Shaftsbury Elementary students stand with their models of spaces where children can learn, study, and create, designed under the impetus of the Southshire
Shaftsbury Elementary students stand with their models of spaces where children can learn, study, and create, designed under the impetus of the Southshire Challenge earlier this year. ((Derek Carson))

BENNINGTON -- With last year's very successful Southshire Challenge in the rear window, the program's steering committee is looking for schools and businesses to participate in the 2014-2015 edition of the program.

Unlike last year, where area businesses challenged classes to projects ranging from designing a youth learning space for the Town of Bennington to writing and performing a play for Oldcastle Theatre, the program this year will also allow classes to challenge local businesses. Additionally, the Challenge has been opened to area colleges, where last year it was only open to K-12 students.

The Southshire Challenge is organized through cooperation between the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, the Community College of Vermont, and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation.

The steering committee is made up of SVSU superintendent Jim Culkeen, BCIC executive director Peter Odierna, and CCV academic coordinator Jeannie Jenkins. Challenges will run from either Sept. 15 to April 1, or from Jan. 15 to April 1. According to Jenkins, they are hoping to see between 10 and 20 challenges this year, up considerably from the six projects students worked on last year.

Students or businesses who complete their challenges will be recognized at the BCIC annual meeting in April. At the end of the previous project, Jenkins, Odierna, and then-SVSU superintendent Catherine McClure visited all of the students who participated and presented them with certificates.


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Those students were from the Southwest Vermont Career Development Center, Mount Anthony Union Middle School, the Sacred Heart School, Shaftsbury Elementary, and the Southshire Community School.

With the Challenge expanded to area colleges, Jenkins is hopeful that even more schools will be represented this year.

The committee also announced the creation of the Catherine McClure STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Innovation Award, which will be awarded to "the Challenge team demonstrating the most significant growth in STEM skills over the course of the challenge."

To get your class or business involved, by suggesting or responding to a challenge that has already been issued, contact Odierna at peter@bcic.org.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. On Twitter: @DerekCarsonBB