Haldane students search for good news in village
By Michael Turton
A group of ninth- and 10th-grade Haldane students wants your good news about Cold Spring. Their We Are Cold Spring story-gathering initiative is part of an innovative program now in its second year at the high school.
Sophomore Theo Bates said the aim of the project is to “create a hub of feel-good Cold Spring stories that people can tap into.” Further, he says, the students hope to learn more “about what our town is.”
Max Barkman, another sophomore, says too often people view each other in negative ways, often based on stereotypes such as “tourist” or “student.” He offered: “We’d like to create a positive stereotype for everybody.”
As for how people might view them, Bates said the group hopes to “change the idea that high school students are troublemakers. We want to share that there are good things going on at Haldane.”
The story gathering is part of a project-based course, called Discover Create Innovate, taught in the middle and high schools by Simon Dudar.
The participants in this particular project (the other students are Grace Tomann, Natalie Sandick, Luke Hammond, Philip Cairns and Owen McGinley) have so far collected a dozen stories, including Haldane sixth-grader John Kisslinger’s video documentary on human rights in Somalia, how the community rallied to help Cupoccino Café owner John Arguello battle cancer, author Jean Marzollo’s contributions to the arts at Haldane and Mike Procopio allowing his Cold Spring Pizza to become a safe Main Street hangout for students.
“Projects are designed to give an authentic outcome and be collaborative,” Dudar explains. We Are Cold Spring came out of a conversation he had with members of the Philipstown Communities that Care Coalition, who were looking for ways to emphasize positive aspects of community life.
“The main goal is for the students to learn something new, apply the many skills they learn in other classes in a real-world scenario, work together, and find ways to persevere through any obstacle they encounter,” Dudar says. “This project is definitely hitting on all of those aspects.”
Discover Create Innovate follows an approach used by a Google-affiliated company that the class visited in Manhattan in January.
“No matter what the project, each person is responsible for designing their own task within it, centered around their own strengths and interests,” Dudar explains. “Some of the students are into social media; others, computer programming, writing, storytelling or photography.”
Share Your Story
Stories are being collected via Twitter (#wearecoldspring), Instagram (@wearecoldspring) and at facebook.com/wearecoldspring. Stories can also be submitted by email to email@example.com. The hope is that the project will become self-sustaining, Dudar says.
The project has been an eye-opener for students who asked business owners and residents during a field trip into the village for their opinions about local students. Dudar says the perceptions the students encountered “weren’t all that great.” That, he said, provided students with “a great deal of motivation to change that perception.”
Dudar says the most challenging part of the project for the students has been “human relations skills, by far.” Communication skills required for a project such as We Are Cold Spring, which includes talking to strangers, are not generally taught in traditional classrooms, he notes.
“It is really amazing to see the students become more comfortable each day, speaking with people and becoming successful in conveying their message and ideas,” he says.