Caledonia Mumford – Then & Now Field Trip

Over the past week, students in Kyle Leonard’s fifth grade and in Courtney Monahan’s sixth grade classes at Caledonia-Mumford have been thinking about their hometown, continuing to find connections to this beautiful area through their own family histories and the stories that have touched them.  Today, our group visited the Big Springs Museum in Caledonia, a museum founded by one of the student’s families. Before we boarded the bus, we talked about our goal for the day; like David McCord, we would each find three things to fall in love with.  We reminded ourselves to not be caught up in the present, but rather to quiet our minds and allow ourselves to enter into the times of the objects in the museum.  We talked about two kinds of poems:  poems that describe objects and poems that tell stories.  And we read a few object poems from Kristine O’Connell George‘s book The Great Frog Race.

The Big Springs Museum is a treasure trove of items including tiny wooden chairs carved by Sam McCowan as he waited for the trains, embroidery, war memories, kitchen tools, clothing, paintings, arrowheads, photographs and models…everything from daily life throughout the decades in Caledonia-Mumford.  We were fortunate to have Curator Patty Garrett and Program Coordinator/Grant Writer Jean Guthrie teach us in large groups and through individual questions.  We learned the story of Seth Green and how he founded the first fish hatchery in the Western Hemisphere – The Caledonia Fish Hatchery.  Old-fashioned washing machines made us appreciate modern conveniences, and students found their family names on the photograph wall of local veterans, black and white photos once hanging in the town barber shop.

For part of our morning, we had the opportunity to meet with local dairy farmer Mike Balonek who taught and entertained us with stories about the difficulties and also glories of farm work.   We learned about how Mike followed in his uncles’ footsteps, the daily routines of a dairy farmer, and even a story about when Mike brought a half-dead frozen calf back to life.  Like a proud papa, Mike told us that two years later, the cow he saved just gave birth to her first calf!  He connected with the students, listening to stories of their own farm experiences and stressing the value of hard work and taking care of the environment.  He told us how he hoped his own children would once work this land, and he expressed gratitude for the value in the hard work of his family before him.

When we returned to school, Kyle Leonard’s fifth graders plunked into the shade of trees with pencils pouring poems into the warm day.  We shared our words out into the sunshine, and made plans to write more…so that we’ll be ready to revise on Wednesday, May 26.  Student will come with their poems-so-far, and we’ll learn to move words around and play with rhythm.

In these drafts, you will feel the connections between stone and human, story and question, object and heart.  For while the writers may play more with words and line breaks in the days to come, these first flashes of meaning are poem-hearts indeed.


Grampa by Shannon

My grampa was there

there in the war

scared to the core

World War II.

He does not talk about it

bad memories.

My grandpa is here

here in Caledonia

loved to death.


Hand Grenade by Marcus

My pin is gone.

All that’s left of me is

A shell

A cold

Metal shell

Brought back by a soldier

as a war souvenir.

But I am no souvenir.

I’m a real grenade.

Sitting in a box is not my life.

This is the only place

The only place my power is


and while sitting in this box

I know I’m saving a life.


Books by Rachael

I see books.  Old ones too.

I wonder who read them who owned them.

With a smile

I imagine every possible person

then I read one and realize it was me who owned them

me who read them but still I wonder who.


Inspired by a Photo of the Boot Maker’s Shop at the Genesee Country Village and Museum by Elizabeth

I walked into the boot maker’s shop.  As I walked in, I heard horses and birds outside.  I asked the owner for two pair of boots.  I looked around and said to myself, “Wow, there are a lot of boots here.  The owner gave me my red velvet sparkly boots.  Then I went to lay down in the green grass.  I walked home in my new boots.  When I walked home, I heard cows and chickens.  I came back home and said, “I love going to the boot maker’s shop.”


Caledonia Fire by Dylan

Fire burning as people

scatter out

of their

houses and businesses.

Buildings crumbling

to the ground.  Ashes blowing


After the fire is

over, half of the

town is burned to

the ground!

All of the ashes get

thrown into the beautiful

Lake Handsome.  As the

ashes absorb the

water, the beautiful

lake is gone.


Here by Olivia


on this stand

with a cloak

and a hat on my head





on this earth

getting the honor

and appreciation I do


standing proud

standing ready

Standing Here

as your monument

as your friend

as your statement

as your representation

Standing Here, as your Caledonia.


Thank you to Patty Garrett, Jean Guthrie, and Mike Balonek for their generosity and kindness in working with all of us today.  This day gave so much to the students as citizens, family members, and poets.

Thank you to teachers Katrina Hatch, Courtney Monahan, and Kyle Leonard for making so many preparations in planning this enriching trip for all of us.

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