Our favorite things: Nathan’s favorite 2012 stories include parades, horses and changing ideas about educationWe have written a lot of stories over the past year. At a rough estimate, we filled more than 1,500 pages with news about Farmington. That’s a lot of stories we have worked to prepare, then sent out into the world. And while some of them were relatively small things, others have stuck with us over the months. This is a look back at those stories, our favorites from 2012.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Identifying my five favorite stories is always a bit of a challenge. If I’m doing my job, I should have 52 weeks worth of stories I really like.
Identifying a favorite story is usually easier. There always seems to be something that stands out, and this year is no different.
Empire loves a parade
This year that story was about Jacob Albeck and the parade an entire community threw for him in October. Part of a Make-A-Wish event that also included tickets to a Minnesota Vikings game, the parade started out as a small activity for Albeck, who at 16 has never seen a parade because of a rare genetic condition called nonketotic hyperglycinema. Even up to the day of the event, Albeck’s parents were expecting a few people to march up and down the street.
But as people found out, the event grew. Eventually, it involved the Farmington High School band, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Department and floats from community groups like the Boy Scouts.
Just seeing all of that come together would have made the story remarkable all on its own, but what made the day really stand out was seeing the reaction it got from Jacob, who jumped and clapped and smiled through pretty much the whole thing. He’ll no doubt remember that day for a long time, and thanks to the efforts an entire community made for one person, I will too.
Reporting the second story on this list was a much quieter experience. There were no trumpets or trombones, no blaring police sirens. Just a barn, some people and a horse.
The story was about Divine Equine Services, a kind of self-help and coaching business that uses horses and the connections people make with them to help guide clients toward the answers they’re looking for.
If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t really buy it before I saw the process in action. I’m still not sure I do, at least not as something I’m eager to try myself. But there’s no denying the reactions I saw from the group tasked with leading a horse – without words and without physical contact, over a small jump in the middle of the barn’s floor. The experience had an impact on them.
“I was just deeply pleased,” said Michael Palosaari, one of the people who took part that day. “I have goosebumps all over the place.”
I can’t say I had goosebumps, but watching it all take place was a unique experience and I’m glad I had it.
The old-fashioned way
These days, the work of publishing a paper – or pretty much anything – is almost entirely electronic. Our photos are digital. We lay out our pages on a computer. We send PDFs to our printer. Paper never really enters the equation until the printing press fires up.
It’s an efficient way to do things, but it’s fascinating every once in a while to see printing the way it used to be done – on presses that are big and heavy and that make sounds like a locomotive.
Scott Engen still does that kind of printing at his business, The Letterpress Workshop, and watching his presses chug and whir and spit out beautiful cards and folders and other items, it’s easy to see why he got hooked on the business.
He says it’s the sound that first drew him to letterpress, and I believe him.
I actually discovered Engen by accident. I was calling someone else and dialed the wrong number. He answered with the name of his business, and while I didn’t talk to him then I made note of the name and got back in touch with him later. I’m really glad I did. There was something delightfully old-fashioned about Engen’s workshop. The presses were loud and inefficient compared to anything you might see in a more modern print shop, but there is a quality to the finished product, a sense that it’s something you want to reach out and touch, that you can’t get with more modern equipment.
It’s nice to be reminded every once in a while that sometimes the old ways of doing things are still pretty valuable.
The kiln builder
There is something old-fashioned about the way Donovan Palmquist makes his living, too. The Farmington resident has a good reputation as a potter. He sells his work all over the country. But it’s his work building the kilns that fire those pots that is where he really has made a name for himself.
In the 17 years he has run his kiln-building business Palmquist has worked in 40 states and a handful of foreign countries. He has built kilns in Hawaii and at Harvard.
I know next to nothing about pottery. My last experience with the art probably came in junior high, where I remember making a miniature castle tower. But seeing Palmquist’s work and learning about the detail involved is fascinating.
While there is a lot of technical work that goes into building a good kiln, the structures Palmquist builds are works of art all on their own.
“I like building beautiful structures,” he said.
I liked seeing the structures he has built.
iPads for everyone
The last story on this list is far from over. In some ways, it’s only just started.
Late last month, just before the holiday break, the Farmington School District handed out shiny new iPads to all of the students at Farmington High School. It is the latest step in a process that will eventually put one of the tablet computers in the hands of every student.
The goal is nothing short of a revolution in the way teachers teach and students learn.
It’s still too early to know whether that will happen. A lot will depend on the teachers and how well they are able to adjust their approach to take advantage of this new tool. If the iPads become just another way to read textbooks or watch videos, this project will not have been worth the effort. But it’s clear there are some big opportunities out there if the schools can take advantage.
I don’t know if they’ll be able to. It probably won’t be possible to fully judge the success of this effort for a year or more. But it’s been interesting to watch the district put in the work necessary to get ready. Preparing for last month’s FHS rollout has been a massive effort that started well before the first iPads landed in teachers’ hands.
It’s been interesting to watch the homework that has gone into this project, and there’s something thrilling about watching a school district take such a big step.
I look forward to seeing how it develops.