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 

The Sugaring Tradition in Vermont

Sugaring season in Vermont is here again! When it becomes spring time, the sap starts running if the weather is right. The weather has to be at least 40 degrees during the day and below freezing at night.

Many Vermonters depend on the sugaring season because it is where a lot of Vermonter's make their living. A lot of people come to Vermont to buy maple syrup, maple creemees, and sugar on snow. Sugar on snow is hot syrup on ice.

This school year the S.T.A.R. Program did sugaring in our backyard and every two days we would go out and empty all of the sap into a storage container.  We collected for about a week. Then we started to boil the sap to turn it in to maple syrup.

It takes roughly 40 gallons to make 1 gallon of syrup.
But this year, it took 60 gallons of sap. This past season was not a great season because it was getting warm at night and the sap didn't run for very long.

 After collecting for a week, we boiled in a cast iron pot. We had the cast iron pot on the fire for about 8 hours.   ​


 Written by Will Dickinson

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Apple Orchard Pruning and N'Dakinna Sound Map

On March 11 of this year, we took another hike up to the school forest to prune the apple trees. This being the second year of pruning, things looked much better, but don't be fooled. It may have looked much better, but we still have a lot of work to do in order to get them back to normal. Other than the past two years, these trees have been neglected. When we first started pruning, we had huge piles of dead branches, ranging from very small to very large. 

When we prune, we generally break up into teams of two and pick a tree. Even though we are in teams, we still all work as a group and help lend a hand when needed. Once the group gets a tree doctored up, we take the branches and drag them into a pile that will be used for fire wood. 

Even though we pruned last year, there were still a fair amount of suckers on the apple trees. Suckers are the vegetative growth coming from the root system of a tree. Suckers steal the nutrients from the tree so that fruit then cannot grow on that branch. We typically cut the suckers and dead branches. We try not to cut branches that are living but, if they are going to cause a problem or are crossing with another branch, we take it away. We are hoping the more we prune the trees and keep up with them, the more likely we will soon have nice growing apples!​

Not only did we prune that day, we also did a sound map. A sound map is a map where you draw where you are and the sounds you hear around you. We all went to our N'dakinna spots at the same time and sat while being silent, but aware of the noises around us. The group heard some similar sounds, but it was distracting at times due to man-made noises. It's not easy to go out to the woods or even outside and enjoy true nature because there are so many distracting noises around us now a days.​

Written by Kelsea

Visit to the State Legislature

On February 7th, S.T.A.R. took a trip to the state house. Our teacher, Luke Foley, was recognized as Vermont's 2014 Teacher of the Year. He was acknowledged and talked about by Adam Greshin and Maxine Grad. We, his students, also got to be acknowledged by Representative Anne Donahue. All of us got the opportunity to get a tour of the state house, as well as listen to some of the bills the representatives of each city or town wanted to pass.

We left feeling validated for the effort we put in to the program. After leaving the school setting and going to Montpelier, many of us recognized how far we had come as students.  Before the STAR Program, many of us didn't feel like we were recognized for who we are. So, being up in front of people made us feel better about ourselves and helped to change our outlooks on life​

Later that day, we went to Montpelier High School to visit their greenhouse. One of our current projects at S.T.A.R. is applying for a grant to fund the building of our own greenhouse. Going to the greenhouse in Montpelier allowed us students to see options and things to consider when we go to plan our very own out. I found their irrigation system quite interesting. They had little pipes fill up the container to a certain amount so the plants have all the water they need, and also to encourage the roots to grown down towards the water. The trip there will most definitely help us get ideas for our greenhouse, which is something I look forward to.

Written by Skyla

Reading the Forested Landscape

We have been reading the book Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels, and in this book we have learned a lot of cool things.  We learned about  how the original inhabitants "managed" the forest. We have also learned about how white settlers impacted the environment in New England through agriculture, mining, and logging.  Recently, we've been learning about how animals can also change the environment. 

Behind humans, beavers are the most destructive animals to their habitat.  A beaver can completely change an environment just so it won’t have to get out of the water. They use dams to flood low-lying areas because they want to be able to travel to food by water.  They do this because they are so vulnerable on land.

But how do you know if a beaver still lives in their beaver pond? You can tell that they have left if the water level is not at the top of the dam. Because beavers are constantly maintaining their dams to create safe passages around  the lodge, a dam that isn't filled to capacity signals that a beaver isn't around to maintain it

If beavers are still in an area, you can hypothesize how long they will stick around by looking for a few important indicators.  You can assess their environment by the kind of plants that are left in the area. Beavers have certain foods that are their favorites, so if those are gone or dwindling, they will likely search for other areas with better food sources soon.  Another way that you can tell about the quality of the environment is if there are evergreens that have been chewed on. This indicates that the beavers may be running out of food and will likely leave soon. 

We also read about beaver ponds and how to figure out how long they have been abandoned by looking at different land features.  You can determine how long they have been gone by looking at  trees that were cut down by beavers. If it was within a year, the wood would be a blond color. If not, the color of the wood be a washed out gray color. Also, if the beavers have been gone for more than 3 years, the logs start to grow turkey tails, which is a shelf-like fungi.

Written by Eric

The Grump

The Grump is an annual New Year's tradition that the S.T.A.R. Program started last year. The Grump is a human-like figure made of sticks, straw, and other natural materials.  It has a cardboard box head that has been altered to have a mouth and eyes. 

The concept of this tradition is to write down, on a piece of paper, all of the things you want to forget from the past year. After reflecting and writing, we have the option to read aloud what we had written down on the piece of paper. Once we are done reading, or if we chose not to read, we take the paper and fold it up and stick it in the mouth of the Grump. Once everybody has placed their list in the Grump's mouth, we burn it.  

The reason behind burning it is to symbolize that all the pain and sorrow from the previous year is now gone. You don't have to worry about it any longer because it's a new year and a fresh start.​ From here, you can move on feeling good about yourself and feeling hopeful.

Written by Dakota