Thanks to the hard work of the IT staff under the direction of Jeff Smith, FWSU IT Manager, teachers at FWSU started the this school year with new MacBooks and iPads.
To get started with the new MacBooks, teachers participated in a day long inservice focusing on how they can integrate the digital resources at FWSU to impact learning for students.
We kicked off the day with Greg Kulowiec from Edtech sharing how staff can use Creativity, Design and Opportunity to inspire learning. After a motivating start with Greg, teachers then were able to explore and select different learning opportunities that best met their needs.
At the end of the day, staff were then able to meet with building administrators to plan next steps of how digital learning can be used for all students. Although inservice has concluded, this was just the first step of many as teachers move forward to innovating learning for all.
Yesterday was the first day for students across the FWSU schools (BFA – Fairfax, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, and Fletcher Elementary School) and it was an exciting day! Having the hallways full of happy students looking toward their next adventures has always been a special time of the school year. Thank you to all the families for sending us your children, to the educators for working so tirelessly for all kids, and to the students for sharing your enthusiasm and aspirations with us. It’s going to be an awesome year!
I joined the FWSU community in July as Interim Superintendent, and from the first day I could recognize the specialness of organization. FWSU’s Action Plan highlights the commitment of “High Performance and Equity in a Digital Learning Culture” and having conversations with many educators over the summer reinforce the commitment to this work. I saw the welcoming of new educators through a commitment on understanding the impact of trauma on our children and families, the opening of in-service focused on understanding the impacts of equity, and, while visiting schools on the first day, seeing in action the welcoming and caring educators working with children.
There really is A belief in what is possible.
The images above really stuck out in my travels around the FWSU community. The messages were written on the sidewalk of the GEMS entrance and really hit home the purpose of our work – to support students in developing compassion and knowledge as citizens. As parents of three children (two in elementary school and one in college) my wife and I are proud to be Vermont educators, and I am looking forward to being part of the FWSU!
Dr. Suess once stated, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” As the children and staff return to the schools remember to take time to celebrate all the successes – big or small. Enjoy the school year!
Be sure to follow #FWSUTwitterChallenge for the FWSU 20-Day Twitter Challenge and #FWSU all year to see more exciting things happening in our schools!
As Fletcher Elementary students prepare to bring the calendar year to a close at the end of next week and begin their December break, it is a great time to reflect on how our students’ and teachers’ work aligns with the Franklin West Supervisory Union’s four Action Plan targets: Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environments, and Engaged Community Partners. Our year in review offers up two photos for each target. Happy new year (a little early!)
Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning
Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning is important to both students and teachers. Here, teachers explore the online resource Discovery Education and the use of Schoology to organize learning materials and create courses that students can access independently. Discovery Education is an online digital clearinghouse of text, photos, and videos on a variety of topics. Teacher embed this resource into their Schoology classes to bring topics to life in the classroom.
Opportunities for students to engage in real-world learning that is relevant to them are essential. Here, Kaegon displays an audio circuit that he created during an independent academic time.
Fletcher Elementary School was one of a handful of Vermont schools designated as a Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (P.B.I.S.) Exemplar School last fall. The designation recognizes that F.E.S. increased academic achievement while decreasing problem behavior.
Fletcher Elementary International Education Day last month. Our building-based leadership team shared stories of international culture during a whole-school read aloud.
Flexible Learning Environment
Fire Safety Day is an annual tradition at Fletcher Elementary. Facilitated by the Cambridge Fire Department, students have an opportunity to learn important lessons that keep them safe. They also get to sit in the fire truck and learn all about the many pieces of equipment that firefighters use.
F.E.S. kindergarten students have a longstanding tradition of visiting Chapin Orchard in Essex Junction. At the orchard, they learn about apples and bees. They also pick apples and make cider. Students use the apples they pick to make applesauce that is served at Open House.
Engaged Community Partners
Grandparent Sal Wiggins volunteers during the Four Winds Nature Program in Preschool. Four Winds is a hands-on science education program that supports students in understanding, appreciating and protecting the natural environment. The program is coordinated in kindergarten through sixth grade by Instructional Coach Denette Locke, but relies heavily on on community volunteers to help facilitate. Read more about the Four Winds Nature Institute here.
Third-grade students worked with the Vermont Department of Health and the Healthy Roots Collaborative to visit the Jeffersonville-based West Farm to learn how food is produced and to study the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Following the trip, students donated some of the food they harvested to local food shelves and held a family cooking class at the school during which they created multiple recipes with the produce and ate family-style.
Emergency preparedness is a school-wide theme at Fletcher Elementary this year. As part of that effort, Thursday, Registered Nurse Pamela Scott, Chair of Emergency Preparedness for the Emergency Department at Northwestern Medical Center, trained Fletcher staff members on the lifesaving skill of bleeding control.
Stop the Bleed is a nationwide awareness campaign and call-to-action that trains and empowers bystanders to address life-threatening bleeding as a result of trauma to an extremity. Scott, a 20-year veteran of the Emergency Department and certified instructor in Tactical Combat Casualty and Bleeding Control for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, teaches participants to control bleeding through direct pressure and bandaging, assess the need for a tourniquet, and apply one if needed.
In addition to the no-cost training, in early October, Northwestern Medical Center’s Auxiliary allocated $20,000 to support the placement of bleeding control kits in schools throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. The hospital’s website boasts that the donation is unique, as it is the first monetary support of equipment placed outside the Medical Center. The kit contains several individual sets of bleeding control materials including specially designed trauma scissors, gauze, and a tourniquet. Kits are typically located near a school’s publicly accessible defibrillator.
In 2013, the Journal of Emergency Medical Services reported that as much as 90 percent of patients with bleeding injuries could survive when expedited bleeding control is applied, as opposed to a 10 percent survival rate without appropriate and immediate treatment.
“Our emergency preparedness work at Fletcher vastly focuses on the prevention of emergencies and injuries, but it is incredibly important for our staff to know these kinds of simple, yet highly effective, responses to physical trauma that can make the difference between life and death for someone who is injured.”Denette Locke, Instructional Coach
“With Fletcher’s rural location, the adults at our school truly become the first responders in any emergency situation,” special educator and safety team member Sarah Tucker said. “This training is about gaining the specific skills to help with bleeding, but it’s also about changing to a mindset that we need to act and not wait for help to arrive. That we can make all the difference.”
To celebrate Fire Safety Month in October, the Fletcher Elementary School welcomed a special visit from the Cambridge Fire Department.
Three firefighters taught a series of 45-minute lessons on fire safety to each of Fletcher’s preschool through sixth-grade classes. The teaching included a review of the gear and equipment used by firefighters, strategies for staying safe in the event of a fire, and a tour of a real-life fire-rescue truck.
One of the department’s newest members, Rollie the robotic fire truck, was also a highlight. Rollie has the ability to move around, has flashing red lights, and can carry on a conversation with students via remote control. Behind the scenes, the voice of Rollie typically belongs to Firefighter Kristy Wyckoff, who answered students’ questions and posed thought-provoking scenarios that helped students plan for potential fire emergencies at home.
“I learned that firefighters use their air tanks to breath in clean air instead of smoke,” third-grader Stephen Duchaine said. “Their gear is used to protect themselves. It’s important that they come to school because they can teach us how to be safe.”
According to the National Fire Prevention Association, there is an average of 1,500 home fires in the US every day, causing 6,500 deaths and 280,000 injuries annually. During the lifetime of an average home, chances are two to one that there will be an accidental fire.
Wyckoff and her fellow firefighters, Dave Fay and Elizabeth Rowe, encouraged students to install and maintain smoke detectors and to have a reunification plan outside the home in the event of a fire. While donning her gear, Rowe and her colleagues also reassured students that firefighters are there to help, and not to be afraid of all of the equipment.
“Our goal is to make learning about fire prevention fun and enjoyable for all involved. Safety is our number one priority, Wyckoff said.
“We had to practice our stop drop and roll,” first-grader Emily Savage said. “And we had to cover our faces to protect ourselves. You can crawl if there is a fire. You should stay low because the smoke rises up. You have to know what to do when you have a fire in your house.”
On average, eight out of ten fire-related deaths are the result of smoke inhalation, the NFPA report cites.
“I learned how firefighters put out fire, fourth-grader Cody Savage said. “Taking away the oxygen is one way and using water is another way. The equipment is super heavy. I learned to not hide anywhere and try to get out and not to be scared of the firefighters. There is a helping person under all of the equipment.”
According to a 2017 report authored by the Vermont State Fire Marshall, of the 40,000 emergencies to which firefighters responded that year, “residential properties account for the majority of structure fires and civilian fatalities.” The report also states that Vermont has historically had a higher than average fire fatality rate per capita. Nationwide, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that 25 percent of all structure fires are in residential construction and account for 83 percent of fire deaths and 77 percent of injuries.
“The more students practice safety routines, the more it will become second nature in the event of an actual emergency,” third-grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “We are fortunate that these volunteers give up their time every year to support the safety and wellbeing of our students.”
A partnership between the Vermont Department of Health, the Healthy Roots Collaborative, and Fletcher Elementary School is promoting healthy lifestyles and social consciousness for Fletcher’s third graders and their families and is benefitting local food shelves at the same time.
Last spring, the three organizations began planning ways that students could explore key questions about sustainable farming and food production, nutrition, and strategies for helping food-insecure members of the community.
In late September, students visited the Jeffersonville-based West Farm, a 10-acre organic producer of wholesale herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Among the hospitals, schools, restaurants, stores and a local farmer-owned cooperative served by the farm, produce is also sold to The Abbey Group, which provides the foodservice program at Fletcher Elementary.
The purpose of the trip, according to Koi Boynton, co-coordinator and manager of the farm to school and gleaning programs for the Healthy Roots Collaborative, was to have students see farming life first hand and to gain an understanding of how the food they eat is being produced.
Additionally, Boynton said that students who meet food producers and help to harvest the food themselves are more likely to try the food once it reaches their table.
“We wanted students to marvel at the beauty and the bounty of farms like the West Farm, but also to get a glimpse of the hard work it takes. In this case, the West Farm is a farm that sells produce to The Abbey Group so the kids will see it in the school cafeteria and maybe tell their classmates, ‘we visited that farm and it was so great. Try the cabbage,’” Boynton said.
Founded in 2014, the Healthy Roots Collaborative aims to make connections between agriculture and health. The group works to address food access, nutrition education and agriculture development through education and services for both producers and consumers.
Leading up to the trip, students participated in discussions about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 goals created by global leaders to make the world a better place by the year 2030. Topics range from ending poverty and hunger to good health and environmental responsibility.
“Before we went to the farm our students held focused conversations about several of the Global Goals,” third-grade teacher Tracey Godin said. “ Even though the trip was local, we wanted the students to understand that their learning and problem-solving contributes to a much larger solution in the state, country, and world.”
Students’ discussions emphasized goals related to life on land, responsible consumption and production, sustainable cities and communities, reduced inequalities, good health and well-being, and eliminating hunger. Students took posters of the goals with them to the farm to promote continued conversation on-site.
“Some of our students were already aware of the issues surrounding these goals,” Godin said, “and others were not. Part of supporting students in being innovative problem-solvers is to help them both identify an issue and thoroughly understand it before they set out to create a solution.”
“Farm to school is a major component of our work because we know that we need to educate the consumers of tomorrow to care about how their food is produced and where it comes from,” Boynton said. “We also know that kids can have a great impact on their families as well. We have heard the story over and over again that after a school taste test, kids will be in the grocery store and ask their parents to get that kale or cabbage.”
At the farm, students harvested a variety of vegetables. Much of the cabbage and most of the squash harvested by students was donated to Northwest Family Foods, a food shelf program serving Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, as well as Martha’s Kitchen, a St. Albans-based soup kitchen that provides daily meals to those in need. The Abenaki Nation of Missisquoi Food Shelf also benefited from the harvest.
Food that was not donated was used as part of an evening cooking class held at the school and taught by Rachel Huff, farm to school coordinator for the Healthy Roots Collaborative, and Rachel Gregory, a registered dietitian and public health nutritionist with the Vermont Department of Health. While the duo teaches a variety of cooking classes, Fletcher’s was the first to bring both parents and students together to share in the experience.
“Students need to be guided and supported as they learn to try new foods and feel comfortable making healthy food choices,” Huff said. “Learning to eat well and prepare healthy food that contributes to a sustainable food system requires extra educational effort that is not written into our school curricula nor our health care protocol. Healthy Roots strives to fill in some of that gap.”
Students and their families cooked six recipes using produce harvested from West Farm, three using cabbage and three using squash, and then ate family style, sampling the dishes they had produced and reviewing nutritional information. Participants also engaged in several activities around food and nutrition.
“Our students were able to see multiple, very different ways to prepare the same produce,” Godin said. “They learned that if you don’t care for a vegetable cooked one way, there are lots of alternatives that you might enjoy. They also learned that some recipes include cooking and some do not, as well as how to use a variety of kitchen tools and procedures. These are life skills.”
“There is a tremendous amount of marketing and advertising out in the world encouraging consumers to buy highly processed, packaged, and not always very healthy food. Connecting students, their teacher, and families to local farmers contribute to our educational effort,” Huff said. “The Healthy Roots Collaborative finds its greatest successes in the partnerships we create between eaters and growers in our region. Establishing these links on every level we can find furthers our mission to envision a healthy Northwest Vermont with a community rooted in a strong agricultural economy with thriving farms, where all are connected to and nourished by local farms and food.”
“The partnership between the Vermont Department of Health and the Healthy Roots Collaborative is critical because our goal is to create local food champions,” Boynton said. “As a small part-time staff, we don’t have the capacity to reach every school and every community. We need partners like the Vermont Department of Health to carry on the work with us.”
“People need to eat and cook together,” Boynton said. “Beyond the nutritional value, it is a family and community value that we need to see in order to build bonds and personal wellness. As a society, we need to regain our cooking skills and take time to be together. The cooking class gave us the opportunity to put those values into play with real families. It has been proven that when people sit down and eat together they come to consensus more quickly and that consensus building comes even faster when people eat family style. We need to build family and community bonds. And, just like meeting the farmer, when kids cook the food they are more likely to eat the food.”
According to Huff, providing cooking classes to students and families together is particularly satisfying because students are often more brave than their parents about trying new foods or being open to new, healthy choices.
“Students are used to being in a learning environment every day,” Huff said. “When a parent might be hesitant to sign up for a class on their own they are more likely to join in with their child. In these moments, the students become the leaders and not only encourage their parents towards healthier foods but practice the very important work of becoming a leader for tomorrow.”
“Different foods can make such good meals. I was surprised how you could use winter squash to make soup. And the roasted winter squash was delicious. After the cooking class, I made the chickpea salad at home and it was delicious,” third-grader Cailin Macaulay said. “It makes my heart feel good to know that some of our harvest also went to people that are hungry. It was so easy for us to do but it really helped out other people. I never really knew how important good food is to everyone until I learned that some people don’t have enough.”
Of his trip to the farm, third-grader Harrison Frennier said, “I learned that you need a lot of skill to farm and to harvest things. I was very happy that I actually got to meet the farmer that grows things and learn about how he works and takes care of the earth.”
“It was really fun to pick the pumpkins and squash and get the cabbage boxed up. I learned that after the whole harvest goes by you can still go to a farm because there is still food in the fields that can be used and should not go to waste,” third-grader Addie Gillilan said. “It was interesting to meet the farmer because I learned a lot about how he runs his business.”
“Seeing the entire process from growing the produce to harvesting and preparing it to bring the learning full circle for our students,” Godin said. “And donating a portion of the harvest helps them to understand that in addition to their own learning they are contributing to others.”
“I think this cooking class was important because we learned about the sustainability of our food and that there are many ways to prepare it,” parent Deedra Austin said. “It’s good to try new foods. Growing up I never ate anything with cabbage and now I have cabbage recipes I will actually eat. It’s also important for any child to learn where food is coming from and how to take care of the planet. It’s good to try new foods and to know the process it takes to go from ground to table.”
Fletcher Elementary’s Parent Engagement Plan includes a second cooking and nutrition class scheduled for the coming weeks. It will emphasize using healthy, local food to pack creative kid-friendly lunches.