For the past month, students in the Big Picture program at South Burlington High School have gotten out in the community to pursue hands-on learning.

The Big Picture program is a project-based program at the school that engages and motivates kids through independent learning and student-driven curriculum while simultaneously connecting them in the community.

Through
self-directed learning, students take their own path to
graduation, pursuing independent projects, internships and community-based learning. Students enrolled in the program this term partnered with Common
Roots, a local non-profit whose goal is to
create a sustainable future through food and land
stewardship education.

COVID-19 protocols greatly impacted Big Picture and this normally nomadic group of learners, from the day to day
resources they could access to how they interacted with each other and the community.

“In past years of Big Picture, getting out in the community and going on various trips were very important to the structure of the year,” said Ally, a senior in the program. “We would go camping, take trips to Montreal, and visit different places for community based learning.”

This year though, COVID-19 greatly impacted the ability to move around, thus affecting the student’s contributions to the community, as well as their own learning opportunities.

Thankfully, an opportunity emerged through the service learning term. After a day visiting The Common Roots Farm at South Village, Big Picture connected with director Carol McQuillen, and a way to collaborate came into view.

Over the course of five visits, students learned about the importance of land stewardship and nourishing foods to build a healthy community.

Starting on April 26, Big Picture took a bus every Monday afternoon to either the Wheeler House (Common Roots headquarters) or Common Roots Farm to learn and help out for a few hours. They worked on a variety of projects, including staining the new pergola, weeding and planting the gardens, and generally getting to experience work on the farm, as well as taking care of the Wheeler House.

All in all, while the temperature swung from chilly to uncomfortably warm, many of the Big Picture members still found the experience a worthwhile investment of their time.

Eden, a sophomore, said, “Common Roots was a great opportunity to experience a supportive and impactful working environment. A strong work ethic was encouraged and I truly felt like I was able to make a difference.”

McQuillen added that, “Through our 13 years, community partnerships like Big Picture’s have been the key to success in bringing five food education and access programs to South Burlington.”

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