Students Self-Design Education

Mr. Chandlee Crawford

High schools across Vermont are removing teachers from instructional positions to enable students to create their own course. The curriculum? Whatever they want it to be; self-directed learning classrooms are designed to allow students to choose their own path of study. In this model, teachers become facilitators to help students structure their projects and set realistic goals to produce tangible results.

These classrooms allow students to learn subjects or experiences that their schools do not offer. Students choose to pursue internships, language classes, studying a specific historical period, learning a new instrument; the possibilities are vast.

CVU has implemented its own self directed learning environment with Nexus.


Peter Booth and Troy Paradee are two of the four teachers in the program. “Our mission statement is to provide a space and support for students to pursue interests that are not already available in our curriculum,” says Paradee.

Booth explains the other factor that started the program. “Part of the idea is to – as a school – recognize that kids do lots of [learning outside of school] where they learn stuff unrelated to school. Why can’t the school say, ‘Hey, look at this thing this kid did,’ and give them credit?” Nexus bridges the gap between student interests (outside of school) and students’ academic world.

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Vermont Puts ‘Tobacco 21’ into Action

Ms Luna Cofiño

In May of 2019, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed Bill S.86 into action, a bill that increased the legal age for buying and using cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, and all tobacco products from 18 to 21 years of age. Businesses are now implementing the changes outlined in the bill and establishments around Vermont are examining their guidelines, including CVU. 

Although similar legislation failed in 2016 and 2017, the issue has never been completely dropped in Vermont. In 2016, a measure to raise the tobacco purchasing age passed in the Vermont House by a vote of 81-61. According to his deputy chief of staff at the time, then Governor Peter Shumlin (D-Vermont) did not support raising the smoking age. Without his support, the bill did not pass in 2016 or the year after. 


This year, Vermont legislators Sen. Deborah Ingram (D – Chittenden) and Sen.Virginia Lyons (D-Chittenden ) worked hard for preliminary approval of the legislation that would gradually raise the tobacco smoking age to 21. Jessica Brumsted (D-Shelburne) presented the bill on the floor of the House on April 23, 2019. In her opening statement, she said, “Our aim is to reduce tobacco use by youth and protect developing brains, which are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of nicotine and nicotine addiction.” After making it through several rounds of legislation, Vermont Governor Phil Scott signed ‘Tobacco 21’, making it final on May 21st, 2019. 

It is no doubt that recent evidence has pushed lawmakers to address the obvious issues this year. Recent studies have linked lung and respiratory issues directly with e-cigarette use, and the number of high school students now using these devices has skyrocketed.  The National Youth Tobacco Survey in 2018 revealed that in the U.S. from 2017-2018, e-cigarette use among high school and middle-school students increased alarmingly – 78% and 48% respectively. Now, as more and more specific cases present themselves throughout the country, evidence emerges about the harming effects of e-cigarette devices. 

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Summer Read Promotes Social Justice

Ms. Emma Rashford

At the end of this past 2018-2019 school year, 4th through 8th grade teachers across the Champlain Valley District gave their students an optional book to read over the summer. The students came together on September 5th, 2019 at CVU in a celebration of the Common Read. At the day long celebration, students collaborated on their thoughts and ideas about this year’s topic, Social Justice.

Students were given a variety of books by different authors. Incoming 4th graders read Preaching to Chickens, written by Jabari Asim. Incoming 6th graders had the option of reading Ghost Boy, by Jewell Parker, or A Good Kind of Trouble, by Lisa Moore Ramee; incoming 8th graders had the choice of reading Ghost Boy or March, by Andew Aydin and John Lewis. Families were encouraged to help their child choose an appropriate book. 


The goal of the CVSD Common Read is “to inspire and unify students and community members through envisioning, planning and collaborating on works of literature or art that educate about important themes of our time” as well as “to discover and learn interdisciplinary subject matter and real-life skills through collaborative design projects”. Participating in the Common Read will help kids achieve these goals and to be able to engage in the group discussion. 

Debbie Donnelly, a 5th through 8th grade teacher at Williston Central School, attended the event with her students, “I am not sure if it will help kids read over the summer. With that being said, supplying students with books of their own, to keep, certainly promotes reading over the summer,” Donnelly hopes that giving students a book to keep will encourage students to utilize it, and it will help educate young people about important topics. 

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CVU Students Design, Sew, and STRUT

Ms. Julia Grant

“ Hearing the cheers and support from the fans the night of the show made all the hard work worth it,” designer Delaney Brunvand, a CVU senior, recounted from the night of September 7th, when she and four other students from CVU showcased their designs to a supportive crowd in the annual Art Hop fashion show, known as ¨Strut¨. 

Students filled the Generator Maker Space leading up to the 6:30 and 8:30 shows to see their classmates and friends model or display their designs.

This year’s catalog of talented designers included five CVU students- Cam Cuttitta, Cassidy Frost, Cole Glover, Delaney Brunvand, and Emma Destito- all of whom were assisted by other students who modeled their designs. 


 “ As a high schooler, I never dreamed of doing something like Strut. The fact that there are students who plan for this all year long to show their work and then go on to pursue a career in the arts is incredible,” commented Strut coordinator Wylie Garcia on the large amount of student involvement in the show. 

This year Strut celebrates its 15th year as a popular annual event featured as a part of Art Hop in Burlington. 

In partnership with Seven Days, the show is put on by the South End Arts and Business Association (SEABA), who on their website describes themselves as “ dedicated to promoting Burlington’s Pine Street corridor and growing its number of artists and businesses-large and small.”  

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