Monday, November 30, 2015


 How would it feel if one day you found out that something you learned about as a kid, even in a high school history class, was a lie? In a book called Lies My Teacher Told Me it explains the faults in some of the historical events that teachers have been telling kids about for years.

I didn’t know that Columbus knew exactly where he was going and that he was looking to steal and destroy some of the villages in America. This to caught my attention and actually engaged me into learning. Knowing the truth to all of this has made more curious about other famous people and what lies we have been told about them.


Later that day, I talked to my mom about Columbus and had a good conversation about who he was and what he did. This is very important to learn about, so we can know the reality of historical events. Usually I wouldn't talk to my mom about what I learned in school, and if I do talk to my mom about what I learned in school, it is usually very short. But not this time.  

This is important to learn about because one day out of every year America celebrates a day known as Columbus Day. For the longest time, I actually thought Columbus was the second person to find America after the Vikings. Learning the truth about this made me more than a little disappointed in what this country celebrates and what values it upholds.

This program teaches us the importance of questioning everything and thinking for ourselves.  Something as simple as the story or America can be very complicated.  In one day, I developed a whole new perspective on what I had been learning about for years. I’m very excited to read and learn about the other things my teachers have lied to me about.

Written by Sam       

Trail Construction

This year our school hosted our first ever cross country meet. The STAR Program did much of the planning and construction of the 5 kilometer trail. In the first few weeks of the school year, we would spend a lot of time out on the trail. There were a lot of different things that we had to do to get the trail ready for the big race. 

In some places, we had to fix existing trails.  We had to cut back plants, trim trees, and repair bridges.  In other places, we actually built new trail from scratch. We used tools to cut a "bench" into the hillside, churning the soil up, removing roots, and then packing it back down. On the day before the meet, we raked the trail clear, and spray painted any roots or rocks that were tripping hazards.

We definitely couldn't have done the project alone!  Over the several weeks that we were working on the project, there were three volunteer work days that happened on the weekends.  Over 40 people showed up to chainsaw, weedwhack, build trail, and help get everything ready for the race.  We also had help from a company called Sinuosity, which built some of the trickier sections of trail using big machines instead of hand tools.
This project helped us to begin working as a team.  While many of us didn't love working on the trails, we knew it had to be done.  If one person took time off, then everybody else had to pick up their slack.  Because of the type of work we were doing, you really depended upon one another in order to do your own job.  For example, when we needed to build new trail, some people would churn up the soil, others would pick out the roots, and more would stomp and pack it down. 

While we developed teamwork, we also had some solo kinds of jobs.We had individual work so we had to have personal responsibility. You can't always depend upon someone else to help out, and some jobs don't require more than one person.  In these situations, there is no one left to do the work but you.  This means that there is no one else to blame if things don't go well, but it also means that you can feel really proud when you have a job well done.

Written by Isaiah

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Deer Story

At the beginning of the year at the STAR program, we read a story called "The Deer Story" by Tom Brown, Jr. It’s about a young boy who grows up under the tutelage of an Apache elder he calls "Grandfather". The story tells how he is sent on a journey to find himself and to connect to nature as a part of 'coming of age' ceremony.

As part of his ceremony, he has to stalk and kill a deer using only a stone knife.  Once he begins the process, he ends up finding a mother with a baby deer; the mother is healthy, but the baby is weak and disabled. Like a predator, he is to take the life of a sick or weak deer who might not survive the winter anyways.  So he begins following the deer, and they are skittish at first. After a while, they get used to him, and begin to see him as no threat. He learns their habits and routines in preparation of the kill.  When the time comes, the boy drops out of a tree onto the deer.  His knife misses its mark, and he ends up having to strangle it to death.

When he returned to his grandfather, he was crying and clearly distraught. His grandfather looked him the eyes, and the boy recognized that his grandfather understood that same pain.  Without saying a word, they both understood the value of life, and how we have to respect and appreciate all other living things on this planet.  While it is a hard lesson to learn, it is a lesson that not enough people understand.

I think that this story is about learning to be able to understand and respect nature.  It is about having an appreciation for the sacrifices that other animals make when we eat them.  It is also about understanding that, in life, we sometimes have to take on challenges that feel impossible, so that we can work hard towards accomplishing them.  These experiences teach us who we are, and how we can learn to persevere, especially when we doubt ourselves.  

Written by Justin

Traditional High School Versus STAR

When I first came to this school, my cousin told me all about the STAR Program, and it sounded like my kind of thing. He thought I should sign up for it, so I did. I came into STAR and initially saw that there were only about 12 kids, so I knew it wasn’t a large class. I also knew it wasn’t a bad thing, since I usually struggle in big classrooms with a lot of people.

For the first couple of days I got to know everyone. The activities we did were actually pretty cool, like trail building. But we still did work for classes that we would do in the high school like science, English, and math. After a couple of days, I also got to spend a full day down at the high school doing the regular classes to see if it was a better fit for me.  After experiencing STAR, I realized it really wasn’t a good fit for me; it was really boring, and there were too many kids so it was very distracting.

What I mean is that sometimes kids with a lot of energy can’t concentrate well in large classes.  They should really consider signing up for the STAR Program. Through STAR, you get to do a lot of hands-on work.  You also are trusted to use tools, so you can show that you are responsible and trustworthy.  I usually don't get to feel that way in school.

With the high school, you don’t get to do hands on work, and you don’t get to go outside often.  At STAR, we are outside every day.  Even though there are a lot of fun times, we are also learning that there are times to focus in and get to work.  Beyond the hands-on work, we also do regular class work, which is also very important and will help you in the future.  STAR isn’t a place to come if you just want an easy way out. In fact, I think we work harder here than most people do in school.


STAR is a place where you can be yourself, you can be mature and responsible, and respectful of each and every one of us. STAR has been changing my life and giving me more confidence, and its helping me work towards my goals. That’s why I think it’s a better learning experience for me and for other kids who might struggle in regular high school.

Written by Chris

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Service Learning Project History

The past two years in the STAR program have been full of many different kinds of projects- from trail systems to school gardens and moving into an outdoor classroom. Two years ago, we didn't really feel like any of these were possible for students to accomplish. 

This year in STAR, we're working harder than ever on those same projects and are starting to see them come into reality more and more each day. We have just received $5000 from a Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant for our outdoor classroom project, and we also have $4000 going towards a couple other projects. 

It took a lot of work to get to where we're at now, and it definitely wasn't easy. We've researched trail systems and the legal aspects of what we can do with them.  We even had a student read over Act 250 regulations. We've also done a bunch of research on where the best location of an outdoor classroom would be so that we aren't disturbing the forest too much with our presence. 

Recently we have been contacting a bunch of people for numerous different reasons and presented at a town zoning meeting and a PTO meeting.

 When I first joined the STAR program I was never good at following through on my work, especially big projects. Three years ago I took on the biggest project I've ever done, an outdoor classroom. I really didn't want to do a project to start off with, I've never been a fan of them and they were just too much work I thought. In the beginning it was a bunch of research and I found it to be very annoying to be honest, I hated it. But then it became a little easier the next year when I started planning it out and designing it, I still never thought that it would ever get done. I used a CAD program on the computer to get an idea of what we'd want and I contacted a few people about lumber and what we will need in order to actually make this project happen. This year, my 3rd year in the STAR program, we did grant writing to help fund our projects, that's when I started to realize that they were serious about these projects and that all my research wasn't going to be pointless. The grant I wrote was for a Lowes Toolbox for Education grant for $5,000. I wasn't feeling very confident about our grant because I didn't know how many other people were out there writing for the same grant and I didn't think anything I could write would be good enough to win it. After a couple months of waiting I was outside doing some yard work with a few other students when our teacher Luke Foley opened the window and shouted "Whoo!" and then booked it outside. We were all kind of confused at why he just randomly shouted at first, and then he showed up on the back porch and announced that we have just received an email from Lowes informing us that we have won the Toolbox for Education grant and were awarded with $5,000. I couldn't believe it at first, I have never felt so proud of anything that I've done in school until now. I have never finished a project for school that I can remember, and to take on such a big project like an outdoor classroom and win a $5,000 grant, I can finally see this project coming to life and I'm excited to see how it all turns out in the end.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Taste Test Tuesday

On the first Tuesday of every month, students throughout the Washington South Supervisory Union have a chance to test out new recipes that may be featured in future cafeteria options.  The recipes are chosen by members of the WSSU Farm to School committee and then students and teachers help to prepare the food for the big day.

Students from the STAR Program have been a big part of making this project a success; we help cook the recipes that we have collected, and I'm sure that all the other kids appreciate the different styles of food that they get to eat instead of the regular school food.  Taste Test Tuesday is a really fun thing to experience and it's nice to have some change, too.

At first I'm usually uneasy about tasting new things, so this has been interesting for me.  Now, I am more willing to give new recipes a chance, and I like the recipes that the school and STAR have made.

Written by Dakota

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Metaphor of Seeds

When you think of a seed, you think of a small shell that has not yet begun to grow... a shell filled with a tiny life. It's something that needs nurturing and care, water, and someone to tend to it in order for it to grow. Everything in life starts out as a simple seed. Everything begins its beginning small; looking and waiting for its chance to break out of its shell and begin expanding its life. Nothing is easy and sometimes it doesn't go right the first time, but all it needs is that drink of water to give it a boost towards a big and bright future. 

The projects we take on here at STAR reminds me of a seed. All of us up at STAR want our projects to become fully grown into something wonderful, but aren't sure if anyone is going to give us our drinks of water we need to get started. If we can get the help of others in completing all the projects we want to accomplish, we would have the beautiful feeling of success in finishing it. Everyone who gave us those drinks of water would feel pride in giving us the chance we wanted and needed in order to complete our growth in these projects. All we need is a little nurturing and a chance to start these projects in order to have them sprout and grow into big projects.  Hopefully, they will grow into something that everyone can one day look back at and be proud of. 
Written by Skyla