Community Development in Vermont

Bennington County is a field of action, collaboration, and development, and CAPA is committed to engaging with the local community in a variety of ways. Whether in making public maps of the educational and agricultural resources in the area, or in hosting conversations about timely issues such as school consolidation and home insulation, or in helping to implement new cost-saving and environmentally friendly LED street lights in North Bennington, this CAPA initiative partners the resources of the college with the surrounding community of Vermont. Working together with local groups and involving students, faculty, and staff in regional issues, CAPA is committed to fostering reflection and collaboration around the many challenges and opportunities in the greater Vermont community, particularly in the areas of governance, economic development, regional food systems, and education. There are many emerging issues that need to be researched and examined carefully to enable community groups and local government to make informed decisions and take action; CAPA assists the community with data collection and analysis, linking up complex problems with the relevant expertise, the facilitation of multi-party processes, and consultation.

Governance

Vermont is a national leader in innovative responses to social, economic, and environmental challenges. The Vermont legislature has passed bills in the last several years on renewable energy sources, clean water, and flexible pathways for students in public education. Working directly with our public servants, CAPA is dedicated to educating the public on Vermont’s latest laws and policies, giving citizens the opportunity to participate in democratic processes and to effect legislation. Students at Bennington College have provided research on important topics to Vermont Senate and House committees, interned at the State Capitol, and have worked with the College and greater Bennington community to enact change on a local and state level.

Economic Development

Bennington College is taking a lead role in the conversation on economic development in the Bennington region. As Bennington County is experiencing a surge of energy around efforts to revitalize the local economy, CAPA has facilitated discussions on a wide variety of issues with local organizations and businesses, including the Southern Vermont Economic Zone, the Bennington Business Roundtable, and others. CAPA students have also participated in economic development efforts through several projects, including collecting data on commercial real estate for the Town of Bennington website, designing after-school programs in Bennington, and supporting a student initiative to gather farm seconds after harvest to distribute to local food banks.

Regional Food Systems

After many conversations with organizations involved in all aspects of the local food systems in the Bennington region, CAPA began hosting monthly meetings for the public to come together to discuss the successes, challenges, and goals of the work being done in our community related to food systems. Participants have joined in the discussions from VT Farm to Plate, Northshire Grows, Hunger Free VT Council, Southwestern Vermont Health Care, Bennington’s Kitchen Cupboard food pantry, VT Department of Health, True Love Farm, Threshold Collaborative, Meals on Wheels, Bennington County Regional Commission and more. Topics have included Farm to School projects in the community, the Bennington County Food Action Plan, food access for insecure populations, and support for local producers in Bennington County.

Education

A Bennington College education from its inception has put the fulfillment of each individual student's potential as a priority. CAPA, through several different programs, has identified the Bennington College Plan Process as a model for educational reform. Each CAPA faculty member and many CAPA students exemplify what is best about a progressive education in their teaching, their projects, and their programs. CAPA currently has four educational programs in the Bennington community: Quantum Leap, the Personal Learning Plan (PLP) program, the After-School Program, and the Bennington Elementary Foreign Language program.
 

Quantum Leap

Founded in 1999 by Bennington College faculty members Susan Sgorbati and Danny Michaelson, Quantum Leap addresses concerns regarding the lack of academic engagement in the population of local elementary, middle, and high school students. Originally, as a response to truancy and drop out prevention, Quantum Leap has since diversified to include a wide variety of specialized initiatives. MORE INFORMATION

The Personal Learning Plan Program

The PLP is a new mandate from the Vermont Department of Education and the Vermont Legislature when they passed Act 77. This law requires all school districts in Vermont to ask their students to write Personal Learnings Plans for their education as well as create flexible pathways for learning and to pass proficiency standards. CAPA has started a pilot program with the Mount Anthony Union Middle School to bring together Bennington College students who are asked to engage in a Plan Process for their own education with 7th grade students who are just beginning their Personal Learning Plan process. Through group interactions and individual sessions, plan narratives are shared and written with the College students serving as educational mentors to the middle school students.

After School Program

A group of CAPA students are committed to addressing the challenges of public education by looking at the efficacy of after school programs. They are examining best practices in the United States with the goal of designing their own program for the Bennington local elementary schools in 2016-2017.

Bennington Elementary Foreign Language Program

Three Bennington College language faculty in Japanese, French, and Spanish are working with their students to develop curriculum for Bennington Elementary School students. The program is centered around Bennington College students teaching foreign language classes to the young public school students in the Bennington community. This pilot project will commence in fall 2016.