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. (2) Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize in all learning settings. (3) Make relevant and authentic problems become the focus of connected learning.

Indicator of Success – Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

The Fletcher Elementary School has introduced a new, hands-on science and nature program known as Four Winds. Staffed by community volunteers and coordinated by STEM Teacher Leader Denette Locke, the program boasts exciting inquiry-based science lessons that allow children to learn about nature while being immersed in the natural environment.


Organized by educators and scientists, the Four Winds Nature Institute, headquartered in Chittenden, Vermont, aims to advance the understanding, appreciation and protection of the environment through community-based natural science education and research. Skilled trainers work with volunteers from the Fletcher school each month to educate them on a particular topic which, in turn, the volunteers present to children in classrooms and outside. The lessons rely heavily on students exploring the natural world around them. Problem-solving and citizenship are themes that run through each workshop as students explore the nature in their own backyard.


Founded in 2006, Four Winds is built on the belief that people long for a healthy connection to the environment and each other, and that these connections may be found through the exploration of the natural world and the natural curiosities of children. The program has four main goals:

  • Increasing knowledge of the natural world through direct observation, hands-on learning activities, and rich outdoor experiences.
  • Improving science literacy (content and skills) by encouraging people to explore their local environment.
  • Connecting a broad and diverse audience of people to the natural world on an ongoing and meaningful basis.
  • Providing people with critical thinking, problem-solving, and citizenship skills to make informed decisions on local environmental issues.

“It is these connections that will nurture and fuel us all as we work together to address the increasingly complex environmental issues ahead of us,” the Four Winds website says.


Currently, more than 100 schools work with the Four Winds Nature Institute, which offers programs for children and professional development for teachers and volunteers. The program is present in Vermont, New Hampshire Massachusetts and New York.

“Our aim is to promote community-wide interest and involvement in environment and education issues – making decisions based on science, thoughtful dialogue, broad-based discussion, and consideration of systems-wide impacts. We want to see people of all ages outside int heir community, enjoying nature, exploring, asking questions, and thinking about the natural world through a variety of lenses.”


In October, students in Fletcher learned about spiders.

The Four Winds Nature Program is based on the nationally recognized Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core. It is infused with science, literacy and math content, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving. Lessons highlight the patterns and cycles in nature, the structure of plants and animals, ecosystems, the earth and our environment.

Read more about Four Winds here.

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