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Learning for Life 

click to enlarge Mira gives a painted tote bag and note to our children's librarian
  • Mira gives a painted tote bag and note to our children's librarian

We've all experienced the feeling of sitting in a classroom wondering, How is this relevant? From diagramming sentences to balancing chemical equations, a good chunk of what I learned in school hasn't come in particularly handy as an adult.

But times, they are a changin'. Our kids' teachers seem to understand, more than many of ours did, the importance of students learning skills they'll be able to use throughout their lives. One of my fifth-grade daughter's favorite parts of school this year is Genius Hour. For a chunk of time each week, students plan and work on independent projects of their choosing. Mira started by spreading kindness to our local librarian and crossing guard by making them notes and hand-painted bags. She's now co-facilitating an anti-bullying club for younger students. Her classmates have taken apart computers, written books and put together care packages for families in need.

Vermont is not unique in its innovative teaching practices. In March, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos posted "then" and "now" classroom photos on Twitter, implying that schools still require students to sit silently in rows while teachers lecture in front of a blackboard. Teachers across the country clapped back, sharing photos and videos of students making balloon-powered vehicles, presenting to adults and building Lego robots.

In this month's Money Issue, we highlight two local educators who are well aware of the importance of teaching their students skills they can use beyond the classroom. Courtney Poquette is a Winooski High School business teacher who didn't see the point of school when she was growing up. In her personal finance class, students research the earning potential of different careers, undergo mock job interviews and practice budgeting by furnishing imaginary apartments. Read about Poquette — and the top 10 money lessons she wants students to learn — in "Banking on the Future." 

Richmond Elementary School physical education teacher Brian Godfrey also knows the importance of making learning engaging and relevant. During the winter, he brings all of his kindergarten through fourth grade students to Cochran's Ski Area to learn how to ski or snowboard free of charge. He offers inexpensive school-break and summer camps, plus after-school activities and clubs, focused on mountain biking, swimming and more, to help fund his PE program. Learn more about Godfrey's unique approach in "Game Changer." 

In these pages, you'll also find articles detailing free or low-cost family outings, from exploring UVM's sprawling campus ("Destination Recreation") to taking a walking tour of the funky murals in Burlington ("Photo Essay"). And don't miss our jam-packed events calendar for more ideas for free — and often educational — fun.


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