Thursday, January 25, 2018


Something we do at the STAR Program is MFT, which stands for Mandatory Fun Time. During this time period we play games or do activities that either do, or don’t involve what we are learning about in class. Some examples of what we do during MFT are Camouflage and Big Happy Family.  These two games are very different, but they're fun in their own way.

Manny hides during Camouflage

I think the best game we play is Camouflage because it involves running, hiding, and staying quiet. And if you are planning to become a hunter, it’s a good game for you because Luke makes a great spotter, and he is very good at listening for movements. I say this because it is kind of like hunting, you don’t want the animal you’re hunting to find you or it will get away.

Snowshoeing to the outdoor classroom
We have MFT time because it is something that we do to clear our mind of school, to get some exercise, and to get some fresh air. We also break for MFT because teenagers’ need time for fun and games. Lastly, it's a chance to get away from all the other things and not be worried or stressed out.

Before we do MFT, Luke and/or Judy usually talk until they get to a middle of a sentence. Then he/she yells out the name of the game that we are playing. And not everyone knows that he is going to yell it out because, he does not usually stutter at all, and he acts as if we are still going to do class. This always comes as a pleasant surprise, because we weren't expecting a break.

This can impact us in many different ways that can help us. A way it impacts me is that it helps me clear my mind of frustrations. It also benefits the other students at the STAR Program by helping them to relieve stress. It benefits us all by giving us the chance to have fun inside or outside, and some of the games help us get to know each other. Another thing it does to impact me is that it gives me a chance to interact, be positive, and think more clearly. I didn’t normally talk to anyone at school until I came up here and got to know them. Now I am friends with them, and I talk to them every time I see them walk in the halls or when I have classes with them. MFT is an important part of our day for many reasons.  The reason might be different for each person, but we all benefit from it.

Mentoring Elementary Students

This post was written last year by one of our students who has since graduated.  The photos are from several different years, and numerous different age groups.  Over the past 7 years, students from our program have worked with students ranging from kindergarten to 8th grade, teaching everything from fire building to cooking to team-building activities. - Luke

 About once every month, we go up to the school forest to meet up with kindergartners. We teach them many important things in a fun way that’s outdoors and hands on. We have taught them how to build a fire by finding small sticks and gradually building up to bigger sticks to create a small tipi- like structure. They learned a bit about nature and the variety of trees, rocks, and plants there are by observing on their own walking through the school forest. They have also learned about different varieties of species and how they communicate, what they do in their daily lives, and how they survive Vermont's climate.

Another thing the kindergarteners have learned is how to climb and hike up the school forest using the small rope course we had. It taught them about strength, willingness, teamwork, and the different alternatives you can take to reach your goals. I think, all in all, the kids really loved it and had a good time learning many aspects that were hands on.

Doing this not only taught them about building fires, different species of animals, and about alternatives but also taught them about setting goals for themselves and what they can really achieve once they set their minds to it which all in all boosts there confidence and self-esteem. They also learned about teamwork, creating a solution or goal to a challenge, communication, and I think personally they have learned about themselves as well as others through this experience. 

In some ways, I think not only have the kindergartners learned something from us, but we all learned a lot in the past few months visiting with the younger kids. Personally, it has helped me by bringing out my inner child and looking through a younger person's eyes. This has really made me realize how every person should take a moment in their lives and really just think and observe like a child: how they live within each moment in their lives; how they live like there’s no tomorrow experiencing as much as they can learning something new within each day; how they’re not afraid much of judgement; how they are stress free and just are willing to try anything once they are convinced it’s something that’s great and worth trying for.

Kids tend to have their good and bad days, just like any other person, but these kindergartners have an energy and optimism that is awesome to be around. They live in the moment and take risks even if you’re scared because, although it might not seem like a big deal to us, they have faced some challenges  that we might not even know about. They also have taught me how responsible I can really be when needed, and they taught me more about my patience.  Most importantly, they taught me to never really underestimate any child because they can surprise you if you give them the chance.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Almost every week at STAR, a fire is made by whoever is lucky enough to catch a spark. Fires are made for either warmth, cooking, crafts, or boiling water. In the first few weeks of the STAR program I learned how to use flint and steel, including how to hold it, where to hit it, and how it works.

In order to make a fire, you have to have a nest and a structure ready.  What you need is a piece of char cloth, which catches sparks emitted from the steel and holds the spark. When you catch a spark, you put a piece of char in the nest. and when you get flame, you put it in your structure. The first time I used flint and steel, I caught a spark and was super excited that I was the first one in our group to do so. From there on, I would continue to catch more and more and get really good at it.

I have learned a lot of fire building techniques since I joined STAR. I’ve learned how to make a fire in wet conditions and in snow. On a trip to ROOTS I learned how to make a structure that can start easy and last for long time. I know what sticks I have to get and what materials are the best to use. What I’ve learned could save me in survival situation. I feel like, if all we have is flint and steel, I can make a fire eventually.

On the last day of hunting season, my hunting party gets together, sits around a campfire, and relaxes. This year I made the fire and used the techniques that I learned at STAR. I haven’t made the fire at my camp, so it was nice build it, and show that I know how to make a good fire. We ate venison from my dear over the fire that I made. It felt really good to be the one that made and provided the food that we all ate.

By Justin

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lessons From the Alamo

As a part of our Frontiers curriculum, we learned about the Alamo. The Alamo was a fort in Texas during the Mexican American war. The war was about Texans trying to gain freedom from Mexico. The Alamo was the last line between the Mexican army, led by Santa Ana, and Texas.  The Alamo was a strategic fort because it had a good view of the land around it, it had many spots for cannons, and it was a stronghold for the Texans.

There are a number of important lessons we can learn from the Battle of the Alamo:
Ego: Santa Ana's ego almost cause him to lose the war. He thought that since he beat the small number of Texans, he could beat the whole army. But the Texans rallied and beat the Mexican army in 18 minutes.  It was only after many Mexican deaths that Santa Ana was triumphant.
Strength in numbers versus Strategy: Santa Ana had an army of over a thousand, and the Texans only had a few hundred. However, the Texans ended up nearly winning the war because they were smart. Santa thought that just because he had more soldiers, that he was going to win, but the Texans had a really good strategy.   

There were a number of other important figures involved with the Battle of the Alamo:

Sam Houston: He was in charge of the soldiers defending the Alamo. He was 6’6 and died at age 70.  He was a First lieutenant. He wasn’t at the Alamo, but he was in charge of the
soldiers in it. He was present, however, at the victory and final fight of the Texans and the Mexican army. 

Davy Crockett: He was one of the men in charge of the Alamo. He had to follow all the rumors that the men heard about him being brave. He was he last man to die in the Alamo that wasn’t Mexican.

Jim Bowie: He was another man in charge of the troops at the Alamo. He died in the fort from a sickness. He was a known knife fighter and freedom fighter. He, as well as Davy, had to follow through with the rumors that the soldiers heard about them regarding their strength and bravery. 


         Why would we make cheese as a part of our history class? We learned the art of cheesemaking, and how it would have been done in the past, because we would know what it was like for colonial people to make many of their own foods.  When we made cheese, we did use some modern-day tools, but many of the techniques are the same as they would have been in colonial America.

         The process of making it was a little challenging for us because we had to constantly stir the milk and Thermophilic for a certain amount of time for it to dissolve. There were two packets. One called Thermophilic and the other Mesophilic. Mesophilic means that you can only cook soft cheeses between 68F and 102F for low temperatures. Thermophilic means that you can cook with higher temperatures between 104F and 128F for hard cheeses.  

         After we were done making the cheese, we all tried it and thought that it tasted like Greek Yogurt. But the appearance of the cheese wasn't  very good, mostly because of the chunky look to it. Some of us still enjoyed it. 

         I liked learning about this because I like cheese. Also it can help me out in the future for cooking and just making meals for people and family. In addition, it could help me out with any cooking jobs, so I’ll have experience doing it. It also gives us something fun to do because when we’re adults we might not get the chance to do this again.


1 Gallon Whole Milk
¼ cup White or Cider Vinegar
1 Pinch Salt
Add all ingredients to list


1. Pour the milk into a large pot, and heat until the temperature reaches 195 degrees F (90 degrees C), or almost boiling. Stir constantly to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pot. When the milk reaches the temperature, remove from the heat, and stir in the vinegar. Let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Line a strainer with cheesecloth, and set over the sink or a large pot or bowl. The milk should separate into a white solid part, and a yellowish liquid (whey). Stir the salt into the milk, then pour through the cloth-lined strainer. Let the curds continue to drain in the strainer for 1 hour. Discard the whey.
3. After the cheese has finished draining, pat into a ball, and remove from the cheese cloth. Wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Written by Chris

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tracking with the 5th Graders

The Activity:  

Each month we work with the 5th graders out in our school forest.  For the month of January, we prepared a tracking activity.  We split into 6 groups with 6 different routes to the Outdoor Classroom, so we wouldn’t bump into one another in the forest.  We then had them try to identify 7 different tracks using a variety of observations.  They would start with the basic shape and pattern of the track, and then they would use a tracking book as a resource.  When they think they have the answer, they would come to their high school helper to see if they are correct. If the answer was wrong, we worked with them to understand why. 

Once they had found all of the different tracks, they had to develop questions about one set of tracks.  For example, if they found a deer track, they might ask questions like, "Is it a boy or a girl?", "How old is it?", or "Where is it going?".  Together, we might be able to answer some of the questions that they created using research and our resources.  But that isn't really the point!  The point is to be curious and to be really good at asking questions.  Even if we don't have the answer today, we may still be able to find it out in the future.

After we’re done tracking we cooked hot dogs over a fire.The reason we did is they had something to look forward to help them behave. Since some groups finished early, we had all the fifth graders play a game called camouflage. That way we can keep them busy and moving in the cold weather, but they get to have a lot of fun while doing it. We finished the day by circling up and reflecting on how the day went.

Written by Isaiah

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


 Here at the STAR Program we have the ability to be able to have a garden, and for it to be a part of our curricular activities. Each student gets to choose one or two plants to grow in our garden that we would like to use to make food, and also for our school cafeteria so that it can be a part of our school lunches. 

We started this year's garden  the week of 3/13/16. We have a grow table that works great and allows us to start growing vegetables earlier than other people do. When the ground is not frozen anymore, we can just plant anything that already has a sprout going.

We start the process by getting soil trays and putting good potting soil into them. Then we would proceed to plant the seeds for the crops we want to grow.  Lastly, we put the trays under the grow table, flick the switch, water them, and then we are in business for growing vegetables.

Written by Robby