Category Archives: Education

Roundup: Rainbow Crosswalk, WFM Grow-a-Row; DTC Candidates …

Pride Month is just a few hours old.

But already, Westport has a rainbow crosswalk.

Dr. Nikki Gorman (right) and Danielle Dobin, hard at work. Gorman and Galia Gichon are the crosswalk’s sponsors.

A hardy crew of 11 — including Selectwomen Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore;  crosswalk sponsor Dr. Nikki Gorman; Public Works Department director Pete Ratkiewich; RTM members Harris Falk and Sal Liccione; Planning & Zoning commission chair Danielle Dobin; Westport Pride founder Brian McGunagle, and members Nicole Klein, Bethany Eppner and Geoff Gaspar — gathered at the Jesup Road/Taylor Place intersection at 5 a.m. today, to install the crosswalk.

Putting down the crosswalk, as the sun rose.

The selectwomen unanimously approved the installation, for the month of June. If it holds up under traffic, it will become permanent.

Ta da!

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Every Thursday is special at the Westport Farmers’ Market.

Starting next week, things will get even more so.

On June 9, the Market’s partnership with Grow-a-Row Westport begins again. The organization helps market goers fight food insecurity in the area, by donating wholesome, home grown produce.

Home gardeners drop off their fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs at the Grow-a-Row Westport collection cooler, by the WFM information booth. Volunteers from Food Rescue US – Fairfield County bring the fresh produce to Fairfield County agencies serving food-insecure residents.

Last year, donated produce was shared among Westport Housing Authority’s 221 households, including seniors and children. It’s considered a luxury by many recipients.

The Westport Farmers’ Market takes place at the Imperial Avenue parking lot every Thursday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., through November.

Westporter Cornelia Olsen donated a huge rutabaga last year.

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The Democratic Town Committee’s slate of suggested candidates for November’s local elections has many familiar names.

But one of those names is in an unfamiliar slot.

The Nominations Committee has recommended these candidates to run for re-election: Lee Goldstein and Neil Phlllips (Board of Education); Paul Lebowitz (Planning & Zoning Commission); Jim Ezzes (Zoning Board of Appeals), and Nancy Dupier (Board of Finance).

The one surprise: Danielle Dobin, Planning & Zoning chair, was recommended to run for the Board of Finance.

Dobin — who has served on the P&Z since 2017 — is in the middle of her 2nd 4-year term. An attorney, she has a background in land use, real estate, acquisitions and business development.

The DTC will vote formally on the recommendations on July 18.

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Last weekend, 150 artists from around the country came to town, for the 50th annual Fine Arts Festival.

Soon, hundreds of local students will display their own works. They’re the Fine Arts Festival artists of the future.

The Westport Public Schools’ visual arts exhibition — SPARK — is on view June 8-11 at MoCA Westport. Works of students from pre-K through 12th grade will be on display.

New at SPARK this year is a special exhibit by Westport professional artist Mark Yurkiw: “Help Build the Bridge: Westport-France-Ukraine.” Constructed by Yurkiw, and adorned with art from students, the goal is to extend messages of good will to children in Westport’s sister cities.

A reception is set for June 11 (2 to 4 p.m.).

Artwork by Staples High School student Sophia Kuhner.

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Speaking of MoCA:

Connecticut Magazine’s June issue is out. It’s a guide to the state’s “hidden gem” museums.

MoCA is (of course) one of the 42 that are featured.

But it’s the only one on the cover:

Click here to view the entire issue.

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Sherwood Island State Park celebrates Trails Day this weekend with 4 great (and free) events.

Kayak paddle (Saturday, June 3; 9:30 a.m.; arrive by 9:15, east end of East Beach parking lot). Bring your own kayak, canoe or other paddlecraft, plus a pump/bailer; life vest and whistle or horn are required. Bring waterproof binoculars for spotting birds, and/or a waterproof camera. It’s a long carry over the beach, so bring a kayak cart with wide wheels for sand if you have one.

Butterfly walk (Saturday, June 3; 2 p.m., Nature Center). Michele Sorensen leads an exploration of the gardens and natural areas of caterpillars, skippers, moths and butterflies. Bring binoculars, and a camera. Children are welcome (ages 4 and up).

Nature walk (Saturday, June 3; 2 p.m., Nature Center). Walk the beach;  discover habitats, inhabitants and special features like the 9/11 Memorial, model airport, wetlands and pine forest).

Horseshoe crab walk (Sunday, June 4; 11 a.m., Nature Center). Be prepared to wade in shallow water. Learn about crabs’ distinctive biology, life cycle, medical uses and conservation needs. 

Archaeology walk (Sunday, June 4; 1 p.m., Nature Center). Archaeologists Dawn Brown and Ernie Wiegand will highlight points of interest, terrain, and examine traces of past inhabitants of Sherwood Island, from 1000 BC to the 1940s, including Native American, early settlers and onion farmers. Artifacts, maps, old photos and recent recoveries will be used.

Click here for more information all all events.

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Among Westport’s many hidden gems, Blau House & Gardens may be the most unknown of all.

Located at the end of Bayberry Ridge — a narrow, rutted road off Bayberry — the house was designed by theatrical stage set designer Ralph Alswang. It’s set between towering great oaks.

The grand gardens — by advertising executive Barry Blau — were created in response to the house. They incorporate native plants interspersed with a blend of exotics. They must be seen to be believed.

On June 11, you’ll get your chance.

“The Last Lallapaloosa” includes a host of activities.

Planting ceremony: Native rosebud trees; 9 a.m.; free (maximum 40 people)

Tour of Blau Gardens: 10 a.m.; $20 per person (maximum 36 people)

Book reading and signing of “Pinkalicious: Fairy House” by author/ illustrator Victoria Kann: 11 a.m.; $15 per child (maximum 25 children). Each child received 2 Pinkalicious books; other activities include coloring, plant a bean to take home and watch grow; find the fairy houses in the garden.

Gentle yoga with Millie: 1 p.m.; $20 per person (maximum 20 people)

Book reading and signing of “The Frog Who Wanted to See the Sea” by author/illustrator Guy Billout: 2:30 p.m.; $20 per child (maximum 20 children). Also: find a frog along the stream; plant a bean to take home and watch grow.

Tour of Blau Gardens: 4:30 p.m.; $20 per person (maximum 36 people)

Garden reception: 6 to 8 p.m.; $75 per person (maximum 50 people). Help create a Blau House & Garden future.

Click here to register (deadline: June 5), and for information on payment and shuttle transportation from Coleytown Elementary School.

A small part of Blau Gardens.

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Did you hear the one about the dozen comedians who are taking the stage to raise money for writers?

Not the striking TV writers in LA. This event — “Lit & Wit” — is for the Westport Writers’ Workshop outreach program. It provides free writing instruction to underserved populations and communities.

The event is June 7 (7 p.m., Saugatuck Rowing Club; $50 per ticket).

Click here for tickets. And enjoy Jerry Kuyper’s very witty lit-minded logo below.

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Longtime Westporter Marty Resnick casts off this week, on a month-long sailing voyage to Portsmouth, England. His crew mates are Roger Townsend and Gareth Thomas.

Fair winds!

Marty Resnick (left) and crew. (Photo and hat tip/Tom Roth)

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Wendy Levy loves Burying Hill Beach.

She often finds a fresh way at looking at the water, sand, pier, marshes, tidal pools — and of course, the “burying hill” at the Greens Farms oasis.

Her photos often find their way to our “Westport … Naturally” feature. Here iis today’s image:

(Photo/Wendy Levy)

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And finally … today is June 1.

That means one thing:

(Celebrate June with a donation to “06880.” Please click here — and thank you!)

“06880 On The Go”: Long Lots School

Colin Morgeson is spending his Staples High School senior internship with “06880.”

The high honors soon-to-be-graduate is creating a video project: “06880 On the Go.”

For the next 3 weeks he’ll roam around Westport with a video camera, asking readers (and non-readers) questions about trending topics and town events.

Today he explores Long Lots (the elementary school he attended, back in the day). What’s up with the renovation? What do the principal, and others, think?

Click below to see the first-ever “06880 On The Go.” Then look for Colin and his camera. Say hi, and tell him what’s on your mind.

Horizons Limitless For GFA

It’s a long way — by every measure except physical distance — from Greens Farms Academy to the Bridgeport public schools.

But for nearly a quarter century, the elite private school has bridged those gaping academic, financial and resource gaps.

Thanks to the time, talent and energy of GFA staff, students and parents — and the enthusiastic participation of their city counterparts — a strong, productive partnership links Beachside Avenue and Broad Street.

Christina Whittaker — executive director of Horizons GFA — describes it succinctly: “a pre-K through college, outside of school, tuition-free enrichment academic program for Bridgeport students.”

Enjoying the Greens Farms Academy campus.

Horizons is a national program. Greens Farms Academy is one of 60 affiliates.

It’s hard to imagine a more active or far-reaching one than theirs.

From a modest start 24 years ago, Horizons GFA has grown to a 3-pronged, year-round effort, with over 330 current participants.

The pre-K through 8th grade program runs primarily in summer. For 6 weeks, nearly 200 youngsters spend Mondays through Thursdays at GFA. Mornings are devoted to academics, and a social emotional learning (SEL) curriculum developed at Harvard especially for the school.

Learning in the morning …

Afternoons are devoted to activities like sports, swimming, cooking, gardening and dance.

Fridays are for field trips. Popular destinations include the Connecticut Science Center and Mystic Aquarium.

… and a Friday visit to the aquarium.

Parents apply Horizons before their children enter kindergarten.

“Because they are with us for 16 or 18 years — through college — we want to make sure it’s a good fit,” Whittaker explains. “We learn about their hopes and reams.”

The application process includes interviews. The application form is in English and Spanish

In high school, each Horizons participant is paired with a “coach” — a Bridgeport public school teacher, counselor or social worker.

Once a week at Horizon’s Bridgeport office, they work on the Harvard-designed SEL curriculum, and whatever else the student needs, like help with a school project or job application.

Content-specific tutoring is available too, along with college counseling.

Horizons also offers special workshops: transition to high school for 9th graders; career exploration for sophomores; SAT preparation junior year, and FAFSA/scholarship information for seniors.

High school graduation.

Horizons has a 100% high school graduation rate, and 100% post-secondary enrollment. Two-thirds of students go to 4-year colleges; one-third enter community college or vocational training programs.

The summer after graduation, students take part in a transition-to-college workshops.

Once in college, students check in monthly with Horizons staff. They cover 4 areas: personal well-being, academics, finances and “employability.”

The goal is for all students to have a job, or be in grad school, within a year of college graduation. Horizons’ first “class” graduated in 2020. They, and the classes after them, all have 100% success rates.

Proud college graduates.

Horizons is “a very strong community,” Whittaker says proudly. “Once people enter, they tend not to leave.”

Two alums have become program coaches. One teacher has been involved for 20 summers.

Whittaker herself is a former Horizons volunteer. She started as a GFA middle schooler.

Christina Whittaker

That experience sparked her passion for education. After college, Christina taught at Bridgeport’s Harding High School, and worked in Horizon’s summer program. In 2018 she joined Horizons GFA full time. Now she’s the director.

She is inspired by the “results, commitment and partnership with students and families. I’ve known some of the students since 2012. It’s been so great to see what they’ve accomplished.”

Greens Farms Academy’s contributions to Horizons are profound. They provide full use of their campus each summer, and some Saturdays during the year. GFA staff and parents serve on the board and committees. Many students volunteer too.

All funding is private, through donations and grants. This year’s budget is $1.85 million.

There are 2 major fundraisers: a golf event (upcoming June 5 at the Country Club of Fairfield) and fall gala (November 17 at The Knowlton).

After years of quietly supporting Horizons, GFA wants more people to know about the program. Visitors are welcome on select days in July; click here for details.

Nearing the quarter-century mark, Greens Farms Academy’s Horizons — and the horizons of scores of Bridgeport students — are limitless.

(To learn more about Horizons GFA, click here.)

(“06880” covers all Westport schools, public and private. Your help helps us. Please click here to make a tax-deductible contribution. Thank you!)

Bright Horizons, for these children.

[OPINION] Navigating Dyslexia, Changing Worlds

Jennifer Bernheim knows the challenges of navigating special education in a public school district. She’s the mother of a dyslexic learner, and founder of Right to Read Advocacy, which educates and empowers parents.

Jennifer lives in Weston with her husband and 3 children. She writes:

Like many, I had a front row seat to my child’s education during COVID. My son was in kindergarten, and we slogged through the dreaded daily Zoom calls.

I watched him struggle with his “homework,” labor over writing a sentence, and turn away from reading books aloud on EPIC.

Already unable to memorize sight words like his 2 older siblings, I had a strong suspicion that my son was dyslexic. While my husband and I didn’t know anyone in our families with a dyslexia diagnosis, I knew that my kindergartener wasn’t learning to read with the same ease as others.

I trusted my gut and went with my intuition, exploring this possible diagnosis.

Jennifer Bernheim and her son.

During 1st grade we enrolled him in a private school, knowing that more time on Zoom during COVID would not be conducive to his learning style. We were also hopeful that smaller class sizes and a different reading curriculum would help him develop as a reader.

When his progress was still lacking, I reached out to our district. Evaluations determined the possibility of a specific learning disability – yet no diagnosis of dyslexia yet. During early spring of 1st grade, we moved him back into the district where he could receive reading intervention immediately.

What unfolded from March of 2021 to now has changed me personally, and altered my career trajectory.

I waited for my “welcome to special education” packet, but no one delivered it. I learned first hand how broken the US public school system is when it comes to identification and early intervention for dyslexic learners.

I learned that crying at PPT meetings doesn’t move the needle, and that often even the best-intentioned teachers and administrators are unable to provide the support these students need.

And with the timely release of Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong, I learned that dyslexic students and struggling readers across the country are unsupported through the typical whole literacy approach. I also learned why my child always studied the pictures before he attempted to read: Thank you three-cueing.

While this “pulling back of the curtain” on American education left me disheartened, frustrated and often sleepless, it also ignited a passion in me. It is a passion so strong that I left my successful career as a PR practitioner to start an advocacy education consultancy.

I dove deep into educating myself about special education law and advocacy, so that I could best advocate for my son and ready myself to advocate for others.

I’ve spent endless hours learning all I can from courses including the Council of Parent Attorneys & Advocates’ esteemed Special Education and Advocacy Training, WrightsLaw Special Ed Law & Advocacy Training, and Overcoming Dyslexia (free on Coursera) by Dr. Sally Shaywitz – all of which I highly recommend.

Now, through my advocacy, I lessen the learning curve for parents with dyslexic learners. I help shoulder some of the burden navigating the special education system. I listen to parents empathetically, while assuring them that there is a community of other like-minded parents also willing to provide support and share resources. I’ve met some of the most amazing moms on this journey.

During the days of Zoom PPT meetings, reviewing evaluations that at the time made no sense to the layperson, and advocating endlessly, I certainly didn’t know that what felt like a burden at the time, would become my greatest gift.

My son who became anxious, continually melted down upon returning home from school, and started to experience school reluctance, is now thriving at The Southport School. His self-esteem has been restored, and he’s on his way to reading with a renewed confidence.

He’s a different kid and I’m a different mom. I attribute his dyslexic diagnosis for changing my world, for the better.

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. We welcome “Opinion” pieces — and we appreciate support from readers. Please click here to contribute. Thank you!)

Roundup: Mimi Greenlee, Tommy Greenwald …

Everyone in Westport knows how great Mimi Greenlee is.

Now the rest of the state will too.

The veteran (decades!), superbly organized, always energetic, constantly encouraging, ever smiling Westport Library Book Sale volunteer will be honored by the Friends of Connecticut Libraries June 10. She’ll receive their Individual Achievement Award, for her lifetime of work.

Over the years, Mimi has co-chaired book sales; trained and supervised scores of volunteers, and managed inventory. These days, she manages the flow of donations to the Westport Book Shop.

Congratulations, Mimi, on this latest “chapter” in your life!

Mimi Greenlee, surrounded by donations.

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Speaking of books: Tommy Greenwald’s “Game Changer” has just won a 2023 Nutmeg Award, in the Middle School division.

The 1979 Staples High School graduate’s novel about the aftermath of a hard hit on the football field was selected for the Connecticut Library Association and Connecticut Association of School Librarians honor by a committee of children’s librarians and school library media specialists.

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Westport Police made 1 custodial arrest between May 10 and 17.

A man was charged with reckless endangerment and breach of peace, following a report that a passenger in a vehicle on Post Road East was pointing a gun at another vehicle.

Police also issued the following citations:

  • Traveling unreasonably fast: 12 citations
  • Operating an unregistered motor vehicle: 9
  • Improper use of markers: 8
  • Operating a motor vehicle without minimum insurance: 6
  • Failure to comply with traffic control signals: 4
  • Distracted driving, not cell phone: 3
  • Operating a motor vehicle without a license: 3
  • Failure to comply with state traffic commission regulations: 3
  • Failure to register a commercial vehicle: 2
  • Unreadable plates: 2
  • Failure to renew registration: 2
  • Traveling too fast for conditions: 1
  • No passing zone: 1
  • Failure to drive in the proper lane: 1
  • School zone violation: 1
  • Following too closely: 1
  • Improper turn: 1
  • Theft of plates: 1
  • Failure to display plates: 1

Drive safely everywhere — especially in school zones.

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When Clark Thiemann’s 6-year-old daughter took a tumble on the pock-marked, dangerous track at PJ Romano Field, behind Saugatuck Elementary School, she told her father: “You need to tell someone to fix this!”

Clark sent this photo to “06880”:

He’s not the first to do so.

On March 19, I ran a similar photo. Another reader had also written, noting “at least 19 cracks” in the surface.

She said she had been told a year and a half ago that it would be an easy repair, and that funds were already in the budget. The facility is managed by Westport’s Parks & Recreation Department.

We’re still waiting.

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The Westport Public Schools search for a new Greens Farms Elementary School principal took them — literally — around the world.

On July 1, Brian Byrne takes over from Kevin Cazzetta, who will retire.

Byrne is currently serves as the elementary principal at South Korea’s Seoul International School. Previously, he was elementary school assistant principal at the International School of Beijing and the Shanghai Community International School.

His career began closer to home. He taught 4th grade at Toquam Magnet School in Stamford, then served as the district’s curriculum associate for elementary mathematics.

Byrne earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business marketing from Indiana University, and a Master of Science in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport.

Brian Byrne

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Remarkable progress has been made in treating heart valve disease.

Breakthroughs in non-surgical technology means open heart surgery is no longer required.

Next Tuesday, at the 3rd “Andrew Wilk Presents: The Westport Library Medical Series,” Dr. Robert Altbaum provides an overview of the anatomy of heart valves. Dr. Chirag Shah discusses aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation. Attendees will learn about the newest treatment options. Click here for more information.

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Steely Dan is not coming to the Weston History & Culture Center.

But Logical Pretzel — a Steely Dan cover band — is.

They’ll open the 8th annual outdoor summer concert series, “Music at the Barn,” on Sunday, June 4. Doors open at 5 p.m. for food, history, crafts and fun; the music begins at 5:30.

Tony’s Pizza Napolitano truck provides food. Concert-goers should bring a lawn chair and beverages. Click here for tickets and more information.

Last year’s “Music at the Barn”

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Giovanna “Jennie” Caiati– part of the Nistico family that opened Saugatuck’s beloved Arrow restaurant — died peacefully Tuesday, surrounded by family. She was 94.

Born to Frank and Giovanna Nistico, originally from of Reggio Calabria, Italy, she was just 13 when she and her mother opened the first Arrow.

Their tiny space at the “arrow” point of Saugatuck Avenue and Franklin Street quickly became a community staple. In a short time, their business grew into a 180-seat “home away from home” for generations of Westporters.

Later, Jennie’s love of flowers led her to open Blossoms Plus, a florist and event planning company. Her creative flair and passion for design caught the eye of Westport residents like Martha Steward, Joanne Woodward, Donna Summer and Rodney Dangerfield, who became loyal clients.

Jennie loved to travel. She was an avid cruise enthusiast, going anywhere with her sister-in-law Helene Nistico and best friend Lorraine. She also enjoyed casinos, and dining out.

Her family says, “Her door was always open, and she frequently said, ‘You don’t need an invitation’ to stop by for coffee. She playing word searches and gin rummy, and spent time in the garden.

“But more than anything, ‘Granny’ valued family. She was the consummate ‘giving tree.'”

Jennie was predeceased by her husband Dominick Caiati, and 6 siblings: Pauline Bottone, Lily Bottone, Rose Pascarelli, and Joseph, Louis and Frank Nistico. She is survived by her children Darlene Pianka (Stephen), Dominick (Erin) and Lorenzo; grandchildren Milissa Malloy (Matthew), Lauren Flory (Richard), Lorenzo Caiati Jr.; Kayla, Nicole and Victoria Caiati, and Jack McElreath, and great-grandchildren Connor, Bryce, Parker, Brynn, and Luke.

A Mass of Christian burial will be held tomorrow (Friday May 19, 10 a.m., Assumption Church). Interment will follow in Willowbrook Cemetery. Click here to leave online condolences.

Jennie Caiati

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Linda Doyle shares these stunning azaleas, lilacs, clematis and red honeysuckle plants “coexisting and enticing pollinators up on Rocky Ridge.” They’re perfect for today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Linda Doyle)

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And finally … in honor of Steely Dan, who are not coming to Weston (story above):

(Do it again! That is: Help support “06880.” Please click here. And thank you.)

“Younger Me”: Ben Okon Reimagines Kids’ Books

When Ben Okon’s son Judah was born, early in the COVID pandemic, Ben’s grandmother was in an assisted living facility, isolated from the world.

To connect great-grandson and great-grandmother, Ben created videos as he read to Judah.

There was just one problem: Most of the books were not very good.

Ben’s full-time gig is with Google’s cloud strategy team. But at Staples High School, where he graduated in 2006, Ben had been influenced in writing by English teacher Gus Young.

So he set out to write the books he really wanted Judah to read.

Ben Okon

Using his analytical skills, Ben researched rhyming, meter and story length. He discovered dozens of studies on children’s literature, attention spans and themes, and plenty of online resources for art and cover design.

He built a network of professionals to guide him. Then he got to work.

Ben learned that in children’s books, meter matters more than rhyme. If words don’t flow smoothly, even simple language is uncomfortable to read.

For 2 years, he wrote. All along he solicited feedback from relatives, friends, children’s authors and random playground parents.

Ben’s subject matter is — well, another matter.

He takes complicated ideas, and makes them kid-friendly. “Younger Me Academy” — his new 8-book series — covers topics like the science of generosity and happiness, growth mindset, the scientific method, and equity versus equality.

“Think of them as the picture book form of impactful insights from thought leaders like Adam Grant (author of ‘Give and Take’) and Daniel Kahneman (Nobel Prize economist and author of ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’)” he says.

They’re read-along books for newborns to age 8. They’ve got all the important elements like immersive illustrations, lovable characters and adventures.

Yet each book introduces a life skill that most adults never learned in school. (The tagline is: “Stories for kids. Lessons for life.”)

Welcome to children’s literature, 2023-style.

Ben made sure to get everything right. He wrote over 200 drafts. And even though “Owen and Lou Otter Help Each Otter” is not “War and Peace,” that’s a lot of revisions.

Yet while Ben set out to remake children’s books, traditional publishers were not buying.

Like their counterparts in the adult book world, they’re resistant to new concepts. For that reason — and to keep control of creative content — Ben decided to self-publish.

Using IndieGogo, he set out to raise $20,000. That would cover the cost of bulk manufacturing, and allow him to supply copies to non-profits at reasonable rates.

His plan resonated. It took just 2 days to raise all the pledges. His target audience — “growth-oriented families” — was hungry for STEM children’s books.

The campaign is live until May 25. Founders will receive all 8 books, at nearly 60% off. They’ll then be offered to the public, one title at a time.

It’s taken Ben Okon 3 years to complete his “Younger Me Academy” books. It will take much less time for parents and children to read the 32 to 40 pages in each one.

But — as they join other classics of kids’ literature — odds are good Ben’s books will be read over and over again.

(Readers of any age can support “06880.” Please click here. Thank you!) 

Roundup: Affordable Housing, Utility Poles, Pride …

A follow-up on the Representative Town Meeting’s recent “Community Conversation on Affordable Housing” promises to be as important and illuminating as the first.

“Our Town’s Affordable Housing Needs and Solutions: What Westporters Should Know and How They Can Help” will be held — virtually — on Wednesday (May 17, 7:30 p.m.).

RTM moderator Jeff Wieser will lead a panel of men and women who know the topic intimately: State Senator Ceci Maher, State Representative Jonathan Steinberg, Planning & Zoning Commission chair Danielle Dobin, RTM Planning & Zoning Committee chair Matthew Mandell, and Westport Housing Authority chair David Newberg.

As with the first session — which drew 200 people — there will be plenty of time for public questions.

Click here to join the Zoom meeting.

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Paul Rohan writes:

Over the years, I have read many comments, complaints and suggestions about utility poles on “06880.”

I am reminded of them all each day on my morning walk, as I pass by this set of seemingly unstable utility poles on Hillspoint Road between Harding Lane and Valley Road.

For over 5 years, I wondered when the appropriate utilities will transfer all their lines to the newer replacement pole and remove the decayed one.

It seems it will never happen. But lately there has been some progress: a new black nylon band has been added to somehow supplement the existing the wooden brace clamp, the metal support arms, and bands of rope!

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A crowd of nearly 300 “walked the line” to see Johnny Folsom 4’s tribute to Johnny Cash Saturday night, at the Westport Library.

A record 126 people had dinner at 10 downtown restaurants before the show, as part of “Supper & Soul.” The downtown dinner and concert series is produced by the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

Johnny Folsom 4 (Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

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Just in time for Pride Month, Westport Pride has a new web presence.

The colorful, easy-to-navigate site (www.westportpride.org) builds on the non-profit’s mission to “elevate, educate and empower” the town about LGBTQ issues and community members.

Upcoming events include

  • Pride Celebration (Sunday, June 4, noon-4 p.m., Jesup Green)
  • “Light Up the Night” drag show (Saturday, June 17, 5 p.m., MoCA)

An oral history project — organized in conjunction with the Westport Museum for History & Culture — is looking for people to interview about their lives and times: in school, at the Brook Café, or anywhere else in the area. Email cmenard@westporthistory.org.

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The Westport Rotary Club recently joined Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County, to rebuild a house in Bridgeport. The project helps residents  become homeowners.

This was the first time Westport Rotary volunteered at Habitat. It was so popular, a return visit has been scheduled for next year.

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Saturday’s list of National Merit Scholar winners omitted one name: Liyana Asaria-Issa.

The Greens Farms Academy senior joins 3 other Westport residents as recipients of $2,500 scholarships. Congratulations, Liyana!

Liyana Asaria-Issa

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Sholdr is a new clothing brand.

Co-founder Christian Montgomery — a 2018 Staples High School graduate — is creating quality, comfortable clothing, inspired by the oceans.

His goal is to build a community around the brand — and one that supports mental health awareness.

One of the founders lost a friend to suicide. He had recently joined the military. So Sholder is donating 5% of profits to the Headstrong Project. The non-profit provides mental health resources to active military members, and veterans.

This Saturday (May 20, noon to 4 p.m.) they’ll run their first pop-up event at the Two Roads Vendor Market (1700 Stratford Avenue, Stratford). Sholdr will be in the hopyard talking about their mission, and selling shirts and hoodies.

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Between the trains, weather and riders, the Westport train station gets plenty of use.

It usually looks pretty good. But it doesn’t clean itself.

This weekend, Les Dinkin spotted a crew, working hard to make sure it’s ready for Monday.

(Photo/Dinkin Fotografix)

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“Westport … Naturally” begins the week with this colorful view from Ellen Wentworth’s window:

(Photo/Ellen Wentworth)

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And finally … Saturday’s “Supper & Soul” included a great concert by Johnny Folsom 4, a Johnny Cash tribute band (story above).

That’s a great segue into a song from the Man in Black himself:

(It’s a new week — and another reminder that “06880” relies on reader support. Please click here to donate. Thank you!) 

Roundup: Parker Harding Parking, OMG Open Hours, Merit Money …

The Downtown Plan Implementation Committee continues its work.

One “06880” reader is worried about one aspect of it. She shares this letter, which she sent this week to the group:

“I understand that at this morning’s meeting (which I could not attend) the discussion of losing 44 parking spaces in the Parker Harding lot was discussed.

“I believe this will be detrimental to our stores downtown. There is already a shortage of parking during peak (and many other) hours.

“I believe that the solution of taking a bus from town to Imperial Avenue is not a good solution for shoppers. It is inconvenient for folks who are only in town for a short while.

“I believe — and always have — that the store employees who park all day should use the shuttle service and parking at Imperial Avenue.

“I understand that some store managers felt that their employees ‘wouldn’t do that.’ When I worked in a town like this many years ago with similar parking issues, we were told we would be fired if caught parking in spots reserved for shoppers.

“It’s not a big deal if they are there all day. Managers are being over-dramatic if they did position this in that manner.

“I understand the value of the greening/beautification project, but we need to keep shoppers coming to town and keep our stores in business. It’s all too easy to shop on the internet these days.

“Thank you for your consideration of this concern.”

Up to 44 parking spots may be lost in the Parker Harding Plaza lot, in concepts under consideration by the Downtown Plan Implementation Committe.

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Summer hours begin Monday at Old Mill Grocery & Deli.

The Hillspoint Road spot will be open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, ice cream and much more, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week.

Ready for summer.

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MoCA hosts 2 very different concerts within 48 hours of each other next week.

On Thursday (May 18), New York-based punk band Darling performs a 30-minute set, following a curator talk with Emann Odufu, as part of the “Cocktails & Conversation” series.

Emann is the curator of the current “Rainbow in the Dark” exhibition featuring Anselm Reyle. His practice is inspired by his participation in the punk and heavy metal music movements, and his fascination with psychedelic and punk aesthetics.

Two nights later (Saturday, May 20, 7 p.m.), MoCA welcomes back Staples High School graduate Michelle Pauker. This year, she offers a tribute to Joni Mitchell.

Click here for more information, and tickets.

Michelle Pauker

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Speaking of music: 2018 Staples High grad and Berklee College of Music singer/songwriter Margot Liotta just released her latest single.

It’s available on tons of platforms. Click here for your favorite.

Margot Liotta

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Westport’s 3 National Merit Scholarship $2,500 winners attend 3 different schools.

Congratulations to Staples High School’s Lucia Wang (also the valedictorian), Alexis Bienstock of Westport’s Pierrepont School, and Joy Xu (Hopkins School).

From left: Alexis Bienstock and Lucia Wang.

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The limited edition vinyl LP of “Verso Records: Volume One” has arrived. Now, the Westport Library gets ready to celebrate the “artists, conspirators and community” that helped create the first vinyl record ever recorded, produced and released by a public library.

June 3 marks the official release. It includes 12 live tracks from tri-state area artists. Genres include rock, jazz, hip hop, folk and indie. All were recorded at the Library’s Verso Studios.

A release party is set for that night (7 p.m., Trefz Forum). Four of the bands will perform live.

The release party is free. A $25 ticket option includes a copy of “Verso Records: Volume One” and a free drink. (No record player? A digital copy will be available for $10.)

The album is available for pre-order. Preorders can be picked up at the release party, or will be shipped afterward.

Can’t attend, but want to support and/or listen to the album? Vinyl and digital copies are available via Bandcamp.

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Longtime Westporter and noted civic volunteer Irma Schachter, wife of Joseph Schachter, died Thursday after a short illness. She was 95 years old.

Irma was an early female leader in the male-dominated retail store management field of the 1950s. Her career started after completing the Harvard-Radcliff Business School program with a position at Abraham & Strauss, and continued at G. Fox & Co., Bloomingdale’s, as manager of Burdine’s department store in Miami Beach, and a Lord & Taylor vice president managing 7 New England stores.

She attended what is now Northfield-Mount Hermon School. She was recently honored by the Northfield Alumni Association with its rarely given Lamplighter Award for outstanding service to the school, achieving 100% yearly participation by her entire class in support of the annual fund.

She attended Hartford Junior College, and graduated from Connecticut College.

In Westport, she supported the new Library and Norwalk Hospital

She married Joe Schachter in 1966, after his wife — Irma’s friend Carol Kagan — died at 34. She helped raise Carol and Joe’s 3 young sons, and soon legally adopted them.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons Ted (Susan) of Los Angeles, Stephen (Carrie) of Gainesville, Florida, and David (Danny) of Belmont, California; niece Carmen Carrol (Christopher); nephew Andrew Klein, 5 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow (Sunday, May 14, 1 p.m., Congregation Beth El, 109 East Avenue, Norwalk). Shiva will be Sunday and Monday at 7 p.m. at 28 Mayflower Parkway, Westport.

Irma and Joe Schachter.

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Peter Green — a highly accomplished stained glass artist also active in several other art forms — died earlier this year at Bridgeport Hospital, of pancreatic cancer. He was 77.

He was the founder in 1971, and co-owner with his wife of 48 years Tina, of Westport’s Renaissance Studio. Click here for a 2012 “06880”story on that artistic journey.

His 5-decade career as a stained glass artist was marked by many commissions and installations in Westport and the tri-state area. He and Tina taught stained glass classes at their studio and in area adult education programs.

After 30 years on Saugatuck Avenue, the studio moved in 2003 to the Greens’ home on Imperial Avenue. Tina continues to operate it.

Peter designed and installed stained glass windows and panels in hundreds of homes, restaurants and other businesses, and for religious institutions. His Installations include Temple Israel in Westport, St. Francis of Assisi Church in Weston, and St. Joseph’s Church in Stratford.

A member of the Stained Glass Association of America, he was also a successful woodturner, photographer and painter. He was a past president of the Nutmeg Woodturners at the Brookfield Craft Center. His unique works graced the covers of Wood Turning and Stained Glass magazines.

Peter’s first career was in music. After graduating from Adelphi University in 1968, he played guitar in The Villagers folk group. They opened for Simon and Garfunkel in the mid-’60s at Adelphi. He played for the rest of his life for family and friends.

An Army Reserve veteran, he was also an avid sailor, surfer, kayaker and cyclist. He swam regularly at the Westport Weston Family YMCA.

Peter frequently researched, read and combed the recorded music collection at his beloved Westport Library.

Survivors in addition to his wife include his children, Andrew of Westport and Charlotte of Greenwich; his sister Susan Behan of Longboat Key, Florida; his brother Bob Green of Kapaa, Hawaii; his mother-in-law Anna Godick of Westport, and numerous nieces and nephews.

A private memorial celebration of his life is planned for later this year. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his memory be made to The Westport Library or the American Cancer Society.

Peter Green

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Burying Hill Beach is Johanna Keyser Rossi’s happy place.

And here — happily — is her “Westport … Naturally” photo.

(Photo/Johanna Keyser Rossi)

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And finally … happy 73rd birthday to Stevie Wonder.

There are way too many great songs to pick from. Here are 5 from his now-overlooked, but very productive, mid-1960s/early-1970s years:

(If you enjoy our daily “06880” music selections, it would be “wonder”-ful to help support the blog. Please click here — and thank you!)

Roundup: Porta-john, Pot, Plants …

Next Wednesday’s Parks & Recreation Commission meeting (May 17, 7:30 p.m., Zoom; click here for the link) features 3 interesting agenda items.

Perhaps because of the increasing popularity of Old Mill Beach — it now attracts more than just nearby residents — the board will vote on a request for a “porta-john.”

Then they’ll introduce and discuss (but not vote on) a “proposed smoking/vaping policy.” Details are unavailable, but a source said it relates to a ban on smoking and vaping — including cannabis — at town beaches.

Then comes discussion of the Longshore Capital Improvement Plan final report.

It will be a busy night, involving 3 key topics: money, bathrooms, and weed.

Prime spot for a port-a-potty. (Photo/Dan Woog)

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The Westport Garden Club does more than plant bulbs.

They’ve sponsored a youth poetry contest on “birds, bees and trees”; provided an all-terrain wheelchair to Wakeman Town Farm; donated beach grass plugs for Sherwood Island State Park’s dune restoration, and a new greenhouse at Earthplace for young naturalists and volunteers; and given a scholarship for a student studying horticulture or landscape design.

All of that — and also maintaining 7 public gardens in Westport — takes money.

And all of that funding comes from the Garden Club’s annual plant sale.

It’s tomorrow (May 13 — a first-ever Saturday date), from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Jesup Green.

On sale: over 1,000 plants from members’ own gardens, plus tomatoes and herbs.

The festive event includes an activity table for kids, a selection of garden books from the Westport Book Shop, and free saplings from Bartlett Tree Experts.

Wheelbarrows will be on standby. As always, Garden Club members offer advice on purchases.

One more idea: If you haven’t finished your Mothers Day shopping (and don’t have a green thumb), you can choose from a collection of gift-ready planters.

The annual plant sale funds Westport Garden Club displays all over town.

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Yesterday’s glossy New York Times special “Homes” advertising supplement was filled with national real estate listings.

One — on page 3 — was from Westport.

It showed the controversial $7.9 million 233 Hillspoint Road home — described, of course, in breathless real estate prose:

There’s just one thing. If a buyer decides that’s his or her house because of the very cool chimney at the south end: no deal.

That was part of the reason construction was halted for 2 years. The illegal addition has now been removed. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

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All of Fairfield County (and Westchester) loves Alison Milwe Grace.

On Tuesday, the rest of the country will too.

The Staples High School graduate/Weston resident/founder-owner of very popular AMG Catering & Events will be featured on Food Network’s parking lot culinary marathon show, Supermarket Steakout (Tuesday, 9 p.m.).

She taped the show in January, in California. It was her second appearance on Food Network. In 2015 she made it to the 4th and final round of elimination in an intense battle, preparing dishes that the judges praised as “creative, complex and delicious.”

Alison calls this “another opportunity, another fun show, another personal ‘cheffy; challenge, and more memories with the best network around, and the amazing Alex Guarnaschelli.

Alison’s motto is “Follow your dreams — just make sure to have fun too!”

She’s sworn to secrecy (and an iron-clad contract) to not reveal how she did ahead of time.

But hey: She wouldn’t want us watching if she burned, undercooked or otherwise messed up royally, right?

SIDE DISH: Finding Connecticut just posted a nice interview with Alison. Click here to see.

Alison Milwe Grace

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College applications are almost a full-time job for teenagers.

Now Teens at MoCA — the museum’s junior board — are helping with that task.

At least, for anyone hoping to use his or her artwork to get into school, or pursue an art degree.

They’re holding a series of Zoom sessions, on how to create a portfolio in a variety of mediums.

Each will be led by a different senior — all of whom are off to great schools next fall.

This is a great opportunity for current sophomores and juniors. The lineup is:

May 18: Ava Waldman (New York University ’27) and Alex Beebe (University of Southern California ’27): Applying as a film student.

May 22: Lily Wickersham (Marist College ’27) and Mia Vindiola (Parsons School of Design ’27): Visual art and fashion.

May 24: Lexi Walsh (Washington University ’27): Architecture.

Click here to register.

Artwork by Mia Vindiola

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Westport artist Cris Dam is our newest ACE.

Presented by the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, the Arts & Culture Empowerment (ACE) award honors individuals, organizations and businesses that make significant contributions to the area.

An artist-entrepreneur who pioneered artists spaces in Berlin, Williamsburg and now Bridgeport, he is also a curator and community organizer.

After establishing his studio in Bridgeport, and reviving art events at the historic Arcade Mall, he established Ursa Gallery in 2020. Dam organized the first Bridgeport booth at Art Basel Miami in 2022. a

Dam is currently developing real estate on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport to create working spaces for fellow artists, raise community awareness, host events, and open a coffee roaster. He also teaches children in community art and leadership programs at Norwalk Community College. 

Dam receives his honor next month, at a Norwalk Shore & Country Club breakfast. A special President’s Award will be presented to Westporters Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, recognizing their significant impact on the arts, culture and children’s health in Fairfield County. The MC is Weston’s James Naughton. Click here for full details.

Cris Dam

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Westport’s spring paving program begins Monday (May 15). It continues through mid-June.

The following roads will be paved (though not in this order):

  • Oak Street
  • Rodgers Way
  • Reimer Road
  • Sprucewood Lane
  • High Point Road
  • Adams Farms Road
  • Greystone Farm Lane
  • Wedgewood Road
  • Peaceful Lane
  • Chapel Hill Road
  • Pritchard Lane
  • Increase Lane
  • Harding Lane
  • Sunrise Road.

Questions? Call the Department of Public Works: 203-341-1120.

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Jonathan Greenstein — the photojournalist/film director/tea importer/ athlete/world traveler/ environmentalist, whose battle with ALS inspired countless people around the world — died in 2021. He was 50 years old.

Westporters have not forgotten him.

A Wim Hof Fundamentals Workshop — teaching techniques that help patients breathe stronger and longer == is set for Saturday, May 20 (10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.).

A $225 donation benefits the Breathe4ALS Foundation. Attendees receive a hardcover book of Greenfield’s photography and log pants.

The event is free for people living with ALS. Click here for tickets, and more information.

Not long after his ALS diagnosis, Jonathan Greenfield (right) hiked in Spain with Wim Hof.

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Britt Hennemuth — the 2008 Staples High School and 2012 Pepperdine University graduate, now the West Coast editor for Vanity Fair — has a great story in the May edition.

In “Suddenly, Stephanie Hsu is Everywhere,” the actress talks about her intense year, her love for Jamie Lee Curtis, and how her next movie, “Joy Ride,” defies stereotypes. Click here to read. (Hat tip: John Karrel)

Britt Hennemuth

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Speaking of film: Generations of Westporters have thrilled to enormous, all-around movies at the Norwalk IMAX Theater.

Mountain climbers, deep sea divers, rock concerts — we’ve seen it all.

No more.

The building is being dismantled. It’s part of the state Department of Transportation’s reconstruction of the 123-year-old Norwalk River railroad span (the “Walk Bridge”).

A new 4D theater, built on the other side of the Maritime Aquarium, opened in 2021.

(Photo and hat tip: Whitmal Cooper)

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Patti Brill’s peonies make a perfect “Westport … Naturally” picture.

(Photo/Patti Brill)

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And finally … as the Parks & Recreation Commission debates a port-a-potty at Old Mill Beach (story above) — it’s not our usual song. But besides all the music at Woodstock, there was this:

(“06880” needs your support, no s—. Please click here to donate. Thank you!) 

Visual Brand And 4-Year-Olds Make A Very Visual Map

Last year, when the Riverside Realty Group wanted to create a visually exciting map of Westport for new homebuyers, they turned to The Visual Brand.

The Church Lane design firm produced a creative, colorful representation of town highlights: schools, beaches, the Library, the Levitt Pavilion and much more.

More than 40 hand-made illustrations took a long time to finish. But the result was stunning:

Earlier this year, a Learning Community kindergarten class needed a road map of Westport for a special project. Assistant director Andrea Berkley called Riverside Realty.

They provided basic ones — and several copies of their beautiful graphic maps too. Andrea passed them on to teachers.

One 4-year old classroom was particularly intrigued. The youngsters had many questions, about it and their town.

Exploring the Visual Brand map.

Seizing on the school’s philosophy of helping children investigate topics of interest, teachers Kelly Gipson, Jen Dennison and Jeanne Colonna invited Randy and his team to the classroom.

They answered questions: “How long did it take to make the map?” “How did you decide what to put on it?”

Then Randy had a question of his own: “Do you want to make your own map?”

Of course! And what’s the most important place to children? Their home!

Teachers asked each family for a photo of their house, for each youngster to draw. Then they asked them to think of another place in Westport that’s important to them.

Ideas included Compo Beach (“I like the playground”), the station (“I love trains”), the YMCA (“I like to play basketball”) and Carvel (“We get ice cream there”).

Other places of interest: a grandmother’s house (“My favorite place is Mimi’s) and their school (The Learning Community was not on the original map).

All the drawings went to Randy and his team.

Last week — ta da! — they brought their finished map to the class.

The kids were excited. But the final produced exceeded even their high expectations.

“That’s my house!” one boy says.

Randy’s team captured the colors and whimsical nature of the children’s drawings, while also including elements of a map they had learned about, like topography (rivers, coastlines) and a compass rose.

The Visual Brand donated a large version to the school — and a personal copy to each boy and girl.

First Selectwoman Jen Tooker was there too. The children presented her with a copy.

Each then eagerly showed her their own special places.

They may never look at their town the same way again.

Top row (from left): Teachers Jeanne Colonna and Kelly Gipson, Visual Brand artists Courtney Pagano-Rodriguez and Rob King, owner Randy Herbertson (3rd from right), 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker (2nd from right), teacher Jen Dennison. Bottom: The young mapmakers.

(Every day, kids and adults do wonderful things in Westport. “06880” brings those stories to life. Please click here to support our work — and thank you!)