Category Archives: Education

Sorry, Hawk, Easter is Over!

It must be spring because the Schraffts left work/school yesterday and hit Richardson’s Dairy.

The boys got gift cards in their Easter baskets and, since it was a whopping 50ish degrees after school, they naturally wanted to go get the first official ice cream of the season.  With the Red Sox game on the radio (they won 8-0, by the way) and the windows down for a stretch of the ride…off we went….because, really, how do you say “no” to that?

A couple of years ago we were fortunate enough to see a calf being born this time of year.  It was pretty awesome for the boys to see.  Yesterday’s wildlife adventure on the farm was led by a hawk…who apparently thought that Easter was not over because he was clearly still out on an egg hunt.

Check your calendar, Hawk.  Easter is over….and, you can sit there looking all threatening all afternoon, but those birds aren’t going to give up their eggs.

It is OK

Dear Future Teachers, Instructors, and Coaches of my Sons,

I’d like to take a minute now to thank you for the hours, energy, and love that you will undoubtedly be giving to my children in the future.  I know that it is not always an easy job that you have, but it is one that you accepted, however long ago, because you have the best interest of children, and now my children, at heart.   Many of you have simply volunteered…and don’t even get paid…and all of you spend a large portion of your personal time thinking about, worrying about, or being excited about things that have to do with the classes you teach, the lessons you give, or the practices that you run.

I know, no matter how much you love what you do, the down side is that your job will sometimes require that you make difficult decisions.  I know that those decisions will sometimes even cause you sleepless nights, a heavy heart, and worry, and pain.

I’d like to tell you now…that it is OK.  It is OK to not pick my son.

It is OK to not call on him when his hand in raised as high as possible in class, because you have 20 students and they all want to make you happy by knowing the right answer or sharing their thoughts.

I know that even that one silly decision….who to call on?….can be excruciating…each and every time.  I know that you make a mental note…and try to call on them all the same amount each week, but it is still so hard to watch their hands fall disappointedly back into their laps.

It is OK, if my son ends up not being able to carry a tune, that he does not receive a solo in the Spring Concert…no matter how much he wants one. You know what? Even if he can sing, but isn’t one of the best, it is still ok.  I know that you’ll find other ways to encourage him and make him feel proud. I know that you’ll let him know how important his role in the chorus is.

It is OK, if my son has trouble finding his inner actor, to not pick him for a leading role.  He may be crushed for a minute, but I know that you need to do what is right for the other children and the school play.  He’ll understand, because he knows  that everyone has strengths.  We will encourage him to find another way to shine and tell him how important it is to play that small supporting role.  The play couldn’t go on if all characters weren’t cast…no matter how big or small.  After all.

I image that my son will enjoy working on science fair projects each spring.  But, you know what, when it comes time to pick just 5 projects to send to regionals, it is OK to pick others…and not his.  His hard work and the pride that he feels when he presents his experiment should be enough for him.  And, it will motivate him all that much more the following year.  And, trust me, I know how hard it will be for you to pick just 5.  I know that you wish someone else could make those decisions.

I want you to know now that it is OK if his essay is not submitted to the writing contest.  Even though I’m sure he’ll try so hard to be chosen and want so desperately to impress you, sometimes you have to just pick one…and inevitably the other children will feel sad.  I know, without a second of doubt, however, that you’ll pull him aside and tell him how much you enjoyed his story.  You’ll make him want to write again….because writing is fun…even if your story isn’t picked.

It will always be OK if, when some children’s art work gets selected for the art show, his is not.  We will shower him with praise, encourage him to create more, and teach him to congratulate his friends for their creativity and their submissions.  His art will always have a special place in our home.

It is also OK, no matter how much he tries, to sometimes make the decision to leave him on the bench.   I know that you will take time during the season to help him improve, make him feel valuable, and motivate him to dig deeper.  And, because you’ve done such a great job, I know that if the team wins, he will know he has won and played a monumental role in the victory.  Even if his role wasn’t as obvious in the final minutes of a game.

I want to thank you again, because I know that it sometimes feels impossible.  I know that you became a teacher, an instructor, or a coach for so many wonderful reasons.  I know that you had giant aspirations to always be “fair.”  I’m also guessing that you never imagined how many times each year, session, or season you would feel burdened by decisions that have no “fair” answer.

I hope that you know you have our support and gratitude and the love and respect of my child.  Even if you didn’t pick him.  Because…even if you didn’t pick him….you chose him.  You chose to teach him, encourage him, support him, love him, challenge him, push him, excite him, and inspire him.  Your success, loyalty, or impact can not be judged by one, or even several of those difficult decisions.  It is based on the many moments, outside of those decisions, that you made sure to make him know that you are there for him.

I think it is important to tell you….not that you don’t already know….that I don’t expect all parents will feel the same way.  And…that I am by no means speaking for them.  I am simply telling you how I feel.

Thank you in advance for all that you will surely do….and for those difficult decisions you are forced to make.

Sincerely,

Nichole

Our friends at Eastern Point Day School

SAVE THE DATE! MARCH 16TH IS AN OPEN HOUSE FOR EASTERN POINT DAY SCHOOL

Open Houses at Eastern Point Day School are a great way to learn about our school and programs for PreK through 8th Grade! If you cannot make our next Open House, we are happy to schedule a visit for a date that works better for you and your family!
Contact us anytime at 978.283.1700 or via email: info@easternpointdayschool.org
Also, be sure to check out our website for more information and FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK too!

SCAN0001 Eastern Point

Know Your Dinosaurs

The youngest Schrafft, 5 year old Finn, finished up his 3rd hockey season the other day.  Thatcher’s team is in the play-offs and will finish up, one way or the other, this weekend.

While there will surely end up being some summer sessions or hockey camps in their near future, for now, the early morning wake-up calls are almost over.

I used to wake up at 5:45 to rally the troops and get myself to work and the boys to their respective classrooms, but lately I’ve been pushing it to a bit after 6:00.  Try as I may to convince myself to go to bed just once before 11:00 pm, I can’t seem to do so.  I love my boys…but, I also cherish my quiet late night hours alone.

So, while school days are always a bit of a whirlwind with a dash of crazy thrown in, when we miraculously get through to Saturday unscathed, the weekend early morning hockey practices usually do me in.

Until recently my husband worked early Saturday morning…which left me to get both boys into their hockey gear bright and early to get to the rink for 8:00 and 9:00 practices.  Actually, now on a travel team, Thatcher’s early Saturday practices have turned into earlier Sunday morning games.

While both boys are now experts on getting into their gear…they still need a fire lit under their butts to do so.  It wasn’t nearly as pretty for the first few seasons, however. It was always a mad rush…they both needed help with everything….they needed snacks to eat while the other one was on the ice…and even books, matchbox cars, and a bag of tricks to use as hush money to get through back-to-back practices.  It was downright ugly for quite a while. Might I mention that I am not…never have been…and never will be…a morning person.

I was laughing the other day when Thatcher reminded me about the “Hockey Dinosaur.”

There must have been many, many consecutive Saturdays, that I teetered on the edge of sanity while trying to get them out the door.

I believe my mantra became something like, “If you think I want to be up at the crack of dawn, you’re wrong, so please just get dressed” or “If you don’t want to get into your gear, and you don’t want to skate, I certainly won’t mind not getting up at the crack of dawn, boys!” or “If you think I got up at the crack of dawn yet again to beg you both to get off the couch and into your gear, you are crazy.”  You get the gist.  All very proud parenting moments.

So, one day, while I was no doubt stomping around like a mad woman, I heard Thatcher quietly say to Finn, “Mom sure is mad about the crackadon.  I don’t even know that type of dinosaur.”

So, for a while, stomping around like a Crackadon became my way of getting them ready for everything…school, hockey, soccer, etc.  Somewhere along the way, the Crackadon left us and the boys started to become a bit more self-motivated.  I won’t be surprised if however, years from now, a couple of giant crackadons visit my grown-up sons and their future families.  And we can all laugh about it again.

 

duckbilled-dinosaurs-2

 

 

Awesome Local Workshop for Teachers Coming Up

Coming up on March 14th: a great workshop/micro-conference for teachers of English Lit and related subjects is taking place at the Eastern Point Lit House in Gloucester. There will be a communal meal and a few sessions on “Teaching Impossible Texts” with some outstanding local teachers. This event is designed for public, private and even homeschool educators to come together, connect and collaborate with other likeminded teachers who are into books and want to teach kids how to be into books as well. Feel free to call me (Sarah) at 978-546-2861 for more info. If you mention GMG there will be a 25% GMG Close Reader Discount refund offered after you register! :)

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Rockport Local Food Forum

Well, it’s been a while since I posted. But in the meantime, Nichole Shrafft and others have been killin’ it in the representing Rockport department, so that’s been awesome. A whole bunch of stuff is coming up, so I wanted to pass along some information, starting with a local Food Forum in Rockport scheduled for next Thursday night. We can all get together and figure out the answers to some pressing food-related issues. There’s an anonymous survey too, in case you want to make your thoughts known and submit any questions to the panelists. Click HERE for the survey.

Feel free to share the poster

Feel free to share the poster

VIDEO: Making Saint Joseph Altar Bread with Caffe Sicilia’s Maria Cracchiolo

Artists-in-the-Kitchen Maria Cracchiolo, and her parents Domenic and Nina Damico, demonstrate how to create beautiful bread in shapes symbolic of Saint Joseph and inspired by nature. Watch as Maria, Nina, and Domenic artfully shape angels, a carpenter’s saw, San Giuseppe scroll, Saint Joseph sun, snails, flowers, butterflies, grapes, and more.

Saint Joseph altar bread is available by special order at Caffe Sicilia. Call to place your order at (978) 283-2345.

 

 

As you will hear Maria’s story unfold (while deftly shaping the dough), her family’s tradition of making the Saint Joseph altar bread began several years ago, for a very heartfelt reason. In 2010, her young daughter was facing a very serious operation. Maria had never made the special Saint Joseph altar bread, but decided that year to make it her devotion to Saint Joseph. Maria taught herself how to shape the bread, finding inspiration in old photos of altars, and also from images, which she found online, of bread made in Sicily. Maria lived in Italy for five years, attending art school and studying fashion design. When I write “Artists-in-the Kitchen” you’ll see why after viewing the video.

Both of Maria’s parents, Nina and Domenic, were born in Sicily and grew up celebrating the Feast of San Giuseppe in the Sicilian tradition of feeding the poor and orphaned, and welcoming all who came to their table. Thank you Maria, Domenic, and Nina for graciously welcoming me into your Caffe Sicilia’s kitchen!

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Beautiful Saint Joseph Altar Bread Created by Caffe Sicilia

 

Thank You, Grand Isle

There have been some great posts (and gorgeous photos) about the USCG Cutter Grand Isle, its years of service, and the fact that it was decommissioned earlier this week.

This may sound silly, but here in Rockport, at our tiny little home, it was sad news.

My boys have loved that vessel since they could both say, “boat.”  The several months that the Grand Isle left us back in 2011 for an overhaul in Baltimore were loooong months for Thatcher and Finn.  Such a quirky thing, but they missed her presence in the harbor greatly.

Grown-ups do coffee runs….  Thatcher and Finn have asked me to do boat runs for as long as I can remember.  I’ve written about this before, so forgive me if you read it, but for YEARS now, no matter the season, we have been doing the tour.  “The tour?”  You may ask.  Well, it goes like this….  some time in the parking lot of Cape Ann Marina to see the shrink wrapped boats, or a drive by the docks to see those in the water, down the boulevard, past the Fishermen’s Wives Statue, a quick sit at the Man at the Wheel to watch whatever traffic may be going in or out of the harbor, through the fort, past St. Peter’s Square, check on some of the fishing fleet, look for the Privateer, check on the Lannon, down Washington Street to Harbor Loop, count the Coast Guard inflatables and grey 47-footers, see who is docked behind Captain Carlos, down to Cape Ann Whale Watch to see the Hurricane, and then on to the their Disney….The State Fish Pier.   Each and every time…upon driving past Pratty’s, the boys would declare, “I think the Grand Isle is in!” or “I think the Grand Isle is out!”  “What do you think, Mom?”  They’d make me drive crazy slow to let the anticipation build until the nose of our Jeep would peak past the Environmental Police building to catch a glimpse…or not…of the mighty Grand Isle.  It took a couple of years for them to realize that if they would just look up (at high tide anyway) they could see her yellow tower rising from the harbor…hence giving her away.

Thatcher, in particular, has been somewhat obsessed with the Coast Guard as a whole for years.  I’ll never forget the day he was standing forever peering at the boats through the fence at Solomon Jacobs Park until a new hero, Petty Officer Bowen, came over and invited him into the fenced in area for a tour.  Oh my, the smile!  Petty Officer Bowen later shared with me, that having grown up in Chatham, he used to spend hours doing the very same thing.  Kindred spirits, those two.  I’m not sure he’s aware of the little fire that was lit in Thatcher that day.  But I’m incredibly thankful for it.

As the love affair continued there would be more tours of the Coast Guard Station and vessels at Harbor Loop, a Coast Guard hat for his birthday, a Coast Guard shirt that reads, “Schrafft” and the year “2025”….as in the year Thatcher would be eligible for the academy, Coast Guard patches, and even a Coast Guard Halloween costume (loved that!).  And then….there was the tour of the Grand Isle.

The boys couldn’t even believe their good fortune.  They looked forward to the day for a couple of weeks….and then clammed up like crazy in the midst of all of the excitement….but, talked about it relentlessly for months afterwards. (Thanks, Cousin Rob!)  They were so little then….yet, so in love with that boat.

As a parent, you never really know what your children will become passionate about.  We have clocked hours sitting in the parking lot of the State Fish Pier just looking at the Grand Isle.  During winter months, the boys would sip their hot chocolate after hockey practice.  Summer months….there’d be smoothies.  On so many of those days, my dad would happen to call and get a good chuckle upon asking, “What are you guys up to?” only to find out that we were sitting looking at her ….again.

I wouldn’t trade a single one of those seconds that I spent wondering who thought I was stalking them as we sat in front of her bow. I was always keenly aware that surely there was someone up in the pilot house thinking, “Yikes. There’s that Jeep again.”  I was happiest when I could put the windows down so that the boys would be visible in the back seat.

So, Thank You, Grand Isle.  Thank you for helping me foster something wonderful in my boys.  Thank you for helping to spark their interest and for being the impetus for many valuable lessons.  I know at least two little boys who will miss seeing you sit proud and strong in our waters.

 

Electricity Saving Update 19- Energy Saving Tips and How To Get Energy Saving Stuff For Free

In an interview with Energy Advisor Geoff Martin:

What can homeowners do to prep for cold weather?
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but getting a home energy assessment really does help prepare you for changes in weather. There are almost always things that you can do through the utility programs that will make your home warmer and more comfortable – at a lower cost, too, thanks to available incentives and rebates.

But beyond that, there are a couple things I swear by. I always suggest people check their hot water temperature. Don’t set it above 120 degrees. If your water is any hotter than that, you’re paying more for hot water than you need to. It’s just a little knob on your heater. Carefully lower the dial until your temperature goes down.

Also close your curtains or blinds. It won’t replace an insulation job, but when we use our infrared camera over closed blinds or drawn curtains versus open ones, we do see a reduction in heat loss. Closed heavy window curtains or blinds also make a room more comfortable and slow heat loss.

For those of you who have not taken advantage of the Free Home Energy Assessment that you’re already paying for in the line item “Energy Efficiency Charge” On Your Electric Bill, sign up in this form and you will get a ton of free lightbulbs that use 10 watts of power but replace ones that use 70-100 watts and give great light, also free power strips, and replace old style thermostats with electronically controlled ones as well as water saving green shower heads.

SIGN UP FOR THE FREE STUFF HERE-


My mom did it and lots of other happy campers like Donna Ardizzoni have too.
Check out your bill for the Energy Efficiency Charge(shown on my mom’s bill in this picture)

That charge is what everyone has to pay regardless if you take advantage of the Free Energy Assesment and Free Energy Efficient Lightbulbs Available To You!
And they’re not the ugly squiggly ones, they look just like the regular lightbulbs they are replacing-

SIGN UP FOR THE FREE STUFF HERE-

For the entire series to date check out the past entries from the Electricity and Home Efficiency Series Here-

Parts 1,2,3 Here
Electricity Update #4: Free Home Energy Assesment With Kevin From Next Step Living
Electricity Update #5: Video Walkthrough- Energy Efficiency Assesment and Free Stuff At Mom’s House
Electricity Update #6 Energy Saving Ideas
Electricity Savings Alternative Home Energy and Comfort Update #7- Cape Ann Chimney and Hearth
ELECTRICTY AND HOME ENERGY UPDATE #8 NO BRAINER- DONNA AND RICK GET THEIR ENERGY EFFICIENCY ASSESSMENT!
ELECTRICITY, HOME HEATING AND ENERGY UPDATE #9 CAPE ANN CHIMNEY AND HEARTH TESTIMONIAL FROM CAROL CATALDO
Electricity Update #10
Electricity and Home Heating and Comfort Update 11: Cape Ann Chimney and Hearth Part III
The No Brainer Electricity Update #12
Electricity Update #13 Next Step Experience At Lise Breen’s Laneseville Joint

Electricity Conversation Update #14 Paulie Walnuts Gets His Energy Assessment #GloucesterMA

Have You Opened Your Recent Electricity Bill and Seen The Energy Efficiency Charge? Update 15

Electricity Savings Update 16: Solar Opportunities and A Solar Home Evaluation At Brian O’Connor’s

ELECTRICITY UPDATE 18 BRIAN AND DIANE O’CONNOR ARE GOING SOLAR

The World’s Largest Ocean and the Tiniest of Birds

Black-chinned hummingbird Goleta Santa Barbar Ellwood mesa ©kim Smith 2015We were happily surprised by the sight of the diminutive Black-chinned Hummingbird perched atop a thicket, spotted while hiking down the steep descent to the beach at Goleta, Santa Barbara. I loved the view of the region’s smallest bird juxtaposed against the world’s largest body of water, the Pacific Ocean. In the background you see Santa Cruz, one of the eight Channel Islands that comprise the archipelago off the southern coast of California, along the Santa Barbara Channel.

More photos from beautiful Santa Barbara to come.

Black-chinned hummingbird Goleta Santa Barbara ©Kim Smith 2015Black-chinned Hummingbird

Goleta Santa Barbara Ellwood Mesa ©Kim Smith 2015

So This Happened

In the category of Never a Dull Moment

I’ve been teaching for 22 years.  I’ve seen a lot.  I have had all sorts of excellent…and funny…and puzzling things happen….but, never…ever, this.  Until this week.

We have two crested geckos.  I’ve always believed in having a lot of pets.  It is a time suck when you’re the one ultimately responsible for caring for them (even with lots of helpful hands), but the lessons for the students are invaluable. We’ve had your run-of-the-mill hamsters and gerbils…and now the coolest guinea pig around.  We’ve also had a hedgehog and a rabbit.  We’ve had birds…and more fish than I can count.  We’ve also had tree frogs, anoles, a tortoise…and now geckos. There were a few years before I had the boys that I had a fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, and mammal all at one time so that we could really learn first-hand the different classifications of Phylum Chordata.  I digress.

The children have always treasured having the opportunity to interact and care for these critters and they’ve also provided fantastic learning opportunities.

What better way to learn the parts of a fish…ventral fins, pectoral fins, dorsal fin, caudal fin, gill openings, lateral line, etc…than observing a real live fish?

You get my point.

So, this week we learned that when a gecko feels threatened (don’t ask) it will “drop its tail” in an attempt to distract the predator so that it can flee.  Fascinating.  Most geckos will grow a new tail.  Crested geckos do not.  They can, however, live happy and healthy lives without their tails.  Phew.

What happens after the tail falls off, you may ask?  Well, see for yourself.

 

What’s Happening at GHS

FAFSA Assistance: Planning on going to college in the 2015-16 academic year? Then don’t miss this free event which you can receive free help filing the FAFSA, the federally required form for all students seeking financial aid. The College Success Program will help you and your family complete the FAFSA and answer questions about your specific circumstances. All seniors and their parents are encouraged to attend on SATURDAY, JANUARY, 31, 2015 between 10am-3pm at Endicott College-Gloucester campus (33 Commercial Street). *Registration is required* To register, learn more, and for a list of documents to bring with you please mail Norma Ramirez at nramirez@leap4ed.org

Or call 978-740-6667 x 106, or speak with your guidance counselor.

Students from the graduating Class of 2014 presented all of their knowledge and expertise to this year’s seniors in their English classes. Words of expertise included: ~ Do not go home the first few weekends but rather stay on campus and get to know what is available and your surroundings ~ attend the clubs and activities fair and sign up for everything and then later you can decide what to join but you will receive information on all clubs ~ definitely visit the college before you decide to attend and do not wait until the last minute if you will be living on the campus because it is important to get on campus housing ~ complete the FAFSA so you can get work study because most of the jobs are not too tough and you can make pocket money for the week ~ SET YOUR ALARM ~ and lastly laundry is expensive!

The exam schedule follows:

Mid – Year Exams

ABC 1/21/15

DE Make-Up 1/22/15

FG Make-Up 1/23/15

UPCOMING DATES OF INTEREST

Martin Luther King Day January 19

January 27, 2015 early Release, ½ day for students

Backyard Growers Spring Salad Workshop

Hey Good Morning Gloucester!

We have another big event coming up in addition to the fish tasting…and again we would be very grateful if you would help us promote it.

Spring may seem a long way off, but it’s really just around the corner. To ring in the spring and show off their brand new office, Backyard Growers is holding their annual Groundhog Day spring salad planting workshop on Saturday January 31 from 10:00 am – 11:30 am at 269 Main Street. 

The theme of the day: the versatile and colorful world of lettuces! Learn why lettuces are perfect early spring crops while you taste salad samples, plan your spring garden, and plant some seeds for early greens. Participants will leave with:

  • Ready-to-go windowsill lettuce plants
  • Plans for your spring garden
  • New, healthy salad dressing recipes
  • Everything you need to hit the ground running this spring!

No need to get a baby sitter – it’s a family event! Kids will be involved in the process and in their own fun activities like making salad dressings for salad samples. 

​The workshop is free to 1st and 2nd year Backyard Growers and only $15 for any families outside of the program.

However, space is limited! Click this link to sign up today and reserve your spot before January 25!

Interested in volunteering? Sign up here!

CNN, Memories, and a Shirt

SUshirtWM5025I confess, in my several months of confinement in medical facilities and at home, I’ve become a hopeless news junkie. The current scandal is about sketchy courses for athletes at the University of North Carolina. The so-called “paper classes” did not require attendance and had no professors – students just got a good grade. When at Syracuse University, I was required to take one science class, so I signed up for Physics 101. Upon entering the huge lecture hall, I saw a lot of really big guys. The course material was below high school level. The students called it “football physics.” I did my work and got an A.

What made me think about my connection to this breaking news was an old SU t-shirt. I bought it from the college catalog in the early 1980’s, crammed into the back of a drawer, as I became too fat to wear it. It fits great now because I’ve lost 80 pounds. I’m thinking that UNC is not the only college padding their teams.

Einstein.

Every once in a while you’ll hear me say how smart my boys are….and then, one of them will say something like, “Well, obviously that goat is a boy.”

And my bubble is burst.

And…to make matters worse, I’m pretty sure the goat to the far right was teasing him…and the goat in the middle was snickering.

“Did you hear what that kid said?  He thinks Gertrude over here is a boy.”

“LOL”

So much for the Topsfield Fair being a learning experience.

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What’s Happening at GHS

What’s Happening at GHS 10/8/14

Senior College Planning Night will be offered in the lecture hall at Gloucester High School on Thursday October 9, at 6:30pm. The Guidance Staff will present valuable information on the college selection and admission process. All Senior’s and their parents are requested to attend.

The Guidance Counselors have begun meeting with all seniors to ensure all of the planning and preparation of last year is progressing on target and make any changes or modifications to their college and career plans.

The PSAT’s will be offered at GHS on October 15, 2014 for all juniors and any sophomores who may be interested. This practice opportunity for the SAT’s is a wonderful time to begin thinking about the entire college application and acceptance process. To register for the PSAT, a payment of $22 (cash only) may be deposited with Mrs. Mondello before school, during lunch or after school.

Any parent interested in their own log on and account for our Naviance Family Connection on line website may call their child’s Guidance Counselor for log on access to assist your students in the College search and application process.

SAT’s will be offered at Gloucester High School this Saturday. Please ensure that your students are
well rested, have their admission ticket, a valid picture ID, at least two pencils, a calculator, a small snack, and are on time for this College Admissions testing experience. 

“A new social media app has just come to our attention.  The app is called Street Chat.  Anyone can post photographs and messages, and anyone nearby can make comments, anonymously, and post on it. If people were to use this app with compassion, empathy and thoughtful reflection, this could be a pretty cool app that fosters positive creativity and cooperation, but just like other social media sites and apps, when used irresponsibly it becomes a social media problem. Unfortunately, it is being used to post hurtful and offensive messages. While I hope we will soon have it shut down from within, at present we have no way to shut it down from without.  However, we are actively partnering with the Gloucester police department and other authorities to expose, and hold accountable, users of this app who may have bullied or harassed another, or have otherwise broken the law.  Violators will be subject to both school and legal consequences.” Erik Anderson, Principal GHS

Guidance Department 978-281-9874

O’Maley 3D Printer Make-a-Thon, An Endurance Event for Nerds

O’Maley 3D Printer Make-a-Thon, An Endurance Event for Nerds

by Jim Dowd

Photos by Martin DelVecchio

Here’s the scene: I’m sitting at a table in my daughter’s middle school with a pile of neatly laid-out parts that look like  IKEA decided to make electronics. I’m surrounded by dear friends and fellow community members along with teachers and administrators. We’ve all visited the elaborate coffee station set up in a corner and have consumed enough caffeine to make our pupils vibrate at the rate of purely theoretical particles. The atmosphere is, to be honest, tense as there are 27 such piles on tables distributed at regular intervals around the library. Our job is to transform them into cutting-edge technology for the students. Also, there are pastries.

Dave Brown oversees our team with understandable concern

The machines everyone is going to try and build are 3D printers, something hardly anyone in the room has ever seen before. It would be like grabbing a random selection of people from the sidewalk bazaar and saying, “Lets go up to O’Maley and build two dozen flying waffle irons!” But besides stacking the bench with a few tech-whiz ringers, School Technology Specialist Dave Brown and Science teacher Amy Donnelly did essentially just that: they put out an open call to the public to build 27 of these babies over the course of a weekend.

No experience necessary.

The parts and instructions are here, take a look. Sound like a risky plan?

There are no printed instructions. On each table there is a laptop. We’re told to click on the videos and do what the narrator says, but it’s loud in the library and the built-in laptop speakers suck. The video narrator/instructor is a dude named “Colin” …How does one say this? He sounds sort of like that guy in high school who could make his own electric guitars, but kinda sorta spent a lot of time in that one bathroom with “Bob Marley Lives!” carved into the door, if you know what I mean.

Colin is not the most concise of fellows and occasionally does essential tasks offscreen and apparently does not know how to edit his videos. Each one is an exceptionally long take of him going, “Uh, OK, that was sort of wrong, so undo that last part…” He’s like your college roommate on Saturday night after you’ve been studying all day and he’s been “hanging out” and now he’s trying to explain Kirkegaard to you. Colin is a genius to be sure and you love the guy, but you and he are on different planes of reality right now.

Maggie and Joe listen to Colin with earned skepticism

We sixty-odd caffeine-buzzing volunteers lean into the laptops and follow as best we can, trying not to screw up, because we’re building the printers for a new lab at the O’Maley Innovation Middle School (motto: Yes, innovation!) and these are notoriously finicky beasts.  The kits were donated by the Gloucester Education Foundation [give them moneyz!]. The assembling was donated by local educators, administrators and community members. Food donated by local restaurants and bakeries. Ironic T-shirts worn by many participants courtesy of the Internet.

Amy and David are the Field Marshals trying to make all this happen and work. They have taken a tremendous risk in the community-build approach and bear an enormous burden as the hours tick too quickly by and we’re all holding up parts going, “What the crap did Colin say about cutting away extraneous plastic on the extruder gear axle assembly?” They dash about, distributing advice and trying to allay fears. But by Saturday afternoon, 11 hours in, only two of the kits are laying down plastic. The rest of us are tangled up in wire harnesses, “Z-axis motor stops” and fretting the tension of our belt drives. Long light starts to shine in through the windows as the sun descends.

WAIT, BACK UP. WHAT THE HELL IS A 3D PRINTER AND WHY SHOULD ANYONE CARE?

As Scruffy McNerdman testifies in the vid, 3D printing is technology overturning the way we make and use things. It will have massive implications as we move from the crude printers of today to cheaper and much higher resolution devices of tomorrow, where it will be possible to print standard objects but also food, medical devices, electronics and even human organs (there are over 100 people today with 3D printed soft tissue organs).

A quick example of how a future version of this technology will impact every one of our lives:

There are things I hate about my minivan. Not just that it makes me look like a khaki-wearing suburban soccer dad who owns a ride-on lawnmower and the Billy Joel boxed set. What I really hate about it is that the interior is clearly designed for the boringest people on Earth. First of all, the beverage holder is designed for a ‘Big Gulp’ sized soda and is thus so vast any normal-sized drink I put in there is bound to spill and create a disgusting crust resembling the interior of the spaceship in the movie Alien. It also has a built-in soda cooler because of course more soda (there should be space for a portable dialysis machine with all the soda infrastructure this car has). It has carpets for people who apparently enjoy lounging around in their car barefoot. It has all of one USB charging port. On long car trips our daughter Rebecca is designated DJ and she has to run a cord from the dashboard to her back seat so she can run the music system from her tablet because the makers of this vehicle assumed the adults in the front are the ones who should be picking the music for a van full of tweens and teens. The people who designed this van are not from this planet.

Our family is not being optimally served by the current setup. The one USB port is a hassle for a family who won’t go the other side of town without enough smartphones, tablets and laptops to run a mid-sized advertising agency. Everything we do seems to involve mud, snow and dirt: beach, soccer, hikes in the woods. We have bikes, boats, a collie who likes to roll around in any disgusting thing she finds and my wife goes to Aprilla Farms weekly and loads the whole interior up with some kind of gourd or beet or root or dirty brown knobby thing that’s supposed to be good for you. We basically need a combination of a Subaru and the US Army 2.5 ton utility truck with its own IT infrastructure.

In not too long (sooner than you think) I will go to the dealer and she will sit me down and I’ll tell her all this and they will build a car to suit for the same cost as a car today. Printing and finishing a custom vehicle will incur no penalty on the manufacturing process all due to the advances being made on crude looking jumbles of wood and wire like the ones now sitting on tables around the 3D printing lab in our very own middle school.

The vid below is some dudes actually doing this and they finally have a proof of concept prototype. I hung around with them at a tech show a couple of years ago and we got drinks. They are really cool save for the fact that they insisted on wearing aviation flight suits everywhere. I was worried we were going to get our asses kicked when we went out, but we wound up at ‘Miracle of Science’ on Mass Ave in Cambridge where the menu is based on the periodic table of elements, so no worries in that department.

3D PRINTING OBJECTIONS, MADE BY IDIOTS

Online I saw a few objections to this technology from people who probably were the same folks who used to leave long, rambling messages on your answering machine back in the day saying things like, “Hello? Hellooo…oh, gracious. I really don’t like talking to a machine. Jimmy? Are you theeeeere? I have to tell you something about Thanksgiving, the address changed. Call me and I’ll tell you [Click].”

  1. “Oh mercy! I saw on the Internet you can make a gun! Right there in school! Won’t someone Pleeese think of the children?” OK, sure, with a much more expensive and higher resolution printer than the ones we have, if you took a month of dedicated time and a variety of tools and some additional highly complex finishing you can make a very, very terrible gun. By the time you finished this gun it would have about the accuracy, quality and effectiveness of a Revolutionary War flintlock pistol but with way less likelihood it would actually fire even once. You can make pretty much the same “gun” from stuff at Ace Hardware.
  1. “Consumer 3D printing is all hype, you can’t make anything useful” As a guy who deals with technology adoption every day, I agree from a current market standpoint. But these machines at O’Maley actually produce something much more useful than little plastic figurines: educated people. Little model Yoda heads are not, in and of themselves, worth anything. However individuals who can go from raw concept to software model to an actual thing are, however, invaluable considering where everything is going.
  1. 3D printing will lead to atomic scale nanofabrication, transcending capitalism and creating a post-scarcity utopia just like in Star Trek The Next Generation. All I have to say is: “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

3D PRINTING COMES TO GLOUCESTER

The GEF grant could have bought eight pre-assembled printers and a small group of students would have been able to use them on a limited basis. But what we’ve come to understand about technology in schools is that it only works well when everyone has full access. This was the logic behind getting the entire 8th grade Chromebooks, which has been nothing short of transformative.

The better option was getting 30 kits and then assembling them. They take somewhere between 12-20 hours to put together and as I began to explain above the assembly requires, among other skills; soldering, wiring, hooking up a circuit board, installing motors and belt drives, gear assemblies, setting up and correctly installing fragile heat sensors called “thermistors” along with more tiny little screws and nuts than individual cereal bits in a “Family Size” box of Rice Krispies from The Basket.

Science Teacher Amy Donnelly schools Haig on his wiring

So, rejoining our story in the O’Maley library, now it’s 8pm on Saturday and 16 hours have elapsed. I’ve cranked down part of a BLT all day because our laserlike focus has been bringing our machine to life. At my team’s table KT Toomey and Steve Brosnihan and I are surrounded by a low tide of wires, parts, tools and 63 empty tiny little cans of Mountain Dew. We’re sweating it. Even though our build is technically done, things aren’t moving as they should. Our printer is sputtering around as if possessed by unclean spirits.

Besides the two machines brought to life earlier in the day (Props to Joel Favazza and those two engineer/machinist dudes who sneezed out their machines while the rest of us were still giggling every time Colin said “nuttrap.”), nobody is getting any plastic through. At the coffee station secret doubts are expressed. The tone is of a hospital drama in the middle of a mass-casualty triage: “I’m not sure mine’s gonna pull through. We’re doing everything we can. I don’t know how I’m gonna face the family if it doesn’t make it…”

Ours, which we quickly dubbed with the sci-fi robot villain name “SCULPTRON” (All Hail SCULPTRON!) is in critical condition. Every time we power up it makes a loud noise that resembles what I imagine C3PO’s farts would sound like. Servos are flitting around randomly as if to signal, “Help! SCULPTRON has been built by idiots! Why do you let me live like this! I beg you to KILL SCULPTRON in the name of mercy KILL MEEE!!!!”

SCULPTRON sounds and acts nothing like the two smoothly humming machines at the front assembled by students over the summer. These are happily tended by the clever teens and are cheerfully cranking out well-formed plastic doodads at a regular pace. It turns out these teens are the secret weapon of this whole project.

This kid saved our nerdy behinds.

Over the summer they did a week long session with some students and a few of the kits. They were taught how to build, program and use the devices culminating in a huge Mexican feast on the last day. Catch: you could only eat with utensils you had designed and printed. Those kids were undisputed heroes this weekend. They popped around to different tables, helped readjust parts here, gave advice there. They knew how all the wiring worked and could tell you what was wrong. One of them took a sidelong glance at SCULPTRON, who was now lurching around clumsily as if someone had served him the robotic equivalent of a half dozen scorpion bowls.

“Your mechanical parts look fine. Redo all your wiring.”

Huzzah, kid, you were exactly right! We found a mis-wired connection and reinserted one of the control motors on its pins from the motherboard and suddenly SCULPTRON was efficiently zipping around like his robot brethren at the front of the room (and no doubt thirsting for revenge against his human defilers).

Can I tell you the joy I felt when SCULPTRON first laid plastic? It wasn’t holding my kids for the first time (hey ladies, you are 3D printers too!) but it was in that direction. There will be those who claim I cranked up the speakers I’d brought to better hear Colin’s mumbling and danced about the room capering wildly to the 80’s pop hit “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor. That, people, is a lie. It was actually “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. C’mon, Survivor? Really?

“It’s working! Have you ever seen something so beautiful?”

On Sunday the rest of the kits started to come to life. One by one we spun the tunes as a new table started making objects to the cheers of its builders and suddenly the room was filled with little fish, aliens, plastic cubes, frogs and other test items. An increasing number of kids, most of them elementary schoolers who could no longer be kept away by their parents, showed up and just took over. They instinctively began printing objects as we adults worked on getting the remaining kits up to speed.

How many did we get working you ask? 22, compadres. We got all but 5 printing and even those that weren’t completed are being finished off this week. After the immensely patient custodian finally kicked us out late Sunday night, I crashed on our couch at home, depleted. It took about three minutes for me to start getting texts, emails, IMs and messages from a few folks wondering how the machine they’d put hours into but had to abandon for parental responsibilities turned out. Also were elevated thank-yous, virtual high fives and literally teary well-deserved shout-outs to David and Amy. It really was a community event like no other I’ve ever been a part of. People were deep in this project, way deep. We’re still coming back to reality.

I want to say that I don’t think there a lot of places that could have done this. Where else do you find 600+ hours of competent volunteer time from people who will give up a whole weekend, and who have the DIY chops to throw together a complicated piece of hardware like this? To me it speaks of the best of Gloucester, the stuff that makes it impossible to consider ever living anywhere else. Fanatical devotion to each other, the unrepentant love of a crazy plan, dedicated visionaries to make it all work and a railtanker full of coffee.

Dear God we drank so much coffee.

To see a bunch more pics of the build click here

GMG Update for Marine Mammal Response From Mendy Garron

Dear Good Morning Gloucester Community:

We know people were concerned and had questions about the harbor seal that was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend.  I wanted to take this opportunity to remind people of what they should do if they see an animal that may need assistance.

October 4, 2014 injured seal

Donna Ardizzoni Injured Seal photo Oct 4, 2014 Good Harbor Beach Taken With Telephoto Lens

Up until this year, the protocol was to call the New England Aquarium.  The Aquarium served as the NOAA authorized responder for the Northshore area for many years.  On January 1st, the Aquarium refocused their response effort to sea turtle rehabilitation and the study of infectious disease in marine mammals. As a result they had to scale back their response area for stranded marine mammals and now are focusing their efforts on the area from Salem to Plymouth.  

Over the last year, NOAA Fisheries has been seeking an alternate organization to help us fill this void on the Northshore, which includes Cape Ann. Until an alternate organization is identified and authorized to help us, we ask that all stranding calls be reported to our offices.

Our program oversees the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program from Maine to Virginia.  Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to respond to every animal in the field and do not have the legal ability to authorize individual volunteers to respond to these cases.  As a result, marine mammal stranding cases in Gloucester will be handled on a case-by-case basis.  When needed, we will seek help from other authorized stranding response agencies, but their ability to help will be limited and based on their available resources. 

I would like to ask the Gloucester community to spread the word about the current status of response to stranded marine mammals and remind one another to be responsible viewers of wildlife by:

– Staying a safe distance of at least 150 feet from animals on the beach or hauled out;

– Do not let dogs approach seals or other marine wildlife.  Marine mammals do carry diseases that can be transmitted to your pets, and vise versa;

– Do not touch or feed the animal.

Remember, seals are wild animals.  Medical treatment of these animals is significantly different from domestic and terrestrial animals.  We have to consider a variety of factors when making a decision about how best to respond to an animal on the beach including individual animal health and potential risks to humans and pets, the overall health of the species’ population , and how intervening may affect the natural ecosystem. Seals and other marine mammal species are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

I would like to thank the Gloucester Police Department and the Massachusetts Environmental Police for their assistance in maintaining a safe viewing distance for this animal while it was resting on the beach.  The seal did go back into the water on its own Saturday evening and no further reports have been received.

More information about the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program can be found at the following website:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/stranding.htm–

Mendy Garron, CVT
Marine Mammal Response Coordinator
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office

NOAA Fisheries

MARINE ANIMAL HOTLINE: 866-755-NOAA (6622)

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