By MADELINE HUGHES
The school year is barely a month old, but Champlain Valley Union staff are already preparing for the final weeks before school lets out for summer vacation next June.
This year to avoid the pre-summer slump, the last two weeks on the calendar are set aside for for students to participate in the new Reflective Interest-based Student Experiences program – called RISE, Principal Adam Bunting said.
Generally students spend those last weeks cramming for exams, and then the school year abruptly ends.
In order to put a more concrete end to the school year with something to look forward to, during the final two weeks before summer break, all students in grades 9 to 12 will have the opportunity to explore different areas of interest in structured, guided or independent studies.
That means some students might take a class taught by Bunting – that is in itself something different – on leadership, where students will meet community leaders and explore what it means to be a leader themselves. Other students may plan an internship for weeks.
“It’s all hands on deck,” Bunting said, welcoming the idea of outside help. “Typically these [special classes] are led by faculty, but we would love the community to get involved. It gives more opportunities to students to find lifelong passions and potential careers.”
This experiences program was a natural next step for CVU, Bunting said. It expands on opportunities senior students have through the Grad Challenge program, where they each do an independent study as a capstone project.
“We are looking forward to a different feel at the end of the school year,” Bunting said. “The shift in the schedule affords us to close the year with a more thoughtful close.”
This does mean shifting the school year slightly to still have final exams. The fall semester now will end before winter break instead of in mid-January. When students return to school after that break, they will start a new semester. Final exams are scheduled for the third-to-last week of the school year.
Also new this year
- CVU has started what’s called a “Connect Block” at the beginning of each day, Bunting said. It gives students an open block of the day to schedule meetings with teachers for enrichment and to build relationships, he said.
- Students are taking “engagement surveys,” which collect social and academic information that helps staff better get to know students. The surveys also may help school staff assess student behavior, and could be a tool in keeping the school safe, Bunting said.
- Meanwhile, academics just look different these days. Bunting calls it “personalization of academics.” It means there are chickens and goats behind the school as part of the student-led sustainability program. There is even a pizza oven in an outdoor courtyard that students gather around.
Shop classes that were traditionally metal and wood now have 3-D laser printers. And there’s a shift in the gender balance in those classes, too. The wood classes now are half male and half female, Bunting said. “We are seeing those gender roles break apart.”
Many of the new features to high school learning are driven by students’ interests and efforts.
“There is deep project-based learning going on,” Bunting said. “Students are at the helm of making great mistakes,” which he said is where the learning really begins.