Monday, December 21, 2020

Fletcher Free Library Displays World's Largest Ball of Stickers

Posted By on Mon, Dec 21, 2020 at 11:05 AM

  • The world's larges sticker ball, on loan from Sticky Brand
  • Courtesy of Fletcher Free Library
A ball of stickers weighing 308 pounds — that's a lot! Families can see it for themselves if they visit Fletcher Free Library, from now until mid-January. And they don't even have to go inside to get a look.

The Burlington library is displaying the world’s largest ball of stickers in its front window. The sticky sphere weighs 308.25 pounds, to be exact, and clinched the Guinness World Records title on November 11, 2020. It's on loan from Sticky Brand, a Vermont-based company that specializes in custom-made stickers and decals.

To extend the World Record-themed fun, the library has partnered with Burlington City Arts and Church Street Marketplace to create an outdoors scavenger hunt. Families can look for eight clues related to other Guinness World Records entries from Vermont in the windows of the library and businesses on the Church Street Marketplace. 

Pick up the scavenger hunt sheet from the Fletcher Free Library or download and print it out at the library's website. Return a completed puzzle sheet to the library by January 8 to be entered into a raffle the following day.  The first 50 entrants will receive a piece of candy from Lake Champlain Chocolates.

“We’re excited to share some of the special — and wacky — things people do, and to help add joy and fun to an unusual holiday
season with this outside scavenger hunt," said library director Mary Danko.

Who knows? Maybe your kids will even be inspired to try to break a record of their own this holiday break.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020

End the Year With a Virtual Film Festival for the Whole Family

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2020 at 3:46 PM

'Wash Day,' an animated short in the NYCIFF Kid Flicks festival - COURTESY OF VTIFF
  • Courtesy of VTIFF
  • 'Wash Day,' an animated short in the NYCIFF Kid Flicks festival
As we slide into a long, dark winter season, chances are you’ll be craving at-home entertainment that goes beyond your normal Netflix queue. The Vermont International Film Festival (VTIFF) is offering two enticing options this month.

From Friday, December 18 through Thursday, December 31, VTIFF — in partnership with the New York International Children’s Film Festival – presents NYICFF Kid Flicks, a pair of mini-festivals of short films from around the world geared to families. The first installment is a 58-minute compilation of seven short films with minimal dialogue, suitable for ages 5 and up. The second 64-minute collection is aimed at ages 8 and up, and includes English subtitles to accompany the multilingual dialogue.

“Perhaps more than ever, during this worldwide pandemic, watching films from all over the globe can be both enjoyable and educational, a way to ‘travel’ without leaving your home,” wrote VTIFF assistant director Gail Clook in an email. “Watching films from other cultures is an excellent way to broaden one's view of the world, and to develop tolerance and understanding for diverse customs and viewpoints.”

  • Courtesy of VTIFF
Hailing from Europe to Asia to South America, the first slate of films offers a visual feast for the eyes. While The Magic of Chess, an American short that documents the National Elementary Chess Championship, is a live-action film, the other six films all feature beautiful animation. Overboard!, from Slovakia, has a sleek, collage-esque style to it; Japanese film Konigiri-kun: Butterfly features skillfully crafted stop-motion animation; and German-made Cat Lake City has a minimalistic approach, which complements a fun story that will generate laughs with younger viewers. Though Boriya was produced in South Korea and France, the animation style is clearly influenced by anime, a popular type of Japanese animation that Western audiences are likely familiar with through Studio Ghibli films or Pokémon.

The second group of films also spans the globe and includes a mix of traditional, stop-motion and computer animation, as well as live action. Many of these shorts are coming-of-age tales.

“Encouraging viewing all the films is a great way to encourage a love of films, as one in particular could resonate with a child and inspire their interest in more culturally diverse films and subjects,” explained Clook.

So pop that popcorn, and dive in!

Each festival costs $8 to stream. Find the first installment for ages 5 and up here and the second installment for ages 8 and up here.  Explore Vermont International Film Festival membership options here.

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Friday, November 13, 2020

Music for Sprouts Rolls Out At-Home Music Series

Posted By on Fri, Nov 13, 2020 at 11:05 AM

Mister Chris and Miss Emma - COURTESY OF MUSIC FOR SPROUTS
  • Courtesy of Music for Sprouts
  • Mister Chris and Miss Emma

Popular local kids' music program Music for Sprouts is offering a subscription-based video series for families, with new videos released every Saturday for six weeks, starting on November 14.

The class-style videos are hosted by Chris Dorman and Emma Cook — known to young fans as Mister Chris and Miss Emma. Pre-pandemic, the musicians hosted interactive classes for toddlers and preschoolers and their caregivers at Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne. Since the spring, they have been offering livestreams via social media five mornings a week. Dorman also hosts a musical children's program on Vermont PBS, Mister Chris and Friends, which won a regional Emmy award in June.

The series will be offered on a sliding scale, from free to $50. Each session will run 40 minutes and feature a warm-up for voices and bodies, seasonal tunes and sing-alongs with ABC Caterpillar. Each class will also include downloadable lyrics and chord sheets so families can play and sing along at home.

"Connection is so important right now," said Dorman "and it pains us not to be in the classroom with families at this time. That is why we made this series."

Find more information and subscribe to the classes here.

At Home with Music For Sprouts - Fall 2020 Promo from Music For Sprouts on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'The Witches'

Posted By on Sat, Oct 31, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Happy Halloween! In honor of this spooky holiday, I wanted to suggest a truly frightening film that is often overlooked — The Witches. The film was recently remade by Robert Zemeckis, co-starring Octavia Spencer and Anne Hathaway. While both the filmmaker and actresses in this new version are extremely talented, it doesn’t compare with the 1990 original. We all have films that frightened us as a child, and for me it was absolutely the original The Witches.

The Story: Luke is a recently orphaned child taken in by his eccentric, yet loving, grandmother, Helga. Helga warns Luke of a type of demon who walks the earth, known as a witch. They are disguised as ordinary women yet have purple eyes they hide with sunglasses and hooked claws they cover with gloves, among other eccentricities. For reasons unknown, witches have a deep loathing for children and seek to eradicate them. When Luke’s grandmother falls ill with diabetes, the pair decides to take a vacation to a seaside hotel. Little do they know that this is the very same hotel where the witches, led by the vulturine Grand High Witch, are holding a conference. On the trip, Luke must contend with the wrath of the witches of whom he was warned.

Why It’s a Good Family Film: This is a great Halloween family movie that is guaranteed to frighten viewers, but doesn’t have any of the gratuitous gore or jump scares many adult-only horror films incorporate. Nicolas Roeg, who directed the incredibly disturbing horror film Don’t Look Now, helms this adaptation of Roald Dahl’s twisted tale. He takes a reality-driven approach, capitalizing on the fear children often have of strangers, and yields frightening results. The witches appear human at first glance, and are dressed like suburban moms, which gets at the fact that many of the “monsters” in real life look no different than average citizens. These witches are cold, cunning and ruthless, and although they share the same goals as the bumbling Sanderson Sisters of Hocus Pocus fame, they couldn’t be any farther from the comical portrayal of the witches in that film.

Like many horror maestros, Roeg chooses not to explicitly tell you what happened to the abducted children. In one scene that kept me up for weeks, a little girl is abducted by a witch and then suddenly shows up trapped in a painting, slowly aging. There are so many questions that arise from this scene and it hits on the existential dread of being trapped forever without any means of communicating to the outside world. To me, in terms of horror, this is much more terrifying than a shot of a witch attacking a child.

On an aesthetic note the makeup, puppets and animatronics in this film are exceptionally well-crafted. The creative genius Jim Henson, better known for The Muppets, Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal movies is behind the creature designs here. The Grand High Witch, when she reveals her true form, is so unpleasant and well-realized, that it makes you wonder how disturbed Henson’s mind must have been.

Anjelica Huston, famous for The Addams Family and her many Wes Anderson film appearances, is also incredibly good as the Grand High Witch. She’s equal parts creepy and fun to watch, and never gets too hammy in a role that could easily tread into that territory.

Age Recommendation: There is virtually no violence in this film. The witches’ appearances and intentions are terrifying, and they often announce they want to kill children. People turn into mice in An American Werewolf in London- esque transformation sequence. There is minor swearing and mice are killed (mostly off-screen). I’d recommend this film for ages 9 and up and, for those who are easily frightened, 12 and up.

The Witches (1990) is streaming on Netflix and is available to rent on iTunes and Amazon.

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Friday, October 16, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'Bridge to Terabithia'

Posted By on Fri, Oct 16, 2020 at 9:07 AM

Originally a best-selling novel by Vermont author​ ​Katherine Paterson, the 2007 film ​Bridge to Terabithia​ is wonderfully crafted and emotionally resonant. Similarly to the book, it captures a certain magic that can only be found within the imaginary worlds that children create. However, it also isn’t afraid to confront the harsh truths and darkness of the real world. The two children at the center of the story come across as authentic and believable. Introverts, or anyone who has experienced shyness, will likely find both the novel and film extremely relatable and touching.

The Story: ​Jess is an introverted kid growing up in rural Virginia. He often feels alone in his house, living with four sisters and a father who is condescending and favors his daughters. Things at school aren’t much better. He is constantly bullied and ignored by fellow students. To cope, Jess takes solace in his drawing. One day, a new student named Leslie arrives. She and Jess form a strong friendship, solidified by their shared experience as artsy and imaginative outcasts. Together, deep in the woods of their shared​ ​backyard, they create a land called Terabithia. Life is going great for Jess and Leslie until one day a terrible tragedy strikes.

Why It’s a Good Family Film: ​One of the fascinating aspects of childhood is the ability to construct make-believe worlds that feel so real that you and your friends can seamlessly enter them together. These creative scenarios are seldom portrayed in coming-of-age films. The digital effects used in the film to create Terabithia and its fictional inhabitants are both original and whimsical, and perfectly capture a child's imagination.

At the same time, the film acknowledges that a child's imagination can also be a source of stress, like when a child sees clothing hanging in a closet at night and thinks it's some horrible creature. While Leslie and Jess imagine Terabithia as something magical and peaceful, at one point in the film, the trees and plants in the woods also appear as a terrible monster. When tragedy befalls Jess, he imagines a shadow demon hunting him.

Bridge to Terabithia​ doesn't shy away from tackling what it feels like to lose someone. When I first read the novel, I was taken aback by the tragic event at the end of the book, because it’s so sudden and gut-wrenching. Never before had I experienced an abrupt tonal shift like that. It isn’t written in for shock value, though, but rather signifies just how sudden tragedy happens in real life and the way friends can be incredibly important in our lives. Adding to this realness is the guilt the protagonist experiences over the tragedy, even if he had nothing to do with it. Author Katherine Paterson said in interviews that she drew from a traumatic experience in her own child's life when writing the story.

Age Recommendation: ​Kids roughhouse throughout the film. Bullies torment others rather viciously. Although death isn’t shown, a major part of the story centers around the tremendous loss, grief and emptiness we feel when someone very close to us dies. The kids imagine scary monsters, including trolls and shadow demons, in the woods. I’d recommend this film for ages 9 and up.

Bridge to Terabithia​ ​is streaming on HBO Max and is available to rent on iTunes and Amazon.

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Monday, October 12, 2020

Download the October Coloring Contest

Posted By on Mon, Oct 12, 2020 at 12:50 PM

Because the October issue of Kids Vermont is inserted in Seven Days — and only on newsstands for a week — we realize that not everyone may be able to pick up a copy. So this month we're making the coloring contest available as a downloadable PDF so that you can access it at home. Entering the contest this month is simple. Just download the PDF below, print it out and let your kids go to town. Then, scan or take a picture of the entry with your smartphone, and send it via email to Make sure to include the title of the piece, your child's full name, age and town, and your email address and phone number. You can also send a hard copy of your kiddo's completed coloring contest to Kids Vermont/P.O. Box 1184/Burlington VT, 05402. We've extended the deadline for October coloring contest entries to Thursday, October 22 to give kids more time to complete it. Happy coloring!

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Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Franklin County Nature Guide Is Shaped by Kids' Observations

Posted By on Tue, Oct 6, 2020 at 3:28 PM

The cover of the new nature guide - COURTESY OF JEANNIE BARTLETT
  • Courtesy of Jeannie Bartlett
  • The cover of the new nature guide
A recently released nature guide to Richford, showcasing 70 species of native plants and animals, features observations and descriptions from local kids.  

Released in late September by the Franklin County Conservation District, the second edition of The Locals’ Nature Guide to the Richford Playground was spearheaded by district manager Jeannie Bartlett, who worked with kids ages 5 to 14  who attended the free Richford NOTCH day camp in the summer of 2018. The project was funded by the Upper Missisquoi and Trout Rivers Wild and Scenic Rivers grant program.
Chloe Decker, Tylee Shover and Taygon Shover check out a possible muskrat lodge at the edge of the Missisquoi River - COURTESY OF JEANNIE BARTLETT
  • Courtesy of Jeannie Bartlett
  • Chloe Decker, Tylee Shover and Taygon Shover check out a possible muskrat lodge at the edge of the Missisquoi River
Bartlett led a Stream Scientists program in which campers engaged in nature activities in and around the Missisquoi River: identifying both edible and dangerous vegetation; safely trapping, identifying and releasing crayfish; and observing and discussing what they found outdoors, from mushrooms to dragonfly larvae.

One page features friendly plants, like Virginia creeper and Jack-in-the-pulpit, that may be mistaken for poison ivy. Another section tells about forest animals and their tracks.

Charming drawings done by Bartlett are accompanied by scientific explanations and quotes from the campers. "Crayfish swim backward and they can be very, very fast. The tail acts kind of like a scoop," one quote, attributed to Isaac, reads.

A page from the guide - COURTESY OF JEANNIE BARTLETT
  • Courtesy of Jeannie Bartlett
  • A page from the guide
Bartlett created the guide by taking notes about what the kids noticed as they explored their natural surroundings. "I think my approach was very much to draw out what the kids already know... to be grounded in our shared curiosity," she said.

Including kids' direct quotes  in the guide shows them that "their observations matter" and instills a sense of capability and confidence, Bartlett added.

Copies of the 32-page guide are available at public libraries in Richford, Enosburg and St. Albans. Download a free copy of the guide, as well as the guide's first edition and The Locals' Guide to Nature in St. Albans, here.

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Monday, October 5, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'James and the Giant Peach'

Posted By on Mon, Oct 5, 2020 at 11:07 AM

  • © Airborne77 |
Filmmaker Henry Selick is one of the best when it comes to stop-motion animation. His films, including The Nightmare before Christmas and Coraline, are often mistaken for the works of the more famous filmmaker Tim Burton. That’s not surprising, as Burton is the producer of many Selick films; The Nightmare before Christmas was even marketed as a Burton film.

Although both directors favor a dark, gothic atmosphere, Selick’s films are uniquely his own, often featuring characters who discover fantasy worlds that reflect the grim reality of their own world. James and the Giant Peach, based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel of the same name, is the second film Selick directed. The 1996 film underperformed at the box office and is often overshadowed by Selick’s other work. This is unfortunate because it features the same artistic genius and compelling themes.

The Story: James is a British child who lives the good life until his parents are devoured by a rhinoceros (yes, you read that right). He goes to live with his abusive aunts, Spiker and Sponge, who make the Dursleys of Harry Potter fame look compassionate and tenderhearted in comparison. After a man gives magical crocodile tongues to James, he drops them and a gargantuan peach grows. While his aunts attempt to use the peach for monetary gain, James discovers the inside of the fruit houses large humanoid bugs who sympathize with James’ plight. After escaping his aunts by rolling the peach down a seaside hill and into the Atlantic Ocean, James and his newfound friends set sail to New York City, a place that James has always dreamed of escaping to.

Why It’s a Good Family Movie: James and the Giant Peach is a fantastic film because it combines all the best elements of filmmaking and classic children’s literature: the absurdity and surrealness of Alice in Wonderland; the adventure that comes with making new friends and traveling to a perceived utopia of The Wizard of Oz; and the theme of a wholesome British orphan oppressed by terrible adults found in Oliver Twist (a trope later used in Harry Potter as well).

Additionally, the film’s artistic style is similar to French films like Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. This type of film creates a surreal, grimy and artistically beautiful atmosphere that makes the viewer feel like they’ve just had a dream.

I’d argue that James and The Giant Peach is the most faithful Roald Dahl movie ever created. Dahl was a writer whose strange, offbeat children’s stories featured masterful prose and unrestrained creativity. He was notorious for disliking past film adaptations of his books, and thus Selick worked very hard to please Dahl’s estate. Families will enjoy the wonderfully odd obstacles James and his insect friends must overcome, which often mirror his real-world problems — like a mechanical shark that represents the abuse from James’ aunts.

Additionally, the insects— including a bumbling centipede, an introverted spider and a foppish grasshopper — are tons of fun. Though they all have problems, they are ultimately good influences on James and demonstrate how a diverse group of characters can overcome their differences to form a family. Through his experience with them, James is able to gain confidence and stand up to and overcome his fear of rhinoceri (which represent his parents’ death) and his aunts.

The one minor gripe I’ve always had about the film is its depiction of New York City. The city is portrayed as a utopia, where tons of children laugh and play amongst the streets. It feels almost sterile in its cleanliness, and every adult there is patient and nice. Although I can understand that the filmmakers were trying to use New York City as a symbol of a better future, having lived there for several years, I can confirm that it's not a realistic depiction.

Age Recommendation: The aunts in this film are needlessly cruel and condescending. They talk about beating James, though it is never shown. They are played comedically and over-the-top, though, which makes them a bit less scary. The centipede is a chain smoker. A nightmarish rhino made of thunderclouds, undead murderous pirates and a mechanical shark all might be frightening to really young children. I’d recommend this movie for ages 6 and up.

James and the Giant Peach is streaming on Disney + and is available to rent on iTunes and Amazon.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'Homeward Bound'

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2020 at 10:06 AM

  • © Vadim Ginzburg |
Growing up, my sister despised movies and books. In order to convince her to watch a movie or read a book I liked, I had to find something that sparked her interest. Because of her fascination with dogs, anything featuring man’s best friend captured her attention. One film we both really enjoyed was the 1993 film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, directed by Duwayne Dunham and based on the book The Incredible Journey. Both the movie and book are bound to appeal to young animal lovers.

The Story: The Burnford family owns three animals: a geriatric golden retriever named Shadow, an aptly named cat named Sassy and a youthful bulldog named Chance. While Shadow and Sassy fancy their domesticated life, Chance yearns for a more exciting alternative. When the Burnfords takes a short trip to San Francisco, they leave the pets in the care of a family friend who lives on a rural ranch. Due to a misunderstanding, the furry trio believes they were abandoned and try to find their way home by navigating through the treacherous wilds — encountering obstacles including bears, mountain lions and raging rivers.

Why It’s a Good Family Movie: A lot of contemporary films featuring animals are either animated (The Secret Life of Pets) or live-action, but use CGI animals rather than the real deal (such as this year’s The Call of the Wild). While it is admittedly incredibly difficult to train animals for film, and some films that use digitally rendered animals are actually quite good, there’s something to say about the authenticity of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. Every dog is real and was trained to “star” in this film. Due to technical restraints of the time, the pet trio appear to be telepathic — they talk and understand one another without moving their mouths. While jarring at first, it quickly becomes easy to buy into this because of the great vocal performances and animal training. The late Don Ameche perfectly captures the sage wisdom of Shadow, and Sally Field does a great job providing the amusing, witty discourse of Sassy. Michael J. Fox is a particular standout, bringing a youthful, energetic spirit to Chance that perfectly encapsulates how I’d imagine a puppy speaking.

Additionally, the film is a nice segue into the pulpy adventure genre for young children. While classic adventure films like Indiana Jones, The Princess Bride and Jurassic Park are great choices for slightly older kids, their gore and violence may be too much for younger or more sensitive children. This film features classic adventure scenes, like escaping from scary animals and wading through dangerous rivers. However, they are toned down and interspersed with humorous banter from the animals, which makes them seem much less threatening.

One of the major themes of this film is the importance of family. Chance learns how important both his human family and his animal buddies are by the end of the movie. Although the characters have disagreements, they realize how much they need each other in the face of adversity.

Age Recommendation: There are numerous scenes of peril throughout the film. The wild animals the trio encounters might be scary for smaller children. Two instances where characters are presumed to have died are intense, but the film later reveals that those characters have miraculously survived. One character gets attacked by a porcupine and has the quills removed in a scene that’s painful to watch. There is also a good amount of potty humor, and more adult prison jokes in one scene. I would recommend this movie for ages 5 and up.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey is streaming on Disney+ and is available to rent or purchase on iTunes and Amazon

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Grants Available for K-12 Science & Tech Teachers

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2020 at 2:30 PM

A Middlebury Union Middle School project on sustainable ecosystems, funded by last year's VASE grant - COURTESY OF JOHN COHN
  • Courtesy of John Cohn
  • A Middlebury Union Middle School project on sustainable ecosystems, funded by last year's VASE grant

According to conventional wisdom, kids learn by doing. When it comes to science education, that means curiosity-driven, hands-on projects like building robots, raising trout and using 3D printers. But materials for those kinds of endeavors don't always fit within schools' budgets.

That's where the Vermont Academy of Science and Engineering (VASE) is able to help. For six years, the organization — made up of scientists and engineers who work in both academics and industry — has awarded grants of $500 to $1000 to Vermont science and technology teachers, enabling them to bring more innovative, standards-based projects into their classrooms.

VASE offers two types of grants. Its Small Equipment Grant helps classroom teachers purchase hardware, software, lab equipment, STEM kits and maker tools for their classrooms. Its Hands-On Science and Technology Grant supports extracurricular programs like FIRST Robotics, Makerspaces and 4H and science clubs. Between the two types of grants, VASE gives around $20,000 to teachers every year.

VASE Outreach Coordinator John Cohn, an IBM Fellow at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, said that since the grants' inception,  VASE has recognized the importance of funding projects that are sustainable, year after year.  The organization also favors projects that are open-ended and playful — things that "spark joy," said Cohn.

Teachers' requests may look a little different this year because of the educational changes due to COVID-19, but Cohn is looking forward to seeing the proposals. The grants, he said, are even more important during these challenging times.

Find more information about VASE's grants for teachers here. Deadline for both grant programs is  September 30. Grant submissions and questions can be emailed to
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Farm and Wilderness Summer Camps

Farm and Wilderness Summer Camps

Plymouth, VT

At Farm & Wilderness, campers have the woods, lakes, and fields of central Vermont as their playground, classroom, and home. Our camps use more than 4,800 secluded acres where we live together in simple, wooden cabins and canvas structures tucked in the woods or along the lakes. There is no…(more)

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