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For Immediate Release
October 25, 2021
Contact: Jill Strawbridge


VCS’s signature program successfully resumes after hiatus necessitated by Covid

South Burlington, VT — After 18 difficult months, Vermont Commons School joyfully resumed its unique and much-missed Encounter Week Program, an experiential learning and service program that offers students, teachers, and staff unparalleled opportunities for growth and exploration three weeks out of every school year.

Vermont Commons School (VCS), an academically rigorous independent school serving grades 6-12, may perhaps be best known for ushering its small student body “out of the classroom and into the world.” When Covid-19 made its way to Vermont in March of 2020, Vermont Commons students, along with nearly all students in the state, found themselves moved out of their classrooms and into their homes. The school continued to offer “Encounter Experiences” to students every Wednesday, allowing them to connect with teachers and each other in a variety of settings in and around Chittenden County. These activities varied from filmmaking to cross country skiing, and offered a taste of traditional Encounter Weeks while helping students weather the pandemic.

During the week of September 27-October 1, however, VCS students once again participated enthusiastically in Encounter Week adventures, from studying marine biology in Acadia National Park, to harvesting and packing fresh produce at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps.

Junior Charlotte Dodds of Burlington was one of the fortunate students who made the 8-hour trip to Acadia on what may be the school’s most popular Encounter Week trip. Commented Dodds, “It was exhilarating and thrilling to be out of the classroom for the whole week again, and even more so to find myself on the rocky shores of Maine. I spent the week learning about the local ecosystems, cooking with friends, climbing up some steep and nerve-wracking mountainsides, and eagerly listening to spooky Maine ghost stories. There is nothing like spending a week outdoors, with constant adventure and the excitement of the unknown surrounding you.”

Some groups stayed closer to home and coordinated with local organizations to provide enriching experiences while serving the community. The Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC), based in Richmond, VT, hosted a group of seven students during Encounter Week. Each day, students spent time harvesting produce for the VYCC’s Health Care Share program, a farm-to-hospital public health program that connects food-insecure Vermont families with fresh, healthy food and nutrition education. VYCC’s Community Engagement Project Lead Bex Love was impressed by the students’ commitment to their work. “The students were very open and excited to be here,” observed Love. “I was really humbled that they chose to come do farm work, which is an adventure but it’s also really hard. One student shared that she wanted to do something to give back to other people, and they certainly were by harvesting, washing, and packing up food shares.”

Plans are already in the works for the second of the school year’s three Encounter Weeks, which will take place during the first week of February. Dexter Mahaffey, Vermont Commons’ Head of School, commented, “We fully anticipate that our students will be in a wide range of locations and settings, from the Long Trail to downtown Burlington, doing what they do best: learning, engaging, and thinking critically about the world, the impact that they have on it, and their responsibility to it.”

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Vermont Commons School engages students grades 6-12 with their world. We achieve this through programs and a curriculum grounded in local and global involvement.
Vermont Commons School. Scholarship. Community. Global Responsibility.

Scholarship. Community. Global Responsibility.

At Vermont Commons School, our goal is to engage students with their world. We achieve this through programs and a curriculum grounded in local and global involvement.