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 .

THE FWSU STORY: Ultimate Achieves Varsity Status at BFA Fairfax

If you’ve never heard the terms cut, layout, flick, hammer, huck, flow, or pull in relation to a spring sport, that is soon about to change.

Ultimate BFA Fairfax Team Logo

Ultimate BFA Fairfax Team Logo

These terms are commonplace in describing various skills in the world of ultimate (formerly known as ultimate frisbee), which is set to become BFA Fairfax’s newest varsity sport during the 2018-19 school year. The Fairfax School Board voted at their January meeting to add the sport which, according to the Wall Street Journal “combines speed, grace, and powerful hurling at a grueling pace.”  

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Students competing in Ultimate at BFA Fairfax.

In November 2017, the Vermont Principals Association unanimously approved ultimate as a varsity sport, making Vermont the first state in the nation to do so. Although it will be Fairfax’s newest offering in the school’s lineup of Varsity sports, ultimate is by no means new to the BFA Fairfax school community. BFA has fielded both boys and girls club teams for over a decade, garnering multiple Vermont state championships, as well as a girl’s national ranking in 2016.  Over the years, ultimate has possessed some of the highest participation numbers of any co-curricular offering at BFA Fairfax, and the decision to attain full varsity status should only serve to maintain, if not boost those numbers.  

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Ultimate at BFA Fairfax

What is ultimate?  As a basic description, ultimate is played by teams of seven on a slightly smaller field than a football field.  Teams score by passing a disc down the field with the intent of one of their own players catching it in the end zone.  If the disc is dropped, possession goes to the other team.  What makes ultimate unique is that it is non-contact, and officiated by the players themselves, even at the World Championship level.  Responsibility for fair play is on the players, which is a valuable life skill unique to this exciting new sport.  

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Ultimate Game at BFA Fairfax

The spring of 2018 will be as busy as ever for our ultimate club at BFA Fairfax.  However, this final spring as a club will surely be one of increased excitement as our teams gear up to don BFA Fairfax maroon and white as our school’s newest varsity sport in 2019!

THE FWSU STORY: Meet Cathy O’Brien, Fletcher’s Wellness Rockstar!

Note: In late 2017, Fletcher Elementary’s STEM Teacher Leader, Denette Locke, recognized Fletcher Kindergarten Teacher, Cathy O’Brien’s, journey to wellness with a nomination for the “Wellness Rockstar” designation from the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust (VSBIT). Below is the profile VSBIT created to recognize Mrs. O’Brien’s inspirational story. 

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Fletcher Elementary Kindergarten Teacher, Cathy O’Brien was recently recognized as a Wellness Rockstar by Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust.

“Catherine O’Brien exemplifies the definition of wellness and is a rock star extraordinaire,” said Denette Locke, one of her colleagues in the Fletcher School classroom on the day we visited. “She is a powerful role model who has demonstrated how valuable making good choices and taking care of one’s health can truly be.”

O’Brien has been an integral part of the educational community for the past 24 years and in the classroom, she instills an environment for learning for all,” said Locke. “She engages her students in practicing mindfulness activities, yoga and a variety of other fitness routines to help them succeed socially, emotionally and academically.”

Ms. O'Brien regularly incorporates physical movement into the classroom.

Ms. O’Brien regularly incorporates physical movement into the classroom.

“I do lots of (physical) exercises in school with my students because I know it helps their brains,” said O’Brien. “And as a result, several parents are supporting more movement for their children. “

O’Brien has served in various capacities, first as a kindergarten teacher, then as a first and second-grade teacher, and this year she is working with kindergarten students once again.

“There was never any question about my career, “O’Brien said as she laughed. “I knew I was destined to be a teacher because I’m surrounded by family members who are teachers.”

At three years of age, O’Brien received a diagnosis of Type I Diabetes.  “Though in my youth, I ate what I wanted. I now focus on eating foods low in fat … and have become quite invested in fitness.  For a long time I had put myself on the back burner and was not taking care of myself,” she said.  “Eventually, I recognized that had to change because, as a diabetic, I need regular exercise to regulate my blood sugar.”

Her foray into fitness began with a Jazzercise class.

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Cathy enjoys various forms of exercise including Pilates.

“I was extremely apprehensive about group exercise classes,” she said, reminiscing. “Now, I love them and am a big part of the Peace of Mind Pilates Studio in Essex that one of my good friends owns.  I clean the studio and teach some of the classes. Three to five times a week I participate in Pilates, Barre, TRX, and yoga.”

In the warmer months, you might find O’Brien on a paddleboard practicing yoga poses or standing on her head. “I like being upside down,” she said.

O’Brien is anything but upside down most of the time. She’s moving throughout her classroom and is available to serve as a resource for staff seeking guidance about improving their fitness and reducing their stress. She also coordinates the annual staff wellness initiative at Fletcher.

As a Wellness Rockstar, Cathy O’Brien is a role model for staff and students alike!

Congratulations to Cathy O'Brien, Wellness Rockstar!

Cathy O’Brien is a positive role model for her students and colleagues. 

Congratulations, Cathy!