Editor’s Note: This is the first story in a series by invitation that takes place throughout this school year, documenting the positives of our schools. We are looking for short articles on specific cases of the most meaningful learning, from a student perspective. These can be examples of innovative projects or more traditional learning experiences, like a big class discussion – the key is to show, not to say, bringing the reader into the students’ perspective. The series is directed by Adelle Macdowell, student editor of Lamoille, who wrote this first part. Students interested in contributing to this series or exploring other opportunities to publish work with VTDigger, please email Ben Heintz, Workshop Editor, at [emailÂ protected]
by Adelle Macdowell, Lamoille Union High School
One Wednesday afternoon in early September, when most of the students were in class, Lamoille Union senior Hayden Cheever walked along the path between the upper and lower football fields, where sunlight shone through the trees on the beaten earth and the carpet of pine needles.
Cheever stopped and took a record out of the bag he was carrying. He was standing on the seventh tee of the disc golf course he was building and looking down the steep path. He remembered walking up the path to watch his siblings’ games in the upper fields. âOnce I wanted to do this disc golf course, I knew the forest path was where I wanted to put it,â he said.
The course is nine holes, starting between the two lower football fields and following the trails through the woods to return to the lower fields. Cheever said he had put a lot of thought into the layout of the course. âI walked around a lot, took out records and threw them in the woods without a target,â he said, âtrying to get a good tempoâ.
Cheever built his disc golf course through EPIC (Educational Path I Choose), a project-based learning program at Lamoille Union High School. EPIC operates all day in place of the traditional four-block structure.
Kim Hoffman and Amber Carbine-March are science teachers at Lamoille Union and worked together to found EPIC. They recognized how âsiledâ a content-focused curriculum was and wished they could spend more time with students than they had in their lessons.
“I’m not particularly convinced that my biology program is going to solve the problems our world faces, or help people find meaning, joy and purpose in the world,” Carbine-March said. “I didn’t feel like I was giving people the opportunity to develop this skill set in my content area courses.”
EPIC is centered on 4 âpillarsâ: knowing me, growing up, leaving my mark and seeing through. Students create projects that meet content skills and touch on the four EPIC pillars. EPIC projects range from creating a documentary to building a skateboard ramp. One student built a computer and others worked together to write a musical.
One way for students to âget to knowâ themselves is to design a project they are passionate about. Cheever started playing disc golf in the summer after his first year. His colleague from Smugglers’ Notch had a practice basket set up and Cheever also started playing on his own. As disc golf became a big part of his life, he knew he wanted to include it in an EPIC project.
Cheever was inspired by the Pearl Street disc golf course in Essex, which is too far away for him to play often. By setting up a nearby “beginner’s” course, Cheever said he hoped to introduce more people to the sport.
For the âgrow myselfâ aspect, students step out of their comfort zone and learn new skills. Cheever has gained experience asking questions and contacting community partners. He said he had learned to care less about getting a “no” for an answer.
âI started asking for help,â Cheever said. “I realized I couldn’t do this on my own, you know?” “
Students âmake their markâ in a variety of ways. Some projects have an impact on the whole school or community, such as the Cheever disc golf course, while other projects have a more specific impact. The goal is to have a project result that goes beyond the student.
Cheever said âseeing it throughâ was the most important and difficult EPIC pillar. He had been working on his disc golf course since the second term of the 2020-21 school year, and the process was far from linear.
He spent most of his junior year creating the course layout and raising funds. He worked with a community partner to plan the route of the course, but ultimately chose to move the project forward on his own, which was a difficult decision. Fundraising was another challenge – the total cost of the project was $ 2,000 to $ 3,000. Cheever has raised funds in part by contacting local businesses and asking them to sponsor holes on the course.
Cheever ordered the nine disc golf baskets through Smugglers Notch and installed them by securing the bases in 5 gallon buckets filled with concrete. He then dug holes to bury the buckets. On September 29, Cheever finally âgot over itâ and officially completed the project.
On October 20, taking advantage of the warm weather, Cheever and a friend played a game of disc golf after lunch. This time, instead of throwing discs with a general idea of ââwhere the holes were, they threw them into the baskets set up by Cheever.
Cheever said he is delighted to have a class completed. “I didn’t think it would be possible,” he said, “and with the resources and help from EPIC Academy, it was.”
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