A leader for a generation of students
Bernice A. Ray was principal of the Ray School for 25 years. She came to Hanover in 1929, after teaching second grade in a one-room classroom in Glover, Vt. and in her hometown of Barton, Vt. She was born in Inverness, Quebec, and grew up in Barton. After teaching at the Hanover Elementary School for 16 years, she was named Principal in 1945.
Milt Frye, long time principal of the Marion Cross Elementary School in Norwich, VT., spoke about Bunny Ray, Francis C. Richmond, and Marion Cross, three educators who the SAU 70 elementary schools and Middle School are named for, in the 2003, Here In Hanover magazine: “The women who took up the profession of teaching in those days were the cream of the crop. The most gifted and talented young women only had a few options for employment outside of the home.” Superintendent, Dr. Bill Zimmerman, at a very young age, found this standard for excellence in Bunny Ray.
Dr. Zimmerman arrived in Hanover in the 1960′s, as the newly hired Superintendent of Schools. He was 29 years old. The principal at the Hanover elementary school was “Miss Ray.” “That was her formal name,” said Dr. Zimmerman in an interview. “Her informal name was ‘Bunny’. I never heard her called ‘Bernice’.”
When Dr. Zimmerman first met Bunny Ray, “I realized,” he said, that she was a ‘mature’ woman,” who ultimately broke in a 29 year old Superintendent of Schools.
Dr. Zimmerman said, “I came to realize she was a gifted learner. She didn’t have a lot of formal training, but she had life experience”. When talking about Miss Ray’s work, Zimmerman added, “She was organized, a planner, and a very good leader of the staff. She understood the needs of the students.” He continued, “She was statuesque. She carried herself with dignity. And, behind her authoritative appearance was a rich sense of humor. She was good at telling stories, and was known for telling a good one.”
Dr. Zimmerman remembered developing a Performance Based Program Budget. “Of all the principals,” he said, hers came in with the decimals in place and all lined up, each line item with a rationale. She had studied the system and worked it out perfectly.”
“One year,” Dr. Zimmerman remembered, “we needed a new 5th grade teacher.” He explained that they looked over the applications putting them into one of three piles: “definite,” “maybe,” or “reject.” “In the reject pile I saw a picture of a young girl in a bikini holding a martini glass. Of course it caught my eye.” I asked Bunny why she had rejected this application, the woman seemed very talented with a master degree and some years of experience. Bunny said, ‘We can’t have people like that. We can’t have people like that.” I said, “Let’s interview her.” We did. Bunny later reported that the candidate had arrived in a business suit, and proved herself the best applicant. She got the job.”
Another time Bunny showed her ability to adapt was when mini skirts became popular. It wasn’t the students with the problem. It was the teachers. “Bunny made a rule,” Zimmerman explained, “that only long skirts could be worn in school. So, the teachers came in slacks.” Zimmerman said he had to talk to Bunny, “If I were a teacher and came in in my kilt…” She concurred with that, along with the argument that elementary teachers needed to sit on the floor and jump up and down all day.
Dr. Zimmerman also told the story of the wonderful music teacher who was pregnant. Bunny came to him and said, “We need to find a new music teacher.” Dr. Zimmerman asked why, “The one we have is so good.” Bunny responded, “She is pregnant and will soon show. It is against our policy to have a pregnant woman teach.”
Dr. Zimmerman asked when she was due. “She is due in June,” Bunny responded.” She was such a good teacher, Dr. Zimmerman consulted with Dr. Jack Schleicher, who had delivered just about every baby in Hanover. The Superintendent asked, “What is the policy about teaching during pregnancy?”
“There is no policy that I know of,” Dr. Schleicher responded.
Dr. Zimmerman reflected, “She does have to push a piano from one room to the next.”
“Good. Exercise is good!” exclaimed Dr. Schleicher. Bunny admitted there ws no written policy. “It’s just the way it is,” she said. The music teacher taught until June, and had her baby on a weekend.
One of the many leadership qualities Bunny possessed was being flexible. She knew when to step up to the changing times.
Bunny supported the teachers to the community and the School Board. In an article in the Fall, 2003, Hanover, entitled “Women of the Schools,” Ruth L. Brown, long time second grade teacher at the Ray School was quoted: “Bunny always listened, and often would talk us through our ideas. She would support us completely, and asked us what we thought would be accomplished by a change, and how we thought it would benefit our students.” Brown added, “She was open to new ideas.”
Lou Sterling, Chair of the Hanover School Board during the building of the school, said it all began with plans to move the high school students to a spot on Reservoir Rd. It was felt it would be good to let them gain their own identity by removing them from the proximity of both the Dartmouth, student and the primary grade students. When they lost the vote by a small margin, Lou said, “I will never be involved in public schools again.” However, when it came time for the election of school board members, and no one had stepped up, Lou ran for another term and won handily.
John Kemeny, who later became President of Dartmouth College, was also on the School Board. Needing more space, they decided to move the elementary school to the new site, so they hired a company from White Plains, NY to develop some plans. The plan was voted down, again by a small margin, which was unexpected. The design was considered too posh.
This time, when they went back to the drawing boards, they turned to Roy Banwell, a local architect with three children in the school system. Roy, in a recent interview, said, “I didn’t necessarily have the experience to build a public building, so I went to Fleck and Lewis Architects and asked why don’t we combine our knowledge?” Banwell was the designer and Fleck and Lewis, the “…backbone and substance of the organization”.
Selecting a Building Advisory Committee from a cross-section of the community, recommendations were considered for the new school. When looking at designs for the building, Roy explained, “…we wanted an entrance that would give a welcoming feel to children, not one that was formal or,disciplined in appearance”. The entrance today, with its double . wide doors opening to a front hallway and a large glassed-in showcase filled with children’s artwork, was conceived in 1968, and still welcomes children and the public to the school today, forty years later.
Some of the unique features of the school, built to accommodate grades K-4, included a floor plan with pod areas, in all four clusters of classrooms, each one open to the next. It was built with the concept of team teaching in mind, so between each room was a folding curtain-like door. In an interview, Ruth Hubbard, retired 2nd grade teacher, said, “This was good if you really got along with the other teacher, as I did. Though sometimes my room was a lot nosier than hers.” Willy Black said that when she taught kindergarten next to Jack Wilde who taught 1st grade, they mostly kept the folding doors closed. The students couldn’t see each other but if it got noisy, so they could hear each other. When the doors were closed there was a gap between the floor and the bottom of the folding screen, and if the Kindergarten children got too loud, Jack would push a little truck under the curtain which carried the message, “Too noisy!”
Another unique feature was the sunken “Multi” area. Over the years the Multi served as the center of the school, home to plays, performances, small group work….anything that happened outside the classroom, happened in the Multi. It served as a wonderful school-wide shared space. Dr. Zimmerman said that even 40 years after he had moved on from Hanover and had retired to become a consultant, whenever he was involved with a new building, he would use the Ray School as an example of a public educational facility that works.
Hanover Elementary School Named in Honor of Bernice A. Ray
Mrs. Lu Sterling Martin, Hanover Board Chair in 1969, said in a recent interview, “When it came time to name the school, the Board decided “No one,” Mrs. Martin said, “had been more influential in education…” than Bunny Ray. “She had formed the basis of education for a generation of people.”they wanted to name it for a living person.”
The School Board announced their intention to name the school, the “Bernice A. Ray” School at a retirement gathering for Bunny Ray in 1969.
The Hanover Report of the Hanover School Board recorded the moment: “It is my pleasure to announce that, in honor of Miss Ray’s years of outstanding service to the children of Hanover, the members of the Hanover School Board have voted to name our new elementary school The Bernice A. Ray School.” (Lu Sterling Martin, Chair) “It was the high point of the evening,” Mrs. Martin said. “Nothing pleased Bunny more, not often can we honor that kind of leadership.”
In September of 1970, the first group of children burst through the welcoming doors, and a new era began.
Whenever anyone enters the building, one of the first things to catch the eye is an oil painting of Bunny Ray, a gray-haired woman with very bright blue eyes, poised, sitting in a statuesque manner, greeting the children, as she had done for 29 years, forever after.
The Addition and Renovation-Time for Change
As time went on, the school population grew. In the 1980′s, a trailer was added to the East end of the school. Called, “The Outback”, it was the classroom for two second grade classes. In order for the children and teachers to go to art, music, PE, lunch, or anywhere, they had to exit the trailer and enter the back door of the school. This worked, but there were other places where the school felt small, such as the special areas of art, music, and PE. The original school was built for grades, 1-4. The PE area was not a gym, per se, but a movement room with a tile floor and metal radiators that jutted out from the wall at each end of the room. Both the art room and the music room were small and the air circulation poor. There were ventilation problems in other areas of the school and there were a variety of new regulations that needed to be met from the addition of sprinkler systems to lighted Exit signs over the doors leading outside…in a building where every room had an exit door. The children ate their lunches in the Multi which was unacceptable by state regulations.
In the early 1990′s, the School Board decided it was time to renovate the Ray School to bring the building up to standards and to add on new classrooms to meet the needs of the projected growth in population. It was also time to add a regulation sized gym with a wood floor, a renovated art room, a kitchen and a music classroom/performing area/school assembly hall.
Debra Grabill, School Board Chair at that time and Smith Reed, member of the School Board met recently to tell the story of the renovation.
There were many good reasons for the additions and the renovations they said. There were issues of fire suppression in the walls, rugs and roof. There were issues of allergens and sound, all different issues from those when the building was first built. Smith said, “It didn’t seem that there could be one solution that could make everyone happy.” Sometimes, it felt like a painful process. Everyone was included. The teachers, the students, and a large building committee of 12 -14 members.
Though children were moving into Hanover, the population of Hanover was such that a very large number of the population either had never, or no longer, had children involved with the school. This also had to be considered and respected when making plans for the new building project. Deb said that the Principal, Loretta Murphy, was incredibly helpful. She proved to be a “patient clerk of works.” Also, Greg Hemberger, the representative from the architect firm of Banwell and White, proved incredibly patient. “He listened to everyone,” Deb said, “and kept bringing us back to ‘school program’.” She felt he showed a great deal of wisdom as he kept programs in mind while working to stay within the budget. Despite the many conversations, or more likely, because people took so much time for the conversations, things began to fall into place. The building “…always lent itself to renovation,” said Deb, which was lucky.
As they thought of more considerations that had to be included in the discussions, anticipating the future came up. Along with meeting the needs of the day the Board and committee had to “recognize program changes,” Deb said. They had to consider programs such as the after school program, (HASP). Where would they meet and keep their stuff? And, they wanted the spaces such as the gym and the music area to include community use….and there was so much more to consider, like the drop-off and parking situation. The whole process said Deb was one of “shared love.” Smith admitted that at times we “…did feel the Board was losing control of the process.” There were times when, “…by involving so many,” he wondered, “if they had walked into a train wreck.” But, Smith added, “People were dedicated to taking issues to a successful conclusion.” When the architect came back with the anticipated cost of over four million dollars, Deb said, I remember Steve Rosof, a Board Member, said, “I’m staggered.”
“He was anticipating the community’s response,” she said. They went back to the drawing boards and returned with a figure under four million. The bond passed and the renovations and additions were made.
It ended a true community effort. Deb said, “A strong feature of the culture of this community is that people wanted to make it work.”
The new school, built in 1970, was name after the longtime principal, Bernice A. Ray. She retired two years before the school opened and in her honor the new school was so named. She is remembered as a very thoughtful person. She is also remembered for her very blue eyes, which could turn steely when necessary. Today, an oil painting of her greets all who enter the doors
The first principal of the Ray School was Jerry Kaplan, He is fondly remembered as an easy-going man, who knew every child’s name. He was the first to recognize the importance of the nature area located behind the school and had benches built which were placed in the area so children and teachers could use them as an outside learning space. When he left, a ceremony was held in the hemlock grove on his behalf.
The next principal was Bo Weaver. He left after a year and a half to complete his doctoral work at Harvard. Arthur Pierce finished out the year.
Then came Stefan Vogel. He loved the arts and promoted large school events. The Colonial House was built during his tenure. He is remembered as a wonderful principal, and a great support to his teachers.
Stefan was followed by Bernadette McLaughlin. While she was here the first, large, Playspace was constructed and Facespace was erected at the entrance to the school’s driveway.
Loretta Murphy followed. Under Loretta’s tutelage, the 3R’s: Rights, Respect, and Responsibility were created as a basis for expected behavior in the school community. As a supporter of these principles she was an inspirational leader.
Bruce Williams, the former principal, from 1996 through 2011. He was noted for his mediation skills and his philosophical outlook on life and education. Under his guidance, a new playspace and additions to the playspace were constructed. An outdoor basketball court, a gathering garden, and renovations to the Colonial House were approved under his leadership. He supported the artistic side of the children’s experience and he allowed teachers to dream.
Matt Laramie, former principal from 2011 to 2016 served during the Ray School's renovation from 2013-2015.
Lauren Amrhein is presently the principal for the Ray School. (2018-2019).
Colonial House History
The Ray School is very proud of its recycling program. It began 30 years ago in 1978, when Mrs. Hawthorne’s third grade recycling bin made from sticks and Mrs. RL Brown’s second grade incorporated composting in a garbage can and a spring garden in their science curriculum. A few years later, two first grades joined the project. By 1993, ten classes were composting their fruit and vegetable scraps on the specially built compost pile located in the back of the school. The only reason this was later abandoned is because it attracted animals to prowl too near the playground area. But, the habit of recycling had been born.
Once curbside recycling started in Hanover, the program expanded to include all recyclables and then all Ray School classrooms and offices participated in the program.
When the program first started, a three hour garbage circus was organized for the whole school. After sending around to all teachers a list of materials to be recycling poster recycled, Mrs. Hawthorne’s students made a colorful wall-sized mural of recyclables and trash which was hung in the school lobby.
Mrs. Hawthorne placed her children at various stations in the lobby to advertise recyclable materials and to act as “barkers” as each class came, at a specified time, with their recyclables. A cacophony of “paper here,” “put your compost here,” aluminum cans,” resounded throughout the school.
At the end of the collection, Mrs. Force’s fourth grade weighed all the materials and made graphs showing amounts collected. These were posted throughout the school.
Teachers and students learned from active participation and follow-up discussion in their classrooms.
Two other activities that were fun were the Christmas tree ornaments and the inventions made from recycling materials. Mrs. Hawthorne’s third grade class made ornaments for all children in the school to be hung on their trees at home as a reminder to their parents about Christmas tree Recycling (Merry Mulch Day) in Hanover. Date, time, place, and logo were on the ornaments. Each week a special time was set aside for Mrs. Sellingham and Mrs. Hawthorne’s classes to work on “Cooperative Project.” The inventors of the group brought in empty odd shaped boxes, paper tubes, egg cartons, bottle tops, thread, empty spools, and other recyclables and throwaways and created great inventions. One was the “President Transporter from the White house to the Capitol Building.”
When Mrs. Hawthorne retired the area where recycling took place in the custodial space in the lower level of the school was named, the Hawthorne/Jackson recycling room in deep gratitude to Elaine Hawthorne and Alice Jackson (town volunteer) who dedicated so much time to developing this program not only in the Ray School, but in Hanover.
After Mrs. Hawthorne retired, the fourth grade team took over the responsibilities of the recycling room. Each fourth grade class, working on a monthly schedule, on Wednesdays accept and sort the recyclables from bins located throughout the school.
Early fall, Mrs. Hawthorne’s 3rd grade and Ms. Hayes’ 1st and 2nd grades discussed recycling, in general, before focusing on composting.
Lists were made of acceptable foods that go into the compost piles.
Mini-compost piles (in petri dishes) were made of samples of these foods to show how they decomposed and how long it takes. (pieces of paper and aluminum were also used.)
A written record was kept by the children showing how long it took for the materials to decompose.
To illustrate a complete cycle, the children were told that their school compost would be used as fertilizer in the 2nd grade spring garden; that the produce would be made into vegetable soup the next fall to be served to all participating classes; and that the seeds would be planted in the spring.
Then, upon requests from the surveyed classes, Mrs. Hawthorne’s third grades took turns giving brief “lectures” and explanations on how to compost. The mini compost piles were used in the demonstration.
On a daily basis, children from the participation classes took their fruit and vegetable scraps to the pile. Hs. Hayes’ class and Mrs. Hawthorne’s class were in charge of monitoring the compost pile. Every year, efforts were made to increase participation.
Beloved, Longtime Ray School Volunteer 1993
The Reading Child, a sculpture in the Ray School Lobby, was donated by the family of Louise Derrick, longtime Ray School teacher, in her memory. It was created by sculptor, Larry Nolan, of Windsor, Vermont.
Louise, the mother of six children, was the first educational assistant hired by the Hanover Statue of a child reading School District in the late 1960′s. She was the only one for the whole school, so she rotated between all the teachers and did many different kinds of duties. In addition to her work in the classroom, she had recess duties including early morning and late afternoon bus duty each day. In 1970 when Hanover Elementary School became the Bernice A. Ray School and moved to Reservoir Road more educational assistants were hired, so Louise became the assistant for a single grade level of teachers, only four classrooms. Louise was usually found in a kindergarten, first or second grade classroom. In the 1980′s Louise was hired as a permanent first grade teacher. She was enthusiastic and creative, always looking for new ways to encourage her students to learn. She especially loved involving her young pupils in nature and science projects, taking them often on the new school nature trail. Literature was also one of her loves. Most of her first graders turned out to be enthusiastic readers. Even after her retirement, Louise came back to the Ray School often. Before school started each year she came in during the pre school teacher workshop days to help several teachers get their classrooms ready for the new year. She also volunteered in the Ray School Library each week and especially enjoyed helping the youngest ones find answers to their many questions. She planned nature activities with Alice Jackson, a wonderful Ray School science volunteer.
After Louise died, her family wanted to memorialize her in a special way at the Ray School. Louise’s husband, Frank, had met Larry Nolan, a young sculptor working as a resident at the Saint Gaudens museum in Cornish, New Hampshire and was impressed with his work. To discuss Frank’s idea, a small committee of teachers was formed along with Principal Bruce Williams. Frank invited Larry to come and meet with the group and have him listen to stories about Louise’s work as a first grade teacher and her contributions to the Ray School community. We told him about Louise’s goal of instilling in her young students an appreciation of the natural world and a love of reading and literature. Several weeks later, Larry came back to the committee with a sketch and a plan. He showed us a young child who was sitting with legs crossed and head bowed, engrossed in a book. Just behind the child, if you look closely, is a little frog (listening?). This design was approved by the committee and the Derrick family. When the bronze statue was completed it was presented to the school in a ceremony which included the Derrick Family, Larry Nolan, Bruce Williams, principal, Ray school teachers, friends and the Hanover community. The “Reading Child” sets the mood when entering the Ray School Lobby, a lovely addition.
Jean Keene Retired Librarian
Standing beside the front showcase, in the main front hallway of the school is the “Ray School Bunny”. In 1979, when Marilyn “Willy” Black, was named Teacher of The Year for the nation, it was requested that when she met the President of the United States, then Jimmy Carter, she bring some gifts representing her school. The teachers decided that the school needed a mascot and the obvious one was the ”Bunny” in honor of the school’s namesake, Bernice ”Bunny” Ray. So, a tee shirt was created with the school’s new “Bunny” logo. The shirt went off to the President and the mascot remained at the school.
When Mrs. Black retired in 1992, she took up the hobby of chain saw art and one of her first creations, the Ray School Bunny, she donated to the school.
Programs to Highlight Curriculum
Fourth Grade Pow Wow
The Fourth Grade Pow Wow is a grade level culmination of the study of Native American Culture. Previous to the Pow Wow, which began in about 2003, each classroom learned about and built artifacts from each major US region, or native culture. In 2003, the fourth grade teachers decided that it would benefit student learning if each classroom concentrated on one region of the US: Plains, North East, South East, South West or Pacific. They also decided to study the unit at the same time so that the students could share each room’s knowledge with the rest of the 4th grade classes at the final Pow Wow, a grade level celebration.
During the unit the children build model villages, read historical fiction, write their own myths, and make many Native artifacts during their Art periods. The art teacher does a pit firing of clay in the Fall. The students fire their pots or art pieces by placing their clay piece into a pit of hot stones. It is then covered with more coals and dirt, and left for the day. At the end of the day, they all return to take their work “out of the oven,” simulating the way pots were fired in earlier times.
All students write a myth using facts and styles from their specific culture. For example, in “Why the Snow is White,” by Aidan Connolly, the story revealed how the cold river saved the day by pleasing the sun with the sacrifice of a whale, so the sun turned the black snow to white. Lauren Koval disclosed how the moose got its long legs in her myth, “How Moose Got So Tall.”
Most of the stories begin, a long, long time ago: “Way back when the world was new, deep and dark in the forest, Moose didn’t have antlers…,” Molly Seibel begins her myth, “How Moose Got His Antlers.” In telling “How Night Came To Be,” Mary Feyrer begins, “Back when the earth was young, all the people and animals lived together on the Great Plains….”
At parent night, the students open the Pow Wow with a Poem, “Circles.” The poem embodies native belief so the Pow Wow opens with all the 4th graders standing in a circle around the Multi and reciting the poem. Recently signing has been added to the recitation.
Everything an Indian does is in a circle because the power of the world always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. The sky is round, and the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the starts. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for their religion is the same as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.
After the opening the parents and guests are treated to a “museum” of artifacts; an original myth from each class is read and both artwork from the classrooms and work done in the Art room are on display. All the kids read their myths in smaller groupings.
Also displayed are the constructions of the shelters depicting the homes of the different cultures. In constructing these the students try to use only natural materials. They are carefully researched because the details in them are wonderful. The structures are left on display in the library long after the unit of study ends, so all children in the school can study them.
The Pow Wow has become an event that the fourth graders look forward to.
The Japanese Festival is a long time third grade event which culminates the unit of study on Japan. Each year in the spring the Multi is transformed into the sights and sounds of Japan as all third graders set out displays to proudly show what they have learned. Many of the booths are interactive, so one can practice calligraphy, or be amazed at the eruption of a volcano. At some point, they always gather together to sing and dance. Traditionally, Mr. vonAmmon, third grade teacher, always greets the children and their families, “Kon Ni chi Wa”.
Hanging over the Multi each year is a colorful dragon. Many years ago, the first dragon was created out of bottle caps! Just before the Festival Mrs. Hawthorne, third grade teacher, would gather all the 2nd grade teachers and Dave Stewart, the custodian, to put up the dragon. It was an event in itself. Later the children made a new dragon as a special project Art.For many years on Festival day, all children in the Ray School attended one of three shows during the day. Sharon Poulin, third grade teacher remembers, “One of the projects for that event was the the making of origami Star Boxes which were filled with special treats for all the students, their parents/teachers/staff etc. to be given out at a booth. It seemed like we were making Star Boxes for a million people!”
For many years on Festival day, all children in the Ray School attended one of three shows during the day. Sharon Poulin, third grade teacher remembers, “One of the projects for that event was the the making of origami Star Boxes which were filled with special treats for all the students, their parents/teachers/staff etc. to be given out at a booth. It seemed like we were making Star Boxes for a million people!”
Mrs. Poulin added another memory: “I also remember the Giant, Giant Japanese Fish. The children worked for long periods of time to copy this huge pattern, assemble the two sides, and then magnificently decorate and stuff these fish for the Festival. When it came to put them together it seemed a tradition that two sides would not fit, so back to the drawing board!”
The children are always wonderful putting in so much time and effort to make the festival such a success. And they demonstrated that they had learned so much from Haiku Writing and illustrations to a wonderful computer lab project. All the classes had running shows on computers set up in the hallways. At the booths visitors participated in tea ceremonies or learned how to create a Japanese garden.
One year, Jean Keene’s (librarian) grandson Jeffery, who was quite creative, made a huge Tori Gate through which all entered the Festival area. He used large cardboard boxes and assembled several pieces in Mrs. Keene’s basement. It is still used today.
The Festival is a wonderful occasion, not only a way to celebrate and to learn about another culture through learning traditions and studying the unique elements that distinguish the culture, but also to realize the similarities between cultures. The children learn generally in their classroom groups and in small groups they delve more deeply into an aspect of the culture that interests them. At the Festival all this learning comes together in many colors, beautiful music, a time for them to teach their parents and their classmates what they have learned.
Since before 1990, Ray School students have been investigating bears: teddy bears, sloth bears, pandas, spectacled bears, sun bears, grizzly bears, polar bears, and black bears. They learn that black bears are important inhabitants of our backyard habitats and our habitat studies.
In 1999, when Alice Ashton was in Mrs. Jernstedt’s first grade class and started to study bears, her father, Bob Ashton, volunteered to bring in a real life-size stuffed bear that was in their home. The bear was from New England, and when it was found dead, it was taken to a taxidermist for preserving.
Given its size, the bear was either a young male or a mature female. Each year when Alice Ashton was at the Ray School, Bob Ashton would knock on the door of the Room 4 K-1 class in February and ask if they would like to have Black Bear return for their bear studies. After five years of such visits, Mr. Ashton asked if they would like to have Black Bear to keep at the Ray School.
Black Bear has been busy in the K-l pod from February to April every year since it first arrived. When Bear is not in use in a classroom, Mr. Stewart provides Black Bear with a good place for sleeping. Each year in April, Benjamin Kilham of Lyme, NH, has come to talk with first grade students about black bears. Mr. Kilham is a naturalist, scientist, animal rehabilitator, and author of the book, Among the Bears. Several documentaries by National Geographic and others have been made of Ben and his work with New England black bears.
Black Bear has been well loved by students at the Ray School. Special thanks got to Bob Ashton for donating Black Bear to the Ray School. Special thanks also go to Dave Stewart for his good-humored care and help in moving Black Bear to the very best places in our school! Black Bear has even been known to appear in a teacher’s or an administrator’s office on days when a rousing wake-up might be helpful!
5th Grade Tumbling Show
Tumbling was a favorite unit in Physical Education classes. And, the fifth grade tumbling show just tumbled out of it one year. The early shows were in the Multi and usually ran along a theme. One year, for example, they honored the space program. The students, both individually and in small groups, demonstrated their tumbling skills to the delight of the younger children in the school.
After the new gymnasium was built, the shows continued, but instead of a story line, what the boys and girls demonstrated was the ability of children to work together cooperatively in small groups made up of people whose skills were varied and at different levels of ability. This came about at the same time as the school turned to the 3R’s (Rights, Respect, Responsibility) for help at learning how to live together as a community
Big news! Chickens have an early hatch in a first grade classroom! 2008? No! 1976. Margaret Jernstedt was an Upper Valley Teacher Intern in Lorna Riley’s first grade classroom at the Ray School. Margaret wanted to incubate eggs and have the children raise chicks as a part of the first grade program. Lorna was willing, but the school had no equipment for such an enterprise. Margaret found one of the old-fashioned metal incubators designed for heavy-duty farm use. The New Hampshire Extension Service provided her with the incubator. The eggs needed to be manually rotated, but all things were possible back then. So, after 21 days of having good mother-hen substitutes, the chicks hatched. They stayed in the classroom for three weeks and were given to a local farmer at the end of that time. Ever since that time, chicks have been hatching in first grade classrooms. Some have been known to escape over the weekend or wander loose in the classroom. But, this we never can tell! Rumor has it that over 70 chicks hatched this year in the K-1 pod, with modern state-of-the-art rotator incubators. Cluck, cluck!
Thanksgiving at the Colonial House
The Colonial House was built in 1976. In 1977. my first year as music teacher at the Ray School, Willy Black, the art teacher, invited me to join her at the Colonial House during the three days prior to Thanksgiving. The scheduled art and music classes for the week were rearranged so all students could have a period at the house. We wanted the students to have the experience of being in the house during the Thanksgiving time. In recent years the classes visited with their learning buddies.
Many years, the boys and girls had to huddle close to the fire because of the cold temperatures outdoors, giving to the experience a real feel of what it was like to live in a Colonial House in the winter time. We talked about Colonial times, sang some traditional songs such as “Over the River and Through the Woods,” played games, ate popcorn, and always read a story. Each year we discussed new things. As time went on and got so students at the school no longer remembered the building of the Colonial House, we even talked about how the house was built.
When Willy retired, I continued the tradition to be joined three years later by Ellen Haun, in her first year as art teacher. The experience expanded to include a visit to the native American hut by the vernal pool and a discussion and role playing of some Native American traditions.
Willy brought a hand puppet turkey which went, “gobble-gobble”, when its mouth was opened, reacting to a solar disc. We named him “Mr. Gobbles”. Mr. Gobbles was passed on to me when Willy left, and to Ellen when I left. He wears a braided anklet, made during one of the activities.
We always tried to have a hot dog lunch (with my home made relish) for the staff members on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving day.
As the years rolled on the tradition became an important one. The Colonial House is a special place on the Ray School property. It not only represent the history of our country, but a very vibrant time in our school history, when the town rose to the occasion of helping the school to build and on-site living history area. It is a favorite, quiet spot for the children to be, and the Thanksgiving visit is always a special time.
Music at Ray
Ray School Chorus
When I began, there was a 4th and 5th grade chorus, totaling 120 students. After a year of working with that number, I proposed to Stefan Vogel that we have two choruses which would be more manageable. Somewhere along the early line, I added a 3rd grade chorus. They sang in the Holiday Program and a Spring Concert. I learned in my first year that everyone participated in the Holiday Program, meaning that teachers from grades K-2 planned songs, poems or skits to be included in addition to chorus. This, in time led to
K-2 Sing Along
As the number of classes increased (smaller class size), including Kindergarten in the music schedule became a difficulty. I thought that perhaps having a weekly sing-along would be the answer. Stefen Vogel, principal, played guitar and sang and was happy to be part of this. We included 1st grade and placed it on Friday afternoons. Recognizing that 2nd grade was the only grade not to have a second weekly music experience, it became K-2. Luckily, Dan Bell, a second grade teacher, also played guitar and sang and joined Stefan and me. We finished the week in the Multi singing along!
Ever expanding at Ray School, Dan went on to teach 5th grade and Donna and Ellen were granted (thank you, Bruce Williams) a day each week to create an integrated arts program, adding a new part time position in both art and music. Laurie MacGregor joined Donna in the Music Department and took over Singalong. With her abilities as a composer, she arranged songs for a “Band” to play each week. Never the same each week the Band included a number of guitars, accordion, trumpet, sax, trombone, and percussion. Throughout the year, each class presented a new song. The K-2 Sing-along group performed in the Holiday Program, by grade level and as an ensemble.
Here in My House
The singing of the song, “Here In My House”, by Aline Shrader, became a tradition at The Ray School December Choral concert for 21 years, 1982 -2003. It was not something I had planned-to sing the same song each year- it just happened. As all traditions, there is a story behind its beginnings.
The month of December with all its spiritual celebrations is a challenge for music teachers. When I arrived at the Ray School in 1978, Christmas, Hanukah and other traditional celebrations of the season had been totally omitted from the most recent winter choral programs. I did try to add some favorite musical pieces, but always, no matter what I did, it seemed it wasn’t enough; or it was too much!
I met with a local minister and rabbi for a discussion of the issue. I have never accepted exclusion and searched for an answer of how to celebrate the holiday season with the children and their families through music, all together. What developed was a program concentrating on community, respect, love, light and candles, which included songs of the holidays. Songs of the holidays addressed the excitement that all children had during the season. I tried to celebrate the season while simultaneously grasping the “air of anticipation” that surrounded the children. Through music I tried to include as much of the Ray School population as possible, so besides Christmas and Hanukah we included songs of Kwanzaa, Dwindali, and other December events. My hope was that the children could learn more about each other and their ethnic traditions through music.
In 1982, in a music catalogue I found a song that spoke to me of the season. One verse sang of Hanukah in one house, and a second verse sang of Christmas in another. A musical bridge spoke of the Season’s light, cheer and peace. The children performed it beautifully and I discovered the song spoke to many others because it was requested that I repeat it the following year (something I RARELY did was to repeat a piece). However, I was so excited to have found a piece that resonated in so many hearts, I did repeat it, and never stopped. Over the years it was presented in several different ways – concert performance, dance, mime, tableau – once, while the children sang, slides were projected on a screen behind the chorus, showing one after the other, many of the houses in and around Hanover where the children and staff lived. But the ultimate was the sing-along with the audience format.
In the summer of 1985, I had the pleasure of meeting the composer, Aline Shader, through a mutual friend. We began a correspondence and I performed additional compositions of hers; It was extremely meaningful for me to know the composer and to tell her how much her piece meant to me and to the Ray School Community. I would love to have been able to tell her that I concluded my final Holiday Program (2003) with “Here In My House”, but she died that very autumn. Through the years, it came to be the closure of our Holiday Concert with all students, parents and staff.
When children returned as young adults to visit me at the Ray School, I was always pleased to hear them say that when they got together with classmates, singing “Here In My House”, was something they all could do, and love to do, together, a fond memory of their elementary school days.
From the program of my last concert at the Ray School.
HERE IN MY HOUSE
All are invited to join in the singing of “Here In My House,” a tradition in its twenty-first year.
Here in my house, there are candles burning bright, one for every night of the holiday.
We gather with friends, sharing gifts and happy times, Happy Hanukkah.
And in my neighbor’s house the lights are shining, too, Red and green and blue, ’round the door.
The sound of jingle bells and laughter everywhere, Merry Christmas and many more.
Season of light, season of cheer, season of peace, may it last throughout the year.
Two parts: (Verses 1 and 2 together)
Season of light, season of cheer, season of peace, may it last throughout the year.
(Verses 1 and 2 together, sing the one you did not in the previous two parts)
Many happy, happy holidays.
Retired Music Teacher
In the fall of 2005, some Ray School PTO members and a couple of Ray School teachers met to discuss the possibility of doing some community service work with the Haven. The Upper Valley Haven provides shelter, food and educational services to individuals and families in need. We decided the school would organize a community service program, a partnership which would benefit both the Haven and the school children.
To help our students have a greater understanding of giving, a group of Hanover High School students wrote and presented a skit on being homeless and hungry to our Ray School students. At that assembly the Ray Students sang, “We Can Make a Difference,” a song generated by Ms. Luce, music teacher, which has become the Haven Helper’s, “theme song.”
Currently, each grade is assigned a month to collect food for the Haven. It is done in a very quiet manner but definitely makes a difference for the people at the Haven. Collecting and delivering is done by PTO volunteers and their children. Some teachers have truly incorporated the Haven collection into their curriculums by charting items, weights, etc. Many teachers and students have come to realize how easy it is to help out.
Haven Helpers also holds one-day collections at dances and concerts. One year, the children sang the song, “Socks for Christmas,” and the audience was asked to donate socks for the Haven. Over 13 bins filled with socks of all colors and sizes were delivered to the Haven that holiday season, a time of year when socks are really appreciated! This past holiday concert we collected new and gently used books. Again, the community was very generous with their donations.
Haven Helpers also enlists the help of 5th Graders as student leaders. They help to update the current needs at the Haven and talk about the program with younger students, make posters, etc.
People involved: Caroline Levy (chair) , Michele Sacerdote, Liz Hackett, Laura Rice, Hatsy McGraw, Robin Henry.
Birthday Book Club
Birthday Book Club is a PTO Proiect that started in 1987. Each fall parents are sent a letter from the Birthday Book Club Chair offering them a chance to participate. The school librarian chooses books costing varying amounts that she would like to add to the library. Parents decide from one of four price categories. During their birthday month participating children are called to the library to choose a book from a selection presented on tables in the Elsie Lynch Nature Center of the library.
The book then gets a sticker placed on the spine of the book, indicating it is a birthday book and the child’s name and birth date is written on a nameplate inside the front cover of the book. Once the librarians have included the book in their inventory, the birthday child is invited to the library to be the first child to sign the book out.