Campers enjoy Summer Blast activities
Editor’s note: This is the first of a series of articles written by kids about the Boys & Girls Club Summer Blast program.
GARDNER — Since the start of the Summer Blast program on July 2, the campers have been having a great time participating in many different activities.
In the STEM sports program, the campers have been learning how to track their heart rate when playing games such as kickball. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Most of the activities we do at the Boys & Girls Club are STEM-focused.
During the warm and sunny mornings, campers were able to ride bikes outside, and even learn how to fix them when a few broke! Special guest Donna Silberstein, who is on the board of directors at the Fitchburg and Leominster Club, visited and helped us make T-shirts by placing leaves with soft-scrub bleach. The bleach created a chemical reaction, leaving an imprint of the leaf on the shirt.
Some of the other activities have been making kinetic sand, learning similarities and differences between moths and butterflies, observing caterpillar growth, and creating bookmarks for our book club. One afternoon, the campers were invited to attend a fundraiser at the middle school. We were given a book and ice cream!
Each Thursday, we have been going on field trips to Camp Collier right in town. The camp is on Lake Wampanoag, so campers can enjoy swimming and canoeing. On July 19, we had a special visitor, Glenn Davison, who led a kite-making and flying workshop.
Summer Blast at Gardner Middle School has three more weeks left. If you are interested in registering your child/children, please call 978-534-8358 or visit http://bgcfl.org/gardner/ for more information.
Ariana Rimbach, counselor in training, is an eighth-grader at Gardner Middle School.
Summer Blast – at the Boys & Girls Club in Gardner
By Andrew Mansfield
Posted Jul 23, 2018
GARDNER — The Boys & Girls Club has expanded the ways children can stay engaged over vacation by bringing a Summer Blast to Gardner.
The club is in the midst of running the seven-week program at the Gardner Middle School, which has been offered at no cost to families. The city’s Recreation Department is also helping out.
Children from age 8 to 12 are participating in a wide variety of activities covering the program’s STEAM curriculum, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
“Here in Gardner, we thought it would be a great opportunity to have a free event all summer,” said Isaiah Jasmin from the Boys & Girls Club.
Jasmin is the club’s team leader for running the program, which he coordinates with the help of a few other staff members.
He said about 50 children have signed up for the program, with around 35-45 showing up on any given day. Free breakfast and lunch is provided by the nonprofit Spanish American Center.
The program runs five days a week, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. It began earlier this month and will conclude on Aug. 17.
Since 2015, the Boys & Girls Club of Gardner has run an afterschool program during the school year at Gardner High School, but this is the first time the Summer Blast program has also been held in Gardner.
On Monday, the ability to do outdoor activities was affected by the rainy weather, but inside Gardner Middle School there were several things going on.
One of them was a science experience involving the children placing an egg into a container with vinegar, which gradually dissolves the calcium of the egg shell.
The process softens the egg and it becomes bouncy like a rubber ball, creating a fun experiment.
Destiny Goguen, 10, spoke about the program’s science and art activities as being among her favorites.
“The club makes sure you’re always having fun, and if you’re bored they give you many options,” she said.
Another student in attendance was 8-year-old Jeremias Rodriguez.
“What I really like about this thing is they do most of the stuff that I really like,” he said. “Even when it’s rainy outside they always find something fun to do.”
In particular, Rodriguez said, he enjoys working on bicycles, another activity the program offers. Jasmin explained that the Gardner Police Department was kind enough to donate lost bikes that went unclaimed.
Having the bikes is a way to teach children how to ride, but also for club staff to go over with the children the mechanics of bikes and how to fix them.
For example, Rodriguez said he has practiced repairing bike chains and tightening handlebars.
Other activities the children have participated in that Jasmin spoke of include reading, gardening and playing sports and games such as chess.
On a weekly basis, the program visits Camp Collier in Gardner, where the Gardner children meet with the children from Fitchburg and Leominster and get to swim and go canoeing, among other activities.
This Friday, Jasmin said, the Gardner participants will take a special field trip to the planetarium at Framingham State University where they will simulate a space mission.
“Science is an avenue where we want to have their minds be open to,” he said.
Also new to Gardner this summer, the city has created a recreation director position along with hiring some summer staff. Those positions are funded on a part-time basis.
To make it happen, Mayor Mark Hawke was able to commit over $60,000 of city funds in the fiscal 2019 budget, which the City Council then approved.
The move was prompted by the fact that Mount Wachusett Community College, which had run a summer program for a number of years at city playgrounds with the help of grant funding, did not get grant funds for this summer.
Serving as the recreation director is Dan Forte, who also serves as the athletic director for the schools.
Due to his role expanding, he explained, he no longer is serving as a high school gym teacher.
His salary as recreation director is paid through the city, and his salary as athletic director is paid through the school budget.
For this summer, Forte said, the city is partnering with the Boys & Girls Club to enhance the program at the middle school.
That has allowed children to participate in even more programming, as his staff has been teaching the science of sports, covering topics such as reaction time.
Then the children get to actually play sports, such as soccer, basketball and even bocce.
“It’s a lot of play, but learning while they play,” Forte said.
Among the staff members for the summer program is Caitlin Bosse, a 2016 Gardner High School graduate who now attends Westfield State University where she said she is studying physical education and coaching.
On Monday she was helping to coach the children in a game of basketball in the school gym. One of the things she said she taught them was to understand the probability of being able to make different shots on the court.
That suggests the children learned that lay-ups are the highest percentage shot, but then again if they’ve ever watched NBA superstar Steph Curry, they probably think three-pointers look easy.
|SET FOR A SUMMER BLAST
Boys & Girls Club starting a new youth program
GARDNER The Boys & Girls Club of Gardner is expanding into new territory with its Summer Blast program for local youth beginning in July.
Over the last three school years, the Gardner club has operated after school at Gardner High School, but this is the first year the club is also offering a summer program, which will be held at Gardner Middle School, at 297 Catherine St.
Executive Director Donata Martin said the club is “excited” to offer some of the same activities for the summer program as well as new activities, especially outdoors.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” she said.
Martin said the summer program is being offered at no cost for children from ages 8 to 12. Breakfast and lunch will be provided through the nonprofit Spanish American Center.
The program will be held Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. over the course of seven weeks, beginning on Monday, July 2, and ending on Friday, Aug. 17.
Like the regular club, Martin explained the summer program will be STEAM-focused, which stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. It also will have arts and crafts and sports.
The central focus of the program is to keep the children learning over the summer in an enjoyable way. The summertime is typically a period when students who are out-of-school can lose some of the academic gains they made.
“It’s all quite fun. It’s just to keep their minds going over the summer,” Martin said.
She went over one of the neat features of the program, saying that every week on Thursday will include a visit to nearby Camp Collier in Gardner.
The Boys & Girls Club of Gardner is sponsored by its parent club, the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, which has its own facility in Leominster.
Last summer, Martin said, the Gardner club participated in the Summer-UP program for a few weeks, which was run by Mount Wachusett Community College, in partnership with the city, at Jackson Playground.
With the college not receiving the grant funding to run that program this summer, she explained, the Gardner club worked with the city to run its own summer program at the middle school, which has plenty of field space next to it.
Parents and guardians can download the application to sign their children up for the program at www.bgcfl.org/gardner/#summerblast.
Martin said the application can be returned to the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, 365 Lindell Ave., Leominster.
For any questions, the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster can be reached at 978-534-8358 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through stamps and smiles, Bolduc gave so much to kids
By Peter Jasinski
LEOMINSTER — When the late Bruce Bolduc approached the Boys & Girls Club with an idea of starting a stamp collecting group nine years ago, club staff weren’t optimistic.
“Are the kids going to really like this?” Unit Director Rocco Spagnuolo recalled asking him at the time. “We
appreciate you wanting to work with us, but I’m not sure the kids are going to get into the stamps.”
Bolduc and his stamp collection would be up against flashier activities like kickball and science projects, but it wasn’t long before he had amassed what Spagnuolo now refers to as a “loyal army” of pre-teen stamp collectors.
“At its peak, he had to turn kids away,” he said. “The kids liked the stamps, but I really think they were coming more for him.”
Bolduc’s Jan. 27 passing didn’t just signify a loss for the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster. It was also a blow to the many children who still thought he’d be coming back to run their stamp club later this year.
“He was so nice and sweet. He was one of my favorite staff members here, and I don’t have a lot of favorites,” said Sage Dean, a 12-year-old Fitchburg resident who has been going to the club for the last two years.
Dean owns one of the hundreds of albums given out to club members in the last decade. Like the others, it’s
personalized with her name and filled with dozens of stamps Bolduc gave her from his own collection.
Volunteer Coordinator Kelly Hartnett estimates Bolduc gave away thousands of stamps during his time with the
club, but it wasn’t all Bolduc donated. He also supplied walkie-talkies to club staff and paid for the basketballs
the club league used this fall.
After totaling the amount of time he dedicated, Hartnett calculated that Bolduc would have logged roughly
2,000 hours of volunteering, making him the longest serving volunteer the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and
Leominster has ever had.
“He was heartwarming, kind. He had a soft voice and was never yelling,” said Isabella Williams, an 11-year-old
“He had a good sense of humor,” added Hailey Joseph, a Leominster 12-year-old Bolduc convinced to join the club four years ago. Neither girl had been involved in stamp collecting prior to meeting Bolduc, but they were hooked after seeing the number of stamps he had from countries all over the world. They frequently played a game where he would
have them guess the countries each stamp was from and often teased them about the answers they came up with.
“My favorite moments were that we shared a lot of laughs with him and those are moments that stay with you for the rest of your life,” said Williams.
Without anyone to coordinate the club, the stamp collecting group is currently on-hold, but staff are looking for someone to serve as a replacement.
“We’re actively trying to find someone who has that passion and wants to be involved,” said Hartnett. “It’s
important to keep that legacy of Bruce and his club because he was here for so many years.” Both Williams and Joseph said they look forward to joining the club again if staff can find a new volunteer. Dean was not as sure.
“It just wouldn’t be the same,” she said.
Wonders on display at Central Mass. Science Festival
FITCHBURG — Riley Foley looked up in amazement as a remote-controlled robot lifted a yellow box and launched it through the air.
“Woah,” the 4-year-old from Leominster yelled, with a big smile.
The robot, created by Clinton High School students, was on display at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster as part of 26 exhibits at the Central Massachusetts Science Festival.
The Clinton students said they plan to bring the robot, which could reach almost to the gymnasium’s basketball hoop, to a competition in Detroit.
The robot is a three-bar linkage lift, but it also has another name.
“Unofficially, (my teammate) calls it Shaquille O’Neal,” said Smeet Patel, one of the creators who was using a remote control to move the machine around the room.
Similar scenes were playing out all around the festival on Saturday.
In one room, Max Weagle and Ken Warchol from the Worcester County Beekeepers explained raising the insects.
Weagle said pesticides and Varroa mites are largely to blame for the recent decline in honey bee populations. However, he said he is hopeful state legislation limiting homeowner use of certain pesticides could ease the issue.
At least one colony was alive and well at the Boys & Girls Club Saturday. On the display table sat a thin box containing about 4,000 live bees.
“I can let them out if you want,” Weagle jokingly offered 10-year-old Michael Kelley of Leominster.
Kelley didn’t waste a moment.
“No, thank you,” he said.
Kelley attended with several family members, including his grandmother, Moria Mill, a biochemist.
Science, she said, is a common topic of conversation in their households.
Volunteer Pavel Loven guided visitors through one of the most popular displays: oobleck. The non-Newtonian fluid, which takes its name from a Dr. Seuss book, acts like fluid when left undisturbed, but a solid when stressed.
Balls of the substance, a simple mixture of corn starch and water, bounced on vibrating speakers as Loven welcomed visitors.
“Please, make a mess,” he said.
Sofia Hanerstein, 8, tried to shape the substance as it vibrated. Her mother, Suzanne Hanerstein, said the event offered a good opportunity for the children in attendance.
“I think it’s important to encourage girls to become interested in science,” she said, later adding: “It just encourages children’s natural interest.”
Homework humming along again thanks to hospital’s computer donation
HealthAlliance gives 10 computers to Boys and Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster
LEOMINSTER – It’ll be less of a headache for some local students trying to get their homework done thanks to a recent donation of 10 computers from HealthAlliance Hospital to the Boys & Girls Club. The computers, which have been operational since last week, were given to the club after many of the club’s older machines started breaking down in rapid succession.
The club’s teen center, where high school students usually do homework after school, went from five computers to just one in less than a year.
“Before this, there was only one computer that everyone was using and everyone was waiting for it,” said Fitchburg High School sophomore Damien Vilavong. Catherine Burgess, an instructor in the club who works in the teen center, said having enough computers is important as most homework assignments require internet access. “A lot of kids have no computer at home, no printer, no tablet. They either have this or have to work off their phones,” she said. “The hospital has no idea how much this meant to us.” Burgess said the six computers in the teen center will likely be used by 80 to 100 students every day. Four more computers from the hospital will be used for the homework rooms that children between the ages of eight and 12 use. Prior to the donation, club Executive Director Donata Martin said she hopes the new computers will make it easier for children to complete assignments from school.
“A lot of the teens weren’t able to do the research they needed to be doing before,” she said. “They were going to the tech lab or even asking to go in our offices in the staff area to use the computers because there was nowhere else to go.”
UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital s President and CEO Deborah Weymouth speaks to kids inside the homework room at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster, which is filled with students using computers donated by the hospital. She is joined by Donata Martin, the executive director of the B& G Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.
“We wanted to help because the club is local and they’re doing all the right things for the community,” said Deborah Weymouth, president and CEO of UMass Memorial HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital. “We want to continue to connect youth with the community and improve health and wellness.”
Building a robotic dynasty
Despite fewer resources and less money than much larger teams, members of the Terror Bots robotics team designed a machine that outpaced the competition of 41 other schools and communities at last weekend’s FIRST Robotics district competition held in Worcester.
This is the second year in a row that they’ve claimed the prize.
“There are a lot of teams that don’t even win once so getting it twice in a row is really exciting,” said Jonathan Arel, a Fitchburg High School sophomore and member of the Terror Bots.
The team is comprised of 10 students from Leominster High School, Fitchburg High School, Monty Tech, the Sizer School, and Chelmsford’s Lighthouse School.
They’re based out of the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster.”Being an after-school program, our budget is a little smaller. We’re a Boys & Girls Club competing against high-level high schools and tech schools,” explained team coach Jon Blodgett. “You could spend up to $4,000 on your robot and we spent the most we’ve ever had, which was $1,400. We were well under the limit.”
This year’s task was building a robot in six weeks that could pick up milk crate-sized boxes and navigate them across an obstacle-laden playing field. All teams are given some standard equipment to build controls for the robot, but beyond that, they’re responsible for finding parts and designing a machine that can get the job done.
Having less money puts the Terror Bots at a disadvantage from the start, meaning students have to be that much more creative in finding solutions that will work even better than the ideas of their opponents.
As Leominster High School junior Eric Jenny explained, one such innovation was the team’s decision to use a wheel in their robot’s drive train that was comparatively cheaper than what was used by other teams yet more efficient after some careful tinkering.
“We just use Omni wheels with straight rollers, but we put them at an angle,” he said. “It does the same thing, but it’s a lot cheaper and it is actually slightly faster moving side to side.”
Jenny was responsible for driving the robot across the course while fellow LHS junior Max Shepard operated the arm that picks up, and sometimes throws, the boxes used during the competition.
“It was intense, but I honestly only noticed our bot,” he said. “You’re really just zoned in on doing one thing, and one thing only, the whole time.”
Though the team has been in existence since 2011, the last two years mark the Terror Bots’ first ever competition wins.
According to team mentor, and former member, Jacob Janssens, the most recent win was especially impressive because of the stiff competition they faced in teams from Bridgewater and Newport, Rhode Island.
“We proceeded through the finals undefeated and against two powerhouse teams,” he said. “They’re both extremely high-level teams that have seen the world championship endgames, and we beat them on the field.”
The team’s robot will soon be packed up and shipped to the next stage of competition, which will be held at Bryant University in three weeks. Until then, the team is not just preparing, but also looking ahead to a spot in the national level competition being held in Detroit later this year.
Robotics team will compete for world championship
SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE
By Peter Jasinski
LEOMINSTER — The Terror Bots will continue their march toward global robotic domination next week as they travel to Detroit for the FIRST Robotics world championship competition.
The 10-member team based out of the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster will be facing off against more than 400 other groups of high school and middle school students from around the U.S., Canada, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Japan.
This is the second year in a row the local students have made it to the international competition and its members are confident that they’ll do even better this year.
“This team is super. We started this eight years ago and we didn’t have a clue,” said Jerry Westwood, one of the team’s volunteer instructors. “Last year we really had a great year and we built on that this year. I’m really proud of the team.”
Seven of the team’s 10 members will be leaving for the competition on Tuesday, but the club is still raising
funds for their travel and lodging expenses. So far $10,000 has been donated by the U.S. Department of Defense
and the medical devices manufacturer Boston Scientific. Donations are still being accepted at the club in the
days leading up to the team’s departure.
Team member JC Oquenda said he was feeling confident and excited to be returning to the competition.
“It was a really cool experience last time because it was my first year on the team and to see the team go that far
was really cool,” he said.
Leominster High School senior Brett Houck is also confident that the Terror Bots will do well in Detroit.
“I’m hoping we do pretty well,” he said. “I’m excited to be going back because this is my last year as a team
member. I didn’t think we’d make it this far, but we did.”
Fitchburg’s ‘Yeast of Eden’ exhibit a savory blend of bread and art
Sentinel & Enterprise
FITCHBURG — Flour, salt, and yeast. Together they make a staple seen around the world: bread.
At the Revolving Museum in downtown, bread has been transformed into art that celebrates its cultural significance.
The “Yeast of Eden — Bread Art Project” exhibit opened Saturday. Dough, pretzels, crackers and other bread products went into the painted figurines, crumb pictures, and silhouettes that are display at the museum.
“Every culture has bread, and food is often an art form,” said Jerry Beck, founder and director of the museum.
“The smell of bread and baking is a universal experience.
The focal point of the exhibit are seven shapes that relate to bread. One is a boot with a farmer on it, which represents the people who grow the wheat used in bread. There’s also a salt shaker, donut, coffee cup, rolling
pin and a house.
On the artwork, pretzels, crackers, matzo, croutons and stale bread are grouped together and resemble a mosaic.
The bread shapes, which are a few feet large, are glued onto plywood and sealed with several layers of urethane
to prevent molding.
More than 200 people helped make the silhouettes at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum.
Jerry’s 11-year-old daughter, Georgie, added flourishes to the piece shaped like a rolling pin and dough.
Using pretzels and a salt glue mixture, she added a peace sign and 17 stick figurines to honor the victims of the
school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
About 20 years ago, Beck had a studio in Boston. There was a bakery nearby that threw out old bread, causing a
rat problem. To prevent the rodents from coming, he took the bread and began to use it for art.
“It went from a scary scenario to a breakthrough,” he said.
Bread and community involvement have been part of Beck’s work.
He collaborated with students, bakers and artists through the Crumbs Company on bread art projects, which
include a toast mural. At the Jewish Museum of Florida, students helped Beck create a house featuring breads
from around the world.
That involvement has continued in Fitchburg through the Bread Project exhibit.
Catherine Judge, an art teacher at Sizer School, attended the opening to see her students’ work on display.
They made the painted figures mounted on baking sheets hanging in the museum’s window front.
Beck introduced her to Country Pizza owner Steve Loukanaris, who donated the dough used for the figurines.
Students liked throwing and kneading it and had to think about how their art would change when the dough
“It’s a natural type of material that wants to become something,” she said.
“The male-to-female ratio was a pretty big difference,” she said. “In the computer field, you don’t see as many women involved. I don’t really know why, they just don’t seem to lean toward it as much.”
It was because of her studies at FSU that Rivera was hired to work at the Boys & Girls Club of Fitchburg and Leominster as a computer science programming instructor. During the year she worked there, she also helped found the local chapter of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit dedicated to teaching young women about programming.
Rivera has since gotten a new job with DRS Technologies, but has remained on at the club as instructor for Girls Who Code.
“She absolutely loves it and she’s recruiting girls all the time,” said club Executive Director Donata Martin. “I think she’s a good example of another woman, and a younger one, who is successful. She’s a role model for them.”
The club works mainly as an eight-month training course that teaches young women how to do web design, coding, edit photos and video, and even create video games. As Rivera explained, it serves as an early introduction to many of the skills that would likely be encountered in college or a computer science-related workplace.
“I love working with the kids, and when you see them learn something and get excited,” she said.
“They get to the point where they can do things by themselves and then want to show their friends.”Abby Muller, an 11-year-old from Leominster, has been in the club for almost two years and said she initially wanted to join because her father is a computer coder. She said it’s a field she’d want to someday enter, too, but she’s also considering a career in ice skating or dancing.
“I don’t really know what I’d be doing without this,” she said. “I don’t think I would have ever known about a lot of what I’ve learned, or that I could actually code something.”
Thus far, Muller has made a computer game that she modeled after the classic arcade game “Frogger” and is in the middle of developing a website.
The club meets once a week and is open to girls in grades 6 through 12. It is also planning upcoming field trips to Becker College and Google so that members can see the practical applications of what they’re learning.
“When I was their age, I really didn’t know that much about this. I didn’t really learn until I was in college,” Rivera said. “It’s an important field because it’s growing, but to get a job you really need these skills.”