Community Based Learning in Vermont: What’s going on?

4 lessons from a recent gathering

community based learningOn Friday, March 11, more than 50 participants from public and private schools, community education partners, and higher education from Vermont and the surrounding region gathered for a Community Based Learning workday, put on by Big Picture Learning, Eagle Rock School, Big Picture South Burlington, and Partnership for Change. This day of speakers, working sessions, and roundtable discussions brought together educators from different settings to “explore the possibilities, challenges, and resources of community-based learning in Vermont.”

A few folks from the Tarrant Institute were in attendance, and in this post we present 4 lessons about community-based learning in Vermont, gathered from the formal and informal discussions throughout the day. Continue reading

The Floating Classroom

by Dayna McRoberts

lying_on_a_dockThe Community Sailing Center (CSC) in Burlington has developed a multi-age, year-round environmental curriculum that works in conjunction with local schools to teach the opportunistic, seasonal lessons provided by Burlington’s landscape. Floating Classrooms engages students with their environment through ecology, science, and a medium the CSC holds dear: sailing.

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Celebrating learning at Richmond Elementary School

4th grade researchers share Capstone Projects with community

celebrating learning at Richmond Elementary SchoolThis past Wednesday, 4th grade scholars at Richmond Elementary School, in Richmond, Vermont, shared the results of their research with their families and community. They opened the doors of their school to family and friends for Celebrating Learning at Richmond Elementary School.

I had a chance to attend the event and spoke with some of the students about their research work.

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What does Minecraft look like in a school?

Crafting Pickaxes, swords and social skills

how teachers use MinecraftSince its release in 2009, Minecraft has made its way into 60 million homes worldwide and has become the best-selling PC game of all time. The game can now be played on multiple platforms, including XBox, Playstation, and most smart phones and tablets. There are Youtube videos with literally millions of views of people playing Minecraft while providing their own commentary. Shoppers can now purchase Lego sets, T-shirts, keychains, books, foam pickaxes, costumes, and so much more. For educators, it’s becoming nearly impossible to make it through a day without hearing children talk about Minecraft.

So how can teachers use Minecraft in the classroom?

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Sugaring, STEM, and community connections

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonEarly spring is sugaring season in Vermont. We produce the lion’s share of the domestic output of maple syrup, and we’re pretty proud of it. The process of tapping trees, collecting sap, and boiling it down has many connections to STEM education. The students and teachers of the Edge team at Essex Middle School built their own sugar house a few years ago, and now part of their curriculum is to make syrup while the sap flows. Math teacher Phil Young has integrated the process into his curriculum, and students use technology to support their work. Today, with Phil’s permission, I’d like to share some of those activities, and also consider how this is a different dimension to what it means to have connections to the community. Continue reading

Find an authentic audience for public service announcements

Help your students’ PSAs find their public

find an authentic audience for public service announcementsStudent-made PSAs are a great way for students to engage in project-based learning with real-world impact. Especially if they join up with community partners to tackle local issues.

But once the PSAs get made, how can you help them find an authentic audience?

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Personalized STEM learning at Essex High School

New podcast episode: Essex STEM Academy

student-guided stem learningIn this episode, we talk with math educator and STEM Academy leader Lea Ann Smith about Essex High School’s STEM Academy and take a look inside a program that lets students pursue projects in medicine, engineering, computer science, mathematics or biology — by working with community partners during the school day.

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In support of Community Partnerships in STEM

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonHere in Vermont we’re lucky to have a strong sense of community spirit. Co-ops, partnerships, collectives; these concepts run through many different parts of our lives. We also happen to live in a state with a rich and developing science and technology start-up scene. These two parts of our culture can combine to grow partnerships between schools, teachers, students, and businesses. These partnerships can result in rich and authentic learning experiences, where all the parties involved benefit. Continue reading

Wild City @ The Edge: 2 years strong and counting

We’ve been honored to partner with The Edge Academy at Essex Middle School, and a huge reason why is their compelling Wild City Project. In cooperation with the Vermont Audubon Society, the UVM Rubenstein School and other naturalists from around the state, student scientists at The Edge have been studying the fauna surrounding their school in suburban Vermont for two full years. They’ve used night cameras, GPS units and ArcGIS to film, track and study fisher cats, red foxes, wild-breasted nuthatches, coyotes, and many more.

This past March, they invited us out to Essex to present the results of the second year of the Wild City Project.

 

We are so grateful to everyone at The Edge for inviting us to be a part of their journey. Great work, guys!

Students and facilitators from The Edge team will be presenting at this year’s Dynamic Landscapes conference in Burlington, on Engagement to Empowerment: Students at the Center of Change.