THE FWSU STORY: A Rainy Day at Georgia Preschool

What do preschool children do on a rainy day at GEMS?


Find ways to move inside of course!


Build an obstacle course with your new friends!


Roll a Die and take steps on a balance beam!


Do art projects with Mrs. Hogg


Dorsey Hogg GEMS Art Teacher


Build with your friends!


Listen to a good story!


Act out a really good story…

Sing together…

Jessica Sweeney GEMS Music Teacher


Play apple games and experiment with art tools!


There are so many things to do on a rainy day in preschool!

Stay connected with all that is happening by visiting the Georgia Elementary Preschool Program blog

Fletcher’s 5-STAR Preschool Supports Students and Community

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 Steps –  (1) Provide students with access to content, resources, and methods for learning beyond the school day and beyond the school walls. (2) Develop opportunities for students to collaborate, innovate, create and conceptualize in all learning settings.

Indicators of Success – (1) The school calendar and definition of school day changes to become flexible and responsive to the needs of students. (2) Students are engaged in answering authentic questions and solving problems in collaborative settings.

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Fletcher Elementary School’s Preschool Program boasts the highest possible level of accreditation – five STARS – from the Agency of Human Services’s Step Ahead Recognition System (STARS). The rating signifies the program’s commitment to go above and beyond state regulations to provide professional services that meet the needs of children and families. The more STARS a program receives (up to five), the more it is involved with a wide range of practices that support children, families, and professionals.


Preschool providers, such as the Fletcher School, may earn STARS for recognition in five areas including compliance with state regulations; staff qualifications and training; interaction with and overall support of children, families, and communities; how thoroughly providers assess what they do and plan for improvements; and the strength of the program’s operating policies and business practices. Five-STAR programs, such as Fletcher Elementary School’s Preschool Program, are considered outstanding in all five areas.


As a result of it’s exceptional rating, the FES preschool receives additional state funding to maintain the high quality of the program, in addition to purchasing discounts for materials and supplies from several companies and corporations. The program also receives recognition as a provider of a superior educational experience for youngsters in the Fletcher community.


“Five STARS for the FES preschool program means that we continue to focus on creating an environment that truly recognizes the importance of all factors that impact children’s early experiences,” preschool teacher Nancy Hurt said. “Building relationships and a love of learning begins our journey together.”


Community outreach, including working closely with local preschool and childcare providers, as well as families of children birth to age five, is one programmatic priority that lead to the FES Preschool’s five-STAR ranking. A free weekly Tuesday morning playgroup held at the school offers structured opportunities for both preschoolers enrolled in the school program and younger children from the community to engage in meaningful activities together. The playgroup represents a partnership between the school and community and is co-facilitated by preschool teacher Nancy Hurt and Fletcher parent and childcare provider Starr Bidwell.

“The collaboration between the school and childcare providers and families gives the kids a sense of community. It gets them familiar with the school and teachers and gives them social interactions that prepare them for school and the world,” Bidwell said.


“Playgroup is great. Children, parents, caregivers and staff make connections and are able to network very early,” School Board member and childcare provider Diane Dayvie said. “Mrs. Hurt’s involvement allows the children to become familiar with her before they even get to preschool and makes the program even more enriching. As a caregiver, it also gives me a chance to talk with adults.”

FWSU Early Educators Collaborate to Meet Needs of Young Learners

 Target 1 – Student-Centered Learning. FWSU students will engage in personalize learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

Indicator of Success – Students and staff will create personalized learning networks to communicate and collaborate with others.

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Recently FWSU PreK and Kindergarten teachers engaged in a collaborative work session to enhance our practice. The conversation was lively and focused on continuing to create an environment where children thrive in a nurturing, engaging environment with peers. Students in FWSU programs are very successful. However, some of our most vulnerable learners do not have access to inclusive, early childhood settings.

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A large portion of the teachers’ discussion looked at Act 166, recently passed Vermont legislation signed into law last spring by Governor Shumlin. Act 166, or the Universal Pre-Kindergarten bill, entitles all three, four, and five-year-olds not attending a kindergarten currently to 10 hours of publicly-funded pre-kindergarten education in a pre-qualified program.

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Act 166 requires the VT Agencies of Education and Human Services to jointly develop rules to guide implementation. This law will be difficult and costly to implement, but FWSU administrators and early educators are working together to determine the steps to carry out the required changes.

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We look forward to incorporating developmentally appropriate strategies, based on current research, to further our mission.  To learn more please visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and Vermont Early Learning Standards. Both resources are the backbone of our programs.

All it takes is a tiny seed…to grow a giant tree!

What does it take to grow a giant tree?

2013-10-09 12.52.342013-10-04 15.48.27That is just one the questions that GEMS Pre-K students in Julie Johnson’s classroom have been wondering as they began an exploration of seeds! The class read the book, “The Tiny Seed” by Eric Carle, which prompted many discussions with the children about how seeds grow and how they can find their own seeds in the world around them.

These young learners are curious about their natural surroundings and have been eager to gain an understanding of the amazing power of a tiny seed! Following the children’s lead, Ms. Johnson provided examples for the children to see, touch, and take apart. She then encouraged them to find their own seeds and bring them in to school to share with their classmates.

2013-09-25 11.18.36All kinds of interesting things ended up on the science table…pine cones, green beans, popcorn! The students looked carefully and imagined what kind of plant or flower would grow from their tiny seeds.

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Julie also followed up on the children’s thinking by setting up an experiment with planting seeds in 3 environments:  sand only, water only, and soil. She had the children predict which environment (cup) the seeds would best grow in. There was a wide range of thinking about this. All the children’s statements and questions were written down, photographs were taken, and then a documentation board was made to track their findings.

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Children commented on the photos and asked about the writing. The children reflected on what they had done and who had been with them while exploring seeds. In this way, the children were able to review their thinking and activity. They continued to guess and discuss which environment the seeds would grow in.

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Next, Ms. Johnson dumped a bag of soup beans into the sand table, expecting that they would remain in their “soup-bag” state. But, overnight, the beans sprouted! Children quite naturally came up with their own observations and predictions:  the beans would grow into giant plants, the beans would not grow at all, or the beans would grow to be frogs … “Look there’s a leg!” The bean did look like a tadpole leg!

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Julie discussed with team members how to guide the children’s exploration after such a surprise occurrence. They decided to separate the beans into two smaller bins – one in which the beans would be watered and one in which they would not be. Children watered the seeds in one bin and continued to make observations about the differences daily, predicting what might happen next.

2013-10-09 12.45.31The children return again and again to their exploration of seeds. Parents report hearing their young child explain over dinner what seeds they are eating. Students remark, “seeds are everywhere!” They are eager to spend time outside finding even more seeds to observe.

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The preschool program at GEMS is focused on guided exploration – respect the thoughts of children, follow their lead in pursuing the answer to their questions, and reflect their thinking back to them. Allow the child to personalize their own learning by fostering their natural curiosity about world around them.

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Reggio Emilia, an internationally recognized preschool system in Italy, has informed our approach to early childhood education. Learning for young children starts with real experiences. Preschools must focus on a child’s life experiences and make investigation, study, and application the foundation of their learning.

All it takes is a tiny seed!

BFA Fairfax Preschool Program Achieves 5 STARS!

stars_headerBFA Fairfax Early Education Program has been awarded 5 stars by Vermont’s Step Ahead Recognition System (STARS).  Participants in STARS receive recognition for instituting practices that demonstrate quality of programming that exceeds the requirements for becoming licensed by the State of Vermont. This achievement represents sincere effort and serious commitment on the part of BFA Fairfax Early Education Program.


Created and led by the Child Development Division of the Vermont Department for Children and Families, the STARS program is Vermont’s quality recognition system for registered home providers, licensed children’s centers, school-based Pre-Kindergarten programs, and School Age programs.

“The BFA Fairfax Early Education Team believes in providing the best possible experiences for children and families and is committed to continually improving our program.” Kristie French, Preschool Coordinator at BFA Fairfax.

Kristie French of BFA Fairfax Early Education Program can be reached at (802) 849-2222.


“My daughter is in her second year of the BFA Fairfax EEE preschool program and I couldn’t be happier.  She has grown in so many ways as a direct result of her participation in this program.  Her teachers have created an environment where students feel welcomed as essential parts of the school community.  She is growing as a learner, as a friend, as a classmate, and she is also learning to love, respect and advocate for herself.  We are so glad that she has had the opportunity to be part of this program to help prepare her for kindergarten.”   Christine Sealey, mother of a child in the program.

“We are so proud of our Early Education program for achieving the 5 STARS designation.  This achievement is a direct reflection of the hard work of our staff, their ongoing professional development activities, their collaboration with related service providers, and our communities’ support of Early Education.”  Thomas J. Walsh, Elementary/Middle School Principal BFA Fairfax.

STARS recognizes programs for achievements in five areas:

  1. Compliance with Licensing Regulations
  2. Qualifications and Training of Program Staff
  3. Connection of the Program with Families and with the Community
  4. Practices of the Program and its Strategies for Improvement
  5. Strength of the Program’s Operating Policies and Business Practices

Awards for achievements in these areas begin at one star and increase to five stars. A statewide list of STARS rated providers and other stars information such as how to apply to STARS can be found on the STARS website. Additional Information can also be obtained by calling the STARS office at (802) 398-2037.


We are proud that our early education program has reached for the STARS!

For young learners, work is play!

Target 1. Student-Centered Learning – FWSU students will engage in personalize learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Steps – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creativity for students and staff.

Ever wondered what really happens in a preschool or kindergarten classroom? Do they just play all day? Actually, PLAY should take up much of their day – every day!

photo3A child’s work is truly their play. Research clearly shows that through play, young children learn, grow, and develop. The expert teacher observes and becomes a facilitator of a child’s play and their personalized learning.


If you look carefully at children engrossed in play, you can see their learning unfold before your eyes. Watch them try on different roles, learn to cooperate, and demonstrate care for others. Watch them construct, deconstruct, and create anew. Listen as they try out new language and describe their pretend world. Laugh with them as they giggle and hobble across the room on make-believe crutches.


If you ask a preschooler or kindergarten student what they did at school, you will know that they are truly learning when they say, “Oh, we just played.”


When you ask me what I did at school today,

And I say, “I just played.”

Please don’t misunderstand me.

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.

I’m preparing for tomorrow.

Today, I am just a child and my work is play.”

– Quote from GEMS Preschool

GEMS Pre-Kindergarteners Enjoy Hands-On Science Opportunities

Target 1: Student Centered Learning – FWSU students will engage in personalized learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem-solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step – Highlight, create and model innovative learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem-solving and creativity for students and staff.

Through exploration, building, questioning, observing and hypothesizing Georgia PreK school students become active Scientists as they participate in a science inquiry at the Georgia Elementary School.

Incorporating STEM practice in early education allows students to put ideas into action and reflect on their learning.  They are active, engaged, collaborative, members of their community and each student has the opportunity to share their voice. The link between early education and STEM is indisputable.  Early exposure supports students overall academic growth and embeds basic science dispositions of questioning and predicting.

“There are no greater natural scientists and engineers than young children”

 It comes down to allowing children to learn as they play, and play as they learn!