The FWSU Story: Kids Are Back!

Yesterday was the first day for students across the FWSU schools (BFA – Fairfax, Georgia Elementary and Middle School, and Fletcher Elementary School) and it was an exciting day! Having the hallways full of happy students looking toward their next adventures has always been a special time of the school year. Thank you to all the families for sending us your children, to the educators for working so tirelessly for all kids, and to the students for sharing your enthusiasm and aspirations with us. It’s going to be an awesome year!

I joined the FWSU community in July as Interim Superintendent, and from the first day I could recognize the specialness of organization. FWSU’s Action Plan highlights the commitment of “High Performance and Equity in a Digital Learning Culture” and having conversations with many educators over the summer reinforce the commitment to this work. I saw the welcoming of new educators through a commitment on understanding the impact of trauma on our children and families, the opening of in-service focused on understanding the impacts of equity, and, while visiting schools on the first day, seeing in action the welcoming and caring educators working with children.

There really is A belief in what is possible.

The images above really stuck out in my travels around the FWSU community. The messages were written on the sidewalk of the GEMS entrance and really hit home the purpose of our work – to support students in developing compassion and knowledge as citizens. As parents of three children (two in elementary school and one in college) my wife and I are proud to be Vermont educators, and I am looking forward to being part of the FWSU!

BFA HS students and teachers hit the gym as well.

Dr. Suess once stated, “Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” As the children and staff return to the schools remember to take time to celebrate all the successes – big or small. Enjoy the school year!

Donald Van Nostrand is the Interim Superintendent of Schools at Franklin West Supervisory Union. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter at @dsvannostrand.

Be sure to follow #FWSUTwitterChallenge for the FWSU 20-Day Twitter Challenge and #FWSU all year to see more exciting things happening in our schools!

The FWSU Story: Fletcher Students Rise to the Top with Healthy Lifestyles

Students in two classrooms at Fletcher Elementary School have achieved gold status with the wellness group, RiseVT. Cathy O’Brien’s kindergarten class and Kathleen Pellegrino’s first and second graders embarked on a year-long collaboration with the statewide organization to encourage small changes in students’ lives that will have a big impact on their health for years to come.

“We have lots of academic standards and resources,” Pellegrino said. “But there is less in place for teaching about wellness. Our partnership with RiseVT is one way we are bridging that gap in a way that is engaging and meaningful to students.”

RiseVT offers classrooms recognition at the bronze, silver and gold levels, progressively. Bronze status requires six of fifteen wellness activities, silver requires nine and gold level classrooms complete twelve of fifteen items on the RiseVT menu. The wellness activities range from adopting classroom wellness policies, participating in mindfulness activities, and incorporating movement and nutrition education into classroom routines, to taking a tobacco free pledge and ensuring that the teachers model healthy habits. Classrooms may choose from a list provided by RiseVT, but teacher-designed activities, such as Fletcher’s five week Winter Wellness Program, also count.

Founded in 2015, RiseVT works with individuals, employers, schools, childcare providers and municipalities to teach and promote healthy choices in children and adults. The group began in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and is expanding statewide.

To achieve gold, classrooms must also engage families by adopting and sending home a copy of the classroom wellness policy. The policy suggests healthy options for classroom celebrations, snacks and physical activity. The RiseVT Pledge is also required, and ensures students’ commitment to learning about simple lifestyle changes that will benefit their health and wellbeing.

“Teaching students about being healthy is important to me,” O’Brien said. “ We know how things like exercise and eating well improve our quality of life. I want that for my students and they were really interested in learning these skills.”

Students received certificates at all three levels, along with a classroom kickball for achieving bronze. At the silver and gold levels, teachers also received Amazon gift cards to purchase a wellness item for the classroom and students received swag such as t-shirts. A RiseVT Wellness Specialist visited the school throughout the year to celebrate the milestones and complete a wellness activity with the classes.

“When my students pull out their snacks now, they identify foods that they should be eating regularly and those that should be the occasional treat,” Pellegrino said. “The learning really has carried over into their lives.”

“These are lifelong skills,” O’Brien said. “My students know that movement and eating well help them get focused and settle into their work. This is knowledge that they can carry into their adult lives to make them more successful.”

“We played a food game and we learned what is healthy for you to have all the time and what should be a treat,” kindergartner Mia Riggs said. “My favorite all-the-time food is carrots and cucumbers.”

“I learned that you should exercise,” first grader Fiona Gillilan said. “I like to be outside and there are lots of exercises you can do outside. Exercise helps you stay healthy.”

“We learned how important it is to drink water,” first grader Hale Marcotte said. “We learned that water should be our first choice to drink.”

“All of us at RiseVT want to congratulate the two classrooms at Fletcher Elementary School that achieved gold status on the RiseVT scorecard,” RiseVT Executive Director Marissa Parisi said. “To live a long, healthy life it is important to develop habits early on that will stick with you for the long term. Committing to a healthy classroom helps students and teachers feel we’re all in this together to embrace healthy lifestyles. We’re excited to continue our work with Fletcher Elementary next year to support them reaching the bold goal of having all their classrooms achieve RiseVT gold status.”

“RiseVT is a strong collaborator with all of our FWSU schools,” Director of Curriculum Linda Keating said. “As a partner with our Whole-School, Whole-Community, Whole-Child Steering Committee, RiseVT helps engage all learners within FWSU in active, healthy lifestyles that promote lifelong wellness.”

Christopher Dodge is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @FletcherFalcon