Swanton Elementary School
“Melanie Berthiaume is a true proponent of overall wellness for our students and staff,” said Cindy Rose, Swanton Elementary school’s guidance counselor. “Mel focuses on the whole person and how wellness can take many forms. She has spread the importance of mindfulness practices throughout the school community.”
Now in her second year as the school’s librarian, (after several years as a teacher at the school) Berthiaume is invested in promoting healthy behaviors to the school community at large. “A few years ago, while in a yoga class I overheard a woman talking about labyrinths. My curiosity got the best of me and therein began my journey to bring a labyrinth into the Swanton Elementary School,” she said. “With the support of the community and staff, we now have an indoor labyrinth made of canvas that can be stored in a rolling suitcase. When unfurled, it is 1,094 feet in size and you can have six to eight persons on it at any one time.”
Rose and Berthiaume eagerly unzipped the bag and quickly spread the labyrinth across the floor of the library. “Cindy and I painted all the lines purple,” Berthaiaume said proudly. “It’s important to recognize that every time one walks the labyrinth it is different. One can play music while walking, remain at any one point and you can’t get lost. When one enters the labyrinth it is a place to let go of your thoughts and embrace the present moment.”
Berthiaume’s next dream is to raise the necessary funds and construct a permanent labyrinth outdoors on the school’s property. “We continue to introduce the concepts around the labyrinth during school events and workshops to our families,” she said.
“Mel is also responsible for the creation of an outdoor classroom space located on a small parcel next to the school,” said Rose. “All students now have an opportunity to learn about and appreciate the outdoors.”
Every Thursday Berthiaume invites staff to join her on an after school hike either at the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge or at Hard’ack in St. Albans. “We sincerely appreciate Mel’s enthusiasm and knowledge about the natural world,” said Rose. And with that the gung-ho staff got into their vehicles, parked at the Refuge, laced up their boots, buttoned their coats, crossed the road and began following Berthiaume down one of the Refuge’s snowy paths in the late afternoon dusk.