Thursday, June 20, 2024

Among items up for bid at the Cambridgeport Spring Fling auction Saturday are, clockwise from top, gift certificates from local restaurants such as Floating Rock; a plush Totoro doll (as part of a raffle to benefit a Japanese children’s fund); a cheese and wine tasting for four and “cheese cave” tour at Formaggio Kitchen with owner Ihsan Gurdal; Pro memberships to the thredUp online children’s clothing exchange; a night at The Charles Hotel, with breakfast at Henrietta’s Table; a Jane Austen action figure as part of a WGBH “Masterpiece” 40th anniversary celebration basket; and “Rock Band 3,” with keyboard peripheral, from Harmonix. (Graphic: Jesse Nahan)

The Cambridgeport School celebrates its 20th anniversary by swinging open its doors Saturday  for a Spring Fling Auction and Talent Show, with admission and all money raised from the silent auction going toward filling teacher requests for art materials, science, technology and social studies projects. Funds also help cover unmet costs of student field trips and community-building activities.

The auction, made possible by donations from a wide range of local businesses, benefits attendees also, organizers said, since the sheer number of offerings — with items being added daily — ensures many chances to win.

Up for bid are gift cards from restaurants including Bondir, Floating Rock, Harvest and Craigie on Main; products such as artisanal maple-based spirits and “Rock Band 3”; personal tours of Formaggio Kitchen’s cheese cave and America’s Test Kitchen; tickets for the Red Sox, Central Square Theater and the Peabody Essex Museum; stays at The Charles Hotel, Le Méridien Cambridge-MIT and Hotel Marlowe; classes from Black Lotus Yoga and the School of Groove; gift baskets from CitySprouts and Central Bottle + Provisions; plus toys from Stellabella, Henry Bear’s Park and Magic Beans. Some items are unique, and rarely found at other auctions, officials said, with all representing what Cambridge treasures most about its local community and region.

The school will also raffle off a very large plush Totoro, a character from the 1988 Japanese anime film “My Neighbor Totoro” by Hayao Miyazaki, donated by Kofuku Shop in Harvard Square, with proceeds included in a special fund for the children of Japan most affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Coordinated by middle school students at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School and raised by students from across Cambridge, the fund will be presented to the consulate general of Japan in Boston in May.

The $5 admission (or $20 for families of four or more) includes pizza donated from City Girl Café and other local shops, fruit and vegetable snacks from Whole Foods and Harvest Co-op Markets and, for dessert, Girl Scout cookies provided by the Parent Teacher Organization’s bank, Cambridge Trust Co.

Proud history

The school was founded in 1991 with kindergarten and a combined first- and second-grade class — a decade before moving into the former Fletcher School building in Area IV.

“The seeds of the school started in September 1990 in one kindergarten classroom at the Morse School. Mary Cronin was the teacher, and she was an inspiration to us because her style was exactly what we craved as parents,” said Minka vanBeuzekom, a former Cambridgeport parent and returning candidate for City Council.

The school practices an educational philosophy called Developmental Learning, which is described as understanding that children develop in similar ways, but at their own rates and styles of learning. While original principal Lynn Stuart retired in 2004, there are still teachers and staff at Cambridgeport hailing from those early days and continuing with Developmental Learning. Cronin is expected to come in from Cape Cod for the event.

The Cambridgeport School’s first class (which was at the Morse School) poses for a photo with teacher Mary Cronin, and the parent-student band Parental Guidance plays.

From the beginning, Cambridgeport was built upon the idea that teachers and families can work together as a community toward assuring success for every child, said vanBeuzekom and others familiar with school from its start.

“I remember the frantic weeks before school started in September 1991. When we got approval to move into the Blessed Sacrament School, it was late in the summer and the parents scrambled to prepare the school for a September opening. The building hadn’t been used as a school for a few years, so we had work to do. Good thing so many of those first parents were architects,” vanBeuzekom said. “Parents got a key to the school and we shared the key, took turns painting the classrooms and building cubbies and other features.

“I have a vague memory of the basement bathrooms needing lots of work,” she said. “I think my daughter, Anya, one of the first Morse-class kids, was afraid to use that bathroom until about fourth grade.”

The school now has 300 students in grades JK-8, serving one of the most economically diverse and multinational student populations in Cambridge, and parents say the family and school partnership continues, with parent volunteers building garden boxes, running the after-school debate club, coordinating the Math Olympiad, arranging art displays, painting classrooms and fixing and improving the stage.

“Another memory is of the band Parental Guidance, created by parents,”  vanBeuzekom said. “There was a backup vocal group made up of a few brave girls. PG performed at school pizza parties and fundraisers for many years. Many of the band members still keep in touch.”

The Spring Fling is held in that spirit to celebrate the school, staff and families and the wider community, parents said.

The event runs from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday in the Cambridgeport School gymnasium, 89 Elm St. This event, sponsored by the Cambridgeport Parent Teacher Organization, is open to the general public. For a complete list of auction items, updated daily, and information about the event, go to

For information about the special fund for the children of Japan and how to contribute, send e-mail to [email protected]. This post was updated April 19, 2011, with corrected information about the first classes at the Cambridgeport School.