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England Field Trip Boosts Kids' Learning

England Trip
Read the article written for the Gardner News by George Bennett

Dance Week at the Village School

Dance Brings out Creativity in Village School Children

By George Bennett: 4th-6th Grade Teacher

In a famous TED talk in 2016, on creativity in education, world-renowned education expert Sir Ken Robinson asked why dance is not taught in schools every day. 'Creativity,' he said, 'is as important in education as literacy,' and he cited dance as a vital form of physical creativity.

Anna Hendricks, founder of Great Falls Creative Movement in Turner's Falls, would agree with him. She characterizes her work with children as 'creative movement', which, naturally, includes elements and principles of dance. Recently Hendricks conducted a week-long residency at The Village School in Royalston, that demonstrated the value of dance for children, in classes range from preschool to 6th grade.

As 2nd-3rd grade teacher Shannon Johnson commented, 'Some of the work the children did with Anna goes beyond dance, and can be incorporated into their everyday lives.'

k-1 head movement

This was Hendricks' second opportunity to work at the school, funded by a 'STAR' residency grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and she was able to build on the principles she had taught the previous year, which a surprising number of the older children remembered.

This year Hendricks based her work with all the grades on four concepts: focus, balance, rhythm and energy. She demonstrated these in various ways so that everyone, from preschool to 6th grade, was able to work with these principles and put them into practice.

Just consider 'focus', something that children of all ages find increasingly hard to maintain. Hendricks had the children work with an internal focus, a single point external focus, and a wider external focus. She then asked each student to take a gesture, or posture, while maintaining one or another of these.


Having a particular focus helped the children to maintain their attention, so that when they came to show their gestures to partners and later, small groups, they were able to repeat them accurately. Each of these groups thus built up a short routine of gestures and movements to which each child contributed.

The groups then took turns to teach their routines to the rest of the class, so that everyone contributed a piece to a dance routine that was performed by the whole class. In the preschool and K-1 classes these were, of course, quite simple, but in the 4th-6th-grade class, the children produced complex dances that could be described as 'guided' improvisation.

Each student was given a slip of paper with a particular instruction, which they then put into practice. A dancer might be asked to take a series of balancing postures, or to cross the room at a run, but to incorporate two falls and a roll. Other children were asked to copy another dancer, or to wait for fifteen seconds before joining the rest of the dance and making their own move, and so on.

The resulting dance was a demonstration of individual and group creativity that spontaneously developed a surprising degree of coherence, in which the children demonstrated a focus on their own gestures and a wider focus on the whole room and the other dancers within it.

Taking various postures and gestures involved the other principles that Hendricks outlined each day. The children worked on balance in various ways, holding positions with one, two or more body parts – feet, hands, head, hips, etc - on the floor. These skills, too, were incorporated in the complex dances that continued to evolve during the week.


The concept of 'energy' showed itself in the different ways the children could move their bodies, from sharply to smoothly, and from fast to slow. The idea of rhythm speaks for itself.

Each class was able to take part in a number of sessions during the week, culminating in a short presentation to parents and the rest of the school. With each succeeding class, the children became more confident, and more fluent in the way they were able to embody the concepts Hendricks developed.

Even the few reluctant children - generally in the older, more self-conscious, grades - were clearly enjoying themselves by the end of the week, as they saw their own gestures being taken up by the rest of the class, and as they realized that dance was actually fun. The whole of the Village School is grateful to the Massachusetts Cultural Council for funding this residency and supporting the arts in general.

Hendricks left both students and teachers at The Village School feeling inspired to find ways to work with creative movement in the future, and keen to welcome her back next year. Ken Robinson would have been pleased.

K-1 focus

Check out all the photos from Dance week on our Photo Album page >>

Saturday, September 17, 2:00-4:00 :: Bread making with parents and children at Camp Caravan, 255 S. Royalston Rd., Royalston

Parents and children can join in a short breadmaking workshop with Professor Bread, making whole wheat raisin or cranberry bread together. Educator and social worker, Dr. Gary Gomer, a/k/a Professor Bread, created the Breadmaking-in-the-Schools program and has taught thousands of students and hundreds of parents in New York City all about bread and how simple it is to make at home. The family program will culminate with sharing warm bread and homemade butter. This workshop is designed to give parents the confidence to begin baking bread at home with their children. Parents and their children should arrive a little early, or right on time. Donations are accepted. To sign up, email: or call: 978 249 3505
View the flyer >>

Poetry Week at the Village School

All the classrooms, from preschool through the 6th grade, celebrated Poetry Week in January at the Village School in Royalston. Older Reading Buddies sat down with younger preschool and kindergarten buddies to collaborate on poems about Feelings, the subject for Poetry Week. Children brainstormed and came up with words to describe being happy, afraid, angry, sad and other feelings. Children wrote two-voice poems and individual poems. Poetry Week culminated in two mornings of poetry readings, when the older Reading Buddies read both the two-voice poems they wrote and the poems their younger Reading Buddies wrote with their assistance. For each poem, the younger Reading Buddies also displayed a drawing they made to go with the poem.

The anthology of these poems and more photos will be on display at the Village School Open House on Saturday February 6. Everyone is welcome to attend Open House from 10 to noon, meet teachers, learn about the curriculum and find out about admissions.

Village School children applaud a group of Reading Buddies who just finished reading their poems aloud.

applauding poets boys writing poem buddies poem writing clapping for poets e funny poem K-1 feeling brainstorm more readings poetry buddies poetry reading trio reading together 2 see my picture writing a poem together preschool buddies 1

The Village School Players Present: Threat to the Throne

Threat to the Throne

The Village School 4th-6th grade students are in character for their new play, Threat to the Throne. The play, set in the Middle Ages, was written by the children themselves, and all nineteen students in the class have speaking parts. The plot involves a threat to overthrow a fictional medieval king, but it also has plenty of comedy. The children were inspired by their year-long study of the Middle Ages, and by Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, which they saw performed earlier in the year. The public is invited to watch Threat to the Throne performed at Royalston Town Hall, on Friday May 15th at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Best seats are in the morning. Donations are accepted to defray costs of production.

Past Village School Events:

Wednesday March 4 - 6:00 p.m. an Evening with Sara Cohen

Sara CohenDOING SOMETHING EVERY DAY Simple activities you can do with your children to enhance the mind-body connections and help your child develop fully, including developing attention.

Sara Cohen Poster

Click here to

Come to our Open House :: Saturday February 7th, 10 a.m. to noon

Come see classrooms, meet teachers, talk to current parents and students, meet alumni and learn about the engaging curriculum. Find out about openings for next year, including preschool, and about the admissions process. From 10 to 11:45 a.m., children can join in arts and crafts and science activities in the classrooms. At 11:45 a.m. everyone will gather together to meet with school director Risa Richardson. Coffee, tea and light refreshments are served throughout the morning. The snow date is Saturday March 7th.

The Village School is located on the Common in Royalston, off Route 68, just across from the Post Office. There are limited openings for the 2015-2016 school year. For more information, call 978 249-3505.

Open the flyer >>

Central Massachusetts Children's Book Festival :: Saturday November 15

Open the postcard >>

Come to the Central Massachusetts Children's Book Festival for a free fun filled day featuring fifteen local authors and illustrators participating in book signings, presentations, readings and hands on activities. A great selection of children's books ranging from picture books to young adult novels is available for purchase and signing by the authors and illustrators. Music, activities and storytelling make it an engaging event for families and children. Check out our website for more details >>

Village School Students Explore Mexican Culture

4th-6th chefs 2 4th-6th chefs

Village School students are involved in an interdisciplinary exploration of Mexican history, geography, art, music and food throughout this school year. The project was initiated by Village School Spanish teacher, Jocelyn Langer, inspired by resources and materials gathered during her month-long trip to Mexico last summer. See some of the Student Art Work >>

Throughout the fall semester, Langer introduced 2nd-6th grade students to Mexican culture during Spanish class. Students were exposed to new vocabulary words related to each unit, and 4th-6th graders became proficient with translating simple texts. Children of all ages enjoyed singing traditional songs in Spanish during music class, and had fun learning dances and games.

masks to dry turned our clay work with leftover clay

During the month of December, Spanish classes were dedicated to a study of chocolate, including its ancient roots in Mexico, and its role in traditional mythology. Children studied chocolate-related recipes in Spanish, and the unit culminated with a live presentation of the chocolate recipes in both Spanish and English by Village School parent Angela Hakkila and cooking instructor Emily Langer. Each child tasted a traditional beverage with cacao and cinnamon, and brought home a sample of other creations.

This winter, Spanish classes have focused on Mexican food and art. Village School art teacher Renee Malowitz carried the theme into her art classes, leading children in projects including pottery, string painting, clay instruments and paintings inspired by Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Hakkila, Langer and Village School math teacher Lynn Nystrom prepared an all-school Mexican cooking day this March. Each classroom participated in making part of a traditional Mexican dish, and had the opportunity to taste each other's work at lunch time.

The preschool class learned the story of Borreguita and Coyote, making masks and acting it out. They then helped make flautas (tortilla-wrapped chicken) and enjoyed eating them.

acting borreguita & coyote coyote mask

This year-long study of Mexican culture is an example of the theme-based, interdisciplinary projects that are at the heart of the Village School curriculum. School faculty and staff collaborate to create fun, meaningful, hands-on and age-appropriate learning opportunities that weave their way throughout the curriculum and leave a lasting impression on the students.

boys cooking boys rolling cooking table

Lantern Walk Article in the Winchendon Courier

by Brian Dickens Click to read the article >>