How can we get students to be active members in their local food system? This question will drive the work of my project as I strive to increase student engagement and teach transferable skills through the lens of food. While I am proud that I live in a state that values the role of agriculture in our communities, there seems to be a disconnect and lost opportunity for our students. Rarely do we intentionally connect the food that is delivered to our cafeterias and grown locally to plates students eat from. My goal is to increase school wide opportunities to allow students to be more involved in that process.
With the incredible support and gift of time from the Rowland Foundation, I will explore how faculty, students, community members and local farms, chefs and restaurants can support this work. There is a desire amongst our student body to incorporate culinary arts into the fabric of the school. Increasing culinary experiences will allow students to engage in relevant work that benefits their education and local community while simultaneously building greater connections between two existing initiatives, Sustainability and Wellness. There will be increased opportunity for students to learn and practice culinary based skills that our current educational system lacks. Exploring the breadth of culinary arts can be a place to teach transferable and executive functioning skills, such as organization, time management, teamwork and the school's learning expectations, as well as highlighting the benefits of cooking and eating locally. Lastly, this project will build a school culture where we value preparing, sharing and consuming meals together.
"Think global, act local." This phrase has become more relevant than ever. Beyond the pandemic, many of my students are very aware of, and worried about, the looming crises of climate change and environmental degradation that they are inheriting. They have also expressed a desire for community action projects to help solve these crises, but feel a lack of agency at school. Fortunately, other VT educators are bringing their classes into the community and the community into their classrooms, giving students a chance to learn deeply about the place in which they live and to act on local issues. I seek to learn from the structures refined by the City and Lake Semester at Burlington High School, the Walden Project in Monkton, The Mountain Campus at Burr and Burton Academy, and the Center for Sustainable Systems at Montpelier High School. Each of these programs emphasizes the study of Vermont through the sciences, humanities, and arts.
With my Rowland Fellowship, I will expand upon the work of others by truly integrating math into place-based education. Too often, "real-world applications" of math are canned textbook problems, but the real world of math is messy, profound, and beautiful. My training in math and history shows math applications can be quite unexpected. Number theorists 300 years ago could never have imagined the modern computer and network security, yet their ideas form the foundation of both. However, teenagers need to see a more immediate use, therefore my project seeks to tell a geographical story. We live in an age where geographic information systems (GIS) influence many aspects of life, including the use of digital maps to navigate unfamiliar places. Fortunately, GIS's underlying mathematics come from standard high school math courses. By building spatial analysis into a place-based education that studies the changing climate, environment, and human societies, we can, hopefully, provide an answer to the ever present question of "when will I ever use this?" With organizations like the Green Mountain Club, Vermont Land Trust, and Northwoods Stewardship Center operating nearby, there are many opportunities to bring Vermont into the classroom and vice versa.
Vergennes Union Middle / High School (VUMHS) is a welcoming place that values kindness; this does not exempt us from the tensions, polarization, and stresses present within our cultural milieu. The pandemic has made us face challenges and become innovative in ways we never anticipated. We have also witnessed long-standing local and national issues crystalize: declining enrollment, school mergers, the polarization of our society, racial violence, inconsistent justice, the opioid epidemic, and the increasing ease with which young people can be exposed to hate groups. My proposal seeks to catalyze the established and emerging work of restorative practices at Vergennes Union Middle and High School to create a resilient system based on restorative practices, centered around true belonging as we face these challenges. VUMHS envisions restorative practices as ways to strengthen and build relationships, support a sense of belonging and agency, increase empathy, and provide accountability and responsibility for our actions.
VUMHS youth and adults want to improve our ability and skills to face challenging issues such as racism, homophobia, ableism, and bias, and to examine their presence in our social interactions, curriculum, and formal and informal structures. This proposal focuses on two areas for inquiry: our student leadership structures and broadening our restorative practices across professional conversations. These areas must be developed and broadened concurrently, as both are necessary for sustainable cultural change. A holistically restorative system means that the well-being of all members, youth and adults, is prioritized and integrated into the school culture. VUMHS seeks a shift that empowers students to have a clear and sustainable system for leadership and contribution to the climate, culture, and curriculum.
A restorative approach facilitates a proactive culture built on trust and understanding as well as a responsive system that lets us productively and safely identify, understand, and address harms and needs. The critical work of this project will help us create systems that work for us daily and as deep and permanent cultural change. I will spend my time working with student and adult members of the Youth-Adult Restorative Practices and Leadership Teams and colleagues using the design framework of Universal Design for Learning to examine barriers to student and adult belonging, engagement, and learning.
Tech Ed has filled a unique role in Vermont for the last several decades. It has meant woodshop, metal shop, STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) and several other things depending on what year it was. Many schools still have tech ed programs, while many of them have dwindled, lost their career focus or been eliminated entirely with even fewer addressing 21st century skills in a high school setting. Tech Ed in Vermont stands on its own, with almost no connection to the Career and Technical Education System (CTE). Tech Ed should be part of the CTE pathway and right now it is not, though at many schools it is left to fill pre-tech CTE void for schools that do not have programs for the 9th or 10th grade years. Even with its critical role these programs stand on their own , and are not equipped to support students. Tech Ed '22 will create a curriculum that reestablishes what has been lost, and modernizes it for the 21st century. This project will work to create a cohesive experience that begins in 7th grade with a specific focus through 10th grade for those who will attend CTE centers and 12th grade for those that remain at their high schools. Tech Ed '22 will be created with all students in mind and it will allow for them to more effectively explore careers through real industry standard hands-on education from trade, technical, STEAM and other fields. Tech Ed '22 is a 3-point project, first to continue the work on building an exemplar program at Otter Valley Union High School, second to take a census of the status of tech ed programs in Vermont and third to create a model/ model curriculum. Tech Ed '22 will give students a way to better engage and take pride in their education through an industry connected hands-on curriculum that acknowledges heritage, builds on success, identifies impediments and creates unique solutions that will serve our students as they search for their place in a 21st century workforce.
School counselors are essential members of the education team. As certified educators with a minimum of a master's degree, they are uniquely qualified to meet the academic, social/emotional needs of all students. In addition to direct student interaction, school counselors promote student success through their leadership, advocacy and collaborative efforts under the framework of a comprehensive school counseling program.
The ultimate goal of a comprehensive school counseling program is student success. The program's design, delivery and content are dedicated to enhancing the ability of all students to fully utilize the educational opportunities available to them. The challenges of today's society require school counselors to leave behind the traditional methods and adopt new proactive measures. Through a Rowland Fellowship, my plan is to create a Stowe High School comprehensive school counseling model for grades 9-12 for enhancing the school counseling program from an academic focus provided for some to a program for every student that encompasses all three American School Counseling (ASCA) national domains (career, academic, social/emotional).
Using a comprehensive model is responsive to the changing needs of school counseling in the Lamoille South Unified Union, Stowe High School, Vermont and our entire country. My hope is that every Vermont school will employ a professional school counselor who is available to assist all students in successfully navigating their academic experiences, assisting them in making informed decisions concerning their career paths and supporting them as they learn to explore, understand and manage their social/emotional development. I look forward to developing a comprehensive school counseling model for Stowe High School that can be used by other Vermont school counselors. I'm excited to be professionally involved in this innovative and comprehensive approach in helping all students prepare to become the next generation of workers, leaders and citizens.