Colrain Central School virtual presentation features Abenaki speaker, pollinator expert



Staff Writer
Published: 12/14/2020 8:19:46 PM

COLRAIN — Colrain Central School hosted two guest speakers Monday morning for a virtual presentation about a new service-learning project for the spring to plant a pollinator meadow at the far end of the school’s field.

Abenaki teacher and storyteller Jesse Bruchac, of The Nolumbeka Project, and pollinator and plant specialist Tom Sullivan had been scheduled to speak in person at the school in April, but the COVID-19 pandemic scrapped those plans. So the two were invited to a Google Meet session to remotely share their input and knowledge with students in second to fourth grade and educators, who tuned in from home.

“Last fall, when we started talking with the people from The Nolumbeka Project, it felt like a natural fit to work together. They have inspiring insights into nature, Native American culture, and the ways we can all help to take care of nature,” said Talia Miller, the school’s service-learning coordinator. “Here at Colrain Central School, we’re trying to constantly engage our students in authentic learning in the community through our service-learning initiative.”

Bruchac shared an ancient Abenaki story, sang songs and taught students words in the Abenaki language. The Nolumbeka Project is dedicated to promoting “a deeper, broader and more accurate depiction of the history of the Native Americans/American Indians of New England before and during European contact and colonization.”

Sullivan, of, walked students through a presentation about pollinators and their importance to the American food system. Pollination is vital to the production of healthy crops for food and other uses. Sullivan explained seeds germinate and set roots after falling out of a plant, getting carried away by an animal or getting picked by humans.

“We need lots of pollinators. They’re really essential and we can naturally create more food for them by planting for them,” he said.

Sullivan mentioned that pollinators include bees, butterflies, wasps, beetles, moths (mostly at night) and hummingbirds (which prefer red or pink flowers). He said there are 386 native bee species in Massachusetts and 4,000 in North America. They range in length from 1/8-inch to just over 1 inch. Bees visit flowers for the sugary carbohydrates of nectar, which also contains trace amounts of amino acids, proteins and vitamins, and to get pollen to feed their eggs.

Miller said the hope is that students will get excited to conduct some planning in the spring to create a natural pollinator-friendly space on the school grounds.

“This event felt like a virtual field trip for our students by offering them a chance to see new perspectives and cultures,” she said.

During a time for questions, second-grader Mason Gilbert told Bruchac he enjoyed his songs and stories. Bruchac, who has traveled the United States, Europe and South Africa sharing Abenaki songs for more than 30 years, thanked him and said the songs he shares have “many more birthdays than me, many more winters than me.”

Second-grader Julia Slysz asked Bruchac how he learned the languages. He replied that his father, who is not quite fluent in the Abenaki language, taught him a great deal and he is always teaching himself more.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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