Mrs. Haddock’s Class Shows C.A.R.E.S.

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.

The Responsive Classroom is a general approach to teaching that is based on the idea that children learn best when they have both academic and social-emotional skills. BFA teachers believe that how children learn is just as important as what they learn. To accomplish this, they provide opportunities for students to learn through social interaction, where they are developing a safe and fun learning environment. This approach also offers students a level of student leadership that involves them more in their own learning and helps them feel better about their classroom and their place in it.

Earlier this fall, Katie Haddock’s second grade students began to learn about C.A.R.E.S. and why it is important for their class. C.A.R.E.S stands for Cooperation, Assertion, Responsibility, Empathy, and Self-Control. Students split into groups and each group was assigned a different element of C.A.R.E.S. to research. Once they gathered the information, students then developed storyboards to plan out a video to demonstrate what it means to them.

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Next, students collaborated with Mrs. Rhonda Siemons, BFA Technology Integrationist, on how they could use iPads to take their ideas and turn them into a movie to share with others. Taking the ideas from the storyboards, students created a video that demonstrates the importance of C.A.R.E.S. Here is a link to their video.

Finally the students had an opportunity to share with other elementary students during morning meeting. For the meeting, they created a skit to remind the elementary school about the importance of the words in C.A.R.E.S.  After the skit, they showcased their special video that the 2nd Grade students had made.

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High School Students Attend Vermont’s First Youth Climate 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 – 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.

BFA High School students join 26 other Vermont high schools to attend Vermont’s 1st Youth Climate Summit hosted by the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources and Senator Bernie Sanders.

BFA high school students left to right, Kyle Louko, Annie DeZalia, Jennifer Plankey, Kailey Ware, Samantha King, Grace Riley and Mr. Lane (HS Science) at UVM for Youth Climate Summit

BFA high school students left to right, Kyle Louko, Annie DeZalia, Jennifer Plankey, Kailey Ware, Samantha King, Grace Riley and Mr. Lane (HS Science) at UVM for Youth Climate Summit

“Global warming is the planetary crisis of our time,” Sanders told the students. “The scientific community is telling us that we have a narrow window of opportunity to address the crisis of climate change and to transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and toward sustainable energy,” added the senator, a member of both the Senate Energy and Environment committees.

Senator Sanders addresses the Youth Climate Summit at University of Vermont Dudley Davis Center.

Senator Sanders addresses the Youth Climate Summit at University of Vermont Dudley Davis Center.

“This was an excellent opportunity to begin to give our students a voice in the global climate change crisis,” said BFA science teacher Mr. Lane,  “This issue is not just a science issue but transcends all subject matter.”

The 150+ high school students took part in morning and afternoon workshops organized by 65 UVM undergraduates who had studied ecological economics. Organizing the climate summit for young Vermonters was one of the goals of the college course that also focused on energy efficiency, renewable energy development and greenhouse gas auditing. Students and teachers worked in small teams to create climate action plans for their high schools.

BFA high school students from left to right Kailey Ware, Grace Riley, Annie DeZalia, Samantha King, Jennifer Plankey and Kyle Louko gather before leaving to attend separate workshops at the Youth Climate Summit, University of Vermont.

BFA high school students from left to right Kailey Ware, Grace Riley, Annie DeZalia, Samantha King, Jennifer Plankey and Kyle Louko gather before leaving to attend separate workshops at the Youth Climate Summit, University of Vermont.

“Community Time” Connects Fletcher Classrooms to Local Learning Partners

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 Steps – (1) Plan and manage instruction around problems relevant to students and their community and develop solutions for authentic audiences. (2) Engage community partners in a focused collaborative inquiry process. (3) Develop partnerships with global partners to carry out a project related to units of study.

Indicators of Success – (1) Learning outcomes will be expanded to encourage curiosity, communication, and digital citizenry. (2) Students challenge convention and make contributions in their community, state, and world. (3) Collaborative student projects/partnerships become part of the fabric of the broader community. (4) Students are engaged with local resources and create community learning “labs” based on projects.

Community Time is a weekly component of the fifth and sixth grade curriculum at the Fletcher Elementary School. Based on the FWSU Action Plan’s call for an increased interconnectedness between schools and local partners, Community Time pairs many generous and talented regional experts with students to teach both social and academic skills.

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“The value of having community members come into the classroom is about building relationships, connecting to the curriculum, and learning social skills,” 5/6 teacher Jasmine Tremblay said. “It’s real-world, real-life and authentic learning.”

Community Time takes place every Friday, for one hour. Recent guests have included an architect, cranberry producer, mountaineer, wildlife manager, entertainer, school banking coordinator, wildlife guide, and outdoor clothing designers. All guests volunteered their time.

“By seeing and hearing from a variety of people it not only gives the community a chance to share their expertise with our students, but it also give us a chance to inform the public about everything that is happening here at school. These students are learning in new and different ways that make sense for them as individuals,” 5/6 teacher Tracey Godin said.

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Each speaker offers students knowledge in a particular area, but learning the skills of public speaking and listening are a common thread that run through each presentation and are very intentionally discussed both during and after each session, often with the presenters. The guests are invited to give feedback to the students about their behavior as audience members and students let the experts know what they appreciated most about the presentations. They are encouraged to formulate thoughtful questions and articulate what they have learned.

“If you want to be successful at what they are doing you have to listen,” fifth grader Adam Packard said. “That’s the only way to know what to do.”

Just as the community experts donate their time, the teaching team of Tremblay and Godin encourage students to put others first in an effort to create not only a caring classroom community, but in an effort to prepare students for respectful, productive citizenship in their larger community. Next week, students will host several area elderly for singing and food. They have also made scarves, cards, and ornaments for their guests.

“They are doing this instead of having a classroom celebration for themselves,” Tremblay said. “We have very respectful young adolescents and they’re going to leave a legacy of caring.”

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Speakers also focus on leadership and teamwork, two themes that the teachers have infused across the curriculum this year. According to Tremblay, students are frequently asked to examine the impact their decisions have on others, both in the classroom and outside of school.

“It’s easy for kids to get focused solely on themselves,” Godin said. “This is an opportunity for them to consider how they impact everything around them, both here and in the bigger world. These skills will carry them right through adulthood.”

“I really like Community Time,” fifth grader Matthew Spiller said. “It gives us an understanding of the world around us and the amazing things that are going on in people’s’ lives.”

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“Community Time gives us a chance to talk to some awesome people right here in the Fletcher community,” fifth grader Gracie Clark said. “I have learned about cranberry farming, that Mabel’s dad is an awesome architect, and that Brody’s dad is a great mountain climber. And I learned that I could do all of that, too.”

“I like community Time because we get to go deeper into things we don’t know about and explore things we don’t know,” fifth grader Mabel Osgood said.

Community partners are equally as excited about the joint venture.

“Projects like this allow kids to have a better understanding of the world around them, from a local business, to the supply chain that feeds that business, that then spans across the globe,” said Jeff Yeager, of Burton Snowboards, one of the classes’ recent guests. “Having these opportunities provides ideas and big thinking that will impact students for the rest of their lives…A project like this is great because it allows students to realize that it takes a team to make everything around you, and if you have a passion for something chances are you can find a way to turn that passion into a career.”

“There are so many cool jobs right here in Vermont,” fifth grader Lane Stygles said. “It all sounds like so much fun to me.”


According to a 2003 study on the connectedness of schools, families and communities by the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools, students with strong connections to their community participate in less unhealthy risk-taking behavior and do better in school. Read the full study here.

How Classroom Blogs Enhance Learning and Forge Connections

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

Action Step - Increase accessible opportunities for global collaboration; model exchange for global collaboration.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff will create personalized learning networks to communicate and collaborate with others.

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Advancements in technology through the years has made it possible to communicate more efficiently and effectively among colleagues, parents, and children.  At Georgia Elementary School, teachers have started to link their daily routine and specific learning opportunities to the outside world through individual classroom blogs. Posts are generated by both teachers and students and often are meant to share the learning that is occurring throughout each day along with professional development that is occurring within each school. Click here to observe one teachers classroom blog post.

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Blogs offer a level of interactivity that did not exist in the past. Readers have the opportunity to comment, question, critique, or reflect.  Parents have the opportunity to view their child’s classroom and know what is occurring on a daily basis. Blogs offer a variety of information and following specific blogs allows colleagues to share great learning among one another.

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Blogs are a great communication tool and are valuable in a variety of ways for collaboration, communication, and informing. Here is a great article to help you get started on your way to blogging.

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Also, check out the GEMS summer learning blog.

FWSU Special Educators Embrace “No Decision About Me, Without Me”

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.

Earlier this month, Franklin West Supervisory Union Special Educators attended a presentation by VT-FUTRES (Fostering Understanding to Reach Educational Success), a collaborative effort by the Vermont Agency of Human Services and the Department for Children & Families. The focus of the presentation was to engage in a dialogue about the importance of educational well-being and school stability for youth in foster care.

dcfmtgThe overarching goals are: Safety, Permanence, and Well-being. National research supports school stability. FWSU Special Educators watched the video, “No Decision About Me, Without Me”,  which portrays the stories of Vermont youth in custody. Teachers also listened to one young man’s journey through the foster care system and how his education was impacted.

Research shows that every time a student changes schools, he or she loses approximately 4-6 month of educational progress. High school students in care who change schools – even once – are 50% less likely to graduate high school. When youth in foster care remain in the same middle and high school setting, their likelihood of high school graduation doubles compared with youth whose educational placement changes.

FWSU is committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes for every student through a personalized learning approach that meets the needs of all students.

FWSU Named Apple Distinguished School System

 

“With creative digital tools, our students in rural communities can connect globally, providing opportunities for our kids to develop intercultural competence.” – Mary Lynn Riggs, Director of Curriculum

Franklin West Supervisory Union is pleased to announce its recent recognition as a 2014-2016 Apple Distinguished School. The Apple Distinguished School designation is reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence, and demonstrate a clear vision of exemplary learning environments.

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FWSU began implementing a 1:1 iPad program three years ago.  The program now includes all students in grades 5/6 through 12 across BFA Fairfax, Fletcher Elementary, and Georgia School.

“I’m excited for all of our schools to receive this recognition from Apple.  Over the past three years, FWSU has gained incredible momentum in realizing its four goals: student-centered learning, student leadership, community engagement, and flexible learning environments.  The 1:1 iPad implementation has developed unparalleled customized learning opportunities for our students,” states Superintendent Ned Kirsch.  “The selection of FWSU as an Apple Distinguished School highlights our rising success.  We are designing innovative and compelling learning environments that engage students in the digital age.”

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The FWSU Action Plan calls for a dramatic departure from the manner in which school has been provided for students over the last one hundred years.  It examines flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promotes learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fosters creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

picmonkey_imageFWSU is fully immersed in its journey to make schools a destination where students embrace the “always on” learning styles of 21st Century and are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

“Our teachers and students have embraced technology.  We have worked tirelessly to integrate technology in meaningful and effective ways.  This recognition is validation of the risks we have taken and the learning opportunities we are creating everyday.” – BFA Principal Tom Walsh.

 

 

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This is a tremendous honor and we are proud of the amazing work of our schools!

Anatomy of a Snow Day – A Superintendent’s Perspective

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What student doesn’t like a snow day? As a Superintendent, I vividly remember snow days being the highlight of winter when I was in school. Unfortunately, growing up near the ocean, snow days were few and far between. Living in northern New England for the past 30 years, I have experienced many snow cancellations. Some seemed “justified” – others not so much.

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As a student, I always wanted to be able to cancel school – I guess I should have been careful what I wished for back then! Now it is my responsibility to consider the impact of weather on the safety of our students and staff. It is never an easy decision. Today as I watch the great Nor’easter of 2014 churn from my office window, I thought I would give a glimpse behind the scenes into how the decision is made to cancel school in FWSU.

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Usually the process begins when our local weather experts on TV drop the first hint about a coming weather event. I find myself immersed in weather reports and weather websites frequently this time of year to learn all I can about any approaching storm. As more details begin to emerge, I consult with other superintendents in the Champlain Valley. Although we lead different school systems, we have many broad community connections since we share students attending regional technical centers and students who are tuitioned to other school districts. At FWSU, we have students attending technology academies in St. Albans, Burlington and Essex. We also have students enrolled in high schools all throughout the Franklin/Chittenden County area.

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Sometimes we have enough information to easily predict conditions a day prior to the big event. However, most of the time that is not the case. Today my morning began at 4am when I awoke to begin monitoring the weather and communicating with principals, area superintendents, and the FWSU Facilities Director. Today I had no power at home, which made communication a little tricky. Fortunately I found the exact spot in my house where my cell phone works most of the time!

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Principals in our system are in direct communication with bus directors and the amazing road crews that keep our streets plowed while we are all still sleeping. Principals gather information and share what they have learned. This morning I was engaged in over twenty phone calls, texts and emails before 5:15am. The news we gathered from every corner of FWSU was clear – our roads were in tough shape and the storm was not ending anytime soon. Today was an “easy” call to cancel school. As I drove into the office I passed a snowplow in the ditch and was glad that we made the decision not to transport our students today.

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Once the determination to cancel school is made, the principals spring into action. They immediately contact all the local news agencies, update webpages, and activate our phone/email messaging system. We like to have this completed prior to 6am to give everyone plenty of time to make arrangements. Once this is complete, we can then breathe a quick sigh of relief and get ready for the day ahead.

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The decision to postpone school is not easy. Usually some are happy that school is closed and others are frustrated. I fully realize that in some instances, a decision to close school impacts families a great deal. I also realize that holding school in poor weather conditions has the potential to jeopardize safety. It can be a tightrope act.

Hopefully many of our students took time today to enjoy our winter wonderland! You can also enjoy a student/aspiring young filmmaker’s perspective here. Maybe some our own FWSU are working on a similar project today.

Ned Kirsch – Superintendent  (@betavt)

GEMS Students Pledge to “Stand Up, Speak Out” on Bullying

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 – 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 others.

Throughout the month of November, Georgia Middle School students had the opportunity to learn about and show their support against bullying. Students in grades 3-8 participated in Blue Clothing Day on November 3rd which was organized by two sixth graders who wanted to raise awareness about how hurtful and damaging bullying can be and how we need to work together to stand up and stomp out bullying.  In addition to wearing blue, students had the opportunity to sign a “Stand up to Bullying Pledge” and received a blue wristband with the message, “Stand up, speak out.”

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Today I have an obligation.  No longer will I be silent if you need help. Silence is participation.  I refuse to participate in the problem.  We are all different, but we all deserve respect.  If you need help, come to me.  If you think you need help, I’m getting involved.  I’ve got your back. 

- Stand up to Bullying Pledge

The following week students were invited to a Sweethearts and Heroes Assembly. They did an amazing presentation addressing schools about bullying.  The message delivered to students was about tolerance, awareness, and an action plan for when ‘bullying happens.’

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Fundamental Goals from the Sweethearts and Heroes Assembly are:

  • Empowering all students with an action plan
  • Enhancing the school climate to stop bullying
  • Redefining bullying bystanders and victims of bullying
  • Providing choices for kids

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When our students get off the bus in the mornings and go into our hallways, they are greeted with the day’s message.  Each message connects to our theme for the year, “Wisdom Begins with Wonder.”  This theme ties in nicely with the two anti-bullying programs that occurred during the month of November.

 

We are proud of our student leaders for spreading this important message among their peers and for their continued efforts to end bullying in schools.

FWSU Joins Global Community for “Hour of Code”

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

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

Indicator of Success for this Goal -Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week, FWSU joins The Hour of Code mission to introduce 100 million students to computer science. Launched in 2013, Code.org created a global movement reaching tens of millions of students in 180+ countries. Their vision is simple – “every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science.”

We live in a world surrounded by technology. And we know that whatever field our students choose to go into as adults, their ability to succeed will increasingly hinge on understanding how technology works. But only a tiny fraction of us are learning computer science, and fewer students are studying it than a decade ago.

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So again this year, our Supervisory Union is joining in on the largest learning event in history: The Hour of Code, during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 8-14). Last year, 15 million students tried computer science in one week. This year, we’re joining students worldwide to reach 100 million students! As outlined in our Action Plan, we want to allow our tools to be a catalyst for collaborative inquiry with a global community.

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That’s why from kindergarten to high school, all three schools are joining in on exploring the hour of code. All three of our schools have created different opportunities for their students to become more familiar with code. This year, we’re joining students worldwide to reach 100 million students!

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Today is just the start of many possible events students can join in. Here are some additional resources you can share with your students to explore more beyond the hour of code.

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