A Year in Pictures: Capturing Fletcher’s Work With the FWSU Action Plan

The FWSU Action plan is comprised of four areas of work: Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environments and Engaged Community Partners. Throughout the year, Fletcher teachers work to align their teaching with these areas. Below are two examples of work from each area of the Action Plan during the past year.

Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning:

Personalized 1.jpgAs part of their work with Digital Promise Global, students in sixth grade designed solutions to environmental problems. Here, students show a model of a can and bottle recycling bin that promises to reduce waste while providing financial support for those in need. The students designed their computer-generated model for the device and then printed it on a 3-D printer before sharing their work with international partner students who also worked on solving environmental issues.

personalized-2Each Fletcher sixth grader has their own Personalized Learning Plan (PLP). The plan documents their goals and interests, insights into how they learn, and reflections on their success. Here, BFA teacher and administrative intern Chris Palmer and Fletcher teacher Jasmine Tremblay plan ways to align the PLPs of sixth graders from both schools.

Leadership:

leadership-2Teaching leadership skills and providing students with the opportunity to be role models is the cornerstone of successful citizenship. Above, three Fletcher students visited North Country Supervisory Union last summer to speak with teachers and administrators participating in a graduate level summer course about how they conduct student-led conferences and act as leaders in our school.

leadership-3Leadership in the context of real-world issues supports students’ problem-solving skills and creates relevance and meaning. Here, two students present their ideas for redesigning the school parking lot to the School Board. Their work resulted in several projects planned for spring.

leadership-1Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is the approach used in Fletcher to support a respectful, responsible, safe and caring school climate. Here, one student from each classroom represents the more than 50 students that celebrated having no office referrals during the first trimester.

Flexible Learning Environments:

flexible-1The Four Winds Nature Program provides hands-on environmental education in the natural world. Here, students explore the decomposition of a log as part of the life cycle. Four Winds brings volunteers into the classroom each month to teach on environmental topics.

flexible-2Even fun times can be educational! Here, two students discuss how sharks at the Boston aquarium need to continuously swim to stay alive. The sixth graders visited the aquarium last spring and participated in two educational classes that included learning about the composition of water and dissecting squid.

Engaged Community Partners:

engaged-6Members of the Cambridge Fire Department made their annual visit to the Fletcher Elementary School in October to teach about fire safety and celebrate National Fire Safety Week. Students learned proactive strategies to preventing home fires and how to respond in the event of an emergency.

engaged-7Families are some of the Fletcher School’s most important Engaged Community Partners. Open house, STEM Night, conferences and other events support a strong partnership between families and the school.

engaged-2An appreciation for community engagement begins with engaging with the community. Here, students present a Fletcher senior with a book of poems they had written. The presentation was part of a larger holiday celebration that was attended by several Fletcher elders.

A Belief in What is Possible: FWSU Action Plan Revisited

Four years ago, FWSU embarked on a journey to move education in our schools from the status quo education of the last 100 years, into the 21st Century. The conduit for this change was our Action Plan and it has truly transformed teaching and learning in our system. How? Our Action Plan shifted our thinking from traditional schooling and test scores, to looking at what is important for our students’ future. Certainly test scores matter, but we know that students growing up in our world today need so much more.

biomath2When we developed our first FWSU Action Plan, we allowed ourselves to dream. We identified four targets areas – student centered learning, student leadership, engaged community partners, and flexible learning environments – that became understandable and easy to recognize. The targets made our school more human and less industrial.

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Last spring the FWSU Action Plan Committee began the revision process. The FWSU Board of Directors was clear that as a system, our course should remain stable, but progressive. They charged the committee with updating the plan without systemically overhauling our direction. The committee explored every section of the plan and made adjustments the language to match the latest Vermont education initiatives and propel our plan into the future. Most of the changes occurred in our new action steps. The FWSU Board unanimously approved the new/updated action plan at their December meeting. You can view our updated plan here. Below are the four targets with updated language:

New Action Plan Targets

Since our plan went into action our schools have thrived. Innovation, creativity, and design are now common themes in our classrooms. Students are not only focusing on solving problems, but are also becoming problem finders. Our students will be entering a world very different from the one many of us faced after high school. We need them to be able to adapt as they confront a myriad of issues, many of which are unimaginable to us. The pace of change in the world is accelerating and we need to prepare students to stay in sync with that change.

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Even though we have been transforming for several years and are still in the early stages of our transformation, today still wrestle with how to we make the work of all of our learners even more personal. As a learning community, we are continue to be driven by “a belief in what is possible” for each and every child.

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GEMS and BFA Celebrate Global Learning with IVECA

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.

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Once again students from both Georgia Elementary School and BFA Middle School engaged the broader global community to enhance their understanding of intercultural competence. This semester eight classrooms of students interacted and learned alongside students from Mexico and South Korea. The students interacted virtually on a weekly basis with their peers through a learning management system (LMS) provided by International Virtual Schooling (IVECA). 

photo 1 (1)The goals of IVECA match the FWSU Action Plan goals to expand the opportunities for our students to become leaders and learners in a global society. Our students will need the skills obtained in IVECA to thrive in the world they will enter after high school. Starting the process of understanding how to work and learn with students from around the world is beneficial.

This is the third consecutive semester that our students and teachers have participated in the virtual exchange. Next year we plan to continue and to add other countries where our students are paired with a school in order to find peers to share their learning.

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The highlight each year of the program is the “live class” culminating event. Students meet each other face to face via a video link to discuss their learning and to just have fun. It is always a pleasure to see the excitement and the smiles on the faces of the students when they participate in the live class.

Thank you to the following teachers for participating this spring  — Ben Psaros (BFA), Melinda Carpenter (BFA), Andrew Sealy (BFA), Jen Skerrett (BFA), Alexis Bell (GEMS, Kay Lee (GEMS), Sandy Leclair (GEMS) and Karen Lehning (GEMS). Without their hard work this remarkable program would not have been available to our students.

FWSU Provides Personalized Inservice for Teachers

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 – Redefine high performance in a student-centered, collaborative, technologically rich learning environment.

Indicator – Creativity and risk-taking will be evident and celebrated as learners embrace new technologies.

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This past week teachers from FWSU spent two days together at Inservice preparing for Common Core implementation and training for new school-wide initiatives. The list of differentiated training opportunities prepared by the FWSU Professional Learning Committee and Curriculum Director Mary Lynn Riggs was extensive.

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Several unique sessions offered to our teachers are worth noting. First, eight more teachers from FWSU worked with IVECA to begin the process of connecting more students in our schools with classrooms around the globe.

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For a second year FWSU offered EdCamp. EdCamp has been described as a form of “unconference” designed specifically for teachers and their needs. Unlike traditional conferences with set schedules and topics, EdCamp has an agenda that’s created by the participants at the start of the event. This encourages relevant discussions and hands-on learning sessions.

 

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Finally our commitment to reaching and educating the whole child was highlighted in several offerings throughout the two-day Inservice. They included a viewing of the film The Hungry Heart with a facilitated discussion including Dr. Fred Holmes, Kim Burgess, Mary Pickner, and FWSU School Counselors. Consultant and Coach Deb Chisholm presented MePower – a Bullying Prevention training, as well as Asset Building. FES teachers participated in Positive Behavioral Intervention System (PBIS) training and planned for implementation in their school.

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Our FWSU Action Plan describes this kind of flexible, personalized, and relevant professional development that meets the varied needs of teachers and staff.

How Many Birds Can You Feed With One Seed?

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, and diverse resources.

Indicator of Success -Teachers embrace role of coach, facilitator and co-learner in a student-centered learning environment.

ccvt1Today several FWSU administrators, principals and teacher leaders spent the day together refining their skill in working to facilitate change in our system. The training, held at the Coaching Center of Vermont, focused on the concept of coaching for growth, rather than only coaching for performance. Which is based on the Do More Great Work research by Michael Bungay Steiner.

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Much was learned throughout the day and many strategies were modeled and then practiced. Perhaps nothing was more valuable than the concept of looking at every issue through multiple lenses and boiling it down to what is most important – something that sounds so simple, yet is often challenging when confronting difficult changes. Working with a small group was also purposeful. The goal is to begin the work with a few, and eventually lead many. In this way, we will feed many “birds” with a single seed.

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The questions we ask each other when confronting a problem are what makes finding solutions, real solutions, easier.

“Questions are fateful. They determine destination. They are the chamber through which destiny calls.”  ~ Godwin Hlatshwayo

In the coming months the lessons learned today will be used throughout FWSU as we continue our work of meeting our goals of Excellence, Digital-Age Learning and Equity for each and every student.

BFA and FWSU Educators Present at Dynamic Landscapes Conference

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 – Provide multiple avenues for students and staff to lead, advocate, and serve within the school and community

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Each spring teachers, librarians, technology integrationists and administrators gather for a learning event sponsored by the Vermont School Librarians Association and the VITA Learn Vermont.  The goal of Dynamic Landscapes, the name of the conference, is to explore topics related to 21st Century technology applications in modern educational settings.

BFA Fairfax and FWSU were active participants at the conference sharing our learning with other educators from our region. Here is a sampling of the sessions led by our esteemed group:

The Journey to Mastery  –  John Tague
It started with a few “flipped” lessons in one class. Over the next to years,
my classroom changed from traditional to flipped to mastery based. In this
workshop, you will learn the “why’s”, “what’s” and “how’s” of the
transformation to an asynchronous learning environment where “no one is
left behind or held back!”

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Creating a Digital Age Culture with iPads  –  Rhonda Siemons, Jen Skerret, Kendra Myers and John Tague
Bellows Free Academy teachers share our iPad journey starting with 1:1
devices for middle school students, moving a 1:1 into the high school and
adding iPad carts in elementary classrooms. What have we learned? What
practices have evolved? What’s changed? Panel consists of classroom
teachers from the elementary, middle and high school levels.

Sign up for iTunes U  – Angelique Fairbrother and Rhonda Siemons
Looking for a free interactive LMS for blending learning or flipped
classrooms? iTunes U provides a platform to deliver content to students’
devices (even without internet at home!) Come learn how to incorporate
iTunes U courses into any curriculum. Will share how to access materials
already created, or how to design courses that meets you and your students
needs. Will provide resources that can help you get started immediately for
your next lesson.

dynamic_landscapesOne sign of a true learning organization is when the organization shares its knowledge with others in the field. We are very proud that our organization is now regularly part of the educational professional development community of educators throughout Vermont.

Over Communicate Part III

communication

It has been 8 months and 137 posts since we officially launched the FWSU Blog where we have been highlighting learning every school day. Our goal has been to “over communicate” with  students, parents, staff, and community members, providing a vital link to the great teaching and learning happening in classrooms throughout our schools. Specifically, our posts have focused on our Action Plan. Since our first post, we have had almost 9,400 views!

We want everyone in our FWSU community to stay informed about our schools and we invite you to connect with us through our websiteTwitter and Facebook. Nearly 200 people have liked us on Facebook and we have about 250 followers on Twitter.

Remember to subscribe to the blog content and have our content directly delivered to your inbox. To do this, click here, enter your email address in the right hand menu under “Follow The Blog”, and click “Follow”. You will then receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. It’s easy!

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