Free Birds

HIgh-pitched chattering beckons through the thick glass panes in the bedroom.

Will this be a new alarm clock?

 

“Whoosh, whoosh,” followed by a trio of chirps, echoes from the lining of the chimney.

Will they enter the house uninvited?

 

And then, their worst offense yet…

Unimpressive white stipple dots the driver’s seat of her unfortunate car with the window down.

Why couldn’t they hold it?

 

In spring, the birds are free.

Will there be an end to their antics?

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No Butts About It

If you must smoke, please be sure to keep your butts to yourself.

Simply stating the obvious that smoking is harmful to your health seems superficial, but discarding used butts poses risks to others and needs to be given more attention.

When not properly disposed of, cigarette butts are classified as litter and essentially illegal to drop and go.  Seemingly oblivious to the legal ramifications, smokers really need to consider their habit’s footprint.  All of the chemicals that they knowingly put into their bodies are now left on the ground to be soaked into the earth and possibly ingested by ground- travelling animals.  What makes smokers think it’s OK to rid themselves of their butts however and wherever they choose?

After participating in a town-wide cleanup on Saturday, I was horrified at the number of used cigarette butts that were lining the side of the road like confetti.

Carrying a heavy duty garbage bag and donning latex gloves, I set out with members of the community to beautify our town.  We signed up for Pleasant Street from South to Crescent.  Right from the onset, my partner and I decided that we’d pick up everything we saw – including cigarette butts.  Little did we know that an hour into our route, we hadn’t made much progress distance-wise due to the sheer volume of butts in centralized areas.

We began to wonder:

  1. Do staff at the nursing home take breaks in the same spot each day, multiple times each day and discard their butts at the end of the path?
  2. Do people empty their car ashtrays at the side of the road when the traffic slows to a crawl?
  3. Do people follow the same routine and throw their butts out the window regularly in identical locations?

While the answers to these questions are largely unknown, I can tell you that there is a palpable epidemic of unwanted cigarette butts lining the entry into our town. Butt by butt, we plan to turn this around.

 

 

Double Trouble

At 9:37AM, a text lights up on my phone.

Can you pick me up?

Immediately, I send a response.

Yes on way.

Throwing on my rubber-bottomed fuzzy slippers and a fleece, I trek over to the high school to pick up our son after a Saturday morning track practice.

As I approach, there are many other cars lining up, playing the waiting game just like me.  I find a spot near the gym entrance that doubles as an exit, and sit tight.

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a blob of white getting uncomfortably close to my car through the side-view mirror.  As the object comes into focus, there is an element of familiarity that washes over me.  I hear his voice before I confirm that my husband is behind the wheel of the car now stopped right alongside mine, the sides almost touching.

He rolls down his window and utters, “Seriously?”

It appears that at 9:37AM, an identical text was sent separately to my husband.

Can you pick me up?

Uh oh.

 

 

Gardening Super Powers

Imagine Mr. Schu’s magical book-giving porch,

Or Kate DiCamillo’s super power Ulysses 3,000 vacuum cleaner.

These are the two images that immediately came to mind while watching the distribution of mulch at the bank in our town’s center late in the afternoon.

Super powerful gifts.

Walking by the impeccably manicured flower beds, I’ve experienced a serious case of garden envy with almost every passing.

Never once did I consider how the landscaping was executed.

Until today.

Everything changed when I heard the loud motor running even before the bank came into sight.

I could smell the intoxicating freshly chopped wood that was starting to cover the matted down dirt leftover from the warmer days before winter lashed down on us.

Then I noticed it.

There was an incredibly long, thick hose spitting out product at a ridiculously fast speed, completely at the mercy of its operator.

My glimpse of this activity felt like a huge secret was revealed.  I will not pretend to be able to compete with this machinery for speed and accuracy of placement.

For just a wistful moment, I wondered what this mulch-spitting hose could do in my yard.

 

 

Breakout

With just a couple of weeks left until school is out for the summer, Nora Tucker looks forward to all of the things she enjoys most about Wolf Creek in the summer like daily swimming and incessant popsicle eating.  Hopes of a normal summer are thwarted when two inmates escape from the maximum security prison in Wolf Creek, which is at the center of this small Adirondack town’s livelihood.

The story moves forward through a series of letters, poems, voice recordings, text messages, press clips, and comics, which are all part of the Wolf Creek Time Capsule Project.  Through these modes of communication, the reader is able to feel the uneasiness of the community with the two men on the run from the perspectives of three seventh grade girls – Nora, her best friend Lizzie, and a newcomer, Elidee.  Gym classes are moved indoors, helicopters are running and shining lights at all hours of the days, previously unlocked doors are being locked tight, and spontaneous outings are all but eliminated from the daily schedule.

As the days pass and the case remains open, the people of Wolf Creek are on edge and become full of fear.  Nora and her friends notice that fear does not always bring out the best in people, even those whom they have known their entire lives.  Will the inmates ever be found, and if so, will life in Wolf Creek return to normal or will it be forever changed?

This fast-paced thrill ride of a story will definitely encourage a thoughtful reflection on how we greet new people and whether we really make them feel welcome in our communities, especially in the midst of crisis and adversity.  Look for Kate Messner’s Breakout on June 5, 2018.

 

Power Forward

I put this book into the hands of one of my fourth grade boys to read before me over a long weekend.  When we returned to school, he had finished the book and offered a book talk during the share portion of Morning Meeting.  I will paraphrase his review below.

I can’t really say his name, I think it’s Zayd (tries a bunch of different pronunciations before settling on the one he likes best.)  He really likes basketball, but he’s kind of small (like me) and he wants to be on the best team.  His parents make him play the violin which he doesn’t really want to do, but he plays it anyways.

So his friend Adam plays basketball, too, but he’s on the better team, the Gold team, and Zayd really wants to play with Adam and make the Gold team.  He works really hard and tries to show the coach what he can do in practices.  Tryouts are coming up and that makes Zayd a little nervous.  He ends up skipping violin lessons to play basketball with his friends at the same time, but his mom catches him and he gets in big trouble.  His parents kind of ground him from playing basketball, watching it, talking about it, pretty much don’t allow him to do anything related to basketball.

His uncle tells him he will get him the pair of sneakers he really wants if he makes the team.  But now, he may not even get the chance to try out.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens at the end!

This first book in a wonderful new chapter book series by Hena Khan is available in May, 2018.

The Rhino in Right Field

Twelve-year-old Nick Spirakis is a boy who dreams of making a name for himself.  He has the hardworking part down pat, as he’s being raised in his family’s hat and shoe business.  In fact, every Saturday, he works alongside his Greek immigrant father in the shop as a young apprentice.  Secretly, he wishes he were playing baseball with his friends instead.

Any chance Nick gets, he is at the local zoo, which doubles as a ball field for Nick and his friends to play their own smash up of baseball.  This may seem odd, and indeed it is, especially due to the fact that Tank, a 2,580 pound African Hook Lipped Rhinoceros, lives on the other side of the right-field fence!  When Nick’s nemesis, Pete, hits the ball toward Tank’s pen and Nick misses the catch, he quickly climbs the fence in a fight or flight response, retrieves the ball, and resumes play.  No wonder catching fly balls has Nick petrified!

Life as Nick knows it in his late 1940’s home is about to change as Mr. Daggett, the new owner of the city’s minor league baseball team, rolls in with lots of new ideas to increase attendance at the ballpark.  Maybe his dreams can come true!  Nick and his friends enter a batboy contest to be a Mudpuppy for the day, though this entry means that Nick has to forge an adult signature and lie to his family about his whereabouts for the involved Saturdays.

With the help of his good-natured best friend, Ace, and a new talented ball-throwing friend, Penny, Nick tries to summon the courage he needs to meet the challenge.  Will the friends make the final cut and will Nick be able to keep his plan under his parents’ radar?  Through a line-up of well-developed characters, Stacy DeKeyser delivers a witty, slice of historical fiction filled with references to radio announcers, frozen custard, and hard-working family values that will keep you laughing long after the final page.

This Is Just to Say

This Is Just to Say

 

I have found

a baby bunny

sleeping in

the backyard

 

and which

you were probably

hoping

to see hop through the gardens

 

Forgive me

I thought it was a toy

so soft

and so lightweight

 

Maybe there are others?
by: Mrs. Palmer (Leo’s perspective)

Fourth of July

When I was young in Bristol, I would count the days until the Fourth of July.  You see, this day was the mother of family gatherings.

“I see Aunt Cathy and Uncle Joe…and Keri, Michael, and Steven, too!” I would shout with excitement. 

We were ready to celebrate the oldest parade in the country!

Stepping inside the back door, I could smell the oil cooking the doughboys on my grandmother’s stove before even entering the kitchen.

“Doughboys are ready!” my grandmother would announce to my five younger siblings and me.

In minutes, my fingers would be covered in the powdered sugar I generously sprinkled atop a cooled treat.  No Fourth of July was complete without Gram’s doughboys.

With full bellies, clad in patriotic clothing, and the promise of seeing some stellar floats, we made our way to the family blanket to watch the parade curbside.

250 degrees

The Next Generation Science Standards have served as a foundation for an interpretation and adaptation of Science, Technology, and Engineering standards in the state of Massachusetts.

What does this mean for a fourth grade teacher in Stoughton?  A new curriculum and some brand new science explorations through experimentation.  Luckily, we’ve been slowly rolling out the new standards over the last couple of years, so we aren’t totally in the dark.

However, when preparing a new experiment for heat energy, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that a student would actually think that a cup of hot water actually registered 250 degrees Fahrenheit!

Note to self:  students should practice reading thermometers prior to conducting this experiment.  We have already made this note for next year and have hope that the experiment will be smoother with more accurate temperature readings.