Sophomores, Warp One, Engage! The Next Generation of Tenth Graders Finally Have Their Day

Ms. Kali Adams

 As juniors plodded through NECAPs, seniors volunteered as part of Senior Service Day and freshman rambled around St. Mike’s for Model UN, the CVU sophomores participated in the inaugural “Engage Day” at CVU and in the greater community.

This was the first rendition of this event, reflecting the evolving curriculum at CVU. “Part of our school’s role is helping students reflect about what matters to them inside and outside of school, and how those interests and values can help them make a meaningful life,” said Annie Bellerose, who helped coordinate Engage Day. She explained how Act 77, a bill pertaining to flexible pathways in education passed in 2013, has helped CVU’s curriculum evolve. “The class of 2019 gets to be at the forefront of this process, which is cool in many ways (getting new experiences, more individualized learning),” said Bellerose, “and also challenging–until this work becomes more integrated into our curriculum and schedule, it can just feel like additional stuff to do, especially as the guinea pigs.”

Video by Katie Peck

So far, the Class of 2019 has been the testing ground for projects like Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs) and Roundtables. Engage Day was just next step in this development. “We just wanted to have students get some kind of hands-on learning experience beyond their usual school day that connected to something they were curious about,” said Bellerose. “Kind of a low stakes way to try something new or to dive deeper into a previous interest.” Lindsey Drew, one of the sophomores who participated in Engage Day, liked the premise of the day and thought that, it’s great that CVU is allowing students these opportunities.”

Kevin Pearce, a former professional snowboarder, opened the day as the Keynote Speaker. The rest of the day was designed so that students could either participate in workshops or design their own Engage Day where they participated or gave back to their community. The workshops were all held at CVU and varied in focus, with two sessions in the day. “We tried to design the workshop options around feedback we got from the Roundtable process and open it up for people who already had something in mind to make it happen,” Bellerose said.

Workshop options ranged from Stand Up Comedy to Stage Combat. Drew found one consistency throughout the day: “Smaller group settings definitely worked better for me in the workshops.” Both CVU faculty and community members led the workshops. “The community and faculty workshop leaders were pretty excited by turnout and enthusiasm, and we got a lot of positive feedback from students at the end of the day,” said Bellerose. “People seemed to appreciate doing something interactive and hands on, and having a chance to think about some possibilities for their future, educationally and otherwise, and to enjoy doing something different with their school day.” With the range of workshop topics, there was a variety of student feedback after participating. “Some workshops ended up with just a few really psyched students, and that was great. Some had a bunch of people,” Bellerose said. “Really, our hope was just that people would get something individualized that sparked their interest.”

For some sophomores, however, Engage Day was spent away from CVU. These students had arranged to shadow professionals, volunteer in the community or otherwise take their learning outside of the school walls. “We had more students than we expected self-design, given the limited time frame,” said Bellerose. “People were at UVM Medical Center, the Shelburne Police Department,, and lots of other places.” By designing their own Engage Day, the students got the chance to explore professions and careers that were meaningful to them. “Our intention was just for people to have a chance to explore something beyond our usual school day that offered some kind of insight into their future. Even if people tried something and thought, no way, I definitely don’t want to go into the medical field, that’s excellent learning,” Bellerose commented.

Overall, Engage Day was successful, and Bellerose sees it continuing in the future. “We don’t know exactly how it will look,” she said. “We’re still sorting through feedback from students and teachers about what worked well and what could change for the future. We’d hope to keep a speaker as part of the day, and it would be great to get even more people out in the community.” It will definitely evolve over time, as both students participants and faculty had ideas as to what it could become. Drew’s opinion was that, “I think Engage Day should continue in a sense. but it felt rushed and incomplete most of the time.” She proposed giving students more time to participate in the event, as “it would allow a more in depth discovery of a topic.”

But the premise of Engage Day, an idea summed up by Drew as “allowing students to experience academic and career focused workshops outside of school and hopefully give them some insight on their future career options,” will remain. Bellerose agreed with the general success of the newest CVU tradition: “Our hope was that students would have a chance to explore things they might not otherwise during their school day that could help them think about what they’re interested in and where their skills lie. Hopefully, there will be more and more opportunities for people to get some of this hands-on exploration and connection with the wider community and resources beyond CVU, and this should also help students find a Grad Challenge they’re excited about and develop other skills they can bring to life beyond high school.”