The_Valley_Reporter - Schools Sun, 05 Jul 2015 00:23:33 -0400 en-gb Vermont PBS announces local winners of PBS KIDS Writers Contest

Vermont PBS, Vermont's statewide public television service, has announced the local winners of its 2015 PBS KIDS Writers Contest. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the statewide contest. First-place winners in kindergarten through grade three will advance to the national level of the contest. This year, 140 creative entries were received from children across Vermont, with a winner and two honorable mentions chosen for each grade level.

Locally, second-grader Anna Brundage, Waterbury, received an honorable mention for her piece "Monkey Discoveries."

The contest encourages kids to write and illustrate their own original stories. All entries were judged by a panel of local experts. The children received their awards at a festive ceremony May 2 at the Vermont PBS studio, accompanied by family members and teachers.

"Every year Vermont PBS is a proud participant in the PBS KIDS annual Writers Contest because it underscores our commitment to the success of Vermont children," said community engagement director Chuck Pizer. "The process of creative writing has been proven to not only support the building of key academic skills but to help improve a child's self-confidence, creativity and imagination. We wish the winners the best of luck at the national level, and also celebrate all of the talented Vermont kids who entered this year's contest."

All the winners and honorable mention recipients have recorded their stories on camera. They can be viewed at and can be seen on air during station breaks on both Vermont PBS and Vermont PBS PLUS.

Local funding for the annual contest has been provided by supporters Comcast and the Employee Community Action Council (ECAC) of General Dynamics.

The annual PBS KIDS Writers Contest is a national initiative designed to promote the advancement of children's literacy skills through hands-on, active learning. For the national contest, a panel of some of America's foremost children's authors, illustrators, producers and media creators will serve as honorary judges and rank the top 12 finalists. National winners will be announced this summer and the winning stories will be featured on

Vermont PBS is Vermont's statewide public media provider, committed to fostering a love of learning in our children and providing lifelong learning opportunities for residents across the state. Vermont PBS PLUS is the station's second HD channel, launched in July 2014. More information about Vermont PBS is available at


Schools Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:14:00 -0400
Harwood Union High School presents SEUSSICAL (The Musical!)

Tony Award-winning songwriting team Ahrens & Flaherty bring favorite Dr. Seuss stories to life in this family-friendly, high-energy production. The Cat in the Hat (played by sophomore, Matt Skelly) tells the story of Horton the Elephant (Ben Burr), an imaginative child named Jojo (Jordan Kulis), Gertrude McFuzz (Bridget Nagdeman), lazy Mayzie (Nina Sklar), the Wikershams (Emma Jean, Colin Holter, Harrison Russell), Sour Kangaroo (Phoebe Pacheco), Mr. and Mrs. Mayor of Whoville (Cormac Stevens and Merrill Woodruff), the Grinch (Asa Anderson) and many other favorite Seuss characters.

All are invited for an adventure through the Jungle of Nool, the Circus McGurkus and the invisible world of the Whos, April 9 through 11 on the Harwood stage. The show is directed by Scott Weigand, with music direction by Stefanie Weigand, choreography by Amia Cervantes and tech direction by Kevin Kelly. It features original set design by Harwood senior Kianna Haskin that captures the color and vibrancy of the Dr. Seuss illustrations.

The pit orchestra, led by band director Chris Rivers, features both student and professional musicians who will lead a "meet the band" presentation before the Saturday matinee and young audience members are invited on stage after the show to meet the cast and see the set.

Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday, April 9 through 11, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 11, at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door 30 minutes before curtain.


Schools Thu, 09 Apr 2015 16:30:23 -0400
Harwood composers’ pieces performed by professionals

By Rachel Goff

This April, professional musicians will perform pieces written by Harwood Union Middle/High School students.

Harwood band director Chris Rivers got the idea for holding a composing competition from a statewide program called Music-COMP, which hires outside composers to teach Vermont students to write music. "We thought we'd try our own in-house version of that," Rivers said.

After learning how to make their own musical arrangements, over 100 students submitted a final composition and the staff selected 12 that will be performed at a concert, Harwood Opus 1, on Thursday, April 16.

The students whose compositions were selected are Curtis Wilcox, Malayna Johnson, Zach Pratt, Matt Seaberg, Harrison Russell, Brendan Magill, Ben Burr, Merrill Woodruff, Matt Skelly, Ella Holter, Erin Magill and Talia Frankel.

In putting together their pieces, students could choose to incorporate a variety of instruments, including two trumpets, a tuba, a trombone, a French horn, a clarinet, a piano, percussion and vocals. The selected pieces include combinations of up to five instruments and are between three and five minutes long.

For many of the students who participated in the contest, this was their first time composing music. "It's definitely hard to get started," Harrison Russell said, "but once you get started, it just kind of flows."

"This was my first time actually writing a piece," Matt Seaberg said, "but now that's all I do when I come home after school. I can hear a song from a movie and figure out all of the notes and write them down pretty easily."

The students used Music First software to simulate the sounds of the different instruments when making their arrangements, "and it's pretty cool to hear something you wrote," Malayna Johnson said, even if it is coming out of a computer.

On the day of the Opus 1 performance, the 12 students will have the chance to rehearse their pieces for the first time with musicians, "and the look on the faces of the kids when they're sitting next to the pros when they're playing their own music is pretty remarkable," Rivers said.

Based on descriptions of the different compositions, the Opus 1 performance is sure to provide a lot of variety. "Mine has a Latin feel but the words are in French," Johnson said of her piece, which features a brass quintet, voice, piano and percussion.

"I don't want to say cutesy ... but mine's kind of Ingrid Michaelsson-y," Merrill Woodruff said of her voice and piano piece.

"Mine's probably more serious ... not dark but medieval maybe," Zach Pratt said of his piece featuring tuba, vibes and percussion.

"Mine's like a Yiddish Klezmer," Seaberg said of his piece featuring clarinet, tuba, piano and percussion. "And I'm not even Jewish."

The Harwood Opus 1 performance takes place Thursday, April 16, at 3 p.m. at the school.


Schools Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:43:06 -0400
Shea is geo-bee semifinalist

   Crossett Brook Middle School seventh-grader Carson Shea of Duxbury has been notified by the National Geography Society that he is one of the semifinalists eligible to compete in the 2015 Vermont National Geographic State Bee. The contest will be held at Middlebury College on March 27.

This is the second level of the National Geographic Bee competition, which is now in its 27th year. School bees were held in schools with fourth- through eighth-grade students throughout the state to determine each school champion. School champions then took a qualifying test which they submitted to the National Geographic Society. The National Geographic Society has invited up to 100 of the top-scoring students in each of the 50 states, District of Columbia, Department of Defense Dependents Schools and U.S. territories to compete in the state bees.


Schools Thu, 19 Mar 2015 15:07:09 -0400
HUMS Scripps individual spelling bee competition

   By Jacki McCarthy

On Friday, February 20, Harwood Union Middle/High School held its annual Scripps Spelling Bee schoolwide competition. The bee is open to students in grades seven and eight who qualify through rounds conducted in their English classes. Spelling team coach Judi Gross returned as the invited annual guest pronouncer for the competition held in the high school auditorium. This year's seventh-grade bee participants included Jake Lynn, Levi Pratt, Theron Williams, Lily Carleau, Owen Labombard, Sarah Boyden, Chester Baughman, Olivia Carleau, Chapin Roberts, Amelia Allen and Lila Derryberry. Eighth-grade spellers included Ben Russell, Olivia White, Lili Berman, Anna Schmeltzer, Tucker Mays, Brenden Magill, Liam Devereaux, Asher Martley, Aidan Melville, Brianna Messier and Desmond Winthrop.

Spelling coach Gross was pleased but not surprised to see several members of this fall's HUMS VPA spelling team among the initial contestants. Theron Williams, Olivia Carleau, Brendan Magill and Tucker Mays entered the ninth round of competition; the finalists battled it out until only Mays and Magill remained.

The 10th, 11th and 12th rounds consisted of a cutthroat battle between Mays and Magill. After several rapid-fire bonus rounds of words like feng shui, anthropomorphism and pharmaceutical, Brendan Magill spelled his way to victory. Brendan will go on to represent Harwood at the Vermont Scripps Spelling Competition at St. Michael's College on March 19.


Schools Thu, 05 Mar 2015 15:08:24 -0500
Four HU seniors named presidential scholars

Harwood Union High School graduating seniors Charlotte C. Randall, Rayleigh Parker, Samuel Nishi and Claire Brundage have been named along with more than 3,900 candidates in the 2015 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program. The candidates were selected from nearly 3.4 million students expected to graduate from U.S. high schools in the year 2015.

Inclusion in the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, now in its 51st year, is one of the highest honors bestowed upon graduating high school seniors. Scholars are selected on the basis of superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities.

Over 3,900 candidates were selected for their exceptional performance on either the College Board SAT or the ACT Assessment. In addition, each chief school state officer (CSSO) was invited to nominate five male and five female candidates, based on their outstanding scholarship, residing in the CSSO's jurisdiction. Further consideration is based on students' essays, self-assessments, descriptions of activities, school recommendations, and school transcripts. A panel of educators will review these submissions and select 560 semifinalists in early April.

The Commission on Presidential Scholars, a group of up to 32 eminent citizens appointed by the president, will make final selection of the scholars. They will select one young man and one young woman from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. students living abroad; 15 students at-large; and up to 20 students from the creative and performing arts. The U.S. Department of Education will announce the scholars in May.

Scholars will be invited to Washington, DC, for several days in June to receive the Presidential Scholars Medallion at a recognition ceremony and to participate in events and activities.

Charlotte C. Randall is the daughter of Laura Caffry and Jeffrey Randall from Waitsfield. Rayleigh Parker is the son of William and Julie Parker from Waitsfield. Samuel Nishi is the son of Roger and Heidi Nishi from Waitsfield. Claire Brundage is the daughter of Lisa Scagliotti and William Brundage from Waterbury.


Schools Thu, 05 Mar 2015 14:23:56 -0500
Harwood students devour The Cole Henry Bacon Burger

   By Angela Selvaggio and Cole Henry

If you read the Harwood school lunch menu for January 29, you saw that the school cafeteria was serving The Cole Henry Bacon Burger. So, just what is The Cole Henry Bacon Burger?

Harwood Union High School was treated to a student-designed localvore lunch on January 29. The Harwood lunch was planned and organized by freshman Cole Henry, under the guidance of chefs Paul Morris and Gary McCafferty. Cole helped to secure a donation of 25 pounds of bacon through Artisan Meats of Vermont. Cole came up with a bacon and beef burger using ground bacon from Artisan Meats of Vermont and Neill Farm beef. The veg heads were treated to a vegetarian roasted aioli sandwich, again prepared by Cole.

Through the HUB Program, Cole designed this project to learn more about how to create a meal for large-scale distribution using local ingredients, while keeping the meal cost effective and within the school's budget.

"Making food for 600-plus kids was like working in a restaurant. For the most part, it went very well. Working with chefs Paul and Gary was a great experience and I learned a lot about working in a professional kitchen environment. This helped me gain experience which I will use in my future work as a chef. Making food for other people brings the pressure on because there are always different opinions about the food people eat. The feedback I received was great. The feedback I received included things like using a different hamburger bun and using more or less bacon," Cole said, reflecting on the experience.

Cole interned with Jacob and Justin Finsen, the brother-owners of Artisan Meats of Vermont. The business sources all of their pork locally, within 75 miles, and hold high standards for the humane handling of animals and animal husbandry practices for their partner farms.

The HUB Program is a learning pathway designed to give high school students the opportunity to seek a unique, interest­-based learning experience that combines academics with a community-based internship.

Students have the opportunity to explore various fields of work, identify their interests and challenge themselves in new ways. Having students explore their interests is critical in helping students understand who they are and what kinds of work and learning they would like to pursue.

For more information about the HUB Program at Harwood Union High School, contact
Heidi Turgeon-Baird and Angela Selvaggio at 802-882-1152.


Schools Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:41:08 -0500
Open Hearth Afterschool Recycled City

What happens when kids are given drills, a load of recycled material and a little space to explore? Yesterday's trash turns into forts with windows, mailboxes, sound machines and telescopes. And, beware, lack of tidiness could result in an infestation of cardboard rats!

Last week, Open Hearth Afterschool Program at Waitsfield Elementary was very excited to be sponsoring a building and design workshop with Eddie Merma, an artist and instructor at Knoll Farm. The Waitsfield-Fayston community collected cardboard, fabric, zip-ties, rope and paint for the Recycled City project. Over the span of four days, our after-school kids designed and built four wooden structures, each covered in recyclables and filled with hidden details, accessories and even pets.

The after-school group, ranging from kindergarten through sixth grade, alternated at workstations to cut and assemble cardboard walls and fabric roofs. Old bed sheets transformed into curtains, which were draped over bubble wrap windows. One house was even decorated with imaginary constellations of dinosaurs! The closer one looks, the more amazing is the depth of a child's imagination. Inspired by the materials at hand, the kids had little difficulty summoning up a vision for their structures.

This project was developed by local artist and educator Eddie Merma in partnership with Open Hearth Afterschool Program.

"Thank you to all the local businesses and families that donated materials for our adventure in building. For more information about future hands-on workshops in the Mad River Valley contact Eddie at," said organizer Susan Amestoy.


Schools Thu, 05 Feb 2015 16:13:12 -0500
Waitsfield fifth- and sixth-graders take the plunge

Waitsfield Elementary School fifth- and sixth-graders give the Mad River a clean bill of health. They joined forces last week with Friends of the Mad River (FMR) to assess the Mad River behind their school.

After a classroom period with Corrie Miller, FMR director, students braved the chilly September morning and searched the river for benthic macroinvertebrates. These insects that inhabit the river bottom are an important link in the aquatic food web; their species composition and diversity in the river gives a good indication of its health.

Between shouts of "I've got a crayfish!" and "Eww, look at this!" students found countless caddisflies, mayflies and stoneflies – species that are sensitive to environmental changes and are one sign of a healthy river.

They gathered data which they graphed and interpreted back in the classroom. In her science journal, one student asserted, "Our part of the Mad River is healthy. We found many pollution sensitive species and a few from other groups. This means we have a healthy balance of all species."

For more information about Friends of the Mad River, visit the website at


Schools Thu, 25 Sep 2014 14:38:36 -0400
After life-changing experience in India, Harwood senior seeks to give something back

As with students throughout the Unites States, those in the Mad River Valley ended summer vacation and returned to school a few weeks ago, likely with a degree of reluctance. Though they understand the need for attending school, most would prefer an endless summer.  Half a world away in Gurgaon, India, students also returned to school, but with anticipation and passion instead of reluctance. For these students, school is a place of joy and excitement.  It is a place that offers them a respite from the challenges of their day-to-day village lives and some hope for a brighter future.

While visiting family in India during the summer of 2013, Harwood Union High School student Vikram Seethepalli volunteered for 10 days at a small, privately funded school near Delhi and had a profound experience. The students, who live in an impoverished village, in mud and straw huts without electricity or running water, look forward to school with anticipation. For them, attending school is a joyful experience, an escape from their squalid home lives, Seethepalli reported.

"Throughout the time I was there, every child came to school with a big smile on his or her face, ready to learn," said Seethepalli. "Although it was clear that these children had very little, they nevertheless had a positive attitude and a strong motivation to learn. I realized how privileged I am here in America, and I learned that how much one has does not determine how happy one is. This experience truly broadened my perspective of the world."

During his stay, Seethepalli taught English and enjoyed interacting with the young children.  In his immersive experience, he cooked and ate with the teachers and slept at the school every night. While he expected only to learn how to teach children, he took away so much more.

"I was able to completely get out of my 'comfort zone,'" he said. "I learned how to interact with the children. I persuaded the children to listen to me, to learn from me, to follow me. I learned how to hold their attention, so I could teach them.  By this process, I believe I made a very positive impact on the school."

As he slept under mosquito netting at night and pushed through the unbearable heat during the day, he realized the challenges and difficulties that local people must endure every single day. He became aware of how lucky, how comfortable, how safe and how easy he has it in the U.S., and how halfway around the world, someone else is enduring more extreme heat, someone else is sleeping on the dirt ground and someone else is getting bitten by a malarial mosquito.

"The children at this school in no way based their willingness to learn on what they had or how big their houses were," he said. "I learned that how much one has need not determine how one acts, one's level of motivation to learn, or who one really is inside. These children changed my perspective of the world and changed my life."

The school, called Gairatpurbaas Panchayat School, was founded by Martin Howard, a British man who runs a small bed and breakfast in the same village. Howard believes the current Indian learning system, which focuses almost exclusively on memorization and achieving high exam marks, is not enough for these children. He runs the school under the Montessori system, which allows them to develop social skills and become independently confident. He also believes that learning English is crucial to the success of the children because the number of opportunities for better jobs increases if the children have a command of the English language.  For that reason, in contrast to the public schools, English is the main spoken language at Gairatpurbaas School.

Howard's belief in the Montessori form of education and the importance of teaching English means the school does not qualify for state funding. For these reasons, he operates the school as a private nonprofit organization. He uses most of his income from the bed and breakfast to go toward funding the school. The rest is raised through private charitable donations.

"Throughout my stay at the school, Martin motivated and inspired me," said Seethepalli.  "Here is a man who decided to create a school, completely of his own accord, to help educate children with mostly uneducated parents. He receives no profit from his great contribution to the village. Rather, he benefits from the good feeling of making a difference in the lives of others. He greatly contributes to the small village by providing a path to opportunity and success for its young children, whom he treats as his own. Martin's accomplishment and attitude toward supporting others has inspired me to make a contribution to his school."

Howard's intense passion to educate these children has prompted Seethepalli to try to raise a portion of the school's $70,000 annual budget. He has set a goal of raising $10,000, which would pay for the salary of five teachers. As an affirmation that he truly believes in this cause, Seethepalli is personally contributing $500 (30 percent of his summer job earnings) toward this effort.

He has been able to create a fund through the MP NRI Development Committee, a New York City-based 501(c)(3) charitable organization focused on education in India. All donations to the fund are tax-deductible and will be channeled directly to the Gairatpurbaas Panchayat School. Checks can be written to MP NRI Development Committee Inc., with "Vikram Seethepalli India Project" in the memo line. Donations should be mailed to MP NRI Development Committee, Attn: Rajeev Kaul, 303 Fifth Ave., Suite 1608, New York, NY 10016. For more information about the school, please view this short video:

"As a young person, I know that I cannot do a lot, but I am confident that my goal, if achieved, will contribute toward the success of the children at the school," Seethepalli said. "I sincerely hope that you will join me in supporting this cause. Any contribution, small or large, will be greatly appreciated. Your support will aid the school, the nearby community, and ultimately lead the children to better lives."


Schools Thu, 18 Sep 2014 16:14:26 -0400