Chatham Education Foundation Awards Over $17,000 to Nine Projects for the 2017-18 School Year

2017-18 grant recipients with the CEF board

At its November board meeting, the Chatham Education Foundation (CEF) chose nine projects to fund for the 2017-18 Chatham school year.

“It is enormously gratifying to be able to bring to the schools these interesting and worthwhile projects,” said Judy Staber, president of the CEF Board.

Now in its 15th year of existence, the Foundation’s board consists of community members, school personnel and students. Its mission is to support with donated private funds innovative enrichment programs not available through the school budget.

Chatham High School

The high school received funding for four programs. An extremely popular project — a trip sailing on the Clearwater Sloop on the Hudson River— funded last year is supported again; this time twice the number of student (over 60) will participate. Having studied in the classroom the scientific and social history of the Hudson River, students board the Clearwater, learn about the ship’s commercial past and how to sail it, e.g., how to operate the sexton, rudders and sails. Below deck they interact with the crew, test the river’s water quality and engage in a study assessing the ecological impact of the plastic trash currently in the river.

 CEF will again fund the high school’s Artemis robotics program. This nationally developed program offers high school students the chance to design and build their own robot which they then display and compete with against other schools’ robots. Science, technology, engineering and an entrepreneurial spirit are all involved.

A grant underwriting the cost of bus transportation will enable high school students especially interested in art to spend a day at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, for several a first visit both to the museum and to the city. 

Lastly, the Millay Colony for the Arts has designed a program for a visiting, well-regarded poet, Danniel Schoonebeek, to be “Poet in Residence” in the high school for two weeks, spending at least five classroom sessions for each class he works with. A visiting artist from Millay will also offer studio sessions with designated students. The Middle School may participate in this program as well.

Chatham Middle School

The highly popular “American Revolution Comes Alive” with social studies teacher William Richard, will be funded for a fourth year at Chatham Middle School. In addition to classroom study of history, seventh grade students will spend a day at the fairgrounds, in appropriate costume with replicas of period rifles, building a battle encampment ground. The event will involve hands-on learning experience, e.g. open fire cooking, spinning flax, and building the encampment itself. 

Last year, CEF funded the acquisition of ukuleles for the fourth grade music teacher who believed that the instrument’s size and ease of play would make it a good vehicle for learning and appreciating music. The instruments proved to be so popular that students in many grades longed to play them and borrow them. Thus funds are being given to the Middle School music teacher to buy 20 additional instruments for sixth through eighth graders. Not expensive, they are fun and easy to play and they assist in the practice of fine motor skills.

The middle school will once more receive partial funding for its Character Education program. A year long and school-wide undertaking, all students engage in activities designed to develop qualities such as empathy, cooperation, perseverance and initiative. Four school-wide assemblies with invited speakers will be held.

Chatham Elementary School

The Flying Deer Nature Center will once more be working with fourth graders in the elementary school. Dedicated to teaching about the environment as well as to learning about Native American tribes, this year all students will be reading My Side of the Forest, a book about surviving and problem solving in the woods.

The Art School of Columbia County will also again receive funds to offer its Art in the Library after school project. Five programs will be held which use poetry to inspire the children to write their own poems and then to create collages or simple paintings on the poetry’s themes. Children in kindergarten through fifth  grade participate. The connection between spoken and visual language proves inspiring.

For More Information

Two entities support the Chatham Education Foundation.  The larger endowment, the Fund for the Arts and Humanities, established by the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, supports projects in the arts and humanities. A second, smaller endowment, the Alexander M. White Fund, named after a former school board president, supports all academic and artistic programs. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation administers the Foundation’s two funds.


Where the funds are being spent this year 2016-2017

At the High School

Study of the works of Edith Wharton and Henry James for HS Advanced Placement English with professor James Kraft of Old Chatham took place in Late 2016

“Chris Herron – Unguarded” The former professional basketball player will talk about his addictions to opiodes and heroin and how he overcame them. An assembly for the students will be held in the auditorium during school on Tuesday, April 11 at noon, an evening program at 7 p.m. will be in the auditorium for the community. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

Teacher Patricia Songayllo with funding from CEF has erected bird feeders and students will participate in a Cornell Bird Feeder Watch.  This program is ongoing and began in April.

Clearwater Sloop High School Biology teacher Sandra Fischer will take fifty students to sail the Hudson River on the Clearwater to study how such ships were sailed and the science of the Hudson River. A date is to be set in late Spring.

Work began in March with students participating in a new nationally developed FIRST Robotics program.

At the Middle School

The ongoing “Character Education” program this year included the students seeing the film “Hidden Figures” film at the Crandell Theater during the week of February 10-16

The American Revolution: Living History Day
The American Revolution: Living History Day – Seventh Grade, 2016 – Photo: Adam Charbonneau

The American Revolution Comes Alive. For the third year Social Studies teacher Will Richard makes History come alive for our Seventh Grade students with hands-on learning on May 19th

During March and April, Middle School students and the Chatham Film Club are once again writing and producing an original film to be shown in school and at The Crandell. They will be guided by film-maker Susan Lutz and teachers Cecelia Hetterich and Michele Debye-Saxinger.

At the Mary E Dardess Elementary School

Jamal Jackson, West African Dancer and Educator will teach fifth Grade students, drumming and traditional dances from Mali, on April 10 /11. co-sponsored by PS21

With funding from CEF, a number of Ukuleles were purchased, through the Fine Arts Booster Club, to encourage all Fifth Graders to learn an instrument in an afterschool program which will begin in May with music teacher Abby Brownell.

Fourth Grade students working on The Longhouse project Phase II
The Longhouse project Phase II – Fourth Grade, 2016 – Photo: Adam Charbonneau

This year the Fourth grade will put the final touches to The Longhouse Project that has been led by Flying Deer Nature Center for the past three Springs

Kathryn Kosto and The Art School of Columbia County, partnering with the MED librarian, will teach an after school pop-up Art in the Library program to students from kindergarten through fifth Grade during the Spring Months.


After more than ten years of helping to fund the Fall Festival of Shakespeare, we have great news: pending the passage of the School Budget in May, this fabulous Shakespeare program, which has involved so many students over the years, is to be included in annual curriculum expenses. Thanks go out to Judi Mathews and her crew for so faithfully ensuring that the program happened every year; to Shakespeare & Company for their sterling work; and to the students, past and present, who love this program and give 110% every year. Chatham Education Foundation is proud to been one of the underwriters from the start.

Granting Press Release – November 20, 2016

At its November 9th board meeting the Chatham Education Foundation, (CEF), awarded over $19,800 to 12 projects for the 2017 school year. This is the 14th year the Foundation is in existence and able to distribute funds. Established in 2002, the CEF’s mission is to raise and distribute private dollars for innovative and inspiring projects not fundable by the regular school budget. And this year its board members– nine community members and parents, four school personnel and two high school students—were especially excited by the quality and variety of the projects it was able to support.

In the high school, after studying scientific and cultural aspects of the Hudson River in the classroom, 50 students will sail the Hudson on The Clearwater Sloop, for a day. On deck, they will learn how such ships were sailed and who sailed them. Below deck the river’s commercial history from its earliest whaling days through to the present will be shared. They will be able to sample and evaluate the health of the river’s waters by taking samples and participate in a newly funded project designed to assess the amount of plastic trash and its ecological impact in Hudson.

Another significant high school project will involve an in-school assembly and evening program offered to the larger community presented by Chris Herren, a nationally recognized NBA basketball player who overcame a long battle with drug addiction and now shares his experience and knowledge with communities across the nation. Tied in with this project are various in-school activities and efforts to help students and their parents avoid addiction.

Another grant will provide a science teacher devoted to the study of birds so that students may study birds throughout the year and participate in the annual Cornell Ornithology watch Honors

Senior English students will once more have the opportunity to study with professor Jim Kraft of Old Chatham, who specializes in the work of two famous local writers, Edith Wharton and Henry James.

Funds will be provided for students to participate in a new, nationally developed robotics experience to promote interest in science, technology and engineering. Students will volunteer to participate in all aspects of a program aimed to support and educate community and school about their building of a robot and then in entering their accomplishment in local and possibly national contests.

In the Middle School for the third year in a row Social Studies teacher, William Richard, will receive CEF funds to extend his project of exposing all seventh grade students to early American History in a project called “American Revolution Comes Alive.” Through hands-on learning, students—in appropriate costume—will learn not just about what life was like in battle (or in a military hospital) but also in 18th century domestic life, including open fire cooking, flax spinning and the manufacture of everyday goods. To enrich the reenactment other subject matter teachers integrate their curricula building on the reenactments.

Another project will provide seventh and eighth grade students with the opportunity to produce an original film in a six-week afterschool project offered by the Chatham Film Club. The film will be shown both at the Crandall Theater and in the school.

And once more CEF will help fund a Middle School project involving ‘Character Education.’ A school-wide, year-long undertaking, students engage in activities that are designed to develop qualities such as empathy, cooperation, perseverance, courage. Four major school-wide assemblies with invited speakers are held.

At MED elementary school each fifth grade classroom will have the opportunity to work with Jamal Jackson, a well-known West African dancer and educator. He will introduce students to traditional dances from Mali and teach the meaning and history behind them. Students will be helped to learn dancing and drumming and will then discuss how dance and music provide an understanding of one’s own and different cultures.

A grant enabling the acquisition of ukuleles will let current and future fifth graders learn to play them. Playing the ukulele, a “fun” instrument, should open the doorway to further appreciation of music.

For the third and last year of collaboration with MED, the Flying Deer Nature Center, an educational center dedicated to teaching about the environment and local Native American tribes, will work with fourth graders to complete the building of an Iroquois Longhouse, a structure that served as community and living centers. During Year One, fourth graders helped build the frame by lashing saplings together; in Year Two, bark was harvested, flattened and dried for shingles to cover the sapling. Phase Three will involve the making of cattail mats for sitting and sleeping. An exploration of the Iroquois’ reliance and interaction with the environment is a central theme of this project.

The connection between poetry and language with visual art forms is explored in an after-school program for Kindergarteners through fifth graders offered by artists from the Art School of Chatham. Poems are read out loud and in unison, creative writing exercises are undertaken and then the children make collages and simple paintings inspired by the poems, thus suggesting the connection between spoken and visual language.

Two endowments support the CEF’s work, the largest of which is the Fund for Arts and Humanities, established by the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, which supports projects in the arts and humanities. A second, smaller fund, in the name of former school board head, the Alexander M. White Fund, is available for all academic activities. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation administers the Foundations two funds.