Trailblazers from Academy School forge paths

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BRATTLEBORO — Students are feeling a sense of ownership as they blaze trails behind Academy School.

"It's their trail," said Jill McColgan, co-president of the parent-teacher organization Academy Community Together. "No one has ever created a path back here."

Family and community members are invited to a school-wide hike on Friday, Oct. 25.

The Smith family made about 200 acres behind Academy School available for programming, which includes hiking and trail building. Two loops are being built.

"It's been so fun," said McColgan, who has been taking each class out on the property.

Trail work runs the gamut, from kindergarten students picking up sticks to sixth graders moving logs and creating paths. McColgan said partnerships are forming between the grades that would not exist without the project.

Her group was mentored by Hank Lange, who founded the annual Green Street School Tulip Trop 5K run/walk sponsored by the parent-teacher organization for that school. The goal is to promote the importance of fitness.

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Federal guidelines recommend children get about 60 minutes of physical activity each day. McColgan said some kids easily achieve that while some do not. She sees the projects allowing teachers to instruct curriculum outdoors and provide hands-on activities without leaving the school.

"We're trying to get the whole community involved and excited about getting the kids out of the classroom and into the forest," she said. "It's just been super amazing. We're hoping to get some after-school programs involved."

Principal Kelly Dias told McColgan the trails have brought a new school-wide awareness to the importance of exercise and being fit. McColgan never built a trail before so she had to learn about the process, which included planning around such things as snowmelt.

"Being able to teach the children this at such a young age, they're really fired up about it," said McColgan.

She also reported that community workdays on the trails had "pretty good turnout."

Her group is asking for pledges from friends and neighbors to bulk up a fund used to pay for field trips out in the community. Groups — such as Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors, Brattleboro Elks Lodge 1499, State Farm, and the law firm Costello, Valente & Gentry — have already contributed.

As of last Wednesday, $3,000 had been raised. The goal is reach $10,000.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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