Puppetry, folk music, strumming, and crankiness

Groups collaborate to raise funds for new Putney playschool, which celebrates kids as ‘the little, beautiful, creative creatures they are’

PUTNEY — Three musical acts, two puppet shows, one silent auction, and “delicious desserts” round out the bill for Wildflowers Playschool's fundraising benefit happening Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Putney Community Center.

The benefit features a variety of local performers, including puppetry with both Angela DiVeglia's “Modern Folktales from a Sparkling Mind” and “An Incredible Cranky Show” with Shea Witzo.

Musical sets include Mike Roberts of Wooden Dinosaur; Anneke Dunnington, billed as a “superb songbird and string strummer”; and Jonas Fricke, who performs his “radical courage music” under the band name If Not I Than Who Then.

The playschool is co-producing the event with Brattleboro's The Future Collective to raise money for the school, which opened its doors last September.

'Opportunity for imaginative play'

Wildflowers Playschool describes itself as a “holistic, play-based, child-centered preschool” for children 2{1/2} to 5 years old at the Putney Community Center.

Tess Lindsay, the program's director and lead teacher, describes the playschool's main goal as helping “the kids be the little, beautiful, creative creatures they are” by “creat[ing] an environment where experimental learning, problem solving, creativity, and social justice can thrive.”

“So much work at their age is about interpersonal problem-solving,” Lindsay said.

“We encourage and create opportunity for imaginative play,” Lindsay added, through which “children learn about resolving conflict, sharing, risk taking, imagination, self-confidence, tactile skills, motor skills, language skills, and more.”

Lindsay developed the curriculum for Wildflowers Playschool after gathering most of her experience in alternative schools and home-schooling communities creating “radical education opportunities,” she said.

She received her degree in childhood education from Antioch College in Ohio and also studied “various radical education theories and philosophies,” she said.

“I think in a world where a lot of preschools are centered around academics, we are a bit different with a focus on nature, emotional skills, social skills, and creativity,” she said.

Some of the curriculum Lindsay and her co-teachers offer the children include trips to local farms, seasonal projects like making bird feeders and planting bulbs, “tactile days” with sensory-based activities, and regular visits from music and art teachers.

“We go outside every day. It's important for the students to see the world change, to see the grass and the trees. I try to keep it positive, to find good ways to experience the outdoors,” even in unpleasant weather, she said.

“There are many excuses these days to stay in, but we must go out, and at this age, the kids are so excited about the world. They really light up when we go outside,” said Lindsay.

A welcome to town

Lindsay says the neighbors have welcomed her fledgling playschool.

The Putney Community Center's board of directors “have been so generous with their time,” Lindsay said. “They've been so approachable.”

“They are thrilled to have new families in the building,” she added. “It is a space that is looking for new energy to make it thrive.”

She said she has “been excitedly greeted by many neighbors and volunteers” who work next door at the Putney Foodshelf.

The community center also contributed financially when Lindsay faced a number of demands from the state regarding licensing regulations, which required her to pay for many repairs and changes so Wildflowers could open.

The school operates on a rolling admissions basis. Wildflowers currently has six students, and while the school's license allows up to 12 children, Lindsay said, “I wouldn't want more than 10.”

Local caregivers' response to Wildflowers Playschool has been enthusiastic, especially regarding its schedule, she said.

The program operates Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with an afternoon-care option from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

“We mostly follow the Putney Central School schedule,” Lindsay said.

Angela Berkfield, whose son, River, attends the school, said, “The location and the hours work for our family. It's the same schedule as our son's, who is in kindergarten.”

“River is super happy here,” she said. “He loves it.”

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates