A rainy Wednesday in March brings to mind the memory of orange, chocolate-chip scones.
This would be just the day to sit a spell at the counter at Sweeties on Route 9 in Marlboro–sipping a latte, taking in the aroma of bacon, the morning conversations, the ebb and flow of townspeople and tourists beginning their day
Sweeties has been closed now for a handful of years and we’ve all grown accustomed to having to leave town for gas or a six-pack, but the absence lingers like a loved one, and sometimes rises like an ache, particularly in wintry months or on rainy days like today.
“After the General Store, comes the Post Office,” says a neighbor. “Then the school.”
Marlboro School was at the center of last week’s Pre-Town Meeting in response to Act 46 which seeks to consolidate school governance.
“Forced, short-sighted, rushed through legislation,” is how one woman described it.
A discussion of the unintended consequences of Act 46 ensues; and I’m surprised by a consideration that hadn’t occurred to me until then, and how deeply it shakes me–not the loss of our precious Junior High, or the loss of our vibrant voice; or how these losses will reshape our school, and our town; but something that strikes at the center of self-governance:
I know not everyone can make it on the first Tuesday in March, and I know that efforts in other towns to shift the meeting to an evening or a weekend haven’t produced the desired results; But our old Town House fills up with body heat and breath and voice and community, and that’s something.
And even in the years when you’re not in a chair or on a bench or at that front table or up at the podium, the gathering holds space for who we are and how we live and what happens here, not just in Marlboro, but all over the Green Mountain state, and even across our nation, as Bernie proved to be true.
Sure Town Meeting would continue for awhile; the old timers here are hearty like that; but the absence of the school budget–ie. the absence of children at the heart of decision making–would hollow out the gathering, until it became a dusty relic of itself.
Just before our Pre-Town Meeting closes, a follow up question about our “Geographically Isolated” and “Structurally Isolated” school comes from the floor:
“If we find that it doesn’t work for our town, can we go back to what we had?”
The response sends a chill through my body, particularly this year:
“Once you take it apart, you can’t build it again.”
I think my parents suggested fiddle because there was this insane teacher named David Tasgal. He was kind of nuts, but he had an amazing ability to communicate music to little kids…. He was definitely an inspiring figure for me, not only musically, but also because he had this slightly cracked sense of humor.
He had this deadpan vibe that I thought was hilarious. ~Sam Amidon
play |plā| verb
engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose
• amuse oneself by engaging in imaginative pretense
• (play with) fiddle or tamper with: has somebody been playing with the thermostat?
I never thought about David’s age before, but if I had to guess, I’d say early sixties, which is why I dismissed the news that a 72-year-old man was struck on his bike on Bernardston Road in Greenfield, Monday afternoon.
David has been a part of the Marlboro Elementary School family in Southern Vermont for over a decade. His quirky, fun-loving approach makes this classical instrument accessible to all kinds of kids; and his death this week leaves our school family aching–especially as I imagine all those young children–with their tiny violins–waiting for him on Tuesday morning, ready to play (and I mean play.)
A list of David’s original compositions for the violin lends insight into his heart for children, while revealing his characteristic playfulness:
Marching to the Practice Room, The Tough Cat,
Goldfish Variations, Cha Cha Cha Cha, The Rabbi Dances with his Dog
and Bingo Suddenly Meets Mozart
My youngest son, Aidan, who studied with David from 1st through 8th grade, believes that one tune in particular had a handful of title changes over the years: Song for a Pet Who Died became Song for a Pet Who Ran Away became Sad Clown Fish became The Lonely Fiddle–all in attempt to make the children less sad.
Aidan also marveled that David could compose a tune such as The Duck Song–from a single note–and still make it “interesting and satisfying.” As a parent and a teacher, it was particularly pleasurable to see so many children, of all ages and skill levels, play together, and David’s unique approach made that possible.
David swept in for school events wild hair and wild shirts, and then began without fanfare, keeping the focus on the violinists, while enthusiastically accompanying them on piano. In fact, it’s at the piano that I remember David best. I loved the mornings when he’d arrive a bit early for lessons–at the tail end of All School Sing–and then slide his way onto the piano to add pizzaz to our last song.
On the evening after David died, I entered the school auditorium to teach yoga, but felt his presence so strongly that I could barely begin my class. To soothe myself before I left, I placed a small light on the piano to sit shiva with David’s spirit through the night.
We lit a candle at home that night too. Our older son, Lloyd, 20, who was in David’s very first class at Marlboro recalls how perfectly David tailored lessons to engage him and his more sports-oriented peers: “At one point, he gave us percentages so that we’d compete with each other,” Lloyd recalled.
Aidan was uncharacteristically quiet as his brother reminisced. Aidan graduated from Marlboro in June, and on that night he tucked a small gift aside–a bar of soap–his favorite because of its crazy colors and textures and how he gets to slice it to size–and especially because of its name: Dragon’s Blood. He thought David would like it too.
Aidan gave himself whole-heartedly to music during his years at Marlboro and has continued on at the highschool just as enthusiastically; while Lloyd just about gave up on the violin in Junior High. At the time, I drafted a parenting piece entitled: The Violin Wars, which alas, I never finished, until now…
The Violin Wars
My 13 year old sits slumped behind me in an arm chair in my office while I blare Dave Matthews, Ants Marching and then Last of the Mohicans–two “cool” songs with engaging strings that I hope will entice him to play along and reignite his lost passion.
The violin sits on his lap.
Things between them almost ended–abruptly–two weeks ago, though truthfully, they’ve been on the rocks since Lloyd was about 10–the time of the First Violin War–an apocalyptic parenting moment–complete with yelling and threats and stalemates–followed by the stark realization that I had crossed the beginning of the end of my role as commander and chief.
But a deeper truth is that Lloyd and the violin have been together forever, into their ninth year, and they courted even before that. As a toddler, Lloyd offered rapt attention to any string music he came across–live or recorded–contemporary or classical; and as a preschooler, he brought the same toy guitar to show and tell every Friday, while truly longing for a violin.
When we finally found a toy one to match the guitar, he was at first delighted, and then quickly disappointed with its inferior sound. He insisted he needed a “real one,” but as neither my husband or I were musicians, we didn’t know how to go about that for such a small child.
One afternoon, while walking down Elliot Street in Brattleboro, however, Lloyd pointed to a sign above the sidewalk–with a picture of a violin–and said: “Let’s go up there.”
We climbed a set of steep stairs, and entered a small shop where violins–of all sizes–hung from the ceiling. I felt like a fish out of water, but Lloyd looked up in wonder. Reverent. Riveted.
The shopkeeper came around the counter, took out a tape measure from his apron, and sized Lloyd up.
“Come back in a year,” he said.
Lloyd was devastated.
But when he entered kindergarten that fall, something magical happened: the school instituted a pilot program with the Brattleboro Music Center and Lloyd came home carrying a case with the real thing inside.
Despite his passion, Lloyd was not a virtuoso, but he stuck with it, year after year, and so did the school–deciding to continue the program until the fourth grade when children could begin traditional band instruments.
Many of Lloyd’s peers gave up the violin in favor of a flute or a trumpet or a drum, but not Lloyd; he kept playing until he was the only one holding a violin, which is where we find him now, at the beginning of 8th grade:
“I want to quit,” he says. “I can’t take it anymore.”
But he isn’t resolute. He is miserable. Torn. Angry and frustrated. Feeling betrayed, by himself.
I’m not sure how to help.
Our tempers mount.
With so much at stake, I feel the SecondViolin War coming on, but now I am a wiser or at least less foolish parent, so I suggest we reach out for support. I quickly compose an email to dispatch to family members–cousins and grandparents, great aunts and uncles, and regular ones too.
The replies flood in.
Do what you want, says one. You can always pick it up again.
Stick with it, says another. You’ll never pick it up again.
With each response, Lloyd feels tossed about–first one way; then the other. In the end he does. Stick with it. But half-heartedly. And once in high school, he leaves it behind, while watching his little brother, 5 years his junior, follow in his footsteps, sticking with violin, through the 8th grade, but so whole-heartedly that it inspires Lloyd to pick it up now and again… “just to see how it sounds” (and to see if he can still play better than his younger brother.)
Lloyd is grown now, a man of 20, and to our surprise, he recently called to say: “I think I want to start playing again.”
We don’t know what will come of this spark, but it warms us, particularly in its timing.
We attended David’s funeral together. No one even balked at the suggestion. Not Lloyd who was leaving that afternoon on the train for Burlington. Not my husband who had to arrange coverage for his classes. Not Aidan who was… well… 15.
The music was exquisite. The service solemn and playful and irreverent. At one point, a handful of children came forward to play some of David’s pieces for beginners. I nudged a reluctant Aidan to join them. He sat firm in his seat until he saw another same-age peer, across the room, move toward the altar.
Aidan swiftly brought the violin case, hidden between his knees, to his lap, and as he did, I felt the collective attention of all those who shared the private mourning space around us.
We watched transfixed as he opened each latch, and carefully lifted the instrument from its bed, and then there was a palpable embrace as he approached the altar on our behalf.
When the children began the last of three pieces, we were invited to hum along, after which we accidentally broke into the applause we had held inside for the soloists who had so stirred us earlier.
As Aidan rejoined us at the end of the pew, I turned toward him to mouth the words: “Thank you,” just as he locked eyes with mine, nodding his head, offering the same, not once or twice, but a handful of times: “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…”
The sky was a stunning blue as we exited the temple doors that afternoon; the surrounding streets lined with the cars of those who came to grieve David’s departure–students, colleagues, family, friends.
As we walked, Lloyd spoke to me of the music–of the viola solos–played by loved ones.
“I could barely breathe,” he said. “I couldn’t remember how.”
To find out more about David’s approach to teaching violin, or to purchase his curriculum, see his website: Strings Fun and Easy.
Field Research has been the cornerstone of this little school in the Green Mountains of Vermont–at the grassroots level within its small flourishing community–to the State Capital and the Nation’s Capital–to the Atlantic coast and the shores of NYC–and finally to Central America–in its capstone work for graduating students.
This spring research trip for 22 Junior High studentscenters around the question: Vermont to Monteverde, How are we connected? To unravel this question, 7th and 8th graders have been studying international trade—focusing on coffee and tourism—and the influence of human behavior on local and global ecologies.
“Schools have always tried to foster responsible citizenry, and more than ever we must consider what it means to be a global citizen,” says Principal Francie Marbury. “Our middle school curriculum fosters global awareness through culture, economics and ecology. Students learn learn basic skills, and prepare for their the future in the best way—by being actively engaged in real world problems and solutions.”
Classroom teachers Rachel Boyden and Tim Hayes outline the educational components of the field research trip to Costa Rica:
Practice of Democracy: Students make real decisions about the classroom, fundraising, and the parts of the curriculum using a government they chose.
Spanish Language: Nothing makes a foreign language more relevant than traveling. While in Central America we will be visiting schools and using the language skills we have been developing in class to get to know the people and places of Costa Rica.
Social Studies: From an understanding of world trade from the Silk Road to the Atlantic Slave Trade, we look specifically at the economics of the coffee & tourist trade as they connect the United States and Costa Rica.
Ecology: Due to global warming and deforestation in the lowlands, the montane cloud forests of Monteverde are particularly vulnerable with numerous rare species threatened. This illuminates the unintended impact of human activity on ecosystems–a theme for ecology our classes.
For many students, this will be their first time out of the country or their first time on a plane. Some will credit this journey for shaping a lifetime of world travel and study. Others will mark it as their single trip abroad. ALL will return home with a broader perspective of the world in which they live and a greater sense of what it means to be a global citizen.
With 2 months left to go, the students have already raised close to 75% of the overall costs, enabling all students to participate regardless of ability to pay.
There are those educationalists who believe that if we can just get the curriculum and the testing right, kids will learn.
(David Holzapfel, in remarks to the Vermont Humanities Council)
David Holzapfel has been a Windham County educator for the past 25 years. This fall his work with students was recognized by the Vermont Humanities Council (VHC) when they awarded him the Victor R. Swenson Humanities Educator Award in a ceremony that took place on the campus of the University of Vermont in November.
“The Vermont Humanities Council is pleased to honor Vermont teachers in the humanities who challenge and inspire their students, who open up for them the world of ideas, and who help them know the joy of learning,” said VHC Executive Director Peter Gilbert. “In honoring one such teacher each year, we pay tribute to all the fine teachers in Vermont, and we honor the important work they do.”
The award, which comes with $1,000 prize, is given annually to a Vermont educator in grades 6 through 12 who exemplifies excellence in the teaching of the humanities.
David’s particular brand of teaching excellence was the focus of a recent interview entitled, “Not teaching to the test,” by Sarah Buckingham of The Commons in Brattleboro. She wrote:
David Holzapfel’s fifth- and sixth-grade classroom feels more like a small liberal arts college than it does a public elementary school.
The multi-age, multi-subject classrooms at Marlboro Elementary School embrace an interdisciplinary and experiential approach to education, influenced by the nearby Marlboro College.
Holzapfel says teachers there are given the freedom to teach the things that excite them: “That’s where learning becomes infectious for kids and that’s really what we want,” he says.
In this way, Holzapfel is being celebrated for doing things differently.
David admitted to Sarah that he didn’t pay attention to things like the Vermont Standards and the Common Core “and all those sorts of things.” In fact, one of his colleagues joked that he was being awarded for “doing what you’re not supposed to be doing.”
In David’s remarks at the annual VHC conference, attended by 300+ educators across the state, he addressed the policy initiatives that interfere with teaching and learning:
There are those educationalists who believe that if we can just get the curriculum and the testing right, kids will learn. Every six to eight years since I began teaching, a new educational initiative has been handed down and touted as the solution: The Public School Approval Standards, The Vermont State Standards, No Child Left Behind, Adequate Yearly Progress, Race to the Top and currently the Common Core Standards.
“The problem is,” says David, “If the curriculum standard in place (eg State Standards, No Child, etc) is so spot-on then why do we continue to change to some other grand scheme every few years? And then the new plan is touted as being the solution to the problem of why kids aren’t learning. But it’s not the curriculum, it’s not the test that drives kids to learn. It’s meaningful work, challenging work entered into with enthusiasm.”
In a recommendation letter to the Council, Principal Francie Marbury highlighted David’s passion for challenge:
David believes that students need rich content to sink their teeth into. His search for the perfect book and the most engaging activity is relentless. Long before the Common Core, David understood that the literature he chose for his students needs to be complex and challenging and that, with the proper support, they would rise to the challenge.
“‘Challenging work’ does not mean that anything goes and that anything a student does is OK,” says David. “The teacher’s job is to instruct and guide individual students to learn to be learners and to be able to communicate their understandings. That means we must study and practice the writing conventions, math facts, critical reading and thinking skills; those tools which will enable us to learn about cellular biology or how an engine works or sustainable farming practices.”
“But teaching isn’t about force-feeding widgets with information which is what the curriculum-testing model promotes,” he says. “Too often I feel that educationalists don’t really trust that kids want to be learners.”
In the article, “Not teaching to the test,” reporter Sarah Buckingham addressed David’s approach:
(It’s) not to say Holzapfel’s curriculum doesn’t meet those standards: he’s just come up with his own way of satisfying them.
Each year his students read the epic poem “The Odyssey” and memorize the first stanza of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” in the original Middle English.
“Those kinds of things don’t show up on [standardized] tests,” Holzapfel says, “and yet they’re the things kids remember and the things kids value. It becomes a part of them.”
Holzapfel says he takes issue with guidelines and standards that compartmentalize subject matter.
‘”When we’re studying astronomy we’re also reading Ray Bradbury. Everything is related to everything else. And the strictures of, ‘Well we can’t talk about math or we can’t talk about science while we’re looking at art’ is just silly. If you present the same material in as many different ways and through as many different lenses as possible then you just increase the chances of creating understanding.”
Susan Calabria, of the Brattleboro Musuem and Art Center (BMAC), was among those who recommended David to the Vermont Humanities Council for the award. As the Education Curator of BMAC she has worked closely with David and his students over the years. Susan wrote:
My first introduction to David was in my early years at the Museum (c. 2002-2003) when he participated in a VTS (Visual Thinking Strategies) symposium at BMAC. His excellent presentation – which I saw him do in his classroom with students in ensuing years – was on extending VTS to support a geometry lesson. He used a projected imagine of an M.C. Esher print as a starting point…
David was one of the first in our area to incorporate the VTS method into math, literacy, history, and science projects.
Susan spoke at length about how David took VTS into field studies with his students, combining art and science. David emphasized the role of field research in his remarks to the Council:
Field research is one of the active muscles of the humanities and is a cornerstone of learning through all the grades at the Marlboro School. Successful field research takes time and dedication, a tremendous amount of planning, support and trust. And did I mention time? The temporal aspects of learning seem rarely considered by policy-makers and yet we all know that those topics to which we dedicate time are the topics we truly know; this is immersive learning. But, to quote educator Ron Berger, “Today’s pressure is toward surface coverage of content to prepare for high stakes tests. It’s growing more difficult to give students the opportunities to use their minds well as critical thinkers, to work as historians, scientists, mathematicians and writers.” There is simply not enough time for engaged learning within our curriculum-tweaking standardized test-taking mindset. Is it any wonder that too many students seem disconnected and are bored in school?
In a press release announcing David as the recipient of the Humanities award, VHC celebrated his work in the field:
The learning journey of Holzapfel’s students goes well beyond the classroom. A major component of his sixth-grade classes is a week-long field research trip to New York City, the cornerstone of a year of study that includes a focus on immigration to America as well as students’ independent study projects. Students visit Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum and take part in other activities that illustrate the immigrant experience. Holzapfel carefully prepares students for their independent studies, which culminate in New York with students interviewing people such as a member of the New York Stock Exchange, Central Park’s landscape designer, a curator at the Museum of Natural History, a stage manager at the New York City Ballet, as well as local pedestrians.
“The NYC individual field work is demanding,” David admits. “Students and staff work through topic selection, pre-field work research, field work involving interviews of professionals in the study area, investigation of primary resources, collation of field notes and integration of that information with the classroom research, a final report, the generation and performance of a multi-media presentation with no established time-frame and finally, a parent-community presentation of approximately 7 minutes. That’s complex. An inch wide and a mile deep. But it’s worth the effort because when it’s done thoroughly, it engenders a true sense of accomplishment: Kids are proud of the work they’ve done because it was complex, multi-directional, and deep; and teachers are proud because they’ve led students through an authentic experience.”
David noted the challenges and rewards of field work in his remarks to the Council:
Field research is hard work for educators in the current climate. But I believe that for all those involved in direct education, students and teachers alike, nothing builds a positive sense of purpose and confidence better than the accomplishment of a difficult task done well.
Carol Berner, who serves on the faculty at Smith and Antioch colleges in the education department, recently had the opportunity to work closely with David in her role as Regional Coordinator of River of Words. She joined David and his students at Hogback Mountain:
On this first encounter I was struck by the intensity with which David’s students were immersed in their nature study. They were proud of their plots, skilled at observing, respectful of each other and nature, familiar with the names of particular mosses and trees and welcoming of a newcomer.
Through sustained focus on a particular place, over time, and with expert guidance students discover that learning takes time and happens in community – not only the community of the classroom but also of the forest. These 5th-6th graders entered into a relationship with their study plot that taught them how to observe, imagine and articulate interconnectedness with the world. We all learned how to “think deeper” and “look at things in different ways.” The magic of this kind of learning is captured in one boy’s concluding reflection: “And it was peaceful.”
A sense of belonging lies at the heart of David’s approach to teaching and learning.
In his remarks to the Council, David touched on the importance of place-based education:
In addition to deep, active learning, field work instills in students a sense of place. Meaningful interactions with a location and a subject matter and work within a community engenders in all of us a sense of belonging, of connection.
In her recommendation to the Council, Principal Francie Marbury highlighted David’s community history project, Work in Marlboro:
Over the course of several years David’s students have interviewed Marlborians who live and work in town. These interviews are archived digitally with the Marlboro Historical Society and create a rich record of this eclectic and colorful community. Interviewees have included the road foreman, artists, college professors, builders, bus drivers, and town officers.
“Teachers like Swenson Award Educator David Holzapfel are our civic heroes,” writes VHC Executive Director Peter Gilbert. “The influence of such teachers on their students never ends,”
Principal Francie Marbury echoed this praise in her recommendation with this quintessential anecdote about the lasting effect David has on his students:
Imagine – school is out for the day and all is quiet as a lanky adolescent walks purposefully down the hall and up the stairs to David’s room. He’s come to check in, fill David in on high school life, and reminisce about his 6th grade field research trip to New York City.
David’s high expectations for his students, his wry sense of humor, and his passion for the material he teaches result in his being the teacher students remember long after they leave Marlboro School.
In his remarks to the Council, David credited his Alma Mater, Marlboro College, for teaching him “that sustained focus in an area of study broadens and deepens the pleasures of learning.”
It is this dedication and delight I strive to impart to my students.
(Note: David Holzpfel began teaching a Marlboro Elementary School in 1990. He’ll retire this June after 25 years in the classroom.)
(this article was first published in The Cracker Barrel, Deerfield Valley News Winter/Spring edition, 2015. Thank you to the The Commons, Brattleboro, VT for sharing photo/text.)
Twenty years later and Vermont is still giving me warm fuzzies for things I didn’t even know I cared about–like politics or energy or something called a “heifer.”
Last month at the River Garden was just one of those times. Students from area schools gathered for a mid-point check in on their science projects for the upcoming Neighborhood Energy Science Fair, sponsored by the Strolling of the Heifers.*
Executive Director Orly Munzing, who founded the Strolling, was on site to address the participants as they prepared to have their work reviewed by science professionals. She told these young innovators that their passion for energy science would help define the future of this planet, and as such, they would serve as ambassadors–educating others, even adults, especially adults. (I got chills.)
I’m only just beginning to comprehend the full scope of what has transformed (in my mind) from a novelty parade into a movement, experienced closeup through my children, who insisted on going to that first “cow” parade in 2002.
A decade later, one of those children is among those enthusiastically preparing an entry for the science fair.
My son Aidan, 13, has been working with peers, Leander, 12, and Cyrus, 10, on a project they began shaping last winter at their elementary school. After School Program Coordinator Emily Wagner worked with regional educator Lisa Holderness from the Vermont Energy Education Program*(VEEP) to engage students who were interested in energy science and who might like participate in the Strolling’s Neighborhood Science Fair which they were helping to sponsor.
It’s exactly these kind of opportunities that create the warm fuzzy feeling that Vermont so freely offers; and its the conscious connections behind those fuzzies, so richly interwoven, that make it hard to know who to thank for making Vermont such a caring place.
But I’d like to try, simply as an exercise in appreciation and recognition:
Was it the Strolling of the Heifer Parade, and the accompanying events that ignited an interest in sustainable energy for my son? Was it the after school science programs, partially funded by the VT Agency of Education, that flamed that interest? Was it his teachers at Marlboro Elementary who, year after year, emphasized experiential, place-based education, capped by independent research, followed by field study abroad and at the Nation’s Capitol with opportunities for social activism? Was it the accessibility of government officials, like VT Governor Peter Shumlin and Senator Bernie Sanders, which so empowered him? Was it our neighbor, Gary MacArthur, who installed our hot water solar panels? Or was it my husband and our community who raised the energy-efficient home in which we live? Was it our grocery store–The Brattleboro Food Co-op whose mission includes outreach and education–connecting food, people and place? Was it the unique community of Brattleboro itself, known for its activism, art and engagement and the enthusiastic support of that by local businesses? Or was it something even simpler, like the hatching project in my son’s kindergarten classroom, or the visit to the local farm in first and second grade, or the creation of the school garden in third and fourth grade–each supported along the way by educational grants from the Strolling of the Heifers?
You’ll have to ask Aidan and his friends, Leander and Cyrus, why they devoted week after week of their free time to a project that even their parents don’t fully comprehend. You’ll find them Saturday, after the parade, on the Brattleboro Commons, as part of the Slow Living Expo, at the center of the Home Energy Village where the first annual Neighborhood Energy Science Fair takes place!
*Now in its second decade,the Strolling of the Heifershas grown from a small-town parade (of cows) into a regional movement with year-round programs and events. The Stroll has expanded its horizons to include not only sustainable agriculture and food systems, but other aspects of local economic sustainability, highlighted by a three-day Slow Living Summitwhich opens tomorrow, June 4th, 2014. The parade and fairgrounds take place on Saturday, June 7th.
VEEP (Vermont Energy Education Program) is one of the sponsors of The Neighborhood Science Fair. Founded in 1979, their mission is to cultivate energy literacy among Vermont students. “Students who understand energy and how it works will make more informed choices about energy use and inspire others to do the same.”
An Energy Literate Person Knows:
What our energy resources are and how we utilize them
The many ways electricity is made and the advantages and disadvantages of each
Why it is important to use energy wisely and how to do so
How government policy effects our energy choices
An Energy Literate Person Chooses:
To use energy wisely, recognizing the impact of their choice on climate change, our environment and our economy
To share their knowledge and inspire action and learning in others
To schedule a free in-class presentation, or learn more about VEEP’s standards-based curricula and ‘hands-on’ science methods, visit www.veep.org.
Like the Little Drummer Boy, I’ve humbly asked, “What can I give in the face of so much devastation?”
But the best I’ve had to offer is my presence; which pales in comparison to those with hammers and shovels and know-how.
Physical labor has never been my passion. But I do like to move. To music. And I could offer that to you. And it would feel good. And you would leave restored–body, mind & soul.
The first class of my fall YogaDance session at Marlboro Elementary School on the miraculously restored Route 9 is Thursday, September 29 at 5:30 pm; and I’d like to offer that class as a gift to all of you.
There’s nothing you need to bring, except for maybe a water bottle. You can dance barefoot or with clean, non-marking soles (like sneakers), and you can dress comfortably with layers to peel off as needed. You don’t need any skill or experience, and basically the music does what it needs to do– inside of each one of us.
What I bring as the instructor (besides a rocking sound system) is what I offer in my writing–deep presence to what is alive in me and what is alive around me–in you. In this way, I create a soundtrack that is always eclectic, bold, soulful, soothing–and just plain fun.
I begin with something quiet, maybe some classical cello, and then move into blues or jazz or funk before opening into something really powerful–rap, world, rock; and then shifting again– into the sweet sounds of the heart, before really ramping it up with something energizing and FUN.
As the hour ends, the music turns inward again–with a ballad perhaps; and then we sink into final relaxation with notes that transcend thought.
This is what I’d like to offer you. To all those touched by flood, murder, and all manner of trials.
If you’d like to come just show up–or drop me a line with questions or anything else that comes to mind. (See form below.)
FREE Community YogaDance Class
Thursday, September 29, 2011 at 5:30 pm
Marlboro Elementary School gymnasium, Route 9, Marlboro, VT.
Bring a water bottle, dress comfortably to move, dance barefoot or with clean sneaks.
Absolutely no charge. This is my little drummer boy gift to you. Given freely. In the hope that it will serve all who come.
Pass it on. The space is expansive, and so is the heart of the people in Vermont.
con-sol-i-date, verb ORIGIN early 16th cent. (in the sense [combine into a single whole] ): from Latin consolidare, from con- ‘together’ + solidare ‘make firm’ (from solidus ‘solid’ ).
Maybe lots of Superintendents show up at schools dressed like Abe Lincoln in February and maybe some even attempt to visit every classroom in every school in their entire district. Or maybe that’s just Vermont.
Or maybe that’s just Steven John.
Before Dr. John became our district Superintendent, he was a Principal, and before that, he was a classroom teacher, and in between–he parented, sang in a chorus, acted as Town Meeting Moderator–and even worked as an “extra” in the film, Funny Farm.
It’s funny to have a Superintendent’s face in one of your favorite movies about moving to Vermont, but it’s also nice to know that he lives here and knows the people and has worked in the trenches before making vital decisions on behalf of the rest of us.
Last week Steven attended All School Sing at our elementary building in Marlboro, Vermont. This time he came as himself. But he still had an opportunity to wear another hat, when he was asked to lead one section of the room in a round of Nursery Rhymes.
His tune was Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
Afterward, he joined our school Principal, Francie Marbury, at the monthly coffee chat with parents–and we had a chance to hear about education from the district perspective–about how each school was like a row boat filling with water and how each Principal was bailing as quickly as she could to keep the boat from sinking.
Steven pointed out that although each school strongly held onto their individual identity–eg. the way we do things in Marlboro — if you took a look at these same schools from a bit of a distance, you’d see that they were pretty much the same.
I bristled as this lack of distinction. Having taught at some of the schools Steven mentioned, I was quick to point out the inaccuracy. But Dr. John went on to counter that all these schools have high caliber teachers and that they all shared the beloved tradition of All School Sing for example.
Sure all schools in Vermont do All School Sing, I thought, but not like us: Do other schools have a Lost & Found Fashion Show complete with a runway and soundtrack? Do they waltz to Boyz to Men on Valentines Day and contra dance to Aretha? Do kids tell jokes? Do teachers laugh and sigh just as hard as everyone else? Does Spider Man (aka. the board president) appear on the climbing wall?
The meeting ended with a stalemate between the Superintendent and me. But I kept on thinking…
Maybe from a hundred feet up these small schools look the same, but in the day to day, in the moments that matter, our school has that “Je ne sais quoi,” and that makes all the difference.
Perhaps the difference in our perceptions has to do with the difference in what we’re after. Dr. John has to balance the budget, answer to the state, make our district make sense on paper.
As a parent, the school has to make sense to my child and my family. We intentionally relocated to Marlboro for this particular style of education. We chose it for that immeasurable spark that I saw among students and teachers.
It’s the same spark that I saw this morning at this week’s “Sing” on top of a table of a hundred lit cupcakes that were rolled out to fete teacher David Holzapfel’s 60th birthday.
The whole room was taken by surprise, and they all sang in a way that showed that they really meant it–and that they all knew that David’s wife Michelle was not only a terrifying Ghoul on Halloween, but a killer baker.
“This is a beautiful community,” I thought as I looked around at a room of beaming faces… Any distinction between teacher and student had melted away as the whole room stood to applaud David’s efforts to blow out an extraordinary number of candles with a bike pump that failed mid-way.
“Where’s Steven John now?” I quipped to the Principal on my way out. “You don’t see that in Dover!”