The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 19, 2009

Opinions

Not a bad place to attend school

With the Carlisle School’s eighth-grade graduation just a few days away, I asked my eighth-grader to jot down highlights she remembered from the past nine years of classes. While munching toast before school she quickly wrote and returned the paper, complaining there was not enough space to list everything. Even incomplete, the list hints at the material covered and the variety of creative teaching methods used to spark kids’ interest in learning. Her list:

• Kindergarten (Ms. Jeitles/Graham): Writer’s workshop, recess, rainforest play.

• Grade 1 (Ms. Walker): Trip to Boston Public Gardens, writing and illustrating books, moon phases.

• Grade 2 (Ms. Clark): Reading, folk tale plays, Iditarod studies, Carlisle scavenger hunt.

• Grade 3 (Mr. Stamell): Thanksgiving play, writing and poetry, Lowell mills, Jacob Two-Two play.

• Grade 4 (Ms. Nolty): Science Wednesday with fifth graders, growing plants, dissecting owl pellets.

• Grade 5 (Ms. Gustafson): Science Wednesday, writing, RAP on culture, endangered species project.

• Grade 6 (Mr. Gale, Mr. Ticotsky, Ms. Denaro, Ms. Clapp): Trip to Boston Science Museum, French, pyramids and Ancient China, Tuck Everlasting and Holes.

• Grade 7 (Ms. Hay, Mr. Zuckerman, Ms. Brinner, Mr. Cranston): Seventh-grade play, Benfield Land, egg fall tests, ancient Greek and Roman society.

• Grade 8 (Ms. Pixley, Dr. Marsh, Mr. Miller, Mr. Quaden): Holocaust, chemistry and physics experiments, writer’s workshop, lyric elements, the constitution, slavery and the Civil War.

Carlisle teachers go more than the extra mile for our kids. Athletics and extra-curricular activities are valuable learning experiences and many teachers coach sports, supervise clubs or teach music after school. In addition, the brave sixth-grade teachers spent days with students at Camp Sargent during Outdoor Education. Last week, ten eighth-grade teachers and administrators led the kids on the overnight trip to New York City and Ellis Island. Both extended field trips involved a huge amount of teacher preparation and effort.

Carlisle School graduates will also take away many friendships, encouraged through teaching methods that include group projects and activities such as sports and chorus, band and the seventh-grade play. Kids become acquainted with most of their classmates by the time they graduate. When will that ever happen again in their lives? It’s no wonder that so many friendships endure and many Carlisle School graduates continue to organize reunions many years later.

For all the teachers who have shepherded my eighth-grader on her journey through the Carlisle School system, thanks for giving her such a great start in life. ∆

Wisdom comes to Carlisle

Last November I carefully constructed my annual pile of lawn furniture – picnic table, bench, chairs – under the spreading oak, and threw a tarp over them for the winter. Then, in December’s ice storm, a lovely bough from the oak descended, bending the top rail of the chain-link fence, and smashing parts of the cedar bench and table.

This spring I fixed the back of the bench, using all the clamps available in a friend’s well-supplied workshop. I employed a table saw in another shop to fashion new legs for the table. I replaced the bent railing of the chain-link fence, and cut up the fallen oak limb for firewood.

The only job left was to trim off the splintered stub of the broken oak limb. If left untrimmed, the stub might eventually rot the main trunk of the tree. The limb begins some 20 feet off the ground. Still, the tree is easily accessible by ladder.

Mountain climbers will tell you that most accidents begin at home, through lack of proper preparation. Most home accidents begin in the first home, the brain. I reasoned with myself: the limb is only 20 feet off the ground; I can easily put up a ladder; I can rig a harness so the chainsaw won’t fall. A professional will charge hundreds of dollars. It’s what we do-it-yourselfers call “a no-brainer.”

So I pulled out the extension ladder. My extension ladder actually belongs to a friend who used it for years to paint houses in the summer. One day I held the ladder while he balanced on the top rung, painting the peak of a roof high above an asphalt driveway. My second job, in case of emergency, was to call 911. My friend, who still has full use of all limbs, no longer paints even his own house.

This same friend once helped me take down a pine of medium height on my property. We attached a rope to the tree so we could pull it in the right direction, then cut a wedge, in the best lumberjack fashion, in the side of the tree where we hoped it would fall. Finally, I made a cut on the opposite side to fell the tree. For reasons I still don’t understand to this day, the tree began to tilt in the opposite direction, away from the intended drop zone, and toward (where else?) the swimming pool. A slight breeze miraculously arose at just that instant, swaying the tree farther in the wrong direction. We leapt to the rope, and gave a mighty tug. The pine came crashing down, nearly on our heads of course, as we leapt aside.

But back to the oak limb. I set the fully extended ladder on the oak, the top rung just below the shattered limb. Up I climbed. I have always observed that standing on terra firma and balancing near the top of a ladder are two very different places. As I mounted the swaying ladder, I realized that I could see into the backyard of my neighbor, who happens to be a nurse. Presumably, she could also see me. In my mind’s eye I could see her furrowed brow; in my mind’s ear I could hear her voice: “What are you doing now?” I could also see in imagination the EMTs and the ambulance. If I survived a fall, could I ever, for very shame, hobble into the library? the Post Office? Ferns? Would I dare vote at Town Hall? Would I have to wear a sign: “Town Idiot”?

I carefully backed down the ladder, went inside and called the arborist.

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