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.”