Month: May 2021

The WallyPAC Lifts Off with Mary Poppins

August 2018 – North Country School and Camp Treetops broke ground on the Walter  Breeman Performing Arts Center in a ceremony I attended with my younger son, Owen, in tow. Walter was a vibrant and compassionate mentor, a budding musician, and a talented theater tech student. He attended NCS from 7th-9th grade. NCS is for students in grades 4-9; ninth-graders are called “seniors” and Walter graduated in 2010. After he died of a drug overdose at age nineteen, his parents began the process of linking Walter’s brief, but beautiful, time at NCS with a beautiful building in his honor. The building would allow the already transformative performing arts program at NCS to expand and grow.   September 2018 – Owen died by suicide. We asked for donations to be made to the building beginning to be referred to as the “WallyPAC” to honor his commitment to theater and so many other aspects of life at School and Camp. Like many buildings on campus, it would include a slide adjacent to the winding, open staircase. That slide, fittingly, was named in Owen’s memory.  August 2019 – School and Camp welcomed the community to a dedication ceremony for the WallyPAC. It was a sunny and warm summer day in the Adirondacks. The not-yet-complete WallyPAC was a spacious and cool refuge from the heat. May 2020  – That month was to hold so many delights, including the first NCS spring production of Wonderland, Walter’s senior-year play, in the WallyPAC. I don’t need to tell…

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Folk Art on the Front Porch

I live in a 1920s Sears, Roebuck & Co. mail-order barn. Yes, you used to be able to order homes and barns from Sears along with your pajamas. Vee is the nickname of Vaney, the retired cow from the barn’s weathervane. Someone used her for target practice before we knew her and then, not long after we moved in, her hooves rusted out and she blew off the cupola. She lay in the grass for a long time. Later, she sat on an obscure shelf on the way to our sun porch. John helped relocate her to the front porch and that’s where she lives out her days.  I decided to knit a scarf for her one winter (I ripped the stocking cap off an old Christmas ornament) and then…once 2020’s headliner dominated every page, dressing her up became a sort of pandemic art project. When I couldn’t find something to represent the season, I crafted what I needed with Sculpey clay.   Vee modeled all the months of the year, available here in her own calendar:    

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Doodle Time

When my vocabulary lessons fell a little flat, I researched ways to make definitions stick. I wanted a screen-free activity, but I didn’t want worksheets. I turned to sketchnotes, discovering Sunni Brown and Sylvia Duckworth. Students loved the tutorials I provided with tips to make their drawings “recognizable over realistic” and “memorable instead of a masterpiece” when paired with new vocabulary words. Brown’s TED Talk (Doodlers, unite!) reminded me why this process works. She’s a visual thinking consultant who said, “Illustrating information we’re trying to absorb is most effective when we utilize more than one learning modality (reading/writing, visual, auditory, and kinesthetic) coupled  with an emotional experience.” Duckworth’s book was on the Learning Support classroom shelf. What an accessible and invaluable resource for the students and me. Below, a fifth-grader’s illustration. Elixir is from the vocab list I created from the audiobook, Bloom by Kenneth Oppel, we’re reading in class. Doodle on!          

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Reading & Writing are Lit with Julia Torres

I was so excited to take two workshops with Julia Torres ( )this spring through Heinemann publications and educational services. When I read her bio on their website ( I knew I wanted to be a part of whatever she was offering. Here’s an excerpt: Julia E. Torres is a veteran language arts teacher and librarian in Denver Public schools. As a teacher/activist committed to education as a practice of freedom, her practice is grounded in the work of empowering students to use language arts to fuel resistance and positive social transformation. Julia was awarded the 2020 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Teacher of Excellence award and currently serves teachers as part of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE board of directors. Julia facilitates workshops and professional conversations about anti-bias/anti-racist education, social justice, and culturally sustaining pedagogies in language arts, as well as digital literacy and librarianship.  I am so thankful for the practical and inspiring material she provided with these mini-workshops: Growing Writers from Readers – Empowering Ways to Jumpstart Creativity  Simple, Sustainable Strategies for Reading Engagement I used ideas from those two workshops to create reading and writing surveys that enhanced the relationships I’ve worked hard to develop with students this school year. Julia’s clear and concise teaching also pushed me to help students find avenues for publishing their work and strengthen those foundational building blocks I want in my classroom, showcasing “real life” writing. They totally get it: reading and writing aren’t things…

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