A selection of articles & videos about Hayground

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Hayground Kids 'Not Afraid Of Greatness,' To Stage 'Twelfth Night' At Guild Hall

By Alisha Steindecker

Lunchtime last Friday at the Hayground School was far from typical—a sword fight had erupted in one room, down the hall from a shipwreck in another. Kids put the final touches on their Shakespearean outfits in the art room, and rainbow curtains hung in the gym.

The students had transformed their school into a theatrical workshop as they rehearsed their adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” a play about self-discovery that opens Thursday night, December 17, at Guild Hall in East Hampton.

The entire Hayground School student body—85 children between ages 3 and 13—is involved in the play, in one way or another, according to Jon Snow, who helped co-found the Bridgehampton school in 1996. Despite having to decipher Shakespearean English, which can be a daunting task, the students were completely focused, serious and engaged in their lines.

That’s because, Mr. Snow noted, they understood those lines.

He largely credited Shakespeare & Company, an actor-training program based in the Berkshires of Massachusetts that returned for its 18th annual educational residency at the school. The troupe sent four professional actors to help the students study the story, text and history of this romantic comedy—the classic love triangle between nobleman Orsino, who loves Lady Olivia, who loves Cesario, who is really a woman named Viola, who loves Orsino.

Every day, the students warmed up in a circle and checked in, often by answering a question—for example: “If you could be an ice cream, what would you be?”—which can give insight into each student’s psyche, Mr. Snow said. Then, after they learn their lines, they practice speaking them and “reinforce.”

“I reinforce all of your great energy,” said Artistic Director Amanda Newcomer, one of the four actors who visited the school, sitting in a circle with about four students.

Thirteen-year-old Julian Cheng and 12-year-old Miles Clarke were charged with portraying Cesario—who is really Viola in disguise—and Sir Andrew, respectively, dueling to win the love of Lady Olivia, acted by 13-year-old Isabelle Topliff. They ran toward each other and collided their two wooden swords, an added perk of the roles.

Isabelle said she likes that everyone’s identities are a mystery for much of the play, as well as “all of the rejection.”

“I will respect that I was given a sword,” Julian added.

Mr. Snow said that the students enjoy “Twelfth Night” because of its light-hearted nature and it allows them to invest their full energy. “We are synchronistic with our philosophy,” Mr. Snow said. “The amount of physical energy and the kinetic aspect is important. Thinking and moving goes hand in hand.”

Marcelle Langendal, also a co-founder of the Hayground School, said it is relatively easy for the students to learn the play, even the 3-year-olds, who will recite 12 lines in unison to open the performance. Even the youngest children are involved in learning about Shakespeare and, by the time they are 13, they will have already been exposed to several of his plays.

“Shakespeare & Company has introduced Shakespeare to American kids,” Mr. Snow said. “They go so deeply into the text and amplify its meaning.

“This is in them,” he added. “You just have to uncover it.”

Shakespeare & Company’s residency will culminate in two performances of “Twelfth Night” on Thursday, December 17, at 1 and 6 p.m. at Guild Hall in East Hampton. Suggested donation is $10. Proceeds will benefit Hayground School’s Visiting Arts program. For more information, visit

Shakespeare & Company in Residence at Hayground School

On December 1, four professional actors from the Berkshires’ Shakespeare & Company arrived in Bridgehampton to begin their 18th annual residency with students at Hayground School.

Over the next three weeks, the four mentors will lead the entire school—85 students from ages three to 13—through an in-depth exploration of the story, text, and history of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, “Twelfth Night.”

“Making Shakespeare accessible and inclusive,” says actor Caitlin Kraft, is the aim of Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program. The residency includes daily theater games, warm-ups, and activities to help students understand the story of the play and the emotion behind Shakespeare’s text.

Shakespeare & Company’s residency at Hayground culminates in two performances of “Twelfth Night” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 17.

Kids in the Kitchen

Edible East End, June 2, 2014, by Geraldine Pluenneke

The Hayground School in Bridgehampton is realizing a dream that has quietly landed it on the cutting edge of school lunches nationally. The dream involves tempting young children to respect and crave healthy food in a culture awash in processed fare and restoring the prime socializing cement of a shared table.

“Red wine vinegar for the salad dressing,” blond seven-year-old Colin announces firmly, his mini-toque printed with half and whole lemons slipping down to his eyebrows. “And balsamic and two mustards,” he says pointing to the Dijon and the tin of dried mustard.

“We’ll use pink salt,” declares 11-year-old Audrey, who minutes earlier had been guiding Colin as the two shaved long ribbons of carrots with Swiss peelers for the salad. Across the commercially approved “Jeff’s Kitchen,” two nine-year-olds are making eight pans of corn bread while pots of four-bean venison and vegetarian chili simmer on the stove and a tray of ramps for the salad roasts in the oven. Two seven-years-olds hurry around the dining room setting 90 places at the tables. Earlier, the six had helped choose the menu.

“Fifteen minutes to go. Ccccrunch time,” the children hear. At 11:30 a.m. a tide of laughter and chatter pours into the dining room as students and their teachers surge toward seats and a delicious chili, corn bread and salad lunch.

Hayground School in Bridgehampton is realizing a dream that has quietly landed it on the cutting edge of school lunches nationally. The dream involves tempting young children to respect and crave healthy food in a culture awash in processed fare and restoring the prime socializing cement of a shared table.

Four days a week students, even five- and six-year-olds, harvest crops from the private, progressive elementary school’s greenhouse, plan menus and then cook lunch for classmates and staff. Lunch has become the rich, communal core of Hayground’s day. Food is a valued part of the curriculum, with students spending a fifth of their time on it, as much as is dedicated to math. Even more revolutionary, the school went through the arduous task of getting health department approval for having kids in the kitchen, a time-consuming process that required shutting the culinary program down for nearly two years.

You hear versions of this dream from celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver. It was the utopian vision of the late restaurateur Jeff Salaway, who spent hours talking of his passion with Jonathan Snow, Hayground’s director of admissions, the art studio and gardening, after both helped found the school in 1996. Hayground’s cooking program started as a tribute to Salaway with a Chefs Dinner fund-raiser that helped build Jeff’s Kitchen at the school after his tragic death in 2001. About that time, the school received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation’s “lab school” mission.

But the mission faced stumbles four years ago. No elementary or high school on Long Island, and quite possibly no school across the land, had ever turned its kitchen over to students. Most American schools rely on warming ovens to heat processed food. Cooking classes tend to be confined to extracurricular activities or home economic classes.

Hayground had a beautiful kitchen used by professional chefs. Its staff believed it met any certification needed for children to cook in it. That assumption was shattered when an inspector from the Suffolk Department of Health arrived unannounced.

Exhaust hoods were too small. There was no barrier between kitchen and dining areas. “Children could wander into the kitchen,” the alarmed inspector exclaimed. The list ran on. Since the kitchen was exactly where Arjun Achutchan, who heads culinary arts, and Snow wanted children to be, a collaboration between Hayground and the health department brought everything up to exacting restaurant certification standards with the help of a consultant, a former inspector. Achutchan and Snow remember the moment he told them, “I wrote the law and there’s nothing about the age of people working in the kitchen.” Official approval eventually came, and Hayground quietly set a fantastic precedent: The program can now be duplicated at any school in Suffolk County.

“Kids like the idea of being professional, having a hairnet and wearing gloves and seeing the autoclave working properly on the dishwasher,” says Snow.

Achutchan adds the program is not just for the children of the wealthy. “Hayground is actually a middle-class school…a scholarship school with token full-payers. Full tuition at the school runs $21,000 per student annually, but the average tuition is $8,000 since 60 percent of students receive assistance.”

Starting With Salads

“When Arjun started the cooking program, salad was at the bottom of the list,” says Snow. “A lot of kids did not have a salad culture, had had dreadful experiences with salads.” Now, by popular student demand, some days are “NBS”: nothing but salads. On a recent Thursday, there was a Caesar salad, followed by a bowl of baby frisée, kale and chard picked that morning from the greenhouse with miso dressing, an orzo salad with tiny cubes of yellow beets and a killer potato salad; each could have been served in a good restaurant.

Seventy-eight students, ages three to 14, sit at long tables in the dining room with 12 staff members. A din of conversation and laughter fill the 2,000-square-foot room as bowls of second and third helpings of salads make the rounds. Abruptly everyone’s hand shoots up and the room falls silent as end-of-lunch announcements begin. After a few words, whistles, claps and shouts erupt. It turns out a well-known greens-disdaining nine-year-old had just eaten his first Caesar salad. He confessed he liked it. He said he was ready for more.

“He said he had never had a salad before,” says Achutchan, a mulish attitude the greens-distainer’s peers knew well. “Yesterday he told me he’d never eaten fruit. I said, ‘for real?’ He said, ‘I’ve never eaten a vegetable.’ I said ‘for real?’”

Achutchan hesitated weighing how to play his answer, finally saying, “I wish I were you. I would have so much to look forward to.” The boy shot back, “I’ve never done it and I won’t.”

“How do you get kids interested in eating healthy food? You eat it,” says Snow, a teaching veteran of 35 years who began his career in East Harlem schools. Ideally, you grow as much of it as possible, sourcing the rest locally, then teach kids how to cook it: Salaway’s dream, which Snow has shepherded for 13 years.

The students work in mixed-aged groups taking turns every eight weeks in the kitchen and in the 960 square feet of greenhouses.

The knife question springs to mind since five-year-olds are assigned to the kitchen. “When can they use a knife?” asks Achutchan. “When they’re able. With the little ones I’ll cut vegetables down to a julienne, then they chop it from there.”

There are clear payoffs in Jeff’s Kitchen beyond the day’s menu. Achutchan, who is also a math teacher, says, “There’s an abundance of math in cooking, science in the garden, practical vocational skills, an awareness of the chemistry of growing plants, which is not learned in the abstract from a textbook. There are discussions of food safety and of the politics and economics of food.”

“We’re actually kind of a magnet for chef families,” Snow says. “Our kids are used to eating really high-quality lunch. Organic food. We don’t buy meat any more. We don’t want the hormones. When we do eat meat, it’s what parents have hunted or from Art Ludlow or Iacano. We can’t afford to buy fish, but if someone on staff catches a load of, say, bluefish, we’ll have it.”

Some argue that being in a constant hurry is the core of the problem with food in America. Snow nods, “That’s why when we go to the greenhouse we spend two minutes just sitting silently with all the plants, just appreciating the colors, the air, the stillness.” (Snow’s first experience teaching through food was in the 1980s when he took young children in the Bronx on walks to sketch plants they found in neighborhood parks and taste wild berries.) Hayground was the recipient of $6,000 from Slow Food East End’s Edible School Garden project grant to build a greenhouse, when no public school was in a position to accept it. Recently, Snow has expanded the outside gardens of herbs and edible weeds. “Our kids are adventurous eaters and foragers. Weeds like wild sorrel, dandelion, chickweed, epazote, lamb’s quarters, our kids are familiar with all of them now,” says Snow.

Hayground’s first Chefs Dinner in 2002 funded the first part of Jeff’s Kitchen. Since then, the event, supported by top New York City and East End chefs and one of the culinary highlights of the Hamptons’ high season, has become a major source of fund-raising. It brings in $150,000 to $250,000 a year through its annual cocktail party, art auction and dinner. It represents a major part of the school’s operating budget and has funded the expansion of the kitchen along with very meaningful extras like a wood-burning pizza oven and a future tractor.

Unlike past years when a cocktail party for as many as 500 guests preceded the Chefs Dinner, this year there will be no cocktail party. Instead because of a new addition to Jeff’s Kitchen there will be space to serve a greater number of guests, 150 at its August 3 sit-down dinner. Alfred Portale and Eric Ripert are among this year’s featured chefs. The event will honor chef Tom Colicchio and his wife, filmmaker Lori Silverbush, who last year was coproducer of an eloquent documentary pastoral of hunger in America, A Place at the Table.

For Hayground’s visionaries see well beyond Jeff’s Kitchen and the school’s gardens, farmers market and summer camp; they hope to export their accomplishments if not immediately to other schools, then to parents and after-school programs.

“Parents can start their own gardens with kids,” says Snow. “It’s like sitting down and having a meal together.”

Student Films Impress at Guild Hall

Dan's Paper,  April 2, 2013, by Marion Wolberg Weiss

It’s hard to believe that the Annual Student Film Project is in its 10th year. Sponsored by Guild Hall, the competition is part of the Student ArtExhibit, which has been around for a whole lot longer. While film once played an impor- tant role in art programs throughout the United States (especially animation) during the 1960s, such a phenom- enon was short lived. That’s why we are especially fortunate that it’s still flourishing herein both public and private schools alike.

This year’s entries continue the tradition of creative and ambitious content, along with technological expertise. Yes, some of the films could usecutting and perhaps a bit of clarity, but such observations seem irrelevant when the filmmakers are 8-year-olds. In fact, we can’t even criticize the shaky cameras. You’d be surprised how many Holly- wood movies today use hand-held (shaky) cameras as an intentional aesthetic tool. No matter if our third graders don’t use this particular technique on purpose. A shaky camera is a shaky camera. The effect is often the same.

Speaking of techniques, all the images were clear; music, dialogue and sound effects were appropriate and distinct as well. In a nutshell, these were not home movies: what a great tribute to the students and staff.

While all the films deserve special attention, some need additional commentary. In the Grade 2-4 category, consider A Happy Ending by Clio Halweil and Shayla Lopez. It was the most “artful” project, featuring an animated image of a beach scene with figures moving about; the setting itself appeared to be created from tissue paper. Other animated films were equally enjoyable, one called Baseball by Kimberly Bermeo and Charley Burge, and another titled Crayon by Noah Topliff where crayons were arranged in diverse patterns.

Live action films were plentiful, too, with students from the Springs School interviewing pupils and staff about varied subjects. Each of these movies covered such subjects as What Do You Like About Your Parents? and What’s the Best Thing That Happened to You? The topics were especially creative and thought-provoking, motivating the participants to be serious. Such films could also stimulate classroom discussions.

The six works from Grades 9-12 were obviously more complicated and longer. A few had a plot while others were documentaries or animated. Jani Gruen’s non-fiction film, Remember, was an especially moving tribute to the plight of the Jews in World War II. It featured archival footage and what appeared to be live interviews with Holocaust sur- vivors. We may have seen some of the archival images before, but Gruen’s diligence and passion were outstanding.

Tony and Bella’s Adventure by Riko Kawahara showed as much hard work and intention, but as an animated film, it was cheerful and lighthearted. It would have made a good lesson for young children learning the alphabet. Finally, Time by Brian Pucci represented the only conceptual movie, juxtaposing various black and white images dealing with kinds of time, including accelerated motion. The cinematography was particularly noteworthy: the lighting, editing and composition contributing to the elegant effect.

A screening of these and other films in the Student Film Competition will be held at East Hampton’s Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, on April 14 at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.


Hayground Students Do Well In Smithsonian Invent It! Challenge

The Southampton Press, Shaye Weaver, February 18, 2013

Students in Julie Fanelli-Denny’s class at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton have been using their thinking caps to create inventions this year, and their hard work was rewarded in January when two of their creations won recognition in the Smithsonian-ePals Global Invent It! Challenge. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation teamed up with ePals, an online educational community, for the second annual Invent It! Challenge where the students’ inventions were judged in the 5 to 8 age group for improving an existing invention. The students’ “Dr. Bot 

Water Fountain Mask” won runner up and their “Just Right Pajamas” won the “Judges Want It” mention. 

The students grouped up and some worked independently to solve a real world problem by inventing or improving a product already in existence. To enter into the contest, the students had to recognize a problem, find ways the problem could be solved and design a prototype or model of the invention. 

The class of 5- to 10-year-olds were ecstatic to learn they had done so well in a competition out of nearly 300 prekindergarten to 12th grade students across the globe who submitted their ideas, according to Ms. Fanelli-Denny. 

“They were so psyched,” she said last Friday. “For their work to be validated like that, they’re never going to forget that.” 

Ms. Fanelli-Denny said the contest came at just the right time because, as part of their regular curriculum, the students had been reading about inventors and their lives, and the importance of perseverance when creating something new. 

According to students Devyn Eames, Rachel Saccone, Beatrix Huberty, Olive Purazzi and Tola Bliss, every time someone drinks out of the water fountain at school, their face gets wet, especially for students who are shorter. The group of students designed the Dr. Bot Water Fountain Mask—named for the first letter in each of their first names—to keep water from dripping down fountain drinkers’ chins. After building a prototype out of a tall piece of cardboard and covering the top of it with soft, blue foam, the students tried out their invention. By trial and error, the students decided they needed a smaller and more sterile solution. 

For their efforts, which won them runner up in their age group, the students were awarded with a LEGO set, a Smithsonian/ePals beach ball and an ePals Earth stress ball. 

Oliver Simoncic, who invented the “Just Right Pajamas,” wanted to find a way to stay cool at night because he said he sweats in his pajamas. Oliver decided to cut “air holes” in his prototype pajamas. 

Other students in the class invented a wide range of products from another, similar pair of breathable pajamas to an indoor plant watering system, sanded-down paper that doesn’t give paper cuts, a new board game that incorporates physical activity, a new and improved funnel and a fingertip mouse for a computer. 

According to the Smithsonian, the ideas submitted by students were many in number and covered a wide range of problems. 

“We saw a six-fold increase over last year in the number of submissions,” said Smithsonian Assistant Secretary for Education and Access Claudine Brown. “The quality and creativity demonstrated by the students were outstanding.” 

For Ms. Fanelli-Denny, however, her students’ creativity was awe-inspiring, especially the more technical ideas like the fingertip mouse—an idea that students who grew up in another era wouldn’t have dreamed about. 

“I am so impressed with what they came up with,” she said. “They have so many ideas and they’re infectious.” 

Stressing that creativity is all about perseverance, Ms. Fanelli-Denny said that the students will continue to improve their inventions. 

“They know that all their ideas were valuable and they’ll have the chance to actually work it out,” she added. “To see that they are a crucial part of the world, if they understand that at an early age, that’s great.” 

Let Down the Barriers

The New York Times, by Bob Herbert, May 19, 1997

More than 30 years ago, in one of the many nasty fights over
integrating the New York City schools, there was a huge march in a
snowstorm across the Brooklyn Bridge. Fifteen thousand boisterous
protesters, most of them women and all of them white, marched
from the Board of Education in Brooklyn to City Hall in lower
Manhattan. What they wanted was no change in their mostly white
neighborhood schools. Integration may or may not have been O.K. as a concept, but steps to make it a reality got those parents out of their homes and onto the bridge in a hurry. 

The protesters, singing ''We got troubles of our own,'' were anxious not to be seen as racists. When a black man named Walker Williams was spotted on the bridge, a protest leader yelled through a megaphone: ''Put him in the middle! Put him in the middle!'' 

Mr. Williams was given a placard and hustled into the line of march. He was not a parent but that didn't matter; he was black. Almost certainly he was confused. A reporter for The Times wrote, ''After a few minutes, he disappeared.'' 

That was in March 1964. Thirty-three years later real integration is still a radical notion, still rare. But it's not dead. The Manhattan Country School, to cite one example, has long attracted parents who want their children to grow and learn in an atmosphere far removed from the destructive rhythms of racial isolation, prejudice and hate. 

There are other examples, but fewer than you might imagine as we near the close of a century that delivered so much in terms of science and technology and so little in the way of tolerance and human understanding. 

Now comes a tiny experimental effort in the Hamptons that is bringing together families from breathtakingly different backgrounds. At the Hayground School, housed for the moment in the Bridgehampton Methodist Church, small children can be found chattering easily and knowledgeably about a Passover seder, a traditional Native American snake dance, the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, or Dickens. 

The school was founded a year ago by a group of parents and educators who felt that in addition to a rigorous academic environment, children should have the opportunity to interact normally and regularly with youngsters from a variety of backgrounds. The idea is to try to resolve, at least to some degree, the perpetual conflict between the ideals of equality and brotherhood on which this country was founded and the relentless hostility and suspicion that saturate our daily lives. 

''It's great to watch the kids interact with such freedom, such abandon and such joy,'' said Roy Scheider, the actor, who is one of the founding parents of the school. ''This is normal for them. I wish that we adults could have the same feeling.'' 

Mr. Scheider, who recently did a benefit performance for the school with the actor Danny Glover, recalled the atmosphere of prejudice within his own family when he was growing up. ''My father, who had a service station in New Jersey, would always spew out this venom about black people. Just the worst kind of stuff. But there was this guy who worked for him with the unlikely name of Friend Avery, who was black. And he was crucial to my life.'' 

Friend Avery became a mentor to Roy Scheider, filling emotional and other needs that Mr. Scheider's father did not. At Hayground, the relationship between Mr. Avery and Mr. Scheider is reflected in myriad ways. When an effort is made to discard prejudices and stereotypes, mentors can come from many directions, and unusual friendships can become the norm. 

Hayground is privately financed and two-thirds of the youngsters receive some form of tuition assistance. The school, which has a waiting list of applicants, will move into a new building in September. It is far too early to tell if Hayground will be a success. But for people who think the nation's ideals should be something more than a cynical sound bite, its splendid and courageous mission is tremendously important. 

2014 Great Chefs Dinner: Q&A with Founder Toni Ross

Edible East End, by Alex Goetzfried,  May 9, 2014

Save the date, August 3, for the Great Chefs Dinner, a fundraiser for student-collaborative kitchen and garden at Hayground School. Learn more about it with this interview with Toni Ross of Nick & Toni’s and one of the school’s founders.

The Great Chefs Dinner, a fund-raiser for Hayground School in Bridgehampton, has become a signature culinary event on the East End each summer. This year marks the 10th anniversary, and the lineup is already nothing short of spectacular. Elite chefs, including Alfred Portale (Gotham Bar & Grill), Jason Weiner (Almond), Joe Realmuto (Nick & Toni’s) and Christian Mir (Stone Creek Inn), will be cooking to raise money for Jeff’s Kitchen at the school. The kitchen was built in memory of restaurateur Jeff Salaway to honor his goal of educating children about the importance of growing, harvesting and preparing food.

The benefit will be Sunday, August 3, and tickets are $1,000. The event is honoring four-star top chef Tom Colicchio and his wife, filmmaker Lori Silverbush. Salaway’s wife, Toni Ross, and Le Bernardin chef, Eric Ripert, are hosting the dinner. Edible East End sat down with Ross at her Wainscott art studio to talk about the history of the event and the importance of food education.

EEE: How did the first Great Chefs Dinner happen 10 years ago?

TR: Oh my God, was it 10 years ago? Oh wow…. My husband had died in 2001 and he was one of the founders of the school, and since its inception he had envisioned a culinary program that incorporated all kinds of things, cultural exchange, cooking, math, geopolitical issues, a way of communities coming together. And so he died in 2001 and the community, along with Jeff’s sister, Lizz Salaway, decided to do this fund-raiser bringing together all of Jeff’s chef friends to cook a meal. That first chefs dinner, we raised something like $310,000. People were really generous; it was really emotional and it was enough to get us started to frugally build a building, that’s how Jeff’s Kitchen was built. The first one was in New York City, and we did several in New York City the first years. On the occasion of Nick and Toni’s 20th anniversary, we made a big celebration out here. By then, the following year, we were able to host the dinner at Jeff’s Kitchen. That was the first year we were able to bring people to the kitchen and they could see what they had built.

EEE: What cause is the dinner raising money for?

TR: The dinner raises money both to support the culinary and garden program as well as to raise money for scholarships. Early on Slow Food East End underwrote an initial greenhouse for us, which was also part of my husband’s vision that the kids would be growing their own things and eventually selling their own foods and eating all together lunch every day with things they had grown in the garden. Now we have just built a second greenhouse, a larger greenhouse, and we are really supplying everything for ourselves. And then we add in some things from other local growers, but the kids make their own meal four days a week and serve it to each other. It’s incredible. The food is fantastically good.

EEE: Why was your husband so passionate about children learning about food and making food part of the educational process?

TR: He was passionate about food, period. He was passionate about what it does when people come together at a table. And he wanted our kids and kids in the community where he lived to have a better academic and educational experience than he had had as a child, and he felt that cooking, being in the kitchen, sitting down together was an opportunity — and particularly for this school where we have such a diversity of kids — it was an opportunity to share with each other and kind of let your guard down, and you could share stories about your family’s own cooking and how it differs from someone else’s. You could get into all kinds of conversations about the geopolitical implications of food. Why do some countries have this, and others have that, and who’s holding the salt. Where does the fish come from? He really saw it as a learning tool for many disciplines in a hands-on, fully experiential program.

EEE: I have always felt that there is more room for coverage of food from a geopolitical and societal angle, not just what the latest trend is.

TR: I’ve told this little anecdote before, but my husband always had a big stack of books on the night table and two of the books sitting on top of each other were The History of God andThe History of CodThe History of Cod is really about the development of a social strata throughout the world and salt cod and trading cod. There have been books simply written about salt, or other really important commodities. It can really inform how you see the world, if you really look at who’s holding what.

EEE: How do local food events like the Great Chefs Dinner and local farmers markets play a role in the health of a community?

TR: Supporting your community is something that we at Hayground are deeply committed to. It’s really the essence of the school. It’s a school where we would love to have any family that wants to send their child be able to do that. For that reason we support a lot of assistance for kids to come to the school. In order to have a healthy community, it’s important to support your neighbors. I think over the past 10 to 15 years there has been a dramatic increase in the interest in farms and sustainable eating and trying new things. Farms are growing a bunch of new things that haven’t been grown here previously. It relieves you of trucking things from God-only-knows where and putting tons of gas and fuel in the air; I really think there is a sense of pride in eating local and supporting your neighbors.

EEE: What are your day-to-day eating habits like?

TR: I’m naturally a healthy eater. As a kid I would be the one at the birthday party who asked for an apple instead of birthday cake. I eat a pretty good variety of food. There are not a lot of things I don’t eat — except I’m famous for not eating celery. But I’m a big fan of carbs. I’ll often go to the farm stand, buy a bunch of asparagus and eat half of it raw before I get home. I’ve been inspired by Hayground’s garden, as many of us have been, and I’ve been growing my own things here at home. My kale is coming up, and my garlic has sprouted and I’m waiting for the peas. My dog eats the snap peas off the vine and cherry tomatoes. It’s the funniest thing; she loves them.

EEE: How important is the local farming community to the social fabric of the Hamptons, and what needs to be done to preserve it?

TR: I think that’s a bigger question than I can answer. I think every community needs its farmers and needs its butchers and poultry farmers. It’s complex out here because of the land value. Actually, we as a community here have bought some development rights for the farm down the street, so they can continue to do what they do. Hayground has really played a significant role in working with other schools. There’s a consortium of all the schools, public and private schools, that come together to talk about food issues, farming issues, culinary programs. It can be hard to push through these gardening and culinary programs; they require time, effort and passion, and we’ve established such a strong presence and have really worked with the Department of Health and other political community organizations to change how they perceive kids in the kitchen with food.

EEE: How did Tom Colicchio and Eric Ripert get involved with the Great Chefs Dinner?

TR: ’Cause they’re angels. Tom was a friend of my husband’s, so I’ve known him for quite a while. And Eric, he came to do one of the dinners about six or seven years ago and just out of the goodness of his heart. Sandra (Ripert) and Eric have a son at Hayground camp; he’s madly in love with the camp, and he’s a great asset there. He loves the kitchen program at the camp, and I think Eric and Sandra have felt very close to the organization and have been really so supportive. So, Eric, since the first year he participated, has either cooked or been a guest or been a co-host with me. We honored him last year, and much to my complete shock he told me he had never been honored before. We did it first, and I couldn’t even believe it.

EEE: That’s mind-boggling.

TR: Yeah, that is mind-boggling. If you ask Tom why he does it, it’s because I ask. Jeff was a good friend, and there’s a real bond between restaurant people. This is what happens when chefs come together for something they really believe in. They put everything they have into it.

EEE: What is the dinner itself like?

TR: The dinner is really fun. One of the great things about the dinner — aside from the fact that you’re supporting an extraordinary program — is the Hamptons is a community that a lot of people don’t really know. This is a different Hamptons, what is being supported here. Aside from the fact that you’re supporting this extraordinary program, you’re having the opportunity to watch these chefs prepare the food. It’s an intimate setting, and all the chefs chip in to help each other. You’ll suddenly have Eric Ripert and Tom Colicchio, Josh Capon and Alfred Portale all plating food together and having fun. They’re really having fun, that, in and of itself, is just a blast. The food is obviously amazing. It’s a five-course dinner, and there’s a live auction, limited to six fantastic items exclusively food- and travel-related.

EEE: I think Hayground covers most of the food gamut for students.

TR: Yeah, I think Hayground makes this kind of opportunity available because of the nature of the program itself. Kids have the time to delve deep into topics. So whether it’s food, culinary arts, fine arts, math, the school isn’t broken up into 40-minute increments. Kids will spend several hours on a given day preparing the food and planning the menu for the next day. They’re responsible for serving the meal and cleaning up.

EEE: That’s the way it should be; you can’t get much done in 40 minutes.

TR: They’re learning extraordinary life skills, and also the conversations are then moving into the families about what they’ve been eating. What’s interesting, which was not purposeful necessarily, was the majority of the meals that the kids eat at lunch are vegetarian. It’s not purposefully vegetarian for any obvious reason, its vegetarian because there is a commitment to knowing where the products come from. We know where our vegetables and produce comes from. We eat our own produce. We buy from organic local farmers. And if there’s an opportunity where somebody has shot venison let’s say, or has brought in some lamb, and we know the source, then the kids have actually learned about that. They’ve butchered the meat, they’ve cooked it and they serve it. But it’s rare that there’s meat involved, and so you can imagine there was some resistance from kids early on, “Oh I don’t eat salad” or “I don’t eat beets.” Eventually that really turns around. Eventually they try things. It is true that if kids are given the opportunity to grow food, they will eat it. There’s a curiosity and a pride in what they’re doing.

EEE: Do you think because it is a learning environment, and the kids are learning to cook in a technique-oriented way and sourcing their own ingredients, that it changes their perception of vegetables?

TR: Yes, absolutely. There is a connection to what is happening. They plant the seeds; they see the plants grow; they take care of them; they harvest them, and they cook them. And here’s the other really wonderful thing about the program: there’s an immediate cause and effect, which often does not happen in a classroom setting, while learning about history or math. These are things you will need, but for a child to say I just picked this thing — I cooked it, and now I’m serving it to my friends, and I’m going to eat it now — it’s so gratifying because it makes sense. It’s practical. Here it is. I did this. There is so much pride and so much respect between the kids about the food that it really changes the way they think about food in general.

EEE: I think for a kid to be able to see the whole process and to be able to go through it themselves and to create something from start to finish is something that children often don’t get to do in school.

TR: Having expanded the kitchen this past year, we are now able to seat all the kids and all the staff all together at lunch. We had just outgrown the space really quickly. It’s just so exciting to watch them sit down together. Also, if you’re dealing with a lunch box situation — we didn’t have the kitchen program when my kids were at Hayground — the lunch box gets opened, the kids eat in five minutes then they’re gone. There is no conversation, calming down, and apparently, I’ve heard from the teachers, the kids’ energy level is more even keeled because of the kinds of food they are eating for lunch. They’re not getting that big rush of carbs and sugar and then dropping an hour later.

EEE: From a social standpoint, there is so much about how kids are always on their phones and not interacting as much. What role does cooking and eating play in getting them out of that cyber world and back to interacting with each other?

TR: Well, that’s also a very big question. There’s no doubt the Hayground culinary program causes and allows kids and faculty to interact in a really intimate and meaningful way. They’re sharing ideas, planning together, developing recipes. They’ve even planted all different kinds of garlic one year and had tastings to pick the kind of garlic they wanted to use for their cooking. They feel ownership of what they’re doing, and they’re sharing ideas. I don’t think you can ask for more than that. You are developing critical thinking, teamwork, and respect; there’s a lot of mentoring that goes on between small kids and older kids.



Compiling the Autobiography of Narrow Lane

The New York Times, by Mary Cummings, September 21, 2003

IT has been almost five years since students at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton recorded their first interviews with residents of Narrow Lane and took their first photographs. Yet the project is still far from finished. 

Some of the students have graduated from the school, which goes
through the eighth grade, and new recruits, ages 9 to 15, have
signed on. Cameras and tape recorders in hand, they continue to knock on doors along Narrow Lane, which runs for two and a half miles between Bridgehampton and Wainscott. 

Jonathan Snow, the school's artist in residence who is the project's guiding force and himself a resident of Narrow Lane, was confident that his neighborhood had more than its share of interesting residents. But even he could scarcely have imagined the diversity and drama of the life stories he and his students have recorded in their visits with Narrow Lane's artists and farmers, old-timers and part-timers, workers from the migrant camp, people with deep local roots and people with ancestral ties to the Deep South, Latin America, Poland and elsewhere. 

One of their earliest interviews, in 1999, and probably one of their easiest, was with Richard Hendrickson, now 91, a lifelong Bridgehampton resident who grew up on his family's farm and remained there. A born storyteller, Mr. Hendrickson reached back hundreds of years to describe in biblical images the silent wilderness of towering trees that preceded the villages and roads that came later. 

''In the beginning,'' he said in his interview, ''it was all forest.'' Later, two-wheeled carts, pulled by oxen (''stronger than horses'') created the ''two ruts'' that became Narrow Lane, the route that took colonists from Bridgehampton to Northwest Harbor, where English ships arrived with supplies for the settlers. 

''He could have been walking down it himself,'' Mr. Snow said in recalling Mr. Hendrickson's evocative narrative. 

After hitting the historical highlights, Mr. Hendrickson moved on to recall his own youth on the farm. Every day 4,500 eggs had to be collected, 30 cows had to be milked every morning and evening, ''and it didn't matter whether it was your birthday, Christmas, a funeral or a wedding, you milked twice a day.'' Mr. Hendrickson said. For fun, he and his schoolmates ''played marbles or flew a kite,'' he said, and the neighborhood was their world. 

With the history of each of its old houses at his fingertips, he told the students how the old Bridgehampton school had been moved to Narrow Lane by a Dr. Gardiner, who made the building his home, and how it was later lived in by a Mr. Giuliani, a junkman and rag picker. ''It's still there today,'' he recalled, ''opposite the house built by Mr. Wilford, a Boer prisoner of war from Durrell Island, off Bermuda, who married a local Bridgehampton girl.'' 

It was a promising start for a project, which is designed to teach children ''how to listen to another person attentively,'' Mr. Snow said, a skill he described as ''one of the harder things in life to accomplish.'' He said he also hoped the students would develop an appreciation for the value of information gathered from primary sources and would gain confidence in their ability to evaluate and organize what they collect. 

On a more practical level, the project teaches students how to use a camera and tape recorder and helps them develop skills in interviewing, transcribing and editing. When the Narrow Lane Project is complete, which may not be anytime soon since no one really seems to want it to end, the plan is to put the edited narratives and selected photographs into a book that will paint a portrait of the community and reflect what the students have learned about the very concept of community. 

Edythe Collins, 14, said she had been nervous at the beginning: ''For the first two interviews I wondered, 'What would I say?' I was worried about getting it recorded right and about not making any unnecessary noise.'' 

With time, the nervousness disappeared. ''With a lot of people, you really had to ask only one question to open up a whole thing,'' she said. 

Daniel Abillama, 16, said he thought people are more comfortable talking to students than to adults, ''probably because they know young people are not going to take advantage, to exploit their stories.''

In approaching the men at the migrant camp, Mr. Snow said that the students were circumspect, mindful that they might not be welcome. At first the men were wary, but in time, the students photographed everyone at the camp and recorded some of their best interviews.

When the students arrived at the camp on a Sunday, Wallace Brinson -- ''a wonderful, soulful guy,'' as Mr. Snow described him -- was boning a deer and cooking grits. He was ready to give them an earful.

A migrant worker since he was 6, Mr. Brinson was driving a truck at the age of 14, something he was able to do because his father ''used to put a Coca-Cola box on the seat and tie blocks to the pedals,'' he said.

He told the story of his first trip to Caribou, Me., to harvest potatoes, and the local people, who had never seen such black skin before, pinched him to make sure it was real. ''It wasn't badness, just ignorance,'' he said, and after a while, they got along fine.

John Dombkowski, whose father came from Poland in 1907, was a month old when his family moved to Narrow Lane in 1927 and bought 32 acres to farm there. He worked hard and although there was never much money, ''we made our own fun,'' he said. He described one way they used to amuse themselves in the winter by attaching a piece of lath to their sleds like a mast and using a sack as a sail. ''We'd sail with the wind for miles across the fields, almost to the ocean,'' he said. ''Then we had to walk all the way back.''

In another interview, Estelita Roth, a doctor from Sri Lanka, recalled how her family had to flee from their home because her parents came from opposite sides of two warring ethnic groups.                                                                                                                                                                                    

Efraim Jimenez Hernandez, a Mexican immigrant who followed his two brothers to Bridgehampton to find work, told of getting lost for 15 days on his trip northward. ''First we had no water,'' he said, ''then we were caught in the elements, thunder and lightning, with no change of clothes. One of our friends died of exposure.''

Steve Miller, an artist, told the students why he loves his studio, an old potato grading and bagging station, and how his daily trips to the Sagaponack General Store helped him shed his outsider status. ''It was my network, the locus from which all my friendships grew,'' he said.

Another artist, Mary Heilman, told the students that she liked Narrow Lane so much that when she came to visit Mr. Miller's studio, she used to ride her bike down the road, looking for a ''For Sale'' sign. Then one day she saw one at the former schoolhouse that Dr. Gardiner had moved. Now she lives there and does her painting in the barn-turned-studio in back.

Finding the threads, following them to their point of connection, determining as they work toward the final phase of the project just what it was they were looking for in the first place -- that is what lies ahead, Mr. Snow said. In a presentation he prepared for a show of photographs and excerpts from the interviews at the Parrish Art Museum in 2001, Mr. Snow described the real value of the project: ''After knocking on your 5th, 10th, 15th door, after explaining your project for the 20th time, refining your line of inquiry, tailoring your approach to the subject, you may be making some powerful connections. You may be formulating some powerful opinions about what the people you are interviewing have in common. You may be noticing striking differences in their living standards, their sense of entitlement, their manner socially or their way of telling you about their lives.''

Daniel Abillama, whose main task has been retouching the photographs and producing top-quality prints, seemed to speak for the rest of the students when he called it ''a really interesting project, like nothing I ever heard of.''

''To take one road and find such a wide range and such contrasts,'' he said, ''it gave me a different perspective.''

A Vision Of Invisible Life

The Sag Harbor Express, By Richard Gambino, March 22, 2013

In 1633, John Donne asked each person if he or she was “born to strange sights, Things invisible to see.” I can’t say I was so born, but this month I was not only reminded of things invisible to see, but saw a great vision of many of them. Living things. No, I don’t mean ghosts or other supernatural things. To the total contrary, I mean completely natural invisible entities. What I saw was a large floor-to-ceiling high representation of the universe of microscopic life all around us, and in fact inside us too. We know this universe to consist of astronomically huge varieties, in individual numbers so great

as to be as impossible to imagine. In fact, a note at the exhibit told us that there are ten times the number of living single cell organisms on and in each of our human bodies as there of all the human cells in each of us. The number of cells inside each of us is calculated to be some ten trillion. So each of us has about one hundred trillion of microbial organisms living on and in us. (One trillion = one million million.)

More, these incredibly vast numbers of living biological types and the individual entities on and in us are absolutely essential to our lives. If all, or even certain varieties or numbers of them, were suddenly to wither and die, each of us would die soon after them. The very same is true of all animals and plants we gaze at on earth. They too are vitally de- pendent on microorganisms on and in them. The scientific reality is that all life, visible and invisible, is vitally interdependent.

I saw the representation of the huge universe of micro biotic life on our earth not on a TV science program, in a science class or science museum; but in the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill.

At the Parrish was a sculpture of two interconnected rectangular columns. Each column and the interconnections between them supported sculptures of micro biotic life. Each of the sculptures, some smaller and some larger, was an imaginative depiction based on how micro biotic life appears via electron microscopes. And they were made from different materials, including paper and ceramics. For example, one of the larger representations, about two and half feet in size, was of a mass of microscopic algae. The exhibit told us that single cell algae diatoms “form the base of the food chain that almost all life is reliant on.”

In particular, I was struck with the fantastic story of microscopic algae called volvox chlorophyte. The tiny units of it live in colonies of up to 100,000, each “connected to each other by thin strands that enable the whole colony to swim in a coordinated way.”

Still more astonishing, individuals in each colony, about the size of a poppy seed, have “eye spots” at one end, and the entire colony uses them to swim as a unit towards light. So the entire colony “functions very much like a multicellular organism.” The exhibit told us to look for such colonies in a clean pond in summer swimming toward light.

Also imaginatively portrayed were probiotic, or beneficial, bacteria called bifidobacteria. They live in astronomical numbers in our digestive systems, and are indispensably essential to our digesting food. “They also,” I learned from the exhibit, “boost our immune systems and inhibit the growth of e-coli and other harmful bacteria. Bifidobacteria can be found in yogurt.” And, remarkably, the exhibit at the Parrish Museum was imagined and constructed by children. At the Hayground School.

Richard Gambino is forever amazed at, one, how interconnected is all life on earth, and, two, how great is the learning capacity of children. 

School Wins a Major Grant

Science Program will be the beneficiary

The Southampton Press, by Colleen Reynolds, February 11, 2010

The wind gusted across the gardens, greenhouse, chicken coop and empty, L-shaped swimming pool on the Hayground School campus on a recent morning. Inside, another storm had just passed.

This progressive private school in Bridgehampton had recently staged a performance of “The Tempest” following a four-week artist-in-residence program with the Massachusetts-based Shakespeare & Company. Beneath a vibrant gallery of student artwork depicting scenes from the play, students and teachers sat in a wide circle on the floor, casually tossing around reflections on their latest unit.

Founded in 1996 on the experiential philosophy of John Dewey, Hayground continues to blaze its own trail when it comes to pedagogy. With mixed-age classrooms and no grading rubrics, plenty of beds of kale but few computers, Hayground educators and families have always relished the young school’s unorthodox curriculum, viewing it as a breath of fresh air from the limiting confines of traditional academia.

In this period of belt-tightening, however, the school, which currently enrolls 36 students from the nursery school level through eighth grade at a campus covering nearly 13 acres, is looking to expand its academic offerings. Although the cost of tuition varies widely, full standard tuition for one student per year is $19,500.

Hayground recently won a $300,000 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, a private, non-profit philanthropic organization named after a late Wall Street investment banker. With its grant money, Hayground plans to reinstate its scientist-in-residence program, which will host a scientist over several weeks to conduct independent research projects with students. It plans to extend the school day via an after-school program that would also be open to non-Hayground students. It plans to refocus its energies toward foreign language education—namely, Spanish—in a meaningful way. And it is also drafting a five-year plan, growing its endowment and looking to increase scholarship funding.

" We call ourselves a lab school, which means that we’re never 100-percent fixed in our view of how we do things and we’re always looking to improve,” explained Arjun Achuthan, a culinary arts and mathematics teacher who is also one of the school’s founders. Mr. Achuthan elaborated on the Deweyan ideals of the school as he sipped student-brewed organic tea from a student-crafted mug in the school’s art studio. “So, when learning about tea,” he continued, “make your tea mixes, and make your teapot.The Hayground philosophy of learning cannot easily be crammed into 42-minute class periods. Therefore, there are no class periods. Instead, students explore one topic in depth for an approximately two-hour morning work session after their mathematics classes. At midday, students are usually responsible for preparing lunch themselves, plucking leafy greens from the gardens and greenhouses. In the afternoon, they enter another free-form extended work session.

Jon Snow, a fellow founder, explained, “A guiding principle of our philosophy is if it’s worth doing, do it deeply, don’t do it superficially, don’t trivialize it. ...We’re not trying to cover a vast number of subjects. It’s about trying to get to know them and love them and experience them.”

While not a “forest kindergarten” such as those forward-thinking outdoor curricula for early grades that have been sprouting up across northern Europe and New England, Hayground is in tune with nature. In addition to its gardens and solar panels, the school is hoping to set a precedent with its low carbon footprint and eventually completely distance itself from the energy grid.

Since one of the school’s founding principles is that a Hayground education should be available to everyone, the school is seeking to boost its enrollment to 50 students, with goals of eventually building to near 70. “We need to change the culture that a private school is only for the wealthy,” said Mr. Achuthan. “Through diversity comes strength.”

The Hayground approach does not come without controversy, however. Mr. Snow acknowledged that “people are afraid we’ll get behind if we don’t push our kids every minute academically.”

Stephanie Wade, whose 7-year-old daughter attends Hayground, said she expressed initial concern, but ultimately enrolled her child after being impressed by the senior learning projects. “It’s a leap of faith,” she said of choosing to enroll at Hayground. “It’s undefined what the outcomes are.” So far, Ms. Wade is pleased.

As graduates of the relatively new school begin to enter to real world, their legacy remains to be forged.

“It’s great to know what the world’s standards are,” said Mr. Snow, “but you really have to have your own.”


Hayground School awarded Grant

The East Hampton Star, October 20, 2011

The Hayground School in Bridgehampton has announced the receipt of a $208,000 educational grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, a philanthropic foundation created by the estate of Leon Levy, co-founder of Oppenheimer and Company. It is the third grant Hayground has received from the foundation. 

“This is a very important year for the school,” it said in a statement. “As a result of the continued support of the Leon Levy Foundation, we will begin our endowment campaign. This is essential to maintain our mission of economic diversity.” 

“In the spring of 2012 we will complete the expansion of Jeff’s Kitchen, Hayground’s professional kitchen and community meeting space. With the support of the Leon Levy Foundation and plans donated by Deborah Burke, this expansion will allow us to increase classroom space for the school, accept more children in our camp program, have an expanded space for our growing Hayground Forum, and upgrade the kitchen equipment to highest health department standards, allowing us to rent the space to professional chefs and organizations. This is all part of our short and long-range goals to create a sustainable future for Hayground School and its organic gardens, farmers market, and camp.” 

Grant for the Hayground School

Newsday, by Joie Tyrrell, February 18, 2010

The Hayground School in Bridgehampton has been given a $300,000 educational grant from the prestigious Leon Levy Foundation for the advancement of humanity and learning, two core principles of the Leon Levy Foundation. As a recipient of a Leon Levy Foundation grant, Hayground School joins the ranks of several high caliber educational institutions such as Harvard, New York University, Princeton and Rockefeller University. The grant will be used to initiate several new programs:

• Scientist-in-residence: A professional scientist will spend a semester at Hayground School conducting independent research projects with students. While working as apprentices to the scientist the students will learn how to develop research ideas, design experiments, collect results, analyze data, and give informal presentation of the results.

• Extended Day Program: Hayground School will hire instructors to run an after school program until 4:30 p.m. featuring foreign language, sports and music. This program will be open to students of Hayground as well as other children in the community.

• Scholarship Fund: Hayground School will increase funding scholarships, thereby supporting Hayground's mission of ethnic, cultural and economic diversity.

Hayground School Co-Founder Toni Ross offers “We are deeply honored to receive this grant from the Leon Levy Foundation. We believe Hayground School's mission fully exemplifies The Leon Levy Foundation's commitment to expanding knowledge through new ways of learning, through the power of ideas and to the firm commitment to opening the way to a just and equitable society. "

The Leon Levy Foundation, founded in 2004, is a private, not-for-profit foundation created from the Estate of Leon Levy. The Foundation continues Leon Levy's philanthropic legacy by providing support for programs he started with his wife, Shelby White. Leon Levy had a passion for expanding knowledge and believed in the power of ideas and a just and equitable society. This broad humanism also defined his philanthropy.

As the guiding principle of the Leon Levy Foundation, the Trustees are resolved to follow Leon’s vision to encourage and support excellence in fields of particular interest to him.

John W. Bernstein, president and chief financial officer of The Leon Levy Foundation, said. “The Hayground School provides a unique learning experience for young students. We are delighted to assist in funding these new programs, which should enhance the Hayground learning environment.” 

A Composer Who Taps Into The Music Of Everyone                                    

The Southampton Press, by Pat Rogers, March 17, 2009

Anyone can compose music. That’s right: Anyone. 

This is the philosophy of Shelter Island’s Bruce Wolosoff, a professional composer who has received commissions to write operas, symphonies, instrumental
songs, chamber music and more. His music has been heard in venues and on airwaves around the world. 

For the past four years, he has taken up residence at the Hayground School to teach students how compose music, conduct their pieces and play music written by others. The fifth incarnation of Mr. Wolosoff’s Creative Orchestra launched this year, for the first time, community members can experience the process for themselves. On Saturday, condensed mini-sessions will be open to just about anyone who would like to try their hand at composing. These Music Composition Workshops for the community were born in response to comments and requests from onlookers to the process. According to Mr. Wolosoff, the comments went something like this: “I’d like to try that”; “That looks like fun”; “Can ‘anyone’ really compose music?” 

Moving programs from inside the Hayground School into the community fits perfectly with the school’s philosophy, Mr. Wolosoff explained. The school already has a mentor program in which students experience hands-on learning by shadowing local artisans, creative types and businesspeople. The idea is to let students learn from the talent and experience around them, broadening everyone’s horizons. 

With the Creative Orchestra, the formula has now expanded into a flow chart. The motion starts with the school tapping community talent (Mr. Wolosoff) for the benefit of the students. The students have learned about music and composition. Now their experience will be shared with community members in Music Composition Workshops. 

The mini-sessions are designed to discover latent talent in so-far undercover composers. The two-hour workshops, open to adults and children over 8 years old, are condensed versions of the nearly three-week residency program. 

In every new Creative Orchestra session, anything can happen and typically does, including small moments of brilliance, discovery and musical beauty. The concept is to combine a basic outline with free-ranging creativity to make music that’s exciting to the composer who Mr. Wolosoff expects the same dynamic will unfold in each of the two-hour workshops. 

“It will be fun,” Mr. Wolosoff said. “People may discover they are capable of something they didn’t know before.” 

Mr. Wolosoff believes that anyone can create music. Turning traditional educational theory on its head, Mr. Wolosoff believes budding composers should go with their gut, write a composition and learn about music theory along the way. In the traditional model, music students learn an instrument and master music theory before trying their hand at writing music. 

Mr. Wolosoff’s theory has been transforming Hayground students and staff into composers and musicians for four years running. Each year, Mr. Wolosoff becomes the school’s composer-in- residence for about three weeks. In daily sessions, the students develop their composition, learn instrumental parts written by their peers, and spend time rehearsing. The residency culminates in a Creative Orchestra concert that’s open to the public. 

The program itself is open to Hayground staff and parents, expanding the original student project into a multi-generational experience. This year’s Saturday mini-sessions are open to all, including those with no affiliation with the Hayground School. 

To begin, Mr. Wolosoff plants a premise that will allow musical ideas to grow. Compositions have been created in response to a Van Gogh painting and haiku, as well as from the wellspring of pure imagination. Last year, Hayground students created music inspired by the contemporary song, “Go It Alone,” by Beck. While doing so, they learned about the musical form of theme and variation. 

This year’s theme is “metamorphosis,” with the idea being to develop two separate musical ideas within one composition. Students typically compose pieces for multiple instruments that run around two or three minutes. 

Just as the musical ideas can derive from any source, any instrument or object that creates sound or tone can be used in the composition. Past concerts have included tin cans, PVC piping, plastic tubing whipped through the air, African and Japanese drums and a balophone (an African instrument similar to a xylophone). Piano, violin, cello and electric guitars have also made the list of orchestra instruments. 

Established musical styles are somewhat beside the point in the Creative Orchestra. Sophistication is not an issue in a program that focuses on a meaningful connection between the idea, the music and the composer. To achieve that end, creativity rules, fear is banished and musical chances are taken. Ideas are exchanged and excitement is ignited. 

At Hayground, Kids Are Learning By Doing

Sag Harbor Express,  By Claire Walla, March 09, 2011

Have you ever wondered about the conductivity of a plucked guitar string? Or whether you can pressurize a watermelon? 

Maybe guitar strings and watermelon don’t peak your interest, but if you had a similarly obscure fascination, you’d be able to explore it out at the Hayground School — if, of course, you’re between the ages of seven and 12. 

Located on a small parcel of land on Mitchell’s Lane in Bridgehampton, the Hayground School is a progressive private school founded on the educational pillars of philosopher / educator John Dewey for children up to age 12. Bundling students into learning groups that are a little more open-ended than annual grades, all students are dispersed among four clusters — early childhood, emerging readers (ages five to seven), middle groups (ages seven to 12) and the apprenticeship program (all ages). Departing from traditional modes of teaching, the school leaves room in its lesson plans for spontaneity and experimentation. 

This is where guitar strings and watermelons fit in. 

Teacher Mark Mobius is the school’s scientist-in-residence, typically a two-year position that has been granted on three occasions since Hayground’s opening in 1996 to professional scientists with previous experience in a particular field. These scientists tap into their own knowledge and experience to organize project-based curricula for the middle year students. 

Due in large part to the poor economy in recent years, Hayground faculty member Arjun Achuthan said the school had seen a drop in enrollment and a decrease in funding. Because of this, the scientist-in-residence position hasn’t been a constant fixture at the school. 

However, school administrators were happy to reintroduce the program last year thanks to a $300,000 grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, and the school will be able to sustain Mobius’ position again this year due to a continuing grant of $275,000, which the Hayground learned of earlier this month. 

It’s because of this program, Mobius said, that he’s even teaching at all. 

“I wouldn’t want to teach in a public school, it’s too regimented for me,” Mobius said. “[At the Hayground School] the kids come up with cool ideas and we can follow up on that. We’re able to change our plans quite often. 

Mobius, who was raised on Shelter Island and whose previous work revolved primarily around environmental consulting, is also able to bring his own skills and interests to the classroom. In addition to supporting student experiments, he has taken the kids into the field to study tree-core samples to determine the growth rates of several varieties of trees on the East End. He also had the students studying the granular composition of sand in three different seashore locations of Long Beach and Sagg Main: by the water, in the middle of the shoreline and near the dunes. After collecting samples, the students sifted the sand and weighed the contents, ultimately finding the granules closest to the water to be finer. 

“It was more of a discovery than a conclusion,” he said of the students’ results, adding that the class used the project to talk about the properties of wave energy. 

In the spring, students will delve into the topic of sustainability by raising chickens and learning the ins and outs of foraging. Eventually, they will be entering the wilds of Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island to roam about in search of edibles. 

With a bit of input from some professionals in the field, the kids will draw their own field guides for the area, Mobius added. 

What Mobius appreciates most about the program is the flexibility. It allows him to use science as a tool to encourage the students’ own curiosities and interests. 

“It’s not indoctrination at all,” he said, adding that his job is to emphasize the scientific process, rather than the end result. The mechanics of going out into the field, collecting samples, doing experiments and comparing results are what’s most important, he added. 

That, and fostering an enthusiasm for learning. 

As for the watermelon, “I suspect what will happen is that [the student] won’t be able to pressurize fruit,” Mobius said. “But I’m not going to discouraging him from trying.” 

Hayground School Seeks to Promote Independent Learning Via Forum

The Southampton Press, by Colleen Reynolds, March 22, 2011

Almost like magic, a group of failing or at-risk students gains newfound motivation and powers on to reach Eureka! moments. 

By turning the tables—or, perhaps, student desks—on traditional, teacher-led lessons and granting students free rein over their learning, students can, and have, achieved such personal breakthroughs, according to proponents of The Independent Project, a student-run “school-within-a-school” philosophy. 

Further, it is an idea worthy of spreading to East End schools, they say. 

The project’s premise is to be shared locally this week, when the Hayground School, a progressive private school in Bridgehampton, hosts Sam Levin, a 17-year-old who founded the project at his public high school in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts this past fall. 

“There was a breaking point for me where it seemed like everyone around me was unhappy and, you know, I realized that my friends were spending six hours a day, 180 days a year just not being happy,” Mr. 

Levin, a senior at Monument Mountain High School, said in a 15-minute YouTube documentary to be screened on Friday as part of the program, which is part of the Hayground Forum, a community initiative of the school. “And that just doesn’t make any sense to me.” 

Mr. Levin was unavailable for comment this week because he was camping in the Caribbean. 

With the encouragement of his mother, Susan Engel, a psychology professor at Williams College who grew up in Sagaponack, he seized the opportunity to start his own school, in a sense. Rather than pour over dry textbooks, unit by unit, in inflexible 40-minute blocks of time, he and a handful of his classmates began crafting their own curriculum and system of mutual accountability. 

The results, he and other proponents said, are stunning. 

In an op-ed piece published in The New York Times on March 14, Ms. Engel, the author of “Red Flags or Red Herrings: Predicting Who Your Child Will Become,” wrote, “We want young people to become independent and capable, yet we structure their days to the minute and give them few opportunities to do anything but answer multiple-choice questions, follow instructions and memorize information. We cast social interaction as an impediment to learning, yet all evidence points to the huge role it plays in their psychological development. That’s why we need to rethink the very nature of high school itself.” 

The professor went on to describe how a student in the project who had flunked all of his previous mathematics courses spent three weeks teaching other participants about probability and is now performing admirably back with the conventional curriculum. Another student, who once pondered dropping out of school, became fascinated by history questions and wanted to pursue more. 

On the flip side, Francis Schrag of Madison, Wisconsin, questioned how the experiment could work on a large scale in a letter to the editor of The Times published on Friday, March 18, in response to Ms. Engel’s piece. “We are often captivated by education programs that appear to work wonders for a small group of self-selected students. Though often inspiring, they are more of a tease than a solution to our education woes,” Ms. Schrag wrote. 

Hayground School officials are looking to plant the seed of such independent learning locally. 

“This is a nascent, popular movement in education that is very powerful,” said Jon Snow, a Hayground founder who wears many hats at the school, including as coordinator of such forums. 

His daughter, Ella Engel-Snow, also a Hayground employee—and a niece of Ms. Engel and cousin of Mr. Levin—said the goal of hosting Mr. Levin and some of his friends this week is to help promote student activism and let students realize they can effectively seize control over their education. 

“We’re hoping that those students that have come from their schools and taken the time to do this will then go back to their schools and bring what they’ve learned and kind of spread it around, and talk to their friends about it and do what Sam has done, which is pass it on to the students below them, so that it can be a continuous cycle,” Ms. Engel-Snow, 23, and a former Hayground student, said. 

Hayground has invited several local students and educators to participate in Friday’s forum, but a three-hour follow-up session beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the school at 151 Mitchells Lane is open to the public. No reservations are necessary, but there is a suggested donation fee to get in. 

East End Thoughts: All for Love

Sag Harbor Express, by Richard Gambino, March 06, 2009

“Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!” a love-struck Romeo exclaims when he first sees Juliet at a dance. And several things are making this winter burn brighter on the East End. One, a man named Harry Carlson is continuing his wonderful the East End. One, a man named Harry Carlson is continuing his wonderful Shakespeare Saturday mornings, as he has done for some years. We watch, from recordings this long-time Shakespeare scholar and teacher has collected over a lifetime and put on DVDs, different productions, scene compared to same scene, of Shakespeare’s plays, and briefly discuss them. In recent weeks, we’ve watched some productions of Romeo and Juliet, with an emphasis on the deservingly celebrated, very moving 1968 production directed by Franco Zeffirelli. As a bonus, we watched an astonishingly poignant dance version of the play, choreographed to Prokofiev’s music by Kenneth MacMillan, and performed at the Teatro alla Scala in Italy.

All this is presented via the technologically up-to-date, digitally-projected large-screen system, and superb sound system at the Amagansett Public Library. More, this unique and priceless on-going gift is free of charge. It’s all for the love of the best plays ever written — one need only show up from 10:30 to 12:30 every other Saturday morning.

Now, regarding the kind of instant great attraction Romeo feels for Juliet, which she in turn feels for him, a recently published book tells of a study which tested men and women. (Do Gentlemen Really Prefer Blondes? By Jena Pincott. Personally, I wouldn’t get any closer to this question than I would to a cobra.) Individuals (heterosexuals) were shown pictures of the faces of people of the opposite sex. Unknown to the subjects, large numbers of people had previously studied these same pictures and judged half of the faces as “hot,” and the other half as “not.” (It seems we’ve come a long way since Shakespeare’s eloquence.) The faces were flashed before the subjects for only thirteen milliseconds (13/1000 of a second). Some complained that they could not really see the faces so quickly run before them. Yet despite that, the subjects scored the faces as being either attractive or not attractive the same as had the people who had rated them before — these previous individuals having studied the faces for a much longer time.

The author concludes, with a reductionism typical of our time, that parts of the human brain — the nucleus accumbens, orbitofrontal cortrex and the amygdala — tell us instantly whom we are attracted to, and whom not. But looks are not enough. Women, at least, are more cautious about blindly going with their initial attraction. This is explained by the fact that in a given year, a man can father a lot of babies by a lot of women, but a woman may carry only one pregnancy to term, so she is a lot more selective in her sex life. When I read this, I could not help but thinking, “Before the pill.” These kinds of explanations were labeled as “just so” explanations, i.e., a bit too neat, by none less than one of the greatest evolutionary biologists of our time, the late Stephen Jay Gould. Another example: There is a brain expert on TV, an M.D., who tells us that the best aphrodisiac a man can use is to put some baby powder behind his ears. He claims the powder’s scent turns a woman’s thoughts towards (freshly-diapered) babies, and …. Just so. But I tried it on my wife, and she just asked if I had a skin rash.

There’s more. As anyone can guess, some pick-up lines used by men work better than others. It is said that this shows that women are indeed thinking beyond a short sexual pleasure. (With some men, women complain, all too short.) “Hey babe, I’m like Fred Flintstone — I can make your bed rock!” This is not a line likely to get a man far. Compare it to Romeo’s first words to Juliet, at the dance. Taking her hand, he says, “If I profane with my unworthiest hand/ This holy shrine, the gentle fine [punishment] is this/ My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand/ To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.” (I expect that after men read this article, this Saturday night many a man in Sag kiss.” (I expect that after men read this article, this Saturday night many a man in Sag Harbor’s bars will be seen and heard trying Romeo’s approach on a woman.) Whatever we may think of the idea that women’s judgment is more selective than that of men in affaires d’amour – in my opinion, after having watched both for a long time, the judgment of both genders is … shall we say, less than sterling — Juliet is a bit more cautious about trusting her attraction than all-speed-ahead Romeo. So she later says to him, “Dost thou love me? I know thou wilt say ‘Aye;’/ And I will take thy word. Yet if thou swear’st,/ Thou mayst prove false. At lovers’ perjuries,/ They say Jove laughs.” But not much later, she says to him one of the most famous declarations of love ever written, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,/ My love as deep; the more I give to thee, /The more I have, for both are infinite.” Imagine hearing this from someone with whom you are in love. And this from a young woman who, we are told early in the play, is still two weeks short of her fourteenth birthday. A kid. So I went to a performance of Romeo and Juliet at the Bay Street Theatre on January 29 with much on my mind. Speaking of Juliet being a kid — and also of Romeo, whom most Shakespeare fanatics, like me, guess is about sixteen years old – the performance at Bay Street was by … well, kids. The kids in the Hayground School were the performers, costume designers and set designers — all the kids in the school, from pre-K through eighth grade. They had had a four week in-depth immersion in the play with a group from Massachusetts called Shakespeare & Company. My first impressions were, one, the theatre was filled by the audience, and two, I smiled when I saw a set built to look like a wall in Verona had graffitied on it, “Tyblalt is a cankerblosoom.” It perfectly fits that character’s poisonous personality, filled with hatred and malice. The kids were true to the play, some saying some very difficult lines with precision, and most with feeling. In their acting, they presented the play’s tragic essence earnestly. Indeed, at the afternoon performance, one of the girls playing Juliet, a six-year old, on cue drank a narcotic causing her to collapse into a comatose, death-like state. She did this so convincingly that it brought forth a quite audible gasp from the audience. 

Bravo to all those who, all for love, are teaching our winter to burn bright!

Richard Gambino believes that never has a tale of woe brought more joy to the East End than this of Juliet and her Romeo

Circling the Wagons

Sag Harbor Express, by David McCabe, August 10, 2012

For years, food trucks have been huge on the streets of Manhattan, but in the Hamptons they are normally relegated to beach parking lots. 

Now, for one night only, denizens of the East End can enjoy what office workers in Midtown Manhattan enjoy every day at the first Food Truck Derby, which is being held this Friday at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. 

The event is organized by Edible East End, a food magazine that has been published since 2005 and is part of a national chain of Edible publications. Its publisher, Brian Halweil, said the magazine wanted to bring a taste of food truck culture — which has reached a fever pitch around the country in recent years — to the East End. 

A $50 ticket buys a guest a tasting portion from each of the trucks, as well as unlimited beer and wine. 

“The concept was to create a food experience that doesn’t really exist out here but that we love from the city,” said Halweil. 

Long Island, however, will not be entirely unrepresented amongst the trucks present. Hampton Coffee Company will have an espresso truck at the event, Halweil said, as well Wandering Palate, a truck that specializes in Long Island cuisine. Montaco, a Mexican food truck that’s normally parked at Ditch Plains in Montauk, will also be at the Derby. 

Mars Ostarello, who owns Montaco, said her truck focuses on producing food that honors her Mexican heritage while using locally-sourced ingredients. Everything the truck serves is made from scratch, she said, from the blue-corn tortillas to the salsa. 

This is not Montaco’s first Derby, so-to-speak. After their first season on the East End, the staff wanted to keep the truck open, so they took it down to Miami, where a food truck culture was just forming. That meant that five days a week, the taco truck was going to events like this weekend’s derby. 

“So we’re pretty well versed on food truck derbies and gatherings of all types,” Ostarello said. 

This weekend, they’ll be serving three types of tacos. Their fish taco, which is made with mahi and garnished with lettuce and chipotle mayonnaise, a chicken and salsa verde taco and a zucchini and roasted corn variant with hints of cumin and salsa verde. 

Ostarello said that she doesn’t want the East End to become saturated with food trucks, as Manhattan has been. Instead, she praised the way the hamlet of Montauk as regulated vendors: only one food truck is allowed in each small beach parking lot, and two are allowed in larger spaces. 

Other than a little more variety, she said, “I think we’re all good here.” 

Some of the trucks featured in the event will be coming from their regular berths in New York City, including La Bella Torte, an Italian dessert truck based out of Brooklyn. 

Joe Glaser, who owns the truck with his wife AnnMarie, went to culinary school when the recession of 2008 began, and he and his wife decided that it made more sense economically to open a truck rather than a brick-and-mortar store. 

The truck specializes in traditional Italian desserts, and was nominated for a Vendy award after being in business for only four months. 

“Everything that I do is classic Italian and I keep everything traditional,” Glaser said. 

Halweil, for his part, hopes that this event will perhaps encourage more operators to create food trucks on the East End. 

“We hope that this event encourages more food trucks to come out here and stay parked, at least for part of the summer,” Halweil said.