THE FWSU STORY: A Closer Look at the Arts at BFA Fairfax Elementary

The last few weeks have provided multiple opportunities for our elementary students to showcase their hard work and performance skills to authentic audiences and our students have not disappointed.


The cast of Hansel & Gretel

This time of year is always full of events that engage our community in celebrating our music, visual, and dramatic arts programs. Whether a band concert, a holiday choral concert, a showcase of student artwork posted throughout the school, or a drama performance, our students are challenging themselves to learn and grow.

3-5 Grade Concert

3-5 Grade Concert


3-5 Grade Concert

The Arts programs at BFA Fairfax have steadily grown over the past few years through the opportunities and numbers of students participating. I am so proud of our students for enthusiastically embracing the opportunities to act, sing, play music, and create artwork.


Elementary Artwork

Elementary Artwork

Elementary Artwork

We are fortunate to have amazing staff members that foster our students’ interest and share their passion for the Arts.


K-2 Concert

Finally, a huge thank you to our community for providing the financial support, continuing to attend our concerts and plays, and admiring our emerging artists.

Elementary Artwork

Elementary Artwork

The past few weeks have served as another reminder to me that the Arts are thriving at BFA Fairfax Elementary!

Principal Tom Walsh

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary Middle School and is a regular contributor to the FWSU Blog. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Experience World Cultures at the International Festival

On December 1st, students in BFA World Language classes attended the International Festival in Essex.


The International Festival is held in Essex each year.

The students were working to meet the Culture Proficiency in the World Language Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements. The International Festival is sponsored by the Vermont Performing Arts League as “annual celebration of cultures from around the world, bring their crafts, food, music, and dance to our doorstep.” The field trip was organized by BFA World Language teachers Kerri Brien and Alana Torraca.

“It was a great experience at the Vermont International Festival to see the other cultures around world and experience what they experience.” -Student

Students learned more about world cultures through this experience.

Students learned more about world cultures at the International Festival.

The students’ goal was to answer the question: “What is culture?” and help to create a diversity statement for BFA.  When they arrived, the students entered an exhibition hall filled with crafters from over 40 countries. They interacted with the crafters and were able to purchase items for themselves and others.


Items from around the world were available for purchase and were on display.

“It was exciting to move in sync toward a cultural competency goal with our growing World Languages program!  I witnessed BFA Fairfax students at the Vermont International Festival tasting international foods they’ve never seen before and bringing home the unique crafts from a variety of countries.” -Kerri Brien, Spanish teacher


Musicians provided students with an intercultural learning experience during the trip.

Within the main hall, there were two performance spaces featuring a variety of musicians from different cultures. Several students took advantage of the opportunity to dance along with other students in attendance.


The international food was an incredible experience for our students!

Near one of the performances spaces, the Festival had a food court where students were able to purchase ethnic food from countries including Ethiopia, Austria, Africa, Turkey, Tibet and the Philippines.

Students presented their learning to the rest of the school.

Cultural Ambassadors presented their learning to the rest of the school.

“Because Fairfax is such a small school the International Festival was a great way to view all the cultures we don’t usually see.” -Student

After a morning spent exploring culture, the students returned to BFA to begin the work of making meaning out of their experience-which is where learning happens. They created visual representations of culture. They surveyed other students and staff about diversity. The students displayed their cultural ideas at a cultural fair in the high school main lobby. They displayed artifacts (many from the collections of their teachers), videos and their definitions of culture. Students from the elementary, middle and high schools stopped to speak with and learn from our cultural ambassadors.

“As we continued to explore culture and diversity after the festival, students looked at diversity statements from other schools and discussed the need for a diversity statement at BFA.” -Alana Torraca, French teacher

Clothing from around the world was on display at school.

Clothing from around the world was on display at school.

“It’s important to show that diversity is not what you look like or what you wear; it’s about what you believe and value”- Weston, student

THE FWSU STORY: Thanking Our Community of Learners

As we welcome another holiday season, we wanted to take this opportunity to thank all our wonderful readers and followers! Each school day, FWSU endeavors to share the learning that goes on in our schools and tell our story.

Happy Thanksgiving

Our blog helps bring our Action Plan to life as it continues to unfold in the classroom and beyond. In our posts, you can see the four targets of Proficiency-Based Personalized Learning, Leadership, Flexible Learning Environment, and Engaged Community Partners in action.

We are continually grateful to be connected with such an incredible community of learners. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Students Experience “Out of this World” Learning at StarBase

STEM learning just doesn’t get any more engaging than standing in front of an F-16 fighter jet, poised for action at any moment.

FES student at StarBase VT

“You are going to see some top secret classified things in here. No pictures,” the all-business Vermont Air National Guard sergeant told Fletcher Elementary School fifth-graders earlier this month. We’re not allowed to use the soldier’s name in our blog, but as he guided students through the Burlington-based National Guard hanger, the intricacies of jet technology that he shared most definitely had students on a flight plan for loving science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Students were on the base as part of a five-day program called Starbase. An affiliate of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Starbase Vermont educational program is located on the Air National Guard base in South Burlington and focuses on teaching students about physics, chemistry, technology, engineering,  and math, with a focus on possible careers in those fields. Students spend 25 hours in the Starbase facility and the instructors also teach lessons at the school.


Fletcher students at StarBase VT

It was Amelia Earhart herself who once said, “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” In many ways, this has become the teaching mantra at Starbase Vermont, where the lessons are hands-on and include everything from exploring an F16 jet in the hanger and flying planes using flight simulators, to studying gravity through cooperative games and learning about air pressure by experimenting on marshmallows.



Fletcher students at StarBase VT

But, the program teaches much more than science. Its mission includes fostering collaboration and healthy choices, exposing children to cutting-edge technology and building a sense of community. Each “Starbaser,” as they are called, selects a “call sign” like a pilot. The call sign represents them personally and they are referred to by that name throughout the Starbase experience.



Starbase opened its doors in 1994 and reaches more than 1,300 Vermont students annually. There is no fee for schools to participate. During the program’s physics component, students learn Newton’s Laws of Motion through hands-on experiments that include building and launching model rockets. Other topics include fluid mechanics and aerodynamics, much of which is learned through experiments and observations of military planes that enter and exit the base on which Starbase is housed. Exploring the base hanger, which housed two F16s, was a highlight for students this year.

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Building blocks of matter, physical and chemical changes and atmospheric properties are all taught as part of the program’s chemistry strand. Additionally, technology innovations including the latest in mapping, nanotechnology, robotics, and chromatography (a method for separating organic and inorganic compounds to determine their composition) are features.

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

​Three-dimensional computer-aided design (CAD), along with information about the engineering and design processes, comprise the engineering elements of the program, while number relationships, measurement, geometry, and data analysis bring in the math. Among other projects, students used computers to design unmanned aerial vehicles.“Every minute of the Starbase experience is rich with both academic and social skills,” Fletcher’s STEM Teacher Leader Denette Locke said. “At the same time that the students are exploring an F16 jet and learning about aerodynamics they are also being taught the social skills necessary to be part of a group and to be a guest outside of school. It’s a well-rounded experience that not only creates better, more excited scientists, but also more successful community members.”

Fletcher students at StarBase VT

Read more about Starbase Vermont here.

THE FWSU STORY: Meet BFA’s Newest Exchange Students

This year at BFA Fairfax, three exchange students are spending the year with us learning about our school, our culture, and our students. Recently, we interviewed them to help us get to know them a little better.

Yuna is a 10th grader from Japan

Yuna is a 10th grader from Japan

Yuna, Grade 10

Home Country: Japan

BFA Courses: Sociology, US History, Spanish, Chorus

Plans after High School: University for International Relations.

What do you miss most about home?  The food! American food is very bland.

What is your favorite thing about Vermont? Burlington. Church Street has so much to do.

What is the most surprising thing about BFA? People wear t-shirts and short sleeves in the cold weather. It makes me cold!

Do you have travel plans while you are in the US? We may go to Canada in the winter and Florida in February.

Anything else? It is nice to meet everyone!


Celia is a 12th grader from Germany

Celia, Grade 12

Home Country: Germany

BFA Courses: English, French, Forensics, Chorus

Plans after High School: University in an English speaking country.

What do you miss most about home? My parents, families, and friends! Also the convenience. At home, I can be in a city in 10 minutes using the train.

What is your favorite thing about Vermont? Nature. I have already seen a moose.

What is the most surprising thing about BFA? We can’t go outside during the day. At home, we can go outside in between every class.

Do you have travel plans while you are in the US? New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles

Anything else? The world is pretty small and we have to stay together as one!

Gina is a 10th grader from Japan

Gina is a 12th grader from Taiwan

Gina, Grade 12

Home Country: Taiwan

BFA Courses: Chemistry, Psychology, American dream, Drawing

Plans after High School: College for Psychology.

What do you miss most about home? The food, warm weather, the convenience of life in a city.

What is your favorite thing about Vermont? It’s pretty. There are mountains everywhere and lots of open space.

What is the most surprising thing about BFA? The school is much smaller than I thought it would be. My school has thousands of students!

Do you have travel plans while you are in the US? We may go to Canada in the winter and Florida in February.


Gina, Celia, and Yuna

Working with our Global Partners enriches the high school experience for our students. It is a pleasure to learn from and with Yuna, Celia, and Gina.

THE FWSU STORY: Thanking Our Veterans!

Today we want to thank all of the Veterans in our FWSU community who have served our nation.

Honoring Veterans

We also want to especially acknowledge Veterans among our FWSU staff who have served in the Armed Forces.

Sally Billado BFA Fairfax

Sally Billado, BFA Fairfax Accounting Clerk

Mark Ladue, HS Math Teacher

Mark Ladue, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

Angelique Fairbrother, FWSU Digital Learning Specialist

Dave Westover GEMS Custodian

Dave Westover, GEMS Custodian

Anthony Lorenzo, GEMS Early Education Teacher

Anthony Lorenzo, GEMS Early Education Teacher

Tod Granger, FWSU Facilities Manager

Tod Granger, FWSU Facilities Manager

Jasen Boyd, Fairfax School Board member

Jasen Boyd, Fairfax School Board member


Jasmine Tremblay, Fletcher Elementary 6th Grade Teacher

Thank you all for your service to our country.