National leaders – Patton and McKibben – to discuss religion in education

MIDDLEBURY — The North Branch School (NBS) of Ripton presents “Spirit in Education: A Conversation with Laurie Patton and Bill McKibben” on Monday, May 2, at 6:30 p.m. at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society in Middlebury.
 Laurie Patton is the 17th president of Middlebury College and an authority on South Asian history, culture and religion. Bill McKibben is a Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College, an environmental activist, and a best-selling author. This event is the third and final in an NBS series expressing gratitude to the community for supporting the school over the past 15 years. 
“This final event will offer some perspective on the role of religion in education — one of the North Branch School’s year-long curriculum themes,” said Tal Birdsey, head teacher and co-founder of the school. “This conversation by two eminent scholars is a celebration of active thinking, reflection and authentic dialogue.”
“We are extremely grateful to have our alumni parent, Bill McKibben, discuss this important educational theme with Dr. Patton,” Birdsey said. 
Every third year the North Branch School focuses on comparative religion. Students are encouraged to explore theological issues and questions: Who, or what is god? What is my holy grail? How do we reconcile the observable, physical world with notions of faith and the spirit? How is religion both a force of unity and division among humans?
“We feel that early adolescence is a crucial time for kids to be thinking about who they are and want to be in terms of questions that have been posed by philosophers and theologians for millennia,” said Birdsey.
In this, the 15th year of the school, the speaker series has highlighted important educational movements and ideas in the community and state. In October the school sponsored a screening of Zeno Mountain Farm’s film “Becoming Bulletproof” at the Town Hall Theater. The second event in the series featured a presentation on Vermont’s Act 77 Personalized Learning mandate and its implementation in schools throughout the country.
The final event will begin with a reception at the UU, followed by a short film, titled “Life Is the School,” about the North Branch School. It was made by local filmmaker Ned Castle in conjunction with the Vermont Folklife Center. Immediately following the film, McKibben and Patton will discuss how education at both the secondary and higher education levels is evolving, and the role of religion and spirituality in these places of learning.
There will be a question-and-answer period following the discussion. The event is free and open to the public.  Seating will be available on a first come, first served basis. North Branch School officials thank Patton, McKibben and the Doug Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation for making this event possible, and the CVUUS for hosting this event.
The North Branch School,founded in 2001, is a nonprofit, independent school serving middle school age children (grades 7-9) in Ripton. For more information about the school, visit www.northbranchschool.org.

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