Bridge Receives Grant to Start Composting Program!

We are thrilled to share that Bridge School received a grant from the Addison County Solid Waste Management District to start a composting program! Sarah Lundquist (pictured below), Solid Waste Program Assistant, was a guest teacher in Explorations this fall. Sarah taught a full week unit about waste awareness and management.  After this inspiring class, Bridge teachers and kids decided that Bridge should be more intentional about our waste management program.

The grant will fund the building of a three-bin composting system, as well as a waste sorting system for the lunchroom. Students will help with the management of the compost, and it will also be used in classes as a catalyst for discussion and learning opportunities surrounding waste management, compost and soil cycles.

Thanks to Jen and Dave for your leadership in writing the grant and getting this program going!

A Peak Inside the Classroom: Wednesday Walks

Every Wednesday, Diane’s Language Arts class starts the day with a “Wednesday Walk”—a place-based, nature-based writing activity. This Wednesday, the walk was focused on using simile and metaphor based on the poem “The Night is a Big Black Cat” by G. Orr Clark.

The Night is a big black cat

The moon is her topaz eye,

The stars are the mice she hunts at night,

In the field of the sultry sky.

This class started with a group reading of the poem. Several students were eager to try to read it aloud in front of the class, and students patiently gave each other a turn. Along the way, Diane and the students stopped for lively discourse: What is topaz and has anyone ever seen it before? How could a sky be like a field? What clues can we use in the poem to help us guess the meaning of “sultry”? Is it related to the word “salt”? Should we use the dictionary to help us learn more?

Next, Diane explained that they would be practicing writing in the style of the poem and shared an example based on the melting snow banks outside the classroom. As Diane read, students noticed that it was fun to think of the child leading the parent!

Equipped with pencils and clipboards, students went out into the sunny morning and found something in the natural world to write about.

Many students chose to examine the melting ice rink—one student wrote that it reminded him of a frozen ocean with icebergs, while another said it reminded her of sleeping creatures:

Once each student had finished writing, the group went back inside to listen to each other’s discoveries.

This weekly ritual is elegant in its power and significance. Literacy development and community building are layered on top of student agency and creativity. This lesson is a perfect example of a Bridge School class—one where students work together, make independent choices, and stretch their creativity while learning concrete skills.

Spotlight on Traditions: Winter Week

Winter Week is: a week of unabashed fun; a phenomenal example of the talent in our community; an example of Bridge School’s focus on non-traditional learning…want to know more?

Students inside the “Quinzee” snow shelter they built.

Each year, we throw out our normal academic schedule for the week before February vacation and fill our days with electives. Taught both by Bridge School teachers, and guest teachers, there is never a dull moment during Winter Week. Instead of regular Language Arts, Math and Explorations classes, students get to choose three electives from a list of up to 12 different classes!

This year for Winter Week, students chose from:

  • Theater Games
  • Soup Cooking
  • Abstract Expressionism
  • Dutch
  • Duck Drawing (for the Junior Audubon Stamp Contest)
  • Hand Bells
  • Sewing
  • Bridge School Newspaper
  • Winter Survival
  • Health and Mindfulness

To add to the already goofy and spunky days, each day during Winter Week has a different Spirit Week theme: from pajama day, to beach day, to fancy clothing day!

Winter Week culminates with a community service fieldtrip. We spend each morning during Winter Week practicing a lineup of songs, and take our performance on the road to sing for Project Independence, an elder services day program just down the street from school.

At its core, Winter Week is about community. We tap into our network of parent and volunteer teachers to share their talents; we come together to learn new things, and we spread the fun to the community outside of school. We are already looking forward to next year!

Bridge Receives Otter Creek Audubon Society Grant!

We are thrilled to share that Bridge received an $800 grant from the Otter Creek Audubon Society! This grant money will go towards funding field trips for our Trout in the Classroom project.

This is our second year participating in Trout in the Classroom, and this year we will expand the field component of the project to a series of three spring hikes with all of our students. These field trips will help students connect the small tank of trout in our classroom to the real-world habitats of brook trout. We will visit a range of freshwater settings throughout the New Haven River watershed. Students will have the opportunity to see first hand the interconnected food webs that impact brook trout.

In his book Mapmaking with Children: Sense-of-Place Education for the Elementary Years, David Sobel implores that elementary children are not ready to learn all of the plights of the natural world. Instead, the most meaningful environmental education we can provide to develop a conservation ethic amongst youth is to help them create a sense of place.

Our field trips will give students meaningful experiences in the ecology of our shared place. The memories of these hikes combined with the specific learning they will undertake in the classroom about trout ecology will help foster responsible citizens of our shared, community waterways.

Many thanks to Otter Creek Audubon!

Strategic Plan Launch!

On a recent Friday night (not to mention that it was the first Friday night of February Vacation), Bridge School parents and teachers gathered for an evening of community and Appreciative Inquiry to launch our strategic planning process. Led by John Barstow and Ashley Cadwell we answered three central questions geared at highlighting Bridge School’s core strengths.

“Appreciative Inquiry is a way of being and seeing. It is both a worldview and a process for facilitating positive change in human systems, e.g., organizations, groups, and communities. Its assumption is simple: Every human system has something that works right–things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful. AI begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways the heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change. As AI consultant Bernard J. Mohr says, “Problems get replaced with innovation as conversations increasingly shift toward uncovering the organization’s (or group’s, or community’s) positive core.” Source

 

This evening was not just your average pizza party, community gathering. The significance of our community coming together on a cold Friday night to put our heads together and plan for Bridge’s positive growth felt like an iconic symbol of what makes Bridge School unique. Our community is made up of people who, to quote Dr. Seuss, “care a whole awful lot.”

The results of this collective brainstorm will go into our strategic plan. We are thrilled to launch Bridge School into its next phase of innovative excellence in elementary education.

Spotlight on Traditions: Skiing at Rikert!

Each year, the Fall term ends with a flurry of energy poured into The Big Show. Both students and teachers give all their energy into each year’s masterpiece. Thus, arriving back from winter break can feel a little melancholy. The oldest students begin working on the script in early September, and we can all feel a little lost without the focus of the show.

Thankfully, the winter months at Bridge School are full of outdoor activity and traditions to fight the January blues. One of these traditions is weekly field trips to Rikert Nordic Center to go skiing and snowshoeing! All students and teachers suit up in warm gear and make the most of Vermont’s winters. We are lucky to not only have the privilege of skiing, but also the guidance of Rikert’s expert ski instructors. Many students go Nordic skiing for the very first time on these field trips!

These field trips are both pure fun, as well as a rich opportunity for learning outside of the classroom. Students practice working through feelings of frustration and excitement as they try something new—skills that are essential and transferable to the feelings of learning a new concept in math class, or practicing new vocabulary words in Spanish class. Furthermore, we come together as a community and practice kindness as we encourage each other, cheer on each other’s successes, and provide a helping hand when someone inevitably loses their balance. By the time skiing is over, and before we can get too blue, we’re already looking forward to Winter Week, another Bridge School tradition!

Announcing Summer Camp 2018!

We are thrilled to announce Bridge School Summer Camp 2018!

At Bridge School Summer Camp, you can expect the same devotion to creativity, student choice and community that Bridge School is known for during the school year!

Bridge School Summer Camp is open to all — both Bridge School students and non Bridge students.

Click here for more information about camp!

Bridge Welcomes New Teachers!

We are overjoyed to welcome three new teachers to the Bridge School community! The year ahead looks incredibly bright with these new faces in the barn.

Nikki Juvan–Younger Home Center Teacher

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Nikki Juvan brings her passion for the Arts and over twelve years of elementary teaching experience to Bridge School. Nikki believes very strongly in incorporating the Arts, particularly music and theater, across all areas of the curriculum and is especially excited about the Arts classes at Bridge.

She received a Bachelor of Music degree in Musical Theater from the Hartt School of Music/University of Hartford in Connecticut and her Master’s in Education from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota. She holds a K-6 Vermont teacher’s license with Highly Qualified Teacher status. For seven years she was the Kindergarten teacher at St. Mary’s School in Middlebury where she used music and theater extensively in her classroom, including writing plays with her students that were performed at various community events. She also spent five years at the Renaissance School where she developed and taught the Music and Theater Arts Curriculum.

Nikki is an accomplished singer and actress, having played leading roles with Lyric Theatre Company (Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls), Middlebury Community Players (Marian in The Music Man), and 5 different productions of The Sound of Music in which she played Maria. She is also the teacher and creator of the THT Kids program at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater and has directed children’s theater productions at many different schools as well as with Lyric Theatre Company.

She lives in Middlebury with her husband, photographer Trent Campbell, and her college-age daughter and step-daughter. They have a dog and the two greatest cats in the world, Meredith and Willson.

Jen Grilly–Older Home Center Teacher

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Jen comes to Bridge School with over 10 years of teaching experience. Jen graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Elementary Education. While working towards her B.S., she student-taught at the Mckeever Environmental Learning Center, in Sandy Lake, Pennsylvania where she discovered that teaching kids about the natural world around them was her passion.

After graduating, Jen taught natural history, science and outdoor education across the country, including six years at Nature’s Classroom and three years at Ezperanza Academy in Lawrence, Massachusetts. At Esperanza Academy, Jen developed an athletic program and an outdoor education program. Jen also spent a season as a Wilderness Therapy guide for at-risk teens in Alaska, leading trips up to 52 days long. Most recently, Jen has served as the Assistant Director of the Wilderness Program at the Hyde School in Bath, Maine.

Through her travel and non-traditional teaching experience, Jen found a great appreciation for how we are all connected to each other and share the same dreams, strengths, and challenges.  Her goals as an educator are to ensure each student feels important and valued in her classroom, and to help them see their own unique potential, just as her teachers have done for her.

When Jen is not in the classroom or working with students outdoors, she can be found rejuvenating her soul as she hikes, bikes, canoes, swims, practices yoga, or sits on her back porch with some tea.  She and her fiancé love spending time with their dogs, cooking, and sharing meals with great friends.

Sarah Evans–Spanish, Arts and Bananas Teacher 

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Sarah joins Bridge School with a combined degree in education, English and Spanish from the University of Vermont, and Sarah has her Vermont Educator’s License. She is drawn to teaching because she enjoys fostering in others the excitement to learn, and loves sharing her passion for reading, writing, and the arts.

Sarah has always delighted in theater, ever since age six when she played her debut role (as a talking door). In the years that followed, she has had many wonderful opportunities to be involved in school and community productions such as The Wizard of Oz, Aladdin, SeussicalHello Dolly, and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. At the University of Vermont, she served as an officer of the theater troupe, the University Players, and wrote and directed two shows during her time there. Her senior thesis took the form of a play, entitled Like Any Other Woman, which tells the true story of the first female mayor in the United States. Sarah has been happy to share her love of theater with her sixth grade class while student teaching, and is excited to work with Bridge School students on theater and writing projects!

Sarah completed her student teaching at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington, VT where she both taught 6th grade and advised the Drama Club. During the summer, Sarah works as Assistant Director and Head Counselor if Malta Community Center Youth Theater Program in New York.

Sarah is a red belt in Taekwondo, sells hand-knit hats on her own Etsy store,  and she has lived in several Spanish speaking countries abroad!

Bridge School Hosts “Most Likely to Succeed” Documentary Screening

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On Wednesday, May 17, Bridge School and Middlebury Underground present a screening of the award-winning education documentary Most Likely to Succeed, followed by a dialogue about what matters most for education today.

Most Likely to Succeed profiles the origins of our current educational system, developed a century ago during the rise of the industrial age. Since that time, the world economy has transformed profoundly, but the U.S. education system has not. The film focuses on the story of a school in San Diego that is rethinking what the experience of going to school looks like. As viewers follow students, parents and teachers through a truly unorthodox school experience, the audience is forced to consider what sort of educational environment is most likely to succeed in the 21st century?

The purpose of this event is to foster meaningful discussion among educators, administrators, parents, and students about our education system, and to discuss the challenges and opportunities related to pursuing new approaches.

Respect for Children–Using Fidget Spinners as a Tool for Learning

This is the first in a series of blog posts examining Bridge School’s educational philosophy tenets–Personal Excellence, Respect for Children, Engaged and Passionate Learners and Caring Community. For more details on each of these tenets, visit our Philosophy page.

Fidget spinners have become ubiquitous in classrooms around the country. First marketed as a tool for students who have difficulty focusing in class, they have created a buzz amongst parents, teachers, and school districts. The explosive popularity of the toy led many school districts to create blanket bans on spinners in the classroom–the whirring sound and mesmerizing motion can be distracting, and there isn’t substantiated evidence that they help students focus.

At Bridge School, however, we asked: What if we use fidget spinners as a powerful tool for learning? What if we respect our students’ curiosity, and explore fidget spinners in partnership as teachers and students?

At Bridge School, fidget spinners have become a meaningful opportunity to learn physics, as well as an opportunity to practice self-control in the classroom. Instead of creating a strict rule, we respected the children’s natural curiosity and structured our teaching to meet students’ interests.

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We used fidget spinners as a real-world way to understand potential and kinetic energy, friction, and to practice the skills of scientific inquiry.

We asked:

  • Why and how do fidget spinners spin?
  • Why do fidget spinner spin so well without stopping?
  • What scientific questions do I have about a fidget spinners that I can answer by experimenting on it?
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                      Students conducting an experiment looking at the length of spin time on different surfaces.

The learning goals for this unit were:

  • Students will be able to demonstrate and explain the motion of a fidget spinner as an example of energy being transferred.
  • Students will be able to explain why the ball bearing mechanism inside a fidget spinner reduces energy lost to heat through friction.
  • Students will be able to ask and answer question about a fidget spinner and collect qualitative or quantitative data.

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Finally, fidget spinners have allowed us to help students cultivate their own self-control and behavior management. Rather than banning fidget spinners in the classroom, we engaged students in a dynamic examination of what it looks like to use a spinner as a tool versus as a toy. Students are allowed to use them in classes, so long as they do not cause a distraction to themselves or others. This learning can be messy and take time–however, it provides an authentic way for students to understand how their own actions impact both their learning, and their classmates’ learning. We demonstrate respect for children by learning with them in partnership.

Our philosophical tenet of “Respect for Children” highlights our pedagogical focus on child-centered, constructivist learning. At Bridge School, we believe students learn best when they construct their own learning through hands-on exploration alongside teachers. This unit respected children’s desire to learn about the world around them, and honored their natural curiosity

-Amanda Warren, Mentor-Teacher