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Robo Raiders Success

in STEM by
Robo Raiders Team 4946 waits in the bleachers for the Opening Ceremony to kick off the FTC Robotics Tournament. Pictured, left to right: Katerina Wood, Sophia Heinz, Frances Kaplan, Alexandra Reilly, Stephen Looke, Kieran Edraney, and Eric Jacobsen (Team Captain).

On Saturday, February 11, after working independently together since September toward building and programming a working robot, the U-32 Robotics Team, Robo Raiders #4946, competed in the all-day Vermont Regional FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) robotics competition, organized by UVM and held this year up at Essex High School. Paired up in alliance with a different team each bout, the Robo Raiders competed in five matches opposite two other alliance teams. They demonstrated cooperation, innovation, problem-solving, a sense of humor, grace under pressure, and “gracious professionalism,” a key tenet of the FIRST Robotics program. Special guest Governor Phil Scott spoke during the Opening Ceremony. In his remarks he mentioned that he once student-taught at U-32, and afterward he made his way over to “the pit” to meet the U-32 team and check out their robot. The Robo Raiders placed 13th out of 32 teams participating from across New England.

The Verizon Challenge

in Environmental learning by

By Jack Thompson, Logan Wood, and Henry Kasulka

Four years ago, Henry’s dad, Shawn Kasulka, started a FIRST LEGO League team. Henry Kasulka, Logan Wood and I (Jack Thompson) all joined. Ruby Singer and Jacob McCoy also joined, along with some other kids. For each year of FLL, you must come up with an innovative solution to a real-world problem. In our third year, we designed an app to try and reduce trash by telling people where to take recyclable items that they can’t just put in the recycling bin. However, we didn’t have the resources to actually make the app we designed. Then, this year, we learned about the Verizon challenge, and how it would give us the chance to make it all real.

East Montpelier students Henry Kasulka (Grade 6), Ruby Singer (Grade 8), Jacob McCoy (Grade 8), Logan Wood, (Grade 6), and Jack Thompson (Grade 6), who were recently recognized for their innovation and creativity!

We participated in a challenge, sponsored by Verizon. 1,800 groups in Vermont, including ours, would design an app and make a short video that would be inspected by Verizon. Whoever made the best video and app design would move on the next challenge: the regional challenge. All of the winning apps in the region (ours being New England) would be compared, and the best would be selected to move on to the national challenge, and then the winner of that would be given the resources to make the app. Unfortunately we did not make it past the regional competition. But there is still another chance! One additional app idea will also be a winner. People can vote for the app design they like best, and the one with the most votes will be the fan favorite winner. But you’re probably wondering about the details of our app.

For the Verizon App Challenge, we submitted our idea called Reuse-It. It is an idea for an app that would allow you to search up an item or any piece of junk you didn’t need. The app would tell you where to take it and what you can do with it. If you turned on your location, it would calculate the closest place you can drop off that item. We were also thinking of some cool additional features, like the “Junk Market:” a place where you could sell your junk that you had no more use for. Keep Reading

ECO – Learning Through Experience

in Environmental learning by

By Sarah Kinter

On a Tuesday afternoon in mid-January I visited East Montpelier Elementary School’s Kindergarten/First Grade teacher Jillian Zeilenga and her class for an “Educating Children Outdoors” [ECO] afternoon. Our learning theme was “Force of Motion,” a welcome antidote to  the raw cold of that afternoon.

East Montpelier Elementary kindergartners experiment with ropes and pulleys during their Educating Children Outdoors (ECO) class.

Mrs. Zeilenga’s and Mrs. Gariboldi’s students got all bundled up, prepared for outdoor learning, having participated in ECO one to two afternoons a week since September. EMES is blessed with beautiful woods behind the school which have long lent themselves to outdoor play and education. Introduced by Mrs. Zeilenga five years ago after seeing it piloted at Union Elementary School, ECO is based on site at EMES and co-taught by K-2 EMES teachers and ECO staff from the North Branch Nature Center.

ECO is the latest in a long tradition of environmental education programs offered at EMES. Four Winds, previously called Environmental Learning for the Future (ELF), was taught for many years at EMES and is currently offered at Calais, Doty, and Rumney Elementary Schools. VINS’ Environmental Citizenship Program and Angela Gibbons of Earth Walk are also part of this rich tradition.

ECO coordinator Angie Barger works with teachers to complement their own curricula with ECO’s standards-based curriculum. Teachers also draw from Four Winds. The core ECO routines form “the walls of the outdoor classroom. ECO makes familiar the child’s local ecosystem through their senses. They know what is beyond the wooded boundaries of the playground and how the seasons change because they learn and play in these woods every week” says Barger. Karen Liebermann, a parent volunteer, has noticed that the current 5th and 6th grade students that began ECO in Kindergarten and are now practicing Nature Journaling are “noticeably more comfortable and curious in the woods.” The program is also praised by fellow teachers Lisa Gariboldi and Beth Parker for fostering an “awareness of and appreciation for our natural world…while incorporating teamwork and community building.” Keep Reading

Common Level of Appraisal and other Mysteries of School Funding

in Educational Funding by

Town Meeting Day is right around the corner, so it’s time for an update on school funding and what we need to pay attention to in 2017.

Your school property tax: Your school property tax is a factor of four influences: the statewide property tax rate, school budget(s), equalized pupils, and the CLA, or Common Level of Appraisal, which equalizes property values across the state in order to make the statewide property tax fair. This system, created under acts 60 and 68, is designed to treat taxpayers and students in all Vermont towns fairly. Towns have equal ability to raise funds. The majority of taxpayers pay school taxes based on their income. Here’s how it works:

The statewide property tax: Under Act 68, the statewide property tax is $1.10 for residential property – your home – and $1.59 for non-residential property (businesses and second homes.) This rate is on each $100 of the property’s fair market value. When applied to all property statewide, this should raise enough to provide a basic education payment of $9,588 (the amount the state calculated is needed) for every equalized student* in the state. The statutory tax is rarely implemented. When there is a surplus in the education fund, the state may drop the statewide tax rate. For 2018, the Tax Commissioner has recommended the statewide property tax rate remain $1.00 residential and $1.55 non-residential.   

The school budget: The state calculated the educational spending per equalized pupil base amount of $9,588. It takes more than $9,588 to educate a student; how much more is what school boards wrestle with as they set their budgets. When the school budget is final, the state tax rate for residential property is adjusted to locally raise taxes for spending above the basic education payment. The residential tax rate adjustments reflect both the U-32 and elementary school budgets. The non-residential tax rate is fixed and is not changed by the school budget. However, both rates are changed by the Common Level of Appraisal. Keep Reading

Inc., Random Acts of Kindness & Cutting Boards

in Arts in our schools/Student Activism by


So far, this semester, U-32 Inc, a student-run entrepreneurial experience, has teamed up to create two products.  Initially, George Cook’s class began the semester in collaboration with Dave Bazis and the Furniture Design class at U-32.  Through a collaborative effort, Bazis’s students instructed Cook’s students in the production phase.  Cook said, “I cannot tell you how instrumental they were in the process.  Their craftsmanship is fantastic!”  In total, the students created 53 cutting boards, each individually unique.  No two boards were the same.  The prices ranged from $20 to $48.  To their surprise, all 53 boards were sold, in less than 80 minutes!

Congratulations to Alli for receiving a one of a kind zoo bar for being helpful and inclusive. She takes time out of her day to make others feel better. #u32daysofgiving

Currently, a “giving” arm of Inc. is being developed and they have introduced #U32daysofgiving.  In this endeavor, Cook’s class has teamed up with Nutty Steph’s chocolate shop from Middlesex (VT).  Junior Wyatt Mashkuri designed the labels and, working with Nutty Stephs, they purchased 75 bars from her.  The group invited all U-32 students to submit recommendations for other individuals in the building to nominate folks who have performed random acts of kindness within the U-32 learning community!  Now, the class is awarding the chocolate bars to 32, U-32 students, for being kind!  You can check out their instagram feed.

Youth Ambassadors in the Muslim World

in Student Activism by
youth ambassadors

The U-32 and YES Abroad Connection

By Karen Liebermann

One student at at time, one year at a time, U-32 has been cultivating youth ambassadors in countries with significant Muslim populations.  This is made possible by the Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad Program, an exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State.  YES was started in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, as an effort to increase dialogue and mutual understanding between people of the US and people of countries with significant Muslim populations. Initially, it was a way for students from abroad to live and study in the US, but in 2007, it was expanded to include US students.  Each year, 65 American students win this scholarship to study abroad in a country that has a significant Muslim population, and U-32 students have a great record of being selected for this fully funded school year exchange program.  Students can spend their junior, senior or gap years immersed in another culture.

In 2013-14, Quinn McVeigh (class of 2015) travelled to Oman, making lasting connections with her host family.  In 2014-15, Katie Ware spent her junior year in the  Philippines and Rachael Phillips (class of 2015) spent her senior year in Sarajevo,  Bosnia.  Last year, Kanwara “Pui” Limakara from Thailand, came to U-32 on a YES exchange (the program that brings students from countries with significant Muslim populations here to the US).

On exchange currently, in Dakar, Senegal, is Cricket Liebermann. Cricket has been in Senegal since September 1st and will return in June of 2017.  She’s in school at the Senegalese American Bilingual School in Dakar, and is getting involved in the community, playing softball on the school team and taking dance classes.  Of this experience so far, Cricket says:

“Having the chance to study abroad in Senegal has made me grow in so many ways.  Just over two months ago, I arrived in Dakar and everyday since then I have been learning, exploring, meeting new people, immersing myself in the culture.  I can say for sure that exchange has changed the way I see and interpret so many things. It is truly a life changing experience.”

Cricket is blogging about her experience this year through and is happy to answer any questions about what it is like to apply, and to be on exchange through this program.

Think you might be the next U-32 ambassador or know of a young person who could be?  Check out the YES Abroad website  for application information.  The deadline for applying for the 2017-18 year was December 1st, 2016, but it’s not too early to be dreaming and planning for 2018-19.  This year’s students are abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, and Thailand.

Berlin Saving Money, Decreasing Waste, & Making Compost

in Student Activism by

By Colin Trottier, Berlin 6th grader

Berlin Elementary School has reusables, so we don’t throw away paper plates and plastic utensils anymore.

Before November 2016, we  threw away paper and plastic,  when we had classroom parties and school celebrations.  Teachers and parents wasted money by buying paper and plastic products. B.E.S. wasted money by paying for our garbage to be taken away to the landfill. Instead, we could have used reusables and washed our dishes. But Berlin Elementary did not have the money to buy reusables. So Ms. Dawkins wrote a School Zero Waste grant from Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District (CVSWMD).

The School Zero Waste grant is for reducing waste, so they liked the idea of reusables. Now, each classroom has the following reusables: metal utensils,  plastic bowls, plastic cups. The utensils are stored in a plastic-covered box. Now when we have  parties, school celebrations, and daily healthy snack, we can use reusables, instead of paper plates, paper cups, and plastic spoons or forks.

Thanks to CVSWMD, Berlin Elementary School is a GREENER place.

Mentors Make a Difference

in Mentoring by

January is National Mentor Month

By Wendy Freundlich

Every year in January, communities across the United States celebrate National Mentoring Month. Mentors are positive role models. They are community volunteers who help support youth. Mentors let our children know that an extra adult cares about them, listens to them and is there for them through the challenging years of late childhood through adolescence and beyond. By providing consistency, leadership and guidance, mentors help inspire young people to set high goals and work to follow their dreams.

Girls/Boyz First mentor pairs enjoyed pie baking at NECI recently.

Mentoring is a research-based, effective approach to helping youth overcome social, academic and economic challenges and is a common sense approach to resiliency-building skill development.  Mentoring is also cost effective for communities. Keep Reading

The Tempest

in Post format/Theater by

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on…”

In early November, Stage 32 presented The Tempest, by William Shakespeare, a tale of magical possibilities, the choice between revenge and forgiveness and the powerful healing of love.

U-32 Student Council

in Student Activism by

By Sarah Kinter

The U-32 Student Council has always seen service as part of its mission. Many community members may have heard of their program, SCOP, Senior Community Outreach Project, which matches seniors in their last week of school with community members in need of help. For one day, whether it be wood stacking, gardening, or painting to name a few, students branch out across our community to perform service. Their blood drives are also well-known and well-served. Less well-known perhaps are their days of food sorting at the Vermont Food Bank or shelving books at local libraries. They recently participated in running a Wellness Day at U-32, promoting wellness through nutrition, tobacco prevention, with partner Central Vermont New Directions, rock climbing, and blood pressure testing performed by Allison Gauthier’s Anatomy class. The Student Council wants to do even more by offering monthly service opportunities for middle and high school students to help community members in our 5 town district. November’s goal is food drives. If you would benefit from service from a group of students please email either Emma Curchin, co-President, at or Kit Walker, co-Teacher Adviser, @ Or contact any one of their members, one of their four Presidents, Ellie Stroh, Lauren Morse, Emily Richards, or Emma Curchin, or either of their teacher advisors, Kit Walker or Deb Stevens. 

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