GEMS Students Invite Simba, Guest International Environmental Leader

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 - Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, and diverse resources.

Indicator of Success - Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.

Last week, a group of GEMS Middle school students participated in the Youth International Environmental Conference. You can read more about their experience here. During the conference, students were able to meet several international partners to discuss how they can impact global environmental issues. Among these collaborators, was conservationist, Zhuo Qiang, who prefers the name Simba, the Swahili word for lion, in honor of the work his does to protect the lion species. Simba is an environmental leader based in Kenya, that founded the Mara Conservation Fund (MCF) in 2011 in order to help Africa protect its wildlife habitat and endangered wildlife species. To learn more about his work have a look at the MCF Facebook page.

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After Simba shared his story, students were then able to join him in a roundtable discussion on how GEMS students could contribute to the Mara Conservation through creating a game to increase awareness. Students began to work on ways to take iPad technology and incorporate it into a useful tool to help promote wildlife conservation. Seeing the importance of his story, students then invited SImba to visit with all of the middle school students at GEMS.

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Simba was able to share his story at GEMS on the importance of raising awareness about the need to engage in conservation of lions and wildlife in Kenya. He explained how he has dedicated his life to a joint initiative to oppose poaching, illegal wildlife trade and trophy hunting in an attempt to preserve wildlife in Africa.

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After meeting SImba, GEMS students were energized with the knowledge of ways they too can help with conservation efforts. They are ready to take the lead to save wildlife habitats and make the world a better place.

FWSU Participates in Youth International Environmental Conference

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 - Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, and diverse resources.

Indicator of Success - Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.

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Last week students from Georgia Middle School and BFA High School attended the Youth International Environmental Conference to discuss how they could develop student leadership on environmental issues across our globe. The conference was a held over three days at the University of Vermont in collaboration with other Vermont schools and international partners from Bhutan, Canada, China, Kenya, Korea, Puerto Rico, Senegal. The conference reflected the collective effort of adults and students working toward on a common goal to improve international environmental issues.

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On the first day of the conference, students worked on developing their leadership skills and learned how to facilitate meaningful discussions. In addition to working with visiting students from other Vermont schools, students used ENA technologies to virtually engage peers from schools in Canada, Puerto Rico, and Senegal.

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On the second day of the conference, teachers and administrators from FWSU attended roundtable discussions about various international programs local Vermont schools have participated in. FWSU presented, along with Dr. Eunhee Jung, the multiple classrooms in the supervisory union who have developed intercultural competence through participating in the Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities (IVECA).

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The students joined the conference again on day three, to further collaborate with each of the international groups. They discussed how to begin developing partnerships in order to impact global environmental issues.

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After participating in multiple roundtable discussions with international partners in Bhutan, Canada, China, Kenya, Korea, Puerto Rico, and Senegal, students were then able to select partnerships that they would like to develop further. From these discussions, Georgia Middle School students invited Simba, from the Mara Conversation, an international charitable organization dedicated to helping Africa to conserve lions and other wild endangered animals and their natural habitats, to come speak to all of the GEMS middle school students.

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The conference was a wonderful learning opportunity for our students to engage with peers, develop leadership skills, and realize the power of their voice to change the world!

BFA High School Students Attend Youth Environmental Summit

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 - Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, and diverse resources.

Indicator of Success - Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.

Students of Mr. Lane’s Climate Change class attended the annual Youth Environmental Summit (YES!) at the Barre Convention Center.

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The conference sponsored by the University of Vermont Extension was an opportunity for students to learn about environmental issues and get involved in their community.  Students engaged in hands-on workshops such as;

  • Climate Action! The Next Generation of Town Energy Committees
  • Alien Invaders – Forest Pests that are Threatening Vermont
  • Waste to Want – The Life Cycle of Your North Face Jacket
  • Whole School Energy Challenge
  • Student Action Projects: The Collaboration Method
BFA High School students (left to right) Samantha King, Kailey Ware, Mayla Mashteare and Marshall Bushey stand in front of a display at the YES! Conference at the Barre Civic Center.

BFA High School students (left to right) Samantha King, Kailey Ware, Mayla Mashteare and Marshall Bushey stand in front of a display at the YES! Conference at the Barre Civic Center.

High School Junior Kailey Ware initiated the idea of attending the conference.  She had attended it previously and spoke highly of YES! as, “it being an opportunity to meet other students from around the state with similar interests in the environment.”

Students came away with ideas for BFA regarding composting, saving energy, and monitoring and reducing waste.

Lauren Traister (4-H Teen & Leadership Program Coordinator from UVM Extension) addresses the 240+ students from all over Vermont at the Youth Environmental Summit at the Barre Civic Center.

Lauren Traister (4-H Teen & Leadership Program Coordinator from UVM Extension) addresses the 240+ students from all over Vermont at the Youth Environmental Summit at the Barre Civic Center.

“This was the first conference I’ve attended that was run almost entirely by high school students. I attended presentations by students from Woodstock Union High School and students from Craftsbury School regarding composting and waste stream management that were excellent.”  BFA Student

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BFA students (left to right) Samantha King, Mayla Mashteare and Kailey Ware participate in a session wrap-up activity answering questions regarding what they learned during the day using an app accessed the iPhone.

Next time we hope to see presentations by students from FWSU!

Fletcher Snack Program Offers Health and Student Leadership

Target 2 – 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.

Indicator of Success - (1) Creativity and risk-taking will be evident and celebrated as learners embrace new technologies. (2) Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others.

The Fletcher Elementary School is helping keep students healthy by providing a free fresh fruit or vegetable snack to every student every day as part of a grant through the Vermont Agency of Education’s Child Nutrition Programs. What’s more, students are leading the charge in educating their peers on the health benefits associated with eating well.

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The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant, valued at $6,550, makes fruits or vegetables available to all students at a time other than mealtimes and often includes seasonal fare such as apples, pears, carrots and green peppers. The program encourages school foodservice providers to establish strong relationships with local healthy fruit and vegetable producers.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program also serves to expose children to foods that are less common, such as star fruit and jicama, a crunchy Mexican yam that can be diced and added to a salad or eaten plain or with a dip.

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Each day, the healthy snacks are prepared by the Abbey Group, Fletcher’s foodservice provider, who wrote the grant application last spring. The Abbey Group also compiles a page of interesting facts about the snack, including its history, nutritional value, place of origin, and other information. From there, fifth and sixth grade students take the information and create a video presentation using iPads that is then shown in classrooms throughout the school as students try the healthy snack.

“The fifth and sixth graders are using their video-making skills to enhance the healthy lifestyles of the younger students by introducing them to the healthy snacks. It is an opportunity for leadership on their part, listening and speaking skills, role modeling, and building capacity for a healthy future for everyone,” fifth and sixth grade teacher Jasmine Tremblay said. “It is a great opportunity for our students to be leaders for lasting change.”

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The goal of the program is to create a healthier school environment by providing healthier food choices. By expanding and increasing the variety of fruits and vegetables that children eat, both their present and future health is positively influenced. This program is seen as an important catalyst for change in efforts to combat childhood obesity by helping children learn more healthful eating habits.

“The snack programs gets kids into trying new foods and opening their minds to new things and eating healthy,” sixth grader Adam Degree said. “The videos are sometimes funny and creative and get your attention. If the videos make the snacks look good kids will try them.”

 

“The snack program lets kids explore new foods that they may not have tried before. If they like it they will probably eat more healthy,” said sixth grader Jonah Czeck.

 

FWSU Launches Learning Management System Commitee

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 -Provide students with access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls.

Indicator of Success – Staff, students and community embrace the digital, social, mobile and “always on” learning styles of 21st century students.

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In response to a charge by the FWSU Board of Directors, a committee has been established to study and implement a new Learning Management System (LMS) for all FWSU schools beginning next year. A LMS, is a software that will allow students, families and teachers to communicate on single platform to achieve a seamless educational experience – sometimes referred to as a school e-portal of learning. Many teachers currently use LMS platforms with their students, but this is not a coordinated effort in our schools or across our districts.

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The committee is comprised of educators and administrators from all FWSU schools. They are Tony Hardy (GEMS), Jasmine Tremblay (FES), Mary Lynn Riggs (FWSU), Rhonda Siemons (BFA), Frank Calano (GEMS), Angelique Fairbrother (FWSU), Eric Hadd (GEMS), Dayle Payne (GEMS), Joe McSoley (BFA), Ned Kirsch (FWSU) and Vicki Pinault (BFA).

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The LMS selected will be used by all K-12 teachers in our system. It perform a variety of functions that will support students. Our students will greatly benefit from being able to access all of the valuable resources available to them at school while at home. Some of the elements that will be part of our system are:

  • The ability for parents, students, and teachers to easily access all content in one location.
  • The ability to create class rosters using our current student management system (PowerSchool)
  • The ability to upload and manage documents containing curriculum content.
  • The ability to deliver course content over a web-based interface, facilitating a remote educational experience for the instructor and student.
  • The ability to create and publish course calendars.
  • The ability to interact between students using functionalities like instant messaging, email, and forums within a protected environment, monitored by the school system.
  • The ability to establish methods for assessment and testing if needed.
  • The ability for students to maintain their e-portfolio (PLP).

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The committee began its work with the realization that many teachers in our schools have been implementing various LMS systems over the last several years. Using the appreciative inquiry process, the committee identified important elements (seen above) that we guide our exploration explore throughout the inquiry process. Twelve systems were identified and then narrowed to four using a rubric with indicators and criteria identified by the committee. The four finalist are Canvas, Schoology, JumpRope and My Big Campus

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The next phase of the process will be to survey the entire faculty to gain insight and expertise. Then at our next Inserivce, all four LMS finalist will provide webinars for all teachers to view the features and provide feedback to the committee. The committee will use the feedback to narrow our list to two finalists. At that time, the committee members (and any teacher wishing to participate) will participate in a pilot prior to making a final selection this spring. Training for trainers will occur over the summer and the system will be implemented in time for the launch of the 2015/16 school year.

BFA 3rd Graders Skype with WCAX Meteorologists and Global Classrooms

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

Action Step – Increase easily accessible opportunities for global collaboration for teachers and students.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff will participate in a global dialogue to engage in authentic investigation and problem solving with partners located outside of their school community.

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BFA third graders in Ms. Seavey’s class recently participated in a Mystery Skype as a culminating activity in their geography unit.

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A Mystery Skype offers an exciting opportunity for teachers to connect with one another around the globe.

IMG_3333Students then ask yes or no questions to identify where in the world the other class is located.

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Students use Google Maps, student-made maps, and class atlases to search for the mystery class’s location.

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Students enjoy interacting with other classrooms.

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Students also enjoyed a Skype opportunity with WCAX Meteorologists as part of their study.

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Our students are developing intercultural competence through the use of technology, experiencing the world beyond the classroom walls. This is just one of the many ways BFA lives out its mission of “ensuring all students become informed, literate, critical thinkers who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors.” 

GEMS Students Explore the Natural World

Target 4:  Engaged Community Partners. Teachers will collaborate, innovate, create, and conceptualize ideas and learning with local partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

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

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

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Georgia Elementary students are fortunate to have Four Winds visit their classrooms throughout the school year.

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During each visit, volunteer scientists/educators provide an understanding, appreciation, and hands-on approach regarding the protection of our environment with children.

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Four Winds is dedicated to helping students gain background knowledge and science skills needed to understand the world around them and the creative problem solving and citizenship skills needed to protect it.

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Each month provides a different curriculum to keep children engaged and interested in the natural world. Four Winds believes individuals long for a healthy connection to the environment and to each other.

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This community based educational program brings children and adults together to explore and understand nature.

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Through these programs, Four Winds is helping people of all ages make meaningful connections to nature. It is these connections that will nurture and fuel us all as we work together to address the increasingly complex environmental issues ahead of us.

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We must start early, by educating children, about the importance of the relationship that exists between the earth and our lifestyles.

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Choices we make each and every day have an impact on the natural world and we must be knowledgeable about how we can preserve and protect for years to come.

FWSU Early Educators Collaborate to Meet Needs of Young Learners

 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 create personalized learning networks to communicate and collaborate with others.

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Recently FWSU PreK and Kindergarten teachers engaged in a collaborative work session to enhance our practice. The conversation was lively and focused on continuing to create an environment where children thrive in a nurturing, engaging environment with peers. Students in FWSU programs are very successful. However, some of our most vulnerable learners do not have access to inclusive, early childhood settings.

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A large portion of the teachers’ discussion looked at Act 166, recently passed Vermont legislation signed into law last spring by Governor Shumlin. Act 166, or the Universal Pre-Kindergarten bill, entitles all three, four, and five-year-olds not attending a kindergarten currently to 10 hours of publicly-funded pre-kindergarten education in a pre-qualified program.

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Act 166 requires the VT Agencies of Education and Human Services to jointly develop rules to guide implementation. This law will be difficult and costly to implement, but FWSU administrators and early educators are working together to determine the steps to carry out the required changes.

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We look forward to incorporating developmentally appropriate strategies, based on current research, to further our mission.  To learn more please visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Vermont Early Learning Standards. Both resources are the backbone of our programs.

BFA Fairfax Middle School Students Reflect on Veterans Day

 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.

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

Indicator of Success - Students challenge convention and make contributions in their community, state, and world.

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In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11th as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

Today BFA middle school students took time to learn about the make meaningful connections to this important national holiday. During social studies classes, the students reviewed the purpose for the holiday, examined significant national monuments, and shared personal stories of family members and friends who have served our nation.

veterens dayThe Fairfax and Fletcher communities have long and proud tradition of service in our nation’s armed forces. We appreciate all the men and women who bravely serve and protect our country to ensure our freedom. Thank you to all our veterans!

Learning Leads to Action for BFA Spanish Students

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.

Action Step - Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences.

Indicator of Success - Students challenge convention and make contributions in their community, state, and world.

The Spanish 3 class at BFA recently hosted Señora Elizabeth Griffin as part of a long-term civic awareness campaign focused on the severe drought in Latin America. Students are engaged in project-based learning with an integrated unit on health-related vocabulary.

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The class formed many questions for Señora Griffin to further their understanding of the drought. They wondered about the signs and visible effects of the drought on Nicaragua. They expressed interest in the local people and lands. Also, they were curious if Señora Griffin had used health vocabulary during in her many volunteer mission trips to Nicaragua, Brazil, Guatemala, and Honduras.

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Señora Griffin shares stories and experiences.

Students had this to say about their time with Señora Griffin:

“She was cool; her stories kept me captivated! … She gave new perspective on what it is like to be in Latin-American country.”

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This led the students to organize a fundraiser to promote awareness of the Latin American drought among the students and staff. The Spanish 3 class has collected donations to send via the non-profit Peace Corps for the Guatemala Country Fund. This Fund supports Peace Corps volunteers working for water, sanitation, agricultural development and youth programs in Guatemala which has been severely affected by drought.

photo 2 (2)Our students know that their efforts can make a difference!