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.

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.

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.

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.

The FWSU Story: BFA Elementary Students Spend Time With Therapy Dog, Jazz

Earlier this fall, I was contacted by a community member who was interested in spending some time in our elementary school with her therapy dog, Jazz. Jazz is a black Labrador Retriever that has been certified as a therapy dog through Therapy Dogs of Vermont. I was immediately intrigued by this opportunity, not only as a dog lover, but as a school administrator trying to integrate effective ways to support all students.

“I like reading to Jazz because it is fun.”

After an initial inquiry, I quickly received commitments from ten teachers that were excited about this opportunity and willing to participate. After an orientation with students and staff, we settled into a consistent weekly routine.

“Jazz puts a smile on our face.”

Jazz and her handler Margo Rome spend a half an hour in the classroom making connections with students while they learn and engage in activities. Jazz and Margo often listen while students practice their reading or they participate in Morning Meeting with the entire class. Jazz loves the attention and often lays on her back for belly scratches. Jazz is now a celebrity in our elementary school and is greeted and petted by all as she walks down the hallways.  

“Jazz is quiet and calm while we read and she keeps us calm and quiet.”

Research has shown that therapy dogs positively affect our brain chemistry, reducing the stress hormone cortisol while increasing the hormone oxytocin that helps us feel regulated and comfortable. Interactions with dogs have also been found to lower blood pressure and heart rate, leading to a more calm learning environment.  

“We love reading with Jazz.”

Our students and staff share that having Jazz and Margo spending time in classrooms has been a positive experience and look forward to their time with Jazz and Margo each week. This resource is another way we can support students that have experienced trauma or that benefit from the opportunity to engage in mindfulness and regulation activities. I encourage you to explore having a therapy dog in your school through Therapy Dogs of Vermont at  therapydogs.org.  Our school has greatly benefited from participating in this experience.

“I like reading with Jazz because she was listening to me.”

Thomas Walsh is currently Principal of BFA Fairfax Elementary School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him on Twitter @educatamount