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School Notes: Learning Generosity at the Westshire School

  • From left, Lindsey O’Hearn and Charlotte Ditchoes put cans of tuna on the shelf. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    From left, Lindsey O’Hearn and Charlotte Ditchoes put cans of tuna on the shelf. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Preschool students from the Westshire Elementary school in West Fairlee return to school after delivering contributions to the food shelf in town. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Preschool students from the Westshire Elementary school in West Fairlee return to school after delivering contributions to the food shelf in town. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Preschool students from the Westshire Elementary School carry food on Friday to donate to the food shelf. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Preschool students from the Westshire Elementary School carry food on Friday to donate to the food shelf. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • West Fairlee Community Food Shelf director Don Phoenix talks to the Westshire Elementary preschool students during their visit. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    West Fairlee Community Food Shelf director Don Phoenix talks to the Westshire Elementary preschool students during their visit. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • From left, Lindsey O’Hearn and Charlotte Ditchoes put cans of tuna on the shelf. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Preschool students from the Westshire Elementary school in West Fairlee return to school after delivering contributions to the food shelf in town. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Preschool students from the Westshire Elementary School carry food on Friday to donate to the food shelf. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • West Fairlee Community Food Shelf director Don Phoenix talks to the Westshire Elementary preschool students during their visit. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Bundled in warm jackets and fleece hats, 13 students lined up behind a wagon bearing boxes of Cheerios, macaroni and peanut butter on the Westshire Elementary School playground on Friday. Clint Hill, a parent of a student in the Rivendell Early Childhood Program at Westshire, stood ready to pull the wagon, as Kathleen Foltz addressed her class.

“We’re going to go over and see Mr. Phoenix,” Foltz said. “And when Mr. Phoenix talks to us, we’re going to listen politely, right?”

Mr. Phoenix is Don Phoenix, director of the West Fairlee Community Food Shelf, which the preschoolers visited Friday as part of their December curriculum. They walked an eighth of a mile on the Cross Rivendell Trail to the food shelf, with each one carrying a plastic grocery bag holding a can of tuna fish.

Last week, the preschoolers collected 90 items to donate, in connection with the December curriculum that focuses on giving to others. In the past, students have created handmade holiday gifts for their families. This year, a parent suggested that they give to people less fortunate.

Community involvement is emphasized across all grades in the Rivendell schools, which educate students in Fairlee, West Fairlee, Vershire and Orford. “It just kind of fed right into the Rivendell philosophy of community,” Foltz said. In class, Foltz and her classroom aides presented hypothetical scenarios for students; in one, Foltz pretended she was at the store and didn’t have enough money to purchase coffee. Where could she go to get coffee? she asked her students, who responded, in unison, “FOOD SHELF!”

That there are people in their own community who are struggling to feed themselves and their families can be a large, abstract idea for a child, so Foltz said explained it in terms they could grasp. “I wanted them to understand that everybody could give, and there are times when people need help,” she said.

It took less than 10 minutes for the students to arrive at the food shelf, located on the ground floor of the community building. There, they met Phoenix, who told them that the food shelf contains donated food, as well as food ordered from the Vermont Foodbank. He said the food shelf is visited by roughly 15 families each week, who come from West Fairlee, Vershire and other surrounding towns; in an average year, the pantry serves about 1,000 people.

Foltz impressed him with the news that her students had brought 90 items. “Well, there are a lot of hungry people who are going to be very happy with that food,” Phoenix said.

After students took turns putting their tuna fish cans on the shelves, they returned to school, and discussed their visit with Foltz in “circle time” on the classroom floor. She asked them what they did to prepare for the trip. “We had to collect lots and lots of food,” said Oliver Benedict. They discussed the shelves in their classroom that hold books and toys and the food shelf, then Foltz asked what was on the shelves at the food shelf. Food, the class responded.

“Why is there food at the food shelf?” she asked.

Devica Tarmey had a definitive answer. “Because we brought some there,” she said.

Events

School Administrative Unit 6, in conjunction with Communities United Regional Network for Sullivan County, will host a free screening of the documentary film Who Cares About Kelsey? at 7 tonight at the Claremont Opera House. Directed by Dan Habib, the film tells the story of Kelsey Carroll, a Somersworth (N.H.) High School student who struggled academically during her high school years due to emotional and personal problems, yet managed to graduate with support from teachers and other adults in her school. Habib and Carroll will attend the screening and participate in a question-and-answer session following the film.

∎ Lebanon High School’s Wet Paint Players will perform 9 to 5: The Musical, with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Lebanon Opera House ($10, adults; $5, students; free for Lebanon High School students and SAU 88 employees).

Achievements

Katherine Dembinski of Woodstock, a student at the Kent School in Connecticut, was named to the high honor roll for the fall term.

∎ Third-grader Eleanor van Aalst of the Marion Cross School in Norwich was named one of 12 winners in the Vermont Division of Fire Safety’s annual fire prevention art contest. Her art will be the January entry in the 2013 State Fire Safety Calendar.

School Notes appears each Tuesday. Email announcements to kbryan@vnews.com.