Stampede did a lot for many in Valley

Lisa Wolff, president, Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education

At the Oct. 20 Hopewell Valley Regional Board of Education meeting, I opened my Board President’s Report by mentioning that I attended the Stampede Finale event held at Hopewell Elementary School. I thanked Hopewell Valley Arts Council (HVAC) and some of the details mentioned below received an explosion of applause.

While Hopewell Valley and the surrounding area residents have experienced the tremendous sense of community that the Stampede has created, many may be unaware of the extra effort and energy HVAC members have expended to benefit our school district.

Planning began over a year ago. HVAC involved our art teachers and art supervisor. They solicited four generous donors including Capital Health, Hopewell Valley Community Bank and Morehouse Engineering to ensure that all six district schools could participate without taxing our schools or PTOS.

Further, our art teachers went above and beyond the call by not only giving extra time and involving our students, but also revised their curriculum to teach art techniques in updated lessons that apply to a new media (an ox – I am sure that is no easy feat!)

No one could foresee the enthusiasm, attachment and genuine affection that our students would feel for “their” oxen. As our district continues our move to project-based learning techniques, this experience clearly demonstrates the passion that project involvement may evoke.

For years our schools have increased emphasis on character education and service learning. Every step along the Stampede path reinforced many of those lessons. Even the unfortunate oxen vandalism provided many “teachable moments,” and the final oxen auctions provided a sense of purpose and dedication to a cause. In the end Hopewell, Stony Brook, Bear Tavern and Timberlane will be keeping their oxen installed.

A Stampede chairperson said to me, “I feel badly that children are emptying their piggy banks to bid on an ox.” I replied, “I feel just the opposite. How wonderful that this event may be the spark that ignites a lifelong aspiration to work toward something greater!” At Bear Tavern, as one example, the fifth-grade class came together to donate their ox back to the school. Fortunately, our schools can build on this momentum as a catalyst to encourage further service learning exploration in the arts, the environment, or many other worthwhile philanthropic endeavors.

In the end, our oxen Stampede offered learning on many levels, provided interactive family fun, and simply brought joy to the many it touched.

I extend heartfelt gratitude to the Hopewell Valley Arts Council for paving the way for collaboration among our community, schools, and children. With special thanks to Carol Lipson, Heidi Kahme, Linda Bradshaw, Randee Tengi, and Mayor Vanessa Sandom. Although the Stampede is officially over, it leaves behind lasting goodwill. Thank you.