THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Students Celebrate Olympic Learning

Olympians can be great models for young students. Many of our elementary classrooms have been closely following the Winter Olympics in 2018. The excitement of daily medal counts and the different countries represented have consumed many morning meeting discussions.


As part of the celebration of the 2018 Winter Olympics, students in STEM class at GEMS accepted the challenge of creating a snowboard and figure that can successfully board the mountain for the entire run. More events such as Outdoor Olympics for students, a school assembly, and the presentation of the flame are planned in the coming days.

Classrooms have also been talking about character traits of Olympians and have been observing the connections between athletes and students, noticing the similarities for being successful in life.

Questions like “What does it take to be an Olympian?” or “What do you have to do to be a successful student?” are being discussed in the classroom.

Students have determined that focus, dedication, and a belief in yourself are common character traits shared by successful athletes and students. Commitment to living a healthy lifestyle and trying your best are also important qualities, whether you are an Olympian at the Winter Games or a student at GEMS.

The Olympic flag features a white background with five interlaced rings at the center: blue, yellow, black, green, and red. This design is symbolic; it represents the five continents of the world united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time. It is truly an engaging time of learning for our students.


THE FWSU STORY: Georgia Students Step into their Future

In the middle of January, all seventh and eighth-grade students participated in Step into Your Future at Georgia.


The purpose of this program is to engage our middle school students to begin discussing their futures in high school and beyond. These discussions give students information about how the choices people make expand or restrict future opportunities. Students explore the relationship between credentials and earning potential. They think about the relationship between their interests, abilities, talents, and their future work. They also learn strategies for facing challenging situations as they navigate their education. The discussions support the concept that education takes many forms, but it is ultimately up to the individual to deliberately set goals and follow through.

The discussions occur over four days during our Opportunity Time in small groups of students with an adult discussion leader. Each adult leader is provided with comprehensive lesson plans designed to encourage dialogue.


The seventh-grade lessons are designed as a foundation for mature decision making and include the following topics: role models and goal setting, developing self-knowledge, understanding human behaviors, coping strategies for the demands of high school, and planning for the future.

The eighth-grade lessons have practical information about the value of levels of an education: earnings based on education levels, information on high school dropouts in our state, alternative programs in high schools, different types of education, high school graduation requirements and college admissions information and self advocacy strategies.


For GEMS students there is a culminating seminar where eighth grade students get to listen to a panel of high school seniors who were former GEMS students attending area high schools. These students take questions from the audience and share their experiences about choices that are made during high school and how those choices can impact their future. They reassure the eighth graders that although high school seems scary and it’s such a big change, it ends up being okay.


Feedback from past Step Into Your Future weeks has proven that this session helps relieve some of the anxiety about this big transition to high school. Our intention is to engage all of our students in a serious discussion about the next phase of their education to help them step into their future with more confidence and knowledge.

THE FWSU STORY: Georgia Elementary Students Sharpen Communication Skills

Georgia Elementary students have been participating in a “mix it up” lunch day, monthly, and plan to continue for the rest of this school year.


GEMS students find their match in “mix-it-up” lunch!

Upon entering the cafeteria students draw an index card with a number which designates a table they need to eat at on that given day. At that table is a question that everybody needs to read and reply to.

Each table has a different question and everyone needs to express their thoughts with their “new” friends.  Toward the end of their lunch period, the microphone is provided for all to share.


Students making new connections with peers over lunch.

Some of the most sought-after skills in the 21st-century workforce are Interpersonal Skills, Oral Communication, and Listening Skills according to Fortune500. Creating such opportunities within the school day allows students to develop and practice these skills in new situations outside of their comfort zone.


Mix-it-up lunch at GEMS!

Many students were reluctant at first, but have inquired as to “when will we do the cards again” and look forward to “mixing it up” monthly. Children are making new friends and are learning a lot about their peers and staff within our school.

They are honing communication skills and enjoying the opportunities provided each month that will serve them well into the future.

THE FWSU STORY: Students Design Solutions to Water Bottle Waste Problem

For the seventh grade Project Based Learning class, the students and teacher, Mrs. O’Brien, talked about ways of reducing waste and that one of the big things is water bottles that go into landfills and litter our roadways. Team building activities that centered on our environment were done the first week.


Students collaborate and explore creative solutions.

The next couple of week’s teams were formed and each team started to design a water bottle to be judged by the eighth grade.

Promotional poster designed by students.

Students share their innovative design in a poster.

The teams went to the Innovation Lab and used Tinkercad to produce scaled-down versions of our water bottles and printed them on the 3-D printer.

Students design their solution in the Innovation Lab.

Students design their solution in the Innovation Lab.

Labels were then designed and the winning design was sent to Zazzle, a company that personalizes items.  Each person in the class received a water bottle matching the winning design.

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Paraprofessionals Support All Learners

Recently, Georgia Elementary School paraprofessionals participated in an after-school professional development opportunity to better understand and serve students in their daily responsibilities.


Beth Peloquin of the VT Agency of Education trains paraprofessionals in the MTSS model.

Training, provided by Beth Peloquin and the VT Agency of Education, focused on Early MTSS approaches (multi-tiered system of supports) which align with PBIS (positive behavior interventions and supports) practices that are implemented in all classrooms within our school.


As part of the training, paraprofessionals reviewed their role in supporting school-wide expectations with PBIS.

MTSS is defined as “the practice of providing high-quality instruction and interventions matched to student need, monitoring progress frequently to make decisions about changes in instruction or goals and applying child response data to important educational decisions. Based on a problem-solving model, the MTSS approach considers environmental factors as they might apply to an individual student’s difficulty, and provides services/intervention as soon as the student demonstrates a need.

The work of paraprofessionals is key to providing personalized interventions for students.

The work of paraprofessionals is key to providing personalized interventions for students.

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is based on a problem-solving model and aims to prevent inappropriate behavior through teaching and reinforcing appropriate behaviors. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is a process that is consistent with the core principles of MTSS. PBIS offers a range of interventions that are systematically applied to students based on their demonstrated level of need and addresses the role of the environment as it applies to development and improvement of behavior problems.


Paraprofessionals discussed their learning with colleagues.

Both MTSS and PBIS are grounded in differentiated instruction. The goal is to describe the shared characteristics of these approaches as a basis for highlighting how best to meet the needs of children experiencing academic and social difficulties in school.

Paraprofessionals will be completing module 1 this month and will follow up with module 2 and 3 to complete the extensive training this year. Understanding student behaviors and their academic needs are pivotal to the success of each and every child. For more information visit the Vermont agency of education at the following link here.

THE FWSU STORY: Challenging Students to Become the Next Great Lego Designer

Sixth-graders at GEMS have been inspired this holiday season to discuss and discover what makes a good Lego kit. They were then given the challenge to become the Next Great Lego Designer. Students brainstormed what makes a good designer and quickly went to work.



The class began by creating a Lego structure with 100 or fewer pieces, keeping in mind their target audience of third-grade students. When they were finished they took apart their creations and worked at taking photographs that would help a young student reassemble the exact same structure. These images were then tested on their classmates and the designers made any necessary revisions.



The class then went to the Innovation Lab where they used Google Slides to create a two-page direction sheet for their kits. The final steps were to create per-brick prices followed by an algebraic equation to determine the cost of their kit.



The designers will now be delivering their kits with a feedback form and related comic strip to third-grade classrooms to await the return of their structures and see if their communication was clear.




Will these students become the Next Great Lego Designer? Stay tuned for future posts to find out.

THE FWSU STORY: Georgia Elementary Invited to Join National Networked Improvement Community

Recently, the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) invited Vermont to participate in a Networked Improvement Community for improving early learning in Literacy and Mathematics. Georgia Elementary was invited to participate, along with three other supervisory unions, and has started the collaborative project in which participants have the opportunity to work on common problems of practice and build knowledge with colleagues from other states (Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Maryland) researchers, educational experts, and other partners.

School leaders convene at the VT Agency of Education.

School leaders convene at the VT Agency of Education.

In collaboration with the Vermont Agency of Education and three other SU’s the Georgia Elementary and team will identify common problems of practice (POP) and initiate interventions for improvement while collecting evidence-based data for review.

States have implemented many policies, practices, and programs to increase the ability of educators to provide high-quality instruction, but very little research and movement have been done in the early grades. To increase the effectiveness of instruction and student achievement in the early grades, states need to test the impact of innovative strategies to increase teacher knowledge and capacity to deliver evidenced backed instructional practices in math, literacy, and other content areas in prekindergarten through third-grade classrooms.


Leaders from around the country collaborate with Networked Improvement Communities.

Georgia Elementary is excited to participate and learn from other educational colleagues within our state and country from the current research and data that is collected.