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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Step Back in Time at the Saint Albans Museum

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 1:14 PM

JOY CHOQUETTE
  • Joy Choquette
On a perfect August evening — puffy, snowball clouds, a cool breeze and the sun starting to dip — my husband and I took our 10-year-old son and 8-year-old nephew to the annual Kids Night at the Saint Albans Museum. The museum, housed in a stately, three-story brick building above Taylor Park, aims to preserve and share the history and heritage of St. Albans and the surrounding areas.

The theme of the night was a Harry Potter-inspired “Witches and Wizardry,” and the first two floors were decked out with stars, owls, maps and more. Kids could make a crown, fashion a wand and create an owl from a paper plate. They could have their faces painted or step into the photo booth and leave with a souvenir of their visit.  
The Railroad Room - JOY CHOQUETTE
  • Joy Choquette
  • The Railroad Room

While my husband and I would have liked a little more time in the exhibit rooms —in particular the new agricultural exhibit — our son and his cousin were intent to zoom through at top speed. The Railroad Room and the Military Room held their attention the longest. The Railroad Room features a waiting area and ticket seller’s office, along with a model train running on a track through a tiny rural town. There are many train-related photos and memorabilia on the walls, too, like oil cans, lanterns and a conductor’s uniform. In the Military Room, soldiers' uniforms from the Civil War and earlier are displayed neatly in a glass case, while weapons  — guns, knives, cannonballs and more — cover the walls.

After a quick tour, we went outside to play a modified Quidditch game where the boys lobbed a duct-taped balloon through rings on poles — until their balloon popped.

I grew up a few miles north of St. Albans and have visited the museum several times over the years. I remember its dark, shadowy corners and that musty odor that so often accompanies historic buildings. But recently, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the transformation it’s undergone.

The lighting is bright, the rooms are well-organized and exhibits are clearly labeled A recent grant from RiseVT, a community-based wellness initiative, allowed the museum to install play areas to engage kids in learning about history. Each station features a historic-themed activity — for example, making a fan in the women’s history exhibit or playing a “Kerplunk”-style egg game in the agricultural history exhibit. Coloring sheets, books and a scavenger hunt also keep kids interested.
st._albans_museum_school.jpg

Older kids will likely gravitate toward the Medical Room, a space dedicated to medical practices of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Be warned: You’ll find a mannequin sporting a giant spike through its head. It's a model of Phineas Gage, a Vermont railroad worker who had a horrific accident and lived to tell the tale. Younger children will likely enjoy the historic classroom. In fact, the building that houses the museum was first used as a school. It’s easy for children to imagine themselves getting ready for class in this room: tucking lunch pails under the hard wooden seats of their desk and facing the front as a teacher wrote in neat penmanship on the blackboard at the front of the room.

As a kid, I would have been entranced by that and by the Women’s Realm, an exhibit where beautiful, lacy dresses, old-fashioned bonnets and antique gloves are showcased.

After you’ve browsed the exhibits, you can peruse the small, well-stocked gift shop where you’ll find fun items like train whistles and puzzles. Then head outside to Taylor Park to play the oversized, colorful musical instruments there: big, bongo drums planted in the ground and a giant vertical xylophone. And if you’re hungry, grab a bite at Maple City Diner (7 Swanton Rd.), just a mile north on Route 7, for another taste of classic Vermont.

Saint Albans Museum (9 Church St., St. Albans)  is open Wednesday - Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. through October 4. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for students 5-18 and free for children under 5.  The museum’s Haunted Museum Trick-or-Treat takes place on Saturday, October 26 from noon-2 p.m., and is open to all ages.
The museum is a National Endowment for the Arts Blue Star Museum, which means that admission is free for active duty military and families. The entry fee is also waived for families receiving SNAP benefits as part of the Association of Children’s Museum’s “Museums for All” program. Family passes can be checked out from libraries in Franklin and Grand Isle counties.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Fletcher Free Summer Challenge Brings Lunar Samples to the Library

Posted By on Thu, May 30, 2019 at 2:09 PM

One of the NASA discs - COURTESY OF ABBY WANSERSKI
  • Courtesy of Abby Wanserski
  • One of the NASA discs
On Sunday, June 2, the Fletcher Free Library will open its doors to families with music, space-themed snacks, rocketry activities and rare moon rocks on loan from NASA. The “launch” party celebrates the library’s Summer Challenge, titled “A Universe of Stories.”

The Fletcher Free summer program falls under the umbrella of the Collaborative Summer Library Program, which shares programming and resources around the country. A grant from NASA@My Library — a project run by NASA to increase STEM learning opportunities — supports this year’s far-out theme. NASA will provide moon samples for the weekend event, as well as a full-size Orion telescope, and backpacks that the library can lend out, complete with mini telescopes, books and computer mouses that can be used for coding.
Teen librarian Abby Wanserski went
Fletcher Free teen librarian Abby Wanserski
  • Fletcher Free teen librarian Abby Wanserski
 through a day-long training in Denver, CO to learn how to handle the samples. “During the training, they point out how these were all collected by astronauts and they’re so invaluable because people risked their lives to get them,” she said. “And you’re like, Oh, right! That’s really crazy.

The library will only have the samples from 2 to 4 p.m., before they will return to the protection of the Burlington Police Department. While they’re at the library, Wanserski will run a station where people can look at the samples in plastic disks, see video footage and participate in activities.

The library has run 40 years of summer reading programs, but more recently, has broadened its scope to keep patrons engaged in diverse ways. Over the summer, younger kids can fill out bingo-like sheets with activities, like reading a certain amount, or attending a library event. When they turn in the sheet, they are entered into raffles, with prizes from community organizations. Last year, more than 1,000 participants were entered into giveaways, which included movie tickets from Merrill's Roxy Cinema, coupons and a Kindle Fire.

The challenge is meant for Fletcher Free card holders — people who live, work or go to school in Burlington. But everyone, regardless of their residence, is invited to the free library programs.

The challenge "gets more casual as ages go up,” said Wanserski, “because people get busier.” The teen version of the challenge includes writing prompts that can be completed for entry into a raffle.

The definition of reading is looser, too. Comics and magazines can be included in participants' reading logs. Wanserski said this type of reading material can be a gateway to more advanced books. As a child, she said, “I liked reading graphic novels, and then I started reading the books that the graphic novels were based on."

The June 2 blast-off is one of many events that the Fletcher Free Library will be hosting over the summer. A live screening of Apollo 11 will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing on July 15. There will be a stargazing party with snacks in Lakeview Cemetery on Saturday, July 20.

It's really important to keep your brain engaged and stimulated throughout the summer, said Wanserski, "and it's really important to do it in a fun way."

For more information about summer reading programs at Vermont libraries, visit the Vermont Department of Libraries.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Congratulations to our May Writing Contest Winners!

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 12:36 PM

birds.jpg
In our May issue, we asked kids to imagine they were a bird and write about what it would feel like, using the prompt, "If I were a bird..." Below, find the winning entries. Charlotte and Maya each receive a $25 gift certificate to the Crow Bookshop in Burlington.

Charlotte Niles, 6, Cambridge
If I were a bird, I would be named Sky.
I would fly high up i the sky.
When I see food, I would drop down
I build a nest with leaves and mud.
If I were a bird, I would be an American Goldfinch.
I would say Potato Chip, Potato Chip,
If I were a bird.

Maya Volpe, 7, Benson
If  I were a bird
I would see
The green grass below me
as I fly above the rest of the flock
in the beautiful blue sky
I'm looking for a tree to build my nest
a tree with fruit
a tree with leaves
to protect me on a stormy day.

Find the current writing contest in the "Just for Kids" section of the June Dad issue. The deadline to enter is June 15.

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Congratulations to our May Coloring Contest Winners!

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 12:28 PM

Our judges were wowed by our readers' imaginative artwork this month. Four-year-old Oona celebrated the carefree spirit of summer with two roller-skating princesses, dressed up in purple tutus and bright green tiaras. Brennan, 7, placed his bears on a woodsy path, aptly titling his masterpiece "Walking." Juliana, 9, sent her koalas — looking smart in shades of pink — on a shopping sprees. The winners of annual family memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium are...

"Hold My Hand Tight and Everything Will Be All Right"
Nandika Manoj, 5, Montpelier
"Hold My Hand Tight and Everything Will Be All Right"
  • "Hold My Hand Tight and Everything Will Be All Right"

"Space Koala"
Skyla Cole, 8, Lyndonville
"Space Koala" - "T
  • "T
  • "Space Koala"

"Tropical Forest"
Emma LaFarge, 12, Rutland
"Tropical Forest" - F
  • F
  • "Tropical Forest"

Find our current Coloring Contest in the "Just for Kids" section of the June Dad Issue. The deadline to enter is June 15.

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Friday, May 10, 2019

UVM Students Support English Language Learners in Burlington

Posted By on Fri, May 10, 2019 at 10:01 AM

University of Vermont student Aliyah Rosen (left) with Burlington High School sophomore Francika Gurung - COURTESY OF FRITZ SENFTLEBER
  • Courtesy of Fritz Senftleber
  • University of Vermont student Aliyah Rosen (left) with Burlington High School sophomore Francika Gurung
Aliyah Rosen, a sophomore at the University of Vermont, stood to address Burlington High School sophomore Francika Gurung, who she spent the past semester tutoring.

“Francika, from the first day that I met you, you were so sweet, you were so kind, and I could tell that you really were there to learn,” Aliyah said.

The two young women recently took part in the BHS-UVM Collaborative Literacy Initiative, which served as both an afterschool program for Burlington High School students, and a way for undergraduates minoring in Education for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity to fulfill their teaching requirements. The initiative paired UVM tutors, who had taken courses on teaching methods and lesson planning, with high-need English language learners at the high school.

The project is the brainchild of UVM associate professor Cynthia Reyes. She said that pairing high schoolers with college students was beneficial for both parties. For the undergrads, the one-on-one experience with younger people provided a much-needed respite from the practice they got teaching classes at UVM. For the high schoolers, tutors could share helpful first-hand college knowledge.

The Burlington School District is well-suited to the program. In 2018, 16.1% of its students received language learning services. In the state of Vermont, the average is only 2%. In this particular tutoring group of 15, students spoke Arabic, Swahili, Spanish, French, Maaymaay, Vietnamese, Somali, Mandarin and Nepali.

Francika comes from Nepal. Since students could decide what they needed most help with, she chose to focus on grammar, vocabulary and professional writing. She and her tutor Aliyah constructed sentences to understand the meanings of large, complex words.

At first, Francika didn’t have high expectations about the project. Her English Language teacher asked her if she wanted to do the project, and she decided to try it.

“Oh, this is actually fun,” Francika remembered thinking, after a few sessions. Funding from Community-University Partnerships & Service Learning at UVM went toward purchasing items for the sessions, such as snacks and games focused on word development.

Cynthia Reyes said she was unsure what the outcome might be when the program began, but the partnership worked well. Due to its success, the initiative will take place again next year.

At the ceremony marking the end of their semester together, each student pair stood to appreciate each other.

“Thank you for helping me with my vocab and my grammar,” Francika said to Aliyah. “I’m going to miss you.”

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Vermont Young Playwrights Festival Celebrates Middle and High School Voices

Posted By on Thu, May 9, 2019 at 12:59 PM

Mimi Lodestone, right, with Kat Redniss, discussing "The Lie" - COURTESY OF VERMONT YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS
  • Courtesy of Vermont Young Playwrights
  • Mimi Lodestone, right, with Kat Redniss, discussing "The Lie"
It’s 9:30 a.m. and the noise level at the FlynnSpace has already reached a dull roar as the last middle school groups find their seats, facing the stage. The actors and directors flank it; they’ve saved the better views for the creatives, the craftspeople, the ones for whom the day has been constructed. In other words, the students sit in the best seats in the house.

For 25 years, the Vermont Young Playwrights Festival has celebrated middle and high school voices around Vermont. The event is a collaboration of the Young Writers Project, Vermont Stage and the Flynn Center.

Rowyn Abbott-Smith finds her name in the program. As the first-place winner for Winooski Middle School, she will have a staged reading of her play; the highest honor of the festival.

Some students are excited about the cold readings. Others excitedly anticipate meeting the professional actors, who will be reading and staging their plays. Many say that they are looking forward to the staged readings in the afternoon. Students chat with each other, waiting for the program to get underway.

The house lights dim, and the voices quiet. Kids tuck their books into their backpacks. The stage is illuminated in blue and red. The 25th Annual Young Playwrights Festival has begun.

According to Cristina Alicea, producing artistic director of Vermont Stage, the purpose of Vermont Young Playwrights is to “foster the next generation of playwrights.” The program starts in the fall. Participating middle and high schools — 16 this year — invite teaching playwrights to their classes, devoting two to three full days to learning the art of playwriting. After intensive lessons and collaborative revisions, each student comes away with a 10-minute play. Vermont Young Playwrights chooses three winners per school, and those students are celebrated at the festival. This year, middle school students were honored on May 2, high schoolers on May 3.
Actor and director Patrick Clow teaching "Stage Combat" - COURTESY OF VERMONT YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS
  • Courtesy of Vermont Young Playwrights
  • Actor and director Patrick Clow teaching "Stage Combat"
The festival takes full advantage of the Flynn Center’s space, with workshops running in different areas throughout the day. Patrick Clow, director and actor, teaches on the Flynn’s expansive Main Stage. He makes sure jewelry and phones are stowed, then introduces his workshop, “Stage Combat,” or, as he explains, “the art of telling a story — with violence.” Whereas a real fight may last for seconds, stage fights can last for minutes, he says. “The fight is a kind of story.”

Cold readings of the second place plays happen in the FlynnSpace, the Flynn’s black-box theater. Actors read their lines with animation, taking on accents, coughing like they are on death’s doorstep and even acting out bits that require visuals.

During a Q&A after each cold reading, the playwrights receive feedback from their peers, responding to questions and comments texted from the audience that are projected on the wall.

“You found my funny bone,” a comment reads for Mimi Lodestone’s The Lie. The eighth grader from Edmunds Middle School wrote a play about how a student's faked sickness leads to a comical overreaction.

While workshops and cold readings happen, actors rehearse the winning plays with directors assigned to each project, and the student playwright. Upstairs in the Hoehl studio, Winooski middle schooler Rowyn works on her play, Opposites… Don’t Attract, with director Ruth Wallman. They go through the play slowly, making tweaks to boost the comedy. The actress playing an exasperated, lying business woman suggests a bit of physical humor to show her increasing frustration: beckoning the flight attendant closer and closer to ultimately yell in her face, “Upgrade me to first class!” The edit makes it into the final performance.

Vermont Stage’s Alicea talks about why she considers playwriting and theater a crucial part of education. “It’s about putting yourself in another person’s shoes,” she says. “Theater is art that teaches empathy… The world needs much more of that these days.”

In the afternoon, students file back into the FlynnSpace, still full of energy. The house lights dim. The stage brightens with red and blue light.

The performance takes around two hours. The actors are fully devoted to each scene, switching between characters seamlessly. Some performances are hilarious. Others are sad and reflective. Many are both.

Rowyn’s characters in Opposites… Don’t Attract are fully developed and clash comically with one another. A stereotypical hippie gets angry at a burping fast-food lover, and yells out, “It’s not cool to stereotype, man!”

Rowyn’s teacher, Heather Win, sums up the experience of watching the performances. “I can’t believe a kid wrote this,” she says.

Vermont Young Playwrights has worked with around 12,000 students in the past 25 years. See this year’s batch of student-created plays on The Vermont Young Playwrights Youtube Channel.

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Sunday, May 5, 2019

Congratulations to our April Writing Contest Winners!

Posted By on Sun, May 5, 2019 at 7:26 PM

pencil.jpg
In our April issue, we asked readers to tell us how kids should help take care of the Earth, in honor of Earth Day. Find Louisa and Nate's winning entries below.

Louisa Duncan, 6, Winooski
I help the Earth by
picking up trash because
it helps animals.

Nate Heath, 4, Underhill
To keep the world clean you
should pick up all the trash.
If you see trash when you
wake up, always pick it up.
So always keep the world
clean! Don't



Find the current Writing Contest in the "Just for Kids" section of our May Mom & Baby Issue. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, May 15.

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Congratulations to our April Coloring Contest Winners!

Posted By on Sun, May 5, 2019 at 7:22 PM

This month, young artists celebrated spring with blossoming flowers, rainbow-colored Easter eggs and bright-green grass. Maisie, 4, drew a giant gold sunflower and gave her rabbit a basket of colorful jellybeans. Ten-year-old Jenny's bunny basked in the sun, keeping cool with a large glass of lemonade and red flip-flops. Lily, 6, placed her furry friend in a carrot patch beneath a purple sky and puffy white clouds. Congratulations to all the creative kids who submitted their work this month. The winners are:

"I See Spring," Lucy Palmer, 5, Shelburne
"I See Spring" - LET'S
  • Let's
  • "I See Spring"

"Let's Go Camping," Clara Kim, 6, Winooski
"Let's Go Camping"
  • "Let's Go Camping"

"The Easter Bash," Marilyn O'Meara, 9, East Orange
"The Easter Bash"
  • "The Easter Bash"


Find our current Coloring Contest in the "Just for Kids" section of our May Mom & Baby Issue. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, May 15.

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Friday, April 5, 2019

Congratulations to our March Coloring Contest Winners!

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 11:37 AM

This month’s submissions dazzled our judges with a radiant palette of pastels — perfect for spring. Eight-year-old Hayden’s violet elephant soared in a rainbow sky, buoyed by a handful of fat balloons. Joni, 4, made her masterpiece sparkle with glittering gold-and-green stars. Nine-year-old Josie’s pink and purple elephant Penelope carefully balanced on a tightrope beneath an umbrella held by a curved trunk.
The winners of annual family memberships to the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium are…

“Blue Elephant”
Wyatt Wilder, 5, Northfield

"Blue Elephant"
  • "Blue Elephant"

“The Fancy Elephant”
Kaya Rivas, 7, Burlington

"The Fancy Elephant"
  • "The Fancy Elephant"

“Here Comes the Sun!”
Annaleigh, 12, Cambridge
"Here Comes the Sun!" - CURSE
  • curse
  • "Here Comes the Sun!"

Find the current coloring contest in the April issue of Kids VT. The deadline to enter is Monday, April 15.

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Congratulations to our March Writing Contest Winners!

Just for Kids, writing contest, kids' contests

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2019 at 11:33 AM

lucky_clover.jpg
In our March issue, we asked kids to write a poem with the title, “The Luckiest Kid in the World” in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Below, find the winning entries. Elise and Viyana each receive a $25 gift certificate to Crow Bookshop in Burlington.

Elise O’Brien, 10
East Montpelier


If I were the luckiest kid in the world, I would use my luck to help animals,
I would find them all homes,
I would find them ahome where they are happy,
I would find them homes where people take good care of them,
I would find them a home where they can run and play,
I would find them homes where they can be with their owners,
I would find them a home where they want to stay,
I would find them homes where there are people that love them,
I would adopt some of the animals too!


Viyana Khabbazian, 10
South Burlington


Another year, another way, to get some cash on St. Patty’s Day.
A pot of gold, I was determined to find,
I would search up and down with an open mind.
And then I saw what I hoped to see,
A glistening rainbow staring down at me.
At that very moment, I knew hat to do,
That rainbow wasn’t out of the blue.
I followed that rainbow, I went high and low.
And at the end you won’t believe what I found,
Right there on the ground was a pot of gold.
And now I was certain, as certain as I ever could be,
The luckiest kid in the world is me!

Find the April writing prompt in the Just For Kids section of our current issue. The deadline to enter is Monday, April 15. Happy writing!
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