First Quarter Project Presentations – YWL at Smokey House

At the IMG_1752end of the first quarter, we shared our progress with parents and teachers.  After a delicious lunch (prepared by students, of course), each student gave a talk, with PowerPoint, about his project work during the first quarter.  Here are excerpts from two of the presentations:

IMG_1525From Lucas (culinary):  “We were harvesting stuff in the garden and decided we had too many tomatoes.  Juanita and I didn’t want our tomatoes to rot, so we cooked them down to make a sauce.  First I cut up garlic.  Then I cut up onion and put it in the pan with olive oil.  Then I cut up the tomatoes, big red tomatoes and little cherry tomatoes.  Then we put it on high heat, smashed them down in the pot, and cooked it until it boiled and turned to mushy sauce.  Then without Juanita looking, as a prank, I put in part of a hot cayenne pepper.  It would have been funny to get the taste buds tingling.  I knew I wasn’t putting enough in to wreck it.  I was surprised that Juanita could taste it, because I didn’t put in a lot.  We had a good laugh.”


IMG_1513From Scott (woodshop wall):  “The back wall on the barn was rotted.  When we talked about projects, I said that I wanted to fix the wall. We talked with Jesse [SHC executive director], and he said it would be a good project.  First we measured how long the wall was, how high it was, and calculated for trim, overhang, siding and roofing.  Next, we called LaValley’s to price out all the materials needed…The total price for all the materials was $875.  We took this price to Jesse and he said “Go ahead, order it!”

woodshopFrom the start, we knew the project would take a month or two.  We knew ripping everything off would only take a day or two.  The ordered materials came in just over one weekend, so it’s just the labor that can take awhile.  It has taken a bit longer because we haven’t been able to work on it consistently.  When we started actually working on the wall, we realized there was more rotted wood than we thought.  We also realized the reason a lot of it had rotted was because there was no overhang.  So first, we had to rip all of the clapboards and the rotted wood off of the wall….”

Other projects included making raised beds for the garden, clearing and marking trails, and researching raising pigs vs. cows.

Our quarter two presentations are scheduled for Friday, January 16.


VIDEO: What it Means to Get Your Diploma

Janette Johnson shares what it was like to receive her high school diploma.

If you would like information about earning YOUR High School Diploma, get in touch by filling out the form below, or calling 802-447-0111 in Bennington, or 802-362-0222 in Mancehster.

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YouthWork&Learn – Off and Running

The first week of school at YouthWork&Learn – we started this school year at full speed!


Weeding is never done!

On the first day (Wednesday), after all the welcomes and introductions, and a cook-out for lunch, we harvested vegetables and herbs from our garden and prepared it for the farmers’ market in Poultney.


Setting up for farmers market

On Thursday, we were selling at our farmers market booth (as we did all summer with the Youth Agriculture Project – YAP).  Students also paid  a visit to the Green Mountain College farm and woodshop.


The view from the Eagles Nest at Smokey House Center

Friday, we hiked the Eagles’ Nest trail, for a great view of the mountains and some environmental science with Michael Kelley.  Not everyone made it to the top, but we’ve decided that to graduate from YWL you have to get to the Eagles Nest at least once!


Projects take planning and organization.

The next Tuesday, after a day off for Labor Day, we did project planning (SMART goals and action plans), each student deciding on a project linked to individual interests.  Then garden work – love that weeding!


Even with heavy-duty tools, it takes strength to wrestle the privet roots out of the ground.

Wednesday, it was off to Emerald Lake State Park for a day of invasive plant removal under the direction of Colleen Balch.  After some training, our group worked on uprooting large privets, hanging them upside down in the trees so they couldn’t reroot.  We also pulled out masses of multiflora roses.


Hanging invasive privet upside down so it can’t reroot.

Thursday morning it was off to the farmers market again, and Friday into the woods again, this time to the Old Sugar House.  We’re always on the move at Smokey House!

The Old Sugar House Project

It was standing, neglected and unused, full of old farm equipment and rodent nests.   But we felt the Old Sugar House was also full of potential to be a classroom in the woods and a home base for field studies.  Our goal was to have it ready for the May field studies program, when Dorset 7th graders would come for two weeks of ecological work. When we discovered that the shed roof had to come down, we geared up to salvage and clean.  Once the roof was on the ground, YouthWork&Learn students took over the project.  Here is what they wrote:SugarHouse K D

SugarHouse L SLucas:  We’re taking the roof of the old sugar house apart.  It was a major relief when we got all of the tin off the top of the roof because that was the hardest part.  We set up the buckets so we could slide the nails into a bucket so a nail doesn’t go straight through our foot. We only brought what tools we could carry.

Scott: Working  on the Sugar house  was a good experience. It was fun, and  I now know I need to work on working with other people. The old roof came down,  so we are cleaning up and getting rid of the old roof.  So now we can make it part of the school  because we are going to have a bunch of kids coming to our school from Dorset.

SugarHouse frontDillon: I worked on the Sugar House roof after Jesse, Smokey House Director, took it down for us to use the pieces as salvage. Projects include but are not limited to us making benches, an outhouse and chairs. I had a hammer and hammered out nails, so that they’d be easier to pull out. After other students got out wooden boards from the structure of the Sugar House roof, I hammered nails out and then pulled them out using some tools. Overall, it has been great working on this project, especially since it is outside.

SugarHouse lunch





Building Survival Shelters

Reports on  Jan. 8 shelter building at YouthWork&Learn at Smokey House:

Robin Chesnut-Tangerman (instructor):  With the onset of real winter weather we are spending time learning about winter survival and wilderness first aid. We had talked about emergency shelters recently, and the important aspects to consider when planning them. Today we put it into practice – we bundled up warmly and headed into the woods where we split into two teams. Each team selected a site and had about an hour to design and build an emergency shelter. The hardest part for me as a teacher was NOT building or making suggestions!

IMG_7677The students did a great job and came up with very different designs and final results.  We decided not to cover the shelters with pine and hemlock boughs, which we would have done in a real emergency. Since it was not the real deal we didn’t tear the branches off living trees. One of the most reassuring things was that although it was only about 10 degrees, no one got cold until the very end when we stopped moving and conducted peer reviews of the structures.

Kieghan:   Today we learned what it is like to be stuck out in the wilderness and how we can make shelters. A friend and I made this cool looking shelter. It took us about an hour to build and it can fit up to two people in it at a time. It is made entirely out of sticks and all natural resources. I think it’s the best one I have ever constructed out of sticks.

IMG_7689Dillon:  In my group, we used a large rock and put sticks around it. In the middle, we used more taller sticks and on the side, we used smaller sized sticks. We also tried to put sticks outwards on one side to keep warmth in. The shelter is able to fit about 2 people in it. While I was it in, it was quite warm. The other group had sticks facing upward and sticks supporting the shelter. They also had green pine sticks inside as well. In the groups, we went to see the other group’s and had to make a comment on something you liked and a question or suggestion. My question was why was it built so close to a stream? The group had an interesting answer. Today was an interesting day.