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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Trucks And Tykes

By Susan Bush
01:22PM / Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jake Bryan in a John Deere tractor. [Photo by Sue Bush]
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Williamstown - Cate Pitelli appeared enthralled as she "operated" the bucket of a bright orange Kubota. The Williamstown Community Child Care Center pre-school student used a lever to lift and drop the bucket with help from town Department of Public Works employee Kevin Shea.


"I like this, it's fun," Cate said.

The Kubota was also a favorite of Charlotte Rauscher, who attends the child care center.

"I'm having a good day!" Charlotte said.

Teachers with the center and town officials worked together to create a hands-on experience for the children. Town Highway Department Superintendent Scott Park said he was approached by the center's teachers, who asked about allowing the children access to the vehicles.


Andre Mendel and town DPW employee Bob Sweet operated an excavator as a team. [Photo by Sue Bush]
Park brought the idea to Town Manager Peter Fohlin, and Fohlin supported the idea, Park said.

"We set a date and hoped for the best weather," Park said.

In Action

The event was held earlier today at the Water Street site of the former town DPW garage. Town employees guided the children as they "dumped" dump trucks, "dug" with bucket loaders and excavators, activated the lights and sirens on a police cruiser, "drove" equipment a few feet forward and then a few feet in reverse, and showered affection on the town police department's canine tracking expert "Blue."

"Blue" seemed happy and energized by the attention of the children.

"Blue's having too much fun," said town police Officer Michael Ziemba, who partners with "Blue" for searches and tracking incidents."She wants to get out there and play with the kids."

The children at the Main Street-based center are concluding a learning unit about transportation, said center teacher Amanda LeBeau.

Hands-On Is A Big Deal

"Scott Park is a grandparent to one of our students and [town employee] Dave Caron is one of our parents," she said. "They helped us set this up."

Park said that a decision to allow the children to "operate" the vehicles came from childhood memories.

"I looked at it from the perspective of when I was a kid," Park said. "To let them have some hands-on is a big deal to them. Of course our guys are right there and they are actually doing it, but the kids are having a great time. It's really nice to be doing something like this, it's fun stuff."

Park's wife is a nutritionist at the center and she made a special request on behalf of one student, Park said.

"She came home and she asked me if we had a John Deere tractor," Park said. "I told her we did and she said 'Oh, you've got to bring it for Jakie'. So we brought the John Deere here for Jake."

Teacher Shealee Cooke said that teachers and students deeply appreciated the town's cooperation with the event. While the imagery was of children at play, the reality is the children were learning, she said.

"It's so great when you do a theme in school and then are able to bring the kids out into the community," she said. "The hands-on is good."

Future excursions are planned in conjunction with learning units, Cooke said. The children plan to travel to the Sterling and Clark Art Institute to enhance an art unit, and an animal unit will conclude with a trip to the Green River Farm.
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