Reconnecting

I write this blog sitting at my 4 year old’s soccer practice. Is she here for soccer skills and to be the next Megan Rapinoe or Mia Hamm? 

Nope, not even for one second. It’s about the connection. 

She’s here because of the joy of being around others. The fun, the high energy, and most importantly the social connection with her peers.  She’s lucky. We have daycare and she has been able to connect with a group of friends daily. My high schoolers though, have not. And we are concerned.

Many parents have emailed and called to voice concerns about their child’s social and emotional well-being. Many students spent last school year completely remote or only connecting with others two days a week. Then, summer came and if they didn’t work they sat at home on their devices or glued to the television. I’m not knocking the value of decompressing, we all need that time. It’s imperative to our health.  However, when this becomes the norm for our students we should be concerned. How do we acknowledge and support the mental and social health of our young adults? How to we get out them out of the house and engaged with others?

With this in mind, we started the first day of school with a co-curricular fair. Grades 9-12 students spent time meeting the student leaders of approximately 40 co-curricular groups offered at BFA. 

The very clear message:

We want you and you belong!

Well documented research shows us that students who participate in co-curriculars are more likely to attend school, achieve better academic scores, have higher levels of self concept and self worth, and increase their capacity to demonstrate resilience and problem solving skills.

Today, we offered time for all clubs to meet and for students to select wellness activities such as fishing, meditation,  nature walks, writing, and pick-up sports. 

How can you help your student make connections? 

-Ask your student what they did and what else they would like to have access to.  

-Support your student to create connections at school and in the evenings. 

-Encourage them to join a cocurricular or create a club that does not exist. All they need is an advisor. 

We are here to support your student and help them reengage with their peers. We want them to be joyful and take advantage of the opportunities BFA- Fairfax has to offer. 

We want them to be connected.

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

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

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

Bringing Choice and Connection to GEMS Middle School

This year, the Middle School at GEMS is starting a new initiative to increase opportunities to build relationships and connections during our lunch and wellness time. Each week, students will have choices for their recess or wellness with supervised activities like the walking path, team games, yoga, or dance. Then lunchtimes for groups and clubs to play and explore together just like Art Club, Technology Club, Student Council, and board games. Students will still have the option to choose a traditional cafeteria lunch and open recess in their choices. 

How does this work? Each Wednesday, students will have a menu of options to choose from for the following week. Students will select their preferred choices and opportunities to explore the following week. These groups are fluid so they can try different options each week.

This also enables us to reduce the size of students that are eating together which will hopefully help us stay safe and healthy.  Most clubs will meet in classrooms with groups far less than a normal classroom size.

We are excited about bringing more options to our students and see how they connect with others and find new interests and opportunities to explore! 


This blog was written by:

Julie Conrad is currently Principal of Georgia Middle School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @JulieConradVT

The Art of Science at GEMS

Recently at Georgia Elementary & Middle School, puppeteer and GEMS alumni Sarah Frechette, along with artist Jason Thibodeaux conducted an artist-in-residency with 3rd & 4th graders.

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Sarah and Jason showed the students how to use light to manipulate depth and space by combining hand-cut shadow puppets with flashlights. This is a modern technique that creates a style of shadow that flows like film and brings practical application to the students studies on light.

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In just one week the 6 classes were introduced to their visual storyboard stories, cut unique hand-drawn illustrations into shadow puppets, rigged the puppets using rods and foam, added colorful acetate to their designs, and held a rehearsal in the classrooms.

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On the last day of the residency titled Shadows Rock 2016: Shadow Showdown the students presented their final shadow puppet shows in the GEMS small gym. As the shadows shape shifted across the shadow screen GEMS 1st-4th graders watched stories covering such topics as Practice Makes Perfect, Shadows & Light, Life Cycles, Vermont Business & Industry, Me on the Map, and Famous Vermonters!

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Combining science, math, history and ideas of working hard & friendship into the show give the shadows a purpose and allow the students to share what they have been learning in the classroom this year.

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Sarah Frechette travels around the U.S and the world with her original puppets and shows (www.puppetkabob.com). Jason Thibodeaux just finished painting puppets at the stop-motion animation studio LAIKA for the feature films Coraline, ParaNorman, Box Trolls and Kubo.


Target 1: Personalized Learning involving collaborative inquiry, problem solving and creative learning opportunities.

Action Step:  Students participate in learning opportunities that promote collaborative inquiry, problem solving, and creativity for students.

BFA Elementary Drama Club Engages A Packed House in “The Reluctant Dragon”

The BFA Fairfax Elementary Drama program performed The Reluctant Dragon for a standing-room-only crowd on Thursday afternoon and evening.

Our drama program continues to grow year after year. This year approximately thirty-five students participated in this production. Many thanks to all the adults that supported this fantastic learning opportunity for our students. The arts are alive and prospering at BFA Fairfax.  Thank you for your continued support!

BFA Fairfax Launches Ultimate Personalized Learning Opportunity: Tague’s Scoop Shoppe

Today BFA High School Principal John Tague opened up his brand-new Scoop Shoppe to many hungry customers…even though it was a bit of a(n April Fool’s) surprise to him. There are many inventive ice cream flavors to try!

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Tague’s Scoop Shoppe provides window service to its customers! Payment is then made to Carol Stanley at the next window (follow the “ice cream music!”).

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This newest personalized learning opportunity was especially popular among High School seniors. When asked about the Scoop Shoppe, they responded:

“I’ve been complaining to Mr. Tague for four weeks that we haven’t had any ice cream, and that flavors such as “Murray Maple” should be a part of every student’s diet.  The fact that he listened to us and made a change is heartwarming.  I’m going to go home and tell my mom that I made a difference!”  ~Chris P

“Even in the U.S. Constitution it states that ice cream is a right.  The fact that we waited so long has been a travesty; an atrocity.  We have righted this wrong, and now I can sleep at night.”  ~Seamus R

Pi Night a Success at BFA!

bfapi1On Monday night, the BFA Fairfax Elementary School community came together to celebrate numeracy during Pi Night.

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Over forty families attended this annual event where they engaged in math games, puzzles, block building, STEM, measurement, and estimation activities.

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Of course they also learned how Pi and pie are related to circles! Everyone sat together and enjoyed pizza and each family brought their favorite pie to share for dessert.

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Pi Night was supported by the BFA Elementary Math Department with teachers and para-educators planning and supporting the math stations.

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Every family that participated left with a grab bag of math goodies. What a fabulous community event!

 

BFA HS Students Experience the Power of Communication

Students in Sara Villeneuve’s Public Speaking class at BFA spent the day learning from professionals who use their voice to earn a living. The students traveled to Burlington to visit TV station WCAX and radio station Planet 96.7.

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Students were able learn about careers in broadcasting and journalism. They witnessed radio personnel on the air, met television studio personnel and watched a live news broadcast.

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It was cool to see how they go through their day and how they do their job as well as the types of public speaking opportunities there are” -Senior Chris Pendris

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“I was surprised that Channel Three was not like you see on TV. It was professional looking, but it’s really just in a warehouse” -Senior Alisha Lawrence

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“It was cool to see how they got the radio broadcast on air. I always thought that there would be records and turntables, but everything is prerecorded. The only thing they do live is the commercials” Senior Nick Hill

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“It was really fun to discover everything. The experience was just awesome!” -Senior Katie Badger

The trip was a great opportunity to connect with community partners who focus on communication skills and the use of effective voice. Teachers at BFA and throughout FWSU are focusing on developing ways for students to demonstrate proficiency in Clear and Effective Communication. Students will utilize their new knowledge to create radio broadcasts and infomercials. The infomercials will be filmed at LCATV later this semester.