WTS 4.0 – Status: Launched

WTS Learners, Parents, and Mentors,

Thanks so much of being part of launching WTS 4.0, our fourth year of What’s the Story? The Vermont Young People Social Action Team, a program of the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English.


At our kickoff on Friday, we connected 32 students from 12 schools plus a couple of home-schooled students who will dig deep on a topic of social action this year and be asked to reflect on communication, collaboration, integrative thinking, and responsible citizenship in a ways unlike they’ve experienced before. To find out more about our instructional team, please go here. To see the kind of writing and work our learners from last year took on, please go here.


At this past Friday’s kickoff, students began to get to know one another, discuss issues of social concern, and consider how storytelling is integral when taking action. They also were introduced to our website and blog space where most have already published a short piece of writing to introduce themselves and get to know the mechanics of this digital tool and resource.


If a learner didn’t get a chance to publish their first blog post on Friday and include a Featured Image, they were asked to finish that this weekend. We took an hour to write and publish on Friday, but we also know that we all work differently. Here are the directions for learners as they were using the blog for the first time. Their prompt for this first post was the following: In the context of you being here today, please introduce yourself by beginning with any of the following –

I am the one who…

I am here because…

I am the one who wonders…


It is on our blog that learners will be prompted weekly for the next six weeks to continue to evolve their thinking and meaning-making on a topic of interest. They know that the next blog prompt will be sent to them on Mondays (starting tomorrow) and that they have until the following Sunday evening to publish a response. I’ll include parents on those emails so they can see what we are asking our learners to consider and how we are doing it. Meeting that timeline is really important to establish a routine and benefit from a cycle of learning: thinking, writing, receiving feedback, and repeating – that we are constructing.


Currently, we’re pulling together a national network of blog readers to respond to each learner’s work and help them think deeply about their topics. Once we hit our stride with blogging, learners should be writing their own post each week, reading two other students’ work and providing meaning-making feedback, and receiving additional and conversational feedback from mentors near and far. It creates a powerful cycle of learning and deep thinking from now until November. Much of this network relies on the work and relationships with Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English and the Next Generation Leadership Network.


Looking ahead:

The I-Search Blog & November Retreat:

The weekly blog writing will bring us right up to our November overnight retreat, which will take place on November 11th&12th at the Common Ground Center in Starksboro. At that time, learners will pitch their topics to their peers to inform them of what they’ve been considering and suggest a potential audience and action on their specific topic of social concern. Then, through consensus seeking, learners will form social action teams to collaborate and dig deep for the rest of our year together.


October Hike:

On October 14th, we’ll meet for our first Saturday Work Session, which will take place at Mt. Philo, where we’ll hike and talk from 10am-2pm. Please review the application again for a calendar of key dates for the year. It’s important that learners attend these dates as our time together is so little. Please consider carpooling and parents are welcome to join us.


Pitching In:

As you learn more about what we do and see our year unfold, if there are people in your networks who you believe could empower the one we are creating for all WTS learners, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and Bill Rich (redhouselearning@gmail.com).


Lastly, if you use social media, I’d encourage you to like, follow and share our story on Facebook and Twitter.

Tim O'Leary

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