April 28, 2016

OWNERS! Join our celebration!

Artist's rendering of what our new front door may look like
(credit: Mike Folwell of Folwell Studios)
Friends’ School is now the proud owner of a second 2.4 acre campus at 3800 Kalmia Avenue. Although this real estate deal has been in the works for several months, I officially signed the paperwork on Friday.  We take possession of the property on June 1st.

The new campus will house our first ever 6th grade class this fall, and then the 7th and 8th grades as they are added in 2017 and 2018.  We also plan to have brand new spaces for our Teacher Preparation Program and several of our administrative offices. It has enough space to accommodate a middle school of 140 students, complete with a maker space, gym, music room, art room, collaboration space, art gallery, bike shop, and more!

Please join us in celebrating this bold new step for Friends’ next Wednesday morning outside the elementary building, right before the start of school.  We will have refreshments for all and plans for the middle school for you to view. Our recently hired 6th grade teacher Kevin Nugent will be on hand to meet everyone. Dacia is baking especially yummy things for the occasion!

We have grand plans underway to renovate the buildings at our Kalmia campus and we are working with an architect and contractors, as well as the County, to get those plans solidified.

As you may be aware, buying commercial property in Boulder is not always a straightforward process.  There are many hoops to jump through.  We have had an incredible team putting in thousands of hours behind the scenes to bring this dream to reality.

I am so very grateful to everyone who has been involved with this enormous project. Everyone on our administrative team, our Community Board and its various committees, and our legal and real estate teams, has had a hand in this process.  There are too many to mention everyone.  But a grand shout-out must go to our Board chair, Elizabeth Henna, long-time trustees Carol Hampf, Amy Carpenter and Jen Greene, director of finance Jen Cope, and middle school director Shelby Pawlina for their passion and tireless efforts on behalf of the school. As Shelby told the staff: “It turns out it is so much more complicated than buying a house! I couldn’t begin to explain
View across the playing  field at our Kalmia campus
it to you, but suffice it to say that we have the right people in the right seats to have made this possible.”

This summer, we will see the emergence of this north Boulder campus that feels like Friends’ School.  Just as our existing Pennsylvania campus has been transformed over the years by the attention and love of hundreds of staff, parents, and students who are here now, or who have come before us, so too will the Kalmia campus receive the same attention and love.

Our first class of sixth graders and their families, ably led by Kevin and Shelby, and a host of specialist teachers are pioneers. They are at the inception of a bold new venture. We are excited to see them take these first steps.

Friends' Kalmia campus will be home to hundreds of middle schoolers and teachers in training for years to come!

April 21, 2016

The Importance of Community

Preschool Parent Day Celebration 
Whew!  What a week around Friends’ School! It seemed like every time we turned around, something really important was happening.

Mandy Stepanovsky’s baby Wilder arrived on Sunday, a couple of weeks earlier than expected.  Mom and baby are both doing well.  I can’t help myself but keep showing photos proudly around campus to anyone who asks! (Just ask!)

Baby Wilder
Our director of the Teacher Preparation Program, Ed Walent, is at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix where he has just undergone open heart surgery.  All the news is positive and everything is going great.  As an entire community, we send Ed and his family all our love and good wishes.

Jene Foland, our teacher candidate in 2nd grade, is getting married next week. We are so excited for Jene and her fiancé Abe and wish them all the very best in their new life together.

Eric Rhoda, the teacher candidate in 5th grade, dealt with a scare this week as his wife Julie underwent surgery on Monday.  The great news is that all is well and Julie is recovering exceptionally.

Throughout all of these twists of fate, we have had people in our community creating cards and sending well wishes, lining up to bring meals, or offering to help in other ways. This is a community

that rallies around our own.

It was therefore fitting this week that 1st grade teacher Laurie Nakauchi and P.E. teacher and Friends’ parent Lindsey Hilliard gave a presentation this week on our yearlong theme, The Impact of Giving Back.  They discussed the many ways that our classrooms and community have been involved in helping others all year long, and parents were presented with a list of great ideas for how families can continue to give back all summer long.

Our elementary classes spent an hour yesterday cleaning the Wellman Ditch that runs along the north side of our campus. Our preschool classes invited parents in this week for a Parent Day Celebration and each child presented their

parents with a beautiful card and flower pot, filled with the delights of spring.

To help celebrate our community, you are all invited to our All Family Potluck one evening after school – on Wednesday May 4th.  More details in the Happenings.

I hope you enjoy these photos of some of the great things happening around school this week.

And through it all, we still manage to have fun while learning.  This is a picture of a certain head of school, dressed as King George III, taxing 4th and 5th grade colonists and loyalists alike.  Ooh, were they mad at royalty!

April 14, 2016

"Nothing?" - Not True!

You’re a parent.  You pick up your kid from school every day.  You ask the same question your parents asked you back in the day:

“So how was school today?”

If your kids are anything like mine, the answer goes something like this:


Or perhaps you ask the other question:

“What did you do in school today?”

And you know that answer, right?  It’s the same answer you gave at their age.


At Friends’ School our teachers, in both the preschool and the elementary school, do a wonderful job of updating parents with newsletters packed full of the many ways that the children at Friends’ are learning. Parents who volunteer in our classrooms often tell me how amazed they are at all the engaging and experiential ways the children are involved in school.

Over the years, I have found that when I ask specific questions, my children are more likely to participate in a more robust discussion about their school day. Why not try some of these:

  • What happened in the book your teacher read out loud today?
  • Will you sing me a song that you learned at school today?
  • What was the best thing that happened at school today?
  • Tell me something that made you laugh today.
  • Where is the coolest place at the school?
  • Tell me a weird word that you heard today. 
  • If I called your teacher tonight what would she tell me about you?
  • How did you help somebody today?
  • How did somebody help you today?
Some of these questions come from a great blog post 25 Ways To Ask Your Kids “So how was school today?” Without Asking them “So how was school today?” written by two stay-at-home moms, both called Elizabeth, both the mother of three kids. They report great results in enriching conversations with their children about school.

Other thoughts about things we can all do as parents to have more fruitful and fertile conversations with our kids about school.

• Become knowledgeable. Read the stuff the school sends home. (Read, don’t just skim!) We send home the Happenings every Friday, this blog, teacher newsletters, and many more less formal communications. This way, you’re really in tune with your child’s day.

 Be specific in your questioning. As parents, we tend to ask our kids at the end of the day, when they are no longer in school mode. Children need specific references to the time of day. “What did you do in reading today? What activities did you do with math? Who brought in the snack today?” By asking for specific details, you narrow the day down for them. Young children in particular need this.

• Ask the teacher or another parent what you should ask. At Friends’ we have many school-specific programs and activities, such as our buddy program, team lunches, this week’s elementary Movin’ and Boppin’, the upcoming Harvest celebrations.  If you’re not sure what any of these are, our teachers and other parents (or Ann, or Jana, or Mandy, or me…) will be happy to help!

 Alone time. I have found that the best way that I get information out of my daughters is to have a little quiet time with each, alone, each night before bed. I usually get details out of my kids when we’re alone in the car, snuggled up after reading a book, or walking somewhere by ourselves. There is something about these times when we are not face-to-face (for example at the dinner table) that makes opening up easier for our children.

One thing you can be sure about at a dynamic and engaging school like Friends’: the answer is truly never “Nothing!”

April 7, 2016

One Parent's View of Teamwork at Friends': Destination Imagination

Fifth grade Destination Imagination team at work

Recently, a group of our fifth grade students  competed in the regional Destination Imagination tournament. They placed second and won the right to advance to the state tournament.  Amy Carpenter is one of their team leaders.  She offers this unique viewpoint on how a Friends' education helped make this moment such a success.  Amy is the parent of current and alumni students and also serves as a trustee of the school. Thank you, Amy, for this guest blog:

As a parent you may sometimes wonder if a Friends’ School education does make a difference in our children’s growth. How does it help our children? Do they learn unique skills? Do they develop the skills needed to become successful teenagers and adults?  

Guest writer Amy Carpenter
Two weeks ago I witnessed one remarkable way how Friends’ School shapes our kids. It was amazing to watch.

I was a co-team leader for the 5th grade Destination Imagination Team. The Destination Imagination program fosters the skills of creative and critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, risk taking and self confidence through science-based challenges that kids have to solve and present at a tournament.  These are many of the same skills Friends’ School fosters in our children.

There can be no parent involvement in the creation of the solution. This is 100% student driven. And these are not easy challenges  - often stumping us parents. A large part of the team’s score is based on how the students demonstrate the skills listed above. In addition to presenting their main challenge that they have developed over several weeks, teams also have to solve an “instant” challenge - one in which they have a time limit of 5-7 minutes to complete after they hear the directions.
The team: Teddy, Finn, Mark, Sam, Charlotte, Ian & Finn

Our Friends’ School team worked hard for a few months trying to solve the team challenge and practicing for the instant challenge. To be honest, in the few days leading up to the tournament my co-leader and I were seriously wondering if the group would be able to pull off their solution. Since we can have no input we had to gently guide them and let them succeed or fail on their own.

On the day of the tournament, they pulled it off and had huge success!

What was amazing to see is that the skills that our students used to succeed are so ingrained in them. I believe this is largely due to their education at Friends’ School. They demonstrated an ease with team work and respect for each other. They are comfortable talking to adults and presenting in front of an audience of strangers. They have incredible stage presence. They are playful and natural leaders. They are kind and graceful to each other under pressure.

We have all seen the staff take time to work with our children on these incredibly important life skills. Whether it is an AOE presentation, a conflict with a classmate, theatrical and musical productions, learning a new skill in gym, our teachers work hard to foster our children’s abilities and confidence.

In the moment of the Destination Imagination presentation I realized how thankful, and how lucky, we are as a family to be part of the Friends’ School community. What happens here is special, unique, and it does make a difference for our children.

Thank you to Kim Millison, Amy's co-leader, for supporting the team and for the photographs.
To learn more about Destination Imagination https://www.destinationimagination.org/