Annual celebration unites, entertains Van Antwerp

INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER
One Van Antwerp student works to finish up one of three murals during Community Day, assisted by Niskayuna parent and muralist Kevin Clark. 
Friday, October 7, 2016.INDIANA NASH/GAZETTE REPORTER One Van Antwerp student works to finish up one of three murals during Community Day, assisted by Niskayuna parent and muralist Kevin Clark. Friday, October 7, 2016.

Community Day at VA

BY INDIANA NASH

Gazette Reporter

NISKAYUNA- Community Day at Van Antwerp Middle School had kids out Geocaching, painting murals, playing pickleball and getting out of their comfort zones with new people and new activities.

“We do this to build togetherness and camaraderie,” said Alyssa La Patra, an art teacher at the school who helps to organize Community Day.

It also helps the students to see the teachers – and each other- in a different way.

“Your science teacher could be doing the tie-dye workshop,” La Patra said.

All day on Oct. 7,students had the chance to learn something new and meet students they wouldn’t normally have a chance to talk to.

While waiting for the pickleball courts to open up, two VA students struck up a conversation and realized that they’d actually signed up for a few of the same workshops that day.

Samantha Cerezo, one of the students, said that she liked having the chance to talk to people that she doesn’t normally see.

There was a creative camaraderie sweeping through the second floor of the school, where students were all working on three different murals.

“We’ve been trying to get these done for almost three years now and I think we’re finally going to be able to,” La Patra said.

The murals, started by the school’s art club, are as expansive as they are creative.

One is under the sea themed with messages encouraging kids to be a part of their community.

Kevin Clark, a local muralist and VA parent was there helping students to add to their collection of aquatic creatures.

Around the corner, students worked on a mural that showed how every student could fit into the ‘VA puzzle’.

“This is great because it also gives kids who aren’t in art club and who normally wouldn’t be working on this to have a chance,” La Patra said.

Outside, a group of almost 20 students were wandering around.

But rather than gather them together and get them back inside, VA teacher R.A. LeBel encouraged the students to wander, guided by a small GPS device.

For many students, it was their first time geocaching.  

“I’ve been doing this for about eight years now with my family,” LeBel said, a sixth grade social studies teacher at VA.

Kids used the GPS trackers to find where small ‘caches’ were hidden around school grounds.

When one student found the first cache, all the other students ran to see what was inside.

They found a note declaring ‘You’re getting good at this,” but alluding to more caches to come.

“This s great because it’s a mix of the grades. In one group I have a brother and sister and otherwise they wouldn’t really see each other throughout the day,” LeBel said.

Throughout the day, the kids also had the chance to get off school grounds and go to off school grounds for a fishing workshop at Central Park  or a curling class at the Balltown Road Curling Club.

Shortly after lunch, the day was wrapped up with a presentation on anti-bullying.

“That’s where the day really comes together,” said Tacey Newell, one of the event’s organizers. It drives home the message that everyone at the school fits into the community puzzle.

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