Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Post-Election, Schools and Healthcare Providers Rally Around New Americans

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 9:53 AM

  • Integrated Arts Academy principal Bobby Riley
Like millions of Americans across the nation, Bobby Riley stayed up to watch the results of the presidential election. At about 2:30 a.m on November 9, Riley, the principal of Integrated Arts Academy in Burlington’s Old North End, wrote an email to his staff.

“If the election results follow the current trajectory, we may very well have woken up with Donald J. Trump as our President-Elect this morning. The immediate implications may be profound for many of our students and families," Riley wrote. "So let us proceed with attentiveness and understanding for any anxiety and concerns that may arise.”

During the campaign, students had expressed their fears to him and his staff over Trump’s statements about registering Muslims and deporting illegal immigrants, Riley told Kids VT. Muslim and immigrant students were afraid they would not be able to remain in the U.S. if Trump became president. In turn, their friends expressed concern for their newcomer classmates and neighbors. IAA’s student population is arguably the most diverse in the state, said Riley. Forty percent of its students come from households whose first language is not English. An overwhelming majority of these families were also refugees. That's a rarity in Vermont, a state with a largely homogenous population that, according to the latest census data, is approximately 94 percent white.

Students in the diverse Winooski School District — from kindergarteners to high schoolers —expressed the same fears leading up to the election, said Kirsten Kollgaard, director of English Language Learners and Curriculum.

A significant number of students from the district come from refugee backgrounds, she said. Some were fearful of getting deported. And U.S-born students were worried that their New American friends would face deportation, said Kollgaard.

“Children pick up more than we think they do,” Kollgaard noted.

The non-stop news cycle, as well as easy access to the Internet, meant that students were inundated with election-related information, according to Riley and Kollgaard. Although schools are non-political and non-partisan, they can serve as “community centers for dialogues,” said Riley, where people should “accept multiple perspectives.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders at Integrated Arts Academy
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders at Integrated Arts Academy
The day after the election, Riley offered his school as the venue for a community potluck gathering. Sen. Bernie Sanders made a short appearance and he praised IAA for being a “great school in a very diverse community.”

Now weeks after the election, Kollgaard said the community is “still concerned” but “seemed to be relaxing.” She attributed this partly to the work that home-school liaisons — cultural brokers between the Winooski school district and New American parents — have done to reduce fears among parents. They remind parents that the U.S. is a country of laws as well as checks and balances, and that is not going to change overnight. Kollgaard said she’s been following the news very closely to keep abreast of conversations relating to immigration. Some parents expressed worry that the Affordable Care Act would be repealed and leave them vulnerable, noted Kollgaard.

Miriam Ehtesham-Cating, ELL coordinator for the Burlington School District, said her staff — known in the district as multi-lingual liaisons — have also reached out to New American parents. Ehtesham-Cating said she shared educational tools (including posts from the website Teaching Tolerance) which reinforce the values of diversity and respect, with several organizations that serve the refugee and immigrant populations. Although she hasn’t personally heard reports of harassment and bullying at schools, she has reminded teachers to remain vigilant.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Home Cookin': Apple Butter Pie

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM

  • Astrid Lague
Every year, my sister makes her amazing version of apple butter. First, she asks the folks at Hackett's Orchard in South Hero to put together a special blend of apples for her. (I'm not sure what the mix is, but I think it might be magical.) Then, she turns the fruit into something spreadable and delicious.

Apple butter is really just a thicker version of applesauce. You don't even need added sugar because the natural sugars in the apples caramelize, making the apple butter dark and sweet, without being cloying. You can cook the apples down in a crockpot, which makes your house smell wonderful. My sister cans hers and presents a jar to everyone in our family for the holidays.

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to showcase the apple butter in a pie. In my family, we all love pumpkin pie, so why couldn't I make the same kind of pie using my sister's wonderful apple butter? And so, Apple Butter Pie was born. The dessert, with creamy custard-like filling brimming with apple-cinnamon flavor, has become a family favorite.

If you don't have homemade apple butter on hand, you can substitute with a store-bought variety. Look for one with no sugar added. Vermont-based Cold Hollow Cider Mill or Sidehill Farm make tasty versions.

This pie is ridiculously easy to make.  All you have to do is whisk together the filling, pour it in the pie crust, top with a sprinkling of cinnamon, then bake. For a fancy touch, create a decorative crust using leaf-shaped cookie cutters. This pie is the perfect way to bring a Vermonty vibe to your Thanksgiving table — though it's delicious any time of year.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Starting Sooner: Supporting Healthy Gender Development in Preschool

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2016 at 2:35 PM

  • Jess Wisloski
A friend of mine from my days in Brooklyn came to visit recently. My daughter, who’s 3 and a half, had met her twice before when she stayed with us, but asked me this time, “Is Yoga (our nickname for my friend) a boy or a girl?”

The question excited me, maybe because I had an answer. (That’s increasingly rare lately.) There’s nothing specific that would make my daughter think Yoga wasn't a woman, but her question was a sign that she may have had some discussions in her preschool class about gender identity.

“Yoga is a woman. There are things that make her a woman on the outside, like her body parts, and also it’s how she feels on the inside," I told my daughter. "I have known her for a long time, and I know that she feels like a woman on the inside.”

“Is the baby a boy or a girl?” she asked me about Yoga’s son, who is 1. “We call him a boy right now because he has the body parts that we think make him a boy,” I said. “We say ‘he’ because it’s easy for us to do that. But the baby can’t talk yet. We might find out later that he’s not a boy. He may say he feels like a girl,” I said. “Then we’ll know that the baby is a girl.”

Before I was done patting myself on the back, she began talking about the Nemo-esque fish on her puzzle. But the subject is one I’ve been thinking about, as gender issues seems to be everywhere, from preschool recess games to the presidential election.

The night we learned Donald Trump was to be our next president, a group of 30 parents and educators gathered in the basement of Annette’s Preschool in Hinesburg for a workshop entitled  “Supporting Healthy Gender Development in Preschool.” It was a facilitated panel discussion on how to support children and raise awareness — while broadening the acceptance of the varied ways kids express gender and explore identity at a very young age.

“It’s a good moment to dig deep and find community and move forward,” said moderator Dana Kaplan, director of education at Outright Vermont. Seven panelists spoke: two parents of transgender girls, three teachers, a social worker and a doctor from the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital’s Transgender Youth Program. Kids under the age of 12 are “the fastest-growing area of the work we do [at Outright Vermont] ,” Kaplan said.

Transgender children might feel they aren’t being heard or validated when talking to adults about their gender identity, but will be “insistent, persistent and consistent,” the parent speakers said. Several noted how unconscious classroom practices, like “all the girls” lining up, or a seating arrangement that’s "girl-boy, girl-boy" means youngsters must identify early, despite being unsure about how an assigned gender feels to them. Caregivers and teachers may be the first to notice a child is trying to share their identity, teachers said, and parents are sometimes slower to see it.

Dr. Jamie Mehringer, chief pediatric resident at UVM College of Medicine, said he saw many institutions bringing gender into children’s lives when it is irrelevant. “Gender segregating bathrooms in a preschool, separating kindergarteners onto a boys' or girls' soccer team… we’re forcing gender onto situations where it’s not really that useful.” Breaking down those barriers was an essential step, he explained.

A number of handouts, including tips on being an ally and becoming more gender inclusive, and a few picture books, including I Am Jazz, Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress and My Princess Boy, were spread on a table for participants to peruse. And Outright Vermont noted they held support groups for trans and gender-creative children.

I'm already starting to see my daughter's friends shift to include more girls than boys. As she gets older, the gender-related issues she deals with will undoubtedly become more complex. The workshop made me more aware of the importance of keeping an open mind when it comes to gender identity, so that I don't make assumptions or take actions that might inadvertently harm my daughter or her friends.

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Beautiful Bounty: A Craft Fair Roundup

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 9:31 AM

Orchard Valley Holiday Market
  • Orchard Valley Holiday Market
’Tis the giving season, and Vermont artisans offer an impressive array of gift options, from hand-turned wooden toys to woven scarves. As a former farmers market vendor, I visit holiday fairs every year for their high-quality goods — but also to chat with the crafters. The folks selling their wares are usually happy to talk to customers about the materials they use and their crafting process. Whether you’re looking for hand-knit mittens, a special necklace or just something one-of-a-kind, chances are you’ll find it at one of these fairs. Admission is free unless otherwise noted.

Craft Vermont hosts their annual juried show, with a selection of fine art, jewelry, wood crafts and body-care products. Friday, November 18, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, November 20, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the Sheraton Conference Center in Burlington; $8 for a 3-day pass; free for children under 12. Bring a non-perishable item for the food shelf. Info, 872-8600.

Local artisans and specialty food producers display handcrafted gifts, including pottery, scarves, stained glass, maple syrup and chocolates at the Chandler Holiday Artisans Market. Friday, November 18, 5-7 p.m.; Saturdays, November 19-December 17, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.; Sundays, November 20-December 18, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; Wednesdays, November 23-December 14, 5-7 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, November 25-December 16, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Monday, December 19-Wednesday, December 21, 9 a.m.-3 pm, at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph. Info, 728-6464.

The Capital City Thanksgiving Farmers Market offers fresh greens, local produce and meat, artisan cheese, honey and maple syrup, wool and other crafts, along with festive music and lunch fare. Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m.-2 pm., at Montpelier High School in Montpelier. Info, 223-2958.

Pottery, jewelry, yarn creations and more grace the tables at the Pittsford Craft Show. Saturday, November 19, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at Lothrop Elementary School in Pittsford. Info, 483-6351.

The Waldorf-inspired Orchard Valley Holiday Market boasts body-care products, fine crafts, children’s books and hand-made gifts, with savory soup and healthy snacks for sustenance. Saturday, November 19, 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. Info, 456-7400.

The Women's Festival of Crafts features more than 80 female artisans selling an array of gift items, including cards, pottery, jewelry, origami and glass. Saturday, November 26, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday, November 27, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at the Burlington Town Center on Church St. in Burlington.

Local crafters come out to showcase their wares at the Swanton Arts Council Craft Fair, while shoppers savor lunch and a bake sale. Saturday, November 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Swanton. Info, 868-6258.

Locavore lovers return to the Middlebury Farmers Holiday Market for regional produce, handmade crafts, lively music and lunch fare. Saturday, December 3, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury. Info,

The Lake Champlain Waldorf School Holiday Fair features handcrafted gifts and children’s activities, including candle dipping, African drumming and a visit to the Snow Queen’s cave. Free admission; Small fee for some activities. Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Shelburne. Info, 985-2827.

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