Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age

The Unplugged Learning Project branch of the Avon Land Trust, is thrilled to partner with the Avon High School PTO to bring the critically acclaimed documentary, Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, to Avon for its Connecticut premiere on Tuesday, May 10th at 7:00 p.m. in the AHS auditorium. For event details and to reserve (free) seats, please visit:
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UPL Update

The colorful fall and snowy winter gave nature-lovers many reasons and opportunities to unplug this past year, but perhaps the most exciting Unplugged Learning event in Avon took place at Roaring Brook School, where the unplugged movement first began.  On Tuesday, May19th, over 100 community members gathered to celebrate the grand reopening of Blazer’s Trail and Amphitheater located on the school’s campus.  Constructed in 2009, the trail and theater seating were the first undertaking of The Unplugged Learning Project, and were made possible with a generous Avon Education Foundation grant and the efforts of countless volunteers, led by the tireless Larry Sparks, Roaring Brook Assistant Principal and Unplugged Learning board member.  Over the years, the trail and amphitheater have become a popular outdoor classroom for the school’s K-4 teachers.  And they’re about to become even more popular now.

In partnership with Winding Trails and the Avon Historical Society, and with funding again from the Avon Education Foundation, Sparks and a team of teachers including Joe Pereira, Kristin Cutler and Kevin Caselli, worked to design learning stations and develop portable learning materials to make outdoor education more accessible for all teachers and all subject matter. The result is six beautiful kiosks strategically placed around the trail loop that teach young learners about trees, woodland creatures, and forest fauna and flora.  Content from the kiosks is repeated and elaborated on in durable, child-sized flipbooks that are beautifully designed and easy to read.  The books are kept in a fleet of backpacks each of which contains a clipboard, pencil, tape measure and magnifying glass for outdoor learning and exploration.  There are enough backpacks for one class, and teachers reserve them prior to taking their students out to the trail.

At the grand reopening event, guests meandered around the trail loop participating in various activities including tree banding (measuring); listening to a nature story; playing tree stump games; making clay prints of tree bark and leaves; and hanging bird houses.  Guests then convened in the amphitheater to join in a nature sing-along; hear from folks who helped bring the project to fruition; and cut the Blazer cake.  Dirty knees, sticky faces and big smiles were evidence of a very successful event.

In other Unplugged news, we are very sorry to report that the Town Council has decided against our proposal to install a sidewalk on Country Club Road despite support from the community and some board members, and the generous offer of private funding help from the Smiles for Mellissa foundation.  The proposed sidewalk on the north side of the road would have given residents safe pedestrian access to schools, the library, senior center, Sycamore park, area churches, and the rail-trail system (as well as safe passage for runners who train on the road, including those on the Avon High School track and cross-country teams of which Mellissa Andrew, the foundation’s namesake, was a member).

Based on input from the town manager and engineer that the project would be difficult and costly, the council decided that the perceived expenses outweighed the expected benefits.  We will continue to advocate for this important safety and community measure to be part of future planning.

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2014 Unplugged Updates

The schools continue to lead the way in unplugging Avon …

Students at Avon Middle School will soon be able to get the ‘breaths of fresh air’ long precluded by their no-recess schedule. Thanks to Science teacher John Mason, Technology Education teacher Patrick Mulligan, and their students – with inspiration from the Unplugged Learning team and a grant from The Avon Education Foundation – a space in back of the school is being transformed into an outdoor dining area. Mr. Mulligan’s classes constructed six picnic tables with built-in benches, while Mr. Mason’s classes did work on the grounds as part of their study of Earth Science. The result is an inviting space suitable for more than just lunch breaks. “We hope to see the space used throughout the school day, not just at lunch,” explains Mason. “Students can come out for SSR (silent sustained reading), journaling and, of course, exploration of natural habitat.” There’s a good chance the teachers and staff will find other reasons to use the space, too.

Thanks to a years-long effort by the Unplugged Learning Project and concerned residents, with support from the Town Council, the walk to Roaring Brook School has become safer. The long awaited traffic light at the corner of Country Club Road and Lovely Street was installed this spring, along with a crosswalk and pedestrian access light.  Now, early planning has begun for a public-private partnership to fund the installation of sidewalks along the north side of Country Club Road. Smiles for Mellissa, a foundation honoring former RBS student Mellissa Andrew who died at the age of seventeen in a car accident four years ago, will be raising funds for the first phase of sidewalk installation. In a statement read at the June Avon Town Council meeting, Mellissa’s mother, Avon native Anne Marie McFaddin, said this:

“Mellissa grew up a stone’s throw from Roaring Brook School, but she couldn’t walk there because there was no safe passage. In high school, Mellissa’s daily practice loop for the AHS Cross-Country and Track teams included (and still does) running the length of Country Club Road from West Avon to Lovely Street. It worries me to see the long line of runners making their way along that narrow road, just as it worries me when I see young children trying to navigate their way to Roaring Brook School. In Mellissa’s memory, I would like to help make Country Club Road safe for pedestrians of all ages.”

Next summer marks the 5th anniversary of Mellissa Andrew’s death. In honor of this sad milestone, Anne Marie and the Smiles for Mellissa foundation team intend to raise enough money to fund a significant portion of sidewalk construction beginning at West Avon Road; their plan is enthusiastically supported by the Town Council. As of this writing, town engineers have been tasked with inspecting the site, and creating an engineering design and cost estimate for town leaders. From there, the foundation will have a target for fundraising, and the council will have a target for CIP dollars. Once complete, the Country Club sidewalk will connect to other town sidewalks creating safe pedestrian access to all of Avon’s schools, the Public library, the rail-trail and town recreation facilities. So get your walking shoes ready!

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ALT Hike Cancelled

Due the expected heavy rainfall, the ALT/CT Trail Days Hike scheduled for Saturday June 2, 2012 has been cancelled.

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Children’s Nature Series @ the Oakes Preserve

Children’s Nature Series @ the Oakes Preserve Led by talented childhood educator, Carrie Firestone, this new camp for children aged 5-9 will feature short hikes, arts & crafts, nature journaling and music.  Running Tuesday-Friday, June 19th-22nd, 9:00-11:30 a.m., the camp is free to Avon Land Trust members.  For more information or to register, please contact Carrie at

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Connecticut’s first screening of the film Play Again

The Unplugged Learning Project, in partnership with the new Avon Free Public Library and the AHS Sierra Club will host this award-winning film that poses the question: is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole? Play Again follows six teenagers who, like the “average American child,” spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. The Play Again team unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure – no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality. Through the voices of the children and several leading experts, Play Again investigates the consequences of a childhood removed from nature and encourages action for reversing the trend and undoing the damage.  The film is suitable for all ages.

Screening will take place in the Avon Library’s new Community Room on Tuesday, June 12th at 7:30 p.m.  Admission is free, but seating is limited and registration is required.  Seats may be reserved at the library, 860-673-9712 or via email at To view the film’s trailer, visit


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Guided Hikes for Children @ Roaring Brook Nature Center

Also for CT Trails Day, 6/3/2012, the AHS Student Initiative, an organization of AHS nature-lovers focused on connecting young people to the outdoors, will lead hikes around the trails of Roaring Brook Nature Center throughout the day. Details can be found on their website:

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Morning Mountain Hike

Morning Mountain Hike, in celebration of CT Trails Day, Saturday, June 2nd @ 8:00 a.m. Hike up to the Heublein Tower along the Avon Land Trust’s own beautiful Skyline Trail.  Coffee and Breakfast treats will be served. For details, visit

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TBS Bike Rodeo

Thompson Brook students are invited to a Bike Rodeo on Monday, May 14th after school. Bike use and safety will be reviewed by teacher/cyclist, Nate Strick and two APD bike patrol police officers.  Refreshments will be served.

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2011 Pedestrian Travel Survey

Results are available for viewing on,  Thank you to the 600 households who participated in the survey!

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