The Beauty of Outdoor Learning

There is something magical about taking students outdoors to experience nature. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? And what do you feel?  An approach to learning that stimulates your senses and connects you to our world!

 It’s an environment that is restful, relaxing and thought provoking. A setting that puts young minds at ease and one that brings learning to life.

Outdoor learning opportunities are on the rise at Georgia Elementary School and provide students with hands-on kinesthetic approaches in a variety of ways and within different classrooms.

Being able to touch, see, and understand natural concepts helps solidify knowledge of how our world works.

In Maia Hendrickson’s Kindergarten classroom students explore their surroundings through nature walks honing their observational and inquisitive thinking skills. Each day begins with a morning meeting and then an opportunity to inquire, solve, and share.

Dorsey Hogg, Elementary art teacher, takes her students outside often to enjoy the elements while working artistically.  Having an outdoor setting to continue their work, apply their skills, and accomplish their task is relaxing, thought provoking, and meaningful.  

Students appreciate this style of learning and work diligently and creatively.

Steve Emery is the Elementary Principal of Georgia Elementary Middle School. He is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @Emery_Gems.

FALL CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES FULLY BACK IN ACTION AT BFA FAIRFAX

Students, staff, families, and our school community could never have known that the Fall of 2019 would be the last time for nearly two years that BFA Fairfax athletic teams and drama ensembles would participate in a traditional way.  Fast forward to September 2021, and we are now experiencing the benefits of the patience, perseverance, adaptability and commitment to safety demonstrated by our students, staff and community, as our multiple fall co-curricular activities are in full swing.

High School football players are sharing their excitement in being able to wear their pads again and play full tackle.  Last season was played under highly modified “touch football” rules, so our BFA/Lamoille Cooperative team athletes have been thrilled to experience the sense of brotherhood they say comes with playing the game under traditional rules.

Middle and High School cross country runners ran a smaller number of races last season, while much of the time wearing masks.  Meets were limited in size, and did not allow for mass starts involving multiple schools, so each race more closely resembled a time trial as opposed to a true cross country meet.  They are looking forward to their first “real” meet in almost two years, and experiencing the excitement and rush of competing against students from other schools in mass start formats.

Middle and High School soccer teams spent last season playing a limited schedule, and donning masks for the entirety of practices and games.  This season has brought back increased participation numbers, a high level of skill, and enthusiasm like never before.  Players and coaches are looking forward to building on last year’s success and playing deep into their respective tournaments.

The fall co-curricular activity most impacted last year by the pandemic was the Fall Musical.  Given the strict guidelines at the time around singing, playing instruments, masking, distancing, and group gathering size, our talented ensemble was unable to perform the highly anticipated Mamma Mia.  We are thrilled to have our students back on the stage this year, and eager to experience live musical theater once again! Although we may still have some slight adaptations on the performance that, if necessary for health and safety, will be determined closer to the show dates, Mamma Mia will most definitely be one of the highlights of this school year!

We look forward to your attendance at these multiple student activities, and greatly appreciate your support and continued commitment to health and safety.  Our students are thrilled to be back on the stage, fields and trails, but most importantly, to be back in school.  If we all work together and continue to make safe choices, we can ensure that our student activity participants have a fantastic 2021-22 school year! 

Geri Witalec-Krupa is the Director of Student Activities at BFA Fairfax. Geri is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

Welcome Sheriff Karry Andileigh

Sheriff Karry Andeligh, School Resource Officer (SRO)

BFA Fairfax is excited to introduce and welcome Sheriff Karry Andeligh to our school community. We are extremely fortunate to have her serving as our School Resource Officer (SRO) this school year. Sheriff Andileigh is an outstanding role model and a valuable resource for our students, staff, and families.

Sheriff Andileigh possesses a range of professional experiences and skills. Since 2018 she has been employed with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office. Prior to working in law enforcement she was a Living Skills worker with the Howard Center and a private Personal Care Attendant for people with disabilities. In addition, Sheriff Andileigh is pursuing a PhD in Psychology and Yoga Therapy. 

Sheriff Andileigh shared she was drawn to being a SRO because it provides opportunities to make a positive impact on students by developing relationships, communicating with students about their priorities, and goals. Her philosophy and experiences are reflected in her daily work with students, staff, and families.

Sheriff Andileigh brings a person-centered, trauma informed, therapeutic approach to each interaction. She believes her role allows opportunities to support students in navigating life decisions and challenges, using restorative practices and logical consequences.

We are excited to collaborate with Sheriff Andileigh in her new capacity. She is an important and necessary resource to support safety, to develop positive relationships with law enforcement, and network with other state agencies. We appreciate our community’s support of this essential position. She has made an immediate and positive impact on our school. Please take a moment to introduce yourself and welcome her to Fairfax. 

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

It’s Friday of our students’ first full week since March 2020!

As I’ve visited classes, the lunch room, playground and chatted with students in the hallways over our first days back in school, I have marveled at students’ excitement at being back and kind support and encouragement of one another. It was also curious to me as I wondered what our students were thinking during their first full week of school in over a year. So I asked students across grades 5-8 some questions to listen to their perspectives.

  1. What is your favorite part of being back to school full time after last year?
  2. What is weird about being back to school full time after last year?
  3. Any words of wisdom for our readers?

Eliza says that it’s good to be back to a normal-ish school. Seeing friends again is great. She thinks that wearing masks is a little weird (we thought we’d be done with them when we left school in June). Her words of wisdom are to read Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Kaileigh says seeing friends and making new friends has been the best part of being back to school. It is a little weird to have the same teachers two years in a row. (she clarified and said that it’s a good weird). Kaileigh agrees with Eliza that everyone should read everything by Shannon Messenger.

Kayden says the best part of being back to school is seeing friends he hasn’t seen in a long time. Rylee agrees. They both agree that it’s also weird to reconnect with friends they haven’t seen in a long time. When I asked them what words of wisdom they had for our readers I leaned back in my chair and they both told me that I should always keep “4 on the floor.” Then Rylee told me that she wanted to be a mystery student.

Harper told me that his favorite part of being back to school was playing football at recess and to finally be able to do science and social studies. He also likes being able to walk to UA’s. What’s weird for him is being able to take more mask breaks than last year.  He is excited to have the same teachers for two years!

Rhiannon’s favorite part of being back in school is not having plexiglass dividers this year.  She also likes having lockers to keep her stuff safe. She went on to say that she loves her new teachers and new classmates. 

Lyla also appreciates not having plexiglass this year and being able to go to the cafeteria. Having lockers with combinations along with her new teachers is great. She also is super excited about having band this year. It is a little weird seeing so many teenagers around, but she likes seeing different people in the halls. Her advice is that we should definitely bring back the ice cream machine.

Jaiden is very happy to be with us this year and says that it’s different, but better. She really likes having a more consistent schedule and thinks using lockers is very helpful to organize and store her stuff. It is a little weird having lunch at 1pm. Her Words of wisdom are to not be scared of the work, because she says, “it’s all doable”

Colin both likes and finds it a little weird to be moving between spaces this year and to have so many different classes.

In some ways, it’s almost like we are picking up where we left off pre-pandemic. But overwhelmingly we all, students and staff are absolutely loving being back in session full time. I am so proud of our students for taking such care of themselves, each other and their community. Here’s to a safe and full school year!



|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

The FWSU Story: BFA Fairfax Is Alive With the Sound Of Music!

Middle School Winter Concert, grades 5-7

It’s been an extremely busy few weeks for students and staff in the numerous BFA Fairfax music ensembles and classes. Our ever-growing school music program, under the guidance and direction of Ian Flint, Glen Wallace, Sarah Wolff and Christy Maynard, has provided multiple unique flexible learning opportunities for our students, and has treated the school and local community to some stellar music performances. 

Elementary School Winter Concert at BFA Fairfax

In early December, thirteen BFA Fairfax students attended the Vermont Music Educators Association Day of Percussion, and approximately thirty students auditioned for the High School District Music Festival. Our student musicians were also treated to a performance of Handel’s Messiah on December 8th at the Barre Opera House, which for many was the first time hearing this historical, powerful, and widely known piece with a full ensemble.

Students participating in hand drumming activity at Vermont Music Educators Association Day of Percussion
Christy Maynard and students at Barre Opera House for Handel’s Messiah performance by the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra

The week of December 9 served as K-12 winter concert week, with unbelievable performances for standing-room-only crowds in the Richard Brown Gymnasium.  On Friday the 13th, BFA Chamber Singers attended the Vermont American Choral Directors Association Madrigal Festival, where they performed two pieces as an individual ensemble, and performed three combined pieces with schools from around the state. 

Upcoming events include a performance for Elementary students highlighting the 5th grade band on Monday, December 16th. This will take place in the Richard Brown (HS) Gymnasium at 2pm. All are welcome to attend. The month of January will bring All State auditions, as well as the District 1 Music Festival.

BFA Fairfax Pep Band morning rehearsal

As you can see, music is alive and well at BFA Fairfax.  If you have had the pleasure of attending any of the previous performances, you certainly can attest to the amazing talent possessed by our students and staff. Thank you to the Fairfax school and local community for supporting continued unique opportunities for our students! Happy Holidays!

Upcoming Music Program Activities:

  • December 16: 5th Grade Band Performance
  • January 18th:  All State Auditions
  • January 30 and 31:  District Festival rehearsal and performance
  • Elementary Choral Festival
  • All State Performance
  • Adjudication festivals

Geri Witalec-Krupa is an Athletic Director/Assistant Principal at BFA Fairfax is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her @GLWit

THE FWSU STORY: BFA Fairfax High School Field Team Transects Franklin County

The new BFA Fairfax High School end of year Mini-mester has enabled Science Teachers Thomas Lane and Thomas Pfeiffer to engage students in a unique field experience. Nearly 20 students and teachers Lane and Pfeiffer are currently transecting Franklin County from east to west.

(Map of Transect Franklin County Field Team route.)
(Map of Transect Franklin County Field Team route.)

This field assessment has not been done by anyone in this manner before.

(Field Team at the start of Day 1.)
(Field Team at the start of Day 1.)

The students and teachers are collecting baseline data to establish existing aspects of the environment and hopefully monitor change in the future.

(Moving through a beaver dam in the first minutes of Day 1. Wesley in the foreground.)
(Moving through a beaver dam in the first minutes of Day 1. Wesley in the foreground.)

(Left to right Jackson, Sky, Jaxon and Michael at Branch Creek near the eastern edge of Franklin County southeast of Bakersfield, VT.)
(Left to right Jackson, Sky, Jaxon and Michael at Branch Creek near the eastern edge of Franklin County southeast of Bakersfield, VT.)

(Eastern boundary of Franklin County southeast of Bakersfield, VT.)
(Eastern boundary of Franklin County southeast of Bakersfield, VT.)

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(Left to right, Eli, Shane, Luke, Devyn collecting data during transect.)

Students and teachers stopped to collect data using observation and Vernier sensors every 15 minutes during the transect. Types of data include; air temperature, humidity, soil moisture and type, numbers and types of birds, animal presence, human presence (current and historic), land use, reptiles and amphibians, tick numbers, tree types and background sound level.

(Small frog. Picture courtesy of Shane Seals.)
(Small frog. Picture courtesy of Shane Seals.)

(Harry with a snake. Picture courtesy of Shane Seals.)
(Harry with a snake. Picture courtesy of Shane Seals.)

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(Moving through a horse pasture near S. Rd. and Buck Hollow Rd.)

(Lucky to find a beaver dam to cross Dead Creek in the middle of Fairfield swamp.)
(Lucky to find a beaver dam to cross Dead Creek in the middle of Fairfield swamp.)

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(Ethan in the dense thickets of Fairfield swamp.)

(Collecting data and having lunch at Black Creek south of E. Fairfield, VT.)
(Collecting data and having lunch at Black Creek south of E. Fairfield, VT.)

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(Sky with red eft.)

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(Michael and Tyler in front stepping carefully across a manured field off Whitney Rd. E. Fairfield.)

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(Ethan uses his backpack to keep Tyler from being zapped by an electrified fence east of Swamp Rd. Fairfax, VT.)

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(Moving through steep terrain somewhere south of Fairfield, VT.)

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(Start of day 4 the BFA Field Team transecting Franklin County.)

The Field Team is on track to reach Lake Champlain by Thursday afternoon to complete the Franklin County transect. A huge thank you to FWSU Transportation Manager Patsy Parker and all of the Bus Drivers at BFA Fairfax for coordinating the drop-off and pickups on a daily basis.

THE FWSU STORY: Running Club, Mini-Marathon Promote Health and Fun for Fletcher Students

It may have been called the Mini-Marathon, but the efforts of 24 Fletcher Elementary School athletes were anything but small Saturday. The kindergarten through sixth-grade students donned blue t-shirts sporting the school’s falcon logo and the words imagine, believe, and achieve, as they ran half-mile, mile, and two-mile courses on Burlington’s Waterfront.

Fletcher Running Club

“Just being outside and seeing how fast you can run is the best part,” fourth-grader Eli Tinker, who finished the two-mile course in 15 minutes 51 seconds, said. “It’s competitive and I feel unstoppable when I’m running.”

Eli Tinker raced alongside his older brother, sixth grader Jack Tinker, who finished the two miles in 14 minutes 40 seconds and placed 15th in his overall age category. The competition includes 4 to 14-year-old participants from Vermont and out-of-state.

“It felt longer than it was,” Jack Tinker said. “I just kept telling myself to try my hardest, have a good time and do my best. I am really proud when I run.”

Fletcher Running Club

This year’s Mini-Marathon was the 18th annual youth running event offered by RunVermont, the group that also coordinates the Vermont City Marathon, as well as a variety of health and fitness events each year. The Mini-Marathon marked the culmination of Fletcher’s school-based Running Club, during which many students spent about 20 minutes every Monday and Friday for several weeks in the spring running or walking on the school fields. The effort was led by kindergarten teacher Jenny Blackman and parent volunteers Carey Gillilan and Jensen Welch.

According to Blackman, the idea for a school-based running program was the brainchild of Fletcher parent Elizabeth Sargent and herself seven years ago, as they chaperoned a whole-school field trip to the Smuggler’s Notch Water Park.

Fletcher Running Club

“We were standing guard in the wading pool talking,” Blackman recalled. “We wanted something that the entire school could join, and we wanted to promote running as a fun sport that’s easy to start. Our school fields offered the perfect place to run. It’s just about one mile to go all the way around.”

And just like that, Fletcher’s Running club was born. It wasn’t until a few years later that students would begin attending Burlington’s Mini-Marathon as a culminating event.

“I love the Running Club,” parent Kayla Wright said. “I look forward to my boys coming home and telling me how many laps they did.” I can barely get anything out of them about how their days at school are, but when they have Running Club they can’t wait to tell me about it.”Fletcher Running Club

“Running Club is a good way to get some exercise and be outside with friends,” Gillilan said. “It’s a good way to make friends. You’re not doing this alone. We do this as a group, our school family. It brings an awareness to those who want to exercise and just don’t know how to go about it. We are all getting outside, teachers and students. You don’t have to run in the race. As long as you’re moving, you’re awesome.”

Blackman agrees that both the social and exercise components of Running Club are important “Even in rural areas like ours, many students do not get outdoors much. We are showing them how much fun an activity like running can be. We have all grades from preschool to grade six running and visiting together,” she said.RC8

The Mini-Marathon had all the trimmings of the larger, adult event. Students registered and received their bib, complete with participant number and name. While many children sported shirts representing their individual schools or organizations, each also received the official marathon shirt. Upon completion, participants received a medal.

“The Mini-Marathon is a great experience because tons of kids from other schools come out and you meet other kids,” Gillilan said. “You also get a sense of achievement when you cross the finish line and realize all of your hard work. You receive a medal and your finish time that you worked so hard for and earned. That experience is just awesome.”

“There is nothing better than seeing your child be active just for fun,” Wright said. “This event is something we look forward to every year.”

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According to third-grader Cody Savage, his initial nervousness of running in the marathon quickly passed. “I felt a little scared at first but that quickly changed to feeling like I achieved something great when I finished,” Savage said. “I just put my mind and body to work and pulled through.”

Classmate Serein Marcotte agreed. “I was really excited to run both at school and at the marathon,” he said. “Exercising so that you can get stronger is really important. I also learned that I can do anything that I work hard at and believe that I can do.”

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Fletcher Running Club participants met Champ!

Blackman, who will retire next month after nearly 30 years of teaching, says that helping to start Running Club is one of the accomplishments she is most proud of in her career.

“I have seen that getting exercise and being outdoors is becoming more and more of a challenge for all ages,” she said. “People are so busy, and we have many electronic distractions that keep us sitting indoors. Running is the perfect solution. Being alongside friends, adult staff, and volunteers makes it even more fun. Perhaps many of our students will continue to run and exercise throughout their lives. I hope we all do.”


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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

THE FWSU STORY: Promoting School Inclusion Through Unified Sports

This spring BFA Fairfax started a Unified Sports Bocce team. The team is practicing and learning the fundamentals and strategies of the sport.

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The Unified Bocce Team at BFA Fairfax

The team will participate in the spring Unified Champion Schools Bocce Tournament in June.  They will compete against many other community Special Olympics Unified Sports Bocce Teams.

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In Unified Sports, teams are made up of people of similar age and ability which makes practices more fun and games more challenging and exciting.

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Unified Sports builds friendships, promotes social inclusion, and empowers individuals with and without intellectual disabilities.

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BFA Fairfax has partnered with the Special Olympics to provide this opportunity for students in grades 4 through 6. Unified Sports has positive impacts throughout the school. This allows for meaningful participation opportunities for students and increases social inclusion.

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Thank you to the coaches, Cindy Anderson and Paula Thompson. Their effort and dedication to supporting all student-athletes have made this program possible.

Bocce Coaches Paula Thompson and Cindy Anderson
Bocce Coaches Paula Thompson and Cindy Anderson

THE FWSU STORY: GEMS Spanish Class Explores Artistic Expression at Dartmouth College

The students in the Advanced Spanish class at Georgia Elementary Middle School recently took a field trip to Dartmouth College. The students toured the basement of the Baker-Berry Library where a famous mural is tucked away.

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GEMS Advanced Spanish Class

This 24-panel mural is a “fresco” style piece of art entitled The Epic of American Civilization. It covers 3,200 feet and explores the history of the Americas through the lens of artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

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An Orozco mural displayed at Dartmouth

Students participated in a workshop which involved careful observation, interpretation, drawing and presenting their ideas about the different pieces of the mural. Orozco took two years to paint this mural, and the students decoded most of it in two hours – no easy challenge! This opportunity was rare and students were able to use their knowledge of culture, history, art, religion and Spanish to aid in interpreting the murals.

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Students explored artistic expression and interpretation.

“I enjoyed seeing the murals. They are unique.”  – Tanisha G

“I was challenged by trying to understand what the art meant.” –  Jacob H 

“I enjoyed the bus ride and the facts behind each art piece.  I learned more about the past from them.”  – Taylor R

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Another large fresco mural featured in the Baker-Berry Library at Dartmouth

“I learned more about the type of painting he used (fresco).” – Sydney L

“I enjoyed eating lunch in the middle of the college.”  – Tallon S

“I learned that Orozco cared about the future.”  – Andrew Y

THE FWSU STORY: Fletcher Celebrates World Read-Aloud Day

Students at the Fletcher Elementary School recently celebrated the joys of reading by participating in World Read Aloud Day (WRAD). Established by LitWorld International, WRAD is an event that celebrates people across the globe reading and sharing books together while advocating for literacy for all.

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World Read Aloud Day is a celebration of literacy in many forms: reading books aloud, favorite books and book characters, celebrating authors and illustrators, and connecting with readers around the world.

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In Fletcher, several classrooms hosted celebrity readers who shared a cherished book to read aloud. Mr. Dodge, Mrs. Locke, Mrs. Steves, and a Fletcher parent were among the special guest readers who shared in the celebration of great books!

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To help promote World Read Aloud Day, a whole group of book authors offered free virtual visits with schools. Fletcher 6th graders visited with the amazing author, Casey Lyall, who connected with them from her home in Canada. Ms. Lyall read to the students from her books and engaged in an engaging question and answer session with the students.

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Another wonderful connection took place when several classes visited with Pennsylvania children’s book author, Mara Rockliff, who talked with students via a web connection. These author visits were incredible opportunities for students to engage with a professional author and share World Read Aloud Day globally.

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In library-based art classes, all students listened to a read-aloud book and created a picture of their favorite book character. The characters became the focus of a library bulletin board where they are bounding out of a giant book! World Read Aloud Day was a great time for enjoying and sharing the love of reading for our students.

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Emily DiGiulio is the Library Media and Technology Specialist at Fletcher Elementary School. Follow her on Twitter @Librologist .