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Patti's Best Of 2015: Drones, School Lunches And The Armenian Genocide

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[Photo credit clockwise from the top: Tostphoto|iStock; Patti Daniels|VPR; File|AP; VPR.]
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Executive Producer Patti Daniels kicks off our 'Best of 2015' series with a selection of her favorite segments from 2015.

This week, the Vermont Edition team members are highlighting a few of their favorite interviews and stories from the last year; digging through our archives to bring you the can’t-miss content of 2015.

Today’s selections come to us from executive producer Patti Daniels

Remembering The Armenian Genocide, 'The Slaughter You Know Next To Nothing About'

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The Armenian genocide took place as the Ottoman Empire was disintegrating during World War I. Ottoman Turks killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians, but because the events that took place are seldom taught in American schools, many are unaware of the genocide.

To commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the start of the genocide, in May Vermont Edition invited two Vermont writers, with close ties to their Armenian heritage to discuss the legacy of the genocide. 

Why highlight this segment?

This history is really upsetting: it's taught so seldom in American schools, and there are so many reverberations of it today. It's a valuable event to understand. 

An Eye In The Sky: Drones In Vermont

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The generic term 'drone' has been applied to everything from pilot-less military planes to hobbyist quad-copters.  Operators of commercial unmanned aerial systems says drones can be used in diverse ways — from assessing natural disasters to monitoring traffic patterns to measuring heat loss from buildings. But they say antiquated regulation is ill-prepared to handle new technological, safety and privacy questions of drones. 

In October, we looked at how Vermonters are using drones for all kinds of sophisticated commercial and research applications. 

Why highlight this segment? 

If a recreational drone is on your holiday gift list, you should know that there are new rules in place for these devices:

The FAA just announced that owners of remote-controlled recreational drones will be required to register the machines. The national database will collect the names, home addresses and email addresses of drone owners as part of an attempt to address concerns about the safety of hobbyist drone operators.

Kids Eat Free: School Lunch Program Combats Hunger, Stigma

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School Lunches

One of my favorites shows was a visit to Johnson Elementary School for a story on school lunch.

I think we all have memories of school lunches - and some of it includes the social dramas that play out over lunchtime, and some it relates to the food itself. But anti-hunger advocates say that for low-income kids who don't get enough to eat, the cafeteria can be a really stressful place, and those kids can feel a lot of stigma. And Johnson Elementary is part of federal program that's dealing with that problem.

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Credit Patti Daniels / VPR
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Johnson Elementary School saw an increase in meal participation, with a rise from 60% of students eating hot meals to over 80% students eating hot meals after the launch of the program.

At Johnson, the entire student body can get school breakfast and lunch without paying out of pocket, regardless of the family's income. It's part of a federal program called the Community Eligibility Provision, which basically says that, if enough of your student body qualifies for free or reduced price meals, then lets just enroll the entire student body in the program and call it a day.

In October, we visited Johnson Elementary at lunchtime to talk to the school’s principal, David Manning, and some students about the program.

Why highlight this episode?

Anytime you take a microphone into a crowd of kids you get a lot of curious questions and funny comments. And it's pretty amazing how that cafeteria room goes from silent to raucous when the kids file in. You’re going to want to give this one a listen!

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