Thursday, August 2, 2012

Behind the Coloring Contest Curtain: Meet Bryan Ford

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 4:06 PM

If you’re a Kids VT reader, you’re probably familiar with our coloring contest. Every month, we get dozens of bright, fun, colorful submissions from budding artists all across the state — and even some from out of state, such as the entries we received this month from Gabriella and Aidan, of West Virginia.

Bryan Ford, in his room.
  • Bryan Ford, in his room.

As the Kids VT intern, it’s my job to open the stack of envelopes containing coloring contest entries. It’s one of my favorite things to do here. We all treasure the creative work that comes in — so much so that our managing editor, Kate, has a desk cluttered with past submissions that she can’t bring herself to recycle.

In fact, we share our office with Seven Days, Vermont’s independent newsweekly, and Seven Days staffers are as excited about the coloring contest as we are — they help us pick the winners every month. The week before Kids VT goes to press, we cover our shared conference room table with submissions. Most of us stand around comparing crayon-ed drawings for far longer than is productive.

Over the months, we’ve come to recognize our readers by their coloring styles: Some follow the lines meticulously, others always adorn their entries with stickers or googly eyes, still others consistently opt for a neon or rainbow color palette. Those that incorporate glitter usually get oohs and ahhs, but I like it best when young artists add elements of their own imagining.

This is something that Bryan Ford, 10, of South Burlington, does often. His coloring contest submissions are instantly recognizable — Bryan’s “Snow Cat Cyborg” earned him a place on the February 2012 winners list, and last month’s “Sea Wars” was an office favorite. When this month’s submission, entitled “Tough Dog”, came in, I knew I had to go meet this guy.

When I visited Bryan at his South Burlington home, the first thing I noted was the flurry of artwork lining the walls. For a 10-year-old, Bryan is a prolific artist. He pulled out a few drawings to show me; among them were several detailed plans for a series of fan-powered cars, a few ferry boats, a set of “evil holiday character” cards, and a full page of varying feline facial expressions. As we spoke, he took out a piece of paper and began to demonstrate how to make a flip book.

Bryan Ford, drawing at home.
  • Bryan drawing at home.

Though he can’t pinpoint any specific inspiration for his many drawings, he says his grandparents instilled in him a love of art, and that some of his teachers at Orchard Elementary School have incorporated art into the curriculum alongside other lessons. He also enjoys reading Captain Underpants books and graphic novels, and occasionally making comics of his own, though his “favorite book, like the best book ever,” is Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It’s fitting, as many of Bryan’s sketches are as technically intricate as Cabret’s automata.

Asked if he would ever venture to construct any of his drawings in real life, Bryan says that, when he’s “30 or 40,” he’d like to be a builder. For now, he contents himself with LEGO blocks, though his artwork and LEGO construction, he says, rarely intersect. He likes drawing and building things that he’s seen before, such as airports and ferry boats, or pieces from movies, but he also likes to imagine a sci-fi future — one with fan-powered spaceships, flying drones that deliver pizza, and dark, towering cityscapes on Mars or the moon.

Another staff favorite.
  • Another staff favorite.

Bryans winning entry.
  • Bryan's winning entry.

Those are the kinds of Kids VT coloring contests he likes, too. Bryan asserts that “if it looks like a good one, like an outer space one, then I’m really excited.” He treats the contest form lightly, preferring to draw over it and add his own futuristic flair. Of “Snow Cat Cyborg,” he says: “Before, I mean, it was just a cat on ice skates — now it’s a robot.”

His younger sister, Madelyn, enters the coloring contest, too. “She’s learning from me,” says Bryan. “I teach her techniques and stuff, and she’s really good at it.”

Of his art career, Bryan admits that “nowadays, I’m more into playing with my friends, but when I’m bored I definitely draw.” Well, Bryan, we certainly hope you keep it up.

See the winners of the July coloring contest — and find the drawing for the August contest — in the August issue of Kids VT, which hits newsstands on Tuesday, July 31. Pick up a copy at more than 400 locations throughout Vermont. The deadline for coloring contest submissions is August 15.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Pick up the August Issue

Posted By on Tue, Jul 31, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Did August sneak up on you? It sure snuck up on us. Our final summer 2012 issue of Kids VT is now on newsstands. In it, we encourage you to squeeze in a couple more day-cations with the final part of this summer's day-trip series, featuring trips to the Burlington Waterfront and the Great Escape, in New York.

We've also got some home-based content in the August issue: a story about architect Christian Brown, who redefines home design for kids with disabilities, and Habitat, a new photo feature that celebrates unique places where families live and play. In August, we visit an awesome urban treehouse.

Feel free to let us know what you think about this issue - good, bad, or ugly. Send us a letter, an email, or leave a Facebook comment to share your thoughts.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Pick Your Own Blueberries

Posted By on Thu, Jul 26, 2012 at 2:21 PM


It feels like just yesterday that we were running through the strawberry patch, but now it’s blueberry season. There’s absolutely nothing better than freshly picked blueberries in August. (Except maybe freshly picked raspberries — yum!) Here's a list of pick-your-own blueberry spots from our Family Resource Guide.

When you’re done picking, it’s tempting to eat the whole flat of berries just as they are, to savor their summer sweetness. But blueberries are delicious eaten all kinds of ways: in pancakes, muffins, pie, jam, popsicles, or frozen and saved for the winter. Here’s a simple recipe to make with your little ones that can be customized to fit whatever you’ve got in the fridge:

Summer Berry Parfait

- Yogurt
- Berries
- Granola
- Optional: nuts, honey/maple syrup, other fruits

Spoon about 2 tablespoons of yogurt into the bottom of a clear, tall glass. Layer 1-2 tablespoons of granola over the yogurt, then top with a handful of fresh berries. Repeat layering and add honey or maple syrup to taste.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Getting Some Air at Bromley

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Lots of Vermont ski resorts have jumped on the summer adventure trend in recent years, but Bromley Mountain, near Manchester, was the first. The Bromley Sun Mountain Adventure Park opened in 1976. It draws people from all over New England — both those who ski, and those who don’t.

Sun Mountain looks like a carnival. Bungee trampoline rides, water slides, basketball toss, and a ride that calls itself “Space Bikes,” which entails riding a bicycle all the way around a pole — vertically — give the park a fair-like feel, while other features, such as scenic chairlift rides and a slightly terrifying Alpine Slide, remind visitors they’re still at a ski mountain.


This June, Bromley introduced a new feature: the Aerial Adventure Park. It consists of five different ropes courses that wind through a secluded forest-like section of Bromley Resort. Admission to the Sun Mountain Adventure Park is $39 a day. For $20 extra — or $30 without the Sun Mountain pass — you get two hours of aerial adventure (enough for me to complete three of the five courses). Is it worth it? I strapped on a harness to find out.

The aerial park was my first stop at Bromley, but before going anywhere near a karabiner, I signed a waiver and attended Ground School — a short but mandatory pre-aerial session that teaches visitors all about safety on the course.

Then, we were off. I started with a beginner green course, trundling off across a floating wooden bridge, my harness clipped to the guide wire. This shaky bridge was the easiest part of the course. Over the next two hours, it wasn’t hard to pretend I had been chosen to participate in the Hunger Games, as I climbed and zip-lined my way through the trees, at times clutching for dear life to a wire or piece of wobbly wood in a desperate attempt not to fall. Of course, because one of your two karabiners is always attached to a safety wire, I couldn’t fall, except into an uncomfortably tight harness. Nonetheless, I took my safety very seriously, as did everyone else.


“Abort, mom, abort! No more than three people on a platform at one time! You have to go back!” yelled one girl.

“Dad, I can’t do this! It’s not worth it!” yelled another.

“Jump, Jess! You have no other choice!” instructed a desperate-sounding parent.

Like I said, it’s not hard to be Katniss up there. The higher levels, blue and black, which have prerequisites (you must complete a green trail to do blue, and you must complete blue to do black), are not for the faint of heart. The teen boys in front of me were having a blast, but the 9-year-old girl behind us shed a few tears mid—rope ladder (in her defense, that was totally the scariest part). Easier levels are manageable without being boring — they’re great for younger kids and those afraid of heights.

Though I’ve always been a bit of a wimp when it comes to heights, I had a blast on the aerial park, which was easily my favorite part of the resort. It was challenging but fun, and its wooded location was beautiful — unlike many ropes courses, which are “all on telephone poles,” according to one friendly attendant. When I stopped to rest on a high platform, it was peaceful, too.

A few things to note before you go: the aerial adventure is only open to those ages 7 and up (the rest of the park, however, is accessible to everyone, and young kids have their own area, called the Kids Zone). Sneakers or similarly close-toed, secure shoes, are a must. Check the website (link here) before you visit, as they often have deals and discounts on tickets. And most importantly, don’t forget your inner Everdeen.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Finding Waldo

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2012 at 1:36 PM

Where’s Waldo? You tell me. Seriously. I couldn’t find him.

You know Waldo — tall guy, red and white striped shirt, glasses, goofy hat. Since his creation in 1987 by Martin Handford, Waldo has hidden in more than 55 million copies of “Where’s Waldo” books in 18 languages worldwide.

Jaden found Waldo!
  • Jaden found Waldo!
This month, he’s hiding in 20 different Burlington businesses on and around Church Street to celebrate his 25th birthday. Every time you spot him, you collect a card. The first hundred I-spy sleuths to collect eight Waldo cards can take them to Phoenix Books for a free Waldo button; collect 16 and you can turn in your card for a chance to win a deluxe set of Waldo books and other prizes.

This real-life hunt for Waldo, sponsored by Candlewick Press and the American Bookseller’s Association, is happening in more than 250 independent bookstores across the country, including the Phoenix Books in Essex, The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, the Yankee Bookshop, in Woodstock, Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Bartleby’s Books in Wilmington, and the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich.

Five-inch tall Waldos are hiding all over Vermont right now. But for some reason, I had trouble finding him. Admittedly, I only visited five of his 20 Burlington hideouts, but that Waldo is slippery. Elusive. He’s freaking hard to find, especially amidst Vermont-themed merchandise, violin music, and home goods. Well, for some of us, at least.

Not for Jaden, six years old, Waldo Investigator Extraordinaire. I ran into Jaden and his mom at Vermont Violins. Jaden told me he’d already found 12 Waldos hiding around town. That day. I’d been to two other stores, but hadn’t yet been successful. I began subtly following Jaden around the shop, searching high and low for candy cane stripes and trying not to look like I was following a 6-year-old around a music store.

“Can I help you?” asked the woman behind the counter.

“Oh, uh, no. I’m just looking for Waldo.” I said sheepishly. I paused. “I’m from Kids VT magazine; we’re writing it up for our blog, and they sent me out to find him.”

She gave me a knowing look, and pointed a finger behind her hand. “Look over there,” she whispered.

Slightly embarrassed, but with my dignity still (mostly) intact, I wandered over to the area she’d been pointing to, and stared at the wall of instruments, scanning slowly. Jaden walked over just as I glimpsed Waldo’s head, peeking over — well, I won’t reveal his hiding place, but, needless to say, my excitement was boundless when I finally spotted him.

Within a few seconds, Jaden had seen him, too. No hint, and much quicker to the punch. I was impressed.

You can join the hunt in Burlington by picking up a list of Waldo’s locations from Phoenix Books. The month of Waldo ends with a prize drawing on July 31, so get started soon! Your kids are probably all eagle-eyed, like Jaden, but if your searching skills are anything like mine, Waldo’s pretty tough to find.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Vermont Debate Academy Persuades Teens to Try Public Speaking

Posted By on Fri, Jul 6, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Students at the first-ever Vermont Debate Academy
  • Students at the first-ever Vermont Debate Academy

“I like to argue,” says Aly Albertson, 15, of South Burlington, when asked why she signed up for the first ever Vermont Debate Academy. The weeklong summer camp took place June 25-29 at the University of Vermont, which boasts a debate team recently ranked seventh in the world. Professor Alfred “Tuna” Snider, who runs UVM’s Lawrence Debate Union, is also director of the World Debate Institute. UVM’s debate team has traveled all over the country and the world — including to Qatar, a global hub of world debate where the BBC hosts their series of famous “Doha Debates” each year.

At the Vermont Debate Academy, local high school students to work with a group of graduates from this prestigious program — including VDA founders, Sarah Anders ‘11 and John Sadek ‘12 — for free. Over the course of the week, the students perform debating exercises, listen to lectures from their college instructors, and engage in full-on debates with each other. This year’s 12 participants, who range in age from 14 to 17, are largely inexperienced debaters. And even the experience they do have is not necessarily relevant to what they’re learning at VDA; high school debating is not the same as college style Parliamentary debate.

Why teach them something they might not do again until college, if ever? “We want to give them public speaking skills, teach them how to construct a solid argument,” says Anders. “Many of us who were involved with UVM debate attribute some of our greatest successes to debating.”

Anders, for example, is now working as a communications associate at AmeriCares, a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization, and one of her co-instructors will be heading to NYU Law School in the fall. It was their passion for debate and the conviction that “they can use the lessons they learn from debate for the rest of their lives,” that led Anders and Sadek to start this summer camp, targeted at local high school students and prioritizing those who are low-income or who receive free and reduced lunch. They’ll be served free lunch here, too, as the camp has received generous donations from Boloco, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Leonardo’s Pizza, Big Daddy’s Pizza and City Market, which the duo says “really made [the program] possible.”

Students working on their arguments.
  • Students working on their arguments.
Topics of debate one afternoon ranged from the merits and pitfalls of eating at McDonald’s (“Ronald McDonald gives me nightmares!”), the implications of volunteering for the Hunger Games (“I’m small, and fast, so nobody would be able to get me.” “Yeah, but Katniss can shoot a squirrel through the eyeball.”), and whether sites like Facebook, tumblr, and Twitter were modes of self-expression and convenient communication or avenues for procrastination and cyber-bullying. The students took these topics and ran with them, pulling in evidence from personal experience (“I’ve used Facebook to ask about homework assignments”), remembered news stories and world events (“People in Egypt used social media as a way to communicate and start the revolution”), and celebrity idols (“Justin Bieber was discovered on YouTube”) to support their positions. Though some were nervous — “I’m so scared!” one of them admitted while up on the podium during a warm-up activity — the group was supportive, and the students improved even over the course of the day, developing logical, well-structured arguments and speaking with confidence.

“We want them to know that these are useful skills,” urges Sadek, “skills that will hopefully be beneficial to them for the rest of their lives. We want them to learn that they can be persuasive, and confident, and well-spoken, and we want them to learn how to have fun doing it.”

And the students do seem to be having fun. Even after Tuesday’s formal debate ended and their coaches had filed out to tally scores, the Academy’s debaters-in-training continued to discuss the points made, albeit while shouting, giggling and giving each other piggy-back rides. LC Hines, 14, of Burlington, says he initially signed up for the camp because he heard there would be free pizza. But Hines, who presented an eloquent argument in favor of social media to conclude Tuesday’s afternoon debate, admits that he’s “enjoying [the camp] a lot more than I thought I would.”

Fun, free pizza and world-class debate instruction? Can’t argue with that.

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