BFA Students Create Paper Cranes for Hiroshima Peace Memorial

Target 1 – Student-Centered Learning. FWSU students will engage in personalize learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step –  Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

Indicator of Success –  Students and staff will apply existing knowledge to create original works as a means of personal or group expression.

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IIMG_8335n January and February, students in Emily Wills’ 7th grade class at BFA Fairfax learned about WWII. As a culmination to their study of the Pacific Theater, students made origami cranes to send to the peace memorial in Hiroshima, Japan. It was a positive way to end an examination of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and a concrete means of connecting the Fairfax community with a community nearly 7000 miles away.

IMG_8337The idea of folding cranes to memorialize the victims of the bombing of Hiroshima originated with Sadako Sasaki, a girl who was two years old when the bomb dropped. Ten years later, she became fatally ill with leukemia as a result of the radiation from the bomb. Sadako began folding a thousand paper cranes because, according to legend, anyone who made a thousand cranes would be granted a wish. Sadako’s wish was to live. Sadly, she died before she was able to make her thousand cranes. Since then, people from all over the world have made origami cranes in her memory, and sent them to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial.

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Town Meeting Day 2015

Target 4 – 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.

The NFL has its Super Bowl, NASCAR has the Daytona 500, the PGA has the Masters… Vermont Schools have Town Meeting Day!

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Cold start to Town Meeting Day 2015 in Fairfax!

Town Meeting Day is held the first Tuesday of March every year and commemorates the day Vermont was admitted into the union as the 14th State in 1791. History tells us that Town Meeting even predates Vermont entering the United States. The first town meeting was held in Bennington, Vermont, in 1762.

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BFA Fairfax presents the school budget proposal.

 

Town Meetings are places where any issue involving the town is open to debate. Budgets are voted on. And the spirit of community is solidified. In FWSU, we have three different types of Town Meetings.

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BFA Fairfax students attend Fletcher Town Meeting.

 

Fletcher holds a “traditional” meeting on Town Meeting Day where all items related to school and town business are discussed and voted on by community members from the floor. Georgia holds a Town Meeting on Tuesday as well, but votes are cast by secret ballot (Australian ballot) throughout the day. Fairfax holds its annual meeting on the Saturday prior to Town Meeting Day with all votes by Australian ballot on Town Meeting Day.

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Fletcher School Board Chair Todd Baumeister presents the proposed school budget.

The ideals of true democracy are alive and well in FWSU and Vermont! #TMDVT

GEMS 4th Grade Presents Living Wax Museum

Target 1. Student Centered Learning: Students will engage in personalize learning, collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step:  Students will highlight, create, and model innovative learning opportunities.

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GEMS 4th Grade students took center stage and became their character as they shared facts about personal accomplishments, hobbies, families, and lifetime careers.

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After reading literature and autobiographies, of their choice, children dressed their part and explained key ideas and facts to many adults who attended the Wax Museum in the library at the Georgia Elementary and Middles School.

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Characters such as: Muhammad Ali, Teddy Roosevelt, Dr.Suess, Amelia Earhart, Steve Jobs, Jane Goodall and Abraham Lincoln were in attendance along with many other historical individuals who have shaped our lives as we exist in the 21st century.

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As schools begin to implement common core benchmarks it is imperative to do so creatively and personally. This particular challenge for students asked them to read literature, explain key ideas and details while reporting out using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details.  Children needed to speak clearly at an understandable pace with appropriate purpose for their audience to gain better understanding.

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As the Principal approached one student to ask questions and accidentally called her by first name to initiate conversation, her response was: “My name is Amelia….Amelia Earhart!”

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It was very exciting to see students not only dress their part, but implement the characteristics and behaviors of the individuals they learned about.  Many parents shared their appreciation of such a wonderful learning opportunity for their children. “Hats off” to Stacey Sullivan, Heather Sikorsky, and all of their students who provided a FUN, educational, learning opportunity for many adults.

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SBAC Training for FWSU Special Educators

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 –Increase access to resources for all students using digital tools making learning more accessible for diverse learners.

Indicator of Success – Use of digital tools to differentiate, personalize, and individualize learning.

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Last week Special Educators in FWSU participated in mini-workshop to focus on the new and upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)  assessment. The SBAC assessment strives to provide every student with a positive and productive assessment experience. With a goal of generating results that are a fair and accurate estimate of each student’s achievement.   In preparation for the assessment, Angelique Fairbrother (FWSU’s Digital Learning Specialist) guided a presentation and discussion on how to implement SBAC with accommodations for our students on IEPs or 504 plans.

There was a lot to learn. Special Educators need to understand and implement the following:

  • Using the  IEP to determine that each student has the necessary accessibility and accommodations to ensure valid assessment results
  • Universal Tools
  • Designated Supports
  • Accommodations

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Here is a brief explanation of each of the terms for your understanding.

What are Universal Tools?  Universal tools are access features of the assessment that are either provided as digitally-delivered components of the test administration system. Universal tools are available to all students based on student preference and selection

What are Designated Supports? Designated supports are those features that are available for use by any student for whom the need has been indicated by an educator (or a team of educators with parent/guardian & or student) these supports need to be identified prior to assessment administration.

What are Accommodations? Accommodations are changes in procedures that increase equitable access during the assessments.   These accommodations for students for whom there is documentation on an IEP or 504 plan.

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It is important for everyone to realize that all students are to be held to the same expectations for participation and performance on the SBAC. The only expectations are students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, approximately 1% of fewer of the student population.

FWSU will continue to support our educators, students and parents as we continue to explore the conceptual framework of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) assessment. If you have questions please contact FWSU Director of Special Education Kim Magnuson.

 

In Fletcher, It’s All About Community

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

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

Indicators of Success – (1) Teachers embrace the role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment. (2) Student voice will have the power to impact the perception of others.

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Holidays can be challenging in schools. Children very much look forward to celebrating various calendar landmarks, but schools often struggle with how to approach these days while maintaining respect and courtesy to everyone’s beliefs.

For Fletcher’s fifth and sixth graders, themes like community, leadership, helpfulness and role-modeling run through many of the students’ decisions about how they approach holidays.

Take today, for example. Students are always excited about Valentine’s Day and the sweet treats that accompany it. However, in developing a deeper meaning and turning a small part of their morning into a rich learning experience for both themselves and their younger schoolmates, our oldest students hosted the preschoolers and kindergartens for a Valentine’s gathering that incorporated literacy, the arts and a myriad of social skills.

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“I really feel like by doing this I got a bigger connection with individual younger students. They might have been afraid of bigger kids and by doing this they learned that inside we are nice people and that we want to help them,” fifth grader Mabel Osgood said.

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The fifth and sixth graders greeted the younger guests, read them Valentines books that they hand selected from the library, supported them with art projects and served them a few sweet treats.

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“This was a good experience for both the youngers and the olders to get to know each other and have a bond,” sixth grader Adam Degree said. “That is important because we want them to know that we are here for them and that we are their friends.”

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“This was a great experience. Now that we have spent the time to sit down and talk they know us just a little bit better,” fifth grader Emma Sweet said.

“I enjoyed this a lot. I really liked being able to help and do things with the kindergartener that I was with. I enjoyed his company and I am really glad that I had this opportunity to make a new friend,” sixth grader Sebrina Short said.

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According to their teachers, the fifth and sixth graders are learning to consistently model courtesy and respect, key elements of being a great host and good friend.

“They are working hard at showing the younger students what it looks and sounds like to be a caring community member,” teacher Jasmine Tremblay said. “I am incredibly proud of how they have taken care of their guests and turned what might have ordinarily been less of a learning experience into something that was really meaningful for everyone involved.”

“I learned that everybody in the school is important to our community,” fifth grader Kiersten Cardinal said. “And we are leading the way to show that.”

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BFA 6th Grade Social Studies Experience Thai Culture

Target 4:  Engaged Community Partners. FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.

Action Step: Engage community partners in a focused collaborative inquiry process.

Indicators of Success: Learning outcomes will be expanded to encourage curiosity, communication, and digital citizenry.

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6th grade students at BFA Fairfax recently had a visitor provide an educational and artistic workshop to support their social studies curriculum. Mr. Supanya Khienjaren or as he was known to us, Lek is a social studies teacher from Bangkok, Thailand. He is working in the United States this spring and is providing art, gym, and social studies workshops to schools in the northern Vermont area. Lek teaches at an all boys school with an enrollment of 5,500 students and was quite surprised at our small class sizes.

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Students prepared for the visit the day before Lek arrived by learning a little about Thailand’s geography and cultural so that they would have a frame of reference for his presentation. Lek started with a slide show that displayed many cultural aspects of Thailand. Students asked many questions as he gave an overview of his country’s religion, government, recreation, dress, education, food, art, customs and traditions.

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Next, he explained Phahumyam Line Art, a beautiful art form that is used in many Buddhist temples and artifacts. Lek gave step-by-step directions on how to draw and create the lotus drawings on the gold cardstock he provided. Students added detail with jewel-like accents and messages on the inside of the card. Lek was very impressed with how creative and engaged the 6th grade students were during the presentation and art project.

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Students were very positive and really enjoyed the experience. In their reflections, students expressed appreciation for the experience:

“Thank you visiting our classroom, I enjoyed learning about Thailand and how to make a Phahumyam Line Flower drawing.”

“Thank you for coming, I enjoyed everything, especially making the mini cards of the lotus flowers. It is interesting is that some kids have to take the Sky Train to school because of the traffic in Bangkok, that is very different than how we get to school in Fairfax, Vt.”

“Thank you for coming to our school to teach us about Thailand. I it found interesting that over 90% of the country practices Buddhism and that you have a King. That is a big difference from our country.

“Thank you for coming to our school and for taking 22 hours to come all the way here. One thing I learned is that there are schools with just boys and just girls. Also there are very big traffic jams. I noticed a similarity and that I think is – humor!”

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Fletcher Program Supports Student Wellness

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 Steps – (1) Provide students with access to content, resources and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. (2) Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize in all learning settings.

Indicators of Success – (1) The school calendar and definition of school day changes to become flexible and responsive to the needs of students. (2) Students are engaged in … solving problems in collaborative settings.

An age-old tradition that heats up in the dead of winter is promoting new skills for students in Fletcher. The school’s Winter Wellness Program, which includes school-based activities as well as skiing and snowboarding at Smuggler’s Notch, aims to promote an enjoyment and appreciation of outdoor recreation, healthy exercise habits and positive social skills.

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Weather permitting, the program runs for five consecutive Friday afternoons beginning in January, and has been in existence for more than 20 years. Some former Fletcher Elementary students have now returned as part of the 21-parent cadre of mountain chaperones that made this year’s skiing and boarding component of the program a slope-side success.

But, the familiar faces on the Mountain didn’t end with parents and the 11 school staff members that hit the slopes with students. The program has served as inspiration for several former Fletcher Elementary students who have gone on to become instructors at Smuggler’s Notch and now facilitate lessons and serve as inspiration for their younger Fletcher counterparts.

According to Aimee Tinker, a parent volunteer who coordinates the skiing and snowboarding component of the program for the school, the benefits of the program go well beyond learning the technicalities of the sports.

“There is also an important social piece where students are in a new setting with their peers, teachers, parents and new adults,” Tinker said, stating that students practice flexibility, adaptability and respect in addition to receiving ski or snowboarding instruction and having fun.

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Tinker is convinced of the educational value of the program. “They learn so much,” she said of the students’ experience at the mountain. “This is not a waste of a Friday afternoon. It is an educational field trip with instructors and skills, social and otherwise.”

Drew Tolbert agrees. He is the sales and promotions coordinator for the mountain and a former snowboard coach who has worked with many Fletcher Elementary School groups. “The students are being athletic and healthy,” Tolbert said. “Beyond that it’s all about the mountain experience. It’s less about being involved in a really traditionally strict class and more about developing an appreciation of the mountain environment and working as a team and build camaraderie as we go through challenges together. Students really learn how to look out for each other. It really becomes a team effort”

One in five children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, putting them at increased risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Obese children are also more prone to stress, sadness and low self-esteem.

“Fletcher’s Winter Wellness Program does a great job of getting kids out and moving,” School Nurse Tara McMahon said. “It is so hard in the winter months to get in the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise. Learning to downhill ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, skate and snowshoe helps our students develop a lifelong love of the winter outdoors and to stay physically fit.”

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For students that may struggle in a traditional school setting, Tinker says the program provides an opportunity for them to shine outside of the classroom. “They get up on that mountain and they are often a totally different kid,” Tinker said. “They are all smiles and the folks at the mountain always say that Fletcher has the best behaved kids. They really do model what they learn in school.”

Tolbert credits much of the students’ positive behavior to the program’s emphasis on choice and leadership opportunities for kids, citing that many instructors get to know students over time and develop positive, trusting relationships that allow students to act as role models for others.

“We’re moving to a way of teaching that gives them ownership,” Tolbert said, stating that it is important for children to have the flexibility to explore their own learning styles during lessons. “There is no shortage of teachable moments, both socially and otherwise, framed around a fun, exciting sport. It is fantastic to see it unfold.”

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Smuggler’s Notch offers students in the program substantially reduced ticket, equipment rental and lesson prices. The same items are free for adult chaperones. The resulting five-week reduced cost per student is $180, compared to a traditional cost of $715. Similarly, the savings is $985 per chaperone. Smugglers’ Notch also offers SNAP, the Smuggler’s Notch Adaptive Program, which provides individual lessons and instructors for students with disabilities.

In addition to the physical activity offered by the program, Tinker believes that it strengthens relationships between teachers and students.

“Students are surprised to see their teachers out of the classroom element,” Tinker said. “They get to see them in a non-instructional, non-authoritative setting. They just get to be with them.”

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In addition to opportunities at the mountain, about half of the 140 Fletcher students remain at school and participate in outside activities like snowshoeing, ice skating and hiking. The school’s parent group, Friends of Fletcher Elementary, has supported the creation of an ice rink for several years. Some teachers and staff remain at school and facilitate these outside activities, as well as some active inside games.

“This program provides the opportunity for student and staff to enjoy healthy activities in a more relaxed atmosphere working to build relationships,” School Counselor Sandi Simmons, who is also an ice skating coach outside of school, said. Simmons has supervised the ice rink at the school.

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During the past several years Fletcher’s Winter Wellness program has expanded from only allowing students in grade three and beyond, to now including students in kindergarten and beyond.

“Just because the students are young doesn’t mean they can’t do it,” Tinker said.

“Winter wellness is a great way for kids to explore new things and find out what they are capable of,” sixth grader Adam Degree said.

“This program is really fun,” sixth grader Jarrett Sweet said. “If we didn’t have this program I feel like I never would have learned to ski.”

“It’s really fun and you get a lot of exercise,” sixth grader Delaney Sweet-Werneke said. “You learn that the outdoors is a great place to be in winter.

“The program is a chance for students to learn respect for each other and other guests, as well as the skills of skiing or snowboarding. It gives them a sense of pride and accomplishment all the way around,” Tolbert said.