Relaxation and Meditation in Kindergarten

Part of our daily routine in Kindergarten includes a relaxation and meditation time after recess.  We use this part of the day to settle our bodies and brains to prepare for afternoon learning.  Relaxation takes many forms.  Sometimes we lie on the floor and listen to meditation stories or listen to a guided practice of tightening and relaxing the muscles in our bodies.  Other times we sit and follow along with a meditation practice on Mind Yeti or with Moovlee, who is a mindful monkey.  We end each relaxation time with a wish or mantra for the afternoon.

After relaxation, students engage in mindful coloring.  This activity is done with relaxing instrumental music playing.  We work on coloring pictures with very small details.  Or we draw pictures in our Mindfulness Journals about the meditation story that was listened to in Relaxation.  

Some thoughts on this part of our day:  

“When I am laying down, it makes me feel calm.”

“I color slowly.  It helps me feel relaxed.”

“I like relaxation.  You can think about being calm.”

“I like meditation coloring because you can use whatever color you want.”

“I like meditation stories.  They sound pretty.”

“Listening to the meditation stories makes me calm.”

“When I’m doing meditation coloring, it makes me feel calm and it makes me feel like coloring neatly.”

“Listening to music at meditation is beautiful.”

Scholar’s Bowl Is Back!

By Madeline King and Michelle Lynch, December 16 2021

After a brief hiatus during the 2020-2021 school year, BFA’s Scholar’s Bowl team is back and better than ever! On December 1st, they attended their second meet of the school year at BFA St. Albans. BFA brought two teams, which with combined statistics won 5 out of the 10 matches played.

BFA Fairfax Team A during their last match at the meet on December 1st. Left to right: Ryan Thatcher, Jacob Antonovich, Michelle Lynch, Madeline King

Scholar’s Bowl is an extracurricular activity that tests the participants’ knowledge on topics ranging from art to biology to video games. Meets consist of multiple matches where two four-person teams representing different schools compete. Individuals buzz in to answer questions and accumulate points. At the end of multiple rounds, the total points for each team is calculated to determine the winner.

This year, new recruits have brought the group’s total number to the double digits. When they hold practices after school on Thursday, anywhere between five and fifteen students attend, depending on other school-related events occurring on that day. Gabe Grant, the club’s advisor, almost always brings Smartfood Popcorn to make practice even more fun. Some of the group’s favorite questions originate in lightning rounds, where a category is given that encompasses all of the answers. “Personally, one of my favorite lighting rounds was one that named particular shades of red, yellow, and blue, and we had to guess which color it was,” member Madeline King said.

Some of the team after a Thursday afternoon practice. Left to right: Alden Kalbfleisch, Jacob Antonovich, Madeline King, Michelle Lynch, Bri Start, Emma Sweet.

Over the years, the group has built up a welcoming community that allows people to exercise and build upon their academic strengths in a collaborative way. “Scholar’s Bowl is a lot of fun,” member Chris Dukeshire said. “I like to show off and it gives me a chance to show my knowledge.” 

One thing’s for sure, now that it’s back and its community is growing, it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon!

By Madeline King and Michelle Lynch, December 16 2021

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Tis The Season of Giving and Celebration:

Amidst the continuing Pandemic we are often reminded that there are both needs, but also so many generous individuals and families in our community. Each Holiday season, some of our regular traditions at BFA Fairfax are to support area families in need with their own celebrations.

With the holiday season in full swing, one thing that never ceases to amaze is the generosity of this community in support of its families who need extra care during this time of year. Each year, the BFA Fairfax Mental Health team organizes a Mitten Tree to help support those families that are part of our learning community that need extra support for the holiday season. In addition to the Mitten Tree, the National Honor Society, in partnership with United Way and Operation Happiness, has been holding a Holiday Food Drive. This food drive will support families from across our region with the food they need to have a holiday meal. Students have set up boxes in classrooms with flyers indicating current need and our community has been hard at work to ensure that no family goes without this season. On Wednesday, NHS students will work with United Way to sort toys for Operation Happiness that will go on to support 36 local families. This effort has truly been a demonstration of BFA’s mission at work. Ensuring that students leave here with an understanding of what it means to be community members who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors. 

For the last two years the BFA Fairfax Mitten Tree has taken on a virtual format amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Community members access a Google form to select their Mittens rather than selecting them off the tree as in years past. While this new format was a break from tradition it has allowed the BFA Miten Tree to be shared near and far and is now accessed by a wider portion of our own and surrounding communities. This year the need in our community generated nearly 250 virtual mittens and as of 8am Monday, December 13th all of them had been selected by community members, teachers, local businesses, and those outside of the Fairfax community who wanted to ensure all families had a wonderful holiday season. This outpouring of compassion and support at a time when so many are in need is one of the many things that makes this community so special. I want to send a heartfelt thank you to all of those who participated for their generosity and for modeling for our students what it truly means to be a responsible and engaged community member at a time when community is what we need now more than ever. 

And it wouldn’t be a holiday season without our students performing in our annual Band and Choral Ensemble Holiday Performances. It was such a joy to enjoy two nights of full attendance for both our Middle Grades and High School performers opening the season.  Sitting in the High School Gymnasium with so many families and community members to share the holiday cheer as our ensembles and featured performers sang, played and spoke to a packed house on each night truly made the week both for those in attendance and for those watching via Facebook live. 

Also in the Holiday Spirit, on December 10th, the BFA Chamber Singers participated in the annual Madrigal Festival sponsored by ACDA.  While it looked a little different this year because of Covid-19 precautions, the singers had an amazing time and put on a spectacular performance.  The Chamber Singers were professionally recorded at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Burlington where they received some advice from the wonderful retired music educator, Carl Reccia.  Students were then able to catch the opening matinee of Steven Spielberg’s adaption of the classic movie/musical, “West Side Story”, shop, and have dinner before meeting approximately 200 students from schools around Vermont to perform “Carol of the Bells” and “Deck the Halls”.  The singers were introduced by Burlington’s Mayor, Miro Weinberger and performed in front of the huge lighted tree on Church Street.  Each school then moved to their own “station” on Church Street to perform on their own.  Many community members and parents came to see the performances and it was a festive and fun experience.


Justin Brown is the Principal at BFA Fairfax Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @jbrownenator

FES Falcons Use Technology Tuesdays To Explore Geocaching With Mystery Caches

As part of Technology Tuesdays at Fletcher Mrs. Palermo’s 5th and 6th grade students have been learning all about geocaching.

Geocaching encourages kids to explore the outside world around them and also offers lessons on how maps work, geography, and estimation. Kids search for geocaches by using GPS receivers to located the assigned waypoints (latitude and longitude) This type of exploration prompts discussions on creating graphs, measuring distances, and other math concepts as well as the geographical lessons. After learning the basics of geocaching, the students then started to explore other aspects of the computational thinking skills needed for geocaching.

Most recently, the students took on the challenge of solving Geocaching Mystery Caches. With traditional caches, students use given coordinates to find caches. With Mystery caches, the students have to first solve problems to get the correct coordinates.

Thanks to a premium Geocacher team members, Jokeerus, who have designed Mystery Caches especially for children, our students had an opportunity to solve Mystery Caches. These geocachers have designed these too do their part to encourage the younger generation to enjoy geocaching. As a result, our students are able to solve problems to virtually find geocaches hidden in Utah.

The students used their skills to work hard at decoding and solving a variety of mystery caches. They solved a variety of codes using pig pen cyphers, tap code, and many others. After solving the puzzles, the students where then able to check with the geocache owners to gain a “find” for the geocaches.

The students did a great job and earned the reward for finding the caches.

If you are interested is solving these or other caches, check out these links to the Mystery Caches series hidden. It is a great experience, and we were appreciative of the work done by Team Jokeerus!

  1. Jigsaw -Kid Puzzle [#1]  GC96X5W
  2. Emoji Imagination Kid Puzzle GC96X6D
  3. Angelic Symbols -Kid Puzzle GC9746H
  4. Ka-Chow! Kid Puzzle GC97F05
  5. Animal Tracks -Kid Puzzle GC9745Y
  6. Coded Candy Kid Puzzle GC9746W
  7. Lego Lingo Kid Puzzle GC97T7G
  8. QR-dinates Kid Puzzle GC97W37
  9. Chocolate Pigpen -Kid Puzzle GC97VZF
  10. Tap Code -Kid Puzzle 
  11. Folding Fun Kid Puzzle GC981RE
  12. Incredible! -Kid Puzzle GC9839W

Angelique Fairbrother is the Digital Learning Coach at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @FWSUtech.

ABC’s of Fourth Grade

Ms. Godin’s fourth grade class has been busy learning about non-fiction writing using ABC Books. The class read many ABC books, learned about plagiarism and how to take notes, then, each student chose a topic they were either curious or passionate about. Subjects range from Famous African American Women to World Leaders.

Index cards were given to each student to collect information on their subject A-Z. On the back of each card was written the source. On the opposite side students collected information on their subject. After students were done gathering information they were given a rubric of how they would be scored. This rubric gives them precise information on what they need to include to get the grade they want. A checklist was also provided for students to make sure they have included everything.

As students create their ABC Books using the app, Book Creator, they look to their notes and checklists to make sure have included everything on their slides. Pictured here are a couple of students’ books in progress.

When they are finished each student will present his/her book to the class.


Aimee Toth is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

The Importance of being thankful and kind…

There is nothing easy about the ongoing circumstances that have impacted us all since March of 2020. The ramifications of the COVID-19 global pandemic are profound, wide ranging, and leave us frequently with a feeling that it will never end. This week, as we approach Thanksgiving, I find myself reflecting on all the things in my life that I am grateful for, and the kindness I experience both personally and professionally. 

Research has found that people who regularly express gratitude are healthier and happier. Gratitude requires an appreciation of the positive people and experiences in our lives. It is easy to focus on the challenges and the unfairness that we all have encountered throughout the pandemic. However, taking a moment daily to identify one thing that you are thankful for will result in feeling better. 

I am thankful for so many people and experiences, both positive and challenging, in my life. This was a challenging weekend for my family. My dog of thirteen years peacefully passed away on Saturday and we were all filled with sadness, laughter about funny memories, and a sense of gratitude for the unconditional love Buddy provided us. It was a powerful reminder that we are going through something that others may not be aware of, and the burdens we carry.

After twenty-five years working in public education, I constantly remind myself how fortunate I am to work with amazing educators, students, and families. This has never been more true than over the past two years. I am grateful for all the dedicated staff members at BFA Fairfax who continuously and selflessly meet the needs of all of our students. One of the best parts of being a Principal is the opportunity to engage with students. BFA Fairfax has amazing students who remind me daily about their positivity, resilience, and ability to demonstrate kindness. Finally, I value and respect all of our families for their patience, as well as their gestures of appreciation and support.  

I understand that there is so much that potentially divides us, and we are reminded about this every day in the media. However, I remain convinced that we have more in common than our differences. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives, sharing my successes and challenges, and remaining mindful of the importance of being thankful. I hope you all have the opportunity to spend some quality time with the people you love, eat a good meal, laugh, and get some rest over the coming week. I appreciate the ongoing support of this amazing community. Be safe, be kind, and be well!


Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Remember to look for the Puff Ball

In August, when I first had the opportunity to meet everyone in FWSU, I shared a quick story about a photographer named Dewitt Jones who, at the time, worked for National Geographic. He shares this story about wanting to capture this majestic image of a field of golden dandelions against the brilliant snow covered mountain in the backdrop of the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia. Day after day we went to this site and each time something was wrong. The light wasn’t right. Too many clouds. Not enough of this or too much of that! One day he showed up and all of the dandelions were gone. Nothing but puffballs left. Disappointed and frustrated, he eventually got to the point where he asked himself what’s right with this. What deserved to be celebrated? After walking around the field and looking at every possible angle he came across a beautiful image. Not the original image he wanted but a new one of equal value. 

Just as a side note… if you want to see the whole story you can find it here

This year has been anything but predictable. Covid-19 infection rates have been increasing at an alarming rate. Hospitals are starting to evaluate capacity as these rates continue to surge. The Vermont Department of Health dashboard website is unfortunately my top bookmark. This is stressful. Stressful for families, stressful for teachers, and stressful for students. It’s important to acknowledge it is hard, scary, and a little bit overwhelming.  And there are plenty of bright spots and moments that bring a smile to your face that are worth celebrating!

So here are two of my bright spots….

MAMMA MIA! If you were anywhere near BFA the past few weeks you’d see students rehearsing their lines, singing and dancing, and making sets and costumes. Having missed out on opportunities to put on a presentation in the recent past this was a celebration. A celebration of perseverance, passion, and quite honestly tallent. I was impressed. It was also an opportunity for our community to come together and be as one. Not quite the return to normal we all hope for but a step in the right direction. 

Test to Stay! I remember sitting with our nurses in October listening to Governor Scott, scratching my head, wondering how this new program would work. Short staffed on a good day, would we have enough people to have this be successful. Fast forward to November and this program is allowing more of our students to be in school. I’ve had the pleasure of greeting families and am absolutely blown away with their support. We all wish this wasn’t a thing! But here we are and the hope is this program reduces the stress for families and students. Plus more of our students are back in school versus being at home. 

So with a small break just around the corner, I just wanted to share my thanks to the FWSU community. I appreciate every opportunity to connect, listen, and support. I want to acknowledge the difficult aspects of our lives as well as look for the puff balls that are here too. 

Best,

Scott

 Scott Thompson is the Director of Curriculum of Franklin West Supervisory Union and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @Stboatervt

Fletcher’s Music Program: Beat Boxing, Boomwhacker and more!

This year at Fletcher school, our new music teacher Katelynn Maher has been building relationships with students while getting to know them. 

Grades 5-6 exploring a beat boxing program called Incredibox

We have had a wonderful time in music this year playing music and singing together. Grades 5 and 6 just finished creating “suspenseful music” projects in a program called Garage Band. Students in grades 3 and 4 have been working on music literacy skills including rhythmic reading as well as learning notes of the staff. Grades K-2 have been working on music literacy skills including steady beat, rhythm, movement, and improvisation. Movement and learning games are so important in our music classroom. Students of all grades have very much enjoyed singing and playing instruments in the classroom. We are currently working hard to prepare for our virtual winter concert that will be sent out in December!

4th grade body percussion and boomwhacker playing

3rd grade playing a game to learn notes on a staff

2nd grade playing a piece to prepare for winter performance

1st grade learning a song on boomwhackers for winter performance

Kindergarten with scarf movement to music

Our goal moving forward this year in music is to continue to build music literacy skills at each grade level, and continue to build a community of music lovers who can express themselves in groups as well as individuals.

Aimee Toth is the Principal of Fletcher Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Hiram Bellows Day

BFA high school students participated in our annual Hiram Bellows Day of Service on October 13th.  This day of service honors the legacy of the school’s founder and reminds us of the vital role everyone plays in building a strong, safe, and beautiful community. Service activities included working with Fairfax Fire and Rescue, Fairfax Recreation Department, Fairfax Historical Department, and Fletcher Town. 

Students worked hard to beautify the exterior campus, including cleaning busses, painting a sunflower mural, repainting safety lines and benches. They also worked on clearing trails in the woods and recreation paths, gleaning crops from the school farm to donate to the local food shelf, and planting flowers in Ada’s garden. 

Inside the building, students cooked meals for the Spectrum Youth Drop-in Center, organized the drama closet, and participated in the A Million Thanks program. This is a year-round campaign to show our appreciation to our U.S. military men and women, past and present, for their sacrifices, dedication, and service to our country through our letters, emails, cards, etc.

In the community, students washed and cleaned the fire trucks, organized summer camp supplies, worked in the ambulance bays, packed rummage sale items for donation, and worked on various projects with the Historical Society.

I am proud of the giving spirit of the students and their dedication to our community. I wish to extend a special thank you to the high school teaching team that organized this event: Alana Torraca, Becky Harrocks, Chris Cowey, Jenn Hart, and Sara Villeneuve.

Elizabeth Noonan is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.

Wednesday Exploratory Experiences 

In the midst of the ongoing challenges presented by Covid-19 in our schools, BFA Fairfax Elementary continues to look for ways to provide our students unique learning experiences that require problem solving, creative thinking, and collaboration. This year we are using our Early Release Wednesdays to pilot a different format to engage students in inquiry activities. We remain aware that we are preparing our students to be citizens in a rapidly changing world, to work in jobs that will require an ever changing set of thinking skills, and for occupations that do not currently exist.  

Coincidently, I recently attended my daughter Gracie’s Family Day at her college. Gracie is a freshman at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Throughout the day, I observed many examples of amazing student work and encountered a consistent theme of supporting students in understanding themselves, learning to advocate, and developing employable skills. The focus on students learning from their mistakes, giving and receiving critical feedback, and having space to be creative resonated with me. 

This visit provided many valuable connections to our student learning opportunities, and the skills and dispositions we want them to demonstrate. In Vermont, we refer to employable skills as transferable skills. The Vermont Transferable skills are:

  • Clear and Effective Communication
  • Creative and Practical Problem-Solving
  • Informed and Integrative Thinking
  • Responsible and Involved Citizenship
  • Self-Direction 

As a PreK-12 school we continue to prepare our students to learn and demonstrate proficiency in the Vermont Transferable skills. We constantly are looking for ways to embed learning experiences that foster these necessary and important skills. 

On our Early Release Wednesdays we are piloting a different format and schedule that allows for exercise, inquiry, collaboration, creativity, and fun. On Early Release Wednesday, our students participate in a range of learning experiences that provide opportunities to develop these skills and dispositions in flexible learning environments. Here are some examples of activities in which our students have participated:

  • Stop Motion Animation
  • Google Drawing
  • Insect Investigations
  • Making Applesauce & Apple Cider
  • Kinesthetic Movement To Support A Healthy Lifestyle
  • Ocean Animal Investigations  
  • Building Structures In The Woods
  • Cardboard Creations
  • Coding
  • Autumn Art Projects

This is not a new focus, but rather a different structure that we believe will allow for more student voice and choice, community engagement, and collaboration with community partners. We believe that our students are never too young to drive their learning in ways that foster the development of 21 Century Skills. Our mission at BFA Fairfax remains to ensure all students become informed, literate, critical thinkers who demonstrate responsible social and civic behaviors. Thank you to our staff and community for their ongoing efforts to support our students as we prepare them for a rapidly changing world. 

Thomas Walsh is the Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY.