University of Vermont

Seeing is believing: school change in action

Many of our schools are open to visits from Vermont educators and administrators. Explore one of our 21st century middle schools.

Schedule a visit >>

Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education

Info for: partner educators  pre-service teachers                                        Follow us on           

Wild City Project with The Edge @ Essex

A group of middle schoolers stand at the front of a classroom, presenting. There is a SmartBoard in front of the chalkboard and a male student is gesturing to it while two other students look on.

The Wild City Project was compelling to us because of the continued centering of students in the research process, the support for their democratic classroom and the integration of technology.

The project emphasized students’ use of technological tools while conserving space for a blended learning environment. The Wild City Project highlights the goals of TIIE by creating, and advancing, engaging middle grades learning opportunities for students. Students explored various group roles, and collaborated with outside community partners to further their learning. It was a clear example of a student-directed, real world learning opportunity. 

--Meredith Swallow

This past spring, one group of students shared with us the results of their yearlong study of the flora and fauna native to Essex Middle School and the rest of Vermont. They created a blog, Wild City Edge Academy, chronicling their work, and presented on it to their community partners in a school-wide open house.

Let's look at some of the keys to their success.


student quote

Two of the Wild City Project ecologists, McKayla and Avery, gave us a behind the scenes tour of some of the equipment they used on the project, as well as some of the artifacts they collected during their research.

What they did:

  • Partnered with the Audubon and UVM Rubenstein School to obtain technology and access to experts;
  • Laid out cameras around their school with night-vision, set to record animal activity;
  • Mapped out patterns of animal activity on campus using GPS tracking software;
  • Shared their findings with school, family and community partners, including an oral presentation and an extended question-and-answer session.


The Teacher's Corner

by Lindsey Slan Halman, Edge facilitator

replace with description "What would it take to do this in my classroom?"

"On the Edge Academy team at Essex Middle School, learners develop questions or concerns they have about themselves and the world to develop half-year long themes that drive their project work. Edge Academy learners use a project-based learning model which involves the students going through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem, or challenge. This process involves a significant amount of voice and choice. Learners plan and manage rigorous projects that help students learn key academic content, practice 21st Century Skills (such as collaboration, communication & critical thinking), and create high-quality, authentic products & presentations.

Learners created a theme entitled: Species, Culture, Lifestyle (S.C.L): It Revolves Around Us!

Within this project theme, a group of learners took on the role of ecologists and climatologists and developed questions that would guide their research. Their focus was on our own school campus and exploring the ecology of that campus, as well as gaining an understanding of the wildlife that share our campus community.

By partnering with the Audubon, students were able to have access to an on-site ecology expert, GPS and a trail camera to document and map their findings. Students’ questions guided their exploration and they ultimately presented their findings at our Project Fair, on a blog shared with the entire community, and on their Google Sites.

This project was so engaging for the students, that they then decided to continue their investigation into the spring with a focus on invasive species on our campus and in our community."

Student-driven learning engages community support for place-based learning

We love The Edge team at Essex Middle School because of their whole-hearted commitment to honoring student voice in technology integration. The students of The Edge were the ones who originally contacted us about partnering, and we’re always excited to see what they do next.

Last modified October 02 2013 01:14 PM