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[photo] Plumfield is a small school of nine students and one teacher located in Beverly, Massachusetts. This teacher, Mrs. Janet Koza, originally trained in music education, is also their MSSC coach.

On the day that I visited, Mrs. Koza explained that Plumfield was established in 1992, initially as a homeschool, but in 1996 changed charters and is now a private school. After a short introduction and explanation of the upcoming MSSC, in which four of them would be competing, the game began. The students, in teams of three on each side played their first serious game of SCRABBLE®. They took readily to suggestions that they focus on parallel plays and two-letter words.

(l-r) Renee Malionek, Stephen Dalton, Peter Malionek, teacher and coach Mrs. Janet Koza, Jay Pension, Mike McDuffee, and Anne Koza. Missing BenHanan Ways.
[photo] In an e-mail the school children sent after this visit, Stephen wrote, "What you taught us has been an invaluable asset in improving our SCRABBLE® competitions. Using your techniques, we were able to boost our score to at least 150 per 30-minute game. " Anne wrote, "I was playing against Mrs. Koza the other day, and I beat her with a 30-minute time limit. The score was 233 to 218. We are keeping track of our average score per turn by dividing the number of turns we've had by the score at end of the game. Thank you for all the help you've given us, it's really made a difference in these games. I think I've learned a lot more about hooking and finding good places on the board." Mike added, "Our friends are coming out with us and we're going to stay in a hotel overnight."

Although only four students will be competing, the whole school will be making the trip out to Springfield, spending the night together, and heading over to the Civic Center as a group. Those not competing will spend the day quietly watching from the sidelines or tromping off to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

(l-r) Stephen Dalton, Renee Malionek, and Peter Malionek.
[photo] Plumfield's blue team features Michael McDuffee (age 14, grade 7) and BenHanan Ways (age 12, grade 8). Mike, an all-season sports enthusiast, snowboards in winter and swims in his backyard pool and skateboards in the fairer months. An avid guitar player and Beatles fan, one of Mike's favorite Beatles' songs is "And Your Bird Can Sing." He says, "I play my Mom and we are pretty evenly matched now since I've improved my game." Of playing with his teammate, BenHanan, Mike says, "Ben sees good words and I can usually find places for them and their correct spellings. We work very well together." Mike recently played the natural bingo TONGUED. His partner, BenHanan Ways, spends most of his free time reading. He recently finished "The Redwall Series," and enjoys reading from all genres. Although math isn't his favorite subject, BenHanan likes all of his subjects equally well. In two musicals recently staged by Plumfield, he played the part of Pobah in "The Mikado" and a police officer in "The Pirates of Penzance." BenHanan enjoys the rock climbing class he takes at a nearby YMCA.

(l-r) Mike McDuffee, Jay Pension, and Anne Koza.
[photo] Plumfield's red team contains Stephen Dalton (age 12, grade 7) and Anne Koza (age 12, grade 7). Stephen's favorite school subject is history and he's partial to the WWII era. His favorite sport is baseball. He says, "It is very good working with Anne. We both come up 7-letter words and good plays, but she can really find the places to hook them. Anne also adds humor when she comes up with wacky words." Recently, she arranged their rack to AUIOAIU and whispered to him, "It's a Hawaiian delicacy!" He says he gave her a perplexed look and told her that they weren't going to play it! Stephen recalls their best play as a team, a two-play combination. They first played REINING (a 7-letter word worth 63 points). On their next turn, they played XI parallel to the IN in REINING on a triple word square for 42 points. His partner, Anne Koza, likes all subjects equally well, but considers spelling to be the one in which she needs the most work. An avid reader, she recently finished "Anne of Green Gables" and two Louisa May Alcott stories. In a SCRABBLE® game against her Mom, she played HARPING (with no blanks). While enjoying her ballet lessons, Anne sees her future not in the arts, but in the sciences. She wants to pursue a veterinary career. This past summer her family completed a metric century (100 km) bike trip.

(sitting l-r) Stephen Dalton and Peter Malionek. (standing l-r) Anne Koza, Renee Malionek, Mike McDuffee, and Jay Pension.
[photo] For a small school, Plumfield students are involved in a wide range of travel and activities. For instance, last year the school embarked on a three-day trip to New York City. The students stayed at a hostel in Manhattan and took in sites which included the American Museum of Natural History, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Intrepid-Sea-Air-Space Museum, the New York Stock Exchange, and the Staten Island Ferry. Closer to home, for the past six years the school has entered (and almost always won) the Topsfield Fair's junior vegetable division contest. In years past, they've created, using only vegetables (they are particular to gourds because they last longest), Anthony and Cleopatra going down the Nile, a presidential debate (the students tell me that a butternut squash makes a perfect Clinton!), Mount Rushmore, and this year's first prize winner: The Beatles. Mike's Beatlemania came in handy and he took full responsibility for the three perfectly depicted guitars, right down to Paul McCartney's left-handedness. They are taking their prize money, $25 this year, and adding it to past years' winnings to purchase an incubator for chicks.
The team of Stephen, Renee, and Peter find an unplayable, but fun contemporary word on their rack.

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