 list has been delayed due to the pandemic, parents can access lists from previous years at the Department of Libraries’ website. Many libraries have these books in their children’s sections. This month, Abby Johnson, youth services librarian at the Cobleigh Public Library in Lyndonville, shared a few of her favorites on the 2020-21 list.
• Told from a polar bear’s perspective, Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival by Lindsay Moore is about a polar bear in search of food and a place to wait out the warm summer. Moore’s watercolor illustrations evoke the sea, ice and sky. “The quiet yet strong voice of the polar bear leaves readers with hope, even as we feel the effect that climate change has on her environment,” says Johnson.
story begins in the family kitchen and travels through centuries of traditions. The book whets readers’ appetites with a recipe at the end and encourages them to consider what foods and traditions nourish their own families.
• Andrea Tsurumi wrote and illustrated her debut, cartoon-style picture book Crab Cake: Turning the Tide Together. Young readers meet a colorful community of sea creatures who are brought together by Crab’s tasty cake after a human-made catastrophe impacts their lives. The creatures use teamwork to solve a pollution problem. Beneath the book’s engaging quirkiness, Johnson says, is the message is that humans need to take responsibility to help clean up the planet.
For more fun, check out short videos of each author from the 202021 list on the Red Clover section of the Department of Libraries’ website. My favorite is from author and illustrator Sydney Smith, who shares his magical book Small in the City — the story of living in a large city, told from a child’s viewpoint. Previous Red Clover winners include Mo Willems, who clinched the award in 2005 and 2006 for Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale. My daughter’s favorite was Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin and illustrated by Betsy Lewin, released in 2000. Neither one of us ever tired of this book — the true mark of a classic childhood read.
• Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story, by Kevin Noble Maillard and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, stars a modern Native American family and the stories, history and food that bind them together. The
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Pulled Pork Flatbreads and Maple Brussels Sprouts Celebrate sugaring season with these sweet dishes
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
ecause I grew up in Vermont, maple syrup holds a special place in my heart. One of my favorite recipes as a child was my grandmother’s hot dogs with apples and maple syrup. A maple vinaigrette is one of my go-to salad dressings. Maple-roasted pecans? A delight. An antidote when my son, who is a type 1 diabetic, has low blood sugar? Mix some pure maple syrup in milk, and he’s good to go. In my family, we are believers. Recently, I made maple-roasted Brussels sprouts for lunch. My son smelled them and asked if he could have some. Of course I shared. He asked if there were more, to which I replied that I could make more. He proceeded to eat almost a whole pound of them by himself. This is my randomly picky child — who hates mayonnaise on sandwiches, who eschews raspberries on desserts, who thinks that mild is spicy — and he ate almost an entire pound of Brussels sprouts. For this recipe, I decided to go all in with maple. Maple Brussels sprouts with maple pulled pork on flatbreads with a smoked Gouda sauce, topped with a maple-balsamic glaze. This recipe makes more than enough pork for the flatbreads, so you will have leftovers to use in sandwiches, pasta, or pulled pork mac and cheese. I made the flatbreads from scratch, but you could use storebought naan or another small flatbread. Nearly everything can be made ahead of time, then assembled and finished under the broiler when ready to serve. I have a love of kitchen gadgetry, so I made my flatbread dough in my bread machine, my pork in the Instant Pot and the Brussels sprouts in the air fryer. Alternatively, you could make the flatbread dough in a stand mixer or by hand, the pork in an old-fashioned Crock-Pot, and the Brussels sprouts in the oven. This recipe has a lot of steps, but trust me, it’s worth it. It should go without saying that only the real maple syrup will do here. After all, it’s sugaring season in Vermont.
PULLED PORK FLATBREADS AND MAPLE BRUSSELS SPROUTS (makes 8 flatbreads)
For the flatbread:
3 1/4 cups allpurpose flour
For the maple pulled pork:
For the maple Brussels sprouts:
For the smoked Gouda sauce:
For the maple-balsamic drizzle:
3-pound boneless pork loin
1 pound Brussels sprouts, thawed if frozen
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon allpurpose flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup balsamic glaze (store-bought balsamic vinegar reduction)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup coarsely shredded smoked Gouda
thinly shaved red onions for topping (optional)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup water
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
DIRECTIONS: To make the flatbread dough: 1. Mix ingredients in either a bread machine or a stand mixer. Knead until a soft, pliable dough forms. If it is too sticky, add a little more flour. If it is too dry, add a little water. If making the dough in a bread machine, allow to go through the dough cycle. If making by hand, put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with oiled plastic wrap for about 1 hour. 2. Punch dough down after this rise and divide into 8 equal balls. Allow to rest, covering the balls for about 10 minutes with a towel. Roll out on a well-floured surface until they are about 1/8-inch thick and 8
inches round. Cover the circles with a cloth while you roll the remaining dough. 3. Heat a heavy skillet (cast-iron works well) on high heat, or a large electric griddle to 400 degrees. Brush with oil and cook the flatbreads until golden and bubbly, with darker brown spots, about two minutes per side. Cover with a cloth until ready to use. (If you are making these ahead of time, they freeze well. Just wrap individually in plastic wrap or foil and thaw in the refrigerator when ready to use.)
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For the maple pulled pork: 1. Put the pork in the bottom of a pressure cooker or CrockPot (no need to cut it up). 2. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over the pork. If cooking in a CrockPot, cook on low for 7-9 hours, or until it falls apart easily when you try to shred it with a fork. If cooking in a pressure cooker, cook on high pressure for 40 minutes, with a 10-minute natural release.
3. Remove lid carefully and, using tongs, transfer meat to a stand mixer. 4. Using the paddle attachment, shred the meat. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can shred it with two forks. 5. Return meat to the pot until ready to use, stirring to allow it to soak up the sauce. (Store leftover meat in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 2-3 months.)
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For the maple-roasted Brussels sprouts: 1. Cut Brussels sprouts into quarters (or smaller pieces, if you have large ones). You want your pieces to be about 1/4-1/2 inches. 2. Toss with 1/4 cup maple syrup and roast on a well-oiled sheet pan for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees, or in an air fryer for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. 3. Remove and toss with remaining 2 tablespoons syrup.
For the smoked Gouda sauce: 1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. 2. Whisk in the flour and cook until lightly brown. 3. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and cheese until melted. (It’s OK if there are some small, unmelted bits of cheese.) 5. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use.
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For the maple-balsamic drizzle: 1. In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup and the balsamic glaze until well-incorporated. Put aside until ready to use.
TO ASSEMBLE: 1. Preheat the broiler. 2. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil, then arrange as many flatbreads as fit on the pan (my full sheet pan holds 4). 3. Top each with about 2-3 tablespoons of smoked Gouda sauce, about 1/4 cup of maple Brussels sprouts and 1/4 cup of maple pulled pork. If
5. 6. 7.
desired, sprinkle a little shaved red onion over the top. Broil the flatbreads for about 4 minutes, or until the meat is a little crispy but the bread is not burned. Remove from oven and top with maple-balsamic drizzle. Repeat with remaining flatbreads. Serve and enjoy!
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KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
2/25/21 8:28 AM
COURTESY OF BENANNA BAND
BY BE NJ AM I N R OE S CH
The Zoom Room
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
COURTESY OF ANDREA SOBERMAN
looking forward to seeing students in-person again but in the meantime will continue to offer her online classes at a reduced rate. She plans to keep teaching partially online, even after the effects of What happens when music classes for kids go virtual? COVID-19 wane. Wallingford-based BenAnna Band has had to make creative adjustments, as well. The duo, composed of partners Ben Norton and Anna Delgado (Ben + Anna = banana … get it?), formed just a year before the pandemic hit. With only a handful of performances under their belt, BenAnna had just booked a monthslong tour of shows in public libraries all over New York, Connecticut and Vermont when the world shut down. “It was pretty chaotic in the very beginning,” said Delgado, who’s also a licensed music therapist. While they initially continued to perform for library audiences over Facebook Live, the bubbly duo, who wear goofy banana shirts during their energetic performances, quickly found their groove on Zoom. While the lack of interaction made Facebook Live performances feel “exhausting,” Norton said, they loved the Ben Norton and Anna Delgado switch to a more interactive platform. Not only were they able to engage individually hen longtime children’s music teacher and with their “kiddos,” but performing in their own performer Andrea Soberman picked up her home gave “a little more breathing room for activity guitar, arranged her puppets, and tested planning.” During Black History Month, they used the mic and camera on her laptop for her first virtual that flexibility to celebrate the accomplishments of music class in the spring of 2020, she was taking a leap Black musicians and innovators. When they told the of faith. story of Guion Stewart Bluford Jr., the first African “I did not know how to do anything on Zoom,” she American person to go into space, one of their stusaid with a laugh. dents ran away from the screen, then returned with Like so many other movement and music teachers an astronaut action figure he could now put a name who work with toddlers and preschoolers, Soberman to. “It’s so cool to be able to make those connections,” said COVID-19 affected not only her livelihood but the Delgado said. very nature of her craft. After all, holding the attention Norton and Delgado have also used the opof wiggly 1- and 2-year-old kids during an in-person portunity to help kids adjust to living through the music class is challenging enough. How do you keep pandemic. The YouTube video for their original tiny tots engaged when they’re just one of many boxes song “Who’s Behind the Mask?” is a playful romp on your computer screen? that celebrates kids singing, dancing and still having “This has been my life’s work,” Soberman said. “I fun while wearing masks. didn’t know what I was going to do.” In addition to live and recorded classes, For nearly 30 years, Soberman — known as Miss BenAnna’s website also features merchandise and Andrea to her students — has been a music teacher the option to purchase a personalized song or video and children’s performer, mostly in New York and for a loved one. And though it’s sometimes difficult Andrea Soberman more recently in the Waterbury area. Small outdoor to turn down requests when people want them to music classes worked for a little while, but as the pancreate content or do events for free, BenAnna has demic stretched into the summer, Soberman knew she create eye-catching, themed backdrops. She also created continued to grow their audience. In addition to would have to create a virtual experience if she wanted PowerPoint musical stories that could help keep the their students in Vermont and New York, they connect to keep her business, Musical Munchkins, alive. She kids engaged. Positive feedback from parents and kids regularly with a classroom of kids in Italy. They even hired a tech-savvy friend to teach her the ways of Zoom, has been immensely gratifying, letting her know that her did a Zoom performance for a group of Russian children updated her website to include a sign-up system for perseverance is paying off. over Christmas. virtual classes, and then bravely turned on the camera. Online classes still have their drawbacks. “Without “We know we’ll go back to in-person performances At first, the classes were a little frustrating for the lively engagement from in-person classes,” said eventually, but we’re hoping this virtual option doesn’t Soberman. “For some kids, it just didn’t work,” she said. Soberman, “I have to make sure I am more expressive go away either,” Delgado said. She realized she would have to find a way to make the ex- and animated. It’s a different challenge, but I am finding “Working creatively with kids opens your eyes up to perience feel more like a real classroom, where caregivit fun and rewarding.” the world in a whole new way every day,” Norton said. ers are able to engage. She began communicating with While business has slowed down over the past year, “It’s refreshment for the soul.” K families in advance of class so they could be prepared Soberman’s love of working with children keeps her opFind Miss Andrea at musicalmunchkins.net. Find the with real or improvised instruments, such as macaroni timistic. In addition to her regular classes, she’s started boxes and cooking pots. She invested in a green screen to doing Zoom birthday parties and library concerts. She’s BenAnna Band at benannaband.com.
POP CULTURE BY KE E GA N A L BA UGH
Managing Depression Tips on navigating feelings of sadness as winter grinds on could actually have to myself. Drinking alcohol on a nightly basis had become my go-to strategy for relaxing at the end of each day. I was also guilty of doomscrolling social media on a regular basis and eating copious amounts of tortilla chips. I knew I needed to make some changes but was on the fence about the steps I needed to take. Then, one night, during my seemingly endless Facebook scrolling, I came across a post from my friend Nathan Hartswick, co-owner of Vermont Comedy Club. He shared that it had been a year since he had consumed an alcoholic beverage and how being sober had been so important for his mental health during the pandemic. Near the end of the post, he wrote: “If you’re considering making a change like this, I recommend it.” As I read it, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. That evening and the following day, I reflected on those words. I thought about all of the unconscious choices I was making that likely contributed to my low feelings. I thought about the changes I could make in my daily life that could have a positive impact on my mental health. Beginning February 1, I made the intentional choice to do the following things: KEEGAN ALBAUGH
t was Monday morning, and I had just finished writing my to-do list for the third week of January. I sat down on the couch, opened my computer and stared blankly at the screen. I looked at the list, which took up the entire sheet of paper, then back at the computer screen. I felt frozen. I felt overwhelmed. I felt sad. And this wasn’t an experience unique to that particular morning. Pretty much every day in January had brought feelings of hopelessness and depression. Over the course of the pandemic, I had never experienced the consistent string of low days that I was now feeling. I knew I had a lot to be grateful for. Everyone in my family had been in good health. My partner and I had jobs. We’ve had a roof over our heads and meals on the table every day during the pandemic. But I still felt depressed. From what I’ve read, I am not the only parent who has experienced elevated levels of stress and depression as the pandemic has stretched on. According to findings based on monthly surveys given to 6,246 parents by the University of Oxford, “parental stress, depression, and anxiety increased between November and December ,” when new national restrictions were introduced in the United Kingdom, similar to the additional restrictions prohibiting multi-household social gatherings introduced in Vermont around that time. On top of these new protocols and pandemic fatigue were the general mental health challenges typically associated with the winter months, such as tiredness, anxiety and depression. The cold and darkness of winter in Vermont. Balancing a career with raising two tiny human beings, ages 2 and 4. Not being allowed to gather with friends and family, or to visit favorite places like the public library. Living nearly a year in a global pandemic. No babysitters. No breaks. When I write it all out, I’m actually not that surprised that I’m feeling depressed. My attempts to make myself feel better were more moments of escapism rather than intentional healthy lifestyle choices. Although I had been running nearly every other day for the past six months, I had also developed a handful of unhealthy coping strategies. I was staying up past midnight on a consistent basis, having convinced myself that it was the only time of day I
• Get enough sleep. I was logging five to six hours of sleep a night, and now I make sure to get around seven. Over the course of a week, that’s an additional 10 hours of sleep. That’s a lot. • Get outside every day. This doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. Just throw on a few layers and go for a five- to 10-minute walk. Sunlight, cold air, crunching snow, birds flying by ... It’s a perfect little dose of mindfulness. • Talk with my friends about depression. When people are open with their mental health struggles, it becomes clear how common these feelings are. Navigating these tough feelings with others has been really helpful.
1/28/21 10:03 AM
Keegan and his daughters enjoy some outdoor time
• Eat healthier. I’ve stopped consuming chips (for the most part), and I’ve been more intentional about my food choices, eating more fruits and veggies when I’m craving a snack. • Be intentional with phone use. I still struggle with this one, but I’ve stopped using my phone at bedtime. I’m still practicing having an intention when I grab my phone, rather than looking at it unconsciously. • Stop drinking alcohol. I haven’t had a beer since the end of January and have been drinking more water, tea, tomato juice and seltzer. It took a week or so to get used to, but I’ve really appreciated not relying on alcohol to help me relax at the end of the day. As I approach the home stretch of February, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job of following the intentional lifestyle choices I decided to make at the start of the month. And, unsurprisingly, my mood has been generally positive, though I certainly still have my moments. I’m not making any long-term commitments to these changes, but for the time being, I’m planning to stick with what’s working. To echo the words of my friend Nathan: “If you’re considering making a change like this, I recommend it.” K Albaugh is not a medical professional and this column is not intended to provide medical advice. Visit mentalhealth. vermont.gov to find professional help.
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Adventure, Creativity, and connection Await...
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Motorized LEGO brick creations, EV3 programming, stop motion animation, and Minecraft!
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Ages 4-11 | June 7 to August 27 Turtle Lane Campus, Shelburne, VT
For more information and to register visit:
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
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ART LESSONS B Y E M I LY J A COBS
The Sky’s the Limit Reimagining van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”
GETTING STARTED This project can be done with oil pastel or acrylic paint to mimic the texture and swirling sky in van Gogh’s painting, but it can also be adapted for any artistic style or medium. I have had students do this project with oil pastel, with markers, and even with crayon and watercolor paint. Suggested materials: thick drawing paper, oil pastels Optional materials: markers, crayons, watercolor paint, tempera paint
Steps: 1. Look carefully at van Gogh’s original painting “The Starry Night.” (Find it at any of the sites listed under Additional Resources.) Notice which parts of the painting look closer and which parts look farther away. 2. On your piece of paper, you might wish to lightly sketch shapes and lines to mimic the composition or organization of van Gogh’s painting.
hen post-impressionist Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh created his renowned painting “The Starry Night” — rendering the night sky with swirling brushstrokes of blue and gold — he brought to life his own unique vision. Though the night sky and the starlit landscape below it would have been largely still apart from, perhaps, some wind rippling the fields and trees, van Gogh’s painting comes alive with movement. Through his painting, we see the world through his eyes, alight with motion, vivid color and infinite beauty. This interpretive aspect of van Gogh’s work — his tendency to take creative liberties with the lines, tones and textures of the world around him, rather Clockwise from top left: Bhavik, 8, Crayola than painting it exactly as it appears — is one of the things that makes his art so markers; William, 5, oil pastels and noteworthy. watercolors; Claire, 8, Crayola markers and oil In one of my favorite art projects I’ve done with students over the years, we pastels; Mikaela, 12, oil pastels observe the work of van Gogh and consider originality and interpretation in art. Then, with “The Starry Night” as inspiration, my students exercise their own imaginations and creative powers, reinterpreting the famous painting. I have done this project with artists of all ages, from kindergarten to eighth grade. After my students give their first impressions of the famous painting, sharing what they notice and what they wonder, I instruct them to observe the composition of the painting — the scale and placement of the cypress tree in relation to the faraway town and mountains beyond. We discuss foreground (the part of the picture that appears nearest, or closest to the “front” of the image), middle ground (that which appears to be in the middle of the space portrayed) and background (the part of the picture that seems farthest away and is also usually smaller in scale). Then students begin to think about what their own reimaginings of the scene might look like, planning images that retain the composition or organization of van Gogh’s original painting but transform the scene. Students imagine how they might replace each part of the painting with new colors or subjects to create their own original work of art. Some students might envision an urban starry night, with a skyscraper in place of the cypress tree and city buildings in place of the little village that van Gogh painted. Other students might change the season or the time of day in their reinterpretations, filling their artwork with fall leaves and autumnal colors, or turning the starry night sky into a sunset swirling with cotton-candy-pink clouds. As they brainstorm and sketch, I share examples of surrealist art with my classes, as well, encouraging them to go beyond the bounds of reality in their reimagining of van Gogh’s work by including fantastical details. For example, students might replace the cypress tree with a giant ice cream cone, or with a dark tower with eyes as ADDITIONAL RESOURCES: windows. Instead of stars, students might fill their skies with peppermints, hot-air balloons, spaceships • vangoghgallery.com/painting/starry-night.html or clocks! • tate.org.uk/kids/explore/who-is/who-vincent-van-gogh Like van Gogh, students can create their reimagined landscapes as they see them in their mind’s eye • wiki.kidzsearch.com/wiki/post-impressionism — limited only by their own imaginations. K
• You can lightly draw a big isosceles triangle or a tall skinny rectangle on the left side to represent his cypress tree. You might lightly sketch circles in the sky where van Gogh painted stars and the moon. • You might lightly outline the hills in the background and sketch a faint box around the space where van Gogh painted the little town. 3. Brainstorm! • How will you change and reimagine the original painting? Will your scene also be set under a starry sky, or perhaps under a blue sky swirling with clouds? Will you instead create a sunset? • What tall item will you draw on the left side of the foreground, in place of the cypress tree? • Will you also draw hills in the background, or will you transform them into waves, buildings, trees or giant scoops of ice cream?! • You might choose to sketch out a few different ideas before you choose what you will draw. 4. Begin to draw details and create your own reimagining of “The Starry Night.” If you want, you can mimic van Gogh’s brushstrokes by using short, repeated strokes of watercolor or tempera paint, or by drawing repeated dashes with marker, crayon or oil pastel. Pro tip: Use a few different colors of oil pastel to create dashes that all flow in the same direction, forming a swirl in the sky. Then use a white oil pastel to carefully color over the dashes, moving the white oil pastel in the same direction. This will smudge and blur your colored dashes so they resemble a swirl of paint. 5. Continue adding details and color to your picture until it is complete! KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
MOM TAKES NOTES BY E L I S A J Ä RN E F E LT
he first weeks of the pandemic reminded me of the first weeks with our daughter. She was born a bit early, and we had lots of trouble figuring out breastfeeding. Consequently, I ended up staying at home for several weeks. The time with a newborn was isolating and difficult, but eventually I walked out of the house to greet the world with my baby. So, when the isolation began in March 2020, it felt in some ways familiar. Trying to be positive, I told myself that I was mentally prepared. Then the weeks multiplied, and I slowly came to terms with the fact that this was not like anything I’d experienced before. But every day, I still kept trying to come up with optimistic angles. I understood that, in many ways, my family had it easier than many other families. To say that we were having a hard time felt somehow inconsiderate in the grand scheme of things. As the weeks have turned into months, there have been days when the optimism has turned into exhaustion. A year into our isolation, I have learned that I do not always have to find something encouraging about this experience. On days when I feel worn out, I have learned to rely on the person who is next to me — my husband. One day it might be him telling me something encouraging, and I just listen. The next day, I might be the one who has more energy to bring in the light. K
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
Good Citizens Are Learning and Doing
The Good Citizen At-Home Challenge is winding up! Entries in the youth civics initiative organized by Kids VT and Seven Days are due on Friday, March 5. We’ll hold a grand-prize drawing for winners on March 10 and will announce them — and showcase some of the best work we received — in the April Kids VT. In the meantime, enjoy a few of our favorite recent activity submissions.
News Literacy Listening to the governor’s COVID-19 press conference:
“We listened to the Governor’s budget address on Tuesday, January 26 — it took the place of the COVID update. He talked about how much money he would like to spend on different projects, like roads, schools, and community organizations that help people.”
Participate in Vermont Humanities’ “We Are Still Here” virtual event:
“We watched the Vermont Humanities event presented by Jesse and Joseph Bruchac [of the Nulhegan Abenaki Nation]. The creation stories and music were entertaining but we got the most out of the dialogue from Joe and Jesse. We didn’t know that their tribe name had been so anglicized and will work to pronounce their name correctly.”
Play Virtual Vermont Trivia:
“We have participated in 3 of the Virtual Vermont Trivia nights sponsored by the Vermont Historical Society. On the third night of competition, we answered questions about food, crafts, and international ties. We knew most of the craft answers. We placed 11th with a score of 16,345 points.” Reading Homeschoolers,
Reading a community newspaper:
“The top two interesting things that we learned about Team Tacoz, are that the local elementary BURLINGTON school principal is retiring at the end of the year, and that there is a bottle drive for the senior center happening soon that we now have plans to participate in.”
Above: The Malikians, Burlington, holding copies of Seven Days and Kids VT.
Evergreen Woods Homeschool, WATERBURY
Government Listen to the “Why Can’t Kids Vote” episode of VPR’s “But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids”:
“There are other things kids can do even if they can’t vote.” We Are All In This Together, BRATTLEBORO
Watch the presidential inauguration:
“We had a remote day on January 20th because we live in the capital and our safety officers were worried that there might be protesters at the statehouse. Our classes finished at 12 because Mrs. Pierce wanted us to watch the inauguration and then talk about it today! It was an important day!” Pierce’s Peeps, MONTPELIER
Community Service Organize a donation drive:
Paint a rock with a message of hope for others to ﬁnd:
“We posted on Front Porch Forum and collected food from our neighbors and brought it to the Hardwick Food Pantry. Blaine was very excited that he could help. It was a great activity to help a young person realize that they are powerful and important in their world.”
“Painting rocks was fun. It was a little hard to think of words. And harder to find places for them when it snowed!” The Painted Cupcakes,
With support from:
Partners in the Good Citizen At-Home Challenge include:
Empowering Vermont’s youth to close the opportunity gap.
Find more information, including 40+ activities, and sign up for our Good Citizen newsletter, at goodcitizenvt.com. KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
10 Fun Things to Do MARVEL at circus performers.
CREATE art as a family.
The virtual Circus Spectacular fundraiser for the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro features high-flying circus artists from Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize and Pilobolus, who join the show from around the world. Saturday, March 6, 7 p.m. $15 per individual ticket; $25 for a group ticket. necenterforcircusarts.org
Get crafty from the comfort of your own home. Burlington City Arts offers a Family Clay class via Zoom on Friday, March 19, 5:30-6:30 p.m., and a Family Veggie Prints class on Sunday, March 21, 11 a.m.-noon. $25 per session; all supplies provided ahead of class. burlingtoncityarts.org Spectrum Sleep Out
CHILL for a good cause. Chill, a nonprofit that pairs experiential learning with board-sport lessons for youth ages 10 through 18, celebrates its 25th anniversary with product demos, food and raffles. All registration proceeds from the Chill Takeover at Bolton Valley benefit its local youth development programming. Sunday, March 7, 5:30-10 p.m., Bolton Valley Resort, $45. chill.org/boltontakeover
SLEEP OUTSIDE for a good cause. For Spectrum Youth & Family Services’ Virtual Sleep Out, students, families and teams sleep outdoors in a location of their choosing to show solidarity with homeless young adults in Vermont. Friday, March 26. Tune in to a virtual program at 7:30 p.m. and have coffee (or hot chocolate) over Zoom at 7 a.m. the next morning. spectrumsleepout.org
© WIRESTOCK | DREAMSTIME
"The Imaginary Monster," from Brattleboro Museum's 2019 Glasstastic Exhibit
EMBARK ON an artsy, open-air ski or snowshoe. The 1.8-mile groomed Open Air Gallery Ski & Snowshoe Trail traverses past and through outdoor sculptures by Vermont artists. Highland Center for the Arts, Greensboro, through March 31. Make reservations at highlandartsvt.org.
INDULGE in international takeout.
“Measurement Rules” at ECHO
A rotating lineup of meals delights the taste buds. Order Bosnian on March 6, Argentinian on March 13, German on March 20, Ethiopian/Eritrean on March 27 and Iraqi on March 28. 4-6 p.m., O’Brien Community Center, Winooski. $20 per meal; preregister. northendstudios.org
PERUSE kid-conceptualized sculptures. In the “Glasstastic” exhibition, whimsical glass creations — conceived and drawn by students in grades K-6 and transformed into art by New England glassblowers — wow visitors. Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., March 18-June 13, Brattleboro Museum & Art Center. brattleboromuseum.org
LISTEN to a Texas-based musician. Houston Grand Opera’s principal clarinetist, Sean Krissman, finds eager ears through a Vermont Youth Orchestra Association Guest Artist Series virtual concert. Thursday, March 18, 6:30-8 p.m. Free; preregister. vyo.org
Highland Center for the Arts
JOIN the 251 Club. Embark on a mission to visit all 251 towns and cities in the state by joining the 251 Club, started in 1954 to encourage locals to find “the real Vermont.” Membership, which costs $22 for one year, gives you access to a quarterly newsletter, an annual conference, and ways to connect with others for tips and recommendations. Fair warning: Lewis, population zero, is notoriously hard to find. vt251.com
LEARN about pounds and inches. How many chickens do you weigh? How tall are you in apples or inches or pennies? The answers to these and other questions can be found in the interactive exhibit “Measurement Rules,” which explores nonstandard measuring tools such as balancing scales, odometers, calipers, 3D imaging and counting “Mississippis.” Through May 9. ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Burlington. echovermont.org
This is just a sampling of the state's in-person and virtual happenings in the coming month. Browse our online calendarat kidsvt.com for more. If you're planning or promoting a family-friendly event in Vermont, please send details our way for a free online listing. SUBMIT YOUR APRIL EVENTS BY MARCH 15 AT KIDSVT.COM OR CALENDAR@KIDSVT.COM. 20
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
In a school year unlike any other, we’ve shown a grit and determination like never before. Our public schools are more than just a place – they’re an essential part of the community. We’re Vermont-NEA, 13,000 educators making schools work for our children and communities. vtnea.org/nomatterwhere k1-VTNEA1220.indd 1
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
12/4/20 1:07 PM
Summer Art Camps
Registration starts March 5
Ages 6–18, half & full day in-person camps Register at burlingtoncityarts.org Full & partial scholarships available
PHOTOS: RENEE GREENLEE
KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
2/25/21 10:46 AM
GROWING UP GREEN BY M E RE D I T H B AY -T YAC K PHOTOS COURTESY OF MEREDITH BAY-TYACK
DIY Kids Designing areas of the home to encourage self-sufficiency
ostering self-sufficiency is a gift to kids and their caregivers. In our family, we encourage independence to build our 4- and 6-year-olds’ selfconfidence and awareness about their internal strength and motivation. If kids know they are trusted to take care of themselves and can see how their actions impact the world around them, they’ll be more likely to make mindful choices. Our kids know that we are happy to support them but that we don’t always need to be there to get them a cup of water or that zillionth snack. We have strong but compassionate boundaries and use language like, “Mom isn’t available to get you a snack, but you can help yourself to anything in the kids’ area.” They still roll their eyes and moan, but we avoid some daily squabbles this way. Here are some ways my husband and I encourage our kids’ independence and give ourselves a small break in the process.
Now that they can reach the fridge, they have permission to take things like milk without asking. Allowing free access sends the message to our kids that they have our trust. Often, they’ll still let us know when they take something, but they also more readily ask themselves if they want or need something. What happens when kids leave out uneaten snacks or seem to be wasting food? We have repeatedly shown our kids how to put uneaten snacks back into their sealed containers for later, and they abide by that most of the time. If leaving out unwanted snacks becomes a pattern, we may choose to limit the quantity or variety of food available. As parents, we hope for the best but know that the worst-case scenario is also possible. In this case, that means a container of Cheerios or a pitcher of water spilled across the floor. Having cloth napkins and a small dustpan, or even a handheld vacuum, nearby is helpful!
ART SUPPLY AND REUSE ZONE
One space that has become more important than ever during the pandemic is the kids’ area in our kitchen. Our daughters have full access to it, without needing to ask permission. Our kitchen is small and awkward, but we found that a slim bookcase we’d had for years fit perfectly against our fridge. In it, we have a pitcher of water and all kinds of cups. We also have a shelf dedicated to small bowls. We originally had small plates there, too, but removed them after noticing that our kids spilled from them often. This area also houses the all-important snacks. Sometimes these include a basket of clementines and a container of crackers. Other times, it’s jars of dried mango and cereal. We tend to put standard items here versus something considered a “treat.” Depending on your kids’ age, you may want to periodically switch out what’s available. And assembling a container of items for older kids to grab on weekend mornings so parents can sleep in likely will be worth the extra prep. A few utensils and straws would also be a good addition to this area if your kids can’t reach those drawers in the kitchen, or if you’d prefer to limit their access to certain silverware. In our kitchen, jars and snack containers are in a low drawer that our kids were able to scoot up to before they could walk.
Freedom to make art without a lot of boundaries is something I value for my kids. While our art area has certainly evolved as my kids have gotten older, what has changed the most is my own attitude. I love watching my kids get creative. Making a mess is often a given. Using too many and too much is almost a guarantee. There are a couple of ways to handle this: Allow access to art supplies under strict supervision or know that things are going to be messy, and probably wasteful, but accept that it’s worth it. We save materials to reuse, but I’ve
Picking out clothes in the get-ready zone
had to drastically change my expectations around “wasting” art supplies. Creating art destined immediately for the recycling bin or compost heap is just as important for kids as making something that Grandma can put on the fridge. A lot of projects require adult setup and involvement, but that’s not possible all the time. Our kids have full access to different kinds of paper, crayons, pencils, watercolors, tempera paint pucks, paint brushes, yarn, ribbon, scissors, hole punches, white school glue (we refill small bottles from a gallon jug), washi tape, masking tape, stickers and our “reuse zone,” which includes myriad materials, from cardboard and plastic cups to magazines and Popsicle sticks. They take good care of their materials because they feel ownership and pride. The pencil sharpener is as important as a colored pencil, because it allows the pencil to be used again once the tip has gone dull. My 4-year-old is learning this right now, and it’s so cool to watch her get excited when she can move herself from frustrated that her pencil is broken to making it like new after a twist in the sharpener. Some examples of things we keep fully out of reach are beads and jewelrymaking supplies, liquid paint, a glue gun, and specialty items like oven-bake clay and origami paper.
TISSUES, WIPES AND CLOTHS
Grabbing too many tissues, paper towels or paper napkins is a kid specialty and can cause tension. We use washable and reusable cloth wipes, cloth napkins, dish towels and cleaning rags. Over time, our kids have learned what kind of cloth to use in different situations and where
to put them when they’re soiled. We still sometimes huff with annoyance when they use too many or are being inefficient as they clean up. But, ultimately, we remind ourselves that this is a minor annoyance and we will simply wash them and use them again. All of our cloths are easily accessible. Wipes (wet in the sink when needed) are used to clean hands, faces and kitchentable messes. We keep them in a reusable tissue box in the bathroom. Dish towels are next to the stove. Napkins are stored in the kid kitchen area. And cleaning rags are stored in a basket under the sink. We have a small laundry bin in the bathroom exclusively for soiled cloths.
GET-READY ZONES This is the area that is the most inprogress for our family, but I’m hopeful we will crack the code at some point. Since my daughters were toddlers, we have had personal grooming items like hairbrushes and washcloths available in the bathroom or common areas like the living room. Recently, we added a small hanging rod in our kids’ bedroom that holds a selection of clothing for our 4-year-old. She was having a hard time picking out clothing in the morning and didn’t like the system we use for our oldest, which is picking out her outfits but offering up one choice. Now that only a few items are hung up, our 4-year-old easily chooses something each morning. This kind of setup might be best for someone living in a small house or one with essentially no closets, like ours. However, any closet or clothes storage can likely be made more kid-friendly.
ONE LAST THING... The language we use is as important as the spaces we’ve set up. I’ve noticed that phrases like, “Let’s only use the water we need. We share water with all the people and animals in Vermont!” are more persuasive than ones like, “Don’t waste water!” The goal is to try to avoid making kids feel guilty for everyday actions and inevitable mistakes, while also lessening adults’ constant job of oversight. K KIDSVT.COM MARCH 2021
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VERMONT VISIONARIES WORD S & P H OTO S B Y C AT C U T IL L O Watch a vide o featuring Matthew Sch lein at kidsvt.com an d on WCAX-TV.
Matthew Schlein at Willowell in Monkton
Walden Project Founder Matthew Schlein
n an arctic day in mid-February, with the temperature hovering around 10 degrees, a school bus pulled into the parking lot of the 230acre Willowell preserve in Monkton. Nineteen Vergennes Union High School students, carrying backpacks and instrument cases, exited and began their hike down the 1/3-mile path leading to the base camp for the Walden Project. Willowell Foundation director/ founder and Walden Project educator Matthew Schlein, accompanied by his dog, Puck, walked among the students, blending into the group. Schlein, a self-described flatlander, moved to Addison County 28 years ago. Since then, he said, he’s developed a deep love for the landscape and been transformed by it. He founded Willowell and the Walden Project 21 years ago, after teaching English, drama and psychology at Vergennes Union High School for about six years. Willowell, a nonprofit, serves students and teachers at seven schools in three school districts through outdoor education programs that integrate sciences, arts and the humanities. The Walden Project, one of the programs based at Willowell, is an outdoor, public-education program through Vergennes Union High School. It uses a multidisciplinary curriculum to help students develop their sense of self while immersed in nature. “I hit a crossroad that a lot of teachers hit,” said Schlein, explaining why he
founded the Walden Project. “People bring so much heart with wanting to come into the profession, and sometimes it’s hard to keep that pulse alive in the institution.” Schlein feels that the factory model of education governing most public schools, which came about in the 1920s to separate the managerial and working class, has become outdated. He was introduced to different models of education while earning graduate degrees in education and social work, both from the University of Michigan, but he found that they were typically used in expensive private schools. Working in the juvenile justice system in Michigan early in his career, Schlein said, he quickly realized the problem was not the students. “It was this failure of education to meet their needs that led to them acting out,” he said. “So much of the period of adolescence can be used to explore identity constructively. If we don’t give young people these outlets, they tend to experiment in destructive ways.” As a teacher in Vermont, he wanted to create an alternative educational program, offered through the public school system to make it more accessible, that would represent the diversity and viewpoints of Addison County. He went to then-Vergennes principal Peter Coffey with the seed of an idea to pilot a program that would be more holistic and foster relationships with the community, the natural world and the self.
A Vergennes Union High School bus dropping off Walden Project students for the day
Students keeping warm at the Walden Cedar Grove, the program’s base camp
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Students hiking down to base camp with Schlein’s dog, Puck
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Students — mostly juniors and seniors — can apply for one or two years. They spend 75 percent of their day outside, taking only math classes within the school building. Despite COVID-19, Walden Project students have been able to attend school four days a week in-person this year. “We do this really interesting and important dance between structure and freedom,” said Schlein. “Particularly for adolescents, having some sense of freedom and agency is really important, not just from an academic point of view but from a personal, existential point of view.” The independent studies that students embark on are often personal. One student reconnected with her Native American ancestry and learned to skin a beaver during her second year at Walden. Another student built a traditional canoe, felling a tree with hand tools and burning out the inside of the log with fire. “The best lessons and the deepest
learning happens when I get out of the way and let the students follow their own passion and their own interest,” said Schlein. The days follow a predictable structure. Every morning, students collect logs from a woodpile to build a fire, then form a socially distanced circle around it. Class begins with a guided medication, then AmeriCorps member Rowan Kamman, once a Walden student himself, passes out the book Walden by Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau is the “godfather” of the Walden Project. The program is modeled on the author’s two-year move to Massachusetts’ Walden Pond after the American Revolution to reflect on core questions of freedom, self and society. Schlein opens every morning reading a different passage from Thoreau. “The universe is wider than our views of it,” Schlein read. When he finished, he asked students for their reaction. “If you never get an alternative
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Schlein starting the day with a passage from Thoreau 2/25/21 11:07 AM
perspective, even though you have the potential to fully realize yourself, it doesn’t mean you will, because you’re still under the bonds of being around your parents,” shared one student. “Sometimes you have to leave everything you know so that there aren’t any molds being put on you. So that you can become something new.” Schlein said students engage in a lot of debate around the fire, a soothing and grounding environment that harkens back to primitive times. One year, there was a student from a family that ran one of the largest organic farms in the area, and another who came from a family of more conventional dairy farmers. “It was fascinating to watch the two engage,” said Schlein. “It’s not that either convinced the other of a different viewpoint, but they were able to come up with appreciation for their differences. John Dewey said
An English class can be just as much about environmental studies as about literature. “We definitely leave room for nature to be the master teacher and to take over if she’s providing something more interesting,” said Schlein. He recalled a winter field trip to Kingsland Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh, where the class came upon a deer that had fallen off a cliff and broken its neck. The outing suddenly became an impromptu anatomy and physiology lesson. Schlein said the best ambassadors for the program are the many former Walden students who have returned to Willowell and Walden to work as educators through AmeriCorps or in one of Willowell’s many sister programs, including summer camps, Wren’s Nest Forest Preschool and the most recent addition for elementary-age kids, the New Roots Project.
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Student Ava Collins using a log as a lunch plate
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public schools are the laboratories of democracy … We provide a safe container where they can explore these ideas and look at differences and still understand how to like the person that you disagree with.” Over the years, Schlein has collected data on the Walden Project’s students, which reveal that as many as 15 percent have dealt with significant loss, such as the death or the serious illness of a parent. “There’s something very palliative about being in nature around a fire. It doesn’t erase the sadness, but it gives some context for these cycles of nature,” said Schlein. “The problem with our culture right now is that … we’re disconnected from those cycles of life and death.” With no bell system to separate subjects, the day’s lessons overlap.
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AmeriCorps volunteer Kamman praised the program. “It really improved my sense of self and ability to think for myself as an individual,” he said. “I wasn’t getting that sort of development in the main school building.” He believes it’s the coldest winter days that reveal the best parts of the Walden Project and make the spring bloom more invigorating. Schlein said he loves watching that light bulb go off when students are engaged in learning, thinking critically and forming community. He believes those ripple effects can be part of the solution for many societal issues, from climate change to mental health. “The universe is wider than our views of it,” Schlein said. “I think that applies to the possibility of schooling and education.” k4t-GirlScouts0321 1
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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 March 15. 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 April issue of Kids VT. Send your high-resolution scans to email@example.com or mail a copy to Kids VT VT, P.O. Box 1184, Burlington, VT 05402.
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Coloring Contest Winners .........29 Puzzle Page ........................................ 30
Title _______________________________________ Contest sponsored by
Artist _____________________________________ Age ______________ Town __________________ Email _____________________________________ Phone _____________________________________
COMMON ADVENTURE CAMP GROUND Common Ground Center
COLORING CONTEST WINNERS Our judges’ hearts were full upon seeing the lovely entries submitted to our February coloring contest. KJ, 9, filled the lovebirds’ sky with subtle sunset colors. Six-year-old Brer colored the page with blues and greens for a dapper pair of swans to dance in. Five-year-old Freddie sent us a kaleidoscope of colors for the graceful birds to swim within. Thanks to all who entered! We can’t wait to see what you create this month.
The winners of annual family memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium are…
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JUST FOR KIDS MAD MARCH MOVES BY MARC NADEL
Hey, Kids, tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Yeah, I thought so… Well, here are large Leo and little Leah, but what do you think they’re doing? Are they being pushed along by a powerful gust of blustery wind? Are they sliding on a slippery, slushy surface of ice? Just use this code to figure out the answer. Also, can you figure out what’s so special about this code?
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USE YOUR WORDS B Y KAT E FA RRE L L
We Learn at Home Now
UNITING IN SOLIDARITY WITH HOMELESS YOUTH
I was a public school teacher. I never expected to be teaching my kids. KATE FARRELL
n the fall of 2020, two months into overseeing remote learning for my three older kids, I wrote in my journal: I’m lucky to exercise one day during the week. I work on Friday and Saturday nights. I miss joining family movie night. My days are spent smearing peanut butter on bread, graham crackers and our puppy’s Kong. I’m so torn about all the cajoling to do remote school. What has happened to the joy of learning? By that time, I had lost touch with the natural, healthy flow my family needs. My husband, a college professor, would emerge from his basement office for lunch and brief me on how stressful things were down there — tech issues, grading, endless emails tied to COVID19-related uncertainty. My typical lunchtime update to him would sound like this: I spent an hour trying to get son No. 1 to engage with a remote lesson. He wouldn’t. Our other son went to a lesson but then spent 45 minutes telling me that it was stupid, he’ll never go again and he now “deserves” to watch a show. Our older daughter told me that she’s exhausted from going to all her classes and will be working on a project all afternoon. Our preschooler has tried three different kinds of yogurt today. Why not just set clear limits on screen time and food? Well, it needed to be quiet. Those university students didn’t want to hear kids screaming at their mom about watching shows or eating yogurt in the middle of a physiology class. And my grade-school kids should be able to turn on their mics without the embarrassment of a tantruming sibling in the background. Cue the hushed stern mom voice: “Fine. 30 minutes. It has to be PBS Kids, and then you are going outside!” I was a high school science teacher for 16 years. I left in early 2019 after developing PTSD when a student threatened to shoot a classmate in my class. While my spring of 2019 was marked by intense pain, it was also a chance for me to reconnect to a healthy biological rhythm. By then, I had three kids in elementary school and one in pre-K. On weekdays, I exercised every morning before tackling whatever small project I could handle. We had dinner together every evening, followed by read-aloud time with my “bigs,” then my little one. In early March 2020, I cut the last ties to my teaching job and committed to start my own photography business later that spring. I was relieved to have some
MARCH 26, 2021
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JOIN US! students, executives, families, and teams—
ONE BIG SLEEP OUT! Measuring the backyard pond’s ice
closure and a little scared of, but also excited for, what lay ahead. Then the world paused. We were all home, 24-7. In the early days of the pandemic, life in our bubble followed a comfortable routine. Remote school was pretty loose. The adults’ and kids’ work got done. Both parents got out to exercise most days. The kids spent hours riding their bikes and adventuring in our woods. I had tons of time to read aloud to them.
The pace of our lives had become synthetic, driven by Zoom classes and arguments over screen time. Our family anxiety profile demanded that the coronavirus risk be really low before we went back into a school building, even with masks, distancing and all the rest. So last fall, we enrolled our kids in our school district’s remote-schooling option. By November, I was in a quandary. The pace of our lives had become synthetic, driven by Zoom classes and arguments over screen time. Yet biology is in control; a virus has governed our daily choices for nearly a year. Public school was a square-peg/ round-hole challenge for my kids before the pandemic. Once the novelty of remote school wore off, we were again faced with a tough situation. I was struggling to balance my relationship with my kids against their educational needs, all while starting a new career. I knew they needed to be learning in real life, reconnecting with their curiosity and feeling comfortable in their own skin. That’s how we became
homeschoolers. I filled out all the state-required forms, withdrew the kids from school and dove into lesson planning. We began homeschooling after Thanksgiving. Our focus is on play, learning, curiosity and rest. The pond behind our house has long been our natural gateway to seasonal living. To find out if it’s raining, we glance out at its surface. The first ice at the edge signifies that summer has lost its grip and the winter half the year has arrived. In the deep of our Vermont winters, we measure the thickness of the ice. It has recently become the grounding point for our homeschool science lessons. Now, rather than fitting in a few minutes of read-aloud between remote classes, my big kids and I gather for more than an hour on most days to “travel” away from our pandemic-plagued world. We snuggle on the couch near the pellet stove while I sip tea and read aloud. We love the way Harry Potter transports us to a magical world. As we work our way through the sixth book in the series, conversation often turns to J.K. Rowling’s imagination and how the movies just don’t compare to the books. Our reading has inspired drawings, writing, Lego creations and role-playing, as well as discussions on racism and sexism. I’m so glad to see these signs of creativity returning to our house. And still, these are tough times. We are sheltering at home. I am responding to the heightened needs of my family, while actively building a new career. Being flexible and intentional in our daily life helps us to be our best selves and remain hopeful for the future. Just as the pond changes its rhythms with the seasons, so will we. If we are attentive, we’ll know when a new one arrives. K
Sleep out at your own location and tune into our virtual program at 7:30pm and virtual coffee the following morning at 7am. If March 26th does not work for you, no problem! Contact us if your team plans to Sleep Out at a different time.
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Learning Through the Walden Project; Encouraging Kids' Self-Sufficiency; An Unexpected Journey to Homeschooling; 10 Fun Things to Do This Mo...
Published on Mar 1, 2021
Learning Through the Walden Project; Encouraging Kids' Self-Sufficiency; An Unexpected Journey to Homeschooling; 10 Fun Things to Do This Mo...