New Virtual Gallery to Display Student Artwork

We are very excited to announce a new FWSU Virtual Art Gallery displaying works by  students, which is set to launch October 3rd!

The idea was born when a GEMS sixth grader created a moving work commemorating 9/11, which was posted on our Facebook page. The positive feedback and interaction that emerged brought about the realization that a digital platform could effectively highlight and promote our young artists – making their works visible to the broader community beyond the classroom.

Art Teachers from across the district will select exemplary works of art designed and created by their own students. Each week, several of these works will be featured and then stored in the Gallery for parents and community members to experience and enjoy.

We invite you to follow us on Facebook and support the great work of our young artists!

Student Assembly Focuses on the Power of Youth Advocacy

This week, BFA Fairfax High School students participated in a school-wide assembly with representatives from the Kony 2012 Invisible Children organization. The event, developed by Global English teachers Sara Villenueve and Will Brooks along with Principal Mike Clark, addressed the following Enduring Understanding: Change is possible through Question, Persistence and Advocacy.  The assembly was a continuation of the work begun last year by the Multimedia and Society class, who first discovered the Kony 2012 documentary and initiated a project to promote awareness to the BFA Fairfax student body.

Young, dynamic speakers from Invisible Children shared their mission to bring about a permanent end to atrocities in East and Central Africa perpetrated by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Rebel leader Kony and the LRA have been committing crimes since 1987. They have abducted an estimated 66,000 children for the purpose of forcing them to be child slaves and LRA soldiers.

Randy, a college student from Philadelphia, explained that through the power of a student’s voice, the vision of bringing Kony to justice in 2012 can become reality. In a moving first-hand account, Jane from Uganda shared the violence she personally experienced by Kony’s LRA which nearly led to her death, and took the lives of her father and other family members. She was part of a group of children taken from a bus and suffered severe wounds, barely escaping with her life. Today she is a college student in Uganda sponsored by Invisible Children.


As our students learn to become involved in the global community through youth advocacy and action, young citizens recognize the tremendous impact they can have in bringing about positive change. Their voice matters!

Introducing “George Blue”, Georgia Middle School’s Newest Poet

Meet George Blue. This is a pen name for an 8th grade poet and student at Georgia Middle School who recently created his first eBook. George participated in a three-week poetry writing seminar with his Language Arts teachers Mary Bove and Nan Mildrum. At the end of the seminar, George took some of his poetry and using his iPad, he “played around” with an e-book application to create his own book of poetry.

The eBook Oceans was the result. The book can be accessed on Ms. Bove’s 8th Grade Language Arts page.


George’s first book may not be error free, but is a great example of a student’s enthusiasm and time investment leading to a new use of technology. It is exciting that the first eBook published at GEMS was a student-driven effort. George approached Technology Integrationist Dayle Payne, and Digital Learning Specialist Angelique Fairbrother, for publication help and he has offered to serve as a student assistant for others who want to create their own books.

Here is a snapshot of George Blue’s work:

What an excellent way to build a library of student-published work!

“DO, RE, ME” – New Fletcher Elementary Chorus Takes Shape

Target 3- Flexible Learning Environments

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

Fletcher Elementary is excited to announce the formal organization of a new school-wide choral group. The group will provide students who enjoy singing an opportunity to express themselves through their voices and interact with peers from other classes. This enrichment idea emerged last June as faculty considered how they might “flex” their schedules and extend learning experiences beyond the classroom.

Music teacher Christy Maynard says, “Our children each have unique talents and it is my pleasure and responsibility to awaken and encourage their musical abilities”. Mrs. Maynard adds “In our quest to encourage students to be lifelong learners, singing is something that they can always do and enjoy – they already have all the equipment they will ever need!”

Mrs. Maynard uses Solfege as a pedagogical technique to teach children sight-singing. Each note of the musical score is sung to a special syllable. The seven syllables commonly used for this practice are do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti. Solfege is a great system for ear training and developing a young singer’s relative pitch.

Our students are eager to learn and will enjoy this new musical experience!

Middle Schoolers Embrace Autumn Outdoor Learning

In the life of every school, there special activities and events that become embedded elements in the overall rhythm of our educational communities. These traditions uniquely reflect the interests of a collective group of students and staff. We are also reminded that learning can be fun and filled with joy.

At BFA Middle School, students eagerly mark the beginning of the school year and the coming of autumn with two field trips. The sixth graders hike Sunset Ridge Trail to the top of Mount Mansfield along with their teachers and parent chaperones. It is always a memorable day where students get to experience firsthand the beauty of the Green Mountain State. This outdoor learning experience seamlessly integrates geology, geography, orienteering, botany, history, and each student is challenged to reach the highest point in Vermont.

“I always enjoy hearing from students after the hike about their experience. The look on their face as they explain what they witnessed on top of the mountain is priceless. We are so fortunate to live in such a magnificent place.” ~  Principal Tom Walsh.

A second tradition is the seventh grade annual class trip to Northern Lights Rock and Ice in Essex. This year the weather was perfect, and students, staff, and parents had the opportunity to experience low and high elements. Participants challenge themselves and support their classmates through a series of physical and team building challenges. Relationships which are built on the course, naturally transfer into the classroom. Most importantly, this event marks the beginning of a two-year learning journey for middle school students of Fairfax and Fletcher (Fletcher students begin attending BFA Fairfax in seventh grade), The experience lays a strong foundation for student success, while developing middle-school memories that will last for years to come.

FWSU Welcomes Digital Learning Specialist Angelique Fairbrother

Great coaches never impact the outcome of a game by sitting behind a desk all day. Great coaches are on the field where the game is being played” – Malachi Pancoast

We would like to welcome Angelique Fairbrother to FWSU (@fwsutech) as our new Digital Learning Specialist. Angelique will work directly with each school in our supervisory union to provide leadership, expertise, and support for use of instructional technology resources.  Angelique is a teacher leader who will be responsible for supporting and mentoring instructional and administrative staff and students in the integration of appropriate media and technologies in the classroom.

She will help align the FWSU Action Plan, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and ISTE NETS with instructional practices that yield the highest standards of student achievement, instructional excellence, and community support for technology. Angelique has extensive experience as Technology Instructional Coordinator at Decatur Public Schools. Her work in Decatur focused on implementing 21st Century Learning skills in all curricular areas based on student data  Angelique earned her Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Illinois. Prior to her experience as a Technology Instructional Coordinator, Angelique was a middle school science educator.

We are thrilled to welcome Angelique to our team!

Students Use Statistics to Explore College and Career Options

Walk into a Math I Class at BFA Fairfax and you will see students hard at work finishing a project to wrap up their statistics unit. Their research matters to them since it connects statistical  analysis and representation with a real-world investigation.

Students use technology resources to integrate learning

Their assignment?  “Research a variety of colleges around a theme that is important to  you – big football schools, schools with a Marine Biology major, colleges within a 300-mile radius with a strong nursing program, colleges with creative art programs – choose what interests you. You must gather, organize, and analyze specific data using the statistical tools we have learned in class. Be ready to present your findings to the group. Work together to create an interesting visual representation of your data.”

Students use tools to collect data for research

In this project, students pursue their own personal interests, and then practice and apply research, mathematical, and technology skills with the support of their iPad, their friends, and their teacher. Personal engagement, collaboration, and inquiry are key to a successful project.

Students develop visual models of their work

Students present a representation of their findings

Students come away with a heightened awareness of higher education options, career choices, and research skills to make decisions about their future. They also apply their understanding of statistics. This is a great way for students to begin to look beyond high school and see the everyday relevance of mathematical practices.

Virtual High School Offers BFA Students Access to the World

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.

Strategies

  • 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.

This year is the second year that Bellows Free Academy Fairfax has partnered with the Virtual High School Collaborative (VHS). Students can access a wide variety of courses that are not currently available at BFA. From Mandarin Chinese to International Business, from Screenwriting Fundamentals to Pre-Veterinary Medicine, unique subjects that defy traditional categories, AP® and Honors courses, elective and core courses – they are all available in the world of VHS.

A teacher – specially trained in online education – posts lessons, guides discussions, provides feedback, aids understanding, asks and answers questions, and assesses the work submitted. Students are assigned a regular block period each day to complete VHS coursework and they can continue to study wherever and whenever they have access to a computer.

Our students are are excited to be part of this world of global collaboration and enjoy rich opportunities to interact with other students beyond their own classroom. Hundreds of schools are VHS members. Using the latest web tools, students and their classmates debate, share, comment, and collaborate on projects.

“I like VHS. It’s not as stressful because you can work at your own pace as long as you get everything done.”  DT – BFA Grade 11 Student

The VHS Collaborative is a non-profit organization that has literally changed the face of online and blended learning in high schools and middle schools across the country and around the world. Since 1996, courses that students thought they couldn’t receive, and administrators thought they couldn’t afford, have been delivered via the web by The VHS Collaborative.  This has not replaced traditional classroom teaching but supplemented it with high quality education available to all, regardless of location, and within the most stringent budgets.

“I really like VHS. I feel more relaxed in this type of classroom. I like that the week starts on Wednesday because it feels like you can get more accomplished. And I really like having classmates from all over the world.”         SP – BFA Grade 12 Student

What is VHS? It is global. It is authentic. It is the power of 21st century learning. It is a world of synchronous online courses, where students engage in challenging new subjects and teachers learn new skills. A world where technology enriches the classroom experience. Where schools share resources. And where possibilities are not limited by where you live or go to school. 

Open House: A Valued Back-To-School Tradition

In the coming weeks, our schools will be hosting parents and guardians at annual School Open House events. This is an important opportunity for families to experience the learning environment that surrounds their children each day and to make connections with teachers and staff.

The beginning of a new school year represents an important milestone for every child. Sharing the excitement and celebration of a new year helps reinforce high academic expectations. School Open House is a first step for parents and guardians to get involved in the education of their children.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR with these upcoming Open House dates:

  • Georgia Elementary School (PreK-4) – Wednesday, September 19th: 6-7pm 
  • Georgia Middle School (5-8) – Wednesday, September 26th: 5:30-7pm
  • Fletcher Elementary School (PreK-6) – Thursday, September 27th: 5-6:30pm –          Come for the Lasagna Dinner!
  • BFA Fairfax (PreK-12) – Thursday, October 4th: 6:30-8pm

Friday STEM Learning Days Engage Students in Engineering

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

Strategy – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

#joy

GEMS 4th grade held its first weekly STEM Day, which offers a blended learning experience encompassing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). These hands-on explorations offer students an opportunity to design and discover how science and math knowledge support real-world problem solving.

Using the Engineering Design Process, our students collaborated to successfully solve a problem. Each group was given a task to construct an apparatus that would hold a small stuffed bear for display purposes, using index cards and tape. The supporting structure had to be at least two feet tall. Students were limited on the materials and tools allowed for the challenge – only 12 inches of tape, 40 index cards, and scissors could be used.

#design

Through planning and implementation, testing and redesign, our students learned how to successfully work together and use their science and math knowledge to guide their problem-solving.

Elementary students who are engaged in a natural design process during STEM activities are likely to develop positive associations with engineering and increase their desire to pursue such activities in the future.