Friday, April 21, 2017

Celebrating Earth Day today and everyday by Lorraine Glowczak

What began as a grassroots movement in 1970 by then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, has now become a global celebration to focus on the health of the environment.
It all began with a massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California that Nelson took note of and then decided to raise awareness about environmental issues. With the assistance of Rep. Pete McCloskey of California, as well as a Denis Hayes from Harvard, events were organized across the nation with many college students participating in various ways. The date, April 22, was chosen at the time because it fell between spring break and final exams.

According to the Earth Day Network, “Earth Day 1970 achieved a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers, tycoons and labor leaders. By the end of that year, the first Earth Day had led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.”

In 1990, Earth Day became a global passion with approximately 140 countries participating in environmental awareness activities. Despite recent years of cynicism, Earth Day celebrations remain in the spotlight with approximately 180 countries participating as it approaches its 50-year anniversary in 2020.
Karen Lothrop (r) with Ron and Martha Strout

For some, celebrating Earth Day has become an everyday habit. This includes a few individuals within the Windham and Raymond communities.

For the past 15 years, Karen Lothrop from Windham and her friends Martha and Ron Strout, as well as Inger Riley (when she is visiting from Wisconsin) go on long morning walks. And as they do, they pick up trash. Their route begins on Sandbar Road, making their way along 302 and then onto Route 35. “We have discovered that the most trash can be found behind Staples on 302,” Lothrop stated. “For some reason, people dump a lot of trash in that area.” 

Although Lothrop spends winters in Florida, where she picks up trash on her daily walks there, she always returns to her home in Windham. While here at home, she dedicates her morning walks to trash pickups from June until October. 
Gordon Street holds the sign he will use in Saturday's March for Science

Gordon Street of Raymond has turned his passion, the art of scientific thinking, into an Earth Day activity. Street will be participating in the “March for Science” event that will occur this Saturday in Portland. 

However, Street’s participating in Saturday’s March is just the beginning. He has been and will continue to advocate for and educate the public on the need to think scientifically, a critical skill that has not been adequately taught to our children. 

“All humans have what is called a ‘confirmation bias’,” Street explained. “This simply means that we look for data that supports what we believe and suspect to be true, instead of data that opposes what we believe, which is the way scientist approach a hypothesis. Scientific thinking prevents us from ‘shooting from the hip’ and making decisions and coming to conclusions in error. You don’t have to be a scientist to have critical scientific thinking skills.”

Street believes the lack of scientific thinking has a great impact on misunderstandings surrounding the environment. 

For those who also are interested in being every day stewards of the earth, one does not need to be an advocate or walk every morning to pick up trash. There are a variety of small steps that can fit your lifestyle. Some positive action can be as simple as turning off the lights in a room when no one is there or planting a tree (make sure it is not invasive to Maine). 

If hiking, biking, snowmobiling or riding your ATV is your passion, one can also become a member or a volunteer for non-profit environmental organizations where trails are readily available. Organizations such as the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust (Black Brook Preserve and Pringle Wildlife Preserve in Windham) or the Loon Echo Land Trust (Raymond Community Forest in Raymond) are always willing to accept volunteers. 

No matter what it is you do to celebrate Earth Day, today and/or every day, any step you take is an important one. As Lothrop stated, “There is no Planet B, so it might be wise to take care of the one we have.”

Community Day embraces new learning style by Michelle Libby

Every year Manchester School in Windham hosts a Community Day, a celebration of projects the students do to support the community and non-profits that they want to support. This year’s theme was, “Hands and Hearts Caring for our Community.” 
“This is the most special day we have during the school year,” said Principal Danielle Donnini. Fifth graders learn about culture and civilizations, she said. That means common values, ideas and goals. Common celebrations and traditions are a part of culture. “This is the one day we take a break to celebrate them.”

Donnini thanked the volunteers, parents, AmeriCorps volunteers, PTA and school board who had helped with the projects. 

“It’s pretty awesome, the projects and the celebration,” said Superintendent Sandy Prince. “The work is really important. Every year it gets better and better. The projects are relevant, meaningful and make a difference. It raises their awareness of the community.” 

Special guest speakers, on Wednesday morning, were Windham High School Principal Chris Howell and Windham Middle School Principal Drew Patin. “I was absolutely impressed with the work you’ve done this year,” said Howell. “You have the opportunity to grow up in a very special place. When you help another person you get more enjoyment, more excitement than the person receiving the help,” he said.  

The projects the students worked on this year mirror what will happen when they are in the high school with a Capstone Project, which is an individual project in an area of interest. Students will explore with a mentor from the community and help make career decisions, said Howell. These projects were a taste of what’s to come for the students. 

Last Wednesday began with breakfast for 400 people. Guests were invited to visit each display and table set up in the gym at the school. During the presentation, students and teachers presented checks and gifts to recipients.

“Last year there were 20 projects. This year we can’t capture all the projects,” said Donnini. “As teachers, we learned how to make learning more real, more engaging.” 

Teacher Carol Otley has spent 15 years helping her students build bird houses to share with people all over the State of Maine; with over 200 bird houses created by the students over the years. The bird houses have been placed from New York City to Katahdin, Aroostook County and all over New England. Many birds have been sheltered. This year bird houses were given to: Game wardens, Windham Police Officers Gene Gallant and Steve Stubbs and K9 Vader, a VFW veteran and Survivor winner Bob Crowley to name a few. 

“All of you are from Maine. Be proud to be from Maine,” said Crowley, who owns Maine Forest Yurts. “I’m almost 70 and I’m still giving back to the community.” 

Other teachers and their classes were recognized. Otley was recognized as VFW Teacher of the Year at the local and district levels. Sabrina Nickerson and Stacey Sanborn were honored with the Garden of the Month Award from Maine School Garden Network. Environmental educator Katrina Venhuizen from EcoMaine recognized Jen Ocean’s class with an Eco-Excellence Award 2017 for recycling. The class applied for and received a grant from EcoMaine to work on food waste and recycling at Manchester School. The school went from making nine bags of trash per day to one.

“The class saw a problem, which led to some research, but it takes all of you to make it work,” said Donnini. 

The experiential learning that happens with the projects is hands-on. “The projects give the students choice and voice. It’s not the teacher saying I want to do this,” said Donnini. “Students have their own voice and passion, which leads their learning.”

Judy Taudvin’s class each chose individual projects to work on, allowing the students to develop their own interests. 

Adam Beal’s class raised $400 to donate to Chelsea’s MS Walk. Another class made 21 pet beds out of old sweaters to donate to Harvest Hills. One held an Iditarod Read-a-Thon and another will hold a Color Run on May 20, at 9 a.m. One class sold Pok√©mon cards and has raised over $400 for the Preble Street Resource Center. 

Paton closed the assembly. “I haven’t always been a Windham Eagle. I have pride to be a Windham Eagle.” He is excited to have the students in his school next year. He said he was proud of their, “willingness to be creative, to be problem solvers.” Patton stated that he liked their creativity, perseverance and grit; and their willingness to make a difference in somebody else’s life.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Holocaust survivor speaks at Jordon Small Middle School by Lisa Schadler

It has been said that if we were to have a minute of silence for every victim of the Holocaust - then we would be silent for eleven and a half years.  

The eight grade students and staff at the Jordan-Small Middle School had the honor of hearing Rudy Horowitz, a child Holocaust survivor, talk about his book, “Avoiding the Cracks”.

This special event coincided with an integrated curriculum unit that the students have been working on during their Social Studies and ELA classes.

Mr. Horowitz not only shared personal experiences and excerpts from his book, but also shared words of wisdom, guidance and his positive outlook about future generations. 

Shown here is Molly Cochrane with Mr. Horowitz, after she shared a poem that she had written.

Windham loan officer is recognized for being in the Top 1 percent across the country by Lorraine Glowczak

There is the best. Then there is the best of the best. Congratulations go to Kate Virgie, Senior Loan Officer with Northstar Mortgage Group for being recognized by nationwide investor as top 1 percent of loan officers across the country. 
Kate Virgie holding her award

Based upon volume, the top 1 percent is an award that is granted to a loan officer who has closed on the largest amount of home loans within one year. For Virgie, this means she closed more home loans with nationwide investor than loan officers across the U.S., competing against big population areas such as Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago and New York City. Although the Greater Lakes region is one of the most beautiful spots in the country, where many purchase their dream home, it certainly does not compare in size to other regions in the U.S. How did she close more home loans than other officers in larger demographics?

It begins with her ability to be of service 24/7. Often in the office until past 11 p.m., Virgie never leaves until her work is completed. “One thing that separates me from other loan officers is that I am always available when people need me,” Virgie said. “I will drop anything I am doing and will be there immediately.”

However, she doesn’t have to be at the office to continue her work - she takes it with her wherever she goes. Whether it’s a late-night dinner with friends, getting a manicure or shopping at Target, she is never “closed” for business.

“Recently while having dinner with a friend one Saturday evening, I discovered she knew someone who was in the market for buying a home,” Virgie explained. “We called her friend who happened to be home. That night after our dinner, we went to her house and within the hour I pre-qualified her for a home loan at 9 p.m.”

The stories do not end there. She also tells of the time she was getting a manicure: Overhearing another client expressing her frustration about being accepted for a home loan, Virgie told her she could help. While both were getting their manicures, Virgie got enough information needed and before they both walked out of the nail salon, the individual was on her way to pre-qualification.

“I have even pre-qualified a customer in the Target parking lot,” Virgie laughed. While standing in line to pay for purchases at Target, Virgie had a conversation with the woman behind her about home mortgages. “I can help you,” Virgie told the woman, who left Target with not only the purchases from the department store but her future home as well.

“She realizes the importance of being available as a Real Estate professional,” stated Leigh Gagnon, owner of Northstar Mortgage Group. “She is driven by helping people and making the process fun and stress free.” Kate does not view her loans as transactions . . . they are relationships, families and friends. This is what has made her so successful in our industry.”

So that’s how Virgie does it. She goes that extra ten miles. No wonder she is the best of the best.

Cuteness abounds at Barnyard Babies event by Stephen Signor

While Windham Blue Seal Feeds was having a truck load sale last week at their store on 43 Main Street, the Young Farmers 4-H Beef Club was also there holding an event of their own, bringing a little Easter fun into the mix. 
Two year old Zetty from Gorham fed the ewes

To welcome spring, “Barnyard Babies” was the theme of the day. Baby farm animals were available in pens outside the store for viewing pleasure, feeding and petting; while inside 4-H kids were selling raffle tickets. Haines Photography was also on hand to take Easter photos with live rabbits provided by the Cumberland County Rabbit Breeders Association. 

“We’ve brought Sapphire, a ewe and her baby twins, Sage and Sapphire Junior along with goat Ava, for the kids to touch,” shared Kathy Pride, Co-leader of the beef club.

Like last year, they are hoping to be able to fund another educational road trip. “We are fund raising for another trip, probably in the fall or sometime in January. We are going to the Pennsylvania Farm Show in January or Louisville, Kentucky to a big beach.”

“There is also an expo that is going to happen in May, so there is a meat raffle here today; with all the money going toward buying prizes for the kids, an education class and the general fund,” Pride’s husband ,Troy added.

Up for grabs was a winner’s choice of: 50 pounds of beef, 10 pounds of lamb or 10 pounds of pork.

This event was held last fall, at a time of year when there is more products to be sold and less space for crowds to gather. That over-crowding experience caused a necessary change. “We tried something different this time around because last year we learned that there were very long lines. We figured doing this earlier in the year, people could mill around freely because we really don’t have a lot of space inside,” said Blue Seal store manager Melanie Locke. 
Although this is the first time Doug and Gini Haines, owners, have had Easter Bunny photography available at the store, they have been doing pet portraits since starting their business 35 years ago. For them it turned out to be a good day. “It was a successful day. We did around 60 portraits which is a lot of kids. That bunny must have been tired, it was a long day for him,” shared Gini Haines jokingly.

Wendy Nugent was one of the numerous parents who had her child photographed with the Easter Bunny. Her eight year old daughter, Madison, sat in front of a colorful barnyard-themed studio, complete with hay bales, crates, barrels and of course - an Easter basket filled with colorful plastic eggs. “I had a good time petting the bunny and I am having a fun time,” Madison shared.
A chinchilla rabbit named Panda, a rare and endangered species, visited the special event for the day and later in the afternoon, a fun bunny hopping race occurred. “It’s like [dog] agility but with bunnies,” shared Pride. 

A long, busy, productive day also proved to be a fairly lucrative one for the 4-H Beef Club. “Our end total was $500.00.  It was crazy busy right up to the end!! All the animals and kids were very tied by the end of the day”, stated Pride. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

James Mannette awarded top prize in VFW essay competition for a second time by Walter Lunt

James Mannette, 17, of Windham advanced his first-place win in a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) essay competition from the local to the district level. Mannette, a Windham High School senior, was honored recently at the annual Deering Memorial Post 6859 Awards Banquet in Portland for his winning entry in the Voices of Democracy Scholarship competition. The competition encourages students from grades 9 to 12, to express their views on democratic ideas and principals. His dissertation, titled “My Responsibility to America,” won first prize at the Windham VFW Post 10643 last November.

Mannette wrote that as Americans, “. . . we are privileged to live our lives freely, safely, and to follow our beliefs.” He acknowledged that part of the reason such privileges prevail is due to the U.S. Armed Forces.

“I view my responsibility to America as one serving in the Armed Forces.” He drew a parallel between his participation in sports and the military. “[Individual and team sports] helped me develop perseverance and determination which are traits servicemen and women need to work together to build a solid team. I consider the U.S. Armed Services the ultimate team.”

Windham Post Commander Willie Goodman said Mannette’s essay was impressive and inspirational, “. . . with his vision of America, his personal growth, and what he sees as his personal responsibility.”

District 10 encompasses eight Southern Maine towns. Mannette’s award included a check, a certificate naming him an outstanding spokesman for freedom, and a VFW medallion.

Reading his essay
During the Portland ceremony, Mannette read his essay aloud to the audience of uniformed veterans, family and friends, Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling and other guests. His presentation was greeted with a standing ovation. Mannette was reportedly stunned and speechless by the enthusiastic response. “For them to give me such respect is humbling - They deserve all the respect. I basically wrote about personal experiences I had during my trip to the Air Force Academy summer seminar and my junior ROTC group at Windham High School [and] varsity sports. The whole team works together to accomplish something better than one can do individually.”

Mannette was also recently named recipient of Windham High School’s Principal’s Award, in recognition of a senior’s academic excellence, outstanding school citizenship and leadership. An Honors Luncheon for Mannette and other award winners from around the state will be held in Bangor on Saturday, April 15.

Mannette’s future plans include the military. He says he has applied to the U.S. Air Force, Naval and Merchant Marine Academies. “My dream would be to fly”, he shares.

Windham sisters were flower girls at the Christening of the USS Thomas Hudner

Monica Lewis age 10, a fifth grade student at Manchester School, along with her sister, Alanna Lewis, age eight and a second grade student at Windham Primary School, were both invited to be the flower girls for the christening of the USS Thomas Hudner DDG 116.
Flower girls and their brother with Sen. King

The Christening took place at Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Bath on Saturday, April 1, despite the frigid and snowy weather.

The boat was named after a Korean War hero, Thomas Hudner, who was also present during the ceremony.  

The Lewis sisters were chosen to be flower girls because their father Brandon, who is a ship fitter at BIW, has been working on the Thomas Hudner.

The sisters got the privilege to meet many important individuals including Mr. Hudner and Dirk Lesko, BIW President, as well as Senator King and Senator Collins.  Their job was to give flowers to the sponsors of the ship. 

Their brother, Colby, age four was also along for all the festivities.
USS Thomas Hudner DDG 116

WPS Odyssey of the Mind students earn a chance to compete in the 2017 World Finals by Lorraine Glowczak

Last Saturday, April 1, three of the four Division I - Odyssey of the Mind (OM) teams from Windham Primary School (WPS) participated in the state competitions at Biddeford High School in Biddeford. One team from those three Division I students placed second and will have a chance to compete in the 2017 World Finals to be held at Michigan State University, May 24 to 27. This is the first time that students from WPS have qualified for the World Finals. 
The five winning students with Principal, Dr. Rhoads

The five winning students, who are all first-time participants in Odyssey of the Mind, will show their creative and imaginative prowess, providing solutions to original problems that will be presented to them the day of their competition.

More than 825 teams from around the world participated in last year’s competition. The five young scholars from WPS are beyond excited to compete this year, giving their innovative skills a whirl. 

The competition incorporates two areas of challenges the young competitors must solve. The two categories are: 1) Long-Term Problems; and 2) Spontaneous Problems. The students have been working together since December to create and practice their long-term problem solution and will present that at the competition. Additionally, they will be given a spontaneous problem to solve. Teams are scored on a combination of the two major components, which also includes a style component. Certain aspects of their long-term project can be judged and scored for their creativity.

Per the OM website, “Long-Term Problems are the engines that propel Odyssey of the Mind. Teams select their problem when they join the program and spend weeks or months to create and develop their solution. Each team member will find a role to play in the many stages of problem-solving, including brainstorming, artwork, set design, technical design, writing sketches and much more!”
Ewan O’Shea, a third grade student, explained the long-term problem they chose to prove their innovative skills. “We made a robot that can produce four different actions in funny ways.”
“And, I made one of the robot’s arms and one half of the other arm,” second grader Cameron Weeks chimed in. “I am having a blast,” he stated about his participation in OM.

The spontaneous problem contains one of three types. They include verbal, hands-on, or a combination of the two challenges. The verbal problem requires the team to creatively respond to a question in a verbal and creative manner. The hands-on problem requires the teams to build or complete a task with items provided for them. The combination spontaneous problem solving requires both physical and verbal activity; challenging the students to work together as a team. All the competitions are completed without adult assistance.

“We must solve a problem in five to eight minutes,” third grader, Nicholas Verrill explained of the spontaneous contest.

In regards to meeting others at the World Finals, the five students have many queries. “I wonder what language some of the teams will speak,” Nicholas Jenkins, a third grade student asked.

The team is not without guidance. April O’Shea is the team coach, a first for her as well, and she speaks fondly of the students she has guided since fall. “I am so very proud of the hard work and perseverance the team has shown throughout this journey,” O’Shea said. “It would be amazing to have them see it through to the World Finals. We are very excited and grateful for the opportunity.”

There is one more challenge that the team must face, and that is the task of raising funds. “The team has set up a “gofundme page” ( to help with travel expenses to Michigan State University,” O’Shea stated. “They will also be out in the community fundraising. Donations can be sent to the Windham Primary School. Include ‘Odyssey’ in the memo of your check or money order.” 

The satisfaction the five students have had throughout the year as they participated in OM was expressed by all. “My favorite thing about participating in OM is being a part of this whole team,” stated Marek Stomczynski, grade three.

Best of luck goes to the team of five, as they raise the funds needed to travel to Michigan and compete in May.