Families enjoy outdoor bounce house, inside fun at Little River Community School


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CANTON — Youngsters don’t often get to jump around a bounce house in the middle of winter, but they did on Saturday afternoon at Little River Community School, where families gathered for outdoor fun and inside for music, games, crafts, hot cider and treats.

As snow swirled around them, youngsters scurried between the bounce house and playground equipment. An outdoor fire added to the festive atmosphere at the school, which is perched on a hilltop next to Birdsfoot Farm. Despite steady snowfall, several families drove out to the rural school, 1227 County Route 25.

The school’s 16th annual Winterfest also provided the public a chance to visit with students who attend the alternative school as well as their parents and teachers. The school opened in 1999 and now has 40 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The festival “gets people up the driveway to see the place,” said Steve Molnar, director.

Students came up with ideas for Saturday’s indoor activities, which included face painting, magic tricks, slime making, games of chess, crafts and more.

Brayden Whittaker, 14, was eager to demonstrate how a mixture of glue, water and Borax could be transformed into a ball of slime.

“It turns into a polymer when everything binds,” he said. “It’s fun and relaxing to play with.”

The school focuses on allowing children a great deal of input into what they want to learn. Morning meetings are held where youngsters get to offer their ideas.

Leon Sawyko, Pierrepont, teaches science, math and construction at Little River.

“We can pursue what kids are interested in. We’re not aiming at a final exam.” Mr. Sawyko said. “In Earth Science, if we want to spend three weeks studying volcanoes instead of three days, we can do that.”

Aradia Bigelow, Potsdam, played her violin for visitors. She’s been taking lessons, since she was about 5, from Nancy Kear.

“I like it because it gives me an excuse to go my room,” the 10-year-old said with a smile.

Nicholas J. Bos-Ladd, 16, Canton, set up several chess boards and was looking forward to sharing his hobby with others. He plans to attend Clarkson School next year and is interested in studying economics.

“I like chess and I play it a lot,” he said. “Once you understand how all the pieces move, it’s pretty easy to play.”

Kyle McCuin, 12, placed different objects inside 20 brown lunch bags. He invited people to stick their hand inside and try to identify the item.

His mother, Heather McCuin, said he took her suggestion to place some “retro” items in the bags that children may not be familiar with, such as a floppy disc, a telephone cord, a cassette tape and a film canister.

“I thought it could prompt some discussions between children and their parents,” Mrs. McCuin said.

Christine Smith, Colton, attended the event with her son, Brycen Smith, who attends kindergarten three days a week at Little River.

“I love that he’s not just in a class with other 5-year-olds,” she said. “And I like that they get outside as often as they can.”

Maddie Hanesen-Schr­ieber, 10, said she enjoyed hosting visitors at her school.

“I think it’s really cool that people we don’t know are here today and they may want to come to school here,” she said.


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