Posted in Colchester High School, General

CHS Students Take Atmospheric Research to New Heights

Some of Colchester High School’s Earth Systems Science students participated in real-time atmospheric research by launching two weather balloons at CHS on October 12.

Earth Systems Science is a required course for all CHS students, taught by teachers Heather Baron, Marijke Reilly, and Kara Lenorovitz, and it’s typically taken during students’ ninth-grade year. The course’s overarching goal is to develop students’ understanding of the earth as a large system composed of smaller, constantly interacting systems. Additionally, the course helps students to examine the role that humans play in shaping, changing, and responding to the earth’s dynamic systems.

CHS teacher Kara Lenorovitz

CHS students who participated in the launches did so in collaboration with UVM research engineer Mike Fortney. Fortney has designed a microsensor (called a “cricket sonde”) that collects temperature, humidity, and air pressure readings with the balloons’ increase in altitude. It will allow students to compare their real-time data to that collected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

UVM research engineer Mike Fortney

Fortney’s cricket sondes were used in the launches. The microsensors broadcasted their readings through a series of chirping sounds (hence the name). Typically, the signals can be picked up by radio within a range of approximately one hundred miles. The number and pitch of the chirps indicates the data’s type and value. The cricket sondes used in the launches were used in place of the routinely used radiosondes, which require sophisticated and expensive tracking and recording equipment.

The cricket sonde collects temperature, humidity, and air pressure readings as the balloon ascends into the atmosphere

This was a rare opportunity for our students; because costs and equipment for weather balloon launches are typically prohibitively expensive, students do not often have a chance to directly participate. The chance to take part in this hands-on research was arranged by teacher Kara Lenorovitz through her affiliation with UVM and Lyndon State College’s Satellite, Weather, and Climate program—a science education project funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and run by Vermont state climatologist Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux. The students recorded and tracked the broadcasted data for further analysis in the classroom in order to facilitate their understanding of the structure of our planet’s atmosphere.

In both of the launches, balloons made of heavy-duty latex rose at approximately one thousand feet per minute. The balloons, carrying the aforementioned cricket sondes, were expected travel through the earth’s troposphere and reach as high as the lower stratosphere—approximately sixty thousand feet above the earth’s surface—within an hour of the launches. (Indeed, the second balloon launched did make it into the stratosphere, reaching an altitude of approximately 40,000 feet, whereupon it [expectedly] burst due to atmospheric pressure.)

The cricket sondes and their payloads were connected to model rocket parachutes to allow them to fall more safely back to the earth’s surface. While sensors allowing researchers to monitor weather balloons’ exact locations are often used, in this case, they were cost prohibitive. As such, the students calculated the balloons’ altitude by using air pressure measurements, and they analyzed weather data recorded by the weather station in Albany, New York, in order to better understand wind direction at the time of the launches. A description of the project along with a prepaid envelope were included with the payloads in the hopes that, if found, they will be returned to CHS, along with information about where and when they were found, in order to provide additional qualitative information about wind direction in the atmosphere. So keep your eyes peeled for those payloads!

The payloads containing the cricket sondes included a description of the project and a prepaid envelope in the hopes that they will be returned to CHS if found

For more information, please contact Kara Lenorovitz at (802) 264-5700 or

The weather balloons were expected to reach the lower stratosphere within an hour of launch

Fun fact: Weather balloons were pioneered by French meteorologist Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort beginning in 1896, and it was he who determined the existence of the troposphere.

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Posted in Colchester Middle School, General

CMS To Celebrate “Mix It Up at Lunch Day” on October 18

It’s often said that there’s a fine line between a groove and a rut.

And breaking out of a rut is important!

Colchester Middle School is on board with this concept, and it is participating in Mix It Up at Lunch Day on Tuesday, October 18. “Mix It Up at Lunch Day” is a national movement aimed at encouraging students to dissolve the social boundaries that often develop in schools. To do so, CMS students will be encouraged to mingle with those with whom they might not ordinarily spend time during lunchtime, stepping outside their comfort zones and becoming better acquainted with others they might not know very well. The idea is to increase students’ awareness of the various social divisions that exist within their schools—and to challenge them. The event is designed to be a lot of fun, and it is meant to encourage increased understanding among the students about one another, well complementing ongoing initiatives around bullying and discrimination prevention and increasing respect and tolerance across the school community.

The concept was developed by Teaching Tolerance, an organization committed to improving students’ school experiences by reducing prejudice and improving relationships among students of all backgrounds. Because Teaching Tolerance’s surveys have identified school cafeterias as a place where social divisions are particularly prominent, cafeterias seem ideal locations to encourage the experience of enhanced intergroup mingling.

One of the main strategies is to make the event a lot of fun. At CMS, students and staff are encouraged to wear mixed-up outfits and to complete a human scavenger hunt in order to celebrate the day and to facilitate the experience.

This event will take place all over the country on the same day! Click here for a map indicating the locations of other participating schools all across the nation.

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Posted in General, Union Memorial School, Wellness

UMS Participates in National “Let’s Jump!” Campaign

Union Memorial School’s physical education teacher, Rob Traquair, organized a jumping-jack event on October 11 for each of the school’s recesses as part of a national campaign to break a Guinness world record.

UMS students help break a world record for jumping jacks on October 11

The campaign, called Let’s Jump!, was spearheaded by the National Recreation and Park Association and National Geographic Kids. Between 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST) on October 11 and 3:00 p.m. EST on October 12, people all around the world participated in the event, which involved doing one minute of jumping jacks. The goal was to amass more than twenty thousand participants worldwide to participate in order to break a world record; numerous sources listed the official record at 20,425 jumpers in a twenty-four-hour period in March 2011.

Other organizations around the country, such as Let’s Move in School, Team Up for a Healthy America, We Can!, National Geographic Education, and a host of others were also involved in the “Let’s Jump!” campaign. All of these groups encourage and support healthy and active lifestyles for kids and their families. Such initiatives also fit well with Colchester School District’s Wellness Program.

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Posted in Accountability, Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Union Memorial School

It’s NECAP Testing Season

As part of the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act’s accountability requirement (click here to easily access earlier articles we’ve written about NCLB), students and educators at Malletts Bay School, Colchester Middle School, and Colchester High School are in the midst the New England Common Assessment Program’s (NECAP) standardized tests. The schools’ testing began this week.

As a quick refresher, NECAPs measure student achievement based upon the following four-point scale:

4 = Proficient with Distinction
3 = Proficient
2 = Partially Proficient
1 = Substantially Below Proficient

Essentially, scoring “1″ or “2″ represents failure, while scoring “3″ or “4″ represents a passing score.

As we discussed in a previous article, the Common Core State Standards will ultimately replace the NECAP, but in the meantime, the NECAP remains a critically important assessment in order to comply with NCLB, and as such, it is a major event.

At MBS, NECAPs are an all-hands-on-deck proposition. Virtually all students take the test, and a number of testing accommodations—including having portions of the test read aloud and/or using scribes to record student answers—are made to assist the nearly fifty differently abled learners with the process. In addition to these testing accommodations, the testing schedule requires the educators to coordinate quiet testing spaces and to adjust the Early Essential Education program’s schedule. Teachers design independent, quiet assignments for students who complete the test sections before the allotted time runs out in order to ensure a quiet testing environment for the other testing students, and they try to alleviate students’ testing anxieties by beginning the testing days with fun physical activities—especially for third graders, for whom the NECAPs are often the first experience with standardized testing. Parents help out with NECAPs by taking particular care to ensure that their children have nutritious breakfasts and proper rest. To encourage the students to try their very best, MBS ordered special “MBS Osprey Pride” pencils to use during the testing, and the fifth graders will celebrate the end of their testing period with a field trip to Indian Brook Park.

As we discussed in an earlier article, MBS’s test scores have historically exceeded the state average, and this is a culmination of not only the efforts on the part of MBS’s students and teachers but also of the cumulative instruction that the students received during their years at Porters Point School and Union Memorial School.

While students at Colchester Middle School and Colchester High School are much more familiar with the standardized testing process, NECAPs are still taken very seriously. The results of the tests are tracked and reported to the Department of Education as well as to the public, and the school district’s annual report to the school board includes NECAP-related data.

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Posted in Colchester High School, Community, General

Who Knew That Raising Money Could Be So Much Fun?

A thunderous crowd of more than seven hundred Colchester High School students participated in October 6’s pep rally, which culminated in the long-anticipated charitable hair-cutting event that raised more than $2,700.

Teacher Janet Soltau and raffle-winning student

Following such spectacles as a tug-of-war and a Jell-o-eating contest, raffle-winning students representing each grade snipped off portions of Principal Amy Minor’s hair while their classmates roared and cheered. Teachers Rachel Howe and Janet Soltau also offered up their locks for sacrifice, laughing and cringing as their long hair was cut to the delighted screams of the student assembly. The cuttings will be donated to Locks of Love, a nonprofit organization providing hair prosthetics to disadvantaged children enduring long-term hair loss as the result medical challenges.

Teacher Rachel Howe and students

The goal of $2,500 in order to send at least one child with cancer to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta in South Hero, Vermont, had already been surpassed before the rally, and donations to the cause were still flowing in after the event. And while the added incentive of the chance to cut the principal’s hair undoubtedly helped, Ms. Minor said that the students really took up the fundraising cause in earnest. “It really was a student-driven event,” she said.

Principal Amy Minor applauds raffle-winning student

This is really the sort of story that everyone can get behind—fun with an admirable purpose! Way to go, CHS!

Prinicpal Amy Minor with each student responsible for cutting a section of her hair for charity

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Posted in Colchester High School, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Primer Series, Programs

Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs—Part IV

Here we are on our fourth installment of the literacy primer already. Literacy is a huge topic, and even with this multipart primer, we are just scratching the surface of the information that is available and the various programs and initiatives that are in place just in the district alone.

At Colchester High School, the Humanities department focuses a great deal of energy on literacy, incorporating a number of approaches to it into its curriculum.

For example, in order to earn their required humanities credit, students in grades 9 and 10 are required to meet and demonstrate the established writing standards on two essential writings per year. Ninth- and tenth-grade students also take Degrees of Reading Power assessments, which help determine students’ reading comprehension levels. On-demand writing—like that found in essay portions of the SAT, for example—is practiced routinely. Close reading (a very deliberate and careful examination of text) is also regularly incorporated into the literacy initiatives at CHS.

CHS also hosts poetry slams every year. Poetry slams are events showcasing performance poetry, and performers are judged by the audience, which encourages widespread participation. Experts like the Breathing Poetry Project’s Kim Jordan and Vermont’s Slam Poet Laureate Geof Hewitt have helped out with CHS’s poetry slams in past years, and the annual event has become hugely popular with students.

Student writers are also encouraged to contribute work in published formats. Reflections, a literary journal overseen by teacher Jason Thime, is open to anyone who would like to participate, and The Lakeside Voice, a school newspaper produced by teacher Dennis McCannell’s Journalism class, is another avenue for aspiring writers to publish their work. (The Lakeside Voice has won a meritorious achievement award in scholastic editing and publishing from the New England Scholastic Press Association (NESPA) for three out of the last five years.)

While students receive guidance from their teachers, they also engage in peer conferencing about their writing, and they practice self-assessments. And in addition to the school’s style manual—to which the students’ writing should adhere—CHS educators have designed and implemented a set of rubrics for use with these evaluations and assessments, and this helps to ensure the feedback’s consistency and standardization. Ultimately, the objective is to encourage the students to write abundantly—and to write on an array of subjects of varying length and content.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, literacy is a vast topic, and our goal is to introduce the district’s efforts around it. These articles are by no means exhaustive on the subject! Please stay tuned for additional information about CSD’s literacy initiatives in a forthcoming installment.

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Posted in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, General, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Programs, Union Memorial School

Primer Series: CSD’s Literacy Programs Part III

Continuing with our primer about Colchester School District’s various literacy programs, let’s chat a bit about guided reading, particularly as it is done at Union Memorial School and Porters Point School. (Part I of this primer can be found here, and Part II of this primer can be found here. Our July post about emergent literacy and our August article about the Title I program are also relevant to this primer.)

Guided reading, at its essence, involves encouraging students to independently read books—that they have selected themselves—using various strategies for reading and comprehension. Our schools’ approach to teaching reading in the first and second grade classrooms is based upon the Readers’ Workshop model. Some key points about Readers’ Workshop are as follows:

* It provides a lot of time for students to actively read, allowing them to progress at their own pace while allowing teachers to work with individual students as well as with small groups;
* After receiving instruction in how to choose “good fit” books, students may self-select them, and they may also often choose where they sit to read and to whom they read, which helps to empower and motivate them, thus promoting their success;
* It integrates a number of important reading practices that are helpful to the students (reading aloud, shared reading, and so on); and
* Teachers may offer students the option of exploring literacy through a variety of ways, such as through websites and online games, art, storytelling, music, and so on.

The basic structure of Readers’ Workshop consists of a mini-lesson, independent reading, and teaching sharing/closing.

The focus of the mini-lesson, which is geared for the entire class, is upon something that will benefit all students regardless of their reading level. Since “one-size-fits-all” instruction on its own is not effective, instruction is tailored to meet specific student needs.

Following the mini-lesson, students read independently while the teacher meets with individual students or with small guided reading groups for conferences in order to help students apply the content of the mini-lessons to their own reading. Please note that, as part of the Readers’ Workshop format, the students are not necessarily grouped according to ability; the groups are designed to meet specific student needs—such as fluency and comprehension—and thus they are quite flexible. This approach to teaching reading can look significantly different from reading groups in schools many years ago.

Many classrooms incorporate a component into the model in which students read aloud to one another, and this, too, is flexible; students sometimes read to those who are interested in the same subject areas and at other times read to someone at the same reading level. This component, too, allows opportunity for the classroom teacher to conference with the students.

The workshop culminates with the sharing component (often called the Sharing Circle), which is an essential part of Readers’ Workshop that allows students to share what they discovered as the result of the day’s reading lesson. During this time, students discuss their reading process with one another and share their reading challenges and successes. This not only helps to further solidify what the students have learned but also allows them to demonstrate their understanding of their reading to their peers.

Readers’ Workshop has been in place here for a number of years. In 2010, some of our teachers participated in a workshop led by literacy consultant Leah Mermelstein in order to further their understanding of how to best implement the program into their classrooms.

This article just scratches the surface of guided reading; it is a vast subject that also encompasses professional resources available to teachers, instructional strategies, and so much more. If you would like more information about guided reading, please contact Union Memorial School at (802) 264-5959 or Porters Point School at (802) 264-5920.

Please stay tuned for future discussions about literacy at CSD!

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Posted in Colchester High School, Colchester Middle School, General, Malletts Bay School, Porters Point School, Primer Series, Programs, Union Memorial School, Wellness

Primer Series: CSD’s Bullying-Prevention Programs

While school bullying is often trivialized and marginalized in popular culture (think Nelson Muntz of “The Simpsons” and Back to the Future’s Biff Tannen)—often viewed as an unpleasant but ordinary part of growing up—the fact is that it is no laughing matter; bullying is a serious problem in society, and as such, it requires an equally serious approach to combating it and preventing it to begin with.

"The Simpsons" Nelson Muntz

Colchester School District has programs in place to do just that.

In addition to the district’s bullying prevention policy, one of the programs used by some of the schools in the district is based upon Second Step, which is a research-based curriculum aimed at both preventing bullying and improving social skills through three main components, including empathy building, emotional regulation, and problem solving. At Union Memorial School, for example, Second Step is used for kindergartens exclusively, while elements of it are also used with first and second graders, and particularly Second Step’s problem-solving components. Students also receive help in understanding the difference between normal conflict and bullying.

One of the many great aspects of the program, which is organized by grade level, is that it also contains parent education components, which help parents reinforce the skills at home, and a wide variety of materials and media are also used in the program.

Porters Point School also incorporates elements of Second Step into its curriculum. The guidance curriculum, as well as that of the overall classroom and school environments, is centered around kind acts and kind words. Anti-bullying initiatives are developed in part by creating a culture around respect, responsibility, and getting along with one another, and these concepts are reinforced through a variety of activities. Additionally, Porters Point School’s implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) also includes focusing upon being safe and upon being respectful to one’s self, others, and property—all of which complements anti-bullying strategies. (Stay tuned for more information about PPS’s implementation of PBIS in an upcoming article.)

Another complementary approach, being used for the first time this year at Malletts Bay School, is based upon the Michigan Model for Health. This model utilizes a total wellness approach, encompassing social/emotional, health, exercise, drug and alcohol prevention, nutrition, and safety elements, as well as many others that are meant to encourage healthy behaviors and lifestyles. With regard to addressing and preventing bullying, the program is designed to address bystanders as well as the aggressors and victims of aggressors. And it is important to note that, rather than a one-day lesson or occasional refresher, this is a systemic and fully integrated initiative; it is taught and incorporated every day, built around three basic rules of maintaining safety, respect, and responsibility for one’s actions.

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. This is yet another avenue for the district to educate and protect our students around the topic of bullying and aggressive behavior, 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 October 28; please call (802) 264-5900.

Part of Colchester Middle School’s strategy around this subject is to conduct research through surveys and data analysis in order to prioritize the ways in which it can implement programs around the prevention of bullying, harassment, substance use and abuse, and violence. This research will be part of a systematic approach to examine the school’s climatic and cultural issues, and the goal is for it to aid in identifying the various resources throughout the school, district, and community that are available to create a healthy and positive learning environment.

At Colchester High School, all administrators regularly attend training around the issue of bullying and violence prevention as part of their ongoing efforts to effectively address the issue. Aspects of CHS’s Teacher Advisory (TA) program, which is designed to allow all students to develop a rapport with at least one teacher beginning with their freshman year through the end of their junior year, also addresses bullying, as well. And the school invites a motivational speaker to speak with students about topics around good citizenship and personal responsibility on an annual basis. This year’s speaker was Jeff Yalden.

The Vermont Department of Education also collects and compiles data and resources around the issue of bullying; please feel free to click here for more information. As is stated in the district’s bullying prevention policy, bullying will not be permitted or tolerated, and all students have a right to a safe, civil, and positive learning environment. Bullying is not a laughing matter, and the district resolutely opposes it.

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Posted in General, Union Memorial School

Prized UMS Collection Tied Up at Burnham Memorial Library

Principal Chris Antonicci of Union Memorial School has come up with a creative way of encouraging students to visit Burnham Memorial Library.

Principal Antonicci with part of his tie collection

Mr. Antonicci has worn a tie to work nearly every day without exception for all of his twenty-one years in education, and they have become a hit with his students. For the month of October, however, he will forgo the accessory—directing the students inquiring about it to view his tie display at the library instead.

About half of Mr. Antonicci's tie collection is on display at Burnham Memorial Library

The ties have developed quite a following over time. Mr. Antonicci created a game based on the classic Memory using matching pictures taken of his ties. And this is the second year of the Tie Club, where any student who wears a tie to school can get his or her picture taken with Mr. Antonicci. And in his biography (as written and illustrated by second graders), you’ll notice that the illustrators were careful to include his trademark accessory.

Only about half of Mr. Antonicci’s approximately 120 ties fits into the display case at the library. He has collected ties for every major holiday, but his goals are to amass ties representing virtually all themes and occasions, and he would like to have a different tie for every day of the school year. And while he has some ties that play music, he would like to add at least one to his collection that features blinking lights.

As part of the strategy to encourage the students to visit the library, Mr. Antonicci and some of the teachers at UMS will read Mr. Tanen’s Ties and Mr. Tanen’s Tie Trouble, written by author Maryann Cocca-Leffler, aloud to them. He has also created a scavenger hunt based on the display for UMS students to complete as additional incentive to get them into the library.

Fun fact: although the tie assumed its more universal shape and style in the early nineteenth century, the earliest recorded example of them dates back to China’s Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 210 BC. The terra-cotta soldiers discovered in his mausoleum in Xi’an wore a version of the modern-day necktie. Incredible, isn’t it?

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Posted in Colchester High School, General

CPD Offers Forensics Presentation at CHS

Colchester Police Department's Detective Sgt. Cole

On September 13, members of Colchester Police Department met with juniors and seniors in Mrs. Boehmcke’s Forensic Science classes.

Detective Seargent Charles Cole and Corporal Jeff Fontaine described and discussed the observational and pragmatic skills needed in the field of forensics, offering a real-life look at crime scene analysis. They showed slides of crime scenes and talked with the students about processing them, including the process of making observations and collecting evidence of various types without contaminating it.

The officers emphasized the careful, methodical, and demanding nature of the work, noting the wide range of evidence that can contain DNA and that virtually anything could be significant and helpful in solving a crime—even something as seemingly insignificant as lit lights or household rubbish. They specified that investigators must always approach crime scenes with an open mind and that they must utilize all of their senses when examining the environment. Using such strategies, investigators can often deduce important information. They also stressed that, even with the sophisticated technology and equipment available in the field, common sense is truly an investigator’s best tool in this fascinating line of work.

To put some of the skills obtained from the officers’ presentation into practice, the class recently mapped a crime scene. The students demonstrated the necessary careful observation before proceeding into the crime scene as well as the proper protocol for processing it.

The officers’ presentations offered intriguing insight into the field of forensics—a valuable and eye-opening experience for the students.

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