Student-centered personalized learning starts with identity

“Be yourself; everyone else is taken.” That. Quote. Drives. Me. Nuts. I mean, duh!  And of course! And who else am I gonna be?!  [Also it makes the librarian in me nuts because it is often attributed to Oscar Wilde, but there is no evidence he ever said it. Additionally, he doesn’t seem to have … Continue reading Student-centered personalized learning starts with identity

Art for Action at Rutland Middle School

Art for social change? How do you engage students in an exploration of the ways that art impacts social change? Sounds challenging. Right?!  But the teachers at Rutland Middle School decided to tackle the task anyway. Through this exploration, students learned more about the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, visited local murals in their … Continue reading Art for Action at Rutland Middle School

Launching toward engagement: integrated units at Miller’s Run

WHOOSH! Imagine rows of students using medieval replicas of catapults and trebuchets to hurl objects across an open field. An energetic celebration of the outcomes of researching, designing, and modeling applications of statistics and probability. This is the experience of fifth, sixth, seventh, and eight graders at Miller’s Run School in Kingdom East School District. … Continue reading Launching toward engagement: integrated units at Miller’s Run

On Fostering Brave Spaces

  Audio only Resources Slides from “Fostering Brave Spaces” Annotated Transcript Hello, my name is Grace Gilmour. I’m a seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher. And today I’m going to be talking about: “How do we foster brave spaces for discussions about race and other forms of oppression in our classrooms?” In the fall … Continue reading On Fostering Brave Spaces

Voices Heard: learning from our students

 In the past few months, we’ve been meeting with groups of students from six Vermont schools, asking them about their experience this year. What might next year look like if they had a say? Inspired by the Imagining September Project –the MIT Teaching Systems Lab  & Harvard’s Graduate School of Education that gathers student input … Continue reading Voices Heard: learning from our students

SEL and mindfulness with the Learning Lab

Drew Kutcher, an art teacher in her first year teaching at Proctor High School has built Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and mindfulness into her practice. She recognized early on that her 7th grade students were struggling with the transition into the high school. They could benefit with her guidance ways to find calm and stay centered … Continue reading SEL and mindfulness with the Learning Lab

Increasing Student Self-Direction

“Increasing Student Self-Direction” was a webinar presented by Rachel Mark as part of the 2020-2021 UVM Tarrant Institute Professional Learning Series. We present it here in its entirety. You can either watch the webinar recording, listen to an audio version, or read the annotated transcript. Follow-up questions about self-direction in your classroom? Email rbmarkvt@gmail.com.   … Continue reading Increasing Student Self-Direction

The successful, sustainable middle school

Middle school students are ever-changing, curious, socially and globally aware, and incredibly capable. Their energy and urge to explore can be channeled into rich and fertile learning territory. It’s such a privilege to walk alongside them as they grow during these often tumultuous years. Folks often say it takes a special kind of person to … Continue reading The successful, sustainable middle school

Culturally Responsive Instruction and Assessment

At their heart, Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP) are about teaching the way students learn. It is an unfortunate truth of being human that we are biased by our own experiences. As Mahzarin Banaji, a professor of social ethics at Harvard University says, “The quickest way to define what implicit bias is [is] to say it … Continue reading Culturally Responsive Instruction and Assessment

From the innovativeEd mailbag: Sustainably Yours

This week, something new for us: a letter from our mailbag. While we aim to help everyone on a regular basis, it’s always exciting to hear directly from our readers. In this case, we try to provide a little context-setting for a reader who goes by the handle, “Sustainably Yours”.   “Dear InnovativeEd, I’ve been … Continue reading From the innovativeEd mailbag: Sustainably Yours

Culturally Responsive Curriculum by design

If you want to know what an organization prioritizes, examine its budget. If you want to know what educators care about, look at their curriculum. Curriculum is perhaps the most concrete representation of educational values. Students’ day-to-day experiences are rooted in their direct engagement with this bundle of lesson plans, materials, and assignments. We package … Continue reading Culturally Responsive Curriculum by design

Challenging Simplified Notions of Health Equity in the Middle Grades

Lindsay McQueen, a middle school science educator at Edmunds Middle School, in Burlington VT, originally presented “Challenging Simplified Notions About Health Equity in the Middle Grades” in January 2021. She presented it as part of the 2021 Middle Grades Conference at the University of Vermont. Below please find a video recording of the workshop, optimized for … Continue reading Challenging Simplified Notions of Health Equity in the Middle Grades

Place-Based, De-Colonized Ecology in Middle School

Natalie Smith, a middle school science educator at Lyndon Town School, in Lyndonville VT, originally presented “Making Science Authentic: Teaching Place-Based, Decolonized Ecology in the Middle School Science Classroom” in January 2021. She presented it as part of the 2021 Middle Grades Conference at the University of Vermont. Below please find a recording of the … Continue reading Place-Based, De-Colonized Ecology in Middle School

Personalized learning in the spring garden

Signs of spring surround us: snow is melting, the days are lengthening, and the mud has returned. So it must be time to think about school gardens!  School gardens have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reasons. They’re highly engaging, and ripe with educational opportunities, ha ha. But did you … Continue reading Personalized learning in the spring garden

The Culturally Responsive Learning Environment

  Imagine a place where every person can be their authentic whole human selves. A culturally responsive learning environment is a place where everybody belongs. The posters and images on walls, books and materials on shelves, the furniture and flow of the space all radiate belonging. These tangible items convey important information: what is valued, … Continue reading The Culturally Responsive Learning Environment

#vted Reads about Equity & Cultural Responsiveness in the Middle Grades

In January 2020, the Vermont state legislature proposed a resolution formally apologizing for the legislature’s role in passing a 1931 law making eugenics perfectly legal and encouraged in the Green Mountain State. Meanwhile, on the Standing Rock Reservation, in South Dakota, the future of the Dakota Access Pipeline is in doubt, but only at the … Continue reading #vted Reads about Equity & Cultural Responsiveness in the Middle Grades

Culturally responsive practices for equity in the classroom

Equity. In Vermont and beyond, educators and administrators are talking about equity. But what does equity look like in practice? Most importantly, how do we stop talking about it and start doing it? Culturally responsive practices are a concrete way to do equity work in the classroom. So what are they and what do they … Continue reading Culturally responsive practices for equity in the classroom

Decolonizing Place-Based Education

Decolonizing Place-Based Education is an interactive online workshop for educators that we offered in February 2021. It is a collaborative project of the UVM Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education, Gedakina, the UVM Rubenstein School for Nature & Environmental Resources, and Shelburne Farms. Educators Judy Dow, Marie Vea, Aimee Arandia Østensen and Emily Hoyler designed and co-facilitated … Continue reading Decolonizing Place-Based Education

Scaffolding success for self-directed learners

We talk a lot, as professional development coordinators and as educators, about self-direction. We think a lot about ways to support self-directed learners, offering them “choice and voice” while trying to make sure we support them in their learning. (And hey, educators, you’re learners too. I’m a learner. We are all, to some degree, self-directed … Continue reading Scaffolding success for self-directed learners

How to Build An Anti-Racist Bookshelf

Who’s Outside? How to Build An Anti-Racist Bookshelf is an interactive online workshop for educators we offered in January 2021. We offered it in collaboration with Shelburne Farms. Additionally, educators Jeanie Phillips and Aimee Arandia Østensen courageously co-facilitated this workshop. Below you’ll find a recording of the workshop, optimized for solo or team playback.  The … Continue reading How to Build An Anti-Racist Bookshelf

Developing integrated units from commercial curriculum

Walking through what it looks like to take commercial curriculum and develop a vibrant, personalized integrated unit. One thing we hear all the time in our work as professional development coordinators is: “How do you both personalize learning for students AND use the curriculum materials adopted by the district or school? Aren’t these things in … Continue reading Developing integrated units from commercial curriculum

Children of Blood and Bone on #vted Reads

On this episode of #vted Reads, we welcome Erika Saunders back to the show! Erika agreed to guest-host an episode, talking about Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi. She’s joined by Philadelphia-based educator Monique Carter, as they talk about: the emotional resonance of your own language, especially if it’s lost and you ache … Continue reading Children of Blood and Bone on #vted Reads

Lessons learned from a community conversation on race

How do we effectively engage people in our community who aren’t already predisposed to discuss race and the impacts of racism? How do we pull people into a community conversation on race? Especially people who aren’t already striving to be more antiracist? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that the more community conversations … Continue reading Lessons learned from a community conversation on race

“Because internet”: learning to communicate in different online spaces

When is a “lol” not a “lol”? Would a “ftw” hit as hard by any other name? Two things: Shakespeare’s now spinning in his grave like a turbine, powering most of greater Stratford; That’s absolutely fine with us. Language evolves. It grows and bends and twists and curls back on itself like you wouldn’t believe. … Continue reading “Because internet”: learning to communicate in different online spaces

Trust the Science: Using brain-based learning to upgrade our educational OS

Spoiler alert: When we adjust learning conditions to be more in sync with the known laws of brain-based learning, learning improves. Momentum builds. Trust the science For 15 years I’ve been helping Vermont educators and school systems apply what we know about the brain to inform what we do in our schools. And for 15 … Continue reading Trust the Science: Using brain-based learning to upgrade our educational OS

PLPs, Parenting, and a Pandemic

228 days home with my 3 children. 88 days of remote learning, spanning 2 school years and 5 different grade levels. 10 different teachers. 34 Zoom meetings per week (not counting mine). Engagement level: 27%. This is parenting pandemic math. But who’s counting, right? At home, my kids are missing school. Or, more specifically, they … Continue reading PLPs, Parenting, and a Pandemic

De-Colonizing Your Thanksgiving Curriculum

  De-Colonizing Your Thanksgiving Curriculum is the title of an interactive online workshop for educators offered in late October and early November of 2020. It is a collaborative project of Gedakina, the UVM Institute for Innovative Education, Shelburne Farms and Vermont Learning for the Future. The courageous  co-facilitators of this webinar are Judy Dow, Emily Hoyler, … Continue reading De-Colonizing Your Thanksgiving Curriculum

4 tales of outdoor education in Vermont

  What does outdoor education and place-based learning look like right now? One of the recommendations from leading health officials is to conduct classes outside. But what if you’ve never done that before? What if you could use some pointers? How are other educators tackling this topic? And why should we keep taking students outdoors, … Continue reading 4 tales of outdoor education in Vermont

Building a blended & hybrid teaching toolkit

Hybrid and remote teaching environments require us to tap into everything we know about designing engaging and targeted learning opportunities. At the same time, the contexts are often unfamiliar. So what we need is a blended and hybrid teaching toolkit. When looking to design a successful remote or hybrid learning experience, consider thinking about what … Continue reading Building a blended & hybrid teaching toolkit

6 ways to help students create the best Breakout Rooms

Those of us holding virtual synchronous meetings with our learners recognize the need to build in opportunities to collaborate. Just like in our face-to-face classrooms, we value small group interactions. And that leads us to ask: how best to facilitate effective small group work in our distance and hybrid instruction? Just as collaborative small group … Continue reading 6 ways to help students create the best Breakout Rooms

What makes integrated curriculum work?

Middle level educators have long sung the praises of integrated curriculum. It’s been a foundational practice in some middle schools. But why isn’t it happening everywhere, all the time? Right now, our young adolescents are growing and developing in hybrid, remote and uncertain school models. And that means they need integrated and thematic curriculum more … Continue reading What makes integrated curriculum work?

Centering care and love

Schools have been preparing for students all summer: developing protocols for handwashing and bathroom use, deploying hand sanitizer stations, hanging signs to remind students to stay socially distant, measuring and taping classrooms, cafeterias, and hallways. It’s *A LOT*. You are carrying an enormous burden, and I applaud your hard work, creativity, and fortitude. It is … Continue reading Centering care and love

What can we learn from summer unschooling?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to think and talk about innovative school change. It’s difficult to see the start of this school year with a heart that’s anything but desperately worried for students, for teachers and for families. We want this school year to be fruitful in terms of learning, but we’re also shocked and dismayed … Continue reading What can we learn from summer unschooling?

What do public exhibitions of learning look like during a pandemic?

The days of hosting public exhibitions and showcases in the school gymnasium appear to be over. For now. Some schools and educators, however, have been very clever at hosting socially distanced and virtual exhibitions of student work and learning, despite the pandemic. Why provide an audience for student work? We know that student engagement and … Continue reading What do public exhibitions of learning look like during a pandemic?

Measuring the value of a personalized learning coordinator

Will schools really re-open this fall? And what will they look like? Most of all: how will we ensure that our teachers and students are safe? Even though I usually do my best to think about anything but school during summer vacation, this year I’ve been tuning into the conversation on reopening. Why? For one … Continue reading Measuring the value of a personalized learning coordinator

Re-connect & re-imagine this return to school.

The return to school is usually filled with excitement, anticipation, and maybe a little nervousness. This year though? Much more nervousness with the excitement.  How can we anticipate what it will take to keep teachers and students safe? While each of our communities and school leadership put their hearts and minds into that question, we’re … Continue reading Re-connect & re-imagine this return to school.

#vted Reads with Kate Messner

I’m Jeanie Phillips and we’re back for a third season of vted Reads! Books by, for and with Vermont educators. Kicking off this season we’re joined on the show by author and former teacher Kate Messner. Kate’s here to talk about how we can use books about some dark topics as conduits to reach students … Continue reading #vted Reads with Kate Messner

The power of virtual field trips

Do you remember those pre-COVID days?  All of the exciting plans, the face to face collaboration, the FIELD TRIPS?! The teachers and students at Two Rivers Supervisory Union had *BIG* plans: a four-day, four school, in-person Sustainable Development Goal Academy. Fifth and sixth-grade students from Cavendish Town Elementary, Chester-Andover Elementary, Ludlow Elementary, and Mount Holly … Continue reading The power of virtual field trips

The power of PIPs in a pandemic

Middle school is not a Zoom room. When the quick switch to a remote environment was required, Charlotte Central School decided to go with what they know. And these folks know their students. Specifically, they know “Personal Interest Projects” (PIPs, aka passion projects, aka Brainado, aka curiosity projects) work for their students. Charlotte Central students … Continue reading The power of PIPs in a pandemic

Student intervention for anti-racist education

Schools are committed to bringing anti-racism into curricula and systems more than ever before. Even in predominantly white schools there appears to be a growing acknowledgment that anti-racist education is crucial for all students. Big changes seem to be underfoot. And that’s a wonderful thing. But there will be pushback. White fragility and white rage … Continue reading Student intervention for anti-racist education