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Williamstown Elementary School Endowment Newsletter • Fall 2016

The WESE Board Thanks You!

Since 1998, the Williamstown Elementary School Endowment (WESE) Fund has supported over 200 initiatives and activities that enrich the educational experience for students and teachers at the Williamstown Elementary School. The fund is not a substitute for public funding of WES’s core curriculum; rather, it enables exceptional educational opportunities that take students beyond the basics. Earnings from the endowed fund support teacher and community member grants for programs, initiatives and purchases that enrich the educational experiences for students. Past grant recipients include Words Are Wonderful, PALS (Promoting Acceptance and Learning through Sports), after-school Lego Robotics and the Empathy Awareness Mentoring Workshop among many others.

This year we switched from a spring grant deadline to a fall deadline. After talking with faculty at WES, the board felt that a fall deadline would be better as teachers, parents and community members would have time to let their ideas percolate over the summer and would have the energy to submit a grant in the fall. We were happy to receive 11 applications this fall. To learn more about WESE and our grant process, please click here.

As the current co-chairs of the WESE board, we’re tremendously grateful for the work that came before in establishing and building the fund, and to the many members of our community—in Williamstown and beyond—who continue to provide such critical support today. We hope you will join us for a fun evening on Sunday, February 12th from 5-7 pm at the Orchards Hotel at WESE’s Silent Auction, a biennial fundraiser for our school’s endowment. During a time of tight budgets, WESE needs your help more than ever to support longstanding programs as well as new initiatives at WES.

Best wishes for happy holidays and a healthy new year.

Kathleen Igoe and Nick Stroud

WESE Co-Chairs

WESE is a fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

Board of Directors

Kathleen Igoe, Co-Chair
Nick Stroud, Co-Chair
Leon Aalberts
Jamie Art, Treasurer
Joelle Brookner, Principal
Rieko Hatakeyama
Joe Johnson, School Committee Representative
Elea Kaatz, Vice Principal
Mary Lovvorn
Christine McAlister
Tara Olney
Cristina Stuebner

2016-2017 WESE-Funded Grants: $24,000
  • Albany Berkshire Ballet Rockwell Museum Program
  • Berkshire Empathy Awareness Mentoring Workshop
  • Diversity in Children's Literature
  • Field Trip & Busing Subsidy for all grade levels
  • Fifth Grade Photography and Haiku Project
  • Flying Deer Nature Center – Wilderness Living Skills Enrichment
  • Lil' Dribblers for pre-school through fourth grade
  • Math and Drumming for third grade
  • Minecraft @ WES for all grade levels
  • IS183 Learning through the Arts for Kindergarten through second grade
  • Robotics Programming and Coding for third through sixth grades
  • Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation
  • Words Are Wonderful – visiting-author Emily Raabe
2016-2017 WESE-Funded Enrichment Programs: $14,000
  • Lego Robotics Program for fifth and sixth grades
  • Math Club for fourth, fifth and sixth grades
  • Shakespeare Program for fourth grade

Save the Date!

WESE's Silent Auction is on Sunday, February 12th from 5-7 pm at The Orchards. Have fun and support creative programming at our school. WESE needs your help in order to continue to fund longstanding enrichment programs and new initiatives at WES. Our endowment fund relies on generous donations to ensure its sustainability.


You can make a gift online

or with a check payable to BTCF with “WESE” in the memo line;

mail to: Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation,

880 N. Main St, PO Box 400, Sheffield, MA 01257-0400

(Photo by Kathleen Igoe) (Photo by Tom Welch)

WESE Funds Beloved Enrichment Programs by Joelle Brookner

When it became apparent that several well-loved enrichment programs would need to be cut from the appropriated budget this year, the WESE board stepped in to ask how they could help. Through great commitment on the part of the board and the generosity of the endowment, WESE has funded three student programs: Math Club, Lego Robotics and the fourth grade Shakespeare & Company residency. Math Club is showing record enrollment this year, with nearly 60 fourth, fifth and sixth graders attending weekly. Our Lego Robotics teams are exceedingly grateful for the continuation of their program and are gearing up for another great season. Shakespeare & Co. will return to WES in February to work with our fourth grade classes—stay tuned for their amazing production in April. Thanks so much to WESE for their support!


(photo by Sarah Brill)

Sheep Hill Field Trips by Mary Lovvorn


A WESE grant makes it possible for our kindergarten through fourth graders to go to Sheep Hill, a conservation property of Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation (WRLF). The grant pays for the bus transportation, and WRLF staff members give the students a hands-on experience of life on an early New England farm. Field trips are an extension of the classroom curriculum, and this trip integrates science, nature, art and history in a most engaging way.

Sarah Brill, a parent who has accompanied her children’s classes on several Sheep Hill field trips, said “… my favorite part about the Sheep Hill field trip experience is what the children gain simply by being on that beautiful property with time to explore - guided by Leslie. She is such a wealth of information about the flora and fauna and history of Williamstown, and she has such respect and appreciation for the natural world, that the children can only be enriched by any time spent with her.”

Katie Galusha, first grade teacher told us, “The first grade visited Sheep Hill at the beginning of the school year. It was wonderful to have such knowledgeable leaders engaging the children and kicking off our science unit about plants and seeds. The students were able to hike around and explore the area during a guided nature talk. They also had the opportunity to apply their knowledge through art when they created their own "seed suitcase" projects. The students always enjoy visiting Sheep Hill...we're lucky to have such a valuable resource in our community.”

Bridget Igoe, first grader reported, “When we went to Sheep Hill, we learned about seeds and how they travel. Milkweed seeds travel by flying."

What a wonderful collaboration between our school and the program at Sheep Hill.

(photos by Corrine Benn)

Learning through the Arts with IS183 by Nick Stroud

Building on the success of their initial WESE-funded pilot with first grade students in the fall of 2015, IS 183 is visiting first and second grade classrooms this fall to reinforce the science and math curricula through mixed medium art projects tailored to each individual grade. IS 183 conducts hands-on visual arts experiences in classes, workshops, intensives, camps and Learning Through Arts programs across Berkshire County. In addition to their work with WES this fall, IS 183 was also awarded another WESE grant to further expand their work in the fall of 2017, to include Kindergarten through second grade classrooms at WES. Students (and teachers!) can continue to look forward to activities like designing and constructing their own number line game boards, learning about geometric shapes, building polygon dice and creating pieces of a geodesic dome to fit together as a collaborative whole. From a recent visit to a first grade classroom, one of the students “liked making the snowmen and [is] excited to use it for number stories.” Their teacher, Corrine Benn, commented that “[i]t was exciting to see children who connect with art and creating to be able to use that skill to access math concepts.”

Words are Wonderful visiting-author Emily Raabe in the auditorium and the classroom.
(Photos by Kathleen Igoe)

Magical Visit with Author Emily Raabe by Kathleen Igoe

Through a WESE grant, Words are Wonderful funded visiting-author Emily Raabe’s visit to WES on October 24, 2016. During the first event of Words are Wonderful 2016, the third through sixth graders listened attentively as Emily told a Selkie tale. She then shared the story of how she became a writer, showing images in her slide show of her favorite books from her childhood. After she gave a short reading from her book Lost Children of the Far Islands, Emily answered students’ questions about writing and reading. Her advice to aspiring WES writers is: “The best way to become a writer is to read and read and read and read.” Following the assembly, Emily led a writing workshop in each of the fourth grade classrooms. She told the students that the magic words to begin a story are “What if.” She built on her Selkie story from the morning, and asked, “What if you could become any animal? What would you be?” After the students decided what animal they would be, Emily encouraged them to think about what they would smell, hear, see and touch as their animal. They picked up their pencils and started writing. She moved around the room, checking in with students and commenting on their work while they wrote. During the last 10 minutes of each session, students read their writing aloud. Emily shared, “I always love hearing the wild stories that kids can create on the spot, and this visit amazed me all over again. I heard a story about a kid waking up in a bunk bed in the shape of an elephant, and another one of a kid waking up grumpy because she was a unicorn yet again. There were crazy adventures of kids trying to fly with their new wings, or communicate in the shape of a seal or resist eating their suddenly delicious-looking younger sister.” WES students and faculty loved Emily’s assembly and writing workshops, and she loved working with everyone at WES.


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WES Endowment Video

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WESE FINAL  on Vimeo.


Our very own "Happy" Video was created with the help of a WESE Grant in 2014.


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