BFA 6th Graders Take Learning to the Summit in Annual Mount Mansfield Hike!

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.

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.

Ask anyone who has graduated from BFA Fairfax in the last 20 years if they remember their 6th grade hike and they are sure to answer with a resounding yes! This long-standing tradition may have slightly changed focus over the years, but the sense of pride and accomplishment that students feel about this important day remains the same.

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On two glorious consecutive fall Fridays, September 18th and 25th, BFA Fairfax 6th grade students started from the Underhill State Park with approximately 50 students, teachers and parents each day. The 5.2 mile trail winds along the CCC Road to Sunset Ridge Trail and connects to the Long Trail at the ridge. Students had been preparing for weeks with tips from The Green Mountain Club and created individual digital presentations using the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace. Student learning focused on two NGSS science concepts to prepare for this extended day learning opportunity. Students investigated how climate varies and is influenced by elevation and how the environment is impacted by changes in elevation  (MS-ESS 2-6). Students were able to personally experience how plant and animal life changes significantly as you near the summit of Mt. Mansfield and how regional geography affects climate.

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Students also prepared for the hike by learning about different types of erosion and weathering (MS-ESS 2-2).  These geoscience processes are constantly changing and shaping Earth’s surface and consequently our daily lives through both gradual and catastrophic events.

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Along the hike students stopped at several spots and made various weather, environment, geographical and geological observations. We were fortunate both days to have personnel from the Green Mountain Club speak to us at the summit about their job and the importance of preserving the Arctic Alpine Zone in which we were hiking.

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After the hike students wrote thank you letters to chaperones expressing their appreciation for the time, effort and support that adults gave to them throughout the day. In reflection paragraphs students described the challenges they faced, and provided evidence of how they used a growth mindset to achieve individual success regardless of whether they made it to the summit.

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To summarize the experience students chose their own creative project to demonstrate learning about the effects of weathering and erosion and how elevation influences climate. Students were so positive about the opportunity to extend their learning outside of the classroom and felt tremendous pride in their accomplishment, they too will be talking about it for many years to come.

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