Posted in Community, General, Malletts Bay School, Programs

Important Cyber Safety Workshop at MBS on November 8

On Tuesday, November 8, Malletts Bay School will host Technicool, a program of Prevent Child Abuse Vermont. Technicool is a technology safety program designed for students in grades 4–8, and November 8’s event at MBS will cover cyberbullying and online predators along with a host of other important topics. The workshop will run from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., and it is open to any parent in the CSD community, not just parents of MBS students. Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP by an extended date of November 3; please call (802) 264-5900.

To view an informational flyer about the workshop, click here.

As is explained on Principal Julie Benay’s blog, the Vermont Technology Grade Expectations outline major focus areas in education, and among them are digital citizenship and technology operations and concepts. (The entire school district, in fact, is directing concentrated effort and focus upon promoting and supporting the use of technology as an educational tool through a variety of means, including the development of a new technology committee.) As technology in our classrooms increases, so, too, does our need to teach not only safe and responsible use of it but also the risks associated with it.

Statistics around cyber safety and young people are alarming. Among them, from a US Department of Justice website discussing youth Internet safety, are as follows:

* One in four youths receive unwanted exposure to inappropriate photography in a one-year period
* One in five youths receive inappropriate solicitations over the Internet in a one-year period
* Only a fraction of these incidents are reported to authorities

Online predators have unprecedented access to potential victims, making due diligence and careful education about electronic media safety all the more important. Among the statistics published by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s NetSmartz educational program are as follows:

* 93 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 go online
* 73 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have cell phones, sending and receiving 1,500 text messages per month
* One in three young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have experienced online harassment (and girls are more likely to be victims of cyberbullying)

Numerous resources explaining and promoting online safety, especially as related to kids, are available online. Net Cetera is a great resource, as is the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) issue brief for educators and caregivers about electronic media and youth violence.

For more information, please e-mail Principal Julie Benay. Again, please call (802) 264-5900 to RSVP by November 3. The Technicool workshop will start at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 8 at Malletts Bay School.

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Posted in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Malletts Bay School, Wellness

Next-Generation Physical Education: Introducing the Bouldering Wall at Malletts Bay School

For those of you out there who remember physical education as being a time for mostly running around and yelling a lot, this article is particularly for you.

Why? Because physical education (PE) really isn’t that way anymore—or at least not at Colchester School District.

At Malletts Bay School, for example, there is a great new feature that is literally taking PE to new heights.

Ladies and gentlemen, may we present … the bouldering wall!

The bouldering wall was conceptualized more than ten years ago, and it has been a long-term project for MBS physical educator Brian Hunt. Mr. Hunt, a thirty-five-year veteran of CSD, conducted extensive research and attended regional and national workshops as part of the wall’s development. What he designed is a highly adaptable, age-appropriate bouldering wall as part of the overall goal to encourage lifelong learners and movers.

What makes the bouldering wall—and the overall shift in twenty-first-century physical education in general—so important is that it consists of highly integrative activities incorporating physical, social/emotional, and academic components. Students benefit from muscle strengthening while building endurance and increasing flexibility not only by climbing the wall but also through resistance training stations and pre-made programs built into it.

Using the wall also helps teach about team building through the skills of communication, cooperation, problem solving, trust building, persisting, and dealing with frustration. And there is also a fantastic academic integration component—including mathematics and literacy—built into the wall, as well. For example, students can reduce fractions, identify numeric sequences, and discern the answers to other math-related logic puzzles while working with the bouldering wall.

They can study parts of speech, create and complete sentences, and work with other literacy-related pieces, as well.

And of course there are elements of climbing to learn; students study and experiment with various climbing techniques, including holds, crimps, and pinches. And all of this is done in a way that reinforces the school’s rules stressing safety, respect, and responsibility.

The wall was constructed to simulate bouldering, which is a type of climbing involving short vertical or horizontal distances with no technical equipment (other than the safety pads beneath). It includes a “safety line” over which students’ feet should not pass—and a number of obstacles for students to traverse over, under, and through are built into it to enhance its challenge. In addition, the various holds on the wall can be manipulated to adjust the level of challenge for the climbers, and the holds themselves are color coded to indicate their level of challenge.

Climbers must demonstrate their understanding of the safety rules around the bouldering wall before they may use it, and as an added safety measure, locking safety mats are secured in place when the wall is not in use.

The funds for the project came from part of many years’ worth of Colchester Ski and Skate Sale proceeds. (The countless faculty, staff, student, and community volunteers have helped to make the Colchester Ski and Skate Sale so successful, so many thanks to all of them!) Everlast Climbing Industries installed the wall at MBS in August 2011.

In addition to its increasing academic integration, PE curriculum is steadily evolving into that which is health based and designed to instill a love for physical activity and to encourage healthy lifestyles. By incorporating such activities as cross-country skiing, tennis, and snowshoeing (among others), MBS’s PE curriculum aims to demonstrate how exercise can be a fun way to be proactive about health and wellness for an entire lifetime. MBS’s PE curriculum is also designed in accordance with the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) standards. For more information, please e-mail Brian Hunt.

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Posted in General, Malletts Bay School

Rain Doesn’t Keep Ospreys Away

Rainfall did not permanently deter the Malletts Bay Ospreys from their planned flag-raising ceremony to kick off their participation in Red Ribbon Week—it just slightly delayed it.

The school held its flag-raising ceremony on a drier October 26 instead.

As described in our earlier CSD Spotlight article about it, Red Ribbon Week is a national anti-drug campaign.

Way to go!

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Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, General, Malletts Bay School, Programs, Wellness

CSD Proudly Announces Community Hall-Walking Program

As part of its continued efforts to encourage and facilitate healthy lifestyles in our schools and communities, Colchester School District’s award-winning wellness program is please to announce a new community hall-walking program.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons at

The program has been designed in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health and the Town of Colchester’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Residents who are interested in walking indoors during winter months as a means of remaining physically active may do so at the following locations on the following schedule:

Malletts Bay School: Mornings: 6:00-7:30 a.m.
Afternoons/Evenings: 4:00-8:00 p.m.

Colchester Middle School: Mornings: 6:00-7:15 a.m.
Afternoons/Evenings: 3:00-8:00 p.m.

Colchester High School: Mornings: 6:00-7:00 a.m.
Afternoons/Evenings: 5:30-9:00 p.m.

A kickoff event is scheduled for Tuesday, November 1 at 5:00 p.m. at Malletts Bay School. Malletts Bay Ospreys will be on hand to provide tours, and anyone who joins the program can receive a free pedometer. The program is free, and all are encouraged to participate. Interested residents can register through Colchester Parks and Recreation (please call 264-5640) or at the kickoff event.

There are seemingly endless benefits to walking. Along with its ability to help walkers’ lower blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, and improve circulation, it can help prevent osteoporosis, certain types of cancer, and risk of heart disease and stroke. It can help foster opportunities for socialization, promote better sleep, and even help with stress and anxiety management. And did we mention that it’s free?

For more information, including rules, maps, parking details, and other items, please visit the new wellness website, or contact Connie Gavin, CSD’s wellness coordinator. And to learn more about the district’s comprehensive wellness program, click here!

And for more information about the district’s policy around the use of school facilities for other community events, please see the article published here on CSD Spotlight on August 17, 2011.

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Posted in Employee Spotlight, General, Porters Point School, Wellness

School Nutrition Association of VT Cooks Up and Serves Huge Honor to PPS Head Cook

We are thrilled to announce that Porters Point School’s head cook received a tremendous honor from the School Nutrition Association of Vermont (SNA-VT) at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, on October 22.

SNA-VT President Kathy Alexander, PPS's Bunny Ploof, and CSD Food Service Director Steve Davis

The SNA-VT presented Ms. Ploof with the Greet the Challenge Award for Excellence. According to SNA-VT’s website, the honor was given for “exemplified commitment to child nutrition and positive attitudes regarding all the challenges faced in providing nutrition services to Vermont students, especially in times of elevated standards and fewer resources.”

Among other missions, the SNA-VT works to promote and support school nutrition. It put out the call for nominations, and Principal Jim Marshall wrote to the nomination committee in support of Ms. Ploof. “On a daily basis, she must take into careful consideration our students with allergies or restrictions due to religious beliefs,” he wrote. “Whenever possible, Bunny works at making the introduction of new foods ‘kid friendly’ while maintaining the nutritional value of the meal.” Mr. Marshall also wrote of Ms. Ploof’s tireless efforts to make herself available to the students, providing a nurturing and encouraging environment for them while meeting their nutritional needs and responding to unexpected shifts in meal schedules with a cheerful and upbeat disposition.

The requirements governing school nutritional programs are vastly different from those of generations past. Meals need to be planned around religious and ethical considerations as well as around allergies, and, as the result of the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the new nutrition standards are written by the US Department of Agriculture, which decides what foods may be sold and what ingredients can be used on school lunch lines and in vending machines. In addition to all of that is the required incorporation of government commodities, such as cheeses, meats, and canned fruits and vegetables into the menus—and it needs to be appealing, all within the confines of limited financial resources. Colchester School District has already conformed to the US Department of Agriculture’s requirements and is working to implement other improvements, as well. (Please feel free to visit our primers about the district’s food service program and wellness program for more information.)

For Ms. Ploof’s part, she is thrilled to be such an integral part of the students’ days. Her office walls are graced with drawings and thank-you notes carefully inked by PPS students. (One such note, written by one grateful student who shall remain anonymous, scrawled, “Thank you for the mac and cheese. It is better then my momy [sic].”)

“Their innocence and energy is everything,” she said of the students. “It means so much to be here.”

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Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Community, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School

It Makes Us Proud

We keep saying it because it’s true—this community is really incredible.

In the aftermath of Irene’s devastation across our state, the show of support from our friends and neighbors in and around Colchester has been nothing short of astounding. What an amazing place to live, work, and learn!

Students at Malletts Bay School organized a coin drive they called “Change for Help” to support victims of the storm, with the three houses competing to raise the most money. Their efforts, tallied by Vermont Federal Credit Union and Assistant Principal Carolyn Millham, raised a total of $2,338.91—the largest percentage of which was raised by the Harmony House, earning its members a celebratory ice cream social as a result. The Malletts Bay Ospreys voted to allocate equal amounts of the funds they collectively raised to the Vermont Irene Flood Relief Fund, the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund, and to a family located through the Vermont Principals’ Association.

MBS Assistant Principal Millham and a group of MBS students

Porters Point School also organized a coin drive, raising a total of $568.70 through their Four Days to Bring Change! campaign. PPS raised the funds, which were sent to the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund (care of the United Way of Chittenden County), by designating a coin for each day of the week; Monday was Penny Day, Tuesday was Nickel Day, Wednesday was Dime Day, and Thursday was Quarter Day, and the students collected and donated loose change for the cause.

At Colchester Middle School, Assistant Principal Peg Gillard challenged the students to fill a truck full of supplies to help students in areas around our state devastated by the flooding. She provided additional incentive to the students by offering to raffle off chances at shaving her head—and several student groups helped with selling the raffle tickets as well as collecting, organizing, and packing the donated items. Many teachers also bought raffle tickets to distribute to students they observed behaving in a positive manner. CMS students and staff, as well as countless CSD employees and community members, collected enough food, household goods, toys, school supplies, school furniture, books, bedding, clothing, and sports equipment to fill a truck. In addition to the collection efforts, Hurricane Relief bracelets funding food banks in hard-hit areas were also sold. The delivery of those supplies to communities in need is now being coordinated.

As a culminating event for this effort and in celebration of the end of the NECAP assessments, raffle-winning students got to take a swipe at Ms. Gillard’s hair with the clippers.

At Colchester High School, juniors under Ms. Sharkey’s guidance contributed school supplies and clean-up supplies to the donation drives in the district.

CHS students helped out with relief efforts

And a team of educators from Colchester Middle School also rolled up their sleeves, collecting a carload of gently used clothes, towels, sheets, fans, dehumidifiers, and food donations from CSD employees and then spending September 10 in Stockbridge, Vermont—one of thirteen towns that was isolated as the result of the storm’s flooding. The Stockbridge crew, comprised of Connie Gavin, Emily Brennan, Ashleigh Moss and her husband Jeyko Moss, spent the day with masks, shovels, pails, and tarps helping a man repair his home that had been heavily damaged, scraping mud, sweeping dirt, and pulling insulation and nails.

Members from CSD volunteered in Stockbridge

From raising money for tsunami victims to raising money for juvenile diabetes and from participating in the Special Olympics torch run to helping Lake Champlain flooding victims, the young people here and the greater community at large really are astounding. These are precisely the warm and compassionate stories that let us know that we really have an incredible group of people here in this community.

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Posted in Community, General, Malletts Bay School

Permanent Artwork to Adorn MBS Gardens on October 25

On Tuesday, October 25, Malletts Bay School students and maintenance professionals will join up to install newly painted panels in the MBS gardens.

After taking measurements in and around the garden area to ensure that the proposed artwork would fit the intended spaces, MBS fifth graders from Jennifer Jacobson and Kate DeCoff’s art classes explored the types of plantings grown there. They then created sketches of their concepts and proposed their ideas to Principal Benay, Director of Curriculum and Instruction Gwen Carmolli, and Business and Operations Manager George Trieb. Once their proposals were approved, the students collaborated to create the sixteen garden-themed panels, with teams of four or five students working together on each piece.

They will begin installing their finished works in the gardens at 1:20 p.m. and 2:10 p.m., crowning what has already become a fantastic and inspiring community project. The gardens have been enhanced and expanded as part of a farm-to-school initiative aimed at not only putting more fresh and local foods into schools but as a means of fostering a sense of community involvement. Enthusiastic volunteers rolled up their sleeves and worked throughout the spring and summer, transforming the garden space with the help of a generous grant and numerous other donations.

More than simply an opportunity for students to create and display artwork in a public space, this event highlights the important benefits of what our community members have done with these gardens at MBS—and further emphasizes part of what makes this such a great place to live, work, and learn. Community gardens encourage intergenerational and intercultural social interaction, self-reliance, a sense of responsibility, environmental sustainability, and creative recreation. They preserve and beautify green spaces, produce nutritious foods, provide peaceful spaces for quiet reflection, and create additional learning opportunities for participants of all ages. They bring together people of varied backgrounds and experiences and allow them to collaborate on a meaningful, ongoing project with wide-reaching and long-lasting benefits. The fact that such gardens exist at MBS speaks volumes about the community that created them—and it is therefore only logical that they will be graced with thoughtfully created artwork befitting them.

Pictures of some of the panels and the artists who created them are also posted on art teacher Jenny Jacobson’s blog, as well as on Malletts Bay School’s website.

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Posted in General, Malletts Bay School

Malletts Bay School to Hold Flag-Raising Ceremony in Honor of Red Ribbon Week on October 25

Malletts Bay School will begin Red Ribbon Week with a flag-raising ceremony at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 25. Representatives from Colchester Rescue, Colchester Fire Department, Colchester Police Department, and Colchester Parks and Recreation will attend the ceremony, as will Superintendent of Schools Larry Waters.

The flag-raising ceremony was proposed by fifth grader Shiann Lavalley in an essay presented to Principal Julie Benay. Lavalley wrote, “I think it would be a good idea to have an MBS school flag for outside on the flagpole. It would show what good students and Ospreys we are. Then everyone can see that we respect our community.”

Malletts Bay School will celebrate Red Ribbon Week, the nation’s oldest and largest drug prevention program, during the week of October 24. By wearing red ribbons and participating in community anti-drug events, students across the nation pledge to live drug-free lives. The week also pays tribute to DEA Special Agent Enriqué “Kiki” Camarena. Camarena, who also served as a firefighter and police investigator, was an undercover agent who worked to infiltrate and destroy drug-trafficking operations prior to his death in 1985.

For more information, please contact Principal Julie Benay at (802) 264-5906 or

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Posted in General, Porters Point School, Programs

PPS’s PBIS Implementation Well Underway

When we announced Porters Point School’s efforts to pioneer a new program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) back in early August, we promised an update on how the implementation process was going. This is that promised update!

As we described in our introductory article, the overarching concept of PBIS is that recognizing students who make good choices is a far more effective strategy in managing behavioral issues in our classrooms than focusing upon those who struggle to do so. By focusing upon positive behaviors, the overall climate of our schools is expected to improve over time, fostering a greater sense of community and respect and enhancing the learning environment.

PPS was required to have a minimum of 80 percent buy-in from its staff in order to apply for the PBIS program—and a full 100 percent of its faculty and staff agreed to support it. (One hundred percent! That’s incredible!) An implementation committee at PPS consists of representatives from administration, guidance, fine arts, special education, and each grade level. The committee also routinely requests input from support staff, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, and even the town’s ACE program as part of its efforts to ensure a universal application of the program. PBIS is closely tied with the concepts described in the Responsive Classroom; that is, the idea that social curriculum is every bit as important as academic curriculum, and thus, both behavior management and academics are integrated into the program. Developing appropriate social skills, especially early on in education, aids in creating an environment for successful students—later to become successful adults and community members.

A key element to remember about PBIS is that it is a research-based, data-driven behavior management program, and concrete methods of documenting and analyzing the process are built firmly into it. Using the School-Wide Information System (SWIS), administrators at PPS can track and analyze behavior-related data in a number of different ways. For example, incidents of behavior issues can be analyzed by the type of problem behavior, by the locations where the behaviors occurred (did this happen on a bus? On the playground? In the cafeteria? In the classroom?), by the time of day, and by individual student. In this way, administrators can review this carefully recorded data in order to identify trends in behavioral issues in order to determine where additional efforts around behavior modification can be most effectively focused. In other words, a more effective, targeted effort can be applied to behavioral challenges as a result of this program. This minimizes a subjective approach to the challenges our educators face in dealing with challenging behaviors, thereby helping to improve the overall quality of education for all students. PPS’s work to institute PBIS into its overall curriculum is also highly complementary to the district’s comprehensive bullying-prevention strategy.

PPS is employing a number of simultaneous approaches to successfully implement PBIS into its curriculum. One major component is the “warm fuzzies” project. Students earn the “warm fuzzies”—brightly colored pom-poms—for demonstrating positive behaviors. Each learning environment (each class, the library, the gymnasium, and so on) has a transparent, bear-shaped container into which the warm fuzzies earned by the students are deposited—and a filled bear container equates to class-wide and school-wide celebrations. Whenever a student receives a warm fuzzy from a faculty or staff member in recognition of safe and respectful behavior, he or she receives an explicit explanation for why the warm fuzzy was given to help reinforce the value of positive actions and their resulting positive impacts upon the entire school community. And have you visited the school recently and seen the prominently displayed new signage reminding students of PPS’s three core expectations (be safe, be respectful, and be ready to learn)? The students are routinely reminded of these expectations using common language so that the concepts are continually reinforced.

Furthermore, PPS’s teachers are reinforcing these concepts through books they read aloud to their students, including author David Parker’s I Show Respect!, author Tom Rath’s How Full Is Your Bucket? (For Kids), and author Carol McCloud’s Have You Filled a Bucket Today?. And the school is developing a presentation about PBIS for parents, as well.

You can also follow PPS’s own blog about PBIS on their website.

There are a number of important supports in place for PPS’s educators, as well. In addition to colleague support, the Vermont Department of Education also offers ongoing training and support, and teachers have also participated in the BEST (Building Effective Support for Teaching Students with Behavioral Challenges) conference.

For more information, please e-mail Principal Jim Marshall or call Porters Point School at (802) 264-5959. The national PBIS website and Vermont’s PBIS website also have a wealth of information on the subject.

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Posted in Colchester High School, General

CHS’s AP Biology Students Score Hands-On Field Ecology Experience

Sometimes, nature is the best classroom. What young scientist wouldn’t leap at the chance to get practical, hands-on experience in the natural world?

Sixteen Colchester High School students in Mr. Warren’s AP Biology class took their learning outdoors at Colchester Pond Natural Area on October 12. (If you haven’t explored Colchester Pond Natural Area—which is part of Winooski Valley Park District—you might find it well worth a visit. Aside from being a great town resource for low-impact recreation, it provides, as Mr. Warren describes it, “a glimpse into Vermont’s recent ecological past.” Did you know, for example, that approximately 80 percent of Vermont’s land was cleared of trees 150 years ago?)

The biology students measured out survey plots, inventorying all of the woody species exceeding a diameter of 2.5 centimeters within the plots and collecting data about the size and types of the trees. They also identified them using a dichotomous key. With the help of Google Docs (an open-source, Web-based office suite), they will use this data to quantify the observable differences between the two survey sites, calculating such values as species dominance and species density and creating graphics supporting their findings.

For more information, please e-mail Mr. Warren or call (802) 264-5700.

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