Thank you for a wonderful year!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for an amazing 2016-2017 school year at Renaissance School. It has been a pleasure getting to know all of our children and school families. Without all of your support we would not have the opportunity to work with such great children. I have enjoyed watching each child grow socially, emotionally, and academically throughout the year. 
The learning that has taken place this year is immeasurable. I have enjoyed hearing the stories and poems that the children have written. The children have enjoyed quizzing me with many math problems on my visits into classrooms. I have been amazed by the beautiful artwork and marveled at the many science experiments. I love to hear the “wow” and “that was amazing” as I walk up and down the hallway. I have never been more proud to say that I work each day with all of these students. They continue to inspire me.
I also want to thank the teachers for all the unbelievable work they do with each student, everyday. They give so much creativity to develop the many lessons and activities and keep that spark and love of learning alive in each of the children.   
Thank you for your support with all of our end of the year events and celebrations: May Day, Create and Celebrate, and Closing Ceremonies.
Renaissance School is truly a magical place. Thank you again for another exceptional year. Have a safe and happy summer vacation and I look forward to seeing all of you back here in the fall.

All the best, Danielle

STEAM at the Vermont Steam Space

This spring, the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Graders have had the opportunity to testrun a new program at the VTSTEAMspace on the Vermont Teddy Bear Company campus. STEAM--which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math-- allows students to learn in a way that focuses on problem solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. As the classes visit the STEAMspace each week, they work on a robotics project designed to hone their engineering and programming skills. Students are tasked with designing an autonomous robot that is able to complete a series of tasks set forth by the First LEGO League. This year’s challenge is called Animal Allies and focuses on the relationship between humans and animals as students complete robotics tasks that highlight the symbiotic relationship between species. It is wonderful to see the engagement and excitement that students bring to the space each week. 

Poetry Slam

To celebrate National Poetry Month, students in Grades 3-5 spent the month of April reading and writing poetry. Students wrote a variety of poetry, some of which included acrostic poems, Haikus, Cinquains, and rhymes.

As a culminating activity and opportunity to practice public speaking skills, Third through Fifth Graders participated in the Second Annual Renaissance School Poetry Slam. Parents and friends were invited to the event. Each Third and Fourth Grade student shared at least one of their own poems which was read aloud to the audience. Fifth Graders shared two poems that they had to memorize. It was a wonderful experience for students to share their creative writing to the student and parent community!

Spring Musical

April and May were busy months preparing for our original, student-devised musical
“Our Wild Journey Around The Planet.”  From our oldest class at Endeavour Middle
School to our youngest Kindergarteners, our students brainstormed ideas for the
story, characters, scenes and songs of our show. Each class practiced their
scenes and songs over the last few months and the performers were busy making their
costume headpieces with Laura, as well as helping to create and paint our sets. The children were very excited to share their play with parents and community members on Friday, May 5th at the Williston Central School Auditorium. The children did a wonderful job! Thank you to all the parents for their help driving to rehearsals, collecting costume pieces, and helping with memorizing lines. We would never have been able to pull this together without all of your help. We are lucky to have such a wonderful community!

Character Development

During the month of May we have introduced the character trait of Flexibility. People who exhibit flexibility often display optimism, patience, open-mindedness and a willing to compromise. Students who are flexible are able to see more than one way to solve a problem. A few teachers shared a skit at all school assembly to introduce this new character trait. We connected flexibility to one of our favorite storybook characters, “Pete The Cat.”  As many of the children that read Pete the Cat books know, he never gets upset. Would Pete get upset, “goodness no!”-  he is always flexible and goes with the flow as he sings his songs.

Third Grade Field Trip to The Flynn Theater

The Third Grade studies Native Americans as one of their Social Studies themes.  To enhance this topic of learning, the Third Grade went to the Flynn Theatre to see Ty Defoe.  Ty is a Native American artist from the Oneida and Ojibwe tribes. Ty and dancers of other tribal ancestries shared Native American folklore and teachings through traditional storytelling, dance, and music played on several indigenous instruments. At the end of the performance a few students from each class attending the show were invited up to the stage. The students danced together with hoops to demonstrate unity and togetherness as a community. Evie and Carly volunteered to go on stage from our class and did a fantastic job following along and dancing with Ty and his friends.

Second Grade Field Trip to The Flynn Theater

May 1st was a rainy day, and we were lucky enough to spend the morning inside watching a wonderful show at the Flynn Theater.  The Second Grade saw a musical:  Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters.  This is an African folktale with similarities to the tale of Cinderella.  This performance was filled with wonderful musical scores, costumes, and scenery.  The children in the audience were often invited to clap along with the lively music, making them feel a part of the show.  Our second grade enjoyed the performance very much! 

Fourth Grade Field Trip to the State House

While learning about United States government, Fourth Grade took a trip to Montpelier in order to bring their learning to life. Students started the day with a trip to the Vermont History Museum where they took a walk through time. This trip through Vermont’s history started with an exhibit on Vermont’s First People, continued on to the New Frontier, next to Building Communities, then War and Industry, and finally, Modern Day Vermont. Fourth Graders answered questions as they moved through the museum which allowed them to study the exhibits in greater detail and meaning. After a lunch at the museum it was time to head to the Vermont State House. Prior to the visit, Fourth Graders came up with a “Big Idea” which they brought to the State House in order to see the process of a bill becoming a law. Their “Big Idea” led them from the Senate Committee Room to the House and Senate Chambers where they were able to see the Vermont Congress come into session. This visit left Fourth Graders with a greater understanding of how our legislative process works. We may have some future lawmakers in our midst! 

Class News: A Day in the Life of a Kindergarten, First and Second Grade Students

A Kindergarten day is full of fun and hands-on activities across subjects. In the morning they start their day with morning meeting to build community and build a class bond. They greet each other and play some games to start the day. This is important to the day because it starts their day off with a sense of togetherness.

Kindergarteners learn math skills, reading, writing and also social studies and science that are based off of the farm. Kindergarteners get to learn first-hand what being on a farm is really like. They are able to see all the work that goes into it and also are able to do some of that work through shared chicken chores. This gives these children a sense of responsibility. This is also the best part about Kindergarten at Renaissance. The children are able to be with the animals and learn about them through this experience. Kindergarteners are able to learn about habitats not only through facts, but through seeing these environments and the changes they go through.
Kindergarten at Renaissance School is a very special experience each and every day. 

First Graders
What is it like to be in the Renaissance First Grade classroom?  Each year children come to First Grade and accomplish many academic feats.  They learn to become fluent readers, refined writers, and developed mathematicians.  The children learn all of these great academics, yet these cannot be learned without other, arguably more important, social lessons also taking place.  

Each day in our First Grade classroom, students learn to respect each other and themselves.  This lesson is learned while listening to each other share at circle, and by raising hands to ask their classmates pertinent questions.  It is learned when they find things to compliment themselves and others on.  It is learned by taking part in appropriate conversations during snack.  The children display this respect by celebrating each other's accomplishments.  Just the other day in the First Grade classroom this was displayed when a friend succeeded after struggling with a concept for a period of time. Several other students complimented that student and even gave a short round of applause.  These kind gestures are natural occurrences and what makes being in our First Grade classroom such a wonderful experience.  The children learn to cheer for one another and show compassion for their friends when they are feeling down.  

So, when asked what it is like to spend a day in First Grade, imagine a place where everyone feels accepted, and where friends come together to form a loving team.  When walking into our classroom, you'll see the academics happening and all of the great learning the children are doing each day, and more importantly you will feel the respect, the excitement, the kindness, and the compassion that the children are learning without even realizing.

Second Graders
A whole lot of learning and fun happens in Second Grade at The Renaissance School!  This is largely because the children's skills often begin to rapidly develop in this grade and the students continue to absorb information like sponges!  

Typically, Second Graders’ reading skills blossom, as their skills largely move from decoding words and phrases, to developing their reading fluency and comprehension.  From the very start of the school year in Second Grade, we read many books by some wonderful authors, as well as popular book series that appeal to seven and eight year old children.  It’s not long before the children are hooked and want to read more and more!  

A similar thing happens in math.  Early on in Second Grade, the students start to build on the strong foundational math skills that they learned in Kindergarten and First Grade.  Second Graders are more familiar with, and start to memorize, their basic addition and subtraction facts.  They develop a stronger number sense and problem solving skills.  This growth allows them to begin to understand some of the higher level math that they’re introduced to in Second Grade including multiplication, division, and fractions.  The children enjoy the many math activities and games we do related to our math lessons.  These games and activities  help to ingrain crucial math skills, as well as help students to understand how to do their written practice.  

We have exciting science and social studies themes in Second Grade including Communities and Citizenship, Geology, The Solar System, and Weather.  It’s exciting to see the Second Graders become so enthusiastically involved in these topics!  For each of these science and social studies themes, we do many hands-on activities.  We might also have guest speakers or take a field trip related to our unit.  Of course we take advantage of going to school on a farm as well, utilizing the farm’s many natural resources and appreciating the beauty of the landscape that surrounds us.  

Class News: Social Studies 


In Kindergarten Social Studies we have learned so much this year. We have learned about farm animals, harvesting crops, habitats, and many other fun topics. The best thing about Kindergarten Social Studies is that mostly everything we learn about can be learned through hands-on activities on the farm. This has been such a wonderful experience for the Kindergarten students because they can see the things that they are learning about in real life. 

One of the highlights of this year has been our unit on maple sugaring. We learned about maple sugaring in the classroom by learning about the life cycle of the tree and the basics of tapping a tree. Then, with a Farm Educator’s help, we were able to tap our own tree and see how the sap gets boiled into syrup. 

The children loved this experience and were able to answer so many of the Educator’s questions because they have the benefit of going to school on a farm. The Kindergarten’s Social Studies curriculum is based on what the farm has to offer. Some other field trips this year have been visiting the dairy barn, seeing the newborn lambs, and visiting the old Dairy Barn and Coach Barn. This month we will be going to the Dairy Barn again for our dairy unit. 


First Grade

Our First Grade Social Studies theme focuses on Families Around the World.  The children begin the year learning the meaning of the word, “culture.”  From there First Graders begin pretend journeys to all seven continents and experience bits and pieces of each continent’s unique culture.  Some memorable moments thus far have been creating chalk drawings that imitate seeing the northern lights in the night sky of North America, taste testing miso soup from Asia, and weaving African kente cloth from paper.  At the completion of each continent unit, the children fill in their passports with facts learned, and receive a stamp on that continent’s page.  In June, First Graders will have a passport full of memories from the year!

Second Grade
The Second Grade studies Community and Citizenship as their primary social studies theme.  The children learned all about what makes up a community and the many different types of communities that exist. Students learned about local government and got to participate in our own mock election right before the real election happened last November.  All children enjoyed learning about emigration and immigration and how the United States became known as “The Melting Pot.”  After the Second Graders heard and read stories about some of America’s earliest, brave immigrants that came through Ellis Island, they reflected in a writing piece:  What ten things would you pack in your trunk if you had to emigrate to a new country and why would you choose those particular items?  The children wrote very thoughtful pieces. 
This particular unit helps the students to appreciate the supportive communities around them and understand the importance of being a helpful part of their community.  In addition, it also helps them to empathize with humans globally and have the desire to help immigrants feel acceptance in our country.   

Third Grade

In the Third Grade, we begin our Social Studies curriculum learning about Vermont and Map Skills. Students learn about the different kinds of maps, what they are used for, and how to read them. In the fall we took advantage of our beautiful surroundings and ventured out into the farmyard; here children drew their own map of the space. Their maps had to include key features such as a compass rose, a key, and a title. Students are taught how to read road maps and use a location index to find towns, landmarks, etc. 

Next, we study Native Americans. Students learn about the tribes that inhabited each major region of North America . We focus on how the region’s natural resources and climate affected the tribes and their way of living. This includes the type of homes they lived in, what they ate, if they were hunters or gatherers, what they wore, specific customs and traditions, etc. The unit is brought to life for the students through hands-on and interactive lessons. Students create Navajo sand art, design and create Totem Poles, build teepees in the forest, and more. We end the unit discussing the huge impact Native Americans had, and continue to have, on our everyday lives. 
Currently in the Third Grade we are learning about life in Colonial Times. Students are taught about the early interactions with the European colonists and the Native Americans. Students then learn about the Thirteen Original Colonies and where they settled along the Atlantic Coast. Students learn about the New England colonies, Mid-Atlantic colonies, and the Southern colonies. And, again, how the land surrounding them affected their way of life. Students will learn the many different trades and tasks the colonists had. We will compare our way of living to the colonists’ way of living.  The children have just recently finished creating their own replica of a horn book. These “books” were actually sheets of paper with the alphabet, phonics, numerals, and the lord’s prayer printed onto them. The paper was mounted on a small wooden, paddle-shaped board and protected by a thin sheet of transparent animal horn that was attached with metal strips and nails. This was an exciting project for the children as they were able to use calligraphy pens to write their manuscript, just as a Colonial child would have done. We will study the development and expansion of the colonies up through the American Revolution. Students will learn the causes and effects of the Revolution, important people of this time, and explore the Declaration of Independence.

Fourth Grade

Fourth Grade social studies has been full of fun projects, trips, and learning. We started out the year with a focus on Westward Expansion as we learned about the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, Sacagawea, and the Gold Rush. We even turned the LaPlatte River into the mighty Missouri, emulating Lewis and Clark’s journey as we kayaked down the river. 

More recently we have focused on United States geography. We learned about the regions of the country, the state capitals, and practiced a fun song in order to recite all 50 states in alphabetical order. Students also learned about the different industries of each region as they wrote persuasive essays and created brochures in order to persuade visitors to come to a certain area of the United States. 

We are currently learning about the United States government: the three branches of government, who the Vermont legislators are, how a bill becomes a law, and the role of the U.S. constitution. We enjoyed our visit to the State House in Montpelier where we learned more about lawmaking and our state’s government. We look forward to more learning and fun ahead!  

Fifth Grade

Fifth Grade has an exciting year of Social Studies themes that revolve around early humans and ancient civilizations. Students begin the year learning about early humans and ancient Mesopotamia. Highlights for this unit include making fire without the use of matches and classifying skulls. Students got the opportunity to participate in an archaeological dig on the farm this year as well! 

Our second theme of the year is ancient Egypt. This unit lends itself to several hands-on art and writing projects. Students created a sarcophagus in art class with Laura. They constructed pharaoh masks and mini mummies in class. Students also researched a pharaoh and wrote an evidence-based opinion writing piece on their pharaoh. Fifth Grade visited The Fleming Museum at UVM for a tour and art activity based around the museum’s ancient Egypt collection. Students ended their unit with a pyramid building STEAM challenge and an Egyptian costume party! 
Students end the year with their unit on ancient Greece. Again, we will be engaged in many writing and art projects, as well as reading Greek mythology. It is a truly enriching curriculum for the children! 


John visiting classes

Endeavour Middle School Humanities teacher John Bushnell has been a familiar face at the Renaissance School as of late. John has been dropping in on a different class each week in order to collaborate with students on literature and history-based lessons. The activities that take place during these visits correspond with themes and content related to Renaissance course curriculums.

John’s first few visits were to the Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade classrooms and centered around a story about Abraham Lincoln’s distinctive top hat. The students learned about Lincoln’s background as a helpful lawyer prior to his political career. They were fascinated by his strategy of storing important letters and documents in his hat in order to counter his forgetful nature. In the coming weeks, John will be collaborating with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grades as they study the elements of narrative poetry.

Living Arts

Living Arts
We are excited to share about our second session of Living Arts this year. For this session, we decided to try something new. As a staff we chose three different activities; crafts, board games and hiking. Instead of having the children choose their favorite activity and then joining that group for the entire session, we created three different groups of younger and older children. Each group will rotate so that everyone will get the opportunity to experience each activity. The children have been excited to try all the different activities. 

International Dinner

We recently held our annual International Potluck Dinner. Thank you to all the families who attended and brought a special dish to share with our community. It was so nice to have Jeh Kulu perform for us again. Thank you to both the Fifth Graders and the Endeavour Middle School students for adding a new dynamic to our evening. This is always a fun and exciting night.

Our Fifth Graders held a special fundraiser this year to benefit the incoming fall 2017 Fifth
Grade class at The Renaissance School. This year’s Fifth Graders ran a photo booth at the
International Potluck Dinner, held on April 7. The booth had costumes that students and
their friends and family could wear for candid photos. Photos were $2.00 each. This was a fun addition and memento to the International Dinner! All proceeds from the fundraiser will be set aside for next year’s Fifth Graders to use at their discretion for a special field trip or activity. This year’s class of Fifth Grade students wanted to give back to next year’s class and they hope that this will become an annual tradition for the Fifth Grade class.

P.E. with Kate

This spring Physical Education classes have been busy exploring the outdoors on cross country skis, hiking through the woods on snowshoes, and playing floor hockey.  We have been focused on our warmup routine of stretching and a tabata circuit.  We had a yoga instructor come in and give us a lesson on stretching and how important it is to stretch our muscles in preparation for any activity.

Students have been active in learning more about safe hockey practices, proper hockey stance, and how to stick handle.  As we gear up for the spring we have a new game that students enjoy - hockey baseball!  The bonus of this game is each team keeps score and then both teams add up their points and the teachers then complete the total score in crunches - all the while the students count out loud as one big team. A new fun game that will lead us into our next unit of baseball before we finish out the year with some fitness testing.

Kate received her Bachelors in Nutrition at the University of Vermont with a concentration in Sports Nutrition.  While at university she was a member of the Track & Field Team and was a student Nutrition Counselor.  Health and fitness are a passion of hers as she has been a personal trainer for the past few years. 

Kate is a native Vermonter who has been a youth soccer, running, and basketball coach of local teams for several years.  Her goal is to teach that happiness and health prevention is best achieved through healthy eating, exercise and positive healthy lifestyle habits.  Encouraging students to get up, get active and find joy in exercise.

Kate lives in South Burlington and Highgate Springs with her partner and their active two year old son.  You likely will see her out running on the roads before or after school with her dog.

Character Development

During the month of April we have introduced the character trait of Curiosity. The trait of curiosity encompasses other values such as desire for self-improvement, intelligent questioning, being explorative, fostering a sense of wonder, and inquisitiveness. A few teachers shared a skit at all school assembly to introduce this new character trait. We want to focus on “meaningful curiosity” this month with the children. The changing of the seasons and the rebirth of all living things outside spark the natural curiosity in all of us.  The teachers have decided to combine poetry month with this month’s character trait as they work with the children to have them create “interview poems.” 

Second Grade field trip to WCAX

On Monday, April 10th, the Second Grade visited the WCAX news station in South Burlington.  This exciting field trip was to kick off the study of our last Science theme of this school year: Weather and Meteorology.  Our tour of the new station included getting to speak with Nick Borelli, a Meteorologist at the station.  Using his computer monitor with a weather map displayed on it, Nick carefully described weather patterns, the jet stream, and his weather model that he would be using in the forecast that day.  The children also got to tour the production room and chat with some of the people that work this part of the news station.  Lastly, we got to watch the noon-time broadcast with Nick Borelli and Melissa Sheketoff!  The students were mesmerized by the many monitors, remote control cameras, and the green screen Nick used for his weather forecast.  At the end, students even got to see themselves on one of the big monitors! 

First Grade Author’s Breakfast

On March 30, First Grade held their annual Author’s Breakfast.  This event is a celebration of the children completing their fictional story unit.  Each child was able to show their invited family and friends their story and was able to choose to read them aloud to all attendees.  After a month long study of character, setting, problem, and solution, the stories were well developed and thoughtfully constructed as various characters persevered to reach a happy ending solution.  We are proud of the students for such amazing work, and they would love for you to read their stories which are currently on display in the hallway outside of the First Grade classroom.

Kindergarten Maple Celebration

 March has been a very busy month for Kindergarten. We learned all about maple sugaring firsthand from the Farm. We went to the maple sugaring house with Courtney, our Farm Educator, and were able to see the action up close. She brought us up to the forest to tap our very own tree. The children learned how to tap a maple sugar tree and learned about what tools were needed for that. We were then able to go inside the sugar house and see the sap boiling. It was great for the children to visually see this process. At the end of our unit we had a pancake breakfast to celebrate. The children presented what they had learned in front of their parents. They presented about the tree life cycle, different kinds of branching, how to tap a maple tree and how to make syrup. They did an amazing job and made their parents proud!

Fifth Grade  Fleming Museum Field Trip 

Fifth Grade recently visited the Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont. This field trip was a fantastic connection to our ancient Egypt unit, as the museum has an ancient Egypt exhibit. Students were given a tour by the museum’s Education Assistant, Sarah Yahm. Sarah led the students through the collection, beginning with a real mummy! Students observed the encasing and hieroglyphs on the mummy of a fourteen year old girl. The girl’s past is a mystery, yet students acted as archaeologists, as they pieced together their own theories based on the evidence that surrounded them. The children enjoyed exploring amulets, Swabtis, a replica of the Rosetta Stone, and more. After visiting the Egyptian exhibit, students were able to explore the museum’s changing collection of Asian Art. To wrap up the tour, students participated in an art activity in which each student created a foil relief amulet. Overall, it was an enriching experience for the students!

Character Development


During the month of March we have introduced the character trait of Citizenship. This is a rich trait that includes responsibility, independence, leadership, collaboration, stewardship, community outreach and being active members of the Shelburne Farms community by helping to care for the farm and animals. We continue to help the farm by taking care of the daily chicken chores and caring for our beloved friend Earl! This month we have two exciting community outreach projects that we are working on sparked by the character trait of Citizenship. The children at Renaissance School and Endeavour Middle School are collecting coins as part of the Student Series to help support the LLS mission: cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. The Pennies for Patients project is a three-week program for our students to collect change and raise funds while learning about service and philanthropy. The Renaissance students are also involved in the K.I.N.D project (Kids Inspiring Nice Deeds). This project was started by a local Shelburne mother who contacted us to see if we would like to participate. The idea is simple. Have local children prepare drawings, artwork, poems, etc. that she will collect once a month and then disperse to various places (hospitals, nursing homes, etc). The idea is that small acts of kindness go a long away and that our actions, even a simple drawing, can beautifully impact others. We are excited to have our students participating in two projects that will help others in our community. Thank you for all your support with these activities.