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.

THE FWSU STORY: Author-Adventurer Jan Reynolds Talks Sustainability and Culture in Fletcher

“Well, they could just ride their bikes to work,” Fletcher Elementary School kindergartener Matthew Ryan suggested with enthusiasm, wagging his left index finger in the air while holding a microphone in his right.

Children display books by Author Jan Reynolds

Stowe-based author-adventurer Jan Reynolds visited the Fletcher Elementary School Monday to speak with students about sustainability and the many cultures she has visited throughout the world. Pictured here, with Reynolds, is sixth grader Chase Murray, sixth grader Kaden Lovejoy, sixth grader Reed Stygles, sixth grader Maggie Nadeau, second grader Adelaide Gillilan, first grader Allora Lawton, first grader Lily Howard, second grader Harrison Frennier and first grader Koda Chipman.

In front of the entire school, Ryan was responding to a question by author-adventurer Jan Reynolds, who visited Fletcher Monday to engage students in a conversation she calls Cycle of Rice and Celebrate, one of the several themed presentations she delivers at schools throughout the year. The presentation focuses on environmental sustainability and the similarities and differences between human cultures. Ryan was responding to a call by Reynolds for suggestions about how adults could help preserve the environment.

A kindergartener talks sustainability with Author Jan Reynolds

Fletcher Elementary School kindergartener, Matthew Ryan, speaks with award-winning athlete and author Jan Reynolds on Monday. As part of a whole-school conversation about sustainability, Ryan suggested that more adults should ride their bikes to work in an effort to reduce pollution.

Reynolds calls her visits lectures, but not in the traditional sense. She engages students in critical conversation that gets them thinking about the impact of their decision-making on the environment. Through the lens of environmental stewardship, Reynolds speaks with children about food, housing, transportation, and clothing. In addition, through music and Reynolds’s own vibrant photographs from around the globe, the author of 14 books for both children and adults takes her audiences through a cultural voyage that provides a glimpse at the similarities between celebrations worldwide.

Author Jan Reynolds speaks with students at Fletcher Elementary School

Jan Reynolds, author of the Vanishing Cultures series of books for children, visited the Fletcher Elementary School on November 6th. Reynolds spoke to students about environmental sustainability and a variety of cultural celebrations.

“I learned a lot about sustainability today,” sixth-grader Chase Murray said.  “It means not polluting the air or causing other damage to the environment. I learned that our choices matter and that we can make a difference, one day at a time.”

Reynolds is a writer, photographer, athlete, and adventurer who has traveled the globe exploring extreme environments and spending time learning from the locals. She has participated in expeditions to China, Tibet, Nepal, New Zealand, Australia, Lapland, the Amazon Basin, Canadian Arctic, Mongolia and the Sahara. She was sponsored by National Geographic when she set the women’s high altitude ski record. Her countless radio and television appearances have featured these expeditions, as well her mountaineering experiences.

Author Jan Reynolds discusses world cultures at Fletcher Elementary School.

As part of her Celebrations presentation, author-adventurer Jan Reynolds spoke to Fletcher Elementary School students about both the connections and difference between cultures worldwide on Monday.

“She’s an inspiration,” sixth-grader Maggie Nadeau said. “She teaches you to follow your dreams and make good choices for everyone along the way. That includes the people and the earth.”

Reynolds’s has also worked as a writer and photographer for National Geographic, Vogue, Esquire, the New York Times, various ski magazines and her photographs have been exhibited at the United Nations. In 1985, Reynolds participated in the Beyond the Summit Expedition, flying a hot air balloon over Mount Everest and reaching 28,000 feet, setting an altitude record and creating the award-winning film, Flight of the Wind Horse. She was a member of the US Biathlon Team in 1983 and 1984. Reynolds graduated from UVM in 1978.

In her presentation, Reynolds used the example of Indonesian rice farmers as an exemplar for sustainability. She showed students photographs depicting the cycle of life and how the culture is self-sustaining. She also drew attention to the many ways, such as the use of fire, that various cultures celebrate. She implored students to recognize the differences in various celebration, yet honor the “oneness” of the human race.

Jan Reynolds speaks about culture.
Noted author and athlete Jan Reynolds visited the Fletcher Elementary School on Monday to discuss sustainability and cultural celebrations world-wide. Reynolds engaged students in conversation about being environmentally friendly and how our celebrations are not that different from those in other cultures.

“Opportunities like this are essential for our students in understanding that their decisions not only impact themselves but other people and our environment,” sixth-grade teacher Jasmine Tremblay said. “The world is bigger and more diverse than most of our students realize. Conversations and photographs like those that Jan provides help to build students’ understanding that they are part of a much bigger picture. For students, understanding other people and places is the first step in respecting them and valuing diversity.”

Reynolds’s presentation at Fletcher on Monday was the first in her 2017-18 school tour.



THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax Students Raise Awareness and Aid for Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico

Eighth-grade students at BFA Fairfax recently organized a bake sale to benefit those impacted by Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico last month.  The students also sought to raise awareness of the need for relief.

Students organize a bake sale.

Students raising awareness for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

The idea came as students in Emily Wills’ Grade Support Block were discussing current events. The group collaborated with other students and parents and the event raised over $600 for the storm-ravaged victims of Hurricane Maria.


Poster raising support for Puerto Rico.

The entire event was student-led — from sign-ups, requesting donated baked goods, posters, and collection containers in the new Makerspace. The class took shifts working at the sale.

Baked goods donated for Puerto Rico hurricane victims.

A vast assortment of baked goods were donated to support those impacted by Hurricane Maria.

The students would like to thank the community for their support!

THE FWSU STORY: Farm to School Harvest Supper Connects Fairfax Community

On a beautiful October night, the BFA Fairfax Farm to School Club was proud to host its first Harvest Supper.

BFA Fairfax Farm Garden

BFA Fairfax students harvesting vegetables from the School Farm for the Harvest Dinner.

The dinner hosted 200 guests and brought together families and community partners to celebrate the start of autumn, and showcase local products, much of it provided by the BFA Fairfax school garden.

Families enjoying the Harvest Dinner.

Families enjoying the Harvest Supper.

The Farm to School Club coordinated this entire event from menu planning and cooking, public relations, ticket sales, event logistics and entertainment. This was the culmination of two years of work by our students and staff to create a PreK-12 Farm to School program in our school.

In addition to providing for the meal, students offered live entertainment!

During the meal, students provided live entertainment!

In the fall of 2015, a small group of interested volunteers including a school nurse, a parent, a high school student, the chef from the Abbey Group, and a principal attended a Farm To School seminar in Middlebury, where we began formulating a plan to bring Farm to School to Fairfax.

Harvest Dinner 8

Community members tour the School Farm.

Upon our return, several high school students began meeting with Fred Griffin to develop a Farm to School Club and began researching and developing a plan to create a farm behind the elementary school building.  The students learned about the University of Vermont Design process, and with support from Jane Sorenson,  wrote a step by step Master Plan.

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

A delicious harvest meal was served up by students!

Fast-forward to the fall of 2017 and our Farm to School program is thriving. Students are maintaining a 4000 square foot production garden that provides fresh produce every day to the cafeteria for consumption by our students and staff.  We have built a greenhouse, a toolshed and installed water and power to support our work.  Students have expanded the size of our farm by plowing and cover-cropping plots for each grade level, designed and built a bridge to access a drainage ditch, planted apple trees, a blueberry and raspberry nursery, and developed a composting area.  Our students’ success through Farm to School was recognized in February of 2017 when Shannon Mahoney and Caitlin Allan spoke to other Farm to School programs, state representatives, and the Governor about our journey and the impact on our school community.

Harvest Dinner 6

BFA Fairfax High School Teacher Fred Griffin speaks at the Harvest Supper.

We are really proud of how this program has resonated with students, staff, and community members. The Harvest Supper marked the beginning of a new tradition that will bring our community together to enjoy a wonderful meal, allow community members to engage with each other, and provide an authentic audience for our students to showcase their work and learning through their participation in the Farm to School program.

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

BFA Fairfax is excited about this new community tradition to celebrate the School Farm harvest bounty!

THE FWSU STORY: Preserving an Enduring Tradition at BFA Fairfax

Tomorrow, October 10, the voters of the Town of Fairfax will head to the polls to cast their vote on a $16M renovation project at Bellows Free Academy in Fairfax, VT.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

An artist rendering of the renovated entrance to BFA Fairfax.

It’s been 20 years since there have been any renovations to the BFA Fairfax facility, and over 30 years since the middle and high school buildings have been updated. At this time, our aging campus is in need of revitalization to address the needs of our students and for the facility to remain viable for the future. The proposed bond will also address the need for better community spaces in which to gather for events and activities.

For over 3 years, a committee of the Fairfax School Board has studied the needs of our community and our school.

They created a plan that addresses our current needs while looking toward the future. This project reflects the unique heritage of our facilities and our community values: BFA Fairfax is the heart of our town. With voter approval of this comprehensive renovation of BFA Fairfax, it will be at least 25 years before any building upgrades to the middle/high school are needed in the future. 

The Heart of Fairfax

Hiram Bellows

BFA Fairfax Benefactor, Hiram Bellows

Ultimately, the bond is intended to continue the vision of BFA’s generous benefactor Hiram Bellows’ who sought to “further the education of children and young people so as to fit them for usefulness.” Mr. Bellows was acutely aware of the profound effects of technology and scientific advancement on the parameters of education, decreeing that the Academy should equip the students with “means and facilities for education as the times demand.” Hiram Bellows envisioned a modern academy of learning and the BFA Fairfax Long Range Facilities Planning Committee (comprised of members of the school board and community) believe that a significant investment to upgrade our school is necessary to preserve the rich heritage of BFA Fairfax for future generations. BFA Fairfax is the heart of our community.

About the Project

This proposal will renovate and expand the high school as well as older sections of the middle school. Some key features of this project include, relocating the main entrance of the high school to the original main entrance with enhanced security at entry, ADA compliance, fire and safety upgrades, a new full size middle school gymnasium, a new 400-seat auditorium, upgrades to the library, a redesigned multi-purpose room for community and school events, centralized administration and guidance offices, and health offices, and much more.

To learn more, visit You can also read a recent article in the Saint Albans Messenger on this important project.

An artist rendering of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium -- an important element of learning that was part of the original BFA,

An artist’s conception of a modern Performance Art Center/Auditorium — restoring this important element of the original BFA.

There will be an important COMMUNITY INFORMATIONAL MEETING tonight (October 9) beginning at 6pm in the BFA Fairfax Multi-Purpose Room.

And don’t forget to VOTE! Polls will be open at BFA Fairfax from 7am-7pm in the Middle School Gym on October 10, 2017.

Let’s move to the future, mindful of the past.

Come Home To BFA Fairfax October 7-14

Changing leaves, crisp fall air, cider donuts and apple picking can only mean one thing: homecoming is here!


The 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming will take place the week of October 7-14.  A variety of events showcasing our 7-12 athletic teams, school spirit, and service initiatives will highlight the fun and festivities for all students, staff, alumni, and the greater community.  


For the Varsity football and soccer teams, the games will be even more special, as they will serve as the senior games recognizing graduating players’ four years of commitment to their teams and school.  

BFA Fairfax will also make history in hosting our first-ever night soccer games. Local business Pigeon Brothers Excavating offered to donate lights for the Friday and Saturday night soccer games in order to enhance the excitement and maximize community attendance.  


As with every Homecoming Week, BFA Fairfax student-athletes will be taking part in a service initiative as well.  During this year’s Homecoming events there will be donation buckets to raise money toward hurricane relief.  We are extremely fortunate to live in our community of Fairfax, and year after year our service-minded students find new ways to “pay it forward.”

Whether it’s the crazy costumes of the widely popular Fairfax Relays, the blazing maroon and blue of our new Lamoille/Fairfax co-op football team, or nighttime soccer games that bring you to campus, we look forward to seeing you at 2017 BFA Fairfax Homecoming!  Thank you to all our students, parents, and community volunteers who make this a spectacular annual event.



Saturday 10/7

  • Football SENIOR GAME vs. Windsor 2:30pm
  • Homecoming Semi-formal Dance (Grades 9-12) 7-10pm

Monday 10/9: Black Out Day

  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Richford (Melanoma Awareness Game) 4pm
  • 7th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. St. Albans City 4pm/5pm

Tuesday 10/10: Tropical Tuesday


Wednesday 10/11: U.S.A. Day

  • JV/V Girls Soccer vs. Enosburg 4pm

Thursday 10/12: Throwback Thursday

Friday 10/13: Maroon & White Day

  • High School Pep Rally 2pm
  • JV Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 4pm
  • Varsity Boys Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

Saturday 10/14:

  • 8th Girls/Boys Soccer vs. Georgia 11am/12pm
  • Varsity Girls Soccer vs. Winooski 6pm

THE FWSU STORY: In Honor of Benefactor Hiram Bellows, BFA Gives Back

Hiram Bellows was a humanitarian who wanted all students to have the opportunity for a high-quality education. His contributions to the St. Albans and Fairfax communities have had immeasurable impacts.

In recognition of his gifts to our towns, students chose to give back in a variety of ways. Ninth-grade BFA Fairfax students were engaged in a variety of community partnerships including planting a tree at the new town recreation center, volunteering at the senior living community, cleaning up the town recreation path and fields, preparing the school’s skiing and running trails for races, etc.

BFA Fairfax freshman Abby Sweet who worked with the school’s transportation department commented, “By spending time today cleaning our school’s buses inside and out I helped the driver be more available for other projects to prepare buses for the road.”

“We got to help the community during our school day and now our school looks even better,” said student Caleb Vanslette after he finished mulching flowerbeds around the school.


Teacher Jensen Welch commented, “It was a great way to get to know our students better and help out with our community.”


As part of the FWSU Action Plan, there is a focus on teaching leadership skills and providing students with the opportunity to be role models as a cornerstone of successful citizenship. Our students are delighted to continue Hiram Bellows’ legacy of service and community.

Creating Unity with Marvelous Masks 

The start of each school year is a new beginning for children and the relation to their individual success is crucial. It is a time for meeting new friends, establishing relationships and building the foundation for a positive classroom community.
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Feeling valued, welcome, and safe is imperative for their confidence and growth and are the core beliefs of our Georgia Elementary School staff and community.


To help kick-off the year with fun and artistic creation, Sarah Frechette and Jason Thibodeaux, have been working with elementary classrooms, inspiring creativity through the creation of individual mask-making.


Students explored African Masks because there is a special connection between the creation and wearing steps of mask-making and the community that is established from such work. Students learn about self-expression, exhibiting individual personality, and the importance of each person’s special role within their community.

Masks will be displayed in each classroom setting and students will participate in a parade to showcase their work. Students had these things to say about their learning experiences with mask-making.

“I am a masketeer.”

“We are all learning together.”

“I can help you if you’d like.”

“I love art!”

“Thank you, Ms. Sarah and Mr. Jason”