National film crew focuses on Montpelier High School - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

National film crew focuses on Montpelier High School

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When most people hear of George Lucas, they think Star Wars. But instead they're filming this.

It's one of the "recess" periods at Montpelier High School, a quick break where students can recharge before heading back to classes. The school's unique approach caught the attention of a research team from the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which picked MHS for Edutopia's "Schools that Work" series.

It's not every day that a Vermont school attracts national attention so, when the email from Edutopia landed in principal Adam Bunting's inbox a couple months back, he told us at first, he didn't even think it was real.

"First I had to check to make sure that it wasn't spam," he says. "I was a little uncomfortable with the email. Just as a principal you're flooded with lots of offers, and when I dug into it and realized that it was George Lucas' foundation, I was excited."

Bunting says at Montpelier High they try to focus on sustainability efforts, community-based learning, and personalized education plans to keep their students interested.

"We're going to meet students where they are. So instead of forcing kids into a box that's uncomfortable for them, this is a community that says okay, let's sit back, let's listen -- what is it you want, what engages you," he says.

And being in a city gives students more of an opportunity to step outside the classroom.

"Through the internships, I've gained a lot of real-world experience, which I think is incredibly important," says sophomore Maya Facciolo. "For example, writing a cover letter or pulling together a resume."

The school's SOAR program combines traditional classes with internships and seminars. The director from the Lucas Foundation told us they're trying to capture what these students are doing so that other schools can try their ideas.

"I was nervous when they told me that Edutopia was going to follow me around for a day, but I was pretty excited. And I'm really proud of this school, so I was excited to be able to show it off nationally," Facciolo says.

"This is actually as far as stationary bike technology is concerned, this is kind of novel, dismembering a chair," says physics teacher Anne Watson.

Teachers got to showcase their students' talents too, like a bike that grinds wheat grown in the school gardens.

"Kids were learning about engineering, they were trying to problem-solve through mechanical hangups, as well as learning about gear ratios and forces," Watson says.

The director told us she's been across the country visiting successful schools, and what she sees in the ones that work are leaders with a vision, teachers who collaborate well and students who get a say in their education.

"Really something personal to them about the learning," says "Schools that Work" director Sarita Khurana. "Something that makes the learning hands-on, exciting, relevant."

You're probably wondering when we'll be able to see these students on camera. The director told us they will be producing these over the summer to debut in the fall. There will be multiple videos from the school, plus a website with resources for other educators.

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