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MSMS_Sustain Student Newsletter

MSMS_Sustain students presenting at the Vermont Statehouse in April. Photo by Don Taylor, MSMS.
Editor’s Note: The following newsletter is produced by Main Street Middle School (MSMS) students on the MSMS_Sustain leadership team, and their teacher, Don Taylor. The Bridge has partnered with the team and is publishing their quarterly newsletters through the end of the current school year. Parts of this newsletter have been edited for brevity.

Social Justice Committee Seeks Safety for All

As part of the MSMS_Sustain group, students have taken the initiative to form a social justice committee. The inspiration for it sprouted from a presentation at the Vermont Association of Middle Level Educators (VAMLE) conference in March, where students saw a presentation by Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR). This group of students, from Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School in Burlington, talked about all the ways they are combating racism in their school. The presentation sparked the idea of starting a group like that at MSMS to create a safer school environment that makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome. The committee’s first action was sending out an anonymous survey to all the students in MSMS to gather baseline information on what the students think is going on in their community. After analyzing the results, we have noticed that the top three most talked about social justice subjects were racism, bullying, and cultural differences.

— Maddie Lindberg and Isabel Moorman

Students Lead Successful Donation Drive

This February, the MSMS_Sustain leadership team put together our second annual Fresh Start February Drive. The drive lasted a little under four weeks and helped us to collect and donate household medical items, household cleaning items, personal hygiene products, and household supplies for those in need this winter season. All of our donations went directly to Just Basics and the Good Samaritan Haven.

To arrange this, a few members of our team crafted a list of items that were needed, sorted them into more general categories, and got to work on posters. Boxes were placed in each TA (teacher-advisory) classroom, and a school-wide announcement commencing the drive was read on the morning of Feb. 5. Over the course of the following 24 days, students were encouraged to bring in any needed supplies (household, hygiene, cleaning, and medical supplies) to their TAs every morning. 

By the end of the drive, we had 398 items in total. We would love to thank everybody who donated, as it really impacted people’s lives this winter.

— Ella Groff

MSMS_Sustain Leadership Presents at the Vermont Statehouse

On Wednesday, April 10, representatives from the MSMS_Sustain leadership team presented their work at the Vermont Statehouse as part of the Vermont Superintendents Association Public School Advocacy Day. Leadership students provided a display, artifacts, and informational pieces about the work of our leadership team as well as the achievements of the MSMS_Sustain program.

The students answered questions about our program, introduced themselves to policy makers, and highlighted the community and project-based learning activities that are essential to Main Street Middle School’s sustainability efforts. 

Mike McRaith, former Montpelier High School principal and current associate executive director of the Vermont Principals Association, visited with our students and then accompanied them on a tour of the Statehouse. After presenting, students enjoyed a complimentary lunch in the cafeteria, which was very well-received.

— Don Taylor

Maple Sugaring Season Ends

The 2024 MSMS_Sustain sugaring season came to an end on April 2, when students from Main Street Middle School pulled the taps and cleared the buckets from our sugaring operation. The season was somewhat challenging with logistical issues and the fact that sap runs started in January, and, for the most part, were all over the map. In the end, the MSMS_Sustain program bottled approximately six gallons of syrup, which has already been put on sale.

Reflecting on the season, it’s hard to pin down why our production dipped. The primary suspect was the inconsistent weather (at least in our sugar woods). With record warmth occurring in January, February, and March, those of us using taps and buckets missed a few of the early runs. Once our buckets were set, warm days in early March mixed with a late cold spell and spring snowstorms to disrupt production. Still, when days were in the 40s and evenings in the mid-20s, our sugar maples produced. 

Our taps were placed on a south-facing hill adjacent to Hubbard Park. There were days when we collected 50-plus gallons of sap. Thanks to the generosity of our Vermont Evaporator community partners, much of our sap was boiled using their sugar house or their equipment. A huge thanks also goes out to Kris Hammer, who continues to provide access to his property and helps us develop the operation through the maintenance of lines and by providing environmental updates.

By showing learners the basics of sugaring and supporting their business skills, we have a viable, if erratic, source of funding and income that serves our program, our school, and the Montpelier community. As climate change continues to impact the North Country, our sugaring and the data we collect sheds light on how a warming planet will impact our environment, our Vermont culture, and our local economies. 

— Don Taylor