By Natasha Clark
Students learned that the sand deposits scattered along the southeastern portion of the Connecticut River in town such as Longmeadow and Chicopee were blown into Longmeadow by easterly winds after the last ice age and the draining of Glacier Lake Hitchcock. For more photos click on the gallery at the bottom of the page. Reminder Publications photos by Natasha Clark
Assistant Managing Editor
LONGMEADOW The Longmeadow Cultural Council is a low key organization that often flies under the radar in town. With its ability to bring culture and enlightenment to the town through education and the arts, it achieves its mission courtesy of grants funded through the state Cultural Council.
Last week, students at Blueberry Elementary School explored the sand dune forest adjacent to the school thanks to the organization. The program took the students out of their science class and directly into nature. Through hands on exploration the youth examined local fauna, flora, practiced basic compass skills and participated in a trash cleanup. Educator Aimee Gelinas, the founder of Tamarack Hollow, educational programs dedicated to inspiring environmental and cultural awareness, appreciation and stewardship, headed the exciting outdoor event. She was one of 19 who applied to the cultural council for grant monies to bring her Tamarack program to Blueberry. A Longmeadow native and graduate of the district, her ties to Blueberry also include her niece Anneliese, who is a fifth grader, and her nephew Michael, a first grader.
Gelinas comes from a multi-faceted background. She leads the environmental and cultural programs at Tamarack and has been facilitating a variety of programs that run the gamut in the arts like music curriculum development for over 12 years. She also instructs drumming and singing in West African, Afro-Caribbean and Latin genres.
When Reminder Publications caught up with Gelinas she was with Anneliese's science class, which is taught by teacher Lynn Marinone. Students participated in a Compass Challenge, setting their coordinates to those assigned by Gelinas and then embarking on a treasure hunt, ultimately finding pieces of nature previously hidden by Gelinas -- sandstones, acorns and a gall (an insect home).
"She is showing us what is actually out in our own backyard," Marinone said.
Students learned that the sand deposits scattered along the southeastern portion of the Connecticut River in town such as Longmeadow and Chicopee were blown into Longmeadow by easterly winds after the last ice age and the draining of Glacier Lake Hitchcock. Gelinas said the subsequent sandy soil found behind Blueberry fosters specific tree and plant species such as Pitch Pine that typically grows on Cape Cod along with White Pine, White Oak and Wild Blueberry.
Longmeadow Cultural Council members John Bowen and Georgene Gelinas, who is also Gelinas' mother, were on hand to enjoy the event.
Bowen, council chair, said members attend the events to "come and see how kids react to the programs." This year the council was awarded $4,450 and they received applications totaling $12,443. The other grant winners include the Springfield Youth Orchestra, the Longmeadow Chamber Music Society, Waterfall Productions, Gaia Roots, the Longmeadow Historical Society, Longmeadow Parks and Recreation, Storrs Library and Nova Cantori.
"[The grants] impact what culture can be brought into town," Georgene said. "When it comes to the grants we look at who, what, where, when, why and how."
To learn more about the Longmeadow Cultural Council visit www.mass-culture.org/lcc_public_about.asp?coun_enum=150. For additional information on Tamarack Hollow, check out www.tamarackhollow.com.
Visit www.thereminder.com for more exclusive photos of the event.