Demarest Third Graders Pen Bloomfield's History

Demarest School students author their own books on the ABCs of Bloomfield history.

Who knew that sphere in front of the library was called the Armillary, and that it’s supported by six turtles on top of a two-tiered circular base?

Many do not, including Mayor Ray McCarthy, who even said so at a recent function. But the third grade students of Demarest School know thanks to a recent project done through a grant from the Bloomfield Education Foundation.

All of the children contributed to The ABC’s of Bloomfield, a Bloomfield history book where one specific historical aspect of the town was highlighted for each letter of the alphabet.

Principal Mary Todaro and Head Librarian Rosemary Vetrano, who spearheaded the project, received hardcover versions, while the children received soft cover versions at a special book signing celebration with the Mayor, who signed each of the books along with the students.

Some of the book's highlights include the Cadmus House (C), Oakes Estate (O), Garden State Parkway exits (X), monies for war bonds accumulated by township children prior to World War II (W).

“This project gave the children the opportunity to explore the richness of the town and pride in the town,” said Todaro. “It was a third grade community project, and all schools in the district participated.”

She also believed the project came at a good time. “Foley Field is coming back…redevelopment is coming back…like Harry Potter, raised from the ashes,” she said with a smile. “I’m looking forward to more great things for our town and positive for our kids. It’s part of their heritage. Where we were going, and why we’re going where we’re going.”

“Everyone was asking if it (the book) was going to be sold at Barnes & Noble,” said Ben, a third grader in Ms. Falco’s class. His classmate, Emily added, “Sadly it wasn’t, but we could look at it.”

Rosa is in Mrs. Antolino’s class. Her favorite was the Oakes Mill. “They made the wool for the soldiers’ uniforms,” she exclaimed. They even made the material for President William McKinley’s Inauguration uniform in 1900. How about that?

Katie is also in Mrs. Antolino’s class. “I looked at the pages, and I didn’t know a third grader could make a book,” she said.

“I couldn’t read all of it,” said Dominic, who along with Jamianne is in Ms. Adam’s class. “But I read it on the way home in the car.”

“Bloomfield,” said Jamianne, “has been around for so long. History is growing, day by day.”

“We all got to sign it,” added Jamianne, “and we have our picture in back!”

When Vetrano learned that the Fairview School librarian had put in a grant for a similar project, she jumped aboard. “It was extremely tedious,” Vetrano said of the guidelines from Online Student Publishing. “Everything had to be formatted correctly, photos in the right spot,” and more.

First came the online and book research, which included visiting websites like the Historical Society of Bloomfield. Then came choosing from many Bloomfield topics, and finally writing a paragraph about each topic.

“There is,” Vetrano said, “a lot of folklore out there. We had a subject, but not a lot of information available. I also did a lot of research, and my husband also gave me topics. We had a stack of papers this high,” she laughs while raising the hand above the Demarest School library table.

In the end it came down to the third grade children, and their months of research and work, as well as the exhilaration at seeing the role children played in the history of Bloomfield. “The kids are so thrilled that their writing was so good to be published on a book," said one of the girl’s fathers. "It’s really amazing to be a published author at age 8.”

“The kids have a vested interest in the town.”

The books will endure for future generations, as will the accomplishment of the third graders. “Bloomfield offers everything,” said Mary Todaro. “I think giving the child the opportunity to do research and write and process the information, and become more knowledgeable is what life is about.” She picked up one of her copies of The ABC’s of Bloomfield. “I want the kids to circulate them, share them.”

Chris Dasaro June 16, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Oakview Third Graders did this as well. Was this a district-wide activity? If so, why the emphasis on Demarest School?
Michelle Kelly June 17, 2011 at 04:34 AM
This project was sponsored district wide by the Bloomfield Educational Foundation as the article indicates. So yes, all third graders participated and each class made their own book. This is mentioned in the article. Because Mayor McCarthy was invited to Demarest School to speak to our 3rd Graders and sign the books, the Patch was informed of the project. I am sure all 3rd graders enjoyed doing the research and artwork thus learning from the project. Does it really matter which school got a little extra attention? Some of the goals of the project were to foster knowledge of the community (both past and present) and to develop community spirit within the township. Demarest just happened to take the celebration of the young authors to an extra step. Your comment seems to detract from that joyful communal experience.
Chris Dasaro June 17, 2011 at 05:10 PM
Thanks for clarifying. I did not mean to take anything away from the kids at Demarest. I am glad to see that their added efforts were rewarded with some attention from Mayor McCarthy and Patch. It was a great opportunity for them to learn that the work they do in class also matters outside the classroom. As a parent of a 3rd grader, I know lots of 3rd graders. I just wanted to make certain all received their due.
Steve Sears June 20, 2011 at 12:12 AM
This assignment was a joy for me, because it not only taught me about Bloomfield history, but it helped me recall that my first taste of writing came when I was in 4th grade at Berkeley School. We had a fiction contest, and I was one of the finalists. I didn't win the contest, but it gave me such a deep interest in writing that I knew then what I one day wanted to do for a career. Today, I am a full-time writer. I applaud the Bloomfield Educational Foundation for funding the program at each school, and I hope the deeply talented young writers are also encouraged as I was to make writing their profession. Steve
Allison Baldwin July 25, 2011 at 10:01 PM
What a fantastic story! Great job writing, Steve! It's great to see children getting involved in their community and expressing their creative sides in the process. To see how these children feel about writing gives me hope in the education system. Great job!


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