FES Falcon’s First Geocache

Target 4 –  Flexible Learning Environments. 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 Steps (1) – Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences.

Indicators of success – Collaborative student projects/partnerships become part of the fabric of the broader community.

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As part of the Friends of Fletcher Elementary (FOFE) after school program, a group of students participated in the first FES geo-adventures group. To start, the students learned how to use a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to find objects. Next, they collaborated to learn how to use the devices to mark waypoints. After mastering both these skills, they continues collaborating to create a geocache to be hidden at a  local historical site, the Binghamville Community Church.

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Geocaching is a real-world treasure hunt that is happening all around you. There are 2,597,291 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide. In fact, we currently there are a couple of geocaches already near the Fletcher community. You can learn more about geocaching at the Geoaching Web Site. The group elected to create another geoacache in the Fletcher community to be located at the church.

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After surveying the area, the team found a perfect spot to hide a small geocache container. Next they work to design the geocache. It has been submitted to the geoacaching website to be published for geocachers worldwide to find. You can find more about the geoache at Falcon’s First, here at this link.

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Now, the plan is to extend the activity. Third grade students are now planning to  create an interactive map that geotags historical sites throughout the Fletcher Community and place more geocaches within the Fletcher community. By creating a real world interactive map of historical sites in their community, students will develop a deeper understanding about these important sites.

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By using GPS technology to publish a geotour of local historical sites which include geocaches, students will encourage the public to explore unique historical destinations in the Fletcher community.

GEMS 7th Grade Students Experience Uganda

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Recently, GEMS 7th Grade Social Studies classes experienced Uganda via Tamar Goldberg – a senior in the UVM College of Medicine. This past winter she traveled with other UVM students to Uganda to learn and assist in delivering medical care in a large hospital in the capital city of Kampala.

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Tamar shared her experiences with her host family and what the challenges were in delivering healthcare in a country that might not be as well off as our own. Tamar was also able to give us great insight into this land, and the traditions and the climate of this far off country located on the Equator. There was even video of a whitewater rafting trip on the Nile!

John Tague Named New BFA Fairfax High School Principal

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Following a two-month search, Fairfax Board of School Directors is pleased to announce it has hired long-time BFA Fairfax educator John Tague as its new High School Principal effective July 1, 2015.

John Tague has been a member of the BFA Fairfax faculty for over 20 years and currently serves as a High School Math Teacher.  He received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Clarkson University and earned his M.A. in Secondary Education Mathematics from Johnson State College. Mr. Tague is completing his postgraduate coursework in educational leadership at Saint Michael’s College.

John has served in several leadership capacities at BFA in recent years, including Teacher Mentor Coordinator, President of the Fairfax Education Association, Vertical Team Leader, and Co-Chair of BFA Fairfax NEASC Accreditation Steering Committee.

“John brings unparalleled commitment and passion to BFA” said FWSU Superintendent Ned Kirsch. “His experience as an educator within our system will enable him to lead the high school forward to transform the learning experience for all students, ensuring each one has a successful future ahead.”

 

Teacher Language Becomes Focus of Professional Learning in Fletcher

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

Indicator of Success – Teachers embrace the role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment.

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In an instant, a teacher’s language – the things we do or do not say, the unspoken messages beneath the words, and the manner in which we deliver our thoughts – can, at best, ignite a spark in children that creates a lifelong love of learning and models strong, positive social skills. At its worst, poorly planned and executed teacher language can devastate a student’s self-esteem, cause them to disconnect from school and overpower their ability to reach their full potential.

The term “teacher,” in this context, applies to any adult who interacts with children – from kitchen staff and bus drivers to para-educators, custodians, office staff and, of course, classroom and other professionals. Parents, too, are important teachers of their children. Each and every adult interacting with a child has an equal responsibility and opportunity use language that supports them in being at their social and academic best.

In Fletcher, all faculty and staff members have recently completed an intensive six-week study of the importance of teacher language using the Responsive Classroom book, The Power of Our Words (Northeast Foundation for Children, 2014). Outlined in the book are five basic guidelines for teacher language. These guiding principles become the overarching philosophy for daily interactions with children and remind the adults in school of the importance of approaching teacher language with mindfulness and purpose.

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Be direct and authentic:  In being direct and authentic, students learn that the adults say what they mean and mean what they say. This creates a trusting relationship that allows students to take risks in their learning throughout the day. Using an even, matter of fact tone of voice conveys a sense of confidence in children and creates safety in the classroom. Teachers need to be aware of the unspoken messages that their body language conveys to students.

Convey faith in children’s abilities and intentions: Teacher language shapes students’ perceptions of themselves and others. When our language conveys positive assumptions and high expectations, it will help students to form similar views of themselves. It is essential that teachers notice the positives in all students.

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Focus on action: Adult language contains many abstract terms. Phrases such as, “be respectful” or, “be safe” may be confusing in isolation. It is important for teachers to connect abstract terms with concrete behaviors. For example, a teacher might say, “Please be safe by walking in the hallway.” This language connects the abstract term with a specific and understandable behavior that is taught. Focusing on the action also helps children separate their behaviors from who they are as a person.

Keep it brief: Long explanations and lectures are often counterproductive for young children. Particularly when they are upset, students tend to hear nothing more than a jumble of words. Keeping your thoughts brief makes it more likely that the child will understand what is being said. In brief, children often understand more when we speak less.

Know when to be silent: Silence provides children time to think, gather their thoughts and gain the courage to speak. The use of “wait time” encourages children to be problem-solvers and thinkers, rather than students who simply wait to be spoon-fed the answer. Silence also allows others the opportunity to speak as part of a cordial and respectful conversation.

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In addition to the guiding principles of teacher language, The Power of Our Words outlines a variety of types of language used by adults. Envisioning language is used to help students imagine themselves behaving and achieving in ways beyond their current reality. It helps children to form a vision of themselves being successful. Open-ended questions are another type of teacher language. They have no single right or wrong answer. Rather, any reasoned and relevant response is acceptable. Open-ended questions allow students at a variety of academic and social levels to participate in a conversation and to respond appropriately. They also allow teachers to gain a sense of students’ knowledge in a given area.

During staff meetings, the adults at Fletcher participated in activities that aligned the guiding principles of teacher language with the specific language types. Then, they applied this work to their day-to-day interactions with students. In addition to language, however, the group also discussed the importance of listening as a powerful tool in understanding students. Listening is far more than silently receiving someone’s words. It is also about searching for the speaker’s intended meaning (i.e. the child that yells, “I hate you!” may in fact mean something completely different and be reacting out of frustration.)

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Statements that affirm the positive behaviors of students are called reinforcing language. They support children in building on their strengths. When adults notice and name what children are doing well, the children are more likely to continue doing it. This is true of both social and academic skills. Similarly, just as reminders (like the one in my calendar to write this blog!) keep us all on track in our daily lives, reminding language offers valuable support to students as they go about their daily lives as school. At school, reminders are used to prompt students to remember a rule or answer. They are typically phrased in the form of a question (i.e. “What is the rule about how we move in the hall?”) Since children are not simply given the answer, they learn that they are expected to truly know the rule and act accordingly.

Redirecting language is literally used to change a child’s direction. It is used when a child is being unsafe to self or others, when they are too emotional to remember expectations, or otherwise so far off track that they cannot regroup. They are brief, respectful statements that tell the child what they need to do (i.e. “Stop and walk.”)

Any adult who spends time with children has the responsibility and opportunity to use skillful language to engage, inspire and support their social and academic learning. The adults at Fletcher will continue their refinement of teacher language in an effort to best serve students. Read more about teacher language here.

BFA Students Host First-Ever Gaming Tournament

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

BFA recently hosted its first-ever Magic: the Gathering tournament, with 23 students from grades 5-12 participating. The tournament ran from all day on Saturday. Students gathered first thing in the morning, received packs of random cards, and constructed their decks on the spot that they would play with for the remainder of the day.

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The top four players by the end of the day were #4. Nick Hendee, 11th grade; #3 – Eddie Stowe, 8th grade; #2 – Jacob Moore, 11th grade; and #1 – Tyler Therrien, 10th grade.

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Participating students are mostly members of the Frostburn Gamers’ Club (middle school gaming group) or the BFA High School Gaming Group with support from Mr. Chapman, Colleen, and Mr. Vance. Fun was had by all!

FWSU Special Educators Explore Systems to Support All Learners

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

FWSU Special Educators recently participated in a mini-workshop focusing on “Systems of Support for All Learners.” The team reviewed the important roles of Special Education and Regular Education and areas where the two systems share responsibilities.

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(Thank you to the Town of Fairfax for the use of their new meeting space!)

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The group engaged in discussions about the need to move towards “A comprehensive, systemic approach to teaching and learning designed to meet the academic and non-academic needs and improve learning for all students through increasingly differentiated and intensified assessment, instruction, and intervention, provided by qualified professionals with appropriate expertise.”

This represents a shift in some of instructional practices that will force our schools to ask some tough questions of our system. This may mean a student who has difficulty learning may not always have a teacher trained in math or literacy. If a special education teacher is providing the core instruction, he or she may not have received formal training in the content area.

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When a special educator can meet with the general education teacher to collaborate in modifying assignments to match the student’s functional level and be in the classroom providing mini-lessons to small groups of children, this would be reinforced by regular classroom instruction. This instructional practice is congruent with a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS).

5 Major Components of MTSS-RtII

1) Systemic and Comprehensive Approach

2) Effective Collaboration

3) High-quality Instruction and Intervention

4) Comprehensive and Balanced Assessment

5) Well-designed Professional Expertise

FWSU remains committed to academic and behavioral success for all students. Success begins with committed educators who believe that all students can achieve high standards as a result of effective teaching. This kind of professional development allows teachers to plan instruction to better meet the needs of learners, especially those who may need additional supports to be successful.

Teachers Model the Importance of Making a Difference

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 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.

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During school vacations many families and educators take time to relax, recharge, and grow both professionally and educationally through experiences they have. Recently, Julie Stevenson, a Georgia Elementary second grade teacher, traveled to Haiti during her vacation to make a difference in the lives of children and their families she visited. During her stay, she helped to provide health updates for children and worked with families to sustain educational opportunities and support parents.

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Upon her return she shared her visit with her students and other classrooms, presenting her observations and the experiences she encountered. Students not only learned about the country Haiti – it’s educational values, living conditions and health care – but more importantly the value of helping others. As part of the school’s Responsive Classroom integration, all teachers discuss social learning and the benefits of character education. Ms. Stevenson’s classroom not only discusses these practices, but they see firsthand their teacher modeling the importance of their conversations. Children are aware they can make a difference in others lives and discuss it daily during morning meetings to start the day.

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