BFA Middle School Community Groups Launch Twelfth Year!

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 -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.

Yesterday students and staff members embarked on the twelfth year of Community Groups at BFA Middle School.   An important component of an effective middle school is an advisory program for all students. At BFA Middle School every student is a member of a “Community Group.” “Community Groups” match one teacher with a multi-age grouping of twelve to fourteen students for one half-hour, each week.


During this time, the students and teachers participate in team building activities, discuss issues facing adolescents, share about significant events happening in their lives, participate in service learning activities, and explore the meaning of the BFA Core Values of Respect, Responsibility, Honesty, Community, Compassion, and Life-Long Learning.



Each Community Group follows a common process based on the Responsive Classroom and Developmental Designs models. For example, we participate in a greeting, a share, and then an activity. Today’s activity targeted relationship building:

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How to Play The Best Game:

  1. Arrange everyone into 3 or 4 groups. Each group must have participants from each grade.
  2. Explain the rules: You will be announcing a contest category for the 3-4 groups within your CG (for example, “The fasted alphabet song singer”). Each group needs to select one person (they only have a couple of seconds) who they think will win the category


-The Tallest thumb

-Traveled the farthest from VT this summer

-The Highest jumper

-The Fastest Alphabet Song singer

-The Smallest shoe size

-The Strongest thumb for a Thumb War

-The longest hair

-Shortest hair

-Read the most books this summer

-Play the most instruments

-Play the most sports

-Can do the best split

- Have the most siblings

- Had the most family members at BFA



Community groups are essential for the ongoing success of our BFA middle school students.

Teaching Above the Line

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

Action Step – Redefine high performance in a student-centered, collaborative, technologically rich learning environment 

Indicator of Success – Creativity and risk-taking will be evident and celebrated as learners embrace new technologies.

The 2013/14 school year is the start of the third year of the current FWSU Action Plan. While we are still implementing our plan, we are also now turning the focus to evaluation – specifically how we are integrating technology in our schools through our action plan.  To accomplish this, a small group administrators attended an Apple Education Seminar – What’s Next? Transforming the Future of Learning.  At the seminar the team had the opportunity to work with leading education researchers to evaluate the impact of our learning initiative and identify opportunities for growth.

The team recommended using the SAMR Model (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) to assist us in determining what level technology is being integrated into our  classrooms.  1323957_orig

The SAMR Model was created by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, the founder and President of Hippasus, a consulting firm based in Western Massachusetts, focusing on transformative applications of information technologies to education.  You can learn more about Dr. Puentedura and SAMR at the Hippasus weblog. The SAMR model offers a method of seeing how technology might impact teaching and learning. It also shows a progression that adopters of educational technology often follow as they progress through teaching and learning with technology.

When learning occurs at the  upper levels of augmentation and redefinition it has more of an impact on learning. Therefore, when you teach above that line, you are now transforming learning, not just enhancing it.

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Prior to school starting, the administration team took part in SAMR learning exercises. In doing so, administrators gained a better knowledge of what SAMR looks like in a classroom. Equipped with SAMR background knowledge, administrators can now visit classrooms and give formative feedback to teachers on how technology is being used in the classroom and how it is impacting student learning.

FWSU Board

To ensure that all stakeholders understand SAMR, Superintendent Kirsch shared information about SAMR with all of our school boards. Board members were able to actively engage in activities to better understand how technology can be implemented to meet the demands of good teaching and learning.

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The final step in implementing SAMR came to the staff at each of the schools. Staff was introduced to the SAMR model in staff meetings.  After learning what SAMR is and how it can impact learning, teachers then begin to collaborate with team members at evaluating and designing lesson plans that allows teachers to teach above the line.




GEMS Students Engage in Research- CCSS Style


Target 1 Student-Centered Learning.  FWSU students will engage in personalized 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.


Middle school students are getting down to serious work in FWSU.   Eighth grade students at GEMS have begun their first short social studies research project. The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) sets the expectation that students will develop capacity to build their own knowledge by researching and responding analytically to authentic information relevant to learners.  It is time for students to dig in and to gather content knowledge for their social studies work during the rest of the year.

photo 3CCSS identifies clear research outcomes for eighth graders:

  • Conduct short research and more sustained research projects
  •  Acquire research skills necessary for longer projects while building much needed background knowledge.

Based on the CCSS,  teachers are designing projects which allow students to quickly build a foundation of knowledge.   For instance, Mr. Hadd’s students will be researching “What is Geography?”     The process is outlined for all students, but each student frames his/her own questions and pulls unique information from multiple sources.

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The research is guided by General Inquiry Process which includes:

  • Build a foundation or draw on prior knowledge
  • Formulate a question
  • Investigate – research – cite sources
  • Revise question (if needed)
  • Investigate – research – cite sources
  • Formulate answer
  • Ask follow-up questions; expand inquiry, if time allows
  • Discuss – share – reflect

In the week to come, students will pull together to formulate the answer to their probing questions, to create products to demonstrate their understanding, and to discuss findings and research experiences within a small group.   Many important skills are clustered together within a single project, driven by the curiosity and the individual interests of each student in the class.   The students are doing the work; the teacher’s role is to guide them in their process.

Mr. Hadd’s class will experience  short research projects throughout the year.  Stay tuned for a glimpse into their discussions.

Common Core for our Youngest Learners….. a Positive Beginning!



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FWSU is ready to implement the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS (CCSS), and we are committed to making school engaging for children.   In order to be “Career and College Ready”, our youngest children must believe they have something important to share, and they must stay excited about their learning.  Our mission is to hook our youngest and most eager learners.  They must ask their own questions and answer them.   They must solve big problems and use their inquiry to make sense of their world.  They must construct meaning.  They must want to run into school!

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Children thrive when teachers offer them new and different ways to express themselves.  These pre-schoolers are using digital media to draw and sequence, talking about their stories as they work with an adult.


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Block play is critical to the development of young children and supports many Common Core learning targets.    Through the manipulation of carefully chosen blocks and props, children develop spatial awareness and problem solving skills as part of their elaborate system of play.  Adults quietly observe and facilitate.  This child’s teacher asked a few honest questions and provided alternate language for the child to use as he describes  the story he had created.   She took a picture to document the detail of his work and scripted his story.

The teacher taking the picture below began a math lesson on measurement with these boys.

"He's really big- maybe 50 boards....   How big are you?  "

“He’s really big- maybe 50 boards….   How big are you?  “


The Common Core places emphasis on reading multiple types of text, both in print and digital forms.   Young students need practice to build their reading stamina.  They must learn to pay close attention to details, use phonics to figure out words they do not know, and use text features to locate important information.   These students each have their own book boxes with books they can read and learn from.  They have dedicated time during the day to read independently with “just right books”-  a  time that they learn to be independent and enjoy literature that they choose.

image Parents should expect children to be engaged in challenging reading, writing and problem solving tasks as a result of the Common Core.   At the same time, they can expect students in FWSU to be joyfully interacting with each other and with their world –  laughing, singing and sharing along the way!

 "Hey Mr. Dodge-  did you see the porcupines?   How many quills?"

“Hey Mr. Dodge-  did you see the porcupines?   How many quills?”


Are you looking for more information on the COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS as they relate to your young child?    The National PTA offers A Parents’ Guide to Student Success.  Click on the link for a quick 2-page summary of Common Core Standards at each grade level.

“Part of our job has not changed –   we must continue to instill WONDER, HOPE and LAUGHTER within our children.  What better way to help them become “Career and College Ready”?        Mary Lynn Riggs, FWSU Director of Curriculum
























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First graders  examine a milkweed plant and work as a group to gether information and make sense of new information for a science investigation.  Students learn to participate in conversations with others by linking their observations and comments to the remarks of others.  They need opportunities and coaching to learn to ask and answer questions of each other,  to gather information, and to gain a deeper understanding- all skils demanded by the Common Core.


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“Children must see themselves as leaders in a world where they can lead.”

Children learn early to share different ways of thinking and to understand that there are multiple ways of solving a single math problem.    They learn to describe their thinking and to listen to the thinking of others- and they do  not need an adult to always guide that process.


What Does Leadership in a Student-Centered Learning Environment Look Like?

Target 2Leadership 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 – Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of (15)

We are happy to introduce the newest student member of the Fairfax Board of School Directors. Meadow Linderman is a Junior who be serving is this leadership position for the next two years. BFA is one of only a few high schools in Vermont that has Student Representatives on the school board.

We asked Meadow a few questions and are pleased to share a bit more about her background and goals.

Q: Can you tell us why you were interested in serving on the Fairfax School Board? 

A: I am interested in serving on the school board for a couple reasons. When I first heard about it, I had no idea it was offered. I thought it would be so interesting to be a part of the school but also have an impact on the school and the community. I can honestly say I didn’t think I would really do it, but the more I learned about it the more interested I became. It also made me think more about the behind-the-scene conversations and decisions that shape the school to what it is. I suddenly started paying more attention before I even went to my first meeting and my excitement of being a part of something bigger, having an impact, and understanding the bigger picture grew quickly. I was already dedicated and felt as if I were already taking on the responsibility. It was just such an exciting feeling!

Q: What have you learned so far?

A: So far, I’ve learned much about the system of how things are decided. I didn’t realize the people from the town had such an impact on the decisions brought forward. I’ve learned about how much time is put into small decisions like whether or not to put treads on the stairs, and big decisions like changing the academic requirements…or busses. I’ve learned about how the Principal isn’t the only one making decisions and that he is really only a small piece of the process. I’ve learned about how much money is put into the school. Finally, I’ve learned that I enjoy working with big groups and being involved in such activities, and how I am capable of handling this big of a responsibility.

Q: What advice would you give to other students who may want to serve on the future? 

A: To anyone who wants to take up this role and act upon the opportunity, all I can say is take advantage of it. If you really use it to its full potential, you can not only learn alot about the school community, and decision-making, but also about yourself and how you react in those situations. When I first heard the offer, I wasn’t optimistic at all and simply didn’t think I had it in me. All you have to do it think forward about how much you will take away from it. If you really want it, take it and don’t hesitate. Also, talk to the other representative or past representatives because they are probably the most helpful and understanding in the situation, at least in my case.

Q: What excites you most about education at BFA?

A: What excited me most about my education at BFA is how it is my future. This is the time in my life that takes me further in life. I cannot wait to excel in what I want and can do well, but am also nervous. I’m very thankful for all the great supporting programs and people at school who have helped me decide what I want, VSAC especially. Without them I would have no direction, but with their help I’ve been able to find and decide a path and mostly become excited and excel in what I want and what will soon be coming along.

Q: What do your friends think of your service?

A: My friends think I’m crazy for doing this. They don’t know how I could possibly sit through it all and why I want to be involved school arguments. I am doing it simply because I’m curious, want a bigger role in my community, and find it very interesting. I’ve learned a lot, and am grateful I’ve been given the opportunity.

Welcome to the School Board, Meadow!

FWSU Blog Turns 3!

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

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.

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.

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 FWSU Blog is now beginning its third year! We strive to bring you news and information about our schools every day!  When we started this “experiment” three years ago,  it was uncharted territory. Even today very few schools maintain a blog, and even fewer update them everyday. Almost none use a blog to measure their action plan implementation.

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At the time we wanted a way to communicate (actually over-communicate!) with all our communities. We knew we had to reach out to the digital world to attempt to engage in new and different ways. What we learned was that our blog could be more than just a “news” report. It has not been easy to do this everyday, and sometimes at “blog o’clock” we are far from our goal.  Luckily, we have great staff at all of our schools who pitch in with story ideas and contributions on a regular basis.Jenny Guitar PicSo why do we blog?

  • *We blog because we want to invite our communities into our schools. We want to capture the stories, including the culture, the color, and the spirit of learning on a daily basis.

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  • We blog because we want to share how the FWSU Action Plan comes to life everyday in our schools. The FWSU blog highlights the target, action step and indicator of success as an introduction to each story. The stories illustrate how we are moving forward in our schools.
  • 12We blog to highlight our students and educators.They offer examples of innovation, leadership, and creativity occurring throughout FWSU. By writing about them, we share them with all of you.

  • We blog because we want to share our new practices with educators across our district, our state, our country and the world. The FWSU blog has had nearly 38,000 views in the last three years. Today our blog was viewed in the United States, Brazil, South Korea, Australia and Philippinesiveca
  • We blog because it is important for all of us to reflect on how our schools are changing. Starting this year, each of the administrators will author a blog twice a month in order to highlight the best practices in his/her school.

photo 3Three years ago we launched the FWSU Blog with a dream. Today, celebrating our third year of blogging we continue to pursue that dream. This year we will go even further in our efforts to connect and engage neighbors near and far in the conversation about our great schools! We hope you will not only continue to read but also to interact with us. Share your comments, ideas, stories, and content.

Spread the word by asking your friends and neighbors to join us. Subscribe so that you don’t miss a single post. The more we can communicate the important work we do together and extend the reach beyond our borders, the stronger our community connections become.

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Another learning adventure is off and running. Another great year lies ahead at FWSU.

Highlighting learning in SU22 – this is what we do every day!” – Superintendent Ned Kirsch




Target 1  Student Centered Learning- Students will engage in personalized learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creative learning opportunities.

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

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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The Georgia Elementary School has modified and enhanced its STEM initiative by incorporating a program that reaches beyond traditional science instruction. During this school year, the program will include first and second graders in addition to embedding the arts during key instructional time.

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Research states that young students are motivated and can capitalize on early exposure and experiences. Developmentally appropriate engagement with quality experiences help children understand the world around them and provides a learning opportunity to organize thoughts, apply and test ideas, and develop further understanding of science.

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Through the engineering design process students Imagine, Plan, Create, Improve, and Ask questions to solve problems through inquiry based activities. In alignment with NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards), children in earlier grades are expected to demonstrate proficiency in planning and carrying out investigations, analyzing and interpreting data, constructing explanations and designing solutions, and obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information. Students are expected to use these practices to demonstrate understanding of core ideas.

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The following is a challenge that first graders had to solve through this process:

“To construct a path that will make a marble go the slowest down an incline.”

Students used trial and error to make adjustments to reach the challenge. Here are a sampling of their discussions:

  • “I think the curvier the better”
  • “zig-zags, curves, and breaks  will make it go very slow”
  • “The sticks will keep the marble from jumping the track”
  • “I have a plan!!, I have a plan!! Let’s go back and fix it”
  • “If we watch other people’s experiments we can get new ideas”

photo 3 (12)STEM Coach JoAnn Harvey and Art Teacher Dorsey Hogg collaborate, plan, and deliver instruction together to provide learning opportunities that cut across curricular content areas. Infusing Art into STEM produces STEAM which provides an enhanced opportunity for creativity and problem solving. Follow up then occurs, both in the classroom and art room, for a greater balance of embedded instruction throughout the entire school day.


Leadership is Elementary at Fletcher!


Student Leadership is Elementary!

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

Action Step -  Develop learning habits, communication and problem-solving skills necessary for collaborative learning and leadership.

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



Students learn to be leaders as early as preschool. While we sometimes think about leadership as a role for older students, supporting our youngest learners in developing the skills necessary to be leaders sets the stage for productive future citizenship.   It also helps students feel vested in their school, local and global communities during their youngest and most formative years. Fostering leadership skills early becomes the scaffolding we need for our future.

Fletcher Elementary is a Responsive Classroom school. That means that we follow a set of seven Guiding Principles that support a rigorous and respectful learning environment. This approach begins by emphasizing children’s roles as leaders in their classrooms and across school settings.

During the first days of school teachers work with students to generate classroom rules and expectations. This process is built upon foundational ideas- Be safe, Be respectful, Be prepared.    The process and language may be different in various settings and at different age levels.  Student leaders articulate what is necessary for all students to achieve their hopes and dreams.  They learn that their ideas are heard, valued and respected.   They have opportunities to practice asserting their thoughts and suggestions for maintaining a positive climate.


Another Essential Practice of student leadership within the Responsive Classroom approach is a daily Morning Meeting. Classroom meetings include a greeting, sharing, activity and morning message that offer opportunities for students to learn and practice leadership skills.  They work collaboratively and cooperatively as part of a team.  Morning Meetings build on previous experiences. Preschool and kindergarten students might practice leadership at Morning Meeting by leading the group in song or by sharing an experience from the weekend. As students build upon their leadership skills and comfort level, they might assume responsibility for facilitating the entire meeting.

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The process of creating rules and participating in Morning Meeting provides opportunities for all students to learn and practice leadership skills. These skills are then generalized to all areas of the curriculum and greater community. The Responsive Classroom approach is one of several tools used at Fletcher to foster student leadership at the elementary level.

Personalized Learning for Personalized Growth

Target 1 Student-Centered Learning.  FWSU students will engage in personalized 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.



Students with special needs have rights to services in school under federal and state laws. Special education is a set of services, rather than a specific “place” for a child to go. The general education classroom is considered the least restrictive environment (LRE) for most students. Almost six million students in the U.S. receive special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Most special education students spend the majority of their day in general education classrooms.

One of the learning opportunities that is offered to some BFA Fairfax High School students, is a standards-based learning program called Plato Courseware. This program provides rigorous, relevant curriculum that challenges and engages students with a digital-age approach using interactive, media-rich content. The product features course-level assessments to determine the unique needs of students and shifts focus to areas that need improvement rather than areas where students can already demonstrate mastery.


Co-teaching involves two or more licensed professionals:

  • Sped5sharing responsibility for the instruction of a group of students with and without IEPs.
  • playing an active role in jointly planning and delivering instruction and assessing student learning. This means that the two educators need shared time to prepare for and evaluate co-teaching.
  • responding to the diverse needs of students in a manner that better meets the needs of a unique population. Co-teaching has numerous advantages such as sharing of professional expertise.
  • instructing in the same classroom space. Co-teaching does not mean that two teachers will plan together and then work with groups of students in separate spaces. While this might happen occasionally it is not a regular practice in co-teaching

The facilitation of this learning through a co-teaching lab model, where special educators and classroom teachers are working together to shape a new culture of learning and leading in the 21st Century.

BFA Athletic Department Gives Back

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 – Develop partnerships with global partners to carry out a project related to units of study.

Indicator of Success – Collaborative student projects/partnerships become part of the fabric of the broader community.

als0In line with its strong commitment to charity and community service, the BFA Fairfax Athletic Department kicked off its first fundraiser of the 2014-15 school year on Saturday, August 30 at the Boys and Girls Varsity season opening soccer games at Leland and Gray.

als2Through coordination with the L&G Athletic Department and soccer teams, the BFA Fairfax soccer teams and fans took part in a coin drop donation during the games, which raised over $200.

The day’s events culminated with each team’s coaches and captains taking part in the ever-popular “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.” To date, this global fundraiser has generated over 109.1 MILLION dollars for ALS research.