THE FWSU STORY: Farm to School Harvest Supper Connects Fairfax Community

On a beautiful October night, the BFA Fairfax Farm to School Club was proud to host its first Harvest Supper.

BFA Fairfax Farm Garden

BFA Fairfax students harvesting vegetables from the School Farm for the Harvest Dinner.

The dinner hosted 200 guests and brought together families and community partners to celebrate the start of autumn, and showcase local products, much of it provided by the BFA Fairfax school garden.

Families enjoying the Harvest Dinner.

Families enjoying the Harvest Supper.

The Farm to School Club coordinated this entire event from menu planning and cooking, public relations, ticket sales, event logistics and entertainment. This was the culmination of two years of work by our students and staff to create a PreK-12 Farm to School program in our school.

In addition to providing for the meal, students offered live entertainment!

During the meal, students provided live entertainment!

In the fall of 2015, a small group of interested volunteers including a school nurse, a parent, a high school student, the chef from the Abbey Group, and a principal attended a Farm To School seminar in Middlebury, where we began formulating a plan to bring Farm to School to Fairfax.

Harvest Dinner 8

Community members tour the School Farm.

Upon our return, several high school students began meeting with Fred Griffin to develop a Farm to School Club and began researching and developing a plan to create a farm behind the elementary school building.  The students learned about the University of Vermont Design process, and with support from Jane Sorenson,  wrote a step by step Master Plan.

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

Fast-forward to the fall of 2017 and our Farm to School program is thriving. Students are maintaining a 4000 square foot production garden that provides fresh produce every day to the cafeteria for consumption by our students and staff.  We have built a greenhouse, a toolshed and installed water and power to support our work.  Students have expanded the size of our farm by plowing and cover-cropping plots for each grade level, designed and built a bridge to access a drainage ditch, planted apple trees, a blueberry and raspberry nursery, and developed a composting area.  Our students’ success through Farm to School was recognized in February of 2017 when Shannon Mahoney and Caitlin Allan spoke to other Farm to School programs, state representatives, and the Governor about our journey and the impact on our school community.

Harvest Dinner 6

BFA Fairfax High School Teacher Fred Griffin speaks at the Harvest Supper.

We are really proud of how this program has resonated with students, staff, and community members. The Harvest Supper marked the beginning of a new tradition that will bring our community together to enjoy a wonderful meal, allow community members to engage with each other, and provide an authentic audience for our students to showcase their work and learning through their participation in the Farm to School program.

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

THE FWSU STORY: Sharing Learning and Meaning in a Proficiency-Based High School

As part of their journey to 2020 Proficiency-Based Graduation Requirements, the students and teachers at BFA Fairfax High School are shifting the culture of learning from the traditional to the transformed.

Student collaborating.

SLaM helps students collaborate and personalize their learning.

The transformation continues this year with the introduction of SLaM: Sharing Learning and Meaning. SLaM began with an idea borrowed from South Burlington High School and was expanded upon by the BFA faculty. SLaM was created to serve as a framework to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for the shift to proficiency-based systems.

Students Learning with SLAM

The High School’s PBGR Oversight Team spent time looking at how they needed to change the way they worked together on behalf of students and undertook a “personalized” approach, having teachers develop expertise in their own areas of interest, rather than trying to be experts in all the components of change. The PBGR Oversight Team continues to pull such expertise together at regular meetings to cross-pollinate, growing a cohesive culture of proficiency-based learning in the high school.


Students design their Personalized Learning Plans.

The SLaM design, led by teachers, is organized around the four years of high school, and a progressive timeline of delivery of skills and experiences for students. Each year, students grow their skills in ways to share learning and meaning along a continuum of proficiencies that lead to college, career, and work/life readiness. Students can personalize these curriculum experiences, designed by teachers, as they collect evidence of proficiency. Although the skills and context change over time, the purpose remains the same: to give students the tools and resources to be successful in proficiency-based learning.


Flexible Learning is a big component of learning in a proficiency-based system.

The core concepts of SLaM are deeper learning; reflection; evidence generation, collection, and verification; exhibitions; personalized learning growth and refinement; mentorship; internships; and service learning. This is how they play out over time:

  • Grade 9: Evidence reflection, exhibitions, and transition of Personalized Learning Plans (PLP’s).
  • Grade 10: Refining PLPs, career research, readiness for more flexible pathways to learning, mentorship, and communicating learning to audiences.
  • Grade 11: Skill and expertise, internships,  service learning, transitioning:  interviews resume, research etc.
  • Grade 12: Capstone experience.

Faculty teams, which are inclusive of all faculty members, are dedicated to a grade level to ensure the creation of the best tools, systems, and curriculum processes for engaging and teaching student in these readiness phases of graduation proficiency.

The PBGR Oversight Team at work.

The PBGR Oversight Team at work.

The teachers meet to collaboratively plan for both the short and long term every Tuesday morning and one Tuesday afternoon Faculty Meeting a month. Students meet with their advisors for SLaM on two Monday Support Blocks each month.

Students receive support of their teacher

In a proficiency-based system, students share learning and meaning along a continuum of proficiencies that lead to college, career, and work/life readiness.

How is it going so far this year? As Principal John Tague sees it:

“Although we’ve only had 2 SLaM Mondays, it’s still been an adjustment for both staff and students as it’s a different structure for Support Blocks. But there is a strong feeling that these changes will help students understand the shifts to proficiency and the continuum of learning. [This change] also serves to shift our high school culture to more ownership of student learning and a deeper understanding of the student’s role in the learning process. Through this 4 year process, they will have far more understanding of themselves and their learning than a report card or transcript can provide.”

With proficiency-based learning, students and teachers are co-learners in transforming the educational experience.

Linda Keating


Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum at FWSU. She is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

THE FWSU STORY: Coffee House Still Going Strong at BFA Fairfax

Coffee House Mural at BFA Fairfax

On Friday nights throughout the year, the Middle School Gym is transformed into an intimate performance space filled with students, parents, and other community members.

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Students share their talents with peers at BFA Coffee House!

Last Friday night was the kickoff to another season of BFA Coffee House. Coffee House is a student-led, student-produced, and student-performed event that showcases the talent of our amazing young people (and occasionally, staff members) surrounded by baked goods and, of course, coffee.

Coffee House has been a tradition at BFA for the past ten years. Obviously, the students who initiated this exciting opportunity have graduated, but new leaders have emerged to keep the show moving forward. In addition to fresh leadership, each year new students arrive bringing their own unique talent and energy to the project.

“It’s really nice to learn a new song and be able to perform it in front of a community. It’s a cultural mixing pot for the arts. It’s a safe environment.” – Quentin, Student Performer


BFA’s Coffee House is produced and performed by students!

One of the best parts of the first Coffee House is watching new students take a risk and share their talent with their peers. The performer’s excitement when they hear the cheers of the crowd is exhilarating. Typically, students continue to perform throughout the rest of their high school career. This makes every Coffee House a custom blend of new talent and seasoned performers — a mix of singing, poetry, comedy, piano, and magic.


Many students continue to perform at BFA Coffee House throughout their high school experience.

“I love the sense of community. We are all supportive of the community and each other. We all come together to appreciate the arts.” – Annalise, Student Performer

The next Coffee House is scheduled for December 1st at BFA Fairfax. Mark it on your calendar so you don’t miss this student-designed and orchestrated experience.

THE FWSU STORY: Preserving an Enduring Tradition at BFA Fairfax

Tomorrow, October 10, the voters of the Town of Fairfax will head to the polls to cast their vote on a $16M renovation project at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, VT.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

It’s been 20 years since there have been any renovations to the BFA Fairfax facility, and over 30 years since the middle and high school buildings have been updated. At this time, our aging campus is in need of revitalization to address the needs of our students and for the facility to remain viable for the future. The proposed bond will also address the need for better community spaces in which to gather for events and activities.

For over 3 years, a committee of the Fairfax School Board has studied the needs of our community and our school.

They created a plan that addresses our current needs while looking toward the future. This project reflects the unique heritage of our facilities and our community values: BFA Fairfax is the heart of our town. With voter approval of this comprehensive renovation of BFA Fairfax, it will be at least 25 years before any building upgrades to the middle/high school are needed in the future. 

The Heart of Fairfax

Hiram Bellows

BFA Fairfax Benefactor, Hiram Bellows

Ultimately, the bond is intended to continue the vision of BFA’s generous benefactor Hiram Bellows’ who sought to “further the education of children and young people so as to fit them for usefulness.” Mr. Bellows was acutely aware of the profound effects of technology and scientific advancement on the parameters of education, decreeing that the Academy should equip the students with “means and facilities for education as the times demand.” Hiram Bellows envisioned a modern academy of learning and the BFA Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (comprised of members of the school board and community) believe that a significant investment to upgrade our school is necessary to preserve the rich heritage of BFA Fairfax for future generations. BFA Fairfax is the heart of our community.

About the Project

This proposal will renovate and expand the high school as well as older sections of the middle school. Some key features of this project include, relocating the main entrance of the high school to the original main entrance with enhanced security at entry, ADA compliance, fire and safety upgrades, a new full size middle school gymnasium, a new 400-seat auditorium, upgrades to the library, a redesigned multi-purpose room for community and school events, centralized administration and guidance offices, and health offices, and much more.

To learn more, visit You can also read a recent article in the Saint Albans Messenger on this important project.

An artist rendering of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium -- an important element of learning that was part of the original BFA,

An artist’s conception of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium — restoring this important element of the original BFA.

There will be an important COMMUNITY INFORMATIONAL MEETING tonight (October 9) beginning at 6pm in the BFA Fairfax Multi-Purpose Room.

And don’t forget to VOTE! Polls will be open at BFA Fairfax from 7am-7pm in the Middle School Gym on October 10, 2017.

Let’s move to the future, mindful of the past.

Come Home To BFA Fairfax October 7-14

Changing leaves, crisp fall air, cider donuts and apple picking can only mean one thing: homecoming is here!


The 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming will take place the week of October 7-14.  A variety of events showcasing our 7-12 athletic teams, school spirit, and service initiatives will highlight the fun and festivities for all students, staff, alumni, and the greater community.  


For the Varsity football and soccer teams, the games will be even more special, as they will serve as the senior games recognizing graduating players’ four years of commitment to their teams and school.  

BFA Fairfax will also make history in hosting our first-ever night soccer games. Local business Pigeon Brothers Excavating offered to donate lights for the Friday and Saturday night soccer games in order to enhance the excitement and maximize community attendance.  


As with every Homecoming Week, BFA Fairfax student-athletes will be taking part in a service initiative as well.  During this year’s Homecoming events there will be donation buckets to raise money toward hurricane relief.  We are extremely fortunate to live in our community of Fairfax, and year after year our service-minded students find new ways to “pay it forward.”

Whether it’s the crazy costumes of the widely popular Fairfax Relays, the blazing maroon and blue of our new Lamoille/Fairfax co-op football team, or nighttime soccer games that bring you to campus, we look forward to seeing you at 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming!  Thank you to all our students, parents, and community volunteers who make this a spectacular annual event.



Saturday 10/7

  • Football SENIOR GAME vs. Windsor 2:30pm
  • Homecoming Semi-formal Dance (Grades 9-12) 7-10pm

Monday 10/9: Black Out Day

  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Richford (Melanoma Awareness Game) 4pm
  • 7th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. St. Albans City 4pm/5pm

Tuesday 10/10: Tropical Tuesday


Wednesday 10/11: U.S.A. Day

  • JV/V Girls Soccer vs. Enosburg 4pm

Thursday 10/12: Throwback Thursday

Friday 10/13: Maroon & White Day

  • High School Pep Rally 2pm
  • JV Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 4pm
  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

Saturday 10/14:

  • 8th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. Georgia 11am/12pm
  • Varsity Girls Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

THE FWSU STORY: In Honor of Benefactor Hiram Bellows, BFA Gives Back

Hiram Bellows was a humanitarian who wanted all students to have the opportunity for a high-quality education. His contributions to the St. Albans and Fairfax communities have had immeasurable impacts.

In recognition of his gifts to our towns, students chose to give back in a variety of ways. Ninth-grade BFA Fairfax students were engaged in a variety of community partnerships including planting a tree at the new town recreation center, volunteering at the senior living community, cleaning up the town recreation path and fields, preparing the school’s skiing and running trails for races, etc.

BFA Fairfax freshman Abby Sweet who worked with the school’s transportation department commented, “By spending time today cleaning our school’s buses inside and out I helped the driver be more available for other projects to prepare buses for the road.”

“We got to help the community during our school day and now our school looks even better,” said student Caleb Vanslette after he finished mulching flowerbeds around the school.


Teacher Jensen Welch commented, “It was a great way to get to know our students better and help out with our community.”


As part of the FWSU Action Plan, there is a focus on teaching leadership skills and providing students with the opportunity to be role models as a cornerstone of successful citizenship. Our students are delighted to continue Hiram Bellows’ legacy of service and community.

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Preschoolers Engage in STEM

Every day in preschool we work to integrate academic content and skills into our classroom. We believe that every interaction with our students is an opportunity for learning. Students are constantly learning through guided play, group activities, and one-to-one interactions with staff members. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities are particularly engaging to our young learners. Recently, our class participated in a STEM lesson. The task was for students to identify, count, draw, and build a home so that all of their family could fit inside.

Recently, our class participated in a STEM lesson. The task was for students to identify, count, draw, and build a home so that all of their family could fit inside.

The activity prompted the children to think about their family individually and identify similarities/differences among their peers as we begin to build our classroom community. Guided conversations gave students time to share, reflect, and organize their ideas. We used Popsicle sticks to represent individual family members and help children work on counting skills.

Many of the children initially built long rows of blocks or tall tower. The people could fit beside or on top but not inside. The children were prompted again to build a home that could fit all of their family. Some children knew right away and set to work on building a structure that was tall and had an open center, while others tried multiple times or even make the decision to come back or revisit it later. Problem-solving, knowledge of spatial relationships, and the ability to attend and persist all played a role in the support each student required. Working in small groups created opportunities for flexible learning pathways and allowed students time to conceptualize at their own pace.

The Vermont Early Learning standards guide curriculum decisions. Data is collected to meet assessment objectives from Teaching Strategies Gold, an observation based assessment, are used to provide students with a rigorous curriculum that is both engaging and challenging. A play-based embedded learning approach gives students multiple opportunities to work towards meeting objective at a developmentally appropriate and individual pace. This multi-step activity presented many opportunities to observe and document student work. The project-based activity overlapped in eight developmental and academic domains and set the stage for future individual learning opportunities.

Kristie French

Kristie French is an Early Childhood Educator at BFA Fairfax