Kids Can Cartoon!

Graduate students at the Center for Cartoon Studies share their skills and enthusiasm for comic art with Upper Valley youth.

By Bridgett Taylor

Cartoons and kids are a natural fit; the dominance of superhero costumes every Halloween is proof that comic book characters are popular with children. But the appeal of comics is more than adults who wear bright costumes and fight crime. As maturing readers, children often transition from picture books to comic strips and kids’ comics before jumping to chapter books. Likewise, a youngster’s first attempt at self-expression is drawing their favorite superheroes or simplified versions of the people and things around them.

Not Just for Grad Students

The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) in downtown White River Junction, Vt., provides graduate-level studies in creating comic art. But folks at CCS know that college graduates are not the only ones interested in sharing their creativity with family, friends and the world; for young learners age 9 and older, CCS offers a weekly Cartoon Club, held year-round on Saturdays, and a Summer Cartoon Club Camp held every July.

Many of the young people who participate in Cartoon Club come back month after month and year after year. “We have students who maybe aren’t fitting well in a traditional school environment and it’s so exciting to see them be engaged,” says CCS Operations Manager Dave Lloyd, who has seen students use the skills learned in Cartoon Club to investigate other subjects. “It helps get them motivated for other topics beyond reading and literacy.”

Foundational Skills

Keeping in line with the school’s mission of providing the highest quality education to students interested in creating visual stories, the weekend and summer Cartoon Clubs follow the same principles as the adult programs at the school. The programs share similar structure. “They’re part of the same family,” says Lloyd, “The primary goal of the classes is to get people making comics.”

Students hone skills in storytelling, creating art and visual literacy (how we understand anything from a funny Internet meme to a subway map), so Cartoon Club does more than give kids a fun hobby and storytelling skills — it also provides tools to understand the world and communicate ideas to others.

Workshops take students through the basics of making comics, including the process of creating a visually distinct character and building its personality. Instructors often give students prompts so they can imagine what their characters would do in unusual or unexpected situations.

Leaders of the Club

Graduate students at CCS lead Cartoon Club. “We typically have a lead instructor who has been assisting the previous lead instructor for a bit,” says Lloyd, “So they then take on the lead role and develop the curriculum; it’s been an effective succession plan for us. Our full-time instructors often want to be part of Cartoon Club as well, so it’s not unusual to have drop-in visits from our full-time faculty.”

That faculty includes such well-known artists as CCS co-founder James Sturm, whose work has appeared on the cover of the New Yorker magazine and in many other national publications; Sophie Yanow, a cartoonist, designer, and educator who has worked in the US and Canada; and Stephen R. Bissette, who has worked as a comic creator, publisher and editor (co-creating the character John Constantine for DC Comics) and as a writer and educator.

Graduate student Daryl Seitchik has already published one graphic novel, EXITS, and came to CCS looking for a supportive creative community. Lloyd confesses that he finds the school a great place for both students and staff. “I work at Candyland,” he says.

Fun workshop themes

In a recent monthly workshop at which Seitchik was the lead instructor, the theme was “expression.” “For the first exercise, I drew a worksheet that showed a spectrum of facial expressions and left room for the students to experiment with their own characters’ faces. For the second lesson, I drew different characters with a variety of body types, expressing emotion through body language and left room for students to play around with their own poses and postures,” says Seitchik.

“Dan [Nott, co-instructor] did the third lesson on the comics-specific mark-making magic called emanata, which are the lines emanating from cartoon characters’ heads that show an emotion,” Seitchik continues. “The fourth and final worksheet was a six-panel grid, where the kids take what they learned from the previous lessons and apply them to a full-on comics story!”

Seitchik puts extra focus into making sure each lesson’s theme is framed in a way that will be fresh and engaging to her young students. “Our preparation is what ultimately helps the kids have fun while they learn. I love seeing how every child approaches the lessons, some engrossed in silent, focused work, others gesticulating wildly about their brilliant new ideas,” she says. “It’s inspiring to be around them and, when I return to my own drawing desk, I feel like a kid again.”

Drawing alongside their peers

Even kids who don’t plan on a career in cartooning can learn from Cartoon Club, according to Clementine Lutes, 11, a fifth grader at Upper Valley Waldorf School in Quechee, Vt. Lutes, whose father is a core instructor for the CCS Master’s program, plans to be either a cartoonist or a chef. She participated in the spring and fall sessions of Cartoon Club for two years and continues to write stories and draw pictures.

One of the aspects Lutes liked most about Cartoon Club was working on her storytelling skills with other young people. “It’s kind of a small room,” she says. “So I got to see [other students’] stories. I could compare myself to others — that’s a cool drawing style that girl did or I liked how that boy made his story exciting. I could find ways to make my stories more dramatic or romantic based on their stories.”

Young cartoonists are encouraged to create their own comics outside the classroom environment. Cartooning is “a very accessible medium,” says Lloyd, because they are easy to make and distribute. Most of the materials used in Cartoon Club are items that students already have at home or can obtain easily, such as pencils, pens and paper.

Lutes, whose favorite genres are fantasy and science fiction, still has the collection of cartoons she created at Cartoon Club and is proud of the work she did. “Once I did a comic that was about a big puffball,” she says. “That one was really funny.”

Bridgett Taylor lives in South Royalton, Vt., and works in the Upper Valley. She is a freelance writer, grant writer, and volunteer DJ at Royalton Community Radio (royaltonradio.org), where she can be heard most Friday nights.

Tutti’s Promise

Tutti’s Promise

With middle school readers in mind, a Holocaust survivor’s daughter tells her mother’s moving story.

By Kim J. Gifford

It is the quintessential question asked of writers: where do your ideas come from? For K. Heidi Fishman the answer not only comes easily, but she can pinpoint the exact moment the idea came to her to document the story of her mother’s Holocaust experience in her book, Tutti’s Promise.

 Tutti’s Promise is the story of German-born Tutti Lichtenstern and her brother, parents, and grandparents as they experienced the Holocaust. The story begins in 1940 with the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands — 4-year-old Tutti and her family had moved to Amsterdam — and takes readers through the following three years including time spent in hiding and 18 months in concentration camps. It concludes shortly after liberation with family members trying to get back on their feet again.

A Momentous School Visit

Several years ago, Fishman was visiting her daughter’s seventh grade class at Crossroads Academy in Lyme, N.H. Teachers and students had gathered to listen to Fishman’s mother, Ruth “Tutti” Fishman, share stories about growing up during the Holocaust. Tutti was a child when the Nazis invaded in the Netherlands. Her family went into hiding before turning themselves in and being sent to the Westerbork and Theresienstadt concentration camps.

Fishman’s mother had been telling her story at schools for some time: she had even been interviewed by Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. Yet, listening to her mother that day and seeing the rapt attention of the audience, Fishman felt she had to find someone to record her mother’s story. “When Mom spoke, it was the quietest I had ever heard it,” Fishman says, recalling the classroom that day.

“I realized Mom could not do this forever and [her story] teaches important lessons about bigotry, prejudice, getting along with others, not singling people out, and stepping up when you see something wrong. There are a lot of helpers in her story. They would never have survived by themselves,” Fishman says, a lesson she tries to instill in students when she tells the story.

Intention to Realization

That evening, she returned home still contemplating who could write the book. Eventually, she concluded she would write it herself. Although her only writing experience had been her psychology dissertation, she knew she was the one to do it — and that it had to be written with middle-schoolers in mind. “I always wanted to write it for young people when I saw those seventh graders listening dumbstruck, begging, ‘Tell me more.’ Plus, my mom’s memories are a kid’s memories. It’s her point of view as a child from which she tells the story,” says Fishman.

It took Fishman five years from deciding to write the book to seeing it to publication. She enrolled in every writing course she could find in the Upper Valley, including courses at the Writer’s Center in White River Junction, Vt. At the encouragement of one of her teachers, she started a blog which helped make valuable connections that filled in the holes in her mother’s memory.

Weighty Memories

The story has a number of twists and turns, many of which were discovered and documented only after Fishman’s extensive and often fortuitous research. For example, she learned that her grandfather’s role as a metal commodities dealer before the war featured prominently in the family’s survival.

“Essentially, the Nazis needed metal and they knew that he knew where to get the metal,” explains Fishman. As a result, her grandfather and the other “metal men,” whom Fishman hopes to one day write about in more detail, were able to keep many Jews alive not only sorting metal but, whenever possible, also foiling Nazi plans by placing similar-looking metal into wrong piles, so it might weaken weapons and aircraft.

Fishman’s grandfather was allowed to leave the camp and go into the city to arrange the metal deals. It was on one of these trips that he brought back Popje, a doll for Tutti. He put the family’s remaining assets inside the doll’s head and made 9-year-old Tutti promise to keep the doll safe; hence, the title of the book.

Fishman says she often asks students how they might have felt in Tutti’s place. “Imagine you are 9 years old and you are placed in charge of your family’s finances,” she says. “They are dumbfounded. You see it on their faces.”

Opening Young Minds

Lauren Williams, a history teacher at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., confirms that Fishman and Tutti’s visit to the school left students awe-inspired. “I would say that this visit was extremely special for our students as they heard Tutti’s stories from her — a rarity nowadays. Our students were able to ask questions and this led to many thoughtful conversations that continued for many days after,” says Williams.

Fishman says this is not unusual. She recently signed books at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. While signing, she mentioned that the story was about her mother, a Holocaust survivor. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a young girl who jumped at the word “survivor.”

“She survived?” The girl asked, wide-eyed. Shortly afterwards, the child reappeared with her mother, wanting a copy of the book. “This child had just come from seeing the exhibit and was astonished that anyone had survived that,” says Fishman.

Exploring Moral Ethics

Fishman’s book offers children an opportunity to explore gray areas and moral ethics surrounding the Holocaust. The book tells of one incident in which a Nazi guard in charge of the root cellar deliberately leaves his post so that Tutti’s father can gather vegetables for his family. This was in a concentration camp where people were starving.

“Was the guard good or bad?” Fishman asks.

She not only opens the conversation up at her book signings and talks, but offers discussion questions on her website for readers and educators as well. Interestingly, Fishman later learned that this guard might have helped her grandfather because of a shared history. He had been the headwaiter at the Hotel Bristol that her grandfather frequented before the war and he always tipped well.

Preserving Family History

Many, in turn, wonder what the impact of the book was on Fishman and her mother. “Heidi managed to express her love for me through Tutti’s Promise,” Fishman’s mother says. “Her constant research and tenacity digging into our family history was admirable and opened my eyes to details that previously were unknown to me.”

Fishman says that what meant the most to her was her mother’s exclamation when she first read the book: “Wow, you brought us all alive again!”

Students have asked Fishman if writing the book has changed her own understanding of the Holocaust. She tries to answer honestly without being too political. “My answer is I thought it was something that happened once a long time ago, but now I understand it didn’t happen just once. It happened once with that name, but we’ve had a lot of other genocides, a lot of other groups have been targeted and are still targeted,” she says.

The solution she hopes lies in the story itself: “Every survivor is only a survivor because someone helped them, somebody hid them, somebody gave them extra food, somebody forged a passport, somebody did something for them. The lesson is about not being a bystander when you see something wrong, question it, bring it up whether a kid in school is bullying someone else or whether it is a teacher or someone in authority. We need to invite a new kid over for lunch before the semester starts, do something nice for the new one, so we can stop the idea of people who are different deserving less,” Fishman concludes.

Kim J. Gifford is a writer, photographer/artist, avid dog lover and blogger. Her Bethel, Vt., home is always filled with nieces and nephews and her three pugs: Alfie, Waffles and Amore. Find her at pugsandpics.com

popjeandme.com

Fiona Greenough, founder of It Happens

It Happens.
Young nonprofit founder, Fiona Greenough, is changing the world “one tampon at a time.”
By Leigh Ann Root

Unavoidable things happen in life. What also happens — through kindness, awareness and determination — is the development of a great kid. Fiona Greenough, 17, of Meriden, N.H., who founded It Happens. when she was 16, is the latest Kid Stuff GreatKids Award recipient. The mission of It Happens. is to provide women and girls of the Upper Valley with necessary feminine hygiene products.

How did it happen?

Greenough began her efforts in August 2016 with a goal of donating $100 worth of feminine hygiene goods to the Upper Valley Haven every month. She had received a small inheritance from her grandmother and, wanting to do something meaningful after her grandmother’s passing, began to explore local charities. After putting some into a college savings account, she had $100 left to donate.

Greenough reflected on her life and the things that she couldn’t live without. Feminine products came to her mind. The need is worldwide and often overlooked. Says Greenough, “Traditionally, when people seek to better their own community, they provide food. However, feminine products target a specific demographic; they’re not always thought of as…as important. For the betterment and empowerment of women, I decided to support the struggling women in my community by targeting this specific need.”

The harsh reality

When she delivered that first $100 worth of feminine products (with the help of her mom and numerous coupons), Greenough was blown away by the gratitude shown by volunteers and employees at The Haven. “I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and realized that my job was far from finished,” Greenough said. She learned how some single mothers go without these products just so they can feed their children and many teenage girls go without them all together.

This reality within her community struck Greenough hard. This would be her charitable mission. She says, “On the ride home from The Haven, I began planning It Happens. and decided that I was going to change the world, one tampon at time.” When she got home that day, she created a Facebook page and began reaching out, asking for modest donations of one dollar.

Helping hands

In the first year, Greenough received overwhelming support from her church and school communities. She always reached for her goal, raising $100 worth of feminine supplies almost every month. “When I announced my mission at church, almost everyone gave me what they had in their pockets on that day. It was truly remarkable,” she says.

Greenough’s high school principal supported her cause. “I was able to put out a box for donations and an immense outpouring of generosity came from the student body and staff members,” she says. The Progressive Political Activist Club supported It Happens. by placing donation boxes at locations throughout the Upper Valley. They collected products and cash donations worth hundreds of dollars.

Staying motivated

At times it’s been a challenge to raise funds and awareness. Many community members, aware that the need is constant, give regularly. “To better your community is one of the most rewarding things that person can do. After dropping off donations, I feel amazing,” she says. She is inspired by her parents, supportive and wonderful role models. “They truly believe that I can do whatever I want to do and that I’ll be successful at it, if I try hard enough.”

Greenough’s friend Rachel Grohbrugge, 17, of Grantham, N.H., describes the It Happens. founder as “one of the most positive, inspiring people I know. Every time I see her she is positive and energetic. If I ever have to vent or complain, she is always there to turn my negative into a positive.”

Greenough describes herself as politically active and not afraid to contribute her opinion, passionately and respectfully, to a conversation. Her grandmother, Jean Greenough of Chatham, Mass., says, “Fiona is a very inclusive person. She embraces diversity and promotes tolerance whenever she sees an opportunity. She’s always been a very caring and thoughtful person.”

Looking ahead

Susan Gregory-Davis, co-pastor at Meriden Congregational Church in Meriden, N.H., foresees no end to this young woman’s altruism. “Fiona has demonstrated her spirit-filled commitment — in so many ways — to helping our world be a more just, loving and beautiful place. Fiona will continue to make extraordinary contributions to others and to our society throughout her lifetime; initiating and bringing about change not only individually but also systemically…not only locally but also nationally and globally,” she says.

Greenough plans to attend a four-year university and major in a community service related area of study. When not donating her time to her charity, she performs in Lebanon High School dramas and musicals and in the North Country Community Theatre Teen productions. When talking about future plans for It Happens., she says she want to spread the organization over a larger region and make more of a difference for women in not only the Upper Valley but everywhere.

Kid Stuff is thrilled to add Fiona Greenough to the GreatKids family of outstanding young people making a positive difference in their communities. “Whatever dream you have, just go for it. It’s less daunting once you realize what you’re capable of,” says Greenough. Wise words from a caring and kindhearted young woman.

Leigh Ann Root is a freelance writer, photographer and yoga instructor. She lives in Newbury, N.H., with her husband, Jonathan, and children, Parker and Joleigh.

facebook.com/ithappensperiod/

uppervalleyhaven.org

What is the GreatKids Award? Four times a year, one winner — an outstanding, local kid who has demonstrated heartfelt passion, enthusiastic commitment and humanitarian spirit while making a positive impact on the community —  is selected by the Kid Stuff editorial team. Kids are nominated by their neighbors, teachers, parents, etc. The winner (age 5 – 21) is profiled in Kid Stuff magazine and receives a framed certificate and a cash prize.

Feature: Who Needs Cursive, Anyway?

As we write less and tap more, the results are not necessarily what we expect.
By Kim J. Gifford

The name “John Hancock” and his distinctly large script on The Declaration of Independence have become synonymous with the word “signature.” But, according to some educators who are proponents of cursive writing, if Hancock were a child growing up today, he might not be able to write his own name in cursive — let alone read it.

Indeed, the dominance of technology in schools has led to a decline in cursive writing. But is it truly a dying art? Conversations with educators around the Upper Valley suggest that cursive handwriting is far from doomed; in fact, most schools teach cursive handwriting through the 5th grade.

The Teachers’ View

“We are teaching it,” says Bill Hammond, principal of the Marion Cross School in Norwich, Vt. “It is not as prominent a subject as it used to be, but we are still teaching it…. It is not just about being able to write in cursive, it’s about connecting letters and recognizing connections between letters — using these letters to get a sense of words.”

Even in 6th grade, students at Marion Cross School are required to keep handwritten journals, says Hammond. “I think part of the compromise is we don’t teach cursive handwriting in as much detail as we did 30 years ago.”

Jonathan Fenton, a 5th grade teacher, believes that the death sentence pronounced on cursive writing comes, in part, from the fact that a majority of people “have just assumed — without much pause, reflection or quality research — that it’s an obsolete skill.”

Lisa Floyd, an 8th grade English teacher in Randolph, Vt., and vice chair of the Bethel School Board, explains that schools today have 6½ hours “to teach everything from adaptability [and] respect for yourself and others as well as math, science, music, English, world languages and art.” It’s no wonder cursive isn’t taught anymore!

Floyd acknowledges that students “will spend dramatically more time typing than they will writing,” but still sees a benefit in teaching cursive writing — primarily for the ability to decode handwritten letters and read historical documents. Unfortunately, she notes, a growing number of students cannot read her handwriting when she provides feedback in cursive.

Does It Really Matter?

Why all the fuss when kids today have access to all sorts of writing implements from tablets to laptop computers? Martha Langill, principal at Lebanon Middle School in Lebanon, N.H., advocates for cursive because “it is a more efficient way of writing.”

Others, like Andra Mills, a professionally certified educational and dyslexia therapist, believe that in addition to keyboarding, it is imperative to teach students to write in cursive for a myriad of reasons.

MRI studies reveal that the act of cursive handwriting “actually activates massive areas in the brain involved in thinking, word rendering and language. Cursive handwriting has been proven to help students who have difficulty reading and spelling because, when you write in cursive, an entire word becomes a unit and the letters are not separate entities,” says Mills.

Fenton believes that recent MRI research may have instituted “a budding awareness and appreciation” for handwriting. He cites his daughter’s high school English and humanities teachers, who are now requiring handwriting annotations and the use of handwritten Post-It™ notes in response to this research. On his part, Fenton has his 5th graders compose poetry by hand and uses spelling and vocabulary tests and instruction as an opportunity to practice cursive while anything longer, like essays, are done on the computer.

Mary Fettig, educational support coordinator at Upper Valley Waldorf School in Quechee, Vt., feels handwriting “is one aspect of how we integrate movement and thinking. Learning cursive is an important tool for cognitive development as it activates both sides of the brain and strengthens hand-eye coordination.”

Losing Grip

Mary Blake, an occupational therapist, wholeheartedly agrees. She feels that a lot of children today lack the foundation skills that kids had 20 years ago, “such as picking up a pencil and knowing where to put their fingers.”

Blake feels that handwriting uses muscles in the hands in the way they were intended, allowing each finger to touch the tip of the thumb and utilize tools such as a pencil, scissors, knife, and fork. She has visited less technologically advanced countries and noticed that children there are better able to pick up and hold pencils in a way that American children cannot.

In fact, Derek Tremblay, headmaster at Mount Royal Academy in Sunapee, N.H., notes one of the differences between his established students and new kids coming from other schools is the strength of their grip.

Scribe Anxiety

As they progress through school, the requirement to write in cursive can produce anxiety for some students. Harvie Porter, a SAT supervisor at Randolph Union High School, in Randolph, Vt., notes that, historically, students were instructed to write the certification statement on the SAT in cursive. In recent years, this caused anxiety for test takers who could not write in cursive. And now, the College Boards no longer require students to write this statement in cursive.

At the same time, administrators at many post-secondary institutions find it challenging to read the handwriting of recent high school graduates. Office staff members at a local technical college bemoan the poor legibility of students’ signatures. An administrator at a local private elementary school complains about the ability to decipher the signatures of college interns.

Take It Home

Writing tutor Jane Friedlander of Thetford Center, Vt., says there is an alternative to incorporating cursive into teachers’ busy workload: setting aside small amounts of time at home for children to practice cursive.

Some parents even seek outside instruction for their children. Area teacher and artist Maryann Davis confirms that she was been hired by one parent to teach cursive to her son as an art form. “She came to me concerned because she saw the research that validates that cursive writing should be taught,” Davis says.

Upper Valley homeschool mom Meg Pillsbury demonstrates how attitudes toward cursive have changed over the years. Pillsbury, who has taught all seven of her children at home, admits to “diligently” teaching her first four children to write in script. By the fifth, she was “less diligent.” The last one now writes in script for three minutes a day.”

Self-Expression Is the Bottom Line

Blake cautions that there is a need to step away from the computer in order to gain perspective. Tremblay agrees, “Our culture right now is all about expression — even if it means adversely affecting someone else.” In his opinion, cursive allows students to slow down and think before saying something that might be hurtful. He adds that early exposure to technology at home might suggest that children do not need immediate computer instruction at school. “My 2-year-old boy can navigate an Amazon Kindle just fine,” he says.

Yet, keyboarding is obviously also essential. Eloise Ginty, principal of Mount Lebanon School in West Lebanon, argues, “I don’t think cursive is the end all in terms of developing fine motor control. There are all kinds of other ways we can get kids involved with that, and I would hope this would happen before 3rd and 5th grade — which is when cursive kicks in.”

Ginty feels that technology offers children new forms of expression. “Kindergarteners can now get thoughts out on paper with dictation or drawings or by creating digitally, which I really believe is the definition of writing, getting their thoughts on paper,” she says.


Kim J. Gifford is a writer, photographer/artist, avid dog lover and blogger. Her Bethel, Vt., home is always filled with nieces and nephews and her three pugs: Alfie, Waffles and Amore. Find her at pugsandpics.com

Spring 2017

Wellness: Lice – A Real Head Scratcher

Lice do not reflect lack of cleanliness or hygiene -- they are as happy to live on a sparkly clean scalp as one that hasn't bathed for a week.What should you do if your child comes home with this uninvited guest?
By Julie Davis, M.D.

After a summer of sleepovers, overnight camps and days at the beach, September brings not only the start of school but also — sometimes — the ever dreaded lice outbreaks. If you see evidence of lice on your child, don’t panic! There are good treatments for lice.

Lice are small mites that live on the scalp and cause itching as the child develops sensitivity to them. They lay their eggs (nits) on the hair shafts. Most commonly, they spread from person to person by close contact of heads, sharing hats, hair brushes or hair ties.

Got Lice?

If you suspect that your children have lice because they are scratching their heads or have had contact with others with lice, take a close look at their scalps. Lice are a whitish-grey sesame-seed sized mite that is usually found on the scalp or hair close to the scalp, often behind the ears or at the base of the back of the head. Nits look like little white pieces of sand or sugar but are well attached to the hair and don’t just flake off.

Start at the Top

First, wash the hair with an over-the-counter shampoo that contains permethrin and/or pyrethrins, commonly available as Rid or Nix. When you purchase the shampoo, get a good nit comb, too, ideally metal. Scrub the hair and scalp for 15 minutes or as directed. Remember, lice live on the scalp, so every inch of it must be scrubbed to be well-treated. Because these products may cause skin irritation, rinse the hair in a sink to minimize contact with skin.

A Labor of Love

After rinsing out the shampoo, comb every single strand of hair at least a few times, wiping the nits off on a tissue in between each stroke. A good cream rinse/conditioner will allow the comb to pass easily. It works best to comb one small section of scalp at a time, like when getting a haircut. There are nit cream rinses that help loosen the nits on the hair, but vinegar also works well.

One Day at a Time

Comb again daily for at least 3 or 4 days until there are no nits on the comb and there are no nits or lice seen on the scalp. If you find any live lice, treat with the shampoo again. This process is a labor of love. It could take an hour or more if you are doing it thoroughly, especially if your child has long or thick hair.

Look Around

Consider treating anyone who shares a bed with your child. For other family members, it is okay to just carefully look at their scalps and treat only if lice or nits show up. Wash sheets, towels and clothes in the hottest water possible to kill the lice. Place items that cannot be machine washed in hot water — things like blankets, stuffed animals and headphones — in sealed plastic bags for three weeks. This should kill any nits and lice on these objects. Vacuum floors and furniture where possible to remove lice; permethrin sprays in the house are not necessary.

When to Call the Doctor

Most cases of lice will be cured with this regimen. Occasionally lice are resistant to permethrin shampoos but most of the treatment failures are from not getting all the nits out. If you keep combing out live lice several days after what seems like adequate treatment, call your doctor as there are other prescription lice treatments available.

If you experience this parenting rite of passage, keep in mind that lice do not reflect lack of cleanliness or hygiene — they are as happy to live on a sparkly clean scalp as one that hasn’t bathed for a week.

Lousy Myths
  • Shaving the head has not been shown to get rid of lice; it just makes treatment easier.
  • Children with lice do not need to stay home from school.
  • Oily household products like Vaseline, butter and olive oil have not been shown to suffocate lice.
  • Do not use flammable products like gasoline or kerosene as they are dangerous and not effective.
An Ounce of Prevention
  • Encourage your child not to share hats, helmets, brushes, barrettes, hair bands, or headphones with other kids, especially during known lice outbreaks.
  • Keep long hair tied back or braided to help prevent hair-to-hair contact.

Julie Davis, M.D., is a family physician at White River Family Practice in White River Junction, Vt. She lives in Lyme, N.H., where she enjoys playing outside with her husband and two kids.

Local: Where to See Trains

Playgrounds, museums and festivals offer a variety of options for locomotive lovers.
Caboose in Andover, N.H.

By Laura Jean Whitcomb

There’s lots of things for kids to like about trains. They have wheels. They move. They have sound. They are powerful. They are fascinating to watch. If kids are able to sit on a train, there’s much more to like: hidden compartments and big windows. They can climb, explore, imagine and travel. Perhaps, for children on the autism spectrum, there’s comfort in order: a line of trains, one after another, all in a row.

Add in mechanics (wheels, tracks, pistons, axles) and engineering (steam, coal, diesel, bullet) and history (models, types, uses), and you’ve got an educational activity the whole family can enjoy. Here are a few places to see trains in New Hampshire and Vermont.

NEWBURY, N.H.

On Route 103, near the information booth, there’s the Bell Cove Historic Caboose Museum. Even if it isn’t open, kids can climb all over the refurbished B&M train car and peek in the windows.

If one train isn’t enough, head on down to the Velie Memorial Playground located next to the Newbury Public Library (also on Route 103). The playground equipment, designed to reflect the lakes and mountains of Newbury, includes a plastic train.

>> newburynh.org

TILTON, N.H.

Driving on Route 11 from Andover to Tilton, you will pass a train station on the right. The historic freight station, built in the late 1800s, has been restored into a function hall. Beyond the building, there are two rows of antique rail cars and cabooses. You can’t climb on them, but they are fun to look at.

The trains mark a section of the Winnipesaukee River Trail, which winds its way through Franklin, Tilton and Northfield. If you continue on the trail, you will see mill ruins, remaining portions of dams, an old railroad trestle and the Sulphite Railroad Bridge (an upside down railroad bridge on the National Register of Historic Sites).

>> merrimackvalleyrailroadstation.com

>> winnirivertrail.org

ANDOVER, N.H.

At one time, Andover was home to five train stations serving local passengers and tourists as well as carrying goods from local businesses. The Andover Historical Society has preserved one of those five: the Potter Place Railroad Station. There’s a stationmaster’s office and a red Northern Railroad Caboose. Down the road a bit, you’ll see a freight shed, given to the society in 2003 by the R.P. Johnson family, and a blue B&M freight car that was moved to the site in 2008. On days when the society is open (Saturdays and Sundays, mid-May to mid-October) or during special events, children can go inside the red caboose to see what travel was like “back in the day.”

>> andoverhistory.org

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, VT.

Want to see working trains? Head to the Amtrak station in White River Junction. You can check the online schedule to find out when a train will be pulling into the station, and park nearby so kids can see the flashing train signs, hear the wheels clacking on the ties, and wave to the passengers. Green Mountain Railroad offers a few special events like Kids Day with train rides and the Glory Days Festival provides hourly excursions up and down the Connecticut River.

>> amtrak.com/train-schedules-timetables

>> rails-vt.com

>> vtglorydaysfestival.com


Laura Jean Whitcomb lives in Grantham, N.H., with her husband and two children.

Why Do Kids Love Dinosaurs?

And why it’s okay to be an adult who still loves them.

By Marcos Stafne

From Sept. 24, 2016, to Jan. 1, 2017, the Montshire Museum of Science is hosting Dinosaur Revolution, a unique experience that merges two awesome things: dinosaurs and mazes! This visiting exhibition gets kids to explore new dinosaur discoveries, experience dinosaur movement through full-body activities and imagine themselves as paleontologists.

I love dinosaurs. Always have. Always will. I flirted once with being a paleontologist (a scientist who studies dinosaurs), but an internship at a dinosaur lab in Arizona taught me that I was much better at appreciating and talking about dinosaurs than performing technical research on dinosaur footprints.

My enthusiasm for dinosaurs started with the smallest type of dinosaur that currently exists: dinosaur erasers. Each time I visited my local museum with my dad, he would purchase one small dinosaur eraser for me as a memento of our trip. This collection grew into my own veritable Jurassic Park, complete with reference books that I pored over for countless hours. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t quite quench my thirst for dino-knowledge.

So what was it about dinosaurs that make kids so passionate about prehistory? I asked a few other adults who know a thing or two about ancient life why they thought dinosaurs + kids = a perfect match.

Dustin Growick, team lead for science at Museum Hack and known to the world as @DinosaurWhisperer on Instagram, finds creative ways to imagine what would happen if dinosaurs were still living today:

“Dinosaurs are the stuff of which dreams are made,” says Growick. “They’re huge, incredibly crazy looking, and new ones are discovered all the time. They inspire awe. Any child who is curious and observant can dream up their own ideas about what these extinct creatures looked like and how they may have acted. In this sense, this child is ‘doing’ science.”

A paleoanthropologist and associate professor of anthropology at Dartmouth College, Jeremy DeSilva spends a lot of time thinking about ancient human ancestors and apes, but is no stranger to the wonder of dinosaurs — especially through the eyes of his children. “I think kids take their love of dinosaurs to a new level when they have this realization that dinosaurs are different from some of the other magical creatures they may have met in books and movies during childhood. Dinosaurs actually existed,” he says. “Science often gives us a world even more spectacular and amazing than our imagination can ever create.”

So, how can you keep up with your budding young scientist when exploring dinosaurs in a museum? As Growick notes, “Kids know WAY more about dinosaurs than their parents. How often are 6 year olds the ultimate experts on something?!”

DeSilva offers a few key questions that we can think about together with our kids. “Because we only have their bones, kids feel welcome and empowered to wonder what dinosaurs looked like and how they behaved when they were alive. Some great questions to ask are:

What color were they? How did they interact with one another? What did they eat? How did they move? Did they take care of their babies? Some of these questions we have decent answers to, but others we don’t and kids may feel like they can contribute to our understanding of dinosaurs as much as anyone else and imagine what they were like.”

And what about the “E” word: extinction?

“Extinction can be upsetting, but it is an important topic to discuss with children given the impact that humans are having on the Earth,” says DeSilva. “But, it is not all doom and gloom. As my daughter said to me the other day after I said the dinosaurs were extinct: ‘Dad, dinosaurs didn’t completely go extinct. Some of them had feathers and they changed into birds!’”

Experience your own Dinosaur Revolution this fall at the Montshire Museum to learn more about dinosaurs — and just try to keep up with your 6 year old! And remember, it’s okay to keep loving dinosaurs, no matter your age.

Marcos Stafne, Ph.D., is the executive director for the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich, Vt. His three favorite dinosaurs are Deinonychus, Triceratops and Stegosaurus.

Platinum ½ Pint Puzzles are learning toys, but the kids will never know!

By Laura Jean Whitcomb

Science abounds on the benefits of puzzles: enhanced visual perception, improved coordination, better memory and heightened creativity. There’s left brain (logic) and right brain (creative) powers at work when you try to put together a puzzle. Puzzles are even a learning toy, encouraging children to follow simple steps to (successfully) solve problems.

But kids don’t care about any of that research. They just know that puzzles are fun. Parents and grandparents, on the other hand, like to know that they are giving more than a toy; they are helping a child’s brain grow and develop. “When you give a puzzle to a child you are giving more than a fun toy,” says Dee Rogers, co-founder of Platinum Puzzles in Canaan, N.H. “You are fostering skills that children will use all their life.”

For all ages

Dee and her husband Steve have been making custom wooden jigsaw puzzles for more than 20 years, and founded their company, Platinum Puzzles, in 2006. They started with adult puzzles, ranging from nostalgia to fantasy, limited edition to really tricky, and worldwide to local artists. A few years ago, they designed and made their first children’s puzzle. “We were hooked,” says Dee, and Platinum ½ Pint Puzzles was born.

“Steve and I both came from large families; Steve has five brothers and sisters, and I had seven. We found growing up in large families taught us skills, like how to compromise, share, and problem solve so there was harmony,” says Dee. “By the time our youngest was 11, I was working at Stave Puzzles, and there were always puzzles on our dining room table waiting to have just one more piece placed in. You learn a lot about an 11-year-old boy while sitting across from him working a wooden jigsaw puzzle!”

As the Rogers attended craft fairs and art shows, they made sure their puzzles were available for play. “When children play with our puzzles, we watch closely,” says Dee. “Very young children are just having fun, the image on the puzzle makes them happy, but school age children are on a mission. Their total focus is on the task before them and they block out the rest of the world as they strategize their moves.” This market research helps the Rogers develop ideas, such as adding a deliberate clue (a shape or solid color) to help a child solve a tricky area.

With a twist

Dee and Steve make two types of puzzles: an art image cut up and ready to be put back together, and puzzles they design to have a twist. “You get to pick how many pieces are in your puzzle — no one knows your child better than you and how many pieces they can confidently work,” says Dee. “You also get to pick whether or not to have the image in the bottom of the tray (great for young tots) or no image in the tray (great for 3 and 4 year olds) or no tray at all (great for 4 and up).”

Because all the puzzle pieces are hand cut, Dee and Steve are apt to add a bit of whimsy. A puzzle piece may be shaped as an animal (a butterfly, cat or deer), or it may be an umbrella (their logo). Not only do they help a child solve the puzzle, the shapes are fun to find.

The puzzle images come from artists all over the world, and the Rogers also design puzzles as well. “We have touch and feel puzzles with textured material,” says Dee. “Some puzzle pieces are shaped as an animal that can stand up and be played with on its own. Our ‘Mommy’ puzzles are layered puzzles, three layers, containing a mommy, an egg and a baby. To be able to develop and create wooden puzzles for small hands is so rewarding for a designer.”

Safe and nontoxic

No worries when your toddler picks up a puzzle piece and starts chewing. When it comes to safety, Platinum ½ Pint Puzzles goes above and beyond. The Rogers start with birch plywood made with soy based glues and no added formaldehyde. They cut large, roundish pieces so no one gets poked and nothing gets swallowed. They sand edges and finish the back with handmade beeswax paste. “We always suggest adult supervision, but if one of our puzzle pieces ends up in the mouth of a child — and we know they will — we want to make sure nothing will hurt them,” says Dee.

With all the thought put into art, piece design and materials, the end result is a puzzle that will be passed down from generation to generation.

All children’s puzzles cost under $30. Learn more at platinumhalfpintpuzzles.platinumpuzzles.com

The Building of Beck

Kid Stuff is excited to announce our first GreatKids Award recipient: 16-year-old Beck Johnson! Beck was nominated by several people who have witnessed his outstanding achievements, first hand. Throughout his many accomplishments, the common denominator is one great kid who dreams big and works hard. He was nominated for a variety of reasons: personal talent, eco-awareness, family/peer support, mentorship and academic excellence.

Beck Johnson, GreatKids Award Winner – Fall 2016

By Leigh Ann Root

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Beck Johnson dreams of ice cream and so much more. At the tender age of 9, visions of an ice cream scoop shop swirled in his head. This dream would materialize sooner than anyone could imagine, as Beck’s passion and determination fueled the transformation of the family’s old sheep barn into a homegrown success. Sanctuary Dairy Farm Ice Cream was born in 2009, and this would prove to be one of several triumphs for this talented young man.

As a 10th generation dairy farmer, Beck was destined to continue on in the family business. He led the charge in diversifying the family’s occupation. “Unlike most generational businesses, it was the youngest of the family, Beck, who had the vision,” says his mother Susan Deane Johnson. “He took the initiative to train the rest of the family, including his siblings, mother and grandmother. Beck’s secret recipes are passed up from mother to grandmother and those recipes support local farmers, like blueberries from Bartlett’s Farm and strawberries from Peachblow Farm.”

When asked where his drive comes from, Beck says, “I was told when I was younger to ‘learn with my hands’ because of some learning disabilities and that started it all.” Beck says his parents are hardworking people and this is where his work ethic comes from.

Eco-Friendly

As the scoop shop’s success grew, so did the demand for more production. Beck’s response was to add their 1st batch machine, then a 2nd machine and next a commercial kitchen.

Beck’s focus soon turned to renewable energy. Mike Nangeroni of New England Solar Concepts says, “Beck purchased energy efficient equipment with the intent to preserve our natural resources, but he wanted to do more. He began researching ways to reduce the dependence on the energy resources that powered his growing ice cream business. Finally after many hours of research, Beck decided a solar PV system would be his best option.”

In the fall of 2011 he hired New England Solar Concepts and in March of 2012 the project was complete. The electricity runs the scoop shop, farm stand, commercial kitchen and the family home. “We all have a social responsibility to conserve energy, save natural resources and reduce waste,” says Beck.

Academic Endeavors

Beck’s ice cream education includes a Penn State University certificate for ice cream science, he is ServSafe Certified, and he graduated from the Ice Cream University. He traveled to Italy with his family in 2013, where he learned from the masters in the field. Another trip in 2014 to research ice cream production using local produce was made to the Galapagos Island. This has all happened as he attended Sunapee Middle High School.

Beck’s cap feathers include the Best of NH Ice Cream Producer in the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee Area in 2015 and 2016. In addition, he was nominated for a Business Excellence Award in 2015.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

A simple stop at Sanctuary Dairy Farm Ice Cream delivers deliciousness and an experience, too. You can fill your belly, climb a tree, go for a hike, or simply sit and enjoy the views. “I am impressed with his passion for wanting to succeed and the positive impact he is having on the community by creating a good environment for families to go and have a good time all while eating ice cream!” says Nangeroni. “It’s great that kids have the opportunity to see and feed farm animals, like goats, donkeys and puppies. They can play volleyball, Frisbee, soccer, dig in the sand, and climb in the play house. It’s a place to go and have some good old-fashioned fun!”

The heart and soul of this business is quality ingredients, a sustainable future and producing the highest quality ice cream with purees and pastes from scratch. This early aspiration continues to deliver the community frozen delights and more. The business is also the home of a year-round farm stand offering an array of locally made products; fresh eggs, pints and gallons of ice cream, meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, fudge, jams, jellies, maple syrup, honey and beverages.

The Family’s View

“Beck has always been an outstanding individual, eager to help in any way that he can. He goes out of his way to be helpful and encouraging. He started out with an idea and built a business. In doing so, he has shown leadership, mentorship and what a lot of hard work does. Beck is a manager of his peers, which at a young age is very difficult. He shows by example and is not afraid of hard work,” says his grandmother Edwina Deane. “I have seen and worked beside him at fairs where he mans the ice cream cart for more than eight hours at a time, never complaining, showing by example what a great businessman can be.”

“My biggest accomplishment is having a successful business in economically depressed times and building it from the ground up. I work for goals and meet them. I pay for everything as I go along, debt-free,” he says. “I love the people and making people happy.”

Making people happy, is indeed what he has done. Well done, Beck Johnson!

Preschool Ambition: 1,000 Books before Kindergarten

New Hampshire early literacy program rewards families for reading to toddlers and preschoolers.

By Emma Wunsch

In I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, Dartmouth College alumnus Theodore Geisel — Dr. Seuss — tells us, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn the more places you’ll go.” And thanks to the 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten program, New Hampshire residents need to go only as far as the local library to take advantage of this free early literacy program.

The program operates basically the same way everywhere — families record all books read to children under 5 — but each library is free to create incentives. Judith G. Russell, director at Converse Free Library in Lyme, N.H., and treasurer of Children’s Librarians of New Hampshire (CHILIS-NH), says the beauty of the program is how “straightforward and simple and easy it is to get families excited and involved with local libraries and with reading.”

The Fiske Free Library in Claremont, N.H., began its 1,000 Books program in January. Children’s Librarian Brenda Tripodes says the book program is “a little extra reason to come to the library.” For every 100 books read, participants earn a sticker; when they reach between 300 and 350 books, the prize is a book tote; and at the 500 and 800 count, free books are awarded. Upon reaching 1,000 books, the family receives a certificate of completion and signs their name on a special door dedicated to the program.

Within six weeks of the start of the Lebanon, N.H., Public Libraries’ 1,000 Books program in February, tote bags were flying out the door to the nearly 100 enrolled children. Retired First Grade Teacher, Story Time Leader and Substitute Librarian Francine Lozeau loves seeing how proud the children are coming into the library with their totes full of books. Lebanon libraries reward stickers for every 100 books and a free book and certificate upon completion of the program.

In Newport, four children have completed Richards Free Library’s 1,000 Book program. For the other 39 children currently working on their 1,000 books, the library has some unique incentives. In addition to getting stamped at every 100-book interval, participants write their name and decorate a paper star to display in the library. Moriah Churchill, who kicked off the program in August 2014, says they “make a big deal of putting the stars on our 1000 BB4K bulletin board.” Upon completion, participants receive a tote bag and two picture books. Churchill says one of the best parts of the program is how “absolutely simple this program can be. All that’s needed is a way for parents to record their books and a barrel full of enthusiasm about reading.”

While the thought of reading 1,000 books might be daunting, all the librarians interviewed insist it can be accomplished. And, rest assured, if your 3 year old insists on Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site five times a day, each reading counts! Audiobooks, story times and other readers count, too! If you read just one book a day, your 2 year old will finish his 1,000 books in just three years — right in time for kindergarten!

Emma Wunsch lives with her husband, two daughters and large dog in Lebanon. Her young adult novel The Movie Version was published in October, 2016.