BFA Fairfax Alum- Troy Millette Rocks All School Morning Meeting

Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners
FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make
a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Engage community partners in a
focused collaborative inquiry process

Indicator of Success -Students are engaged with local resources and create community learning “labs” based on projects.

Yesterday morning students at BFA Fairfax were treated to the musical and comedic talents of Troy Millette (Class of 2012).  Currently, Troy is a senior at St. Michael’s College where he is majoring in English, while working at Minor’s store and pursuing a music career.


Troy shared an important message with our students about being passionate about your dreams, the need to persevere, and a willingness to do whatever it takes to reach your goals.  In between songs, he reminded students about the importance of surrounding yourself with positive people and to take advantage of the opportunities that they have at their school and in their community.

We all appreciated starting our morning with wonderful songs and laughter.  Troy is a great representative of our school and the Fairfax community.  Thank you to him for sharing his talents and demonstrating to our students the importance of giving back.

Almost Ready!

Six days now stand between summer and the “best day of the year,” the first day of school. Our amazing custodial and maintenance crews have spent the summer cleaning, painting, fixing, installing and waxing. They have made sure our schools are beautiful and ready for students. We thank them all for a job well done!

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The Crew!

Here is a sneak peak at empty schools waiting for students:

GEMS Classroom
GEMS Looking North
FES Classroom
GEMS Front Entrance
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BFA Elementary School
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BFA Elementary School Gym
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FES 4th Grade Students Shares About Famous Americans with Korean Class

Target 4 – Engaged Community Partners
FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state, and global partners to make
a difference in their community, state, and world.

Action Step – Develop partnerships with global partners to
carry out a project related to units of study

Indicator of Success – Collaborative student projects/partnerships become part of the fabric of the broader community.

Ms. Underwood’s 4th IVECA Class

As discussed in previous posts, IVECA is an Intercultural Virtual Exchange of Classroom Activities program that brings global communities together.  The program helps our students to communicate with one another in different cultures and countries. The program provides a virtual environment that enables students to share subject matters and socialize within the program.

Students Sharing info about famous Americans to Korean Class

This month, fourth grade students at Fletcher Elementary just recently completed a unit with a fellow Korean class learning about famous people in each of their cultures. Although these partnerships have been made in the past in other schools at FWSU,  this was the first class from FES to participate in the program.

Listening to presentation on famous Koreans

After returning from spring break, Ms. Underwood’s students began to work on online projects in their classrooms sharing information and communicating with their Korean classmates in the IVECA web platform. After several weeks of learning, students then worked hard to prepare for their final presentations to be presented in the live class.

Class performing a heartfelt Vermont State Song

During the live class, families and friends were invited to share in the video conference call to Korea. Highlights of the program included students sharing details about famous people from Vermont. The students were also able to perform a beautiful performance of the Vermont State song for their international classmates.

Principal Dodge thanking the Korean partners for a great exchange.

Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee: Looking Toward the Future of BFA Fairfax

Target – Engaged Community Partners – FWSU staff and students will collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize ideas and learning with local, regional, state and global partners to make a difference in their community, state and world.

bfaOne of the many great attributes of Fairfax is our commitment to instilling a sense of community in our students, and our contingent belief that being a PreK-12 School building is an essential component of a great community. BFA Fairfax was built in 1903 from monies in the Hiram Bellows Trust. For over one hundred years this community has remained committed to a single building that can meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of our students.


Fairfax suffered the devastating loss of the school due to fire in 1943, after which time the school was rebuilt. Since that time the community has built on to the existing structure to meet the needs of our town and students. I often tell people that our building is a lot like a Vermont farmhouse: when we needed space we added on and over the decades the additions have mainly worked to meet our needs.

Last spring the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee was charged by the School Board to consider the needs of our school building as we prepare for the next twenty five years. The committee is made up of community members, staff, administration, and school board representatives.  We meet monthly with Black River Design Architects to evaluate and maximize our space needs and to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

The process over the past year has produced several dynamic solutions for meeting our goal of a school building that is prepared to serve our students and community for the next several decades. We have conducted assessments of the building’s mechanical, electrical, architectural, and code and compliance/life safety needs.

One immediate need that we are addressing is the renovation of four of our ten bathrooms in the middle/high school wings. In early June the bathrooms in the 1943 wing will be completely renovated using funds from this year’s budget and from the Capital Improvement fund. We anticipate the bathrooms being completed by the end of July.

An artist’s conception of “School of the Future”

As the Long Range Facilities Committee completes our work this summer we will begin a process of sharing our proposals, receiving community input, and planning next steps to achieve our goals for the building and the community. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns at We look forward to engaging our community in planning next several decades

Teachers Reflect on Travel to Reggio Emilia, Italy

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This spring a group of early educators had the opportunity to travel to Reggio Emilia, a small city in northern Italy, to study their world-renowned schools for young children. Our curriculum director, Mary Lynn Riggs, has had a dream to make this trip to better understand the cultural influences on how we choose to educate our young children, and thanks to her work in procuring a grant, five teachers from our school district were able participate in this year’s Reggio Emilia Student Professor Study Tour through the University of Vermont.

Our group began preparing for this trip last fall through shared readings and discussions which were led by Professor Jeanne Goldhaber of UVM, who has visited Reggio Emilia numerous times since 1991. Hundreds of educators travel each year to Reggio Emilia to observe and learn from their schools for young children, returning home to deeply reflect on these experiences. More and more schools throughout the United States have adopted a “Reggio Inspired Approach”, adapting Reggios’ guiding principles within the context of their own individual communities.


We were truly inspired by the fundamental principles of The Reggio Emilia Approach to education which promote the image of children as competent and curious learners, driven by their interests while seeking to understand more about the world around them. Visiting some of the schools gave us a chance to see how teachers observe children and respond in ways which support individual interests while also expanding their knowledge. Teachers take on the role of guide and mentor, listening to the sharing of ideas from all children in small groups, and building different meanings to support children’s questions. Often teachers actively participate along with children as they become researchers who ask questions, explore, and investigate together. Ideas shared within a group may lead to a project which could last days, weeks, or months, as teachers provide opportunities for children to further explore their thoughts, theories, and interests.

reggio-emilia-presentationcoetail-20-638The Hundred Languages of Children refers to the belief that children have many, many different ways to express their thoughts, ideas, and creativity. These “hundred languages” are all equally valued, supported, and nurtured. Children’s thoughts are made visible through the many ways they express themselves, and it is through detailed and ongoing documentation that we can understand their learning process. While visiting the schools we viewed documentation of children’s work through their drawings, photographs and written thoughts, which allowed us to get closer to children’s representation and thinking.


The physical environments we saw in each of the schools were especially powerful reminders of the importance of providing spaces that invite children’s interactions with each other, while building relationships among children, families, and teachers. We were often in awe of the beautiful materials in these various spaces throughout the schools, encouraging children’s discoveries and problem solving during their explorations.

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Our traveling group gathered again after our return to Vermont. We discussed the role of our feeling of disequilibrium, noticing how challenging it is to process all that we had experienced in Italy. We agreed that it is important to pause and reflect, taking time to collaborate with our colleagues while also connecting with our community. Appreciating that this will be an ongoing process, we are reminded of the words of a young child from Reggio Emilia, “To take a step forward, you have to lose your balance.”

Nancy Hurt and Jennifer Blackman at Loris Malaguzzi International Children's Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy
Nancy Hurt and Jennifer Blackman at Loris Malaguzzi International Children’s Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy

The above reflection is Part I of a two-part series shared by FWSU early education teachers Nancy Hurt and Jennifer Blackman.

BFA Fairfax “Cheers for a Cure!”

Target 2 – Leadership in a Student Centered Learning Environment
FWSU will foster development of teacher & student leaders who provide innovative opportunities for local and global student-centered learning. 
Action Step – Ensure students and staff take an active role shaping their
learning using rich, authentic questions, problems they identify, & diverse resources
Indicator of Success – Student voice will have the power to impact the perceptions of others

On Sunday, May 17th, for the 3rd year in a row the Fairfax Varsity Cheer team supported the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk To Cure Diabetes, which raises money to help cure Type 1 Diabetes.  Type 1 Diabetes is a life threatening autoimmune disease where a person (most often diagnosed as a child) does not have the ability to produce insulin.  Having type 1 requires the taking of insulin to survive, as well as the monitoring of blood sugar 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Unfortunately, there currently is not cure for this disease.


Many young people in our Fairfax community are living with Type 1 Diabetes.  Madison Irish, a junior, and member of the Bullet Cheer Team at BFA Fairfax, is one of them.  Three years ago, Madi formed a JDRF walk team called “Madi’s Cheer For A Cure!” The BFA Fairfax Cheer team joined her cause with a fundraiser and cheer routine to perform at the annual walk.

Together, we are creating a world without type 1 diabetes.

Over the last 3 years Madi’s Cheer For a Cure! has raised more than $13,000 with the cheer team raising well over $2,000 themselves.  On the day of the walk, the team assists with set-up and take-down, and the BFA team highlights the day with a special performance. Through their annual efforts, Coach Michelle Brown and the BFA Fairfax Cheer team are truly demonstrating community service at it’s best!

Create Summer Learning Opportunities with Children

Target 3 – Flexible Learning Environments FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Action Step –Provide students with access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate,create and conceptualize in all learning settings.

Indicator of Success - Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.


It’s almost summer, that time of year when teachers bid farewell to students. It’s also the time of year when parents take on the challenge of keeping their children physically busy and mentally active during long summer days.

As students set out on summer adventures, many educational activities to share and enjoy can be found at websites such as Family Education or Education World.   These on-line sources for children’s activities offer parents ideas for active learning opportunities for children of all ages- activities that can happen in your back yard or at the playground near your home.     If you have run out of steam creating your own summer adventurers, this list can rescue your kids from the boredom and blahs of rainy summer days at home.


Do you want to explore Vermont with your children?   Try Vermont’s Find and Go Seek website.   You will find a variety of activities in Vermont for Vermont Kids-   sign-up for Miss Magpie’s Newsletter to keep current with things to do with children in our area.


Keep your kids reading all summer long!    You will find great current suggestions on many websites; try these-   Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge or Education World.  Do you enjoy reading good adolescent literature with your children?   The Vermont Department of Libraries has published the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Awards List for 2015-16.   Check out the book reviews for these books here, and go to a nearby library to check them out.  These are the latest and the greatest in young adolescent literature. They are usually quick and interesting shared-reads with your older children.    Looking for new books for younger children?   Try the new books receiving the Vermont Red Clover Books award.   Again, try your library to find copies of the latest children’s books.


Take the opportunity of long summer days to encourage early and continuous learning opportunities for your children. Eighty percent of a child’s brain is developed by age three and 90% by age five. The brain connections made during this time lay the foundation for success in school and in life. Check our Let’s Grow Kids for more information.


Summer offers  time for learning to continue beyond the walls of the school building!   Curiosity drives the very best learning-   it is indeed nature’s original school of education.

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Mrs. Lee’s Class Designs Mathland in Minecraft

Target 3–Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all.

Action Step 2 – Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize in all learning settings

Indicator of Success – Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

lee2Fourth graders in Mrs. Lee’s class at GEMS had math class in a different location than usual. Instead of meeting in their classroom, they all met in Minecraft. For three class periods, the students learned about factors while logged in to MinecraftEdu is a school-ready remix of the original smash hit game Minecraft with features designed especially for classroom use to let users connect and play together in a safe controlled environment.


In their first class, students were able to complete some training in Minecraft to learn how to navigate in this new world. Students were able to explore how to move, build, gather supplies and communicate with other online classmates. They also learned about the educational expectations of being good digital citizens in this popular game.


In the next class, students were placed on teams and given a math design challenge. Each member of the team was given 13 blocks giving each team a total of 36 blocks to design rectangles. As a team, they had to work together to find all of the different sized rectangles.


In the final class, students were then challenged to take the information they had learned from the previous lesson and now create three dimensional boxes. Teams had to collaborate and use trial and error to solve the challenges. Teams persevered and were ultimately successful and proud of their creative work. With the knowledge and confidence gained, students have now asked for newer and harder challenges in the exciting world of Minecraft.

Engineers Everywhere at 2nd Annual Engineer Day

Targets – (1) Flexible Learning Environments. FWSU will maximize flexible learning environments by redefining the school day, promoting learning experiences that extend beyond the school classroom, and fostering creativity, innovation, and differentiated learning opportunities for all. 

Action Steps – (2) Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize in all learning settings 

Indicators of Success – (3) Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings. 

Over 200 young engineers from BFA, FES, and GEMS came together for the 2nd Annual FWSU Engineers Day.


Working in teams, students from all three schools were invited to select one of seven design challenges issued for the 2015 FWSU Engineer Day competition. Using the engineering design process to guide them, students worked on a challenge they selected. Students collaborated with team members to research and plan possible solutions to meet the criteria outlined for each event.

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Bobsled, Rube Goldberg, Egg-cellent Car Crash and Catapult Challenges.

On the day of the event, all the engineers came together at BFA to showcase their learning and accomplishments. Teams presented their engineer designs to the judges to be evaluated. You can learn more about the local engineers that helped with the event here.

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Pasta Bridge Challenge
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On Target and Passive Helicopter Challenges

When not competing, students were able to explore other events and learn what other engineers had designed. In addition, students could participate in quick design challenges managed by BFA High school student volunteers.

BFA HS Student Volunteers

Spirits and energy were high throughout the day as all celebrated the success of the ingenuity and perseverance of our student engineers.

Rooney Selfies

It was a fun eventful day where students interacted with teachers, engineers, and other students in our FWSU community of engineers.

Local Engineers judges from IBM and Cross

Check out local news coverage for the event here.