S.T.E.A.M. Night Showcases Proficiency-Based Learning in Fletcher

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In the gymnasium, surrounded by shoulder-to-shoulder classmates, family and friends, several groups of Fletcher Elementary School students huddled around small piles of colorful straws and planned. Whispering softly, many with their hands cupped around their mouths so as not to allow their thinking to be overheard by their competitors, the groups skillfully deployed several strategies in an effort to create the tallest tower to hold a small white flag using only straws and tape.
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The “instant challenge,” as it was called, was a key feature of the Fletcher School’s S.T.E.A.M. Night (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) held on May 25th. Historically called S.T.E.M. Night, this year the school included an art show, transforming S.T.E.M. into S.T.E.A.M, with the added “A” representing the arts.
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The evening event emphasized the three learning proficiencies that the Fletcher School has been focusing on this year, including clear and effective communication, creative and practical problem-solving and Responsible and involved citizenship.
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“S.T.E.A.M. Nights celebrates the hard work of our students to become proficient in these essential skill areas,” S.T.E.M. Teacher Leader Denette Locke said. “It is a great example of how academic concentrations are interwoven at Fletcher. The evening is all about students presenting evidence that they are becoming more and more competent, especially with the three proficiencies.”
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Individual classes orchestrated displays on topics ranging from watersheds and sound, to the lifecycle of plants.
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Labyrinth Coming Soon to GEMS

GEMS teachers have been engaged in teaching mindfulness practices to their students to improve academic success and emotional regulation. This fall a small group of teachers embraced an opportunity given through Launch FWSU. As a result of receiving the Launch funds provided through Bay and Paul Foundation, GEMS will be able to create a space to extend these mindfulness practices. The group decided to create a community Labyrinth on the school grounds.

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Labyrinths have one path that winds in a circuitous way to the center. Labyrinths are used worldwide as a way to quiet the mind, recover balance in life, and encourage meditation, insight, self-reflection, stress reduction, creativity, and gratitude. Over the winter students and teachers researched and designed a variety of labyrinths and finalized a design. Path cutting and stone installation is set for Saturday, June 3 at 9 a.m. with Sunday, June 4th as a rain date.

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The committee is excited to bring this to our Georgia community. Please contact JoAnn Harvey at jharvey@fwsu.org if you are interested in more information or are willing to participate.

Students Green Up Fairfax

Students, staff, and parent chaperones from BFA Fairfax participated in our annual Green Up Day activities last month.

BFAgreenup1Green Up Day is always the first Saturday in May and over 22,000 volunteers come together to remove litter from Vermont’s roadsides and public spaces. The day was launched in 1970, and since 1979 it has been officially organized by Green Up Vermont, a non-profit organization whose mission is “to promote the stewardship of our state’s natural landscape and waterways and the livability of our communities by raising public awareness about the benefits of a litter-free environment.” bfagreenup2.pngIn Fairfax, Students were dispersed throughout the town of Fairfax to pick up rubbish that accumulated over the winter months. Middle school students spent time bonding with their Initiative Time groups and forayed deep into Fairfax armed only with garbage bags, rubber gloves, and a firm understanding of safety precautions!  Elementary school students stayed closer to school, greening up the streets around the outskirts of the BFA-Fairfax campus. In addition, groups of students and staff cleaned up trash on the BFA Fairfax property itself — including the cross-country trails and recreation path — and weeded and mulched the flowerbeds surrounding the school building.bfagreenup3.pngThanks to BFA Fairfax educators Melinda Carpenter and Sandy Brown for making this opportunity happen for our community.  Their time and efforts to coordinate this event are so greatly appreciated. Lindy and Sandy mapped individual groups’ Green Up routes, organized parent volunteers, provided maps to teachers and parents clarifying routes, and put together a safety guide for each group to follow while they were greening up our community.

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Sandy Brown

There are numerous benefits to Green Up Day, including responsible and civic learning for our students. Green Up Day is both impactful and highly tangible, as the green garbage bags on the roadsides in our community are a highly visible reminder of the contributions students and parent volunteers made on this wonderful day!

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Melinda Carpenter with students

Celebrating Our FWSU First-Year Teachers

Last week about 20 teachers who were “new” just 10 short months ago joined their mentors, FWSU Mentor Coordinators, and administrators to celebrate their first year. The event took place at the Grace Farm October Barn in Fairfax.

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Teachers had time to catch up with each other, their mentors, and various school personnel who joined us to share the highlights of a long day, the newly warm weeks, and most importantly, their first year.

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Superintendent Ned Kirsch and Director of Curriculum Linda Keating welcomed everyone and thanked them for choosing FWSU and for their service to our students. Psychologist Joelle van Lent was the featured speaker. Dr. van Lent brought this group of teachers full circle to reflect on such an important year in their teaching lives. She was the featured speaker in August, supporting our new teachers along with the FWSU Mentoring Program in building “communities of resilience.” Her work then centered around fostering resilience of students. For this celebration, she focused on the resilience of the teacher.

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Dr. van Lent shared many factors that can promote the resilience of teachers and lead to greater satisfaction. Some of those factors are resourcefulness; having vision, goals, and purpose; humor; optimism and hope; flexibility; and an open mind. These factors resonated with our teachers, along with two other critical factors that new teachers consistently report that their mentors provide: social support and an active approach to problem-solving.

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Dr. van Lent also urged the group to focus on the positive aspects of their identity as teachers who work diligently to meet the diverse needs of all learners. She stressed the importance of taking a deliberate pause to reflect on their dedication and service to students, the comfort of collegial support, and most especially, pride in the talents and resources that they each bring to the job.

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And true-to-form in her understanding of teachers, it was fitting that Dr. van Lent would leave this group with a new set of ABCs for resilience: Awareness, Balance, and Connection.

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The celebration culminated with awarding certificates of participation and appreciation for the new teachers and their mentors, as well as our three Program Coordinators: Amy Rider, Melinda Carpenter, and Emily DiGiulio. In addition, all teachers in attendance received a copy of Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom by Patricia A. Jennings, a perfect read for some well-earned relaxation time this summer.

In Memory of Pete Lavoie

Last week, BFA Fairfax lost a champion for our school and its students. Long time BFA employee, Pete Lavoie, passed away unexpectedly. Pete drove a bus and worked with the maintenance staff in the summer, but his impact on students and staff reached far beyond his assigned duties.

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Pete Lavoie

Pete drove a morning and afternoon bus runs every day. He picked up students each morning and dropped them off in the afternoon. Students knew what Pete expected and he worked with them to help them if they needed it.

“Pete met with a student and parent that afternoon trying to help the student be successful on the bus. He always followed through with the school and the families to help the student succeed. That’s just the kind of guy he was.” – Tom Walsh, Elementary Principal

Pete was the regular driver for our students who attend Center for Technology, Essex. He was their consistent connection to BFA. Pete was there waiting for our students when Essex had their recent lockdown. Since the lockdown made them late, Pete drove every student directly to their homes so the other buses and students could leave BFA on time. It was another example of Pete putting students first after a stressful day.

Pete was the driver for the football and Nordic ski teams. He gave pep talks to the teams, cheered them on during the game or race, and supported them on the way home – win or lose. Students considered Pete a part of their team and he was routinely included in the end-of-season awards banquets.

“Pete cared. Pete cared fiercely about the town in which he lived, the school for which he worked, but most of all for the kids he drove. He was proud of them. He was protective of them. Pete cared.” – Fred Griffin, Nordic Ski Coach

Each afternoon as he left the parking lot, Pete gave the administrators a “thumbs up” to let them know he was ready to go.

When Pete left us last week, we were not ready to say goodbye. We will always carry the memory of Pete’s smile, enthusiasm, and caring to help us through the journey. Pete will live on in our memory and will be deeply missed.

GEMS Students Explore Art and Innovation

Mrs. Young’s class at Georgia Elementary created Frank Stella-inspired art through a collaboration with the Innovation Lab.

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I have always been inspired by Frank Stella‘s 3- dimensional relief paintings but struggled to find a way for young students to cut out interesting shapes in cardboard.

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Until this year when the GEMS innovation lab was set up with a laser cutter!  Now we have a way to approach our art projects with new tools and methods.

Mr. Hadd and Mrs. Payne were excited to work with my 3rd graders in Mrs. Young’s class to try out our new equipment and programs.

The students started out in the art room and made paper models of their sculpture.  They worked in groups of 4 to create one sculpture.

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Next, each group of 4 took their paper models to the computer lab to draw their shapes on the computer, then the files were converted and sent to the laser cutter.

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They cut out 4 sets of each model so each student would have their own piece of art.

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They brought the cardboard pieces back to the art room to paint and assemble.Despite the fact that every 4 students had the same set of pieces, each sculpture turned out as a unique piece of art!

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This guest post was contributed by Dorsey Hogg, Elementary Art Educator at Georgia School.

GEMS Elementary School Partners with UVM College of Education

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Mark Van Doren

Each year the University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services graduates new teachers to fill classrooms around Vermont and beyond. Next year some of the future graduates will be learning and be honing their craft at Georgia Elementary School. A partnership has been established with UVM and this is the first such partnership in Franklin County.  Five student teaching interns per semester will be spending time learning from our teaching staff and becoming part of our community of learners.  Having a UVM new teacher professional development center onsite will be a benefit for GEMS.

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Our school is looking forward to partnering with UVM students next fall. Each student has already met their mentor teacher while attending a school function and completing their site visit.  Our students will benefit greatly from the enthusiasm and interests they all shared. A professional young group of future educators.” – Principal Steve Emery

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The goal of the teaching practicum is for each intern to engage in a variety of teaching and school activities that will encourage their development. The mentor teacher plays a pivotal role in the internship experience as well. They will guide the intern in the application of educational theory and practice within an actual classroom experience.

“Becoming a part of the community and understanding the environment has allowed me to grow as an educator over the course of a year and a half. My current school placement has opened their arms and welcomed student interns and their experiences to learn and adapt best practices. I am proud to see how far I’ve come as an educator from being hesitant to walk a class to lunch in comparison to confidently completing a two week solo with whole group instruction” – Molly Magnan current UVM intern (2017)

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“Forming this partnership is good for both UVM and GEMS. Our teachers get to share their knowledge and expertise with amazing future educators. In turn, UVM will also share with us the latest research on teaching. I know we will also find some “gems” in the rough who will someday teach at Georgia.” – Superintendent Ned Kirsch

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Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners. FWSU staff and students engage in authentic learning opportunities with local, regional, state, and global partners to make a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Engage community partners in a focused, collaborative inquiry process to address community needs

Indicator of Success – Collaborative projects and partnerships are part of the fabric of the broader community.