Monday, April 25, 2016

It's Bike Swap Season!

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2016 at 1:44 PM

Whether your family prefers dirt or pavement, now is the time to get your wheels ready for spring and summer riding. Bike swaps offer an economical way to upgrade your ever-growing kids' cycles. Bring in last year's bikes — in good condition —  for consignment prior to the sale, then shop for new-to-you items on swap days. Be sure to check each store's websites for trade-in specifics and take this insider's tip: Arrive early for the best selection. Happy cycling!

Alpine Shop in South Burlington hosts their Better Bike Swap and Sale — which includes free music and food — on Saturday, April 30, and Sunday, May 1, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Drop off used bikes in clean, working condition through April 29. Info, 862-2714. 

Earl’s Cyclery and Fitness in South Burlington has their Annual Bike Swap on Saturday, April 30, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, May 1, 11a.m.-5 p.m. Bikes in good mechanical shape will be accepted Thursday, April 28, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Friday, April 29, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Info, 864-9197. 

Skirack in Burlington has their Annual Bike Swap on Saturday, April 30, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, May 1, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wheeled gear (including bike accessories and child carriers) in good condition is accepted April 25-29. Info, 658-3313.

Bike Swap 2016 comes to Onion River Sports in Montpelier on Saturday, May 7, 9 a.m.-noon. Turn in cleaned-up wheels (including bike trailers, baby joggers and tag-a-longs) from April 30-May 6. Info, 229-9409

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Agency of Education Releases Report Outlining Best Practices For Transgender Students

Posted By on Mon, Apr 11, 2016 at 8:41 AM

  • Jackie Ferrentino
Last March, a group of gender-creative kids, their parents and staff from Outright VT met with Vermont’s secretary of education Rebecca Holcombe to talk about the experience and needs of transgender and gender non-conforming youth in Vermont schools. It was the first of many hours of meetings and conversations, that the Agency of Education synthesized into a new report released last month entitled Best Practices for Schools Regarding Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students

The AOE says that over the past few years they have received an increasing number of questions from administrators and teachers about how to best accommodate and serve the needs of gender nonconforming kids. Although the report clearly states that every situation is unique, the AOE has established a series of practices and protocols which aim to protect the rights of transgender students and create a culture of inclusivity.

“My experience with schools was that they needed guidance because it’s something they don’t understand really well,” explained "James," who was part of the team that wrote the report. James is a teacher, and a parent of a trans child who was featured in our February cover story about transgender kids and their families. Teachers and educators “want to do the right thing but they worry about implications, that person in the back row of town meeting that wants to make a stink about this… and that paralyzes people,” he said.

This document provides administrators with unambiguous guidelines which protect schools from community blowback. The report delineates clear protocols for student record-keeping, and clarifies that students have a right to be addressed by their preferred pronoun, join sports teams which match their preferred gender and even keep their gender private from their parents if they so desire.

“As teachers we’re trained initially to tell parents what we know,” James explained. “But this is a very different thing and if you tell the wrong parent that you suspect their child is transgender or that their kid is transitioning… that exposes them to considerable safety issues.”

The report indicates that for bathrooms and locker rooms, guidelines must take into account multiple factors including transgender student preferences and privacy, the student’s age, and maximizing the integration of transgender students. All factors are geared toward ensuring the equal opportunity and safety for all students, and minimizing stigmatization of transgender and gender nonconforming students.

The report clearly states that “a transgender student should not be required to use a locker room or restroom that conflicts with the student’s gender identity,” but particulars need to be worked out on a case-by-case basis.

Though the report recognizes “there are limitations in the built environment,” it suggests that schools undergoing new construction invest in gender-neutral bathrooms, and describes a number of ways to create private spaces within public locker rooms.

Although schools will still need to muddle through the particulars, Dana Kaplan, Outright VT’s director of education, thinks this is a great start.

“I'm really excited that we have something rolled out from the Agency of Education that folks can look to statewide,” Kaplan said.

The report has already made life easier for James' family. He’s been trying to change his transgender daughter Willow’s school records for years to reflect her chosen gender, but the administration was unclear about how to proceed.

“Literally this gave our school a structure by which to handle our student records,” he explained. “Up until that point, we went in even with a birth certificate [that reflects Willow's chosen gender] and they were like ‘I don’t know if I can do that.’”

Now there are two sets of records – a public one that reflects Willow's preferred gender, and another sealed set that only the principal can access, which identifies her by her gender assigned at birth. Because Willow’s school records have been changed, she won’t run the risk of being humiliated by a substitute teacher calling her by the wrong name or pronoun, or have to explain her identity at the beginning of each school year.

Kaplan thinks the document will need to be modified as times change, but he believes that it sends “a strong, consistent message of inclusion and accommodation for some of our most vulnerable and scrutinized youth.” 

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Pick a Winner!

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 10:59 AM


In her own book nook tucked into the corner of the Morristown Elementary School library, the school librarian Liv Perry reads Miss Brooks' Book Nook to 15 fourth-grade students. After this, there's only one more 2015-2016 Red Clover Book Award nominee for Perry to share with the kids before they vote for their favorite.

Each year, ten picture books published the previous year are selected by teachers and librarians in Vermont as new nominees. During the month of April, students in kindergarten through fourth grade pick their top choices  and a winner is announced in early May. The program is jointly sponsored by the Vermont Center for the Book, the Vermont Department of Libraries and the Vermont Agency of Education. 

Miss Brooks' Book Nook
tells the story of a young girl named Missy whose library class helps her dream up an imaginative tale about a snake to give a bully a taste of his own medicine As Perry reads to the kids, she helps them make connections between this story and the previous Red Clover titles they've read.

"What other book do you see a map like this one?" she asks, her finger tracing Missy's alternative route to school to avoid the bully.

"Blizzard!" the fourth graders answer.

When she's finished, the librarian turns the students' attention to the large screen suspended on the wall in front of them that displays her Red Clover webpage. She plays them a catchy song related to the story, clicks on the website of a storyteller who visited the school in the fall to make a point about the art of storytelling and shares sketches by the book's illustrator, Michael Emberley. The kids squeal at an image which didn't make it into the book — a snake swallowing the bully whole.

As the kids roam the library to choose books, Perry explains what she likes about the Red Clover awards.

“It is Vermont-wide, so if kids move around to different schools, that’s something they have in common with kids in their new school," she says. "It’s a collective experience."

Which Red Clover books are popular with this class? One student, Harley, plans to vote for Shhh.. We Have a Plan because she liked how in the illustrations the "people didn’t look like people." Another student, Kiley, thinks Blizzard is the best because it was based on a real story. Her friend, Lucy, preferred Lindbergh: the Tale of a Flying Mouse. “I like the idea of a flying mouse,” she says, “because I like engineering and stuff and there’s definitely a lot of that.”  

To find out more about the Red Clover Awards and to check out resources for reading these books with kids, visit the Red Clover Blog

The ten 2015-2016 nominees (currently being voted on) are:

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Home Cookin': Coconut Banana Bread

Posted By on Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 10:42 AM

Since this will be my last Home Cookin' post, at least for now, I wanted to make something special and super delicious to celebrate the great time I've had writing on the blog. So here it is — coconut banana bread with optional salted caramel sauce! Breakfast, brunch, snack or dessert, you can't go wrong with this recipe. And the caramel sauce is so easy, you'll probably want to make it all the time like I do. This recipe works just fine in a loaf pan, but I like to make mine in a cast-iron skillet because it bakes quicker that way. This recipe makes enough batter for two 8-inch loaves, or one 10-inch skillet. Happy cooking!

Coconut Banana Bread

2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup dessicated coconut (shredded, not flaked)
1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (about 3 medium)
2 large eggs
1 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, solid
1/4 cup butter, softened

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, coconut oil and sugar for 4-5 minutes until light and fluffy. It seems like a long time, but let it go. It makes a difference in the texture of the finished bread.

Add the eggs and mix on medium speed until smooth and well combined.

Add the bananas, coconut milk and coconut extract and mix well on medium-low speed until everything is incorporated.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and coconut. Add to the banana mixture and fold together on low speed just until everything comes together. Do not overmix. You want the batter to be lumpy.

Grease the bottoms and sides of two loaf pans, a 13x9-inch pan, or a 10- or 11-inch cast iron skillet. Pour in the batter and use a spatula to smooth the top.

Bake at 375 on the center oven rack for 30 minutes (13x9-inch pan or skillet) or 50 minutes (loaf pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before cutting.

Stop there, or whip up some caramel sauce and drizzle each slice with a spoonful just before serving.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Get Out!: Tiny Steps

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 4:44 PM

Elise navigates a downhill section of trail - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • Elise navigates a downhill section of trail
My 16-month-old daughter, Elise, has hiking in her genes. Her dad, Tristan, and I have backpacked thousands of miles together on long-distance trails like Vermont's Long Trail and California's John Muir Trail. So when we geared up for our usual walk with the dog on a recent evening and Elise insisted on walking a full mile by herself, we weren't surprised. We were proud. 

Elise's newfound love for walking on her own, however, means that sometimes she doesn't want to be confined to the hiking carrier. Since she was a baby, we've put in many miles with her on our backs, so she got accustomed to being carried on long hikes and will still sit comfortably at times. But now that she's mobile, she wants to hike some of the way, too. That means our hikes have slowed down considerably.

For an active parent, moving at a toddler's pace through the woods can be boring or frustrating. When Elise stops to pick up every stone or to thoroughly check out every puddle, I have found myself saying things like, "C'mon, Elise! Mommy wants to catch the sunset over the mountains. Let's go!" My pleading never makes her go any faster and I end up feeling let down when we finally arrive at our lookout destination only to catch the final rays of a sun that has already dipped behind the Green Mountains.

Elise checks out a flower on the side of the trail - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • Elise checks out a flower on the side of the trail
But something occurred to me recently on one of these long walks. I asked myself, "What's my objective, here? Am I hiking with my daughter to meet my own needs?" If the point is my own enjoyment and fitness, then I should just hire a babysitter or have Tristan watch her and go out on my own. 

No, my reason for taking Elise along is to share the experience of being outdoors and teach her the joy I get from being in nature. I want to integrate her into the outdoorsy life that Tristan and I have built for ourselves.

With that in mind, I've started taking hikes at the slow pace of a toddler's tiny steps these days. At times Elise will let me carry her, and we're able to cover some ground. But other times, I plop her down next to a mud puddle and quiet my mind as she explores it from every angle. I get down on her level to look at wet pebbles and water-logged leaves. In these moments of exploration, Elise is teaching me something: to slow down and appreciate the beautiful world around us. 

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