Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Camp for Kids Who Stutter Ends With Ice-Cream Shop Flash Mob

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 5:20 PM

Camp participants with parents, friends, supporters, camp coordinators and volunteers at the Ben & Jerry's flash mob. - JAMES BUCK
  • James Buck
  • Camp participants with parents, friends, supporters, camp coordinators and volunteers at the Ben & Jerry's flash mob.

When 11-year-old Madison Denton ordered a scoop of Americone Dream on a waffle cone at Ben & Jerry’s on Church Street, her mother Sara beamed with pride. 

“It took her a moment. She had to repeat, but they were polite,” the elder Denton said.

She explained that the letters “A” and “W” are especially tricky for her daughter, who started stuttering when she was six years old. The Stuttering Foundation describes stuttering as a “communication disorder in which the flow of speech is broken by repetitions, prolongations or abnormal stoppages of sounds and syllables.” Denton was pleased Madison ordered what she wanted instead of settling for something that would have been easier for her to say.

The mother and daughter were part of a “stuttering flash mob” that took place on Wednesday evening. About 20 people — children who stutter, as well as their parents, siblings, friends and supporters — converged on the ice cream parlor to mark the end of a stuttering summer camp for kids ages 7 to 11 organized by the Eleanor M. Luse Center for Communication at the University of Vermont.

At the camp, which met once a week for six weeks in June and July, half a dozen kids from Vermont — led by coordinator Ana O’Neill and volunteer Ben Manning — shared their stuttering experiences. They also designed a board game with questions about stuttering, such as “What percent of people worldwide stutter?” (The answer: 1 percent.) O’Neill said they will replicate the game and send copies to each of the participants’ schools. The campers also prepared fact sheets about stuttering that they planned to distribute on Church Street on the evening of the Ben & Jerry’s outing, but a sudden downpour forced everyone to remain indoors.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Words at Play: Nursery Rhymes

Posted By on Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 12:15 PM

This is the first post in a new blog series about encouraging a love of language in young children written by professional storyteller Peter Burns.

Many years ago, just after my daughter Alice was born, I decided that I wanted to share nursery rhymes with her. I knew that nursery rhymes are the first poems a child hears, and that poetry helps develop a sense of rhyme and rhythm. I bought the Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book by Peter and Iona Opie because it was one I’d remembered reading as a child. It has more than 800 entries. All the familiar rhymes were there, as well as many I didn’t know. I propped the book open on Alice's changing table, and every time I changed a diaper, I worked on memorizing a poem. As Alice got older we left the table behind and started reciting the rhymes together. Alice modifed some of them to make them her own, like this one:

One, two, three, four five,
Once I caught a fish alive,
Six seven, eight nine ten,
Then I let it go again.
Why did you let it go?
Because it bit my finger so.
Which finger did it bite?
This little finger on the right.

At the end of the rhyme, the reciter holds up the little finger on his or her right hand. At the age of 5, Alice couldn't tell her left from her right, so she held up both little fingers and said, "This little finger and this little finger on the right." She knew that one of them was correct.

She also changed this one:

The Grand Old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up
And when they were down, they were down,
And when they were only half way up, they were neither up nor down.

Alice added another down to the end of the poem, making it: "And when they were only half way up, they were neither up nor down, down." It had a nice ring to it. There was a little hill near our house and Alice liked to run up and down the hill as I recited the poem. For the second down, at the very end of the poem, she liked to touch her hands to the ground.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Home Cookin': Blueberry-Graham-Cracker Muffins

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 12:11 PM

Muffins being assembled - ERINN SIMON
  • Erinn Simon
  • Muffins being assembled

In the baking bible How to Be a Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson writes that muffins are a lot of fuss for nothing much. I generally agree, except during one time of year: blueberry season. As soon as I get over the delicious novelty of eating blueberries by the handful all day long, it's time to start baking with them. My kids look forward to this summer phase, because every year I vow to make the best blueberry muffin ever. This usually involves testing two or three different recipes, at least. We eat a lot of muffins in August.

It was my son Eli and his friend who provided the inspiration for this year's version. While eating cold snacks for dinner on a recent hot night, they discovered that chomping a slice of peach on a graham cracker produced a peach-pie-like treat. Delighted, they tried every fruit they could think of on a graham cracker, then gave them to Sam and me to sample. Honestly, all of them were tasty, but when I took a bite of a few carefully balanced blueberries on the end of a graham cracker I knew what I had to do.

The kids loved these, and even Sam (not exactly a muffin fan) muttered "These are pretty good" as he ate a second. I share with you my 2015 attempt at muffin greatness.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Middle & High School Students Immerse Themselves in a Foreign Language

Posted By on Tue, Jul 21, 2015 at 10:08 AM

Students in the Chinese Academy practice early-morning Tai Chi Fan. - ISAAC WASUCK
  • Isaac Wasuck
  • Students in the Chinese Academy practice early-morning Tai Chi Fan.

It all starts with the pledge.

On the second day of the four-week Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy (MMLA) — a rigorous language immersion program that originated at Middlebury College in 2008 — middle and high school students take The Language Pledge. It's a formal promise that they will only communicate in the language they’re studying while attending the academy.

That means English is off limits — not just in class but during meals, dorm meetings and off-site excursions. The exception is twice-weekly phone calls home and two hours allotted for English speaking on Saturdays.

This month, Spanish, German and Arabic academies for students entering eighth through twelfth grade took place at Green Mountain College in Poultney while Saint Michael’s College in Colchester hosted 149 students for a French academy and 125 students for a Chinese academy.

The programs attract students from all over the country, as well as international students from far-flung locales including Moscow, Dubai, Nigeria and the Phillipines. Locals attend, too; 34 Vermonters signed up for the July academies at Green Mountain College and St. Michael's College. 

One of those students was 16-year-old Zoe McClure, a rising junior from St. Johnsbury. On the afternoon before graduating from the French academy at St. Mike’s, she spoke about her experience — in English.

Knowing she was going to have to speak exclusively French for almost a month was a bit scary at first, she said, and the first few weeks were difficult. With a smile, she recalled resorting to pantomime to figure out how to do things like laundry.

But the hard work — doing Internet searches using Google France, giving presentations and designing Powerpoints in French and reading articles from French-language publications — paid off. “Oh my gosh, I’ve learned so much,” she said. As she neared the end of the immersion experience, she said she was having trouble remembering words in her native tongue.

And the benefits extended beyond academics. Zoe said the bonds she formed with fellow students were strong. “I have a feeling there are going to be some tears tomorrow,” she said as she looked forward to the next day, when students would be returning home. “There’s something about everyone struggling that makes everyone come together.”

The pedagogical approach of MMLA is to give the students “more than they can handle,” says Cort Boulanger, a spokesman for Middlebury Interactive Languages, the digital world-languages company that runs the academies. Most, but not all, of the attendees have some prior experience with the language they're studying. A placement test upon arrival helps group students appropriately. Improvement can be significant. According to data from the MMLA, many students gain at least a full language level on the American Council of Teaching of Foreign Language’s proficiency scale from the beginning to the end of the institute, and some gain two. That means language academy students might skip ahead one year in foreign-language class when they return to school.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Will You Go Out With Me?: Skinny Dip Edition

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 11:22 AM

The thrill of success!
  • The thrill of success!
Ahhhh… summer in Vermont. When Ryan and I were still living in Brooklyn I’d stand on the disgustingly hot and stinky subway platform reading Vermont Life magazine and cry. The photos of expansive green fields and refreshing swimming holes made me so very homesick for my Vermont childhood. I knew there was no other place I’d be willing to raise my own children.

Since we moved here five years ago, we’ve made it a point to take advantage of every summer activity we can think of. Those dreamy swimming holes I missed so much now figure prominently into our weekly plans. Our kids love them for the many options they present: swim! throw rocks! hunt for creatures! We love them for their shade, the fact that they’re almost never crowded and the adventure that’s often involved in locating them.

A little rain won't scare us away.
  • A little rain won't scare us away.
One thing we don’t do often (read: ever) is seek out these places sans kids. So when a friend recently told us about a little-known spot in Waterbury that she said was great for skinny dipping, our date was set.

We left our house on a blazingly hot and sunny afternoon, turned onto I-89 south, then instantly faced a wall of dark clouds. It was obviously raining where we were headed, and my weather app warned me that strong thunderstorms were moving through the area. But what are a few rain clouds when you and your husband are embarking on your first mid-day skinny dipping mission? We would not be deterred.

The ride was predictably gorgeous — this being the aforementioned summer in Vermont, which shines even under rainy conditions — and our anticipation level was delightfully high. The whole trip felt to me like ditching class to go do something mischievous and exciting. It’s safe to say that Ryan’s life is generally more thrilling than mine, but I could tell that he was feeling it, too. We were, after all, on a mission to get naked in public.

We turned onto Camel’s Hump Road and noticed that, even though the dirt road leads to just one place, passing cars were more frequent than we’d expected. Once we located the exact spot our source had identified, there was really only one thing left to do.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Get Out! Giving Back

Posted By on Thu, Jul 16, 2015 at 2:28 PM

Elise keeps a safe distance while her parents clear a downed tree from a local trail. - TRISTAN VON DUNTZ
  • Tristan von Duntz
  • Elise keeps a safe distance while her parents clear a downed tree from a local trail.
My partner, Tristan, and I have been hiking, biking and backcountry skiing together for 16 years. The addition of our daughter — 8-month-old Elise — has slowed us down a bit. It now takes more gear to get outside with her and more planning to hit the trails without her. We've adapted some of our adventures to meet her needs, like biking together on bike paths instead of single-track mountain bike trails.

Elise has also given us a new focus on giving back. She has us thinking ahead to future generations, and also thinking back to the creation of our favorite trails and conserved lands. It's turned into a renewed initiative to pitch in and care for Vermont's outdoor spaces.

Even before Elise came along, Tristan and I volunteered in several ways. Together we adopted Skyline Lodge, which is an overnight shelter on the Long Trail. We would hike into the shelter three times a year to report on its condition and note if any repairs were needed. We got to get out for a fun hike and give back to an important cause at the same time.

Tristan has served for three years on the board of directors for the Camel's Hump Challenge, which is a 13-mile backcountry ski tour that circles the summit of Camel's Hump in Huntington, and together we have prepared the trail before the big event. We are also both ambassadors to the Vermont Mountain Bike Association, recruiting new members to support mountain biking in Vermont. And we're ambassadors to the Catamount Trail Association, using our positions to spread the word about the benefits of human-powered skiing.

Closer to home, we have been long-standing volunteers in our local town forest. Four years ago, right after buying our house, we showed up to a trail work day to help maintain the trails we had already come to enjoy skiing, running and hiking on. We went on to adopt one of the trails in the town forest, removing downed trees and keeping an eye on trail conditions throughout the year.

Our volunteer work also includes founding and directing a local mountain bike club, which is planning — and hopefully building very soon — the first public mountain bike trails in our community of Marshfield. Elise has been with us every step of the way, including napping in the carrier while we present at meetings and babbling along with us in the hiking pack while we scout new trails and sing her songs to keep her entertained.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Home Cookin': Cold Summer Noodle Bowl

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 1:19 PM

  • Sam Simon

When the hot and humid days of summer finally arrive, I crave cold, crunchy, rainbow-colored veggies, and delicious dinners that don’t require a lot of heat to prepare. This recipe, adapted from food52, is my dream summer dinner: fresh, colorful veggies, cool noodles and adjustable spice. Quick, easy and super delicious, it became an instant favorite at my house. Next time you feel like take-out pad Thai on a steamy weeknight, give this a try instead.

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North Country School

North Country School

Lake Placid, Ny

Founded in 1938, North Country School offers a progressive, hands-on education for children in grades 4-9. Our students come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and countries. Our unique programming includes a farm and garden program, extensive offerings in studio and performing arts, daily work jobs, and family-style residences. Outdoor activities range…(more)

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