Mrs. Lee’s Class Designs Mathland in Minecraft

Target 3–Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Action Step 2 – Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize in all learning settings

Indicator of Success – Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

lee2Fourth graders in Mrs. Lee’s class at GEMS had math class in a different location than usual. Instead of meeting in their classroom, they all met in Minecraft. For three class periods, the students learned about factors while logged in to MinecraftEdu is a school-ready remix of the original smash hit game Minecraft with features designed especially for classroom use to let users connect and play together in a safe controlled environment.


In their first class, students were able to complete some training in Minecraft to learn how to navigate in this new world. Students were able to explore how to move, build, gather supplies and communicate with other online classmates. They also learned about the educational expectations of being good digital citizens in this popular game.


In the next class, students were placed on teams and given a math design challenge. Each member of the team was given 13 blocks giving each team a total of 36 blocks to design rectangles. As a team, they had to work together to find all of the different sized rectangles.


In the final class, students were then challenged to take the information they had learned from the previous lesson and now create three dimensional boxes. Teams had to collaborate and use trial and error to solve the challenges. Teams persevered and were ultimately successful and proud of their creative work. With the knowledge and confidence gained, students have now asked for newer and harder challenges in the exciting world of Minecraft.

GEMS 6th Graders Take Virtual Field Trip

GEMS 6th Grade students attended a field trip recently without taking a step outside of the classroom. This wasn’t just any field trip; it involved the president of the United States of America. Discovery Education hosted a free virtual field trip for students across the country where students submitted questions via email or twitter for the President to answer. President Obama touched upon his work with Connect Ed. The mission is to get internet connection in every classroom in America.


Not only did President Obama talk about the importance of technology, he also encouraged kids to become stronger readers, writers, mathematicians, and scientists.  He shared a strong message for our young female students and urged girls take more interest in math and science. It’s not just for boys!

We learned that Mr. Obama is a Dr. Seuss and Harry Potter fan, as well. The experience left a lasting impression on at least one of our students who summed it up best by saying, “It was like the president was in our classroom.” 

You can find an archive of the discussion at

BFA Students Explore England

312On April 15th 2015, a group of 15 BFA high school students and 2 chaperones embarked on a trip to England for 10 days.  This multi-disciplinary educational adventure was centered on the cultural and intellectual history of England while providing ample opportunities for fitness and fun.  One critical element to its success is that students plan the trip from start to finish; they are not passive travelers being moved from place to place with a tour guide.  Each student is an active, fully invested participant, the leader in creating his or her own itinerary.


Keswick Hiking2



During the first part of their trip, students spent numerous hours on the ground and under ground navigating their way through the city of London.  Some of the cultural and commercial sites they visited include Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, the Science Museum, the British Museum, Greenwich, Globe Theater, Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and more.  Students then traveled via high-speed train to the heart of the Lake District and the small, historic village of Keswick.  Keswick is on Lake Windemere and is famous as a haunt of the romantic poets Shelley, Coleridge and Wordsworth.  Keswick offers an intimate encounter with the fabled English countryside with paddling, mountain biking, horseback riding, shopping, hiking and visits to historical sites.  As with London, students created their own itinerary in Keswick.





Stone Wall2

Group Shot


This adventure is a great example of authentic student-centered, student-led learning outside classroom walls.  This keynote, created by CeLynn Siemons captures the experience from a student’s perspective.


 Essential Expectations:

Problem Solving


Habits of Mind



FWSU Action Plan:

Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment

Student-Centered Learning

Flexible Learning Environments


Fletcher Partners with Johnson State College to Help Teacher Find “True” Passion

Target – Engaged Community Partners – FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.

Action Step – (1) Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences. (2) Engage community partners in a focused collaborative inquiry process.

Indicator of Success – Students are engaged with local resources and create community learning labs based on projects.


IMG_5288Bethany True descends from a long line of professional educators. Her father teaches high school social studies. Her aunt and uncle are retired middle school math teachers. Her grandfather and uncle are college professors. One might say that education is in her genes.

“I knew that I wanted to be a teacher when I was 10 years old,” True said, recalling time spent visiting her father’s classroom as a young child. “About half of my family members are teachers and they all talk so highly of their profession.”

Helping to set up her father’s classroom over the summer at roughly age seven, True says she didn’t yet imagine herself teaching in a classroom of her own. Back then, she still dreamed of becoming an astronaut. Little did she know that she was destined to help the next generation reach for the stars.

“I definitely have the bug,” True joked yesterday of the love of children and teaching that she has developed since childhood.


After several field placements in local schools since 2011 as part of her college coursework, True donned a black robe and cap and took one of the proudest walks of her life on Saturday, graduating from Johnson State College with her degree in education. But, not before student teaching full-time with kindergarten teacher Jenny Blackman at Fletcher Elementary since January.

“It was intimidating at first,” True said. “But once I taught my first lesson it was really fun and exciting. I got to show everyone that I am a real teacher and they got to see what I am capable of.”

True’s student teaching placement in Fletcher is an example of an engaged community partnership between the college and Fletcher School. Partnering with local schools to provide hands-on experience for future teachers is an integral part of the Johnson State College teacher preparation program. It allows students to experience first hand the theories and methods that they have learned about in their classes.


“We love having the opportunity to send students out into the field to benefit from the expertise of classroom teachers. We hope to send our students into the classroom ready to work with kids and teachers and to be an asset to the classroom environment while they are learning,” said Kathy Light, Teacher Education Placement Coordinator at Johnson State College.

According to kindergarten teacher Jenny Blackman, True’s supervising teacher at Fletcher, the relationship between she and True was one of mutual learning.

“Having a student teacher like Bethany was a great experience for me and my students. I enjoyed watching her navigate the many challenges that teachers face every day, and tried to guide her as well as show her that no one has all of the answers all of the time. Bethany had some strengths that were different from mine. My students all developed a close relationship with her and benefitted by getting to know her and sharing her interests such as dance and Dr. Seuss. I feel very lucky to have had her join our kindergarten family and to have developed a co-teacher role with her,” Blackman said.


“In my classes they discussed realistic things that might happen and throughout student teaching you saw those things coming to life. Instead of just following the the book you have to take what you have seen the cooperating teacher do and what you have read and mix it all together to create the best reaction for that situation,” True said.

“We know that mentoring student teachers elevates everyone’s practice and gives opportunities for reflection and growth,” Light said. “The students benefit from having strong and inspiring role models in the classroom and from having several teachers in the room. Typically, students love having student teachers and miss them when they are gone.”

True says that one of the biggest surprises of her student teaching was to learn how different adults approach classroom management differently, and how important it is for all of the adults at school to work together. She also learned quickly how to be flexible.


“I learned quickly that things don’t always go the way I want,” True said. “As an educator you need to have flexibility.”

True also believes that kindness towards students and colleagues, along with strong classroom management, are key to running a successful classroom.

“Blending theory with practice is an art,” Blackman said, “and can only happen when teachers try to apply what they have learned in courses…I feel it is the responsibility of all veteran teachers to help develop the next generation of educators…We can all learn from each other. The collaboration and colleagueship between teachers is powerful and the students benefit from this. Colleges need to form bonds with schools, and schools with colleges. Being a graduate of Johnson State College, I am eager to enter this role with the college. I still remember my own student teaching and draw upon those experiences.”

BFA High School – Day 163

 “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself” – John Dewey 

The end of the year is rapidly approaching in our schools, but  the pace of school life everyday remains the same. While we sometimes view the school year as sprint, it really is much more like a marathon. Below are a few pictures of BFA High School in the midst of the marathon on Day 163.

photo 5 (2)Passing time is a ritual in school that never fades. it is still a time to socialize with friends, visit a locker, stop by the guidance office, or simply walk to class with a friend.

photo 2 (10)

Schools are about relationships. Today two high school students paid a visit to their lunch buddy from elementary school – Mrs. French. Lasting relationships are part of the fabric of our PreK-12 building.

photo (12)The salad bar is fully stocked and waiting for our students to dig in!

photo 1 (10)

Where would we be without our wonderful school support staff? Sally is willing to do just about anything to make sure our school runs smoothly and efficiently for our students and parents. photo 3 (6)

Flexible learning environments and digital tools allow for students to find spaces for learning throughout our school. Here, three students have found a comfortable spot in a hallway to work on assignments. 
photo 1 (9)Community service is an integral part of a high-schooler’s life in school today. The picture above shows a quiet moment before the opening of Red Cross Blood drive, which is sponsored by the National Honor Society.

photo 4 (6)Students in math class working on an independent project to demonstrate proficiency.

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” – Benjamin Franklin

BFA Reading Buddies Practice Literacy Skills

Target 3–Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Action Step 4 – Engage all staff and students in creating a personalized learning networks (PLN) that contribute to learning and instructional practice.

Target 2 –Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment. FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning.

Action Step 3- Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community.


Students ask leading questions about their text, encourage younger learners to stay engaged, and reflect on the experience of being the “teacher.”


Students practice decoding, fluency, voice and use information that they collected to explain their thinking.


“I was really nervous.”


“That was kinda hard.”


“Can I read again?”


This activity was very motivating to the students and while it was a challenge for some, they have been encouraged to keep reading.


First grade students noticed that the preschool students didn’t always pay attention and conversation was started around their own listening practices.


The classes will meet again to set up a schedule for reading buddies in the coming weeks. Both first grade and preschool students were eager to continue their learning together!


GEMS First Grade Author Takes Center S​​tage

Flexible Learning Environments: Teachers will promote learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom while fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities.

Action Steps: Provide students with methods for learning beyond the classroom and school walls.

Indicator of Success -Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.


Congratulations to Alex Courtois from Mrs. Dattilio’s first grade class for being selected as the first place winner in the PBS Kids Writing Contest! Out of 140 entries, Alex’s writing in Tim and Anna: A Horror Story was chosen as the best among first grade entries. They said in 20 years of running this contest, this was the first horror story they had seen. Alex had spent almost 6 months working on his story as part of Writing Workshop in his classroom.


The end result was a three-chapter book about 2 children lost in the woods, pursued by a werewolf and seeking refuge in a seemingly abandoned house before finally meeting with an unfortunate fate at the end. Alex was invited to the PBS studio where he recorded his story in front of a green screen. This recording, along with images of his book, will be posted on the PBSkids website, as well as aired on the local television station. Alex also attended a special award ceremony last Saturday to receive his award. He received a trophy as well as a grab bag full of gifts.


Alex’s story is now ‘touring’ the state and being read at local libraries. It will also be sent on to a nationwide competition and be judged against other first graders stories from across the country. Alex has already begun working on a sequel! We are so proud of Alex and excited for him on his big accomplishment! As he received his award, Alex was joined by his parents and… 


 Classroon Teacher Melanie Datillio



Reading Specialist Pam Toof

Read his story here (Audio/video of story to be released at a later date)