September 29, 2016

Election Season

In the currently charged political climate, it is not my place to weigh in publicly on the tension our nation is experiencing just a few short weeks ahead of Election Day.

However, I will gladly share with you stories of campaigning, voting, and leadership that we saw at Friends’ elementary school last week at our student council elections.

Our fifth graders are eligible to run for President and Vice-President of student council. Of our twenty-one fifth graders, twelve threw their names in the ring. We had six pairs of students on a ticket who wished to lead the student-led group that plans events and spirit days and brings the students’ voice to our school leadership.

Posters were created, campaign speeches were written, appeals were made, and all of our elementary students exercised their right to vote.

Leadership guru John C. Maxell once wrote: “A leader is one who knows the way, shows the way and goes the way.”
As our fifth graders reflected about what leadership means to them now that they are the oldest in the elementary building, they shared their thoughts in writing.  Here are a few samples:

I will help the younger kids when they are feeling down and not so good, and invite them to play with me. I will also set a good example like listening to my teachers.

I will be responsible and safe and helpful. I am excited to be a 5th grader and help.

I will do the best I can to be a good role model. I will help the new younger kids on getting to know all the rules of the school and I will help them find friends and to feel welcome to the school.

I'll set good examples, such as NOT running down the hall and DEFINITELY washing my hands before snack and lunch. I'll help them when they need it (and I'll help Dacia and the staff if they'd like, too). I'll do my best to show the kindergarteners how to do the things they don't know how to do, and I'll help them with the things they're not good at.

I will be nice, friendly, helpful, and yielding to young people. I will be helpful to my buddies and let them take their own steps at their own pace. I will make Friends School a better place for children and faculty alike. I will NOT bully people because I am bigger and stronger. I shall stand up to a bully if I see one.

I am proud that each of our candidates ran a positive and upbeat campaign and I know that they will support their friends and classmates in their success. Congratulations to Autumn and Kathleen on being voted President and Vice-President.

I am looking forward to working with them to help to improve our school.  I am eager to hear their ideas and have them report to me on what all the students are thinking. 

The real winners here however are all of our elementary students.  They have an opportunity to get a jumpstart on one of their most important responsibilities as citizens: voting. We all got a taste of what it’s like to hear positive ideas set forth by candidates, instead of negative messages.  And it was all done in a supportive educational atmosphere ripe with respect and courtesy.

 Our fifth graders know the way, show the way and go the way! 

September 22, 2016

Bob the Builder’s Letterman Top Ten

Who's this guy?
(the boss photoshopped by Meg Hansen)
Thank you to everyone who came out to our Rosalind Wiseman: Creating Cultures of Dignity event on Tuesday.  It was fabulous to see so many of our Friends’ School parents, teachers and staff there, along with many people from the greater Boulder community. Wiseman had excellent information and compelling stories for us all.

The community events keep coming in this year of connection for our school.

On Tuesday of this coming week, we have another All School Family Breakfast Potluck in the elementary building on the South Campus.  All are invited at 8:00 a.m. to bring a breakfast item to share and to meet and spend casual time with old friends and new.

And if you wonder why some of my colleagues and I will be at the breakfast dressed like Bob the Builder, it’s because of the construction theme of our next event.

On Friday September 30th, everyone is invited to our North Campus Kickoff Party at 7:00 p.m.  If you are wondering what that is all about, please read on…..

Bob the Builder’s Top 10 Reasons Why We Should All Come to the North Campus Kickoff Party 

10. Because Friends’ North Campus is your campus, too! Even though we have four buildings over two campuses, we are one school.  We will have many events at our North Campus over the years, so plug it into your GPS now!

9. Because we have heard all your questions about how the renovation is going.  Answer: it’s really cool! We are creating amazing new spaces for our middle schoolers and Teacher Preparation Program. But don’t take my word for it: we’ll give you a tour! We’ll take you into the main building, under construction, and show you the transformation.

8. Because Rosalind Wiseman told 200 people in Boulder this week: Friends’ is creating middle school the right way, giving kids the language and tools to navigate the joys and challenges of these adolescent years.

6th grade teacher Kevin Nugent
7. Because it’s going to be a really fun adults-only Friday night out with other Friends’ parents and teachers.  Need a babysitter? Lou Bendrick keeps a list of babysitter services. Email her here!

6. Because many of our staff will be wearing silly hats. Hint: “Scoop, Muck and Dizzy, and Roley, too…” And who doesn’t want to see Ann Reid shaking off her inner introvert and branching out?

5. Because there will be entertainment! Friends’ class of 2003 alumna Tayler Bledsoe worked with our 6th grade class to produce a video for this event and she will be performing her music too.

4. Because you get to wear your comfiest Saturday jeans and flannel shirt. This is a super casual event.  And you might get dusty during the tour.

3. Because there will be free beer and wine and because there will be yummy snacks to go with the beer and wine. Hint: Dacia thinks big, warm soft pretzels go especially well with beer… Did we mention, it’s free?

2. Because …. school pride! Although this is not a solicitation event (leave your checkbook at home), you will learn about our donors’ generous donations so far that have made the renovations and the start of the middle school program possible. Learn about our upcoming “Growing Community, Building Dreams” campaign.

1.  Because no matter what age your kids are, it’s not too soon be thinking about middle school. Our new middle school is filling a niche in the Boulder market for families who are looking for a small, connected school environment, with a continued strong emphasis on social and emotional learning, and a focus on integrating all the school subjects together in project-based learning. And you get to meet Kevin and Shelby, and the coolest middle school faculty in town.

To almost quote Bob the Builder, “Can we party?  Yes we can!”

September 15, 2016

Apple Pickin’ Adventures and Whoopsey-Splunkers Celebrations! Exploring the Great Outdoors!

It has been an adventurous week at Friends’ School. 

Preschoolers were out and about on the South Campus picking apples from our fruit-filled trees.  Liz’s 4th grade class returns today from Cal-Wood Education Center above Jamestown. The 6th graders return from a camping trip in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. And our elementary students and teachers dressed like Roald Dahl characters in celebration of the author’s 100th birthday. 

Upon lighting the students’ “dream jars” in her classroom, 1st grade teacher Laurie Nakauchi noted that the celebration was a Whoopsey-Splunkers celebration of Roald Dahl! The dream jars and delumptious, whizz popping drinks were such a hit with the kids. It was incredible to turn off the lights in our classroom to see 20 fabulous dreams lighting the room!”

Roald Dahl Celebration
Librarian deana harragarra waters added, I can think of no better way to conclude our two day celebration of Roald Dahl, than to happen upon Laurie's classroom.  To see the simple beauty of light cast from "dream jars" was a joyous reminder that we are such an important part of a child's life, that the work we do creating an environment for learning should also be a place where dreaming is encouraged.”

All of these experiences are designed to be filled with learning, but learning that looks unlike traditional school: fun and engaging, while filled with important lessons and increasing our students’ awareness of and engagement in the wider world.

In Friends’ Values Statement, we believe that experiencing the wonder and beauty of nature is intrinsically valuable and is critical to developing environmentally conscious citizens. Friends’ teaches children about sustainable living practices and provides rich experiences with the natural world. Children who understand the complexity and interconnections in our world are personally motivated to work toward the sustainability of the planet and make conscious choices about the use of the earth’s resources.”

We want children to get outside and interact in meaningful ways with the great outdoors.

Pre-K east class off on a big adventure
For preschoolers, it’s an adventure to leave their beautiful backyard playground and head over to the ‘big’ elementary building and the South Campus grounds.

Our school chef Dacia Horn led the way so that our preschoolers could enjoy the experiences of picking their own food.  Not only did our youngest students come back to the preschool to make apple sauce later in the week, they also explored the balance scale with crab apples and made art prints using cut apples.  Our teacher candidate in the preschool east class, Lauren Mark, led her class in learning a new song about apples.  True integrated learning that starts in preschool and continues all the way through middle school!

Aerial view of Cal-Wood
Up at Cal-wood, the 4th graders have been exploring environmental science.  They spend two nights in cabins, as part of our well-designed increasingly challenging trips program that starts in second grade. They have been hiking, studying the water levels in the pond, exploring the 1880s homestead that is on site at Cal-Wood, and participating in several team-building activities.

Our 6th grade class in Golden
Gate Canyon State Park
Our new middle school class has been camping in tents in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. They have been treated to a full range of Colorado weather. According to 6th grade teacher Kevin Nugent, within a single hour they had all seasons represented, followed by sunshine and clear skies. 

The class learned to geocache with the Colorado Mountain Club, played some great camp games, and are honing their map reading skills. They have learned how to use a conventional compass to figure out direction by degrees. And the trip includes reflection as the students journaled on both their social and academic goals for the year.  As the sun broke through on Wednesday evening, they divided into cooking and clean up groups. The cook group whipped up a delicious stir fry meal for all. 

Adventure and a “delumptious, whizz popping” meal for sure! 

September 8, 2016

Friends’ Publishes New Curriculum Update – on Literacy

Language Arts teacher Diane
Bramble "visually representing" as
Roald Dahl's BFG
In the past few evenings, I have had the pleasure of attending Back To School Nights in our middle school, elementary school, and preschool. While I always appreciate the opportunity to connect with parents and to welcome you all to these important events, it is Friends’ teachers and program directors who are at the heart of Back To School Nights.

It is a privilege to listen to our teachers, and to Shelby Pawlina, Mandy Stepanovsky, and Caroline Holland, while they share their dreams and passions for their craft and for your children. I love hearing about each class’s plans for the year and seeing parents and teachers connect meaningfully with each other.

At our middle school event on Wednesday of this week, language arts teacher Diane Bramble beautifully explained her goals of supporting students to be not only better and inspired readers and writers, but also speakers and listeners, and, in her words “visual representers”.

Language arts and literacy, or ‘English’ as it used to be called when Diane and I were in school, is at the core of a Friends’ School education.  We are lucky to have masterful teachers in each of our programs who light a literacy spark under the children here every day.

deana as Mr Twit from
Dahl's classic The Twits
On Tuesday this week, Diane and librarian deana harragarra waters dressed up as their favorite Roald Dahl characters, to inspire our elementary kids.  They visited classrooms and encouraged students and teachers (and heads of schools!) to come to school next week dressed as their favorite Roald Dahl character. These faces certainly inspire me to get reading!

Each year, Friends’ publishes a new Curriculum Update. We have just published our latest Update, on Literacy, that you can find here.  The principal author on this is Friends’ elementary literacy specialist teacher Tricia Callahan.  She wrote the article in conjunction with several of her teaching colleagues. Tricia explains in great detail the philosophical underpinnings of our literacy curriculum through both the preschool and elementary years. And she discusses many of the concrete ways we teach kids to read and write (and speak and listen and visually represent) as well as the ways we differentiate instruction for different learners.

This is a short excerpt from the Update:

Friends' Literacy
Specialist Teacher
Tricia Callahan
“At Friends’, we teach children not only to read and write but also to be joyful about literacy. In each grade, children are given the essential elements needed to enable them to become readers and writers. Those elements include time, choice, response, community, and structure. In each grade there is a balance of choice and teacher-directed experiences. Children learn about craft, procedures, and the conventions of reading and writing to develop their skills over time. Because of our individual approach, each child progresses at his or her own pace but is continually challenged to work to his or her potential. We work to empower the children by giving them a strong language arts foundation so that their voices may be heard – on paper, aloud, and through technology.”

For more information, please click here.

For our other Curriculum Updates, you can visit these links

Please note that these updates do not contain curricular information on our new middle school, but there is plenty of great information on the middle school section of our website and in information packets that were given to 6th grade parents at Back To School Night.

Please take a few minutes to read our Literacy Curriculum Update, feel free to share with others.  As always, we welcome your feedback and questions.