The FWSU Story: Fletcher School and Cambridge Fire Department Partner For Student Safety

October is Fire Safety Month and Fletcher Elementary School has teamed up with the Cambridge Fire Department to bring fire safety lessons to students both at school and at home. 

According to firefighter Kristy Wyckoff, who is also the department’s treasurer and chair of the fire prevention committee, teaching fire prevention at an early age is essential because it creates connections between the children and firefighters that help students not be afraid of the firefighters in the event of a real emergency. 

“Fires can be scary and we want the kids to know that we are there to help,” Wyckoff said. 

For several years, Wyckoff, along with a team of firefighters from the all-volunteer Cambridge Fire Department, have taught fire safety lessons at the school during a designated fire safety day in October. The lessons include a discussion about creating a home fire escape plan, the importance of smoke detectors and their maintenance, and fire prevention. Students interact with firefighters who don nearly 50 pounds of protective gear that makes them virtually unrecognizable in an effort to dismiss any fear the students might have about their unusual appearance. 

“My main goals are for the kids to learn something new each year,” Wyckoff said. “Our biggest components are learning about smoke detectors, including when to change the batteries and when to replace the entire detector. We also focus on escape plans and meeting places, encourage getting out and staying out during a fire, and sleeping with bedroom doors shut.”

In addition to Fire Safety Day, Fletcher Elementary created a smoke detector giveaway this year. Cambridge Fire Department and J&L Hardware each donated smoke detectors to be given away to Fletcher families. Students were asked to complete at least two of three suggested fire safety activities at home with their families. Once done, students and their families documented their work and were entered into a drawing for a free smoke detector. The school is giving one smoke detector away each day during October, Fire safety month. The daily drawing takes place during school-wide morning announcements. 

“The smoke detector giveaway is a great way of getting detectors into our community. And, projects like this are important because it brings the learning home in a practical sense,” Wyckoff said. “Most people are unaware that smoke detectors expire after ten years. The fire department bought the detectors using funds from our yearly fundraising events. We feel it’s important to get unexpired detectors into homes. Our hope is that it will inspire families to check the dates on their own smoke detectors to ensure they are not older than ten years.”

According to Wyckoff, students have responded with great enthusiasm and an eagerness to share what they have learned in previous years. 

“Their favorite part of fire prevention is Rollie, our robotic fire truck,” Wyckoff said.  “Their response to Rollie has been overwhelmingly positive. Rollie adds a new exciting way to learn about fire prevention.” Using robotics, firefighters can speak through rollie’s speakers, squirt water, and control flashing red lights. 

During fire safety day, students received junior firefighter helmets and backpacks filled with fire prevention goodies like pencils, trading cards, notebooks and pencil sharpeners and erasers.

“I’ve learned fire safety from the firefighters for five years now,” fourth grader Donovan Austin said. “Every year there is something different. You have to remember to test your smoke detector batteries once a month and change them every year. That is one of the most important things you can do. You can also feel a door before you open it to see if it feels warm. If it does, don’t open it because there may be fire on the other side.”

“When there is fire you have to stay low,” fourth grader Will Mauck advised. “Gasses, heat and smoke all rise. You don;t want to be breathing those in. Also, if your clothes catch on fire, stop, drop, cover your face and roll like mad. That puts the fire out.”

“Something new I learned this year is that smoke detectors all beep three times in a row to tell you that there is smoke and maybe a fire,” third graders Lorelei Sloan said. “You need to get out quickly and go to your family meeting place. Make sure you have a fire escape plan ahead of time.”

“There are so many mutual benefits to engaging with Community Partners like the Cambridge Fire Department,” FWSU Director of Curriculum Linda Keating said. “Such partnerships allow schools to expand their education efforts, raise community awareness of such efforts, and most importantly, with this project, support the safety of children and families.”

“Nothing gets the attention of young elementary students more than firefighters and firetrucks,” first and second grade teacher Kathleen Pellegrino said. “These men and women are great role models to show our students just how important it is to give back to your community and make responsible decisions. Being safe is one of our four schoolwide expectations and the firefighters’ visit is one more way to reinforce how important that is.”

For more information on fire safety and Fletcher’s smoke detector giveaway, visit  or read our family smoke detector giveaway letter.

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: Fletcher Elementary Students Dig Into Learning

Fletcher Elementary School students learn the techniques necessary to carefully and precisely conduct an archaeological dig. The students joined a team of archaeologists from the Northeast Archaeological Research Center as they conducted a dig along the Lamoille River in Fletcher.

Students at Fletcher Elementary School really dug into their learning on Sept. 20 as they supported archaeologists from the Northeast Archaeology Research Center at a dig site just miles from the school. The adventure was part of a year-long theme that focuses student learning on Vermont’s past and present. 

Fletcher Elementary School third grader Koda Chipman holds an arrowhead discovered as part of an archaeological dig in Fletcher. The school’s third through sixth graders assisted a team from the Northeast Archaeological Research Center on Sept. 19.

Third through six grade students from the school learned about the techniques and equipment used to conduct a professional dig, how to catalog their findings, and the many reasons individuals and groups participate in the work. In this instance, the group is helping Green Mountain Power meet its legal requirements as part of a permit renewal process. As the company raises and lowers water levels at their nearby dam, the question remains if important historical objects underground are being lost.

Fletcher Elementary School fourth grader Stephen Duchaine assists an archaeologist from the Northeast Archaeological Research Center in sifting through soil collected as part of an archaeological dig near the school. From the site, the team collected arrowheads, pottery, heat-cracked stones, and jewelry from over 1500 years ago. 

Students reviewed objects found at the site like arrowheads, earthenware and fire-cracked stones from about 1500 years ago before getting their hands dirty by helping to dig and sift the soil and watch for new discoveries.

Students from Fletcher Elementary School sift through soil that was excavated as part of an archaeological dig by the Northeast Archaeology Research Center. Participation in the dig was part of the students’ study of Vermont, past and present.

“Getting to see the old stuff, like the firestone and the arrowhead and part of a tool from a long time ago, was the best,” sixth grader Justus Cota said. “It was great to be learning about history in an all-hands-on way.”

An arrowhead was found in Fletcher as part of an archaeological dig. Students at Fletcher Elementary assisted professional archaeologists at the dig site on Sept. 20. 

“We actually got to help,” sixth grader Eli Tinker said. “We learned how and why everything was happening and really got to understand it way more than we would from a book or a video.”

Fletcher Elementary School students examine an object found as part of an archaeological dig in town. Archaeologists from the Northeast Archaeology Research Center worked with the students to teach the process of discovering buried objects from the past. 

“It was just really fascinating,” sixth grader Colin Wolfe said. “It was like history coming to life before our eyes. The soil was telling us a story and I couldn’t wait to hear the next part.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon

The FWSU Story: New School Year, New Beginnings, New Teachers in FWSU

A new school year is full of excitement for all returning educators, and in FWSU the first day of school is the best day of the year. But teachers who are brand new to FWSU get a 2-day preview of what FWSU is all about, along with lunch and tour of their home school well before that first day. When you are starting a new job, it’s a pretty great way to get off to a positive start.

We are so fortunate that FWSU attracts so many skilled and talented educators. So it is important that they have a chance to find out just how special our schools are, and that they have chosen well. Our FWSU schools and our educators share high expectations for teaching and learning, and along with that, we are collectively inspired by “a belief in what is possible.”

After some great food, gift bags, and welcome greetings from administrators from the Central Office and across the district, the learning begins. Some of the critical foundations they get a chance to learn about and experience during the 2-day orientation are systems-approaches to PBIS, MTSS, Technology Integration, Equity, All Learners Universal Frameworks, and creating Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms. In addition, they get to know a bit about our 3 schools and the pride that we share in being part of Franklin West Supervisory Union.  

The culmination of this mid-August orientation is a trip to their home schools that includes lunch, time with their principals, mentors, and mentor coordinators, and a Welcome Home tour of the school. 

Linda Keating

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

The FWSU Story: Digital Learning For All

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.

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist
Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

Angelique Fairbrother is the Digital Learning Coach at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech.

The FWSU Story: Kids Are Back!

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!

BFA HS students and teachers hit the gym as well.

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!

Donald Van Nostrand is the Interim Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @dsvannostrand.

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!

THE FWSU STORY: 2018 In Review: A Few Ways Fletcher Students Address the FWSU Action Plan

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.

Chris and Jackson

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon