image description
The sixth-grade students who made the handbook presented it to the School Committee last week. The book gives new students information on what it's like going to Hoosac Valley.

Hoosac Valley Sixth-Graders Create 'New Kid' Student Handbook

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

CHESHIRE, Mass. — The Hoosac Valley Regional School District has adopted a "New Kid" Handbook created by sixth-grade students at Hoosac Valley Middle School.

The students, Director of Curriculum Kristen Palatt and sixth-grade English teacher Shelby Gale presented the handbook to the School Committee last week. The board then voted unanimously to endorse it alongside the current student handbook for incoming students.

School Committee member Erin Milne said the students' presentation was one of the best she's seen as a committee member.

"This is one of the clearest pieces of communication that I've ever seen come out of the district in my five years here," she said. "I know how hard it is to be informative and still sound really welcoming and friendly to your audience, and I think that is a really hard balance to strike, but I think you did a really exemplary job here."

The handbook provides a map of the school, a daily schedule, information on teachers, administrators, sports and after-school programs. Students made it as a class project, with help from Palatt and teachers, after reading "New Kid," a graphic novel by Jerry Craft, as part of their English language arts class.

"We sort of figured it out by looking at the book and seeing what was wrong and what we should do and what hasn't been happening in the past," said Summer, one of the sixth-graders who worked on the handbook.

Gale said students could choose several recommended novels as part of the social-emotional curriculum but were interested in "New Kid" because it was a graphic novel. She said she thinks the story explores many real-world issues that students face.

"It explores issues of race, socioeconomic status, and also just what it's like to adjust to a new school," she said. "They came up with these amazing ideas of how it could be more easily integrated into the school and how you can make everyone feel welcome."

One student, Lucas, said he recently was a new student at Hoosac Valley and could relate to the main character in the story.

"About a month ago, I was the new kid," he said. "I came here and we were doing that project and it kind of just went right in with me being the new kid."

Another student, Genevieve, said she and others learned to be more helpful to new students.

"I think that it taught most of us to welcome everyone and not be so rude all the time," she said. "In the book, there was a school bully. And one of the things that got to me was trying not to let bullies conquer you."

Gale said she was excited by how engaged the students got with the text and the strength of their presentation skills.

"Especially coming out of a pandemic, where presentations and speaking in front of crowds and that type of skill wasn't really at the forefront of our learning," she said. "So getting to see them exercise that muscle and practice that."

Palatt thanked the teachers for the work they put into helping the students create the handbook.

"I just want to acknowledge, too, the sixth-grader's teachers who are here, who gave up their preps and their common planning and their lunches to support the vision of their students in this work," she said.

School Committee Chair Michael Mucci said the handbook should benefit both new students and incoming fourth-grade students.

"This is obviously much different than our handbook, which is not that fun to read for middle school kids, or adults, or parents," he said. "But this is something that gets in your hands, engages in a conversation, and probably leads to something pretty positive."

Tags: HVHS,   school project,   

Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

Adams General Government Review Committee Creates Working Plan

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Review Committee has created a working plan for the next several months as it continues working on updating the town charter.

Community Paradigm Associates consultant Bernard Lynch created the plan, which will guide the group in future meetings, based on discussions the group has had previously. Topics include town meeting structure, executive and personnel functions, modes of appointment for town officials, financial management and other issues.

Lynch said he hopes the committee is able to complete discussion of one topic per meeting but noted some discussions might take more or less time than others.

"We don't have to make a decision [on a given topic] that night," he said. "I think we should try, if we can, to make decisions as we go on. But if somebody has to be held over for additional information, we can."

View Full Story

More Adams Stories