Who let the dogs in?
For some students, being ready to learn when they arrive at school is a big ask, and more than a few carry trauma or mental health burdens through their day. And that’s why more and more, schools in Vermont are adding therapy dogs to their staffing rosters.
And they’re seeing some pretty pawsitive benefits to the arrangement.
The transformation of Team Quest
Educators never feel like they have enough time to do all the things they want to do with students. But for Team Quest at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Vermont, the constraints of traditional subject area, schedule and process had become unbearable. So this two-person grade 5-6 team decided to opt for radical transformation.
They changed the who, what, and when of their teaching.
And. They. Love it. Continue reading
Launching a new project cycle with inspiration from the last one
Organizing your realia — testimonials, storytelling and artifacts — from a round of projects can feel overwhelming. So much footage! So many interviews! So many ideas!
Resist the freakout: here’s a recipe for pulling your footage together to inspire a new cycle of learning with lessons from the previous rounds.
A tale of research-driven change
Last year two educators at Crossett Brook Middle School undertook an amazing action research project that directly improved their interactions with students.
Mollie Burke-Bendzunas, speech pathologist, and Melanie Zima, special educator, took a three-day class together during the summer. The class focused on structured teaching as a strategy for working with highly autistic students. Mollie and Melanie thought that it could be applied more broadly to address a wide range of student needs.
A new recipe for Personalized Learning Plans
Rather than trying to get students to care about existing PLPs, some schools are revamping their PLP process to start with what students care about. They are asking students to pursue their passions by crafting projects based on their personal interests and deepest curiosities.
The new recipe that is emerging: start with a cool personalized project and then build the PLP around it.
How did an 8th grader turn his passion project into a summer job?
I found Connor in the tech ed room during the first session of Brainado, a school-wide Genius Hour at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, Vermont.
He was taking apart a lawn mower. When asked why, he shrugged and mumbled something about how another student might need an engine part for their project. His Brainado project was undefined. He didn’t seem to have much of a plan other than tinkering.
Fast-forward four months and Connor is getting paid to work part-time at the Waterbury Service Center garage. He knows his way around the shop, has learned about persistence and problem-solving, and gleaned plenty of life lessons from Albert Caron, the owner and lead mechanic. But how did Connor get from Point A to Point B?
One way to make sure PLPs are student-driven: hand them the keys
At the end of last school year, the PLP Student Leadership Team at Crossett Brook Middle School presented to staff their recommendations for the future of PLPs at the school. And the staff unanimously supported all of the recommendations.
But it’s one thing to come up with a bunch of great ideas. It’s another thing to make sure they happen. For this group of students, follow through was not a problem. They met during the summer to keep the momentum going, convened daily during the first few weeks of school, then rolled out the new PLP process to their peers.
Making as evidence of transferable skills around Vermont
During the past year, EMMA has visited schools around Vermont to fuel the conversation about maker-centered learning.
As we reflected on each of EMMA’s visits, we continually noticed that maker centered learning provided evidence of students applying cross-disciplinary transferable skills.
Seeing failure as iteration
A trio of students at Crossett Brook Middle School, in Duxbury VT, have spent the past two years building a go-cart. When their first cart snapped in half on its maiden voyage, the students took that incident as a challenge, and the next year, they figured out what had gone wrong, and better yet, what would make it go right.
And the results have to be seen to be believed.
The #everydaycourage of being seen
Take the iconic back-to-school prompt for students — what I did on my summer vacation — and give it a twist. Imagine how students might respond to the prompt What I think my teacher did on summer vacation.
A lot of us wish other folks knew how hard we work during summer: the workshops, the team planning time, the reflection, the resource-gathering. So a lot of us should share out all the work we’re doing.
Let’s look at four ways Vermont educators are sharing their practice.