Friday, January 15, 2016

Working with 5th Graders

5th Graders

 This past semester, the STAR Program has worked with Northfield Elementary school’s fifth graders on various projects. We built debris shelters, roasted marshmallows over fires that they had constructed themselves, and taught them different things about colonial America. In my personal opinion, this is one of the best, and most rewarding activities we do in the program.  Seeing the smiles on the kid’s faces when I’m teaching them something new and cool, is the best feeling in the world.  

The kids we work with just want to learn new skills, and want to be able to experiment with the things around them. I think as we get older we are forced to lose that sense of adventure and awe, and replace it with a sense conformity. Being able to be around that again, even if it is just for a few hours, makes my week infinitely more tolerable. Most of the time in school, the students are ushered through the halls, and are forced into a schedule that we have no input on. With this opportunity, the Elementary students get a little break from ordinary life, and we get to experience the outcomes!

By: Connor

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

MFT (Mandatory Fun Time)

Mandatory fun time is a 20 min period of time when we just stop whatever we are doing and come together to play a game. What we play largely depends upon where we are. For instance, if we are outside, we usually play "Camouflage" or "Hawk and Prey". Both games require patience, self-awareness, and the ability to move quietly through a forested area.

When we are inside, we play other games that are less active, but just as fun.  One game is called "Big Happy Family".  In this game, the "caller" will choose a theme, like cartoon characters or breakfast cereal.  All of the players will choose someone or something within that category (ex. Donald Duck or Fruity Pebbles)on a small piece of paper and then give it to the caller. The caller then reads them all out twice, while we all listen and try to figure out who wrote down each thing. The game starts when we go around the circle, trying to guess who or what each person is. If one person guesses another person correctly, then they join your family.  The goal is to have the biggest family at the end of the game by guessing who everyone else is. 

I believe MFT is a great thing that we do here because it is another way that STAR is different than the school.  When we are just sitting forever and working, it’s nice to have 20 minutes to have fun at school and take a break from all of the school work. It's also an important time to be able to get closer with our fellow peers by having a good time together. I personally love it because of the patience that you have to have to be able to do these games, and because you really have to pay attention to what is going on around us.

Written by Robby C.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Wampum Economics

Among the many things that we have learned this year, one of my favorite activities was Wampum Economics.  This activity took place over the course of several school days, and we did a variety of activities and projects to earn "wampum".  Wampum is a financial system in which the people used different kind of beads to symbolize wealth and power.  They used lots of different beads like metal, glass, shell, and wood.  In many ways, it was equivalent to the white man’s money.

Both settlers and natives used wampum as a currency.  Throughout New England, men, women, and children were weaving their wampum wealth in to capes, aprons belts, neck ornaments, bags, wallets, and moccasins. The more important the person the more dazzling there wampum beading was.  King Philip, whose native name was Metacomet, was famous for his beaded belt that he wore. As one of the most powerful natives in early colonial America, his beaded belt displayed his wealth and power.  Another example would be the Eastern Abenaki in Maine, who were renowned for their wampum bead making.


As part of the process to learn what wampum was all about, we all had a checklist with different things that had to be completed. For each task that we completed, we would earn one bead. Some tasks were simple and completed alone, and others required us to work with partners or in teams.

Some of the tasks were hands-on, like bow drilling for 15 minutes.  Other tasks were more traditional like reading the book Woods Runner. Since we completed the first day of Wampum Economics in the week before the Harvest Dinner, every person also had to help harvest and clean food, or to prepare a dish for the meal.


If we really didn’t want to complete one of the tasks, we could use our beads to pay someone else to do it. This created a currency where people had to decide if they wanted to only do one or two tasks as specialists, or if they wanted to do a bit of everything. 

Written by Andrea B.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fire Building

This past semester, the students at the STAR Program have done many activities such as trail building and passion projects. One of the projects we spent a lot of time on was fire by friction. Luke started us off with bow drills. That took us quite a while to get the hang of, but we worked on it for about 45 minutes a day once a week until somebody finally got coal. Once one person got a coal, multiple people finally got the hang of it.  After a couple of us got multiple coals in a row, we were asked to help demonstrate to the eighth graders. 

The eighth graders were about to read a book called To Build a Fire, which is a survival story about the arctic. They decided that they wanted firsthand experience on how to build friction fires. They all came up, and Luke talked them through the process, then had myself and another student demonstrate it. We showed them how to do it for a while, then they all broke off into groups to try it and a few other types of fire making. We roamed around and helped them in any way they needed, and gave them pointers on how to make a quicker coal. We went from learning how to hold the bow, and  not being able to put in on stroke, to teaching younger kids how do the same skill.

In my opinion, doing things like this help people reconnect with their roots, so they can get a feel of how people live thousands of years ago. That is an important thing to understand because most people will never get to experience things of that nature. It is something that everybody should enjoy.

 Written by Connor D.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Shelter Building With the 5th Grade


This year, we helped the 5th grade build debris shelters. When we first got outside, we all gathered up, and Luke told us what the plan was.  After that, we broke up into groups of five or six kids, plus one STAR student.
   We went out and we were not there to build it for them; we were there for advice and guidance.
    First, it was time to pick a spot where we were going to build the shelters. When I got my group to the spot that they wanted to build, we all came up with a game plan. Some of them were the builders, and the others were the materials people. When we broke up, they all started to do their jobs. I did not even have to tell them what to do because they were already doing their jobs. They did not wander off to other groups like I thought that they would.

   When I gave them advice, they took it, and if they thought that I was wrong, they told me why. Not a lot of 5th graders can do that. I do have to say that they were the best group of 5th graders that I have ever worked with. They were so well behaved and independent. There was even so much passion that my group worked on the shelter right through their snack time.


When we help them, it is like us giving to the school. And that doesn’t happen in most schools. I think it is an important part of school that everyone gives a little. Now, the last Friday of every month, we are going to get together with them and do something. I am really pumped to help

                                                                       By: EJ

Construction at STAR

One of the things that we get to do at STAR is construction. One of the things we are working on is a sugar house. We are working with Norwich on building it. A sugar house is a building you make maple syrup in. It is 10'x12' with a six foot porch. Sugar shacks are fairly common in Vermont, so it’s really cool that the STAR program will have one. 

Another project that we work on is a wigwam. I am working on the wigwam with Zach, and Robby. A wigwam is a Native American house. It is classified as a debris shelter. It is 15 feet in diameter. The walls are made up of sticks, branches, leaves, pine needles, and white pine bark.  The roof is made of saplings and 6 foot grass mats. It is located in the school forest about half a kilometer away from the outdoor class room.  

There are many other projects that the STAR Program has worked on before I was here.  One project was the outdoor classroom, which was built with Norwich, too. The outdoor classroom is in the school forest next to the soccer field.

Knowing that the program did projects like this affected my decision to come here because I really like to build that kind of stuff. My friend Johnny and I are building a tree house. We started with a little hut on the ground by a couple of maple trees. Now we have an almost done tree house about 12 feet off the ground. We made a base out of 4 pieces of 6 foot long 2x4’s on 4 black cherries. We made the walls and floor out of really sturdy ply wood. I heard that the STAR program builds thing like that and it’s a hobby of mine, so it effected my decision in a very positive way. 

I like working on the construction projects. I enjoy the construction projects because I really like building things. When I grow up, I want to go into the military, but after the military, I want to work with my uncle in Colorado because he has a construction business. In my junior and senior year, I want to go to RTCC to join the Building Trades program. I think that it is important to know how to use power tools, know the difference between hard and soft wood, also know how to build good steady structures to live/work in.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Cooking at STAR

At the STAR Program, we have the privilege of cooking a variety of foods, usually at least once every week.  Much of the food was grown in the gardens around the STAR Program building.  From pizza, to chicken, to apple crisp and stir-fry, we have devoured all of it!


One activity we did was to make French fries with potatoes that we grew in raised beds on the property.  Last years students planted potato seed.  They grew through the  summertime, occasionally getting watered and weeded.  Judy took care of the plants, making sure that the potato beetles did not kill the plants.  In early Fall, the new students dug the potatoes out of the soil, cleaned them, and prepared the fries.  Different students sliced them, and fried them up. They were really good!


But, my favorite was pizza in the pizza oven! We learned how to build a fire in the pizza oven.  We learned how you need to let the oven warm up for a while after building it.  Once the oven is warm, you can put the pizza in.  We made pizza using tomatoes that we grew in the STAR greenhouse.  I thought the pizza was really cheesy and warm.  It tasted better than any pizza I have ever had!  It was really awesome that I learned how to use the pizza oven.

By: Zach