Why, you ask, is someone who is finally finished with their own schooling writing a blog post about school? That’s because I spent a surprisingly large amount of time at the Craftsbury Elementary School during the 2015-2016 academic year and it had a huge impact on my day-to-day life as a GRP athlete.
One day, while leading a community fitness class late last summer at Craftsbury, one of the attendees, Barb, mentioned, while skierging, that she needed to stay in shape because she was a third and fourth grade teacher. My head began buzzing and I tried to figure out more about this lady, with the hopes that maybe I’d be able to spend a day or two in a classroom. It turns out that Barb lives on the same road as the GRP skiers and was happy to have me help out in her classroom as much as I’d like. Following that, through a conversation at our community fitness class, another community member, Kevin, heard that I liked kids and that I had majored in Environmental Studies. He then asked if I’d like to be a volunteer for the Four Winds Nature Program, also at the Craftsbury Elementary School. I had heard of Four Winds under its previous name, ELF, and was happy to have another opportunity to interact with youngsters.
Four Winds Nature Institute is a “non-profit organization advancing the understanding, appreciation and protection of the environment through community- based natural science education and research.” Several volunteers work in each classroom, and the volunteers come together once a month for training workshops led by a Four Winds staff member. The theme for this year was cycles, which ranged form seasonal cycles to migrating birds to flowers. My co-leader, Anna, and I worked with ten eager kindergarteners every month, presenting information via puppet shows, spending time outside, and art projects.
What began as a skierg- side conversation turned into many hugely anticipated months to Barb’s third and fourth grade class, as well as Cheryl’s first and second grade class. Both teachers regularly attend community fitness classes at the Center, so I got to split my time between many youngsters! I went to the end of recess with the students, then the afternoon was a smattering of different activities. Recess was my ideal vision of recess: kids playing house in the woods, kids building forts, kids plying games, kids sliding on slides, kids swinging, kids reading. Everyone playing and enjoying. Typically, in Barb’s class, I read individually with a student, but sometimes I would help with math or read aloud to everyone. With Cheryl’s group, I got to see what first and second grade guidance class was like, as well as learn how to count in Russian!
By the end of the year, I was happy to say that I knew that name of every student at the Craftsbury Elementary school, and most even remembered my name! I loved the opportunity to work in such a small, tight knit school and begin to see the kids outside the confines of the school, such as at the Center and the General Store. Several of the students participate in ski and mountain bike programs at the Center, so I have the opportunity to spend time with them throughout the entire year and see them grow both academically and athletically.
In a year where skiing didn’t go quite as planned, spending time at the elementary school was sometimes a much needed reminder that there are so many other critical parts of life and so many other things that make me happy. The same as in college, time spend in a school, especially an elementary school, is a sweet reminder of what may come later in life, after this skiing journey winds down. There was never a day that I didn’t leave the elementary school more happy and enthusiastic than I arrived.
The end of the school year and the start of summer means even more kids around the Center! Some come right from Craftsbury and are Barb’s students, while others make the trek from farther away. Summer Nordic train has kicked off with a bang, including hiking, rollerskiing, strength testing, and more and new this year is a Mountain Bike Club, which is open to kids of all ages!