Category Archives: Children

Roundup: EMS, NASA, Tashlich …

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Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service‘s first certification course since the pandemic began starts September 21. A decline in membership during COVID makes the call for volunteers more important than ever.

The course is open to any 14 and over. High school students earn EMR certification before age 16; then they become EMT-certified. Prior experience is not needed.

Full tuition reimbursement is available to those who successfully complete the course, and go on to volunteer with WVEMS.

For more information, email training@westportems.org.

After state certification, new EMTS can volunteer on Westport’s ambulances.

A few of Westport’s Volunteer Emergency Medical Service heroes.

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When things go wrong in space, who you gonna call?

Dr. Bob Dempsey, for one. The NASA flight director has had plenty of experience, working with Mission Control to solve problems with the International Space Station.

On September 21 (8 p.m.), he’ll join the Westport Astronomical Society for a free virtual lecture on “When Things Go Wrong in Space.

Click here for the Zoom link; click here for the YouTube livestream.

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Tashlich is a ceremony performed on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Jews symbolically cast off the sins of the previous year by tossing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water.

A group of Y’s Women gathered yesterday at Compo Beach. They threw bad thoughts and actions into Long Island Sound, preparing for the start of a good new season.

(Photo/Barb Stephen)

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Fortunately, the dystopian Los Angeles of 2019 predicted in the 1982 film “Blade Runner” did not come to pass (mostly).

It’s still a great movie. And you can see it again, tomorrow night at 7:30 at the Remarkable Theater. Click here for tickets to the drive-in theater on Imperial Avenue.

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Katie Spector has just published her first picture book: “Katie Spector the Art Collector.” It’s about a creative little girl who can’t part with her art. Katie’s story celebrates community, art, and staying true to yourself.

She’s celebrating too, with an outdoor event at Wakeman Town Farm on September 25 (1 to 3 p.m). There will be book readings, art projects and live music. RSVPs required; click here.

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“Westport … Naturally” doesn’t get any more delicious than this:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … on this date in 1900, the US suffered its deadliest natural disaster.

A hurricane roared ashore at Galveston, Texas. The death toll was estimated at 8,000; 7,000 buildings were destroyed, and 10,000 left homeless, out of total population of fewer than 38,000.

It marked the end of the “Golden Era of Galveston” too, as investors turned their sights on the more sheltered city of Houston.

Looking Back On Laurel: Despite COVID, A “Celebratory” Camp Summer

It was a different summer this year at Camp Laurel.

There were no games against other camps. No overnight trips. Even Visiting Day was canceled.

Yet the summer of 2021 was joyful, wonderful, beautiful — everything camp should be.

Campers come from across the country to the Belgrade Lakes region of Maine. They enjoyed athletics, aquatics, arts and adventures. It’s been that way for 72 years — except last summer. That’s when COVID knocked the summer camp industry — along with much of the nation — for a sad, lonely loop.

Camp Laurel’s off-season headquarters are downtown, in Brooks Corner. Jem Sollinger and his wife Debbie are directors and partners.

Jem Sollinger (2nd from left) with Laurel campers and a staff member.

The other day, Jem — a 1988 Staples High School graduate — reflected on this summer, and last. He was still on a high from the success of this year.

It’s a far cry from 2020.

The decision not to open then was “challenging, but the right one,” Jem says.

He never second-guessed himself. The unknowns were too great at the time. Considering the downside versus the upside, it was a fairly easy call.

This year’s decision too was “not tough.”

He and his senior staff had not anticipated that, a year later, the world would still be dealing with COVID. But, he notes, “we had 15 months to educate ourselves, to learn and develop new systems to be safe.”

Those included 2 negative tests for campers before arrival, a negative test on Day 1, and another one 5 days later. All campers were masked, and in pods the first 6 days.

Once the masks came off, campers could hug.

“There was a desire for camp, by families and children. Even more, there was a need for it,” Jem says.

The need was for “kids to be kids. They’d had 15 months of being stagnant, restricted and masked. They needed to be active, interact with each other, be appropriately challenged — to get all the benefits of camp.”

Some of the new systems were easy to implement.

Others, such as dealing with 2 “senior classes” — this year’s oldest campers, and last year’s, who were invited back after missing a year — were harder. “They worked wonderfully together,” Jem says with relief.

There were also twice the amount of new campers this year. It was a challenge to integrate so many new faces into the camp culture — but also a chance to shape that culture positively.

And they’re off! Newcomers quickly acclimated into the Camp Laurel culture — which itself evolved this summer.

COVID also provided an opportunity to “tweak and evolve.” Traditions are great — and every camp has plenty of them — but the ability to pivot is important too.

With Visiting Day out, for example, each camper had a FaceTime session with parents and siblings.

Officials had to devise activities for staff, who usually use days off to “rest, refuel and have fun.” They were restricted this summer to camp.

Staff orientation was also lengthened from 8 to 12 days, to allow for quarantines.

Jem praised the “amazing team effort” of counselors and senior staff. “People had to step up — and they did. These are teachers, coaches, educators and artists — adults who had missed camp too. Laurel is part of their lives.”

But some college-age staff saw their friends leading less restrictive lives elsewhere. There was, Jem notes, “a bit of FOMO” (fear of missing out).

Some counselors expressed a need to prioritize their own mental health. “It’s like parenting, or Simone Biles,” he says. “Sometimes you do need to put yourself first. I understand that. Everyone is coming out of a strange time.”

After a sad summer in 2020, camp provided a welcome respite.

Camp Laurel had no COVID cases the entire summer. Jem attributes that to careful planning — and luck.

Despite — or perhaps because of — being tethered to home for 15 months, the director found there was less “home-missing” this year than usual.

Jem senses that more campers “pushed themselves, tried new things, and extended themselves to others.”

In addition, there was “more appreciation for the beauty of Maine, and just being there.”

He describes “a certain simplicity” to this summer. In the absence of trips and inter-camp competitions, everyone — adults and children alike — felt a “reinforcement of the power of the camp experience.”

Camp has been over for just a month. Already, Jem and his staff are deep in planning for 2022. There were no tours for prospective campers this summer — usually he greets 50 to 75 families — but he did 40 tours as soon as the season ended. He’ll do another 15 soon.

“Lots of questions remain,” he notes. “But next summer will happen. We’re looking forward to another celebratory year, with energy, enthusiasm and joy.”

Roundup: Texas Law, Transfer Station, Paulie’s Push …

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A grassroots group has quickly organized a protest against Texas’ new abortion law.

A rally is planned for 10:30 this morning (Sunday, September 5), on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen (Post Road) Bridge downtown. All are welcome.

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“06880” reported yesterday on the uncharacteristic mess at Westport’s transfer station.

The cause was a perfect storm (pun intended): the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, closure of the facility on Wednesday for scheduled repairs, and the unexpected breakdown of the trash compactor (belonging to a sub-contractor).

The staff — as usual — sorted it all out (pun also intended).

Fortunately, says Pippa Bell Ader, the food scrap program ran smoothly. They continue to be brought to an industrial facility, and made into compost.

Food scrap recycling. (Photo/Pippa Bell Ader)

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The Post Road has been the scene of Olympic torch relays, motorcycle rides for veterans’ causes, and people running, walking and powering wheelchairs cross country.

But until yesterday, there was never a man pushing a beverage cart from Boston to New York.

Paulie Veneto is a former United Airlines flight attendant. His route — from Logan Airport, where one of the 9/11 flights took off, to Ground Zero — honors the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

It’s also a way to raise funds for victims’ families, and alcohol rehabilitation. Click here for Paulie’s Push page, to help.

Paulie Veneto pushes through Westport. (Photo/Johanna Rossi)

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Mozy — the Westport-based manufacturer of weatherproof lower body wraps — perfect for autumn picnics, campfires, sports events, outdoor concerts and the like — has added 2 new products.

A lightweight soft fleece Mozy is great for autumn days and nights, with nips in the air. A heavier nylon version is best for colder temperatures.

A Mozy can be worn at the waist, sealed halfway down, or fastened snugly to shoes. For more information, click here.

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As Westport youngsters are back in school — well, they will be again on Wednesday — the Police Department offers these safety tips:

Drivers

• Watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.

• Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.

• Be alert! Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.

• Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.

• Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists on both sides of the roadway must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Children

• Get to the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

• When the bus approaches, stand at least 3 giant steps away from the curb, and line up away from the street.

• Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it is okay before stepping onto the bus.

• If you must cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least 5 giant steps ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.

• When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps are not caught in the handrails or doors.

• Never walk behind the bus.

• Walk at least 3 giant steps away from the side of the bus.

• If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.

• Follow instructions given by school crossing guards. Do not cross until they have stopped traffic completely and have advised it is safe to cross.

(Hat tip: Meg Barbour)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo shows a group of horseshoe crabs, huddling together.

(Photo/MaryLou Roels)

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And finally … Buddy Miles was born today. The drummer/singer/composer/ producer played with Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. He had his own band — the Buddy Miles Express — in 1969, which included 16-year-old Staples High School dropout Charlie Karp.

Roundup: Cell Tower, Masks, WTF, …

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The next town controversy may be “Tarpon.”

Tarpon Towers and Cingular Wireless (AT&T) have notified town officials that they’re moving ahead to install a cell tower at 92 Greens Farms Road. The next step in their long process is filing an application with the Connecticut Siting Council.

Tarpon is new — but the location and plan is not. It dates back to 2014. There was plenty of local opposition, based on the proposed height and location at the “gateway” to the beach.

There was also support, based on poor cell coverage in the area.

The proposal faded away. Now it’s back.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe is not a fan. He says, “I am dismayed that this proposal for a cell tower installation at the same location that the Town reviewed seven years ago has returned. At that time, many raised numerous rational and thoughtful reasons why this location was inappropriate, and the proposal was dropped.

“With regard to this new proposal, under the rules of the CSC, I will conduct an initial meeting with Attorney (David) Ball to review the project. The town will also have an opportunity to propose alternative sites. There will also be opportunities for the Planning & Zoning and Conservation Commissions to review and comment on the proposal.

“After the initial meeting and within the statutory time period, a public informational meeting will be held to further discuss the application with the community. Please be assured that we intend to review this proposal carefully with staff and legal counsel, exploring all options and alternatives. I will keep the community informed throughout the process.”

A cell tower been proposed for the property on the left: 92 Greens Farms Road. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

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Marpe also announced a tweak to Westport’s indoor mask policy. Masks are no longer mandatory in gyms, provided participants remain socially distant. The change does not apply to school gyms. patrons of gyms and athletes to remove their masks whenever they can remain socially distant. The amendment does not cover school settings.

Masks ae no longer required in commercial gyms in Westport — provided patrons are socially distanced.

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Registration begins Wednesday (September 8) for a full array of Wakeman Town Farm programs.

They range from Mommy + Me and preschool to after-school activities for tots and teens. Click here for details of the farm programs; click here for details for culinary programs. (NOTE: When you click “Register,” you’ll need to search on the Parks & Rec website.)

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MoCA Westport sponsors a fun Family Day next Saturday (September 11, noon to 4 p.m.).

Like the current “Between the Ground and the Sky” exhibit, this is a collaboration with the Westport Farmers’ Market. On tap: family-friendly nature-related art projects, including designing and stamping your own tote bag and planting your own herbs in the MoCA garden; live music by Henry Jones; food trucks, and entrance to the exhibit, featuring farms of the Who Grows Your Food program.

Click here for tickets.

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Sorelle Gallery’s retrospective show, featuring works by modern artist Stanley Bate, starts next Saturday (September 11). Click here for details.

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is actually a question.

Dawn Henry spotted this creature yesterday at the Rolnick Observatory. She wonders: “What is it?”

Nature-lovers: Click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Dawn Henry)

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And finally … today is the birthday of Google. It was founded on this date in 1998, by Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

 

Roundup: School, Robots, Cycling …

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It’s an annual tradition: On the first day of school, parents take photos of their kids at the Juniper Road/Caccamo Lane bus stop.

Here’s this year’s edition. Parents: Save for posterity. Kids: Don’t be embarrassed — decades from now, you’ll appreciate this.

PS: The little one on the far left? He’ll be graduating before you know it.

(Photo/Pam Long)

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Another tradition: Staples High School senior girls design t-shirts, decorate their cars, then drive in a motorcade to school.

Here are just a few of the 200-plus seniors girls from the Class of 2022:

(Photo/Lisa Rowan)

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In the mid-2010s, Staples had one of the top robotics teams in the world.

Now a new generation of students is gunning for the top again.

Ben Saxon — a junior who is a black belt in karate, and a competitor on both the squash and math teams — has added robotics to his resume.

He’s got a 3D printer, and has built robots at home. He and 8 or so passionate friends are recruiting others to join them, with a competitive club. 

They’ve begun fundraising, to purchase components including hardware and software. Their goal is $3,500.

Click here to help. Click below for an intriguing video, and to meet team members.

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Speaking of Staples:

For his 40th reunion last weekend, 1981 graduate Dan Gallant created a race-quality cycling jersey. The front includes an image of the school; the back, the Staples seal.

Classmates loved it. One suggested it might be popular beyond just those alums.

Great idea! Even better: Dan is donating all proceeds to Staples Tuition Grants.

Click here to order. Show your pride — and support STG. NOTE: Today is the ordering deadline!

Front, rear and side views.

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How hard is it to make a pizza? (The real — not microwave — kind.)

You can find out on Sunday, September 26 (10 a.m. to noon).

Wakeman Town Farm fires up its outdoor wood-burning pizza oven for a fun class.

Chef Annalyce Loretto and pizzaiolo Carl McNair will teach how to make traditional pizza — ending, of course, with samplings. Ages 12+ are welcome.

All ingredients and materials are provided. Click here to register.

Also ahead at WTF:

  • Build-a-grazing board (food & wine experience): September 30, 7 p.m.
  • Al fresco fall farm dinner with chef Genee Habansky of Herbaceous Catering, with locally sourced ingredients: October 2, 6 p.m.
  • Oktoberfest dinner with AMG Catering’s Alison Milwe Grace: October 14, 5:30 p.m.

Click here for details.

Celebrating Wakeman Town Farm’s pizza oven.

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If you can’t find a MoCA Westport fall course that piques your interest, you haven’t looked hard enough.

The Newtown Turnpike museum offers classes in categories like Exploring Art Together for Babies and Toddlers, Academic & Art Enrichment, Digital Animation and Cinematography, Drawing, Fashion and Floral Design.

Click here for the catalogue. Then expand your horizons!

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A reminder: The Westport Country Playhouse’s “Stars on Stage” shows will be taped tonight (August 31), and tomorrow and Thursday (September 1 and 2) — and will be edited, then broadcast to a national television audience.

There are 2 shows each night, at 7 and 9 p.m. A few tickets remain ($75 and $20). Complimentary tickets go to first responders, students, teachers, and groups and organizations.

For tickets or more information, click here, call 203-227-4177, or email boxoffice@westportplayhouse.org.

(From left): Shoshana Bean, Gavin Creel: Westport Country Playhouse stars.

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(Photo/JC Martin)

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And finally …  what better song for August 31?

School Bells Ring

Forget January 1. Pshaw, Rosh Hashanah. Today — at least for Westport parents and students — is the real start of the new year.

It’s the first day of school.

Whether you’re a kindergartner heading off on your own, a Staples senior already counting the days to graduation, or a mom or dad feeling pride, trepidation and the warp-speed passage of time — or anyone else, who has ever gone to school — this story is for you. It was first published a few years ago, but is back by popular request.

Summer vacation ends with a thud today. Each year it’s the same: One day a kid’s free as a cat; the next he’s trapped, chained to the rhythm of the school calendar for 10 long months.

Greens Farms Elementary School.

Some youngsters love this time of year; they’re eager to greet old friends, and meet new ones. Or they can’t wait for the smell of newly waxed floors, the security of assigned seats, the praise they know will be lavished on them day after day.

Others abhor it. The thought of entering a strange building filled with strange faces, or trying to be part of a group of peers who won’t accept them, or sitting for hours at a time, doing work they can’t stand, is excruciating — even physically sickening.

Around this time each year, I think about the entire school experience. I wonder which kindergartner will hate school for the rest of the year because his teacher makes a face the morning he throws up in front of everyone, and which will love school because an aide congratulates her the afternoon she almost puts on her coat all by herself.

Which 1st grader will invent any excuse not to go to gym because he can’t throw a ball, and which will get through the school day only because he knows gym is coming soon?

Saugatuck Elementary School

Which 4th grader will walk meekly into class each morning with just one ambition — to get through the day without anyone noticing how ugly, or stupid, or poorly dressed she is — and which will look back on 4th grade as a turning point in her life because a guidance counselor took the time to talk to her, to show her how to comb her hair better, to make her feel good about herself?

Which 5th grader will have a teacher who does nothing when she catches him cheating on a test — too much effort to raise such a touchy issue — and which will have a teacher who scares him so much when he’s caught that he vows to never cheat in school again?

Which 6th grader will enter middle school intent on making a name for himself as the best fighter in his class, and which with the aim of never getting a grade lower than an A?  Which 6th grader’s ambition will change, and which will remain the same?

Bedford Middle School.

Which 9th grader will temper his fledgling interest in current events with the feeling “it’s not cool; no one else in class cares,” and which will visit the New York Times website every day because her class is working on “this really neat project”?

Which 10th grader will hate English because all she does is read stupid books assigned by the stupid teacher from some stupid list, and which will go to Barnes & Noble on his own for the first time because his teacher suggests there are more books by the same author he might enjoy?

Which 12th grader will have the brains to apply to 3 Ivy League schools, but lack the common courtesy to thank a teacher who wrote glowing recommendation to all of them? And which will slip a note in a teacher’s box the morning of graduation that says, “Thanks.  I’m really glad I had you this year”?

Staples High School

It’s easy to wrap our school years in nostalgic gauze, or try to stuff the bad memories down our mental garbage disposals.

We also tend not to think in concrete terms about what goes on inside school walls every day. Learning, we assume, happens. Kids read, write, use laptops, draw, eat and see their friends.

We seldom realize how much of an impact this institution we call “school” has on our kids.

Or how much it has had on us.

Pic Of The Day #1595

Kids enjoy the Weston Historical Society sculpture (Photo/JC Martin)

Steve Axthelm: Build The Skate Park!

Steve Axthelm is one of those unheralded, overlooked, under- (as in “non-“) paid volunteers who make Westport what it is.

He served for many years on the Parks & Recreation Commission, and the board of Westport Baseball & Softball. His goal was to give everyone an opportunity to play sports, have fun, and enjoy Westport’s amenities.

Two weeks ago — when the sale of his house closed — Steve resigned from both posts. He and his wife Laura headed to North Carolina.

Steve Axthelm, with his skatebaords.

Here’s his final message to Parks & Rec — and to the town he’s loved, and given so much to:

“It has been an honor to serve on the Westport Parks & Recreation Commission. I’m proud of what we have accomplished together, and think we have been an example of a group that puts serving the community over politics or personal desires.

“I’m especially pleased with what we were able to accomplish at Compo Beach, especially the walkways and the bathroom on South Beach to provide accessibility and enjoyment to all. The stewardship and improvement of the town’s parks and sports facilities has been steadfast. Thanks go to Charlie Haberstroh and my fellow commissioners, and to Jen Fava and her team for outstanding work over the years.

“One regret: we did not get the skate park done. It is severely outdated, and an eyesore at Compo. No other sports group has to use such a poor facility in Westport.

The Compo Beach skate park.

“A beautiful concrete skatepark will be an enhancement to Compo and a boon to a robust skateboarding community. Skate Camp counselor Gabriel Dick and Skate Camp director James Bowles will rally the skateboarding community for fundraising.

James Bowles and Gabe Dick, at a rally 8 years ago to save the Compo skate park.

“In the past skateboarding was an afterthought, and participants were sometimes characterized as misfits (hmmm, I was a skateboarder when I was a grommet, inventing gnarly moves to grind the dinosaurs). It is simply a great sport in which to hone athleticism and creativity. And now it is an Olympic Sport.

“Our skateboarders and our town deserve this. Let’s get it built!

Skate park at a beach.

Kids Pose For Yoga Classes

Twenty years of practicing yoga has helped Carly Walker complete 2 Ironman races, and 25 marathons — injury-free.

Friends describe their aches, pains and sports-related injuries. When she tells them that yoga can align their bodies and prevent injuries — plus keep them sane — they don’t listen.

She gave up trying to convince them. Now the Westporter is concentrating on the next generation.

Carly Walker

“If I can help kids adopt yoga into their lives at a young age, it will help their bodies and minds for a lifetime,” she says. “Yoga is all about handling life and stress better off the mat.”

She wanted to give youngsters the tools to help breathe when they get upset, stressed or frustrated. Yoga helps kids stay calm on the inside, even amid chaos.

The result: Child’s Pose. The “studio for young souls” is open at 8 Church Street South (next to Little Barn).

Classes include toddlers with parents and caregivers (ages 1-4); pre-schoolers (3-5), elementary schoolers (5-10) and middle schoolers (11-14).

Carly offers 2 free classes today (Thursday, August 26): Elementary (3 to 4 p.m.), and Mom & Me (4:30 to 5:15 p.m.).

There are many similarities between adult and kids’ yoga, Carly says. But children learn through play, so she makes things fun. Amid giggles, she helps them find “inner peace, and some quiet moments on their mat.”

When she pulls out a stuffed animal dog, her young students know it’s time to get into downward dog. Poses like sleeping butterfly help ease anxiety in children, she says.

Middle schoolers enjoy yoga …

Carly shows them how to recreate poses at home, with items in their house.

All children can benefit from yoga, Carly says. “Yoga helps with flexibility, strength and balance. It improves their focus and concentration, and connects their minds to their bodies to reduce stress and anxiety. It also aids in self-esteem and confidence.”

Special needs youngsters — such as those with ADHD and autism — benefit especially from yoga, she notes. It reduces anxiety, helps with emotional regulation, improves confidence, provides consistency and helps with inner peace.

Before moving to Westport 5 years ago, Carly taught children’s yoga in New York. She is impressed with our town’s support of children.

She’s seen the competitive side of athletics here — and was an athlete herself — so she also wants people to know that a flexible, mobile body prevents injuries.

Feedback has ben good. Parents have seen children start to become angry with a sibling or friend, then say, “I’m going to breath like Ms. Carly taught me to.”

A child having trouble sleeping may put a stuffy on their belly, rock it to sleep — and fall asleep themselves.

… and so do much younger children. (Photos/Julia D’Agostino)

Some youngsters enter her studio skeptically, she says. Soon they forget about whatever happened on the playground, or the test looming tomorrow.

“Fear and anxiety come from thinking about the past or future,” Carly says.

“Standing on one foot and one hand in a yoga pose is all about being in the moment.”

(For more information click here, or follow on social media: @childsposewestport.)

Adam J. Lewis Academy: Out Of Ashes, Hope Thrives

It’s late August. That means school starts sooner than anyone realizes.

And it’s 2021. That means next month marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

Both events are significant for a sizable number of Westporters. They’re part of the heart and soul of Adam J. Lewis Academy.

Adam J. Lewis

The Bridgeport elementary school — named for a local man killed that horrible day, and nurtured ever since by his wife and friends — has been a life-changer for hundreds of Bridgeport youngsters and their families.

Now it’s expanding — charting an even more important path than ever.

Adam J. Lewis grew up poor, in the Bronx. But he seized the educational opportunities he was given — scholarships to Dalton and Hamilton College — and made a great, successful and fulfilling life for himself.

Then, on September 11, 2001 he was killed at his World Trade Center desk.

That tragedy sparked a superbly fitting tribute.

His wife Patty Lewis and Westporter Julie Mombello — friends from their days working together at Greens Farms Academy — knew the importance of pre-school education.

In Westport, pre-school — where children explore the world using all their senses, and learn letters, numbers, scientific observation, music, art, language, problem-solving, cooperation, coordination and many other skills — is a given. That’s far less true in Bridgeport, where the cost of preschool can be daunting.

Patty and Julie vowed to do what they could to give little children just a few miles from Westport the same advantages their own kids had.

A well-equipped Adam J. Lewis Academy room.

The goal was to provide youngsters from every background with an intellectually, socially and personally transformative educational experience. Students will leave empowered, ready to make a difference in the world.

The Adam J. Lewis Pre-School was born. And — despite daunting obstacles including fundraising, site selection and city bureaucracy — it has thrived since opening in 2013.

From its start — with just 12 children — it has grown steadily. In 2018 the school relocated to a downtown Bridgeport campus. They’re adding one grade each year. They’ll serve over 200 students through grade 5 by 2023, over 400 as a pre-K through grade 8 independent school by 2030.

Adam J. Lewis Academy pre-K class, 2018-19.

Including middle school is important. Adam J. Lewis Academy will be able to provide a link between elementary and high school, at a challenging time in life that’s already difficult for many.

The school is a true community. Families are embraced, and supported. A scholarship program at Housatonic Community College enables parents to take certification classes at no cost to them, often leading to high-demand, higher-paying jobs and careers.

A staff psychologist bridges the gap between home and school — just like a private boarding school.

From the start, Westporters have supported Adam J. Lewis Academy, with donations, board service and sweat equity.

The other day, co-founders Patty Lewis and Julie Mombello — still deeply involved as ex officio board members — talked excitedly about the school’s direction.

They offered stories, like a girl with a turbulent home life whose mother took advantage of resources to support her child — now confident and proud — and turned her own life around too.

“The 20 years since 9/11 have gone both fast and slow,” Lewis says.

“The idea that we’re going vertically means we can have an even bigger impact — just like his schools had on Adam. We’re looking at nearly 10 years of a student’s life in one school.”

Adam J. Lewis’s football jersey hangs in the school office. Students learn about, and understand, his story.

Nearly 20 years after an unspeakable tragedy, his name — and impact — live on.

(For more information on the Adam J. Lewis Academy, click here.)