Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island'

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 4:28 PM

The Scooby-Doo crew's Mystery Machine - CHRIS KELLEHER | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Chris Kelleher |
  • The Scooby-Doo crew's Mystery Machine
With the recent release of Warner Bros. Animation’s Scoob, I thought I’d recommend a Scooby-Doo movie that I prefer far more: the 1998 animated movie Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island.

Scoob is yet another entry in the lucrative and well-established Scooby-Doo franchise, spanning 12 different television series and a staggering 47 movie entries. While these range in quality and medium — some are traditional animation, some live action, some CGI animation — there’s no denying the impact that Scooby-Doo has had across multiple generations. As a kid, I was obsessed with it (and still am, frankly) because the show perfectly blends mystery, comedy and friendship while sustaining an underlying constant horror atmosphere that isn’t gratuitous or cliché. It delivers the scares, but also knows that families are watching.

As a religious watcher of Scooby-Doo, I’ve seen almost everything its production companies, Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros., have served up. I believe that Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island is a hidden gem among a mountainous heap of Scooby-Doo media.

The Story: The members of Mystery Inc. have gone their separate ways due to the monotony of solving too many mysteries where the monster is invariably some guy in a mask. As their current careers start to become mundane or flounder, Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and his anthropomorphic dog Scooby-Doo reunite for one last shot at finding a real ghost. However, the gang may be in for more danger than they bargained for when they are called on to inspect paranormal happenings on Moonscar Island in the Louisiana Bayou.

Why It’s a Good Family Movie: Scoob was a disappointment because it adhered too strictly to a Hollywood marketing strategy in which characters must have stand-alone films that connect to each other, usually culminating in an ambitious cross-over movie where every character unites to overcome a mutual threat. While this works for DC and Marvel because their source comics were originally orchestrated around this concept (although I still prefer standalone Batman and Spider-Man), it doesn’t work for Scooby-Doo. Warner Bros. plans to produce movies with other Hanna-Barbera characters that will tie into this cinematic universe, so we may eventually see Scooby-Doo, Fred Flintstone and Yogi Bear team up in an ambitious superhero crossover movie if they keep it up. It’s an attempt to offer something new to an exhausted Scooby formula by mimicking other successful blockbuster franchises.

However, Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island has already performed this task, while maintaining the franchise’s spirit. The movie realizes the Scooby formula has gone stale, but also recognizes that Scooby-Doo isn’t a superhero, rather a goofy, talking dog.

Families will enjoy this movie because it subverts the classic Scooby-Doo formula to create a mystery that is fresh and exciting. This time, the monsters are real, and the stakes are higher. Just as fans may have become fatigued by the repetitive narrative of earlier Scooby-Doo media, the characters in Zombie Island have also become tired of the same old routine. The narrative draws Mystery Inc. back in with a fresh new mystery, just as it brings viewers back to the classic Scooby world with something fresh and different.

The darker horror elements of the movie are softened by its offbeat sense of humor, which is often quite meta contextual. For example, Shaggy’s suitcase containing multiple pairs of the same exact clothing is a jab at the fact that cartoon characters are always dressed in the same outfit.

The film is smart, beautifully animated, and just scary enough to capture that classic Halloween vibe without provoking nightmares. Additionally, there’s a great message to be learned in how the characters forge friendships despite their differences.

Age Recommendation: It’s a darker Scooby adventure, but still very family-friendly. There is more graphic content than a child might be accustomed to from the cartoons, such as a decapitation (that is much less morbid than it sounds) and implied deaths, including one featuring crocodiles. One scene involving humans transforming into monsters might be too frightening for younger children. I’d recommend it for ages 8 and up.

Scooby-Doo on Zombie-Island is available to rent and purchase on Amazon and iTunes and streaming on Netflix.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'Kiki's Delivery Service'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 24, 2020 at 1:20 PM

  • © 1989 Eiko Kadono - Studio Ghibli - N
This week's movie is Kiki's Delivery Service, a feel-good film and personal favorite directed by the legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. It was made by Studio Ghibli, a Japanese animation studio famous worldwide for its fantastical anime films.

Kiki's Delivery Service
is sometimes overshadowed by Studio Ghibli's more popular films like Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. But viewers will be blown away by Kiki’s impressive animation and charming storytelling. While purists can watch the film in Japanese with subtitles, there is also a fantastic English language version, starring Kirsten Dunst and Phil Hartman, which makes it more universally accessible.

The Story: Kiki is a witch — a young girl who possesses the ability to fly. At age 13, witches leave their families’ homes for a year to search for a town that requires a witch’s skills — which range from fortune telling to potion making. When Kiki comes upon an unoccupied town, she establishes a delivery service in which she transports packages via broomstick. Kiki struggles with the hardships of moving to a new town, including self-doubt, ostracism and homesickness. Kiki’s situation becomes even more complicated when she begins to lose her ability to fly.

Why It’s a Good Family Movie: Kiki's Delivery Service is a rare movie in which there are no characters who act as antagonists. While some characters are rude to her, there is no clear opposing force within the movie. Instead Kiki offers a realistic depiction of life’s true antagonist: the self-doubt within ourselves. In one instance, Kiki believes the other kids who invite her to hang out with them are looking at her funny. In another, she questions why one girl in town would want to paint her if she is “ugly.” The movie may help kids going through similar issues realize that many of their worries are not as serious as they perceive them.

Kiki’s cat, Jiji, is used to represent the talkative voice inside a quiet introvert’s head. While it is unclear whether Kiki can hear her cat due to her witch abilities or if it’s purely imaginary, Jiji vocalizes the stress and doubt that Kiki bottles up inside her. Throughout the film, Jiji often comments that people she meets are snobs or the place she was given to stay at is dirty (something Kiki wouldn’t say out loud because she’s shy, polite and nonconfrontational). Jiji also serves as a source of wisdom. In one instance, the cat reminds Kiki to use her mother’s broom because it is safer than her original one. By the end of the movie, Kiki loses her ability to speak to Jiji, suggesting that she no longer needs this extra voice because she has found acceptance and wisdom within herself.

The film also conveys the idea that you should do things that inspire you, and not be swayed by whether you think you’re good or bad at it. Kiki begins to feel she’s failing at her delivery service and, because of this, loses the ability to fly. Upon realizing that it makes her happy, her flying abilities are restored. This suggests that through discovering self-confidence and doing something that makes you happy, you can thrive at what you set out to do.

Besides having a strong, complex character and a positive message, Kiki is also one of the best animated films ever produced. Pause any scene and it looks like a painting you’d find in the Louvre. The flying scenes are so well-realized that watching them will make your stomach drop.

Age Recommendation: Besides a few scenes of peril involving flight and falling from high distances — and one scene involving debris falling off a blimp and almost hitting people — there is nothing in this movie that’s inappropriate for kids. I’d recommend it for ages 4 and up.

Kiki's Delivery Service is available to purchase digitally on Amazon and iTunes, and streaming on HBO Max.

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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Talking to Kids About Racism With Educator & Activist Emma Redden

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2020 at 3:59 PM

The cover of Redden's book - COURTESY OF EMMA REDDEN
  • Courtesy of Emma Redden
  • The cover of Redden's book
Burlington educator and activist Emma Redden believes that speaking with children about race is an act of liberation. Redden is a preschool teacher, most recently in the Old North End of Burlington, and the author of the 2018 self-published book Power Means Who the Police Believe: Talking With Young Children About Race and Racial Violence.

Redden believes that it’s important for parents to begin speaking about race and justice with their children when they are babies. This allows them to “lay a foundation, so concepts around skin color, melanin, ancestry, race, racism and white supremacy culture can build on each other,” she says.

Redden’s work focuses on helping adults learn to talk with young children about race, racial violence and white supremacy culture. Pre-COVID-19, she led workshops for parents, teachers and other educators. She also teaches a graduate level course at Goddard College. Redden spoke with Kids VT to offer tips on how parents can begin these important discussions.
A page from Redden's book - COURTESY OF EMMA REDDEN
  • Courtesy of Emma Redden
  • A page from Redden's book
Kids VT: How do you bring your activism into your work as a preschool educator?

Redden: I see my role in the classroom as an educator and community organizer. The folks I’m organizing with are just small. Much of our curriculum and work in the classroom is centered around practices of non-violence and community, as well as explicit teaching around colonialism, race and racial violence. I am deeply moved by the depth and ease in which 4- and 5-year-olds can engage with the subjects. They are curious, they ask incredible questions and they still have enough access to their human instincts. They can adapt and adjust toward fairness very easily. In my experience, grown-ups often really struggle to do this.

KVT: How do you speak about racial violence with preschoolers?

Redden: I use language I learned from a childrens’ grief counselor Jill Macfarlane. I say things like, ‘The police made a choice to make a man’s body stop working. He used a gun,” or “A man with light tan skin believed a lie that his life was more important and that it was OK for him to hurt peoples’ bodies with brown skin.” I try to tell the whole truth, to use words kids understand and to avoid details. The gruesome particulars of racial violence do not have to be included to get across the root message that a person with light tan skin made a choice to hurt the body of a person with brown skin and this is not fair and not ever OK.

I am deeply thankful for the historical work of Nell Irvin Painter, Michelle Alexander, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Andrea Smith, Ibram X. Kendi, Luke Harris, Larry Mumiya, Chenjerai Kuminyika, Resma Menakem and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, along with so many others brilliant Black and indigenous authors and thinkers, who have written so truthfully about the history of the colonized land, now called The United States of America

KVT: In these challenging times, what are some good starting points to help Vermont parents talk to their children about race?

Redden: I think the work around race varies for different folks depending on how they are targeted by racism. Studies show that families of color talk about race with young children far more than white families. I think white families often believe that race is irrelevant to their white children. We actually know that quite the opposite is true: Whiteness is an enormous determinant of everything from children’s health, to who kids’ friends are, to where they live, where they go to school, how they are treated at school, who they trust and more. So the first step, one that many families of color already have taken long ago, is to acknowledge that children’s race has an enormous impact on all facets of their lives.

Often white families don’t have a foundation laid and then a very public execution happens, like that of George Floyd, and they have no context to talk with their kids about that murder. There is so much history that has led up to a George Floyd’s murder. Therefore, it’s a hard place to start a conversation about race. That being said, if and when that is where many folks find themselves, historical context needs to be offered as part of discussions about the current moment.”

KVT: It seems like there is so much work and repair needed — both locally and nationally around racial inequality and supporting Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) communities. What can families do?

Redden: I believe families of color know much better than I what they need to do to take care of themselves in this extremely violent world. I do my best to listen and take their leadership. As for white families, I think they should consider what their relationship is to racism and white supremacy. If anything happening in the country is a surprise to any of us, we need to ask ourselves why. If we are not deeply practiced in talking with our white children about racism, we need to ask ourselves why.

As James Baldwin, and Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sonya Renee Taylor and many other brilliant Black people suggest, I think white folks, myself included, need to think about what has happened to us that we are so hurt, and so disconnected from our own humanity, that we need racism. And I think if we aren’t fighting with every cell in our body to eradicate racism, in some ways, that means we think we need it.

KVT: How does your identity as a white woman affect the work you do?

Redden: My work every day is to try to understand what whiteness expects of me, and then to try to make decisions in direct opposition to that. A huge part of my work with myself is an effort to reclaim my own human decency. As the brilliant Reverend angel Kyodo williams and Lama Rod Owens have helped me understand, it is white folks’ inability to access to our humanity that positions us to cause so much harm to folks we have decided are not white.

I think this culture, based in the myth of white supremacy, taught people I love that having control over yourself, your surroundings and others is more important than the messy, wonderful, vulnerable work of being alive.

KVT: Do you have any book recommendations for young children on race?

Redden: When We Were Alone by David Robertson is an incredible book about an indigenous family and highlights some of the effects of colonialism.

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham is an important book about racial justice and a police murder.

Something Happened in Our Town by Ann Hazzard, Marianne Celano, and Marietta Collins is written from the perspectives of both a Black family and a white family.

All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color by Katie Kissinger is my favorite book to explain melanin.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautifully written and illustrated book about children experiencing racism and classism at school.

To learn more, visit

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Forgotten Films: 'The NeverEnding Story'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2020 at 1:06 PM

  • Dreamstime
Welcome to a new series about oft-forgotten family movies. I'm Matt KillKelley, a recent graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, where I double-majored in English Literature and Film Studies. As a child growing up in Vermont, I spent countless hours watching films with friends in our parents’ basements, where we became entranced by the stories and the magical feelings they invoked. Although I’m in my early twenties, I’ve seen more than my fair share of films. And one thing I’ve realized from my avid viewing is that there are plenty of great movies out there that fly under the radar.

Each week, I’ll share one of my recommendations with Kids Vermont readers, in the hopes that some of them might find their way to your family’s movie night. First up: The NeverEnding Story, released in 1984 and directed by Wolfgang Peterson, who film buffs may be familiar with from his classic German film Das Boot. The NeverEnding Story is a fantasy film that not only features unrivaled practical effects (a precursor to the computer-generated effects we see in contemporary films), but also expounds on the importance of imagination, reading and self-confidence.

The Story: Bastian Balthazar Bux is an introverted 10-year-old coping with the death of his mother. He is frequently bullied by other children and is often neglected and condescended to by his unsympathetic father. To escape this harsh reality, he finds refuge in books. One of them is The NeverEnding Story, which chronicles the plight of a boy named Atreyu trying to save Fantasia from an apocalyptic entity simply known as “The Nothing.” As Bastian gets further into the book, he begins to discover that he has entered the story and that choices he makes will be pivotal in how the story ends.

Why It’s a Good Family Movie: While there are important life lessons in this movie, families are also in for a magical time due to the impressive creature effects. Because this film was released when computer-generated imagery was in its most primitive state, many of the characters were created through puppetry, animatronics and stop-motion animation. While this may alienate some children due to the perceived notion that “old = boring,” the effects are so impressive that children will likely get drawn into this fantastical adventure.

Some children will relate to Bastian’s plight in the movie. He is often withdrawn, with a lack of self-confidence stemming from trauma, bullying and a dad who tries to repress Bastian’s creativity by telling him to “get his head down out of the clouds” and “face his problems.” Bastian uses his love of books and his imagination as positive coping mechanisms to deal with his mother’s death.

In the film, the idea that books help us find ourselves is taken to a literal level. By the end, Bastian is able to overcome his trauma and accept himself for who he is, using this restored confidence to save Fantasia. He rides a dragon through the sky and stands up to his bullies. It never really matters if Bastian actually became a character in the book or if it was just in his mind. What matters is that, through reading and imagination, he learns to accept himself.

The role of “The Nothing” in this movie is symbolic of the antagonism Bastian faces in the real world. Gmork describes it as a powerful invisible force that tries to crush hopes and dreams. Viewers might draw a parallel to our current reality living through COVID-19: feelings of imperceptible impending doom halting the world in its tracks. Only though using his imagination, remaining hopeful and accepting people for who they are is Bastian able to conquer the villainous force.

Age Recommendation: The movie deals with heavy subject matter, including death and trauma. Additionally, many characters die within the film (a particularly memorable one being Artax the horse). Some creatures in the movie may frighten smaller children, such as Gmork, a large Big Bad Wolf-like character. Some fights in the movie show mildly bloody wounds. I’d recommend this film for ages 9 and up.

Available to rent or purchase digitally on Amazon/iTunes. Streaming on HBO Max.

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Friday, June 12, 2020

Summer Passport Program Promotes Backyard Fun

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 3:22 PM

  • Courtesy of Come Alive Outside
Come Alive Outside, a Rutland-based nonprofit organization that aims to help people lead healthier lives, is expanding its Summer Passport Program to all Vermonters.

For the past three years, thousands of Rutland and Addison County students have visited local parks and attractions over summer break, filling out a passport along the way to track their activities.

Due to safety concerns related to COVID-19, Come Alive Outside redesigned the program this summer so that kids can complete the challenge in their own backyards. Activities include hunting for bugs, sprouting sweet potatoes and making a mini-composter from soda bottles. Kids are asked to initial each activity page upon completing it. When they're done, they can send in their passports for a chance to win prizes. The deadline to enter in September 18. Find more information here.

For more summer challenges that encourage exploration and fun, check out Vermont State Parks' 2020 Venture Vermont Outdoor Challenge, Vermont Historical Society's "Vermont History Outside" page, and this list of summer civics activities compiled by Kids Vermont.

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Download the June Coloring Contest

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2020 at 12:51 PM

Because the June 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 June contest entries to Monday, June 22 to give kids more time to complete them.

Happy coloring!

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Monday, June 8, 2020

Stay-School Adventures: Breaking Through, Quarantine Month Three

Posted By on Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 2:30 PM

Shelburne Pond - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Shelburne Pond
This week marks the end of the school year for my first grader and preschooler. As days have become weeks and weeks have become months, we find ourselves mostly outside. This week, we explored Shelburne Pond and the land near our house. We talked about how we will use our voices to speak up for change and how people around the country and around the world are also speaking up for change.

3-year-old Bo and 7-year-old Remy check out a snakeskin - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • 3-year-old Bo and 7-year-old Remy check out a snakeskin
Everywhere we looked, we saw metaphors in nature. On Saturday, we found a snakeskin in our backyard. We think it belongs to the snake we spotted days earlier slithering around the shrubs. My first grader explained to my preschooler that snakes shed their skin through molting. Online research told us that snakes are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality and healing. They shed their skin so that they can grow and also get rid of the parasites attached to their old skin.

Near Shelburne Pond, we found a turtle carrying its home on its back. Its shell provides both shelter and protection We were carrying an enormous backpack stuffed with everything we might need for our outing, so we could relate.
Bo meets a frog at Shelburne Pond - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Bo meets a frog at Shelburne Pond
We even found a frog at the pond and talked about its life cycle, and its ability to change so masterfully that it becomes unrecognizable from its earlier tadpole self.

We caught up with our bird friend in the backyard, who has made a nice life for itself in our birdhouse, with the freedom to come and go as it pleases. We believe this chickadee is creating a nest to lay eggs.

Nature has a way of turning over, of shedding its skin, of changing. I’ve been thinking about the bird eggs and hatchlings we will likely witness soon. In order for a creature to be born, it must first shatter and dismantle the very thing that has been its source of protection. An egg can’t hatch unless it breaks.

STAY-SCHOOL ADVENTURES: Breaking Through, Quarantine Month Three from Cat Cutillo on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Stay-School Adventures: Memorial Day, Quarantine Day 73

Posted By and on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 9:29 AM

Bo at the Vergennes Memorial Parade in 2019 - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Bo at the Vergennes Memorial Parade in 2019
Watching the Vergennes Memorial Day Parade every spring is one of our family traditions. When we lived in Vergennes, we would walk to the parade with my daughter Remy's toy ride-on tractor in hand so she could watch the giant tractors roll by while sitting on her own mini version. Last year, my son, Bo, sat on that same tractor during the parade. We have both created memories and also started to relive similar experiences every year at this parade — which is held to remember and honor those we’ve lost.

This Memorial Day, the parade was canceled. We decided to fill the void by doing something new.
Remy blades on the Burlington Bike Path - CAT CUTLLO
  • Cat Cutllo
  • Remy blades on the Burlington Bike Path
Our family created our own mobile parade, riding our bikes and rollerblades on the Burlington Bike Path. It was the first week since mid-March we ventured into a more public arena. We went early and the path it was mostly empty. The beat of the parade was replaced this year by the sound of wheels on pavement. We pulled over at North Beach to look at the lake, staring out at the infinite space of possibility.
North Beach, Memorial Day 2020 - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • North Beach, Memorial Day 2020
We have wandered off the map of predictability. With a calendar of cancellations this summer, there are no go-to events for us to fall back on. Autopilot is out of order. There is both sadness from that loss and relief that there is space now for something new.

STAY-SCHOOL ADVENTURES: Memorial Day, Quarantine Day 73 from Cat Cutillo on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Wildflowers Studio Founder Joins Davis Studio as Assistant Director

Posted By on Tue, May 26, 2020 at 10:40 AM

Lyndsy Blais at Wildflowers Studio
  • Lyndsy Blais at Wildflowers Studio
When Vermont businesses closed to stop the spread of COVID-19  in March, Lyndsy Blais quickly realized there was no path forward for Wildflowers Studio, the creative maker space in Essex she started in 2015.

On April 28, she announced that she was closing Wildflowers permanently.

"It was a heartbreaking decision," said Blais, but also a "clear-cut" one. Wildflowers offered a wide range of programming including open studio hours, an art- and nature-based preschool program, home-school and after-school classes, and camps.

 "The business was so based on community connection, and if parents or caregivers are not able to come there and connect with each other, I just looked forward and said, 'There's no way that this business model can continue for a very long time,'" said Blais.
Davis Studio founder Teresa Davis - COURTESY OF TERESA DAVIS
  • Courtesy of Teresa Davis
  • Davis Studio founder Teresa Davis

Blais focused her energy on homeschooling her four daughters, ages 6, 8, 10 and 13. Then Teresa Davis, founder of the Davis Studio in South Burlington, reached out. The two entrepreneurs had developed a friendship over the last few years and share similar educational philosophies, rooted in play-based, exploratory learning.

"You can't just disappear," Blais remembered Davis telling her. "And I was like, "I don't want to."

Wildflowers Studio founder Lyndsy Blais - COURTESY OF LYNDSY BLAIS
  • Courtesy of Lyndsy Blais
  • Wildflowers Studio founder Lyndsy Blais
After a series of conversations, Davis hired Blais as assistant director of the Davis Studio. Starting in the fall, Blais will also serve as a classroom teacher for the new multi-age kindergarten and first grade classroom at Davis Community School. "It means that the whole heart and soul of Wildflowers gets kept alive," said Davis, "and that's actually very important to me."

Davis Community School, started in January 2019, is inspired by the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which embraces self-directed learning and a curriculum centered around children's interests. Academics are integrated with the arts, and outdoor education and foreign language instruction are also emphasized. In 2019-2020, the school had one mixed-age classroom with students in grades 1, 2 and 3. It will add kindergarten and fourth grade next year.

The Davis Studio also offers a preschool program, afterschool classes and camps. Its Starving Artist Café, which offered weekday breakfast and lunch and weekend brunch, is permanently closed.

This summer, Davis and Blais will also collaborate to develop an art- and academic-based online homeschool curriculum in anticipation that some families will want a remote learning option this fall. "We think there will be people leaning into homeschooling, but who need more support and not wanting to just have their kid in the computer all day," said Davis. "I think if we can, from the get-go, design something that has a lot of joy and play and discovery and hands-on projects... I think there's a lot of potential there."

A series of Zoom informational meetings about Davis Community School will be held starting in June. For additional information, call 425-2700 or visit

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Stay-School Adventures: Gardening, Quarantine Week 9

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 2:17 PM

Remy holds up an earthworm - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Remy holds up an earthworm
We’ve buried a lot of things in the backyard recently. From a fish funeral to a time capsule, my kids, Remy and Bo, have gotten used to digging holes over the past two months. The thrilling part is what they find: Worms, snails and more worms.

My 3-year-old, Bo, is a worm connoisseur. He knows every variety they come in, from long ones to fat ones to stubby ones. Worms are his biggest motivation in life.
Bo and Remy examine the dirt - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Bo and Remy examine the dirt
This weekend, my husband, Ross, was equally elated about worms. Earthworms are a gardener’s gold and a benchmark for healthy soil. They speed up the composting process and help mix soil by eating the bacteria growing on decaying plants and giving off "worm castings" —  a nutrient-filled type of manure that plants love. As we were out in the garden planting seeds and seedlings, Ross took the abundance of worms he found crawling in the dirt as a sign that the growing season would be successful.

“It is going to be a great garden this year,” he said.

In response, my 7-year-old, Remy, started pumping out worm facts.

“Did you know worms have five hearts? They also breathe through their skin and don’t have any eyes. I’ve been studying them,” she told me.
Seedlings grow inside the house - CAT CUTILLO
  • Cat Cutillo
  • Seedlings grow inside the house
Like many Vermonters, the first thing Ross did when he heard about the quarantine was to start planning for an expanded garden. He had the kids start seedlings with him in the house as part of their homeschooling curriculum. Watching the seeds sprout up from the soil never gets old for them. But perhaps the best part of planting this year was the digging. The creepy crawlers were like buried treasures.

Worms are a great reminder that life is odd and, at the same time, resilient. These creatures without eyes and ears might spend most of their time buried beneath the surface, but they are the first things you see in the aftermath of a rainstorm. And when life tears them in half, instead of dying, they multiply and crawl off in different directions to continue enriching gardens and delighting kids.

STAY-SCHOOL ADVENTURES: Gardening, Quarantine Week 9 from Cat Cutillo on Vimeo.

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