Fairfax Students and Staff Help Globally Through Heifer International

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 – Students challenge convention and make contributions in their community, state, and world.

heiferDuring the week of March 9-13, the BFA Fairfax Student Council hosted the 5th Annual “Heifer Cup”, a week-long series of team competitions to raise money for Heifer International. Heifer International is a service organization whose mission is to “work with communities to end world hunger and poverty and care for the earth.”

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Teams made up of both faculty and students took part in daily competitions including indoor soccer, frisbee, basketball, volleyball, team handball, and dodgeball. All funds generated by team registration fees were donated to Heifer International for the purpose of purchasing livestock for villages in poverty-stricken areas of the world.

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This annual event has proven to be a highlight of the school year, and brings together the faculty and students in a collaborative effort for a great cause!

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Young Authors Emerge at GEMS

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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Children at the Georgia Elementary school have been participating in “writer’s workshop” to hone their literacy skills through daily writing. After a year of attending Lucy Calkins workshops, K-4 teachers have implemented their learning and have seen great success from students.

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One teacher shared: “It works because it is based on the idea that students learn to write best when they write frequently, for extended periods of time, on topics of their own choosing”

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The most common way of delivering explicit writing instruction is via a mini-lesson. A mini-lesson is a short, teacher-led discussion of a single writing concept which incorporates three guiding principles:

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  • Brevity: Mini-lessons are short, usually 10-15 minutes, rarely more than 20. They are intentionally kept short so that the majority of each writing period will be available to the students for writing.
  • Focus: Each mini-lesson covers a single, narrowly defined topic. If the teacher is introducing serial commas, for example, other uses of commas will probably be introduced in a separate lesson.
  • Authenticity: The best mini-lessons are based on real things that real writers really need to know. They are practical and immediately useful. They are targeted to address, in a timely way, the specific challenges writers face as they explore new writing tasks and genres.

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Some students have co-authored their books, while others have chosen to create a series based on their interests. Most importantly, children are excited about their writing, sharing, and illustrating!

FWSU Raises Autism Awareness to Support Needs of 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.

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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Earlier this week, FWSU provided a professional development opportunity for all paraprofessionals. The focus of the presentation was to provide staff with a greater understanding of Autism and develop practical strategies for supporting students. The training was offered through a partnership with Northwestern Counseling and Support Services (NCSS), and was provided by Dana Postemski, MA, BCBA and Shawna Shappy, M.Ed. The learning focused on the complexity of autism, the diversity of people and families living with this disorder, and how increasing awareness and research will continue to shape outcomes.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports:

  • Autism diagnosis rate is on a steady increase of 10-17% annually
  • As of March 27, 2014, 1 in 68 were diagnosed with Autism – this is a change from 2004 when the identification rate was 1 in 166
  • If 4 million students are born in the U.S. every year, approximately 36,500 students will eventually be diagnosed with Autism
  • 2014 Vermont Autism profile data indicates 962 children ages 3-12 are receiving special education services have Autism

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Often, due to auditory dysfunction and sensory needs, the following adaptations are needed help students with Autism access the learning environment:

  • Provide a quiet area away from auditory distractions
  • Seat students in less distracting area
  • Provide earplugs, earphone to cut down on noise
  • Provide tactile replacements
  • Allow additional processing time
  • Use visual (picture) schedules

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Students with Autism may have an Auditory Processing Delay:

  • Most students with Autism may not understand your first direction, and may need it repeated 2-3 times to gain understanding.
  • Space out directions, giving 10-20 seconds in between prompts
  • Don’t assume students know what you are asking. If no response, use gestures or a visual cue
  • Overuse of prompts may intensify Autistic behaviors

There are four main functions of behavior that may indicate why undesirable response is occurring:

  • Attention- To gain access to one’s attention whether the attention is positive of negative
  • Escape/Avoidance- To escape/avoid a particular activity, situation, or person
  • Tangible- To gain access to tangible (items)
  • Sensory- To gain access to sensory stimulation

Other discussion points were:

  • Extinctions Bursts- Things may get worse before they get better
  • Data Collection – maintain a systematic approach to data collection (count, rate or frequency, duration percentage)
  • Environmental constructs
  • Targeting desired behaviors

FWSU is fortunate to have a strong community connection with NCSS  and we believe that through our combined efforts, students will be successful while accessing a wide range of services through developmental diagnosis, training, educational placement,  consultation in order to support our students and families.

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We also encourage everyone to remember that April 2 is Autism Awareness Day. Let’s Light it up Blue and show our support!

BFA Second Graders Tell Stories in Digital Biographies

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.

grade2biographies-03This year instead of writing traditional biography reports, BFA second grade students demonstrated their learning in a different, more creative way. After choosing and reading their individual biographies, students conducted additional research about their person.

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Their research included the person’s background, jobs they may have had during that time, special talents and a description of how their person made a difference in the world.  Many even chose to include their personal opinion about the person they studied. These notes, along with one or two photos they had found online, were transferred into Keynote slides. Students screen-captured each slide to use as part of their iMovie project where they recorded narrations describing the person they researched.

grade2biographies-04Completed projects were shared within the glass as part of a gallery walk and links were made available for parents to view.

grade2biographies-02Overall, students gained a much better understanding of their person as a result of producing such rich multimedia projects. They were able to easily have a dialogue supporting the person they studied based on their level of engagement in each stage of this project.

Linda Keating Named New FWSU Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment

Franklin West Supervisory Union is pleased to announce that Linda Keating has accepted a position as the new Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union, effective July 2015. She will replace Mary Lynn Riggs who is retiring after 6 years at FWSU.

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The decision made by the Franklin West SU Board of Directors follows a lengthy search process which began January 2015. A search committee was formed of superintendent, principal, content-area specialists/teachers, paraprofessional, school board member, and FWSU staff. Following interviews, the committee identified 2 finalists out of a pool of 10 applicants. Linda Keating was presented by Superintendent Kirsch to the FWSU Board and they voted unanimously to offer her a contract.

Linda Keating is currently Elementary Principal at Sheldon Elementary School in Sheldon, VT where she has served for the past 3 years. Prior to that, Linda served as Assistant Principal for Curriculum at BFA S. Albans, and was Executive Director of Curriculum at Chittenden Central Supervisory Union. Ms. Keating received her M.Ed. from the University of Vermont and brings over 35 years of experience in education.

The Board is confident that Linda Keating’s extensive knowledge of curriculum and broad administrator experience make her an excellent fit for this position. We look forward to welcoming her to FWSU in July!

From American Popular Music to Zoology – BFA Virtual High School Can Take You There!

Target 3 – Flexible  Learning Environment.  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 w/ 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. Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

“EDUCATION IS NOT THE FILLING OF A PAIL, BUT THE LIGHTING OF A FIRE.” ~ William Butler Yeats

Although BFA Fairfax is a small rural school, through collaboration with Virtual High School, our students have access to more than 100 courses that could not otherwise be supported. VHS develops and delivers standards-based, student-centered online courses that increase educational opportunities and digital learning skills.

VHS1VHS allows BFA to:

  • supplement our offerings with a wide range of online offerings.
  • gives us access to one of the largest selections of online AP® courses
  • expose students to learning in an online environment (a skill they will likely need to be college and career ready.

VHS2You can view course options to learn more about the extensive opportunities available through VHS.

Students who choose to participate in a VHS class at BFA are assigned one block of their schedule to do coursework. The VHS program is coordinated and supervised by VHS Site Coordinator Eda Kirkpatrick. VHS Class work is issued in one week chunks. The students then structure their workload however they wish, giving them flexibility to work at home or in the VHS classroom.

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“The wonderful thing about VHS is that it gave me the opportunity to explore course offerings that BFA didn’t offer. “ – Binny, VHS Student

Students partner with peers from all over the planet on collaborative projects. One of the advantages of VHS is interacting with students from different cultures. VHS is a wonderful way for students to develop intercultural competence and global citizenship – essential skills necessary to prepare students for future opportunities that don’t yet exist.

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“It’s fun to work with student from different parts of the world.” – Francis, VHS Student

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“Game design is a popular choice. I wonder what new offerings will be available next year? People ask me about VHS every day: students, educators, and parents. I tell them that it is a wonderful opportunity. VHS enhances our school offerings, allowing student to pursue their personal interests. There is no way any one school can offer all the classes that VHS does. If a student has an interest in Latin, Philosophy, Constitutional Law, Nuclear Physic, Meteorology, or Russian Language and Culture – VHS has it. Education is the first step these students are taking to making their dreams come true. They are pursuing their interests, not what is mandated to them. They are able to fall in love with learning because they are studying things that excite them.” – Eda Kirkpatrick, VHS Site Coordinator

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Learn more about VHS here.

Tooth Tutor Supports Dental Health of Fletcher Students

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environment 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) Make relevant and authentic problems become the focus of connected learning. (2) Provide students with access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls.

Indicator of Success – The school calendar and definition of school day changes to become flexible and responsive to the needs of students.

Heather Blair is better known to Fletcher students as the Tooth Tutor.

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A dental hygienist by trade, the former Fletcher parent has supported the dental health of children at the school for the past six years through the Tooth Tutor Program, a Medicaid-funded initiative that aims to teach students the skills necessary for lifelong oral health and match them with dental health providers.

Blair, whose interest in dental health was peaked when she volunteered to coordinate the fluoride program at the school, then attended dental hygiene school and approached FWSU about starting the Tooth Tutor program in its elementary and middle schools. She also works with preschool students in the Head Start Programs in Franklin, Grand Isle, and Chittenden Counties.

“One of our goals is dental education,” Blair said. “We make the lessons interactive and the students are really engaged. It sets them up for a lifetime of prevention rather than restorative care.”

According to Blair, dental decay, an underlying infection, is the most infectious transferable disease in children. It is seven times more prevalent in children than asthma.

“It’s the top disease in children,” Blair said. “And it has been linked to a number of other health issues.”

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In addition to dental education, Blair begins each school year by reviewing the school medical and dental records of all students. For children without a documented dental appointment within the past year, or without a dentist of record, Blair works to connect the family with a dental provider. She begins by sending a letter to the family offering support. Blair can also provide free dental screenings to determine if a child is in the preventative, restorative or active infection stage of dental need.

“The goal is that all children are being seen by a dentist regularly,” she said.

Blair credits the Tooth Tutor program with helping families access what can often be a challenging healthcare system. Many children who have Dr. Dynasaur, the childhood version of Medicaid, have difficulty finding a dentist to accept their insurance.

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We are able to get kids in,” Blair said. “We have referral sources that are actively taking Medicaid and we work hard to make the arrangements.”

During the teaching component of the program, Blair says preschoolers focus on what it might be like to visit the dentist. She shows them the tools and equipment that might be used, as well as the clothing that may be worn. As students progress through the grades, they learn proper brushing techniques, flossing, nutrition and facts about tooth decay. They use chewable food-grade colored tablets to mark the plaque on their teeth to support comprehensive brushing practice in the classrooms.

“I learned that you have to brush your teeth twice a day to stay healthy,” second grader Magnus Riggs said. “Otherwise you could lose all your teeth.”

“When you don’t brush your teeth there is plaque,” second grader Carver Leadbetter said. “That is bad because you can get cavities. You need to brush, floss and use mouthwash.”

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The Tooth Tutor Program is active in nearly half of all Vermont elementary schools.