News

Reading garden new alternative to a classroom

originally posted in The Bristol Press by Susan Corica on October 23, 2015.

 

10/22/2015 Mike Orazzi | Staff The South Side School has a new reading garden that fifth graders and parents helped design.
10/22/2015 Mike Orazzi | Staff The South Side School has a new reading garden that fifth graders and parents helped design.

PLYMOUTH–The new Reading Garden at South Side Elementary School is like an outdoor classroom, one with grass instead of a tile floor, wooden benches and colorful Adirondack chairs instead of desks, and a brilliant orange maple tree instead of a whiteboard.

“It’s still in the process of being designed, so teachers haven’t been able to use it yet, but the idea is that instead of always being in the classroom the teacher and kids can come out here,” Gail Zimmermann, staff member at South Side’s Family Resource Center.

“The teacher could read tot he students, they could do activities around the story, or the children could come out and do some silent reading in small groups,” she said. “As long as it’s nice out, in the fall or spring, it’s a classroom in the fresh air.”

“Turning the area of the school grounds facing Wolcott Street and enclosed by a chain link fence into a reading area was originally the idea of the fifth graders in the school’s Community Club,” she explained.

Through the University of Connecticut and the Family Resource Center, Zimmerman runs a parents’ group called People Empowering People, in which members work on a group project to benefit the school or the community at large.

The People Empowering People parents decided to take on the Reading Garden as their project, collecting donations, getting the benches made an planting flowers, she said.

“It’s just about done, but we’ll have an official opening in the spring when the flowers come up,” Zimmermann said.

Parent Christina Wilson said the People Empowering People members brainstormed ideas for the garden last spring and worked hard on it when school began again.

“September and October have been a go go go!” she said.

Wilson and her husband Dan weeded the area and planted a bush, some trees and a bunch of spring bulbs.

Sharon Pratt and her husband Brian built the wooden benches and bolted them to the ground.

Dawn Raymond and her husband Darren, who own Fleetwood Industries in Plainville, donated money to the project.

“We still have a few dollars left to spend and we are not quite done yet,” she said. “We want to work on the gravel path and we’re going to get engraved stepping stones for outside of the fence thanking the people that made the donations.”

True Value Hardware in town donated the four Adirondack chairs, Raymond said. “I drove by there one day and saw them. I said ‘hey I love those chairs, they would look great in our garden! They didn’t even hesitate to offer them to us.”

Fresh Worx and Carvel also made monetary donations to the project.

10/22/2015 Mike Orazzi | Staff The South Side School has a new reading garden that fifth graders and parents helped design.
10/22/2015 Mike Orazzi | Staff

Erica Myers drew the mural that decorates the fence and gives some privacy from the road. Myers said she only draws casually for fun and she never did anything on this scale before. The other parents helped paint the design she came up with.

There is also a brightly colored butterfly bench, which was donated by school nurse Mary Tomasi, and a plan for a rainbow banner with a Dr. Seuss quote to go on the brick wall on the side of the garden.

Once the cold weather sets in, the chairs, butterfly bench and other furnishings will be taken in for the winter, but will return next spring, Zimmermann said.

Vicky Frye and Francesa Papasso were also part of the [UConn] PEP group that worked on the Reading Garden.

 

 

Campaign aims to spread positivity

Originally printed in The Bristol Press

PLYMOUTH– Participants in the People Empowering People–PEP–program decided that Plymouth needs some kindness lately and each individual in town holds the key. The 2015 PEP Class invites town residents to join in the Keys for Kindness Campaign, which will kickoff with the “Kindness Hour” on Tuesday April 14, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., in the Community Room at Town Hall.

Mayor David Merchant will present the first symbolic key and the program members will distribute the initial wave of keys, said Donna Koser, who is a member of the class, aling with Jennifer Yezierski, Jennier DeForest, heather MacAulay, Vianna Hartley, and Tanya Long.

The members have invited a number of local organizations to send one or two representatives to accept a set of keys that can be given out to others for kind acts.

Koser said the mission of Keys for Kindness is “to promote kindness, inspire people to recognize its contagious benefits and power to make a difference in peoples lives and to strengthen out community in a positive way.”

“Research shows that kindness has a positive effect not only on the recipient and the giver, but also on the observer,” she said.

The group has been collecting keys for some time now, she said. “We have created kindness necklaces with them to be give out to individuals showing kindness. If you receive one we ask that you in turn, pay it forward when you notice another being kind.”

Anyone who comes to the Kindness Hour is asked to bring along a gift of kindness, such as a small gift card, a baked item, a special quote, an offer of free service, etc.

“Please put your family name on it,” the invitation to the event says. “As you arrive there will be name tags to fill out and wear. Each family attending will receive a gift and find that family to thank them… and maybe even meet a new friend!”

The program is a free community-focused 10-week training program which encourages growth in communication and problem solving skills, parent/family relationships and community involvement. Participants work on one or more projects that benefit their community.

The program is offered in partnership with the Plymouth Family Resource Center, the United Way of West Central Connecticut and the University of Connecticut.

“In People Empowering People we have to do a community project,” Koser explained.

“I think the whole class just wanted to do something that was positive that would bring a little bit of hope for the community,” Koser said.

They came up with the idea of keys as a tribute to the Lock Museum of America on Route 6 and the old Eagle Lock Co. in town.

The group started a Facebook page for the campaign, where they hope people will post about kind acts they had done which got them a key or witnessed which for which they passed on a key.

“The key is not supposed to stay with you,” Koser said. “So if you receive one you’re supposed to seek out somebody else doing an intentional kindness act.”

The idea for the campaign could catch on and spread to other communities, she said.. “We hope so.”

To attend the Kindness Hour, town residents should RSVP to jmddeforest@gmail.com.

For more information, visit Plymouth Keys for Kindness on Facebook. For more information about the program, visit http://pep.extension.uconn.edu/

 

Author: Susan Corica

 

Cathy Love gets Pharos Award

Dr. Cathy Love, PEP Program Administrator, received the Pharos Award from the APLU Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence to recognize her lifetime commitment to addressing issues of diversity, access and success. She and Dean Gregory Weidemann are shown at the November 10th, 2013 APLU meeting in Washington DC.

 

cathy and dean

 

Citizen’s Selfless Act Recognized with First “Kindness Key” Award

Originally printed in the The Bristol Press

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Mike Orazzi Photo. Mayor Dave Merchant presents Vicki Zalewski with a key during a Plymouth Keys for Kindness event at Town Hall Tuesday night.

PLYMOUTH — And the first Kindness Key goes to … Vickie Zalaski.

Mayor David Merchant gave out the first key of the Keys for Kindness campaign, organized by the People Empowering People (PEP) class, at the “Kindness Hour” launch at Town Hall recently.

The mission of Keys for Kindness is “to promote kindness, inspire people to recognize its contagious benefits and power to make a difference in people’s lives, and to strengthen our community in a positive way,” according to Donna Koser.

Koser is a member of the PEP class, along with Jennifer Yezierski, Jennifer DeForest, Heather MacAulay, Vianna Hartley and Tanya Long.

The group collected discarded keys and put them on necklaces. Each person who receives one for a kind act is asked to pay it forward to someone else they see doing a kind act.

Merchant said that when he was asked to give out the first key he thought of a number of deserving people but he had to narrow it down to one.

“So I chose somebody that I’ve know for quite a few years,” he said. “She lives over at Eli Terry [senior housing], she’s been in town for over 50 years, she serves on our Human Services Commission, works with the food pantry, is a trustee in the church.”

“But more than all those things, she is a good person, she is a kind person,” Merchant said of Zalaski. “Wherever you go she is helping somebody.”

“I’m very humbled,” said Zalaski, upon receiving the key. “I never expected anything like this. Thank you very much, I will pass it on to the very next person.”

PEP is a free 10-week training program, offered in partnership with the Plymouth Family Resource Center (FRC), the United Way of West Central Connecticut and the University of Connecticut.

The course trains parents in how to advocate for themselves and for children, how schools work, how to approach legislators, etc., said Lori Borysewicz, FRC coordinator.

At the end the participants have to come up with a community project to work on, she said. This group came up with Keys for Kindness and is also working with the town to get safer crossing walks on North Main Street by Fisher Elementary and Eli Terry Jr. Middle schools.

Borysewicz said previous PEP groups did a fundraiser for a local boy suffering from cancer and compiled a community resource guide.

This group came up with the idea of keys as a tribute to the Lock Museum of America on Route 6 and the old Eagle Lock Co. in town.

The current PEP group, also known as “the Peppers,” started a Facebook page for the campaign, where they hope people will post about kind acts they had done which got them a key or witnessed which for which they passed on a key.

At the Kindness Hour, the group named three people who had been helpful to the projects as “honorary Peppers” — Borysewicz, Beth Anderson from the FRC, and Linda Schnaars from the Plymouth Early Childhood Council.

They also awarded Kindness Keys to a number of other people who helped launch the kindness campaign.

The first went to Rob Carter, elementary music teacher, who played guitar and sang at the Kindness Hour. He was assisted by the Peppers children’s choir, which consisted of Katie DeForest, Luke Koser, Lucy MacAulay, Abigail Seaman, Cara Wunsch, Reba Yezierski, and Riley Yezierski.

The other keys went to: Amy McPartland, graphic designer; Charlie Wiegert, Public Works director; Charlie Doback, fire marshal; Dave Perkins, zoning/wetlands enforcement officer; Marty Sandshaw, from the Terryville Lions Club; Mark Malley, attorney; Lisa Phillimore, Plymouth Connection owner; and Nicole McWilliams, of the Plymouth Social Butterfly Facebook page.