May/June 2022: Oh, The Places We’ve Learned!

Think about a time when you learned something that really inspired you. Where were you? Who were you with?

This post is a photo celebration of the diverse contexts where OSSU students and educators have been exploring, discovering, creating and collaborating in the busy final months of the school year. From forests to fairs, farms to dinner tables – examples of the community as classroom are all over the place (including many more than pictured here)!

**Make sure to keep scrolling to find a student-made video about Service Week at Hazen!**

HES principal Pat Pennock gets a tour of the best climbing spots at the historic granite works of Atkins Field in Hardwick.

Visiting ecologists from UVM work with Hazen Middle School students to explore the health of the school’s stream through water and invertebrate sampling.

For a peek into community projects that took place during Hazen’s Service Week, check out this VIDEO made by students with support from teacher Leanne Harple.

April 2022: Reaching Out

Taking a step beyond the familiar, connecting with new people in our own community or beyond, exploring what’s possible when we expand our networks – read on to see how reaching out has catalyzed learning and growth in OSSU this spring.

Making an Impact: A Conversation with Woodbury’s 5/6 Grade Class

“When we get into projects, we like REALLY get into projects.”

“We were learning about the war in Ukraine and thinking about a way we could have an impact or help them in any sort of way and we thought of a fundraiser.”

“Ms. Benton has a friend who works at the Ukrainian Research Institute which gave us a direct connection to a Ukrainian family.”

“We learned a lot of different things about Ukraine. It was also a good learning process preparing for the bake sale.”

“At the beginning it was pretty easy, but once we started getting in contact with businesses it was harder. We called so many businesses and only three of them said yes [to setting up our bake sale outside].”

“We had three different bake sales three weeks in a row and we raised a lot of money: $750.”

“People were buying in bulk and giving us more money than they owed.”

“My favorite was the guy who came by with change in his cup and gave us all of the change in his cup.”

“I don’t think anybody could just donate $750. It amounted to so much because so many people were able to donate a little bit.”

“It was a way for the community to come together because everybody was super into the cause.”

“The Local Donut in Woodbury was inspired by this fundraiser and held a pop-up in Burlington on behalf of our class.”

“I was surprised at how many people were willing to give money to people they didn’t know, because they knew what was happening, not because of what people looked like or what was their race or identity, but because they didn’t have anything and needed help.”

“We were going to help one family at first and now we helped two, which is even better. We didn’t expect them to send a picture or anything because we thought it would be more private, but they sent a thank you message and pictures of themselves. It was nice to know where the money went and who got it and to know their names.”

“I like knowing that there are so many people who are supportive of what we’re doing and that kids our age are organizing this and figuring out how to help people.”

“We’re a pretty small group – I think we’ve proven that it doesn’t matter the size of your group or your age, you can still make an impact.”

What’s next??

“Ms. Benton’s high school friend has a colleague in Poland working at a refugee settlement and both of them will be visiting our class in May.”

“We want to brainstorm more ways to make money and give it to other families that need it – anywhere, here or Ukraine. We also talked about continuing to support the same families. We might try different ways to raise the money.”

“We’ll sing!”

“We could dance in the street!”

“Or a bottle drive.”

“We could do at least five bake sales.”

“We could do a play and charge admission or have a donation box at the play.”

“Now that we know so many people will donate to this kind of thing, or would donate to a similar, thing we could probably raise money for other countries or something else, now that we know this works.”

“Let’s solve world hunger.”

“I like that!”

“We get really into stuff.”

Educator Learning Journeys

Touring the woodshop at SEA’s building.

Educators and school leaders from OSSU have been hitting the road to learn how schools in other communities are putting student agency and place-based education into practice. On one such learning journey, an OSSU group toured the Spaulding Educational Alternatives (SEA) Program and it’s brand new building which integrates experiential academics, vocational training and community-based learning within a therapeutic framework.

Can you spot Dr. Di Giulio?

Travelling a bit further, on April 28th, four educators from Hazen (Dr. Jason Di Giulio, Sarah Keener, Megan Mercier, and Anja Pfeffer) traveled to Portland, Maine, to visit Casco Bay High School. The team met with students, teachers, the principal and the assistant principal to learn about their best practices in Expeditionary Learning, CREW (Advisory System), as well as their proficiency work. Inspired by the deep engagement in learning and caring for every member of the Casco Bay school community, the team also acknowledged and celebrated work happening at Hazen to build toward similar goals.

Growing Muffins!

Students from the Hardwick REACH! afterschool program worked with Emily Cayer of the Northeast Grainshed Alliance to plant a bed of Spring Warthog Wheat at Atkins Field. Students shared their favorite foods made with wheat (bread, hot dog buns, cereal) and guessed how many square feet of farmland it takes to grow wheat for one loaf of bread. They were great guessers, and guessed from 10-20 square feet (the correct answer is ~16 SQFT). In the fall, students will harvest and process the wheat into flour, then bake with it! The 32 SQ feet that they planted will be enough wheat to make a loaf of bread (16 SQFT), and four muffins (4 SQFT each).

Hazen Wellness Fair

More than a dozen community partners participated in Hazen’s third annual Wellness Fair (part of the school’s Spring Festival day) by generously bringing their health and wellness talents and expertise to share with the whole school community. Students and staff were able to partake in an array of wonderful activities: from life coaching to massage to fitness machines, acupressure, youth resources trivia, aromatherapy, biofield tuning, tea-making, foot soaks and more!

Community Opportunities!

Modern Times Theater Midway Project

  • Building on the success of last years “Kid Powered Street Fair”, we are making a bigger more exciting Midway for the Memorial Day festivities in Hardwick. Join us this May for a collaborative community building and performing workshop. We can’t do this without you! Send us an email if you have questions, or know you want to be involved.

Hardwick Neighborhood Gatherings

Summer Courses:

Walking With Horses – Level 1

  • In order for schools to improve their culture, teachers need skills to build more positive classroom environments. Many students, especially those from disadvantaged homes and backgrounds of trauma, often feel isolated, unheard, unseen, and misunderstood. When teachers know how to listen from a much deeper place, with greater attunement and compassion, they are able to connect with students in more trusting and respectful ways. During this course, participants build such relationships with horses who, as prey animals, naturally only feel safe around people who are grounded, balanced, and in tune with their needs.

Dare To Be Me

  • “Dare To Be Me” (DTBM) aims to turn traditional education on its head and explore what can happen in a classroom and school environment that fosters “aliveness.” In this course, teachers embark on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment so they can help promote a collaborative school culture that is trauma-transformative and centered on holistic wellbeing. Participants will spend active time in Nature, learn a variety of mindfulness activities, engage in quiet introspection, and discuss how their own and their students’ mental, physical and emotional well-being impacts classroom culture and academic achievement. Through different forms of reflective journaling, they will form a vision of who they want to be as a teacher and colleague.

Vermont Folklife Center Summer Course Offerings

  • Documenting Everyday Life (in-person in Brattleboro, VT) – July 6 and 7, 2022
    This workshop presents the foundations of what we at the VFC refer to as the “ethnographic toolkit.” Capturing the scope of everyday life through deep listening, description, and cultural documentation is a part of how ethnography builds context. These tools can be used by anyone looking to engage with individuals and communities to reach a deeper understanding about how we live and live together.
  • Community Driven Media Making (Online only) – July 25 – Aug 4, 2022
    What impact does sharing a documentary audio story, oral history, or other multimedia have on the individuals or communities represented within that medium? With a specific focus on audio-production, this two-week online course is for anyone interested in using digital media and community interviewing as tools for social engagement and change.
  • Teaching with Primary Sources: Vermont Farming and Foodways (in-person in St. Albans, VT) – July 21 and 22, 2022
    In this free workshop for educators, participants will explore VT Folklife oral history recordings focused on the role that farmers play in Vermont’s history and identity and discover how these primary sources offer a window into experiences often hidden from the public. Participants will be introduced to curated primary source sets and application strategies and activities for middle and high school learners, including how to bring in digital resources from the Library of Congress.

Project Design Lab 

  • Attend this summer institute to design a creative project for next year that will strengthen the well-being of teachers, students and your school community. Customize your Project Design Lab experience with different levels of support from a teaching artist. Graduate credits are available, and lodging and meals are included.

March 2022: What’s Sprouting?

Sap, energy and the earliest new shoots are rising this time of year. Explorations, collaborations, and opportunities are sprouting up in our OSSU schools, too! May the stories this month feed our collective, creative springtime energy and our sense of possibility.

Working with teaching artist Barbara Paulson of No Strings Marionette Company, students at Lakeview Elementary recently had the wonderful opportunity to explore creative expression and storytelling through puppetry. This project was a collaboration with Highland Center for the Arts (HCA) and involved puppet making, puppet exploration, learning about HCA and snowshoeing on an outdoor art scavenger hunt.

Kids in the Wolcott REACH! afterschool program learned to combine the gifts of two special trees to brew a simple and healing Cedar Tea (sweetened with maple).

  • For a cedar tea recipe, see this article (recipe is at the bottom).
  • For additional maple curriculum resources and recipes that honor indigenous history and knowledge, check out Vermont Harvest of the Month’s March Maple resources.

Work has also begun in the Wolcott school garden, preparing for spring planting!

Craftsbury third-graders are building their understanding of Abenaki culture and history. As part of their learning, the class travelled to the Nulhegan Education and Cultural Center in Holland VT where they were hosted by Abenaki artist and educator Lucy Cannon Neel and had a wonderful day exploring games, music, art and stories.

Professional Development in Action: Supporting Student Creativity and Innovation

A group of Hazen educators is taking part in a year-long Innovation and Creativity for Vermont Educators course offered by the Vermont Small Business Development Center (VtSBDC) and Castleton University. The Hazen team consists of Arne Hagman Science teacher; Jen Olson, Work Based Learning Coordinator; Lynn Patenaude, Flexible Pathways Coordinator; Sarah Keener, Librarian/Tech Integrationist; Natasha Troop, OSSU Innovation Coach; and Jake Lester, Spark Program Manager.

The course aims to “integrate a curriculum that creates an ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ in students, empowering them to follow their passions.” At Hazen, participating educators are applying their learning in support of numerous student entrepreneurship activities, including:

  • Pathways Independent-Based Learning (IBL) student business projects including barn quilts, jewelry making, and sneaker sales. 
  • Hardwick Spring Fest prizes designed and created by Makerspace students using 3D printers and laser cutters
  • Field trips to local artisans, entrepreneurs and makerspaces
  • New partnership with two local businesses donating sustainable, non-toxic materials for student Makerspace projects (Weidmann’s Maplex and Vermont Natural Coatings)
  • J-Term workshops focused on building student businesses
  • Hardwick Farmers Market booth for Hazen student entrepreneurs
  • Working Lands Industries class: on-site explorations of a variety of local working lands businesses
  • Weekly Career Cafe series which invites guest speakers to talk about career paths and current opportunities for students, many with an entrepreneurial focus

With support from course instructors, Olson, Patenaude and Keener applied for a Vermont Principals Association Mini-Monies grant and were collectively awarded $15,000 to put towards equipment, supplies, mentorship and instruction for innovation and creativity projects at the school.

The Hazen team hopes to build upon existing entrepreneurial offerings at Hazen — such as the Printmaking for Profit art class taught by James Lockhart, and the Building Better Businesses holiday wreath business class taught by Jay Modry — to expand entrepreneurship opportunities for students next school year and beyond.

To learn more about the course, read this article from VtBDSC: “Creativity & Innovation for Vermont educators: Course inspires entrepreneurial mindset in the classroom and beyond.”

*Thanks to Sarah Keener for contributing this story!*

Jan/Feb 2022: A Potpourri of Positivity

A great many unflagging forces are at work supporting joy, connection and possibility in the lives of our young people, despite the fact that these first months of the new year have been among the most difficult of the pandemic. Here is a sampling of these forces in OSSU and some resources to support and inspire.

Congratulations to Beth LeCours of Hardwick Elementary who was recently celebrated as Vermont Art Educator of the Year! If you’ve ever been to the Pumpkin Walk, the Light Parade or the HES Harvest Dinner, you have experienced a taste of the many ways that Beth weaves community and nature into the creative learning she cultivates for kids.

Woodbury Elementary School Outdoor Ed: Did you know that Woodbury Elementary School has a whole host of outdoor education programming? And a webpage where you can read all about it? So cool! Check it out here: Woodbury School Outdoor Ed Programs.

From the site: “Through outdoor education students feel a sense of connection to the people and land they are surrounded by. This in turn leads to informed and engaged citizens who will work together to create a rich and vibrant community.”

REACH! Woodlot Program with WonderArts: This winter, community educators from WonderArts are teaming up with Craftsbury REACH! to offer a new, all-outdoor, experiential and exploration based afterschool program at the beautiful Craftsbury Academy Woodlot. Photos here are from an outdoor cooking adventure with fresh ingredients, an open fire, and lots of culinary freedom 🙂

Spring(Fest) Is In The Air! Mark your calendars for the return of Hardwick’s Spring Festival this Memorial Day weekend! Though on pause during the pandemic, this annual community celebration is back on, coordinated by Kiwanis and the Town of Hardwick with support and participation from many community partners. This year, get excited for an old-fashioned carnival midway at Atkins field – a new feature of the festival brought to you by East Hardwick’s Modern Times Theater in collaboration with Hazen Union students! In the photos below, students in Hazen’s makerspace class meet with Rose and Justin of Modern Times Theater to imagine the kinds of carnival games, themes and prizes they would like to create, and how they can use their makerspace skills and equipment in connection with their sense of place to bring the midway to life.


This episode of On Being with guest Trabian Shorters is a powerful listen. The concept of asset-framing, “defining people by their aspirations, not their challenges,” is simple but transformational and deeply relevant to the work of educators.

Workshop: Indigenous Land Acknowledgments for Educators:

This three part series offered by Gedakina and Shelburne Farms, “will address the history and purpose of  land acknowledgments, examine our unique contexts, and support one another as we each craft a research-based, personalized and heartfelt land acknowledgement. By acknowledging Indigenous people’s relationship to land, and exploring our own relationship to land, we will enter into a process of truth and reconciliation. Time and space will be created to consider the connections to and implications on our teaching practices. 

Nov/Dec 2021: Nourishment

As we find our way forward both individually and as a community into the new year, may these bright spots from OSSU bring some warmth to your heart and help us all get creative about the ways we nourish ourselves and each other.

Members of OSSU Leadership Team connecting with trees and snow and each other during a Dare To Be Me workshop on the Hardwick Trails with Hazen teacher and Rowland Fellow Anja Pfeffer.

And finally, a great resource for over the holidays. Please spread the word!!

October 2021: Abundance

Many kinds of abundance characterize this time of year, including the sometimes stressful abundance of things to do before snow flies. To counter that stress, this post focuses on experiences of abundance in OSSU that have been supportive, joyful and nourishing.

Apples! This year’s plentiful apples were such a gift. Students have been picking, pressing, baking, tasting, and sharing apple fun all over OSSU through programs with REACH!, Green Mountain Farm to School, and the Center for an Agricultural Economy.

Sharing the Harvest: Food for snacking, food for the community, food for the cafeteria, food for the soul – students throughout OSSU have been harvesting, gleaning, tending, sharing and finding joy in working together. Photos below include the Wolcott School Garden, the Hazen Greenhouse, Recipe for Human Connection class gleaning at Harvest Hill Farm and making soup kits to give away at Hazen’s open house, Woodbury School Garden, HES harvesting at Atkins Field Community Gardens, and Hazen students participating in the Vermont Maple 100 event.

Community Partners Coalition – You’re Invited! One of the places you can go to experience the abundance of community support for our schools is the Community Partners Coalition (CPC). This group meets monthly and is open to anyone (teachers, students, administrators, family members, community partners). Would you like to share a resource, success story, opportunity, idea, need, or request for collaboration related to supporting our youth and our schools? Please email Reeve Basom ( or Jen Olson ( to be added to the group. From there, it’s up to you how often you’d like to join in!

Wolcott Community Forest: check out this new Community Forest, Community School partnership in Wolcott. 

Upcoming opportunities:

Webinar: Unsettling Thanksgiving in Your Curriculum

Virtual Series: Culturally Responsive Place-Based Education

August/Sept 2021: Gifts

Gifts, however large or small, are at the center of the relationships that power our communities and our learning. Stories from the summer and the reopening of school are full of examples of giving and receiving from each other and the natural world.

At Wolcott REACH! summer camp, the garden gifted ingredients for herbal footbaths, summer spritzers, pickled garlic scapes and lots of taste-tests. In return, campers gifted the garden with hard work to keep new plants watered and weeds at bay.

REACH! kids at the Hardwick summer camp walked down to the community gardens at Atkins Field to help harvest produce to share with the community through the Hardwick Area Food Pantry. Peas, garlic, lettuce, kale, and mixed herb bundles were picked, cleaned, weighed, portioned and of course tasted by these young gardeners.

Hazen greenhouse: Just before summer break, a group of students, teachers and community partners spent an industrious day putting a new plastic roof on the Hazen Greenhouse. The problem-solving and teamwork were amazing to witness, the results were high quality, and the process was joyful. Food and flowers have been happily growing under the new roof this summer and are beginning to be harvested and used by classes now that school is back in session.

During inservice week, teachers at Lakeview began collaborating to plan for community-centered learning this year. The list of ideas and resources that they generated illustrates so much possibility for deep and meaningful place-based engagement.

A reflection from Lakeview 3/4 teacher Ms. Beckley:

My class and I had some beautiful moments in the garden today. We did a “Cool in School” meditation, a little flowy standing yoga, had snack during our read aloud, and sketched the beauty around us. During these moments, we were visited by many monarchs, one I was lucky enough to catch a photo of. I thanked my friends for being calm enough for the monarchs to feel like they could stay near us. Pretty powerful and beautiful moments.

Welcome back bouquets being put together by Hazen librarian, Sarah Keener, for the first day of school.

May/June 2021: Landing

Through the challenges and changes of this school year, we have landed in new perspectives, new relationships, new awareness, new priorities, and new intentions. And in many ways we have also landed in renewed connection with the land itself – a context and partner for learning and healing. The stories, photos and audio clips below are just some of the many examples from OSSU of springtime learning with the land.

A village of forest classrooms can be found in the woods behind Hardwick Elementary School athletic fields. Each class has a special space where they gather and learn each week. Listen to the audio clips below to hear students from third grade and kindergarten share their forest classroom experiences.

Forest Classroom – 3rd Grade
Nature Sit-Spots – Kindergarten
Living/Nonliving Collection – Kindergarten

At the Lakeview School Gardens, students in Leslie Campos’s class are growing food, flowers and art. And math skills, too! (as you will hear in the audio clip below).

Lakeview Garden – 4,5,6 Grades

Also at Lakeview, a wildly popular outdoor mud kitchen is the playground’s newest feature. Former Lakeview teacher Lisa Sedore wrote a North County Credit Union Educator Grant in May 2019 (before COVID), and para-educator Della Hall helped see the project through. Michael Lapierre of The Bend Woodworking built, delivered, and set up the kitchen.

At Hazen, we find:

  • Recipe for Human Connection students on a wild edibles walk with guest herbalist Rachel Keener
  • Eighth graders installing artistic and informational signs downtown to educate and spark environmental action
  • Middle school TSA green up heroes
  • Acorns planted as an experiment in the fall, bursting into life this spring
  • Students preparing to re-plastic the greenhouse where pumpkins, veggies, herbs and flowers are already growing for fall harvest in the new school year

Woodbury 5th and 6th graders took science outside to use a limited set of materials to design and build an “umbrella” that can keep a tissue dry when it “rains.”

REACH! After School students at the Wolcott site celebrate spring with a sunflower garden and a cooking project to make veggie dip flavored with herbs growing in the school garden. In Hardwick, REACH! students sift compost to prepare and plant a garden bed that will grow food for the Hardwick Area Food Pantry.

Wolcott 3rd graders lovingly transplant the cucumber plants that they started from seed in the classroom.

At the Craftsbury Academy Woodlot, students find a sapsucker’s sticky pink insect trap on a yellow birch, a porcupine den above the beaver ponds, and a patch of beautiful lady slipper flowers.


Land acknowledgement is a way of connecting to the land and its history while recognizing and honoring the indigenous people who have stewarded the land for generations. In this story, read about how a school community in Shelburne, VT went through the process of creating their own land acknowledgement practice in partnership with local Abenaki leaders.

April 2021: Perspective

Stories this month celebrate learning experiences that create space for multiple voices and many types of wisdom – from collective poetry to social science research to reading the stories written in the landscape. Enjoy!

Excerpt from the Hazen collective poem, “Today I feel…”

Today I feel

like a dishrag

a square

a butterfly antlers

a sloth

a rectangle

a cow

a flower in early spring

a cat

a smashed phone screen

a golden retriever

Like when you ride your bike through a puddle and hoping and praying to God you

don’t get mud all over your back but you do

and you just have to keep riding.

by Hazen students and staff


Coyote Stories

9th and 10th grade students in Hazen’s Biology class recently completed a cooperative project with UVM doctoral candidate Josh Morse, the Vermont Trapper’s Association, Vermont Fish and Wildlife, the Vermont Folklife Center and Cold Hollow to Canada. Students interviewed community members to collect social science data on attitudes and values related to coyotes.  Students practiced listening without judgement, data collection and interpretation, navigating scientific and social ethics, and integrative thinking to relate diverse attitudes to policy. The stories have been added to a larger collection at the Vermont Folklife Center in Middlebury to serve as a reference for policy makers. For more information on the project, you can follow this link: UVM Coyote Stories Page. To hear about the project from the students themselves, click on the audio story below!

Click on the triangle to hear students describe their experience!

Teachings from Trees

At the Craftsbury Academy Woodlot, third-graders investigate signs of spring, practice tree identification, and reflect through journaling. The woodlot will welcome these students several more times this spring as they learn to read the landscape and listen for the wisdom of the non human species around us.


Summer Professional Development Opportunities:

March 2021: Possibility

Springtime offers the balance of light and dark that can help us hold space for grief while also leaning into joy and possibility. This month’s post is dedicated to the spirit of possibility that has continued to be fueled by the creativity, collaboration and community support that are alive in OSSU.

Is collective art possible in a pandemic? Take a look at this gorgeous example from the REACH! after school program. A project that wove together journaling, nature explorations and visual art, the resulting digital mural is a wonder – and doubly so given that it was made possible through a partnership with WonderArts 🙂

May be an image of text that says 'NEAR OR APART, TOGETHER WE MAKE ART pandemic-time, community project made possible WonderArts, REACH!, and the creative hands of many children'

Fire, knives, freezing temps and third graders… a recipe for disaster? Far from it! With the support of school staff and administration who cultivate the conditions for learner agency and healthy risk-taking, this was a recipe for an afternoon of teamwork, culinary creativity with local ingredients, and palpable collective joy and gratitude. While waiting for apple and veggie creations to heat over the fire, the question was asked, “Is anyone feeling grateful for something right now?” Without a moment’s pause, the answers rang out, “My family!” “Trees!” “SCHOOL!”

Wolcott students are busy preparing the soil to unlock the possibility contained in seeds! The bright bay window of the third grade classroom is already full of eager green starts. Outside, a rain catchment system has been installed on the garden shed to provide a convenient water source for the garden, and pea seeds are in the ground!

Resources and Opportunities!

  • 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge! Join us April 5th through April 25 for our 7th version of the Challenge. Learn more and register here. (FREE)