Stories from the Schools

Place-based education is about connectivity - bringing people into a more meaningful
relationship with their learning, both in the moment and over time. The stories below
help us tap into the power of continuity and celebrate how students develop connections, relationships, traditions, and communities that provide throughlines and ongoing support as they travel and grow along their learning journeys. 

Below are some stories about CAE’s work within our local schools in the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU), and is written by Place-Based Education Coordinator, Reeve Basom. All photographs by Reeve Basom unless otherwise noted.

Growing and cooking food for the community

Hardwick Community Lunch and the Hazen Greenhouse

At the Hardwick Community Lunch, Hazen Union School students from the Recipe for Human Connection class carry on a beloved local tradition, and they are helping it evolve in new ways as well. Students were instrumental in reopening the meal following the pandemic and now serve at least 100 people on the third Thursday of each month. (At noon at the United Church of Hardwick - all are welcome, come on down!) Recently, teachers and students from other Hazen classes have begun attending the meal to eat and connect with community, and students have also begun hosting a satellite site of the meal to offer a monthly luncheon for teachers at Hazen. Connections made at the meal have resulted in students being recruited as community journalists; getting involved in other community events through the Civic Standard, Hardwick Area Neighbor to Neighbor and more; and sharing their perspectives on a variety of issues with town leaders, elders, and community partners.

Community Meal at United Church of Hardwick.
Community Meal at United Church of Hardwick.


Students preparing a community meal in United Church of Hardwick kitchen.
Students preparing a community meal in United Church of Hardwick kitchen.

Also connected to the community meal is Hazen's greenhouse - brought to life in the spring by students who plant an array of vegetables, flowers and herbs that are harvested the following school year for classroom and community cooking projects in the fall. One of the best crops this year was a bed of enormous carrots - enough to make a huge delicious batch of carrot soup for the community lunch.


Top Left: Students planting the greenhouse in the spring. 

Top Right: An epic carrot harvest from which delicious carrot soup was made for a community meal. 

Left: Flowers harvested on the first day of school being bundled into bouquets to brighten classrooms.

Student Profile: Harmoney Peets

One student building a learning web of connectivity and relationships through these activities is 10th grader Harmoney Peets. Harmoney became a community gardener and youth leader of Grow Your Own workshops while in elementary school. She was part of Recipe for Human Connection and the community meals as a ninth grader. She also designed an employment opportunity through HireAbility Vermont with Hazen and CAE to provide summer care for Hazen’s greenhouse.

Harmoney Peets leading a Grow Your Own workshop at Atkins Field. | Kent Shaw
Harmoney Peets leading a Grow Your Own workshop at Atkins Field. | Kent Shaw

 “Recipe for Human Connection teaches you a lot about communication skills with others and even really with yourself. The community lunches are a good time to connect with elders and adults as well as peers who are there with you. You get to know each other better. The Grow Your Own and job experiences have been really good, and I realized how much I enjoy working with kids. Now I have a job at the Hardwick Elementary Preschool. All of that stuff has helped me get to where I am today and who I am. I’m very grateful for all of it."

-Harmoney Peets

Growth, Resilience, and shared learning at Atkins Field

 OSSU students of all ages have explored different kinds of learning at Atkins Field (granite history, ecology, sustainability, food systems, community service, etc.), AND they have also contributed in many ways to making Atkins Field the vibrant community space it is today (planting trees and berries, creating public art, building garden beds, growing food for neighbors, and vending at the Farmers Market).

Last spring, Hardwick Elementary third graders added over a dozen trees and berries to the community orchard at Atkins Field along with help from the Vermont Garden Network. Though July's flooding swept through the orchard, the well-planted trees stood strong.



OSSU students planting trees at Atkins Field.
OSSU students planting trees at Atkins Field.

In October, a stream of 6th grade students from Hardwick Elementary poured down the hill to Atkins Field for an afternoon of exploring flood impacts and resiliency in our community. A group of Atkins-focused staff from CAE hosted a circuit of stations around the property, each one centered on a different story from the flood, what was learned, and how people can help. 


Harvesting material to build flood resilient hügelkultur beds.


Learning about post-flood soil remediation for the gardens.


Honey bee station with a rescued hive.

Student Profile: Bailey Shepard

One of the flood resilience stations was led by 2023 OSSU and GMTCC graduate, Bailey Shepard, who volunteered with the Center for an Agricultural Economy during his years as a student and in 2023 worked as the assistant orchard manager at Atkins Field. Here, his mentors became his colleagues, he took care of the trees he planted as a student, and he shared his knowledge with a new generation of OSSU students coming to learn at Atkins.

Bailey Shepard (center) with the Atkins Field Team, planting a heart-shaped patch of tulip bulbs in one of the new Hugelkultur garden mounds.
Footer Photo: Atkins Field Community Gardens | Elizabeth Rossano