What’s New

Spanish-Language Immersion Field Trip to New York City

On Friday, February 15, 2019 Chatham High School students in Spanish IV and V were granted the opportunity to attend a Spanish-language immersion field trip to New York City. Upper level Spanish students took a bus to the Repertorio Español, a Hispanic-American theatre, to see “La Canción.” We arrived early and were able to sit in the first two rows of the theatre. The two hour long performance in Spanish contained musical genres from Rap to tropical tunes like Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata. Madeline Powers said, “I loved being so close to the stage and hearing the diverse Spanish accents and variety of music genres. The singing and dancing was incredible. The actors really put a lot of heart into their roles, and it is very memorable.”

Following the show, students enjoyed authentic Cuban cuisine at Havana Central restaurant. Our wait staff spoke Spanish and encouraged students to step outside of their comfort zones. Our lunch included empanadas mixtas, arroz con pollo, sándwich clásico cubano, sándwich cubano de pavo ahumado, patatas dulces fritas, and churros con caramelo y chocolate. “It was exciting to be able to order and speak in Spanish at the restaurant. The food was very unique and it was nice to be able to try new things from another culture,” said Jenna Skype. Cora-lena Aladin-Williams added that, “the restaurant was a part of the trip where we had the most fun. We were sitting at the table trying to figure out how to order in the best way possible and it was a lot of fun.”

This project has been supported by a grant from the Chatham Education Foundation of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.

Jennifer Powell
Spanish Teacher
Chatham Middle School

Chatham Education Foundation Awards $25K to 22 Projects

Chatham Education Foundation members
Front Row: L-R Mike Chuddy, Lael Locke, Jeanne Damia, Amy White, Judy Staber, Muriel Faxon, Hank Binzer, Alicia Anderson, Elizabeth Conley
Back Row: L-R Brooke Decker, Patricia Songaylio, Sandy Fischer, Michele Debye-Saxinger, Melony Spock, Michelle Apland, Kathryn Kostco, Cecilia Hetterich, Jeff Artist, Jennifer Powel, Sal DeAngelo

Now in its 15th year of existence, the Chatham Education Foundation (CEF), is offering financial help to 22 projects for the 2019-20 Chatham pubic school year. The projects, from kindergarten through high school, ranging across many academic areas provide $2,500 to $181, for a total of $25,194. On January 17th board members met in the Elementary School’s Conference Room with grant recipients to congratulate them.

Established in 2002, the CEF’s mission is to raise and distribute private dollars for innovative and inspiring projects not funded by the regular school budget. Its board consists of community members, school staff and two students. The Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation oversees its funds and administrative activities.

“We have never had such ample funding to be able assist so many excellent projects—both large and small. 2019-20 will be a truly exciting year,” exclaimed Judy Staber, CEF Board President.

Nine grants have been awarded to high school projects. For a third year the popular Artemis Robotics program teaches all aspects of designing, building, programing and competing with robots—including the making of a business plan and raising of funds. The year culminates in entering two competitions with the ultimate goal of reaching the World competition in Detroit. Also funded will be a trip for 25 advanced Spanish-language students to attend the Repertorio Spanish Theater in New York City, followed by an authentic Hispanic dinner.

Other high school grants will enable teacher Jeffery Artist, with student help, to revive the publishing of the high school art and literary magazine, Peloris; literary scholar Jim Kraft will once more expose advanced English students to novels by Edith Wharton and Henry James, both of whom spent considerable time in the Berkshires; and talented young singers participating in the New York State School Music Association competitions and festival will receive training from foremost local musicians. Smaller grants in the sciences provide for the an up-dated cleaning of the popular high school vivarium and the acquisition of several new frogs whose activities have fascinated students; science teacher Patricia Songayllo, a dedicated bird watcher, will be helped to buy bird food, binoculars and enroll many new students in the Cornell Lab Ornithology Project Feeder Watch. Two other science offerings will help students to more fully understand –and experience—creatures around us. A Wildlife lecture will expose all science students to the ecology, anatomy and structure of birds of prey and certain reptiles; another small grant provides written materials and film clips to familiarize advanced science students with the circumstances and survival problems of different breeds of wolf.

All current Seventh graders in the Middle School will once more be exposed to history teacher William Richard’s Living History program. The program experience includes complementary Revolutionary War units across all subject areas —e.g, seventh grade Science classes focus on war related challenges like gangrene or amputation, English classes include diary entries from Abigail Adams, Molly Pitcher and Benjamin Franklin. And all Seventh Graders will learn what life was like in the 17th and 18th Century through reenactments with the 2nd New York Reenactment Regiment at the Austerlitz Historical Society grounds; and the Regiment hopes to march in Chatham’s Memorial Day parade. Another project, a six week After School Film Club, will enable twenty seventh and eighth graders to learn about film-making by helping to write, act, film and promote a film that will be shared with the entire Middle School. Another focuses on reading; all Middle School students will meet and have discussions with Award winning children’s book writer, Gordon Korman, after having read his novel, Restart.

In the elementary school the Flying Deer Nature Center will be conducting an ambitious learning experience for all fourth graders by combining the reading of a novel My Side of the Mountain which involves a young man’s trials in the wilderness, with trips to the Nature Center’s woods for actual lessons in relevant survival tactics relating to shelter-building, fire-making and foraging. In its fourth year of construction, another Flying Deer project for fourth graders, an Iroquois longhouse on school property, CEF will help fund the acquisition of bark shingles to complete the structure’s building.
An Afterschool program developed and provided by the Art School of Columbia County for the last four years will once more provide a wonderful mix of poetry, discussion and artistic adventures for about 150 Kindergarteners through Fifth graders in the Elementary School Library during the Spring of 2019. In a relaxed environment the children read poems, discuss them and their authors and may write their own poetry. They then go on to use a variety of implements —magic markers, paints, items like leaves or flowers from nature—to make pictures inspired by the poems and discussion.

To learn more about the CEF, to apply for a grant for next year or to make a donation, visit: chathameducationfoundation.com.

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.