ConVal Connection

The link between our schools and community

The other day my wife and I were taking a long walk along the bike path in Peterborough. It was a wonderful day with bright sunshine and cool temperatures, and we ended up walking much farther than we initially expected. It was impressive to notice how many organizations (small and large) are thriving in Peterborough. There is an adage that goes along the lines of “It takes a village to raise a child.” I think “it takes a community to help a student become a knowledgeable and productive citizen” is equally true.

Walking by the Sharon Arts Center, the Peterborough Historical Society, the Cornucopia Project, the Monadnock Community Hospital, the Peterborough Fire and Rescue Department, and various local churches helped me to reflect on the schools’ inter-connectedness with the wider community. Following are examples of a few of the ways we at ConVal work closely with other groups in our community to help our students to be successful.

In the ConVal School District, we are very fortunate to have developed strong and long-lasting connections with our community groups over the years. A few days ago, I was up at the Dublin Consolidated School taking a tour of the facilities with Principal May Clark. For the final part of the tour, I took a walk through the Dublin Consolidated School garden. This gardening project is a collaborative effort between first and second grade students and staff members from the Cornucopia Project, based in Peterborough. They work together to make raised gardens and grow their own vegetables from seed through harvest. The garden was going strong. There were plenty of cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini, and pumpkins. Ms. Clark shared with me that volunteers tend to the gardens over the summer and that students were going to have the cucumbers for snack on their first day of school. I am happy to report that the cucumbers, grown by the students, were feasted on and enjoyed by all. The ConVal connection with the Cornucopia Project allows our students to get hands-on experience growing their own food, learning where certain food comes from, and expanding their knowledge of important scientific concepts like plant life cycle and nutrition.

Another important community connection for the schools is with the Harris Center. Several of our elementary and middle schools utilize the resources and facilities of the Harris Center to learn about science through the study of our local ecosystems. This direct hands-on approach to science makes it more real and relevant to our students and enables them to get a greater sense of water cycles, life cycles, and the inter-relationships between the different parts of our ecosystem.

We are further developing our already strong relationships with area employers to give our students access to important information about various professions. Through this program and the work of Mary Lou O’Neil, our school-to-work coordinator, ConVal students have been able to see what it is like to work for a local hospital, in a veterinarian office, and in a fire department to name a few. We have been working to strengthen our connections with area manufacturers like New Hampshire Ball Bearings, Millipore, Teleflex, Monadnock Paper Mill, and Graphicast to find ways to allow our students to see that today’s manufacturing environment is very different from the one portrayed in history books and old movies. Many individuals working in manufacturing these days are expected to have strong mathematical skills and knowledge of complex computer systems.

Our schools also have a very deep and long-lasting relationship with our local food pantries. Our student groups organize several food drives over the year, collecting thousands of food donations for the food banks in several of our member communities.

The examples above represent only a few of the ways the students, the schools, and the businesses and groups in our member communities stay connected. The next time you are out for a walk or a bike ride in one of our towns, I’m certain that as you look around, you will notice even more connections. “It takes a community to help a student become a knowledgeable and productive citizen.” A big thanks from the ConVal School District to the wider community for their help.

Brendan Minnihan is the ConVal School District superintendent.

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