Big Picture Students Travel To Nicaragua And Boston

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Thursday February 09, 2012

Students at Big Picture South Burlington recently participated in a one-month Service Learning Term. For the month of January students were asked to immerse themselves in projects that help communities in need.

One of our students helped organize a trip to Nicaragua with an organization called Planting Hope. January is the busiest coffee harvesting month in Nicaragua, and often the main source of income for the communities in coffee-growing regions. Planting Hope helps run “coffee camps,” which are day camps for elementary aged school children. By sending their children to these camps parents can engage in the coffee harvest, which maximizes their income and improves their lives throughout the year.

A second group of students focused their learning around New England communities in need. They interviewed and created profiles of local non-profit agencies, participated in a service day at senior centers in the Burlington area, and looked at how statistics can be used to identify discrimination. This group also traveled to Boston for a one-week service-learning trip. Here they did homeless outreach projects that included making and distributing sandwiches, handing out socks, and helping serve dinner at a local church. They also participated in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service with Helping Hands in Cambridge. They wrapped up their service in Boston with two days helping at the Franklin Park Zoo.
Big Picture South Burlington (BPSB) is combating student disengagement by allowing students to take charge of their education. This innovative school is located within South Burlington High School and allows each student to create an individualized curriculum based on his/her passions, strengths, challenges, and goals.

Big Picture is an internationally recognized learning model that has transformed the face of education. As stated by the founders of Big Picture Learning, “Big Picture Learning’s mission is to lead vital changes in education, both in the United States and internationally, by generating and sustaining innovative, personalized schools that work in tandem with the real world of the greater community” (

There is an incredible emphasis on real world learning at Big Picture. Learning through internships is a pivotal piece to the Big Picture learning model. Students are asked to spend two days per week at an internship of their choice. This opportunity allows students to become engaged members of their community and apply knowledge and skills to real world experiences.
BPSB allows students to reject the idea of standardization and embrace what makes them unique individuals. Students at BPSB will graduate based on Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements rather than Carnegie units. These requirements are based on the Vermont Framework of Standards for Education. This allows students to measure their accomplishments based on proficiencies rather than by numbers. Dennis Littky, co-founder of Big Picture Learning says, “There is no reason to put education in standardized packages when our kids don’t come in these packages. Who wants a standardized kid anyway?” Although there is an emphasis on individualized learning, the students at BPSB are part of a tight knit community where they meet together every day for community meetings, advisory, socratic seminars, and quantitative reasoning challenges.
Big Picture South Burlington is still young and continually adapting to the needs of the students. Next year the program is expected to expand even more, including an innovative program for exceptional seniors that want to go above and beyond. Applications for the ‘12/’13 year are due Friday, February 14,  and are accepted on a rolling basis after that.

SOURCE: Big Picture South Burlington