Posted in General, Malletts Bay School, Student Spotlight

Success With the “Acts of Kindness and Justice” Challenge

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.
—Scott Adams

As she has done for a number of years, Malletts Bay School fifth-grade teacher Dawn Buswell hosted an “Acts of Kindness and Justice” challenge for her class—and three weeks later, the students had amassed an astounding 633 of them!

Mrs. Buswell's fifth graders

Mrs. Buswell’s twenty-four students embarked on a mission—based upon the KJ Challenge in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—to perform and tally their acts of kindness and justice in order to experience how conducting one’s self honorably and helpfully can impact one’s self and the world. It was an effort to celebrate the work of Dr. King, improve class climate, and encourage our students to work for social change.

The students’ acts ranged from helping their neighbors and cooking dinner to shoveling sidewalks and standing up for others. Other examples included telling peers that they were being unkind and admitting to a lie. The acts had to extend beyond normal chores, and they had to be signed by an adult in order to be included in the official count. The class members met regularly to share what they’d done and to count their acts, working their way toward their goal of six hundred. Acts of kindness were worth one point, while acts of justice were worth five; the class decided to differentiate the values because acts of justice are generally a bit scary, involve some risk, and are typically harder to do.

Some of the students shared their thoughts about the “Acts of Kindness and Justice” challenge on their classroom blogs, all of which can be accessed directly from the Buswell Blog, as it is called. Here are some excerpts:

When our class was doing acts of kindness and justice I felt like a hero.

But the best part is that you realize that one little act of kindness or justice makes the world a better place and it spreads around the world!

Doing something for someone is always nice, but when people don’t expect it, that is even better!

I feel like a king when I did justice stuff.

It’s like I changed the world.

And it’s just wonderful to see someone smiling because of what I did. And to see their smiling faces just warms my heart.

It is a good thing and it is fun to do, too. You should try. I tried it and it turned out pretty good. It is a good thing.

I feel amazing when I do lots of acts of kindness and justice because it makes the world a safer place.

It felt like I did a change to the world.
Sam B.

Once you start to really notice the little things you can do to help people, you can’t stop. Now I constantly am looking for acts of kindness and justice to do for people. My acts of kindness and justice have improved my life, and others.

I felt a phenomenal surge through me. Like I was on heaven on earth.

Check out the students’ blogs to read more about what they thought!

Every school in our district works hard to foster a strong sense of community and fair play. Read our December 2 CSD Spotlight feature to learn more about the work being done on this important front.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Accountability, Community, District Office, General, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan

How Are We Doing?

Colchester School District is working hard to enhance frequent and meaningful communications with the community. CSD Spotlight and our revamped Facebook page were new initiatives in 2011 as part of our overall goal to encourage stronger relationships and the exchange of ideas with our community. We would love to know how you feel we are doing.

  • What would you like to know more about?
  • What have been some of your favorite CSD Spotlight features—and why?
  • What do you feel is lacking?
  • Are there other specific types of communication that you would like us to employ?

Please share your thoughts with us; we ask for your feedback in a true spirit of collaboration and accountability. We hope to join with you to facilitate increased community involvement and to foster valuable partnerships. Please e-mail your comments to our superintendent and/or our communications specialist.

The entire district is working to develop additional strategies for supporting the Colchester School District Vision/Strategic Plan’s pathway around communication. In addition to CSD Spotlight, Front Porch Forum, and our Facebook page, we also employ a variety of other communications methods.

  • The district maintains a comprehensive website.
  • Each of our schools has a website.
  • Many of our teachers have blogs.
  • The district uses the AlertNow! notification system.
  • The Colchester School Board encourages community participation at their meetings; in fact, the board’s agenda solicits comments from the community at every meeting. Join them at Colchester High School on the first and third Tuesday of each month beginning at 7:00 p.m. You can also watch them on Lake Champlain Access Television’s Channel 16 on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. and Sundays at 7:00 a.m.
  • The Colchester Sun regularly features district-related news.
  • Our schools schedule a host of events throughout the year to encourage community involvement and to provide opportunities to facilitate meaningful face-to-face conversations.

We can better tailor our communications with our community when we better understand what our community needs. We hope to encourage dialogue that allows us to be proactive and that enhances our collaboration. Please let us know your thoughts!

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”Work

Posted in Colchester High School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Vision Summit/Vision and Strategic Plan, Wellness

Yum 101: Health Education at its Tastiest

It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.
—Mahatma Gandhi

What originally started as a creative idea to incorporate obesity awareness and prevention into Colchester High School’s curriculum offerings has blossomed into a great new health elective called “Food: From Soil to Stomach,” and it is already putting down roots that reach well beyond education around obesity.

And what’s more, the course embraces a number of the pathways outlined in the district’s Vision/Strategic Plan that were so steadfastly identified by our community as being important for education in our schools—particularly “Learning Outside Our Four Walls,” “Community and School Partnerships,” and “Wellness-Oriented, Balanced, and Healthy Learners.”

CHS health educator Melanie Laquerre spent nearly a year conceptualizing and designing the course, collaborating with UVM Extension in order to develop curriculum that was appropriately challenging for high school students. Designed for students interested in exploring the various aspects of food—including growing, cooking, and eating—the course covers an eclectic assortment of subject matters like nutrition and obesity, conventional versus organic agriculture, food miles, sustainability, the treatment of animals in food production, and the global implications of the production and transportation of our food supply. (As one way to help facilitate those conversations, the class viewed and discussed the film FOOD, Inc.; watch the official trailer for the film here:)


The class is highly interactive and very hands-on, encompassing aspects of cooking and gardening, and because it is open to students in grades 9–12, it encourages the development of meaningful connections across the student population—expanding their comfort zones and facilitating increased communication with one another. Under the guidance of Mrs. Laquerre and her father and uncle, the students designed and constructed eight raised garden beds for the class using mostly donated resources.

Art credit: CHS student Nick Bezio
Art credit: CHS student Nick Bezio

In addition to the raised garden, and in addition to a temporary earthworm farm, the class also installed a four-by-six-foot hydroponic garden in Mrs. Laquerre’s classroom that was donated by Colchester Middle School, using it to grow lettuce and conduct tastes tests on the produce.

One of the goals of the class is to enhance students’ community involvement and connections, and as such, the class involves some field trips, guest speakers, and participation in studies. For example, the group visited Hackett’s Orchard to gain some insight into what is involved in apple production.

Greater Burlington YMCA coach Chris Cochrane spoke with the class about the importance of physical activity, physiological and safety considerations, and how easily exercise can fit into everyday life, emphasizing setting health goals and working toward them.

The students also participated in a UVM pilot study entitled “Incorporation of a Skills-Based, Physical Activity and Nutrition Curriculum in a High School Health Class.” The pilot study was conducted by Dr. Connie Tompkins, and it focused upon such skills as calculating target heart rates for weight loss, cardiovascular health, and endurance as well as aspects of healthy eating, including reading food labels, measuring appropriate serving sizes, and understanding portion distortion. (Dr. Tompkins is also spearheading a pilot program at Malletts Bay School studying the effects of exercise on academic performance, concentration, cognitive function, and health measures; we discussed this pilot program in our November 30 CSD Spotlight feature.) In addition, a UVM student is currently working on a thesis project about sustainability, developing curriculum that will be presented to the class upon completion.

In early November, the students hosted a garden celebration event as a gesture of appreciation to all who supported the efforts to construct the raised beds. In addition to the field trips, guest speakers, and participation in studies, Mrs. Laquerre hopes to develop relationships with community gardening groups, senior citizens, students from other schools in our district, and anyone interested in volunteering their time and energy to enhance the program.

And the district’s food service department has been highly supportive of the class, inviting the group to work with them in the kitchen. The students have cooked meals, conducted taste tests, and handed out samples as part of their work in the class.

For more information about the course or about health education in general, please e-mail Melanie Laquerre.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester High School, Community, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General

Did You Know …? Learn About the Senior Seminar Community-Based Action Research Projects

Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.
—Zora Neale Hurston

Students at Colchester High School presented their Senior Seminar action research projects to the community on January 9.

The annual event provides CHS students with an opportunity to share the results of their efforts—which in some cases even begins before the start of their senior year—with their peers and with the community. It also allows the students to engage in conversations about their experiences and about their learning. And, as is stated on the CHS Humanities website, the students’ projects will “take their education beyond the walls of Colchester High School and connect them to their local, state, national, and global communities.”

The action research projects are extensive. They are required for successful completion of the Senior Seminar course—and the course is a CHS graduation requirement. They necessitate comprehensive research that includes interviews, field research, and community service. The projects culminate in a research paper, project publication, class and public presentations, and a reflection essay. They are designed to allow the students to direct their own learning based upon their interests and to actively engage them with the community.

And some of the students opted to create websites to showcase their learning. Here are some of them for your enjoyment.

Brennan Bugbee’s project on Wind Energy in Vermont

Nate Hodge’s project on Childhood Obesity

Taylor St. Germain’s project on Defense Spending

Travis Hart’s project on Seat Belt Awareness

This year’s projects included the following topics:

Adaptive Sports
Adoption Awareness
Alzheimer’s Awareness
Animal Abuse & Prevention
Animal Rights
Bullying in Schools
Child Abuse Prevention &
Childhood Obesity
Civic Engagement
Clean Energy
Composting in Schools
Concussion Awareness
Concussion Awareness in Athletes
Defense Spending
Domestic Violence Prevention &
Exotic Pets
FEMA Funding
Firefighters and Healthcare
Hunger in the United States
Importance of Music Education
Infrastructure Funding
Integrating Arts in Education
International Affairs
Invasive Species
Invasive Species: Asian Long-horned Beetle
Issues Facing Returning Veterans
Job Training
Land Conservation
Littering Prevention & Impact
Pediatric Cancer Research
Prenatal Care v. Prematurity
PTSD in Veterans
Recovery from Hurricane Irene
Refugees in America
Seatbelt Awareness
Water Pollution
Wind Energy in Vermont
Youth Fitness & Childhood Obesity


The event was a proud undertaking for our seniors. Many thanks to all who attended the affair and showed their support!

For more information, please e-mail Humanities teachers Erin Brady or Dennis McCannell.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester High School, General, Programs

Supporting Our Students’ Success—Join Us on January 26 for Laker Learning Connections

Colchester High School invites students in grades 9–11 and their parents to attend Laker Learning Connections on Thursday, January 26 from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the CHS cafeteria. Laker Learning Connections is an evening devoted to supporting our students as they give careful consideration to their courses of study for the coming academic year.

Review the 2012–2013 program of studies, and speak with administrators, guidance counselors, and team leaders about the 2012–2013 class registration process. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what courses are appropriate for each student in the coming year. Students will not be signing up for classes at the event; it is strictly for informational purposes.

For more information, please call CHS’s Guidance Department at (802) 264-5713.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester High School, General

CHS Hosting 2012 Dance Competition on January 21—And Why Dance is Important

To touch, to move, to inspire. This is the true gift of dance.
—Aubrey Lynch

Colchester High School will host its 2012 dance competition on Saturday, January 21.

The doors open to the public at 12:30 p.m., and the competition begins at 1:00 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for students, and $12 for a family of two adults and two children.

The dance competitions are a lot of fun to watch, and they involve talented dancers from schools all across our region. In addition to CHS competitors, this year’s competition includes participants from Burr & Burton Academy, Lamoille Union Middle & High School, Missisquoi Valley Union High School, Mt. Mansfield Union High School, and South Burlington High School, and it will include hip-hop, jazz, and pom dancing events.

Kate Whalen, Jessica Ashton, and Lynn Bessett—all of whom have backgrounds in professional dancing—will judge the competitions on such criteria as overall effect, choreography, technique, and group execution. Each performance has a minimum time of two minutes and a maximum of three minutes.

Why is dancing important?

Aside from being a positive, creative form of expression and entertainment, dance teaches the value of excellent discipline, a positive work ethic, and determination. It is excellent exercise, it develops coordination and spatial skills, it encourages intense concentration, and it fosters invaluable social skills. Dance also helps our students to understand the value of teamwork and cooperation.

And it is fun!

Come in from out of the cold and feel inspired. Remember, the doors open at 12:30.

Thanks for joining us!

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Community, General, Malletts Bay School

grat.i.tude \’gra-tə-tyüd n (1523) : the state of being grateful

As sheer casual reading matter, I still find the English dictionary the most interesting book in our language.
—Albert Jack Nock

Students at Malletts Bay School gratefully received some unexpected gifts from a local lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

The Burlington Elks Lodge #916 selected MBS students as this year’s recipients of 150 dictionaries, bookmarks, and pencils as part of the Elks’ affiliation with the national Dictionary Project.

Why are dictionaries important?

Far more than simply spell-checking tools, dictionaries are valuable references for learning new words. In addition to definitions, they also generally provide pronunciation keys, parts of speech, dates of origin, examples of usage, and sometimes even common prefixes and suffixes associated with the terms. Dictionaries also provide word variations, such as alternative spellings and different parts of speech. In doing so, they help readers and writers to expand the vocabulary and writing skills that are so essential to academic and professional success. Dictionaries also help to facilitate comprehension of written material by defining terms that a reader does not understand. Hence, they are indispensable tools for readers and writers.

BPOE Exalted Ruler Craig Garrand and his wife, First Lady Carol Garrand, recently joined MBS at lunchtime to present the students with their dictionaries and supplies.

Burlington Elks Lodge #916's Craig and Carol Garrand with MBS students

Fun fact: Many sources cite the oldest known dictionaries as dating back to about 2300 BCE—more than 4,300 years ago!

Malletts Bay School extends its sincere gratitude to Burlington Elks Lodge #916 for its generosity to our students and for its interest in promoting literacy.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester Middle School, General

CMS Global Guests Help to Offer Fresh Perspectives

Introducing our students to people and places offering different perspectives is vastly important. Much in the same way that many students describe gaining powerful understanding as a result of participating in Andros Adventure through Colchester High School, creating occasions through which students can familiarize themselves with people and places of other cultures helps them to gain commanding insight and an appreciation for others—as well as a greater appreciation for their own opportunities. It also helps to encourage respect for differences and helps to build positive connections. (CMS’s October 18 Mix It Up at Lunch Day is another example of its efforts in this endeavor.)

As part of this initiative to introduce our students to global guests, Julia Melloni with Colchester Middle School’s Harbor House recently invited Burlington High School senior Claude Maserek Mumbere—a native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who, with his family, sought asylum in the United States—to speak to her students.

Although he was already multilingual (speaking Lingala, Swahili, and French fluently) before emigrating to the United States not long ago, Mr. Mumbere is not a native English speaker. Nevertheless, he took top honors in the 2011 Vermont Poetry Out Loud competition after speaking English for only a few short years. (You can listen to a clip of one of his recitations here as recorded by Vermont Public Radio.) Even more incredibly, his performance in the Poetry Out Loud competition caught the attention of the production team for the NASA film LOOP. They invited him to audition for the film’s narrating responsibilities, and, after trumping professionals in the industry who also auditioned, he was hired for the opportunity, thus introducing his speaking voice to the world over. In addition, Mr. Mumbere was named soccer player of the year by the Burlington Free Press.

Claude Mumbere with CMS Harbor House Humanities students

Mr. Mumbere’s presentation made a resounding impact upon the CMS students in part because, although his cultural experiences earlier in his life were vastly different, he now lives within the same societal, technological, and political climate as they do. As a cohort, his outstanding accomplishments, zeal for taking full advantage of his educational opportunities, and gratefulness for his circumstances carry much more weight for many students than that of someone who only seems real in an abstract sense and to whom our students cannot actually relate—such as someone they’ve only read about or seen in a documentary. Mr. Mumbere’s astounding achievements in the face of so many challenges have proven inspirational and have given our students a greater appreciation for their own opportunities.

This is why such programs are so vitally important in our schools.

Ms. Melloni plans to invite a number of other global guests in and around our area to speak with our students in the coming months. Stay tuned for those features!

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester Middle School, Community, General

Partner with Us! CSD Seeks Parent Participation for CMS Principal Search Committee

Colchester School District invites interested parents to partner with us in our pursuit of a long-term principal for Colchester Middle School.

CMS’s current principal, Dawn Gruss, holds a one-year, interim position. Colchester School District would like community participation in the search for a principal to hold the position for the long term.

As is described in the position’s advertisement, the district seeks an experienced and visionary leader with demonstrated ability with middle school adolescents. Please visit the posting for the detailed job requirements for more information.

The meetings will be conducted at Colchester Middle School at 2:30 p.m., and the dates are currently undetermined. It is anticipated that the committee will meet six or seven times throughout the process. Meetings will include preparing for interviews, interviewing candidates, and post-interview meetings to determine recommendations to the school board. Some members of the committee will also visit the candidates’ current schools as part of the search process.

Those interested in participating are asked to contact Cathy Ward at the district’s administrative offices either by e-mail or by phone at (802) 264-5999 by January 31.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”

Posted in Colchester High School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General

Showcasing the Study of Science: Colchester High School’s Science Essential Topics Night

Aeronautics … medicine … electronics … engineering … environmental conservation … communications … it is indisputable that science and technology have revolutionized the world in many ways, and as such, the importance of studying and applying these disciplines is clearly evident. The study of science is far more than simply the memorization of facts. Science teaches us fundamental, transferable skills in observation, critical thinking, evaluating and analyzing results, making meaningful connections, developing sound processes, and presenting ideas in a clear manner. Science teaches us how to frame and pose intriguing questions. It helps us to become engaged, conscientious citizens.

Colchester High School’s science department hosted its Science Essential Topics Night on January 10, providing the students with the opportunity to demonstrate their learning and engage in conversations about their extensive study. The event served as the culminating assessment for the elective classes in science, and the students’ projects were highly creative. Forensic science students presented findings on a crime, while anatomy and physiology students showcased maladies complete with recommended courses of treatment. Still other students presented projects in such areas as environmental science and engineering.

Along with underscoring the importance of science, the event also provided the opportunity for students to sharpen their presentation skills. Because the ability to effectively communicate information is imperative in many personal and professional environments, fine-tuning such presentation skills is an essential part of education.

Many thanks to those who attended the affair. For more information, please contact CHS science teacher Will Warren.

Keep current with CSD’s news and other education-related information by subscribing to CSD Spotlight. Enter an e-mail address into the field under E-mail Subscriptions in the upper right-hand side of this screen and click “Sign me up!”