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School Notes: Sustainability in the Classroom

Projects in Hartford and Thetford Address Energy and Waste

  • Hartford Memorial Middle School seventh-grader Alexis Johnston peeks around a fan to watch classmate Caitlin Gaudet adjust the wind turbine they were testing at the school in Hartford on June 5, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Hartford Memorial Middle School seventh-grader Alexis Johnston peeks around a fan to watch classmate Caitlin Gaudet adjust the wind turbine they were testing at the school in Hartford on June 5, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford Middle School seventh-graders, from left, Aidan Grant, Caitlin Gaudet and  Alexis Johnston, test their wind turbine.  <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Hartford Middle School seventh-graders, from left, Aidan Grant, Caitlin Gaudet and Alexis Johnston, test their wind turbine.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford Middle School  science teacher Joel Singley looks over data that students have collected on the wind turbines they have made and tested in class. Students Emma Duranceau and Deveon Martin look on while in class at the school in Hartford, Vt., on June 5, 2014.  <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Hartford Middle School science teacher Joel Singley looks over data that students have collected on the wind turbines they have made and tested in class. Students Emma Duranceau and Deveon Martin look on while in class at the school in Hartford, Vt., on June 5, 2014.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Hartford Memorial Middle School seventh-grader Alexis Johnston peeks around a fan to watch classmate Caitlin Gaudet adjust the wind turbine they were testing at the school in Hartford on June 5, 2014. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Hartford Middle School seventh-graders, from left, Aidan Grant, Caitlin Gaudet and  Alexis Johnston, test their wind turbine.  <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Hartford Middle School  science teacher Joel Singley looks over data that students have collected on the wind turbines they have made and tested in class. Students Emma Duranceau and Deveon Martin look on while in class at the school in Hartford, Vt., on June 5, 2014.  <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Where and how do you start teaching students about sustainability — the idea of harnessing renewable sources of energy and food to reduce the pollution we pump into the air and water and the trash we bury in the ground, all while trying to live in some measure of comfort and prosperity?

At two Upper Valley schools they’re planting seeds: figuratively in the case of 80 seventh- and eighth-graders competing to design the most efficient model wind turbines at Hartford Memorial Middle School, and literally in the case of pupils cultivating a prize-winning garden at Thetford Elementary.

“I saw some (commercial turbines) on our way to Canada for a French program,” seventh-grader Caitlin Gaudet recalled while her team in science class measured the power output of different angles and numbers of blades on one experimental turbine last week. “When you see them you don’t realize why they’re there, what they’re doing...”

“Doing this,” teammate Alexis Johnston continued, “it helps to understand better about how we get our energy, and what we can do.”

Seeing his students connect the dots pleases science teacher Joel Singley as much as the direct lessons they’re learning in engineering, electricity and magnetism.

“While they’re evaluating the data they’re collecting, they come to their own conclusions and debates, rather than just reading articles and repeating it back,” Singley said. “They really jumped on the data from the (blade-angle) tests right away. They’re already getting ready to use that information in their final design.”

After five teams of Singley’s students present those final designs for a competition on Wednesday, it remains up in the air whether this exercise — designed to prepare seventh-graders for the study of life sciences in grade eight — will lead them to study science or engineering or renewable energy in college, or move on to careers in those fields.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” Aidan Grant said. “Right now it’s just fun doing activities, more than just reading about these things. It’s fun doing interactive things.”

Working with instructors from East Thetford’s Cedar Circle Farm and the Upper Valley Farm to School Network (UVFSN), students at Thetford Elementary have been interacting with the soil since 2007 — and have refined their system to the point where, this spring, the Northeast Resource Recovery Association named Thetford the Vermont School Recycler of the Year.

“We’re especially proud of this honor because recycling is just one part of our overall effort to reduce our landfill trash,” said school nurse Joette Hayashigawa, who with her husband installed the first seven raised beds of the garden in 2006. “It includes growing fruits and vegetables in our extensive gardens, serving the produce in our school lunches, composting all organic waste in our five-bin compost system and returning the resulting compost to the gardens. We’ve developed curriculum at nearly every level of this cycle and have over the past several years developed many community connections, especially with Cedar Circle Farm. It’s a great model of other schools, especially in light of the new Vermont legislation barring organic waste from landfills.”

Transitions

The Upper Valley Farm to School Network (UVFSN) announced recently that it will merge with Vital Communities on July 1. Under the joining of forces, Vital Communities will hire a farm-to-school coordinator to work with Becka Warren, manager of Vital Communities’ Valley Food & Farm program.

In announcing the merger on UVFSN’s website, founding director Peter Allison, who is stepping aside, said, “Growing interest in local food and farm to school programs has generated an increasing demand for our services, and with those, a need for more complex and stable organizational functions. We were at a crossroad: Either grow bigger and become an independent non-profit organization, or merge with a partner organization. For a host of reasons, the latter became the obvious choice. And once that decision was made, it was clear that Vital Communities was the ideal fit. We have had a long and positive relationship with Vital Communities on both the fiscal and programmatic front. Both organizations are place-based and have a similar service region. Our missions are fully aligned and the cultures, values and approaches of each organization are in sync.”

Allison said that he will now focus on the Farm to Institution New England (FINE) network, a six-state collaboration of “many partner organizations working to strengthen the regional food system by increasing demand for and use of New England food by New England institutions.”

Student Honors

Molly Reed of Lebanon has been chosen spend the fall of 2014 at a justice-studies program in Budapest, Hungary. Reed, a 2011 graduate of The Sharon Academy, posted a grade-point average of 4.0 during her junior year at the University of New Hampshire, where she is majoring in political science with a minor in justice studies. She will work a law internship this summer.

Lebanon High School has named Micky Bish as student of the month for June. In addition to earning high honors in the classroom, she is a three-sport athlete who captained Lebanon’s crew team and competed in cross-country running and skiing. Her community-service activities include joining her church group in helping for a week with clean-up and repairs to homes and businesses around New York City after Hurricane Sandy hit in the fall of 2012. She plans to major in kinesiology at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst this coming fall.

Samuel Rossier of Vershire was named to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s dean’s list for the spring semester. He is studying in the College of Engineering.

The New Hampshire Association for Middle Level Education and the New England League of Middle Schools recently honored Indian River School students Tori Sweet and Jordan Peck for their wide-ranging achievements and leadership, during the groups’ 15th Scholar Leader Awards Banquet in Manchester. The awards recognize excellent attitudes toward learning, service to classmates and school, setting good examples for peers and voluntarism.

The University of Vermont’s School of Business Administration named Daniel Elliott of Norwich to its dean’s list for the spring of 2014.

School Honors

The Vermont Department of Public Health recently awarded $1,000 each to Fairlee’s Samuel Morey Elementary School, West Fairlee’s Westshire School and to Thetford Academy for encouraging students to spend at least 30 minutes per school day in physical activity beyond regular gym classes, and to make healthy choices for eating. The Rivendell Interstate School District elementary schools and Thetford Academy are among 24 schools statewide to be named School Wellness District winners. At Samuel Morey, students receive awards in the form of a toe-shaped token, attachable to shoelaces, for walking or running a total of eight laps a week around a quarter-mile track. The school also buses students to the nearby Lake Morey Resort for golf lessons from club pro Justin Bonnett.

By Degrees

Sarah Robinson of Norwich recently graduated summa cum laude from Endicott College in Beverly, Mass., with a bachelor of science degree in communication. A 2009 graduate of Hanover High School, Robinson focused on media studies , with a minor in creative writing. She earned an award for outstanding senior thesis from Endicott’s School of Communication, and was a member of the Lambda Pi Eta and Mortar Board national honor societies.

Sarah Stanley of Lyme recently earned her doctoral degree in school psychology from Northern Arizona University. A graduate of Thetford Academy, she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Colby-Sawyer College in New London in 2004 and her master’s in school psychology from Northern Arizona in 2008.

Christopher P. Mullaly, an alumnus of Cardigan Mountain School and Lebanon High School, graduated magna cum laude from Boston College, with a bachelor of science degree in business, with a concentration in finance. He is a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society in natoinal business.

Benjamin Pfister of White River Junction and Thomas Pike of Hanover received bachelor’s degrees from the College of Wooster in Ohio during commencement exercises on May 12. Pfister, a graduate of Hartford High School, majored in theater and dance. Pike, who graduated from Hanover High School, majored in classical studies.

More than 20 residents of the Upper Valley earned their stripes as career-change teachers last week from the Upper Valley Educators Institute (UVEI), and five will receive certification as principals on Thursday of this week. Teachers completing their internship programs were Ashley Amodeo of South Royalton, Ami Beaudoin of North Pomfret, Monte Blaustein of Hanover, Samuel Chapin of Thetford Center, John Connolly of Etna, Linda Danilek of Norwich, Noah Detzer of White River Junction, Sarah Deull of White River Junction, Jenna Ditcheos of Vershire, Steven DuScheid of Hanover, Rebecca Gallant of Bradford, Vt., Laurie Gould of Orford, Keegan Harris of East Thetford, Tessa Johnson of White River Junction, Rachel Perry Kieffer of Thetford Center, Jennifer King of Corinth, Sarah Klinkenberg of East Thetford, Heidi Magario of East Thetford, Daniel Mannix of Lebanon, Eirene Mavodones of White River Junction, Sarah Pond of Post Mills, Ericka Priestley of Springfield, Vt., Dena Whitehead of Meriden, and Karen Wilson of Norwich.

Newly-minted principals are Jill Ballou of Springfield, Vt., Benjamin Gardner of Wilder, Roy Hathorn of Wilder, Kevin Petrone of Fairlee, and Kasey Potter of South Ryegate, Vt.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.