AWE Newsletter

February 2021

The shortest month, the longest month

February has come and gone. With our unexpected need to go remote for a week, winter break soon after, and snow days here and there, it would be an understatement to say it felt a little fragmented. But here we are! February will soon be a memory. This newsletter will try to capture some of what we've been up to...

Mags Is Back!

Due to our snow, remote, and winter vacation days, we found it necessary to relocate our beloved guinea pig Mags to a staff home for much of February. Wednesday, she returned! Welcome back, Mags. Students and staff alike really love having you around for a snuggle.
Mags Returns to AWE!

Reminders About Mask Wearing & Close Contact

We had community members directly impacted by COVID-19 this month, so it's critical that we continue to be respectful and vigilant about recommendations from the CDC and the Vermont Department of Health. This means masks must always be over mouth and nose when inside the building. We take a LOT of mask breaks outside. We also have an isolation room available that vents directly outdoors, so one person at a time may use that room with no mask on. This is so important.
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Additionally, we know that staying six feet away at all times can be hard, and sometimes we have two students to a table so 3-4 feet is the best we can hope for. That said, direct touch and close contact needs to be avoided. This includes hugging, close talking, and sitting directly across from others at tables. Please reinforce this message at home! Thank you!

Improving Family Communication

Home Conferences

A reminder that we want to hear from you! AWE is interested in conducting monthly meetings with students and their parent(s) and/or guardian(s). The hope is to build stronger collaborative partnerships with student's natural supports, resulting in improved school outcomes.

If you're interested, click on the button below.

Humanities Update

Global Migration: Empathy & Perspective-Taking

In Humanities, we continue to learn more about global mass migration and to explore the role of the United Nations strives to protect the rights of refugees, climate migrants, and others who are forced to leave their homes and find another.

This idea, of course, is woven throughout our schoolwide book Refugee by Alan Gratz, whose protagonists are three young people fleeing their countries in three different time periods. The character of Josef is fleeing Germany in 1939--well before the UN had formed its High Commission for Refugees. Both Isabel from Cuba (1994) and Mahmoud from Syria (2015) are trying to reach the United States and Europe respectively but still face unbelievable hardship to try and achieve this.

In class today, we saw how intense the crisis actually is when experienced through a personal lens. All students participated in a simulation created by the BBC where they attempt to escape war-torn Syria and get safely to Europe by land, sea, and/or air. Each student was asked to run four attempts at the simulation but many were unable to safely arrive in Europe. As we debriefed at the end of the class, students reflected that it felt arbitrary (a vocab word!) and no matter how much they thought they were making a "smart and reasoned" choice, they often ended up with a result that was less than ideal.

This simulation was created based on real stories of real Syrians fleeing their country's civil war, so it was eye-opening for the students to see how entirely dangerous and uncertain these people's journeys really are.

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Grammar-Rama and Language Lab

In Tuesday's Grammar-Rama, we did our first group lesson where the whole class was logged on to a real-time lesson online so we could interact, submit answers to questions, and compare and discuss different responses. It was a milestone for me to practice using a new piece of technology and students all seemed to be very engaged in working on it!

Thursday was Language Lab. We tackled these word roots: TRANS, SUB, and PATH. Students were so amazing as they connected the many words they know that have these roots in them and were able to extrapolate the words' meanings. We'll tackle another three roots next week!

STEM Update

Out With the Traditional, In With the Creative

In both STEM, humanities, and book club, students are engaging in the idea of displacement. Displacement of humans, displacement of heat, displacement of our physical world, and the impacts those things have on us and others. This global theme across our various curricula allows students to constantly be immersed and engaged, make connections, and develop critical thinking skills.

This month, students have been engaged in a variety of hands-on exploratories that model displacement. We designed Egg Drop vessels and embedded the core concepts of budgeting during our project's "purchasing" phase. We saw some incredibly innovative designs! Students are also using an online learning tool through ExploreLearning to simulate the concepts that underly displacement. We're studying convection, density, volume, and mass, and it's amazing to see the students engage in rich learning opportunities.

Next week, we will be building density columns, measuring mass and volume, creating a scale of the Earth's interior, and we will start to examine how the concepts of convection, density, volume, and mass can lead to natural disasters.

Rounding the corner of quarter three, we will be taking a deeper dive into the impact of stressful events on the brain. While learning about displacement is important, weaving real-world applications into our curriculum for students is critical. We all undergo stress and learning about how stress impacts us allows us to develop personalized toolkits to proactively and positively manage stress.

We're taking traditional concepts in science and math and giving them a makeover by presenting the material in unique and student-centered ways. The conversations, the critical thinking, and watching the students find success in their learning are amazing. It has been a busy quarter, and I'm so proud of the work students are doing!

Learning with Annie

It took a while to launch, but this week we finally started a thread of professional development around mindfulness and restorative justice with Annie O'Shaugnessy of True Nature Teaching. Annie comes to AWE with a tremendous background in this field, having worked in a wide variety of alternative and public school settings and we are so lucky to get to have some time with her.

Working to be the best educators we can requires ongoing work and reflection, learning more about effective approaches to working with all students, and making sure we don't burn out in the process.

Annie shared so many rich and wonderful resources, so we will be busy as we work to unpack and integrate our new learning--just like we ask our students to do every day!

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Goals and Incremental Change

Each day, students head home and our staff tends to circle up, review the successes, ponder the challenges, and think about what we want to work on to make the next day or week better for our community. We are a dedicated crew and we care about the students in our community a lot. One thing I was thinking about was how we focus on goal-setting and reflecting on goals a LOT here at AWE, but sometimes the changes happening can be hard to see from moment to moment. But we are past the halfway mark of this school year and there has been a lot of change! Great change, surprising change, phenomenal, inspiring change. It's everywhere if you're looking for it.

So here's to all the ways--big and small--that our students show up every day, take a risk, try something hard, help a peer, or treat themselves with a little more kindness than they used to.

This is hard work, and we are here for all of it.

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