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Family Newsletter- May 13, 2022

Harwood Families -


The Harkness Student Driven Approach to Learning has become a cornerstone of classroom teaching at Harwood, including in the middle school where the “Power Skills” of the practice are developed and honed. Power Skills include learning to speak in turn, how to respectfully disagree, using non-verbal cues to further discussions and connections, and using sentence stems to help smoothly enter Harkness Discussions.

The Harkness Student Driven Approach is not just another fancy education term for a class discussion. Harkness goes beyond just talking about a subject or topic; Harkness Discussions are grounded in text analysis, the process ensures full participation, and the academic discourse is led by the students themselves. With highly trained students, the instructor takes a back seat as an observer who watches, records interactions between students, and summarizes the content of student conversations. With less-experienced students the teachers take more of a leadership role, with the aim of gradually turning the reigns over to students. The structure of the Harkness Method ensures that the conversations are not dominated by just a few students, and that controversial discourse does not unravel into an argument. This method actually teaches students how to learn in a way in which they are not just simply sitting and taking in instruction, but rather, they are required to listen, observe, analyze, verbalize, question and provide visual descriptions that lead to further the understanding of everyone at the Harkness table.

Over the past several years, under the guidance and direction of Harkness expert Kathy Cadwell, educators at HU have been participating in a Professional Learning Community (PLC) Cohort where teachers can share methods, materials, and ideas for honing the Harkness practice in their classrooms. Social Studies teacher Adam Sargeant and English teacher Kate Stauss are the leaders of the PLC, planning the after-school sessions, and coordinating the student-led teacher discussions. HU Teachers in the PLC are from a variety of backgrounds, across all subject areas and grade levels. The multi-year, school-wide investment to bring Harkness opportunities to every Harwood student has paid dividends.

This year Kate Stauss is teaching a course called “Harkness Leadership” which is an English elective open to students in grades 10-12. The student leaders in Stauss’ class are highly trained and highly skilled Harkness facilitators whose expertise caught the attention of Kathy Cadwell, who is currently teaching a course on the Harkness Pedagogy through St. Michael's College. Cadwell pioneered the Harkness practice at Harwood, and this year connected the Harwood Harkness leaders to opportunities extending beyond the walls of their school. Cadwell approached Stauss about taking the group on tour to share their insights and experiences with Harkness with other schools around the state, and Stauss and her students took the opportunity to share their skills and insights with a broader audience.

The Harwood Harkness Leaders are: Mikey Casey, Arianna Clark, Rowan Clough, Ella Dice, Maisie Franke, Ellie Hammond, Maya Hynes, Carmen Lafayette, Ben Larson, Abigail Leighty, Hazel Lillis, Mae Murphy, Quinn Nelson, Anabelle Reisner and Lucy Sullivan. Several of these esteemed Harwood Representatives have visited three other schools this year (and all traveled to at least one): Champlain Valley Union in March, Hazen Union in April, and Mount Abraham Union most recently, in May. All three of these opportunities came at the invitation of teachers who were interested in finding out more about student driven inquiry and the Harkness Pedagogy.

At each of these exhibitions, Harwood Student Leaders took center stage . . . even more so in the last two visits of the “tour.” At Hazen, Stauss and her students worked with middle and high school students , teaching the “Power Skills” that create civil dialogue. Harkness leaders then demonstrated an actual Harkness dialogue in front of the entire Hazen faculty. Those teachers have been inspired by the civility, deep insights, commitment to text, thoughtful questioning and collaborative discussion of the Harkness Leaders.

The HU Administration expresses enthusiastic support for Harkness efforts. HU Principal Laurie Greenberg commented that “We have been so excited to have Harkness Leadership in the building, and it is great that they are able to share their expertise with other schools in our state,” Greenberg went on to note that Student Voice is a priority at Harwood, and so Harkness is a natural fit for our broader school goals since “Everyone’s voice is valued equally at the Harkness table.”

In a recent interview, Harkness leaders shared their reflections on the experience of touring the state and providing instruction to peers as well as professional educators. When asked what it was like to teach their peers there was mumbling about some student behaviors-- which were quickly attributed to the COVID disruptions to school activities. It was acknowledged that society is still recovering from quarantine. Junior Ellie Hammond explained that the experience teaching the Harkness Method at other schools, “ opened up my perspective about what it’s like to teach, and what it is 0ike to learn.”

Overall the experience was overwhelmingly positive for students and teachers alike. “Harkness has helped me develop a lot of skills that I can use in and outside of the classroom,” commented HU Junior Ella Dice, “and it has also helped me navigate conversations about difficult topics like Racism, or Environmental Racism. Harkness has helped me develop the skills I need to have these conversations. Harkness taught me how to ask questions.” Sophomore Hazel Lillis added, “Harkness discussions have taught me how to connect with people who have perspectives that are different from my own.”

HU Junior Ellie Hammond, and Sophomore Lucy Sullivan teaching Power Skills to Hazen Union High School students.

Harkness in Action at Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School PHOTO CREDIT: Kathy Cadwell



  • May 2nd - 20th - SBAC testing window

  • May 10th - Midpoint Quarter 4

  • May 12th - Family Conferences

  • May 18th - Student Dialogue

  • May 18th - Family Conferences

  • May 23rd - 27th - Spirit week

  • May 25th - Award Ceremony

    • Where: Auditorium

    • When: 9 - 9:45 (ELO A)

    • Who: recipients & parents will be invited - all can sign up

  • May 30th week schedule:

    • Monday - NO school (Memorial Day)

    • Tuesday – Gold Day

    • Wed – Black

    • Thurs – Gold

    • Fri – Black

  • June 3rd - Step Up Day for Middle School & 9th grade

  • June 6th week schedule:

    • Monday - Gold Day

    • Tuesday – Black Day

    • Wed – ELO day

    • Thurs – Gold Day

    • Fri – Black Day w/NO Flex & modified blocks 6,7,8

  • June 10th - Last day of school for students

  • June 11th - Graduation


Safe - seen, heard, respected & understood:



Rise Against Hunger Volunteers Needed!!!

Volunteers Still Needed!!!

Harwood Rotary Interact and Mad River Valley Rotary Club invite you to join the Rise Against Hunger Event! We will be meeting at the Harwood Union Middle and High School cafeteria to package meals for communities in need. This event is in support of Rise Against Hunger, an organization working to end hunger around the world. They’ve packaged over 540 million meals since 2005 with the help of volunteers like you! Anyone is welcome to come; students, teachers, community members, etc.! This is a great event for the whole family!

The Mad River Valley Rotary Club has put together a website where you can sign up to volunteer. You can find the website here.

To learn more about Rise Against Hunger’s mission, you can visit their website

When: May 21, 2022 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM Where: Harwood Union Middle and High School Cafeteria


Rigorous & Robust Academic Program:



Attention Juniors, Sophomores and Families

Do you want to know more about the true cost of college and how to pay for it? Do you need help navigating the maze of financial aid options available to you? VSAC, the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, can help! VSAC is hosting an informative discussion on Financial Aid & Managing College Costs at Harwood Union High School on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 from 6:00-7:30pm in the HUHS library.

This is a free event open to all HUHS parents and students. You’ll learn more about:

  • The types of financial aid available

  • How and when to apply

  • How financial aid needs are determined

  • Ways to reduce college costs

  • Other ways to pay for college

  • And more

For more information on VSAC visit their website at We hope to see you at the event!

On Wednesday, May 4th, Harwood students, in partnership with the VSAC's Aspirations initiative, attended "Try A Major Day" at the Vermont Technical College (VTC) in Randolph. Opportunities were provided to explore

degrees ranging from Veterinary Medicine and Respiratory Therapy to Mechanical Engineering and Entrepreneurship. Students discovered what life was like on a college campus, got a taste of campus cafeteria delites and participated to win prizes through VTC trivia contests.


Positive school climate and culture:



Second All School Dialogue: May 18th

High School Students will once again hold an all school dialogue on May 18th. The purpose of this dialogue is to determine what kind of school environment we want to create next year and how each of us can make it happen. Our dedicated youth facilitators have designed a meaningful series of questions designed to reflect on what we learned in our last dialogue and to look forward to how we can create a community that is welcoming to everyone.

Sincere appreciation is extended to Maisie Franke who created this synthesis of all of the data collected in the first dialogue through a student feedback survey and notes from teachers in each group.

Harwood is fortunate to have talented and dedicated youth facilitators to make this a reality!


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