March Retreat: My Experience So Far

What is WtS, and how is it different than a typical course?

What’s the Story is an educational credit program where you create a documentary with a team of students along the course of a year. We choose a social issue in Vermont that we are interested in, and we attempt to foster change through our documentary. It’s not like a typical course, as What’s the Story uses a blended-learning environment. Students in the program come from all over Vermont, so we only meet once a month. Instead, most of our work and contact with our groups is done online on messaging programs like Slack and video conferences. Although each team has a mentor to help guide us along, What’s the Story is again very nontraditional in the sense that we are treated like adults and are very independent. After the first couple months of figuring everything out, we are given the all the responsibility for our group. It’s up to us to set up weekly video chats and communicate with each other, to set up interviews, to divide up our workload, and everything in between. With this comes with the freedom to create our documentary with virtually no restrictions. We are given the opportunity to let our creativity run free and turn whatever visions we have into our project.

What’s your experience been like in WtS?

My experience with What’s the Story has been an overall very positive one, although with some ups and downs. Starting off the year, it was hard getting used to the new faces and learning style completely different from what I’ve done in school– WTS expects us to be much more independent. This mode was hard to get used to and I had trouble with motivating myself at home since so much work is done independently. At the start, researching topics and finding similar topics to my peers was a lot of fun. As I’ve gotten to know my peers and the mentors better, I’ve become more comfortable and confident.

Our group had trouble with communication at first because we were all getting used to video chatting from different places. We also didn’t know where to start so we were in limbo for awhile. However, we have become more focused and more clear on our goals and what work has to be done and we’ve become more focused on the program as a whole.

What’s your topic / team, and what are some highlights of what you’ve learned (about the topic and being part of a long-term team)?

My group is with three other people: Alaena, a 9th grader from Stowe; Gabe, an 8th grader from Shelburne; and Stephie, a 10th grader from Winooski. We are focusing on the effects of income inequality on education– this is a large problem in America and especially in Vermont. Our group wants to know more about how low income kids are affected in school by the so-called opportunity gap. I’ve learned that this problem is growing, that low income kids do worse in school for a variety of factors such as not always having access to high quality child care, affecting the development especially their social skills; being less likely to participate in enriching extra-curricular activities such as sports or music lessons; and more often experiencing high levels of stress.

I have learned about being a better team member while in WTS. A good team member communicates well, works hard, gives and receives critical feedback. At first, I was struggling with all of this. Working with my teammates and our mentor helped a lot– it got clearer as time went on what was expected of me and that was key. I think over time all of us discovered our role and made us function more productively and get our own work done at home.

Who should apply, and why?

Anyone who is interested in learning to work both independently and in a group, anyone who is interested in social change, anyone who wants to become a more independent and responsible learner, and anyone who wants to have a totally different learning experience.

Finn Wormser
My name is Finn Wormser and I'm from Shelburne. I'm a ninth grader from CVU High School. This is my first time doing the program, but I'm familiar with it through friends and my brother. I love playing sports and watching sports. I play volleyball, basketball, and am going to start ultimate frisbee in the spring. I play the bass and my brother, dad and I like to pretend we're a band. I am very excited to start What's The Story and to learn about a social issue in Vermont.

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