Naples:Geology and geography
Naples is uniquely located in one of the glacial valleys of the Finger Lakes Region. This impacts the community positively by providing sources for tourism (outdoor recreation and wineries) and creates some challenges (remote location and very small community.)
While our geology and natural resources are not exactly human partners, I am including them because there are opportunities for mutually beneficial relationships. Students can spend time learning in the hills and on the lakes, and at the same time research and practice conservation skills.
There are also two ski mountains in our school district. The school's ski team and ski club practice on these mountains. The mountains provide seasonal employment and tourism opportunities and our community. Additionally, they are businesses that can sponsor school activities as well as host school events such as prom.
The Mueller Field Station belongs to Finger Lakes Community College, a local two-year institution. This nearly 50 acre site offers students opportunities for field-based research and education. It is located less than 15 minutes from our school. We have the beginnings of a great partnership already. Some elementary students have participated and field trips connected to their science curriculum. Hopefully this partnership will continue to grow in the near future.
In addition to the field station, the Community College also has a satellite campus in our district. Partnered with the Finger Lakes Trail, East Hill, which received its land via donation from conservationist George Fraley, ensures permanent access through an easement to the High Tor Wildlife Management area in Naples. Since this campus is fairly new, we have yet to explore possible partnerships with the school. There may be opportunities for biology classes, physical education classes, and place-based education. I believe that any relationship between K 12 and higher education has the potential to be mutually beneficial.
The Community Park already has a deep partnership with the school. Several of the sports fields are in this park. In exchange for the space, school maintenance personnel maintain the park. The park is always also used for picnics and school celebrations.
Lynnie Lou's and the golf course are two local businesses that have strong community connections. While we don't currently have formal partnerships with either of them, we do try to support our local businesses as much as possible.
The north end
One of the largest businesses in town is Hazlett's winery. This presents some challenges when it comes to school partnerships. However, since the winery is literally in our backyard, we do frequently work together. This is a partnership that would be interesting to explore further.
Since we do live in an agricultural region, partnering with an organization like Squash Blossom CSA could work very well. One idea we had was to start some type of cooking and food club based on a model in Trumansburg (Localvore Club). We could ask the CSA for any of their leftover vegetables. This would expose students to many new kinds of food as well as helping them gain important skills in the kitchen.
The doctors office, Naples Valley Practice is one organization that I think we could strengthen our relationship with. Currently we work with the practice for sports physicals. However, it would be interesting to explore what other services they would be able to help us with, especially for kids who are not getting services elsewhere.
While the choices for community partners in a small town are limited, often the ones that are there are dedicated to supporting the school. A great example of this happened just recently. There is an annual event called Light Up Naples. It is a partnership between the school, the village, the Boy Scouts, the fire department, a local church, and the public library. People start at one end of town and slowly walk down main street stopping at various places to hear Christmas carols, the school band and chorus, a gingerbread house village and contest, and a live nativity scene. When they come to the Old Town Hall, the fire department has a roaring bonfire, and the Boy Scouts serve cider and cookies. Santa comes either and a horse drawn wagon or on the fire truck. This event draws large numbers of people including many, many students. It helps build a sense of belonging and community. While these are not necessarily academic, they are fundamental to our school culture and climate.
This week many of our elementary school classes have taken walking field trips to the library to view the gingerbread village and read related stories. Again, this builds community as well as familiarity with the library.
Another organization with which we could build greater partnerships is the Bristol Valley Theater. This organization does offer acting classes for children as well as live adult performances during the summers. Our elementary students are able to visit the theater for student performances once or twice a year. The experience would be even richer if we could make connections with the actors and actresses who come to visit our community during the time of their performances. Many of our students lack exposure to the arts and rarely meet people from other places. Discussions or workshops with actors could help students build confidence and find their own voice.