Hudson Valley Pathways Students Draw Inspiration from Opus 40

Hudson Valley Pathways Students Draw Inspiration from Opus 40

Launching a 30-day learning challenge, the Hudson Valley Pathways Academy (HVPA) at Ulster BOCES sponsored a field trip to Opus 40, an environmental sculpture park located in Saugerties. During the course of the September 17 visit, the HVPA students, known as young scholars, were asked to draw inspiration from artist Harvey Fite’s monumental accomplishment before challenging themselves to spend 30 days pursuing a passion, developing an interest, or mastering a new skill. 

“If you’re passionate about something and willing to stick with it, amazing things, like Opus 40, can happen,” Principal Learner Joseph Salamone, the principal at HVPA, told the inquisitive young scholars, pointing to the former bluestone quarry, which Fite spent 37 years transforming into a work of art.

The trip to Opus 40, Salamone suggested, was the perfect way to launch the first challenge of the new school year at HVPA. Located on the campus of SUNY Ulster in Stone Ridge, HVPA features innovative, mutually beneficial partnerships between high school, college, and industry. The young scholars spent several hours wandering the grounds, admiring Fite’s artistic accomplishment, taking notes in their field notebooks, and considering what kind of challenges they might want to undertake.

Referring to the 30-day challenge, Lead Learner Steve Masson, who teaches English at HVPA, told the young scholars, “This is an individual as well as a schoolwide initiative. I want you to think of what you can accomplish in 30 days. We’re going to value the process, whether you are trying to start learning a new language, how to juggle, or whatever else you might be interested in.”

“Documenting your process, using your math, writing, and analytical skills, is another important part of the assignment,” added Lead Learner Matthew Leifeld, who teaches Math at HVPA, whose drone footage from that day will be added to the young scholars’ digital story about the challenge. 

While giving the HVPA young scholars a tour of the park, Opus 40 Educator AnnMarie Callan pointed to areas where the self-taught stone mason’s work was arguably less-than-perfect. After years of practice, persistence, and hard work, however, Fite did become a highly proficient stoneworker, creating acres of beautiful stone paths, ramps, and platforms on the site. There were, Callan suggested, useful lessons to be learned from Fite’s artistic journey.

Among the field trip attendees was Katie Rescalvo-Gomez, a Chapter 3 (the equivalent of Grade 11) young scholar from the Kingston City School District. “I’m thinking that maybe I will go running every day during the challenge,” she said. “I want to get better at it.” Katie, who is in her third year at HVPA, spoke favorably about the HVPA’s workplace-related challenges. Recalling an early workplace challenge presented by Ametek Roton (which makes thermal management equipment for commercial and military aircraft, communications, naval ships, vehicles, and other applications where operation is critical), Katie said, “We each worked on a certain part of a clock, and worked together to quickly assemble the clock.”  

The Ametek challenge, explained Masson, was designed to teach ‘lean’ manufacturing concepts. “It involves several rounds of constructing plastic kit clocks,” he said. “Each round becomes more streamlined and efficient.”

For his own 30-day challenge, Ian Rosenbaum plans to interview fellow HVPA young scholars, lead learners, and Principal Learner Salamone about HVPA’s P-TECH model, a six-year pathway of study that allows students to develop workforce-readiness skills while earning an associate’s degree. He plans to compile his interviews into a book about HVPA, which he will share with classmates and teachers. 

“What we get at P-TECH is nothing like what you would get at a standard, traditional school,” declared Ian, a Chapter 3 young scholar who previously attended the Kingston City School District as well as the Rondout Valley Central School District. “Working alongside industry leaders gives us so much experience, and sometimes even job offers,” he said. While he is currently enrolled in the Ulster BOCES Custom Robotic Design & Manufacturing program, Ian hopes to eventually earn his pilot’s license through the Ulster BOCES Aviation program, so he can fulfill his dream of flying helicopters and working as an emergency medical technician.  

The visit to Opus 40, Principal Learner Salamone suggested, was thoroughly in keeping with the Ulster BOCES North Star Educational Commitments. “Guided by the Ulster BOCES North Star Educational Commitments, we work to nurture our young scholars’ self-confidence, creativity, and self-actualization,” he said. “We aim to help our scholars reach their full potential and to contribute to their community through continuous cycles of inquiry.”

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