THE FWSU STORY: Fairfax Farm to School Program Cultivates Sustainable Partnership with School in Kenya

Last week, students at BFA Fairfax welcomed visiting school leaders from Kenya into their gardens and classrooms. It was an incredible opportunity for the visiting team to learn how to start a farm to school who want to start a farm to school program in their own community. The 10-day trip to Vermont was made possible through the generous support of VT Center for International Learning Partnerships (VCILP) and the Bay and Paul Foundation.

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BFA Fairfax students Shannon and Caitlin present the School Farm to Brother Kennedy and Florence Maina from Kenya.

” It is incredible all they are doing from saving orphans to building economic communities to building equality between genders.” – Grace Zelazny, BFA Fairfax student

Students leading BFA Fairfax’s farm to school club gave a tour of their grounds, orchards, and facilities, shared about their projects in their farm to school class, and told the story of how their program grew into the multifaceted collaborative project it is today.

Partners from Kenya, with Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs of VCILP, tour the Fairfax School Farm

Partners from Kenya, with Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs of VCILP, tour the Fairfax School Farm

“The work Brother Kennedy and Florence Maina are doing in Kenya is wonderful. They seek economic sustainability and gender equity through education. Creating a food system where people learn to garden in sustainable ways is at the heart of their work”  – Fred Griffin, BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher

As part of the effort to build capacity and strengthen rural community development efforts in Kenya, Dr. Mary Lynn Riggs, VCILP’s Program Coordinator, arranged for Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina to visit the Farm to School program at BFA Fairfax.

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Brother Kennedy of St. Charles Lawanga in Kenya, interacts with students involved with sustainability and the BFA Fairfax School Farm.

“We know something about how hard things are in parts of the world. It was eye-opening to hear specifically what was going on in Kenya and Brother Kennedy’s school.” – Hannah Rainville

Farm to school programs increase students’ access to local, healthy foods, helping to address hunger and connecting students to where their food comes from to promote local agriculture and healthy eating habits. Brother Kennedy Oronjo and Florence Maina run two schools in Kenya for economically disadvantaged children, most of whom are orphans, one in Nairobi and one in rural Rodi-Homa Bay. The communities they serve struggle with food insecurity, economic challenges, and gender inequality, and they are building a farm to school program to address these issues and provide opportunities to young people. Their goal is to address hunger and food insecurity within the community through education and applied learning while at the same time boosting their rural economies. In the end, they envision a system similar to the one BFA Fairfax and other Vermont schools have developed.

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BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher Fred Griffin is a student advisor for the Farm to School Club.

“We want to find ways to link not just our Farm to School program, but our school with the project in Kenya. Heifer International was adopted by BFA Fairfax four years as a care-giving mission. Last year our student body purchased a water buffalo, two flocks of chickens and a sheep for Heifer to distribute. Livestock are a vital part of a sustainable food system. We are going to explore linking Heifer, Brother Kennedy, and our school by targeting his project as the beneficiary of our animal gifts.” – Fred Griffin, BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher

Students in Fairfax started their farm to school program only two years ago, and the program has since expanded rapidly. The students, both in farm to school classes and in the farm to school club, manage an apple orchard, a greenhouse, vegetable and herb gardens, and plan to add a chicken coop, a hoop house, and a pollinator garden this spring.

Signs of Spring at the BFA Fairfax Farm!

Signs of Spring in the greenhouse at the BFA Fairfax Farm!

“It’s great that they are trying to improve their lives.” – Anna Spiller, BFA Fairfax student

The project has been funded by two Vermont Farm to School grants, in 2016 and 2017, but the true success in their program comes from the creative integration of agriculture into the school curriculum and the deep community connections students and teachers have fostered with neighbors, student families, and the local agricultural community.

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Brother Kennedy and Florence review the plans for the BFA Fairfax School Farm to gain inspiration for a project in Kenya.

“I think it is pretty cool that they are looking at Farm to School here in Fairfax as a way to build a sustainable program of their own.” – Quentin Stoneburner, BFA Fairfax student

BFA Fairfax was chosen this year as one of Vermont’s exemplary Farm to School grantees and is featured in the 2018 Farm to School & Childcare Program Report. After seeing a successful farm to school program in Vermont, Brother Kennedy and Florence hope to bring tools and lessons learned back to Kenya to inspire the development of their own farm to school programs.

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Parsnips from the School Farm were served during a meeting with partners from Kenya.


Special thanks to Gina Clithero at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture and BFA Fairfax High School Language Arts Teacher Fred Griffin for contributing to this story.

THE FWSU STORY: Representatives Bring Student Voice and Leadership to Fairfax School Board

The long-standing tradition at BFA Fairfax of having two student representatives serve on our school board continues. Providing students with opportunities to lead is one of the central emphases of the FWSU Action Plan. The two student representatives, a junior and a senior, are selected through a comprehensive process facilitated by the BFA Fairfax Student Council. The Fairfax School Board has benefited from the perspective of some exceptional student members over the years and this year’s term is no exception. BFA Fairfax senior Bailey Halliday and junior Shane Seals have served with distinction.

Bailey Halliday and Shane Seals are student representatives serving on the Fairfax School Board.

Bailey Halliday and Shane Seals are student representatives serving on the Fairfax School Board.

Each month Bailey and Shane keep the rest of the board apprised of all the happenings at BFA Fairfax and most importantly, help shape the understanding of the issues at our school and our community from a student perspective. Their voice in the operations of BFA Fairfax is invaluable and we are proud of their contributions.

Today, our student representatives offer their thoughts on what it means to serve on the Fairfax School Board:

BAILEY HALLIDAY

Can you tell us why you were interested in serving on the Fairfax School Board? 

I wanted to be more involved in my community.  I like being involved in as many activities as possible. I wasn’t sure what exactly a student representative did on a school board but I was excited to learn more about it. I enjoy understanding how decisions are made and who the people are that are making them.

What have you learned? 

I have learned so much in the last 2 years. This role has taught me everything from how a school board runs, to how best to get my point across to a group of people.  It has allowed me to practice my public speaking skills and become confident in my speaking abilities. I have also learned how much the school board members care about the students.  They truly value our opinions and want to know what is going on in our school.

What advice would you give to other students who may want to serve?

I would tell students to take advantage of the opportunity in front of them.  This is a unique opportunity that does not come around often. It is a lot of work so students should be prepared, however, it is definitely worth it in the end!

What excites you most about education at BFA Fairfax?

The world of education is changing and it is starting at BFA.  One of my favorite parts of being a student rep. On the school board is listening to other students and teachers talk about what is going on in the classrooms.  The teachers are all so dedicated and want students to get the most that they can out of their education. There are always new ways to get involved in your own learning.

What do your friends think of your service?

My friends were definitely skeptical at first of me taking on this role but I think that they like it now.  I try to get all of the students involved in my reports so I will often ask multiple students about what is going on for them in school.  I believe that my friends like the opportunity to tell the school board all of the amazing things going on in this school.

SHANE SEALS

Can you tell us why you were interested in serving on the Fairfax School Board?

I hadn’t heard much about it prior to my application, but once I learned about being able to join I was interested. I hadn’t had a chance to participate in any student government or committees behind school changes and decision-making, so I decided it would be a good chance to earn some experience and insight into the school.

What have you learned?

I’ve learned how administrative committees function and the mindset behind the decisions they make. Beyond that, I’ve learned how to summarize reports of what’s going on in the school and how that connects to school trends and changes that need to be made.

What advice would you give to other students who may want to serve?

I would advise joining student council or becoming involved with some form of student
leadership because it will provide valuable experience and insight into how different committees function and will help you follow along and create your own student reports for each meeting.

What excites you most about education at BFA Fairfax? 

The range of different teaching styles and the access to technical programs and other post-high school programs is exciting. It’s really important to have plenty of opportunities in Vermont so kids have the chance to branch out after high school.

What do your friends think of your service?

I don’t think my friends think much about me being on the school board because of the meetings are so spaced out and they don’t hear about them often.

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Fairfax Board of School Directors

“Bailey and Shane serve a very important role on our school board as they bring the ‘student voice’ to the table.  They are great advocates for our students and remind us of the many successes and challenges students face in school.  We depend on them to help us make the best decisions to sustain and improve educational opportunities at BFA Fairfax.” — Elaine Carpenter,  Chair of Fairfax Board of School Directors

THE FWSU STORY: Fairfax 8th Grader Earns Second Place in National Geographic Vermont State Bee

On April 6, eighth-grader Wyeth Haddock represented BFA-Fairfax in the National Geographic Vermont State Geography Bee at Castleton State University.  Wyeth earned his spot at the State Bee by winning the school championship in February, then taking a qualifying test.

Wyeth at the State Geography Bee

Wyeth at the State Geography Bee

At the State Bee, Wyeth competed against 73 other middle schoolers from across the state.  Wyeth advanced to the final round after finishing among the top 10 overall scorers in the preliminary rounds.  In the final round, the competitors faced a variety of geographic challenges and questions. These challenges included selecting a city for solar and wind project based on their knowledge of population and climate and identifying a world city using only precipitation and average temperature data.

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Wyeth and coach Jennifer Skerrett

The field was narrowed from 10 students to 6, then to 4, until the final 2: Wyeth and Mary Fowler, who represented Eastern Vermont Homeschoolers. Wyeth came in second place overall, just missing out on the chance to represent Vermont at the National Championship in Washington, DC.

Wyeth takes second place in the Vermont state national geography bee

Wyeth takes second place in the Vermont State Geography Bee

Congratulations to Wyeth for an outstanding performance!


Jennifer Skerrett is a 7/8 Social Studies Teacher and Geo-Bee Coach at BFA Fairfax. You can follow her @jskerrett

THE FWSU STORY: Meet BFA Fairfax Senior Minh Thu

Minh Thu is a senior at BFA Fairfax this year. She is enrolled in a variety of courses and plans to attend college next year like the other members of the Class of 2018. Unlike the others, Minh has joined BFA Fairfax for the year from her home country of Vietnam. She spent last year in Vermont as an exchange student at BFA St. Albans. Minh enjoyed living in Vermont with her host family and decided that she would like to stay in Vermont for an additional year. Her parents supported her decision and Minh enrolled at BFA Fairfax using our ability to accept foreign students through the Department of Homeland Security’s I-20 program. High School Principal John Tague recently chatted with Minh to get her thoughts about her experiences in Vermont and at BFA Fairfax.

Minh Thu is a senior at BFA Fairfax this year through the Immigration I-20 program.

Minh Thu is a senior at BFA Fairfax this year.

Where are you from? My family lives in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. I was able to be there for a month last summer.

What do you like best about Vermont? I like the scenery of Vermont. The fall season is beautiful. I like maple syrup and ice cream too!

What do you miss the most about Vietnam? I miss my mom’s cooking. She gives me recipes but they don’t taste the same when I make them!

What are your favorite classes? I enjoyed Chemistry and Anatomy and Physiology last semester. This semester, Public Speaking is my favorite.

What are your plans for next year? I will be attending Montana State University to study nursing.

Minh with her classmates

Minh with her classmates.

Are the two BFA’s different? Teachers in both schools are friendly. Students in Fairfax are friendlier. Fairfax is a smaller school which is nice, but St Albans had more sports choices.

What else would you like people to know? People should plan to visit Vietnam someday to experience the interesting culture and food. Most people know about Vietnam from the war. There have been many new developments since the Vietnam war and there are museums to learn more about it.

Anything else? I love American fast food. I have pizza every week. I like Whoppers and Big Macs, but the Whopper is better.

We love to have students in our school from across the globe. It offers our local students a wider perspective on the world outside Franklin County! We are fortunate to have Minh join our student body.

BFA Fairfax Celebrates Music In Our Schools Month

 IMG_3612As winter turns to spring, the BFA Fairfax community looks forward melting snow, spring sports, and maple sugaring.  However, another popular event also marks this important time period during the school year. Every March, schools across the country celebrate Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM).  MIOSM is an annual celebration during the month of March that engages music educators, students, and communities from around the United States in promoting the benefits of high quality music education programs in our schools.  BFA Fairfax has taken part in a multitude of activities during the past two weeks to show off the talents of our music department students and faculty, as well bring the community together to celebrate the benefits of music education.

On Saturday, March 24th, 2018, fifty middle school chorus students from BFA Fairfax participated in an event hosted by United States Senator Bernie Sanders.  Senator Sanders organized what he called a “Town Hall Meeting on Arts and Education” in order to bring awareness to the importance of arts education in our school and the important skills and values that it teaches our students.  

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Seven choruses from around the state performed, including high school groups from area schools such as Essex and South Burlington High School.  In the words of BFA choral director Christina Maynard, “BFA students were engaged audience members for the rehearsals and were in awe of the performances by the high school groups.  They expressed their excitement to me and were wide-eyed as I reminded them that in a few years, they will be performing that caliber of music.”

Before the concert, Senator Bernie Sanders met with the over 200 students that attended (elementary to college students) in the Band room at CVU.  He spent about 45 minutes fielding questions from the students ranging from, “Did you ever sing in chorus?” and ‘What is your favorite band?”, to very serious questions about gun control and health care.  BFA Fairfax students asked thoughtful questions that truly reflected the high quality education that they receive. Many students were eager to talk to Mr. Sanders personally and were able to get autographs and photographs with him.  IMG_1152

BFA Fairfax received many compliments on their singing as well as their outstanding behavior during the very long day.  It was a fantastic learning experience for our students and teachers and we are hoping that Senator Sanders will host the event again next year!  Thank you to our wonderful chaperones and the overwhelming community support for our music programs.

On Tuesday, March 27, the elementary school came together for the afternoon to celebrate music in our schools month. Students & staff were able to take part by listening to a variety of musical performances from teachers and classmates. The elementary school was treated to multiple musical acts including singing, ukulele, guitar, drum circle, saxophone duet, and even a guest appearance from the BFA Fairfax middle school chorus and high school band. It was wonderful to be able to come together for an afternoon to appreciate the talent, support, and pride that our school community has for the arts.IMG_1151

Lastly, on Wednesday, March 28, the Fairfax community was treated to the annual pops concert, with performances by the combined Fletcher and BFA Fairfax Elementary bands, as well as the BFA Fairfax middle school band and chorus, and high school band and chorus.  In front of a standing room only crowd in the Richard A. Brown Gymnasium, student musicians kept attendees swaying, clapping and tapping their feet to the sounds of pieces from Queen, the Who, the Beatles, and many other well-known groups.IMG_1150

If the events of the past two weeks are any indication, music is alive and well at BFA Fairfax.  We need to extend our heartfelt thanks to our music educators Christina Maynard, Ian Flint, and Sarah Wolff, our supportive community members, and most importantly our talented student musicians.  We look forward to seeing you at our upcoming music events:

Grades 3-5 Concert, May 16

Grades K-2 Concert, May 21

MS/HS Concert, May 23

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Shine in One-Act Drama

On a Saturday morning in March, students from across the state of Vermont wake up extra early and return home wildly late for one amazing thing: theater.

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The cast and crew preparing for the day ahead

The Regional One-Act Festival, hosted by the Vermont Youth Drama Council, is an incredible event that brings schools from all corners of Vermont to share in their love of theater. Each school presents a one-act play while students, teachers, directors, family members, friends, volunteers and more participate as audience members.

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Participating in one of the workshops.

Students learn about different theatrical skills by attending workshops and participating in the Liz Lerman Critical Response forum. The day begins with an opening ceremony and ends with a closing ceremony all with one goal in mind: the celebration of theater.

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Students from all of the schools accepting their awards at the closing ceremony.

This year, BFA Fairfax presented a student-written play called The Renegades. The writers, Annalise Durocher and Isabelle Cullom, respectively assisted with directing and producing the show. Students from grades 8-12 acted, built sets, designed, and collaborated with each other to create this unique piece. The cast and crew handled this experience with maturity, professionalism and a strong sense of community.

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Painting the set at BFA Fairfax.

Many of our students were recognized by the other schools and the festival adjudicators for their wonderful talents in the presentation of our performance. Annalise Durocher and Isabelle Cullom received the Excellence in Writing award, Lily Coleman received the Excellence in Acting award, Madison Fitzgerald received the Excellence in Acting award, Alex Soychak received the Excellence in Acting award, and the entire cast and crew received the Vivid Imagery award.

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On stage during the performance of The Renegades.

Congratulations to Lamoille Union High School and Peoples Academy High School for moving on to the State One-Act Festival! A huge thank you to Dave Gabaree and the students of Peoples Academy for hosting an incredible day of theater for all.

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Cast and crew preparing for the performance with lots of support from each other.

THE FWSU STORY: Bravo to BFA Fairfax Elementary Drama Club!

Once again, our fourth and fifth graders that participate in the Elementary Drama Club put on two magnificent performances of Holka Polka for students, parents and staff members.

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While watching I am always reminded how valuable these learning experiences are for our students.  There are so many important skills that are learned through participation in plays that help students in all phases of their lives.  Our students learn to authentically collaborate with others through rehearsing and providing each other feedback.  They learn how to effectively communicate both verbally and non-verbally.  As actors, they practice empathy by understanding their characters and their different situations, backgrounds, and experiences.

 

Students demonstrate responsibility by learning their roles, managing their time, and supporting the members of the cast.  The actors are provided an outlet to be creative, gain self-confidence, and focus.  Most importantly, students have fun and build positive memories and a desire to continue to participate in the theater.

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I always appreciate the opportunity to watch the enjoyment of the audience members as they see their friend, sibling, or child shine during the performance.  The smiles, laughter, and pride are contagious.  It never gets old watching our students take a risk and discover the fun of performing for others.

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Thank you to Katie Haddock, Juliet King, and Jennifer and Mark Kalbfleisch for all of your time and efforts to create this experience for our students.  I appreciate that our community continues to support local theater and I look forward to next year’s performance.