by RiseVT Staff and Grand Isle School Students

Students at Grand Isle School were excited when Moretti, the RiseVT/FGI School Wellness Specialist, showed up this academic year. He is always smiling and ready to play a game. Teachers who early-on invited him into the classroom found out quickly how he integrated play and silliness into the lessons. This playfulness increased a willingness and openness to learning and trying new things all the while solidifying classroom concepts.

Along with Moretti’s work in the classroom, funds were granted from NMC to add infrastructure  to enhance an atmosphere of wellness and health. The funds could only be used once they were considered by the school’s active wellness committee. Grand Isle School created a much needed wellness committee with students and staff to assist in managing the grant funds. Dorothy Sacca’s gardening advisory took on the task of forming the school’s Wellness Committee (WC). This is the first school in all of Grand Isle and Franklin counties whose WC was made up entirely of students! These 7th and 8th grade students are passionate about gardening and would spend time arguing over which tomato tasted best, which cucumber made the crunchiest pickle and the virtue of sweet vs. hot peppers.

The WC took on the task of reviewing the proposed update to the SU’s wellness policy. The SU received a grant from the VT Dept of Health to improve the policy to increase it’s score on a national evaluation tool, and over the past 2-plus years, a group of parents, educators and students have been developing proposed improvements. The proposed language would take the policy from scoring only 22% to scoring close to 90%.

The WC was also tasked with approving requests for funding submitted by the school community. One project that was funded was the improvement of the school garden that begins the Wellness Walking path. The beautiful beds got a facelift with new boards, weedblock, and a trellis to train the luscious grapes into a cool canopy. There is also the addition of a large, tumbling compost screen to a robust composting program.

Mrs. Whiting’s 4th grade students got in on the action as well. When asked the challenge question “what does the school need to make it better for all students?” they jumped right on the task. Students made proposals, surveyed peers, spoke with adults and did online research. “Writing these grants has been a great life skill practice,” said Whiting. “This was real-world application answering specific questions.” Austin also reminded the class that it tied in perfectly with the opinion paper writing they had already been practicing. Hannah felt that the exercise made her smarter because she also had to complete a lot of math and verify her answers before submitting the completed proposals. The hardest part? Waiting for the grant to be reviewed to see if it was approved. Ashley said that it was difficult to remember “that just because you put in all of that work, doesn’t mean it will be approved.” Yet another huge life-skill…

Luckily, the majority of the proposals have been funded in part or in full: the 4th grade’s addition of outdoor recess equipment to include footballs, soccer and basketballs, pinnies and equipment for capture the flag and a cabinet to store it all in so that it is readily accessible for recess instead of going and disturbing a PE class. Other projects funded included a school store for next year, food prep items so classes can do hands-on learning, snowshoes and sleds, paving a path to the basketball court to increase outdoor recess opportunity and more. “Having RiseVT at Grand Isle School has evolved into more than I ever dreamed it could be. Students are feeling empowered and heard. Staff are enjoying the laughter and additional movement. All of that makes the school brighter, happier and a great place to learn.” said Lauren Thomas, principal of Grand Isle School.