Prologue: I recently attended a Zoom session featuring the Peacemaker Projects of grade 7 students at BFA Fairfax. This joint effort between Emily Wills and Jennifer Skerrett featured an authentic humanities approach to what it means to be a peacemaker. The intersection of transferable skills, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, and thematic humanities is a hallmark of FWSU’s commitment to innovative, personalized learning opportunities that integrate a global perspective.
— Linda Keating, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union.
The Great Peacemakers
7th graders at BFA Fairfax recently completed their cross-curricular unit on Transferable Skills and The Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Jenn Skerrett (social studies), Emily Wills (English language arts), and Ethan Wise (Teacher Apprenticeship Program intern) worked together to support students’ exploration of these two important areas of learning.
In 2015, world leaders agreed to 17 Global Goals to help make the world a better place. By 2030, the Goals hope to end poverty, fight inequality and address the urgency of climate change.
Meanwhile, in 2016 the Vermont Agency of Education put forth five overarching Transferable Skills to cut across content areas and complement the new proficiency-based graduation requirements. The Skills are: clear and effective communication, creative and practical problem solving, informed and integrative thinking, responsible and involved citizenship, and self-direction.
Over approximately 10 in-person class days, the 7th graders read the book Great Peacemakers by Heather Chase and Ken Beller. This nonfiction text covers 20 people who have all taken different pathways to peace: choosing nonviolence, valuing all life, honoring diversity, caring for the planet, or living peace.
Students then selected one peacemaker to study more in-depth, and created a presentation to connect that peacemaker to the Transferable Skills and The Global Goals. Then, they extended their thinking outward to link their peacemaker’s mission to an ongoing cause today.
In the past, Mrs. Skerrett and Mrs. Wills have combined their classes for this project and done presentations in a mixed group. This year, COVID-19 protocols forced them to be creative. While keeping their pods safe and separate, the teachers used Zoom to allow students in different classrooms to watch each other present and see each others’ slideshows. This also made it possible for FWSU Curriculum Director Linda Keating to join the audience for some of the speeches.
Emily Wills, Grade 7 Language Arts Teacher at BFA Fairfax
Jennifer Skerrett, Grade 7 Social Studies Teacher at BFA Fairfax