October 26, 2017

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Yesterday, in two performances, our fifth grade class shined in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

It has been a pleasure for me to direct our extremely talented fifth grade class in this production.

With several rehearsals a week over many weeks, it’s a fabulous time for me to connect with this class.  I have enjoyed their creativity and sense of humour.  We are laughing a lot, and learning that sometimes the best moments in theatre come from gaffes.

Kids involvement in theatre improves their communication skills, gives them an opportunity to express themselves, helps develop the ability to think critically, prompts them to cooperate with others in achieving a huge joint goal, and fosters peer acceptance and self-worth.

The theatre provides a wonderful opportunity to teach the importance of hard work, perseverance through difficulty, a sense of accomplishment, and of course provides plenty of opportunities to laugh.

Through theatre, all children are equal and free to explore. There are no wrong answers to fear and no competition to fall short of - only the chance to try on being someone else and, by doing so, to discover a little more of themselves.

Please enjoy these photos, taken by Meg Hansen, our Director of Marketing and Communications, of the Wonderful cast!



October 19, 2017

Traditions: In with the Old, In with the New

Preschool families enjoying Harvest Celebration 
In the past two weeks, our preschool, elementary, and middle school students all honored a 30-year Friends School tradition of celebrating Harvest and the change of the seasons.

Many of our school’s traditions, that are still such an essential part of our program, began three decades ago in a house on Marine Street just a few blocks west of the Boulder Public Library. It was there in 170 square feet that the first eight children went to school. Our Founders hired a teacher and the magic began.

Our Harvest Celebration was born there, along with our Silver and Gold graduation ceremony, Winter Celebration, and many of the other traditions that are still at the heart of who we are as a school.

Elementary students acting out 'Stone Soup'
In the preschool, teachers told and acted out the story of the Giant Pumpkin and families celebrated together with cider and school-made pumpkin bread.  In the elementary school, I told and helped others act out the story of Stone Soup, and families sat down together to share soup and other foods that all had contributed to.  In the middle school, our newest program, we love taking the best of the old traditions and also creating new:  our 6th and 7th grade students participated in community service, planting garlic and harvesting vegetables at Cure Organic Farm. They used some of the vegetables from the farm to create soup and other dishes to share with their senior partners at the  Brookdale Senior Living Community.

Middle Schoolers sharing a meal together
At all our Harvest Celebrations, we emphasize the importance of community and sharing.

As our school continues to evolve and grow, we keep many of our important traditions initiate new ones, and reshape old ones, just as we always have.

This year, our teachers have made the choice to reshape our traditional Elementary Movin’ & Boppin’ event.  A couple of years ago, we changed this tradition from a fund-raiser to a fitness-and-fun event only.  This year, teachers decided that instead of doing a one day Movin’ and Boppin’ event, they would make each of their team lunches a "Mini Boppin’ ".  Each month PE teacher (and Friends parent) Lindsey Hilliard gives our teachers a fitness-and-fun challenge for their team.   This way, our students will Move & Bop each and every month, rather than just once.  We think it’s an important enhancement!

At Friends School, we believe that a great education is founded in the myriad of life’s meaningful personal experiences and connections. Being part of a community where everyone feels connected significantly enhances learning. Our school is a place where everyone is nurtured and respected for his or her individuality and contributions to the good of the whole. We hold in high esteem rituals and traditions that help children develop self-awareness and understanding of themselves as part of the bigger world.

In our new Middle School, traditions are important and evolving. Our oldest students participate in some of our most cherished traditions, such as Winter Celebration, buddy classes, and the upcoming Halloween costume parade. Traditions help us feel a sense of belonging to our larger community. At a time when middle school students may face pressures to grow up quickly and to think of school as less than a joyful and exciting place, these connections provide a different, more nurturing perspective.

We love our Friends School traditions and celebrations. As Tevye says, “Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as... as a fiddler on the roof!" 

October 12, 2017

Building Resilience through an Inventive Process

Our North campus was alive with students from four different grades on Tuesday of this week: the sixth and seventh graders who call the campus home and our fourth and fifth grade classes as well.

The fifth grade class spent the morning at our annual Step Up Day, which gives our oldest elementary students a taste of the middle school experience that will soon be upon them.

Leigh Houser’s fourth grade class joined the fifth graders for the afternoon, as the students took over our amazing middle school Maker Space and our dedicated Teacher Preparation Program classroom to work on their fantastic inventions.

Leigh, and fifth grade teacher Liz Richards, have been inspiring their classes jointly in an integrated unit of study that combines science, entrepreneurism, art, field trips, language arts, history, and an inventive spirit!

They’ve taken field trips to factories in the area, and hosted a panel of experts last week who discussed the role of inventiveness in business, as well as the patent process.

Liz and Leigh have designed an energizing course, which will culminate in an Invention Convention, which challenges their students through a generative and creative thinking process called S.C.A.M.P.E.R. 

SCAMPER was first introduced by educational administrator and author Bob Eberle to address targeted questions that help solve problems or ignite creativity during brainstorming meetings. The name SCAMPER is an acronym for seven techniques: (S) substitute, (C) combine, (A) adapt, (M) modify, (P) put to another use, (E) eliminate and (R)

Liz and Leigh have challenged their students to think about common everyday problems and to create a devise to help solve the problem. They shared stories of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, and how often they failed before succeeding.

Our fourth and fifth graders came up with a long list of irksome everyday problems.  A few of my favorites include inventions that:

- help you not run out of snacks at parties
- provide a safe for your school locker
- retract bristles on a hairbrush to avoid entanglement
- combine your toothbrush and flosser
- reduce waste at the water fountain
- help Leigh remember where her keys are
- reduce the stink in your cat’s litterbox
 - prevent Callie’s rabbit of dragging straw around the house

Using the tools available in our Maker Space, and materials gathered by teachers and families, our students spent the afternoon building and testing and re-building their prototypes.  Creativity was everywhere!

On the car ride back to the South campus, three fourth grade boys excitedly shared with me numerous details about their inventions, their process, their need to be resilient, their teamwork with fifth graders, and their hopes for success.

Extensions of the invention work include logo design, creating ad campaigns, persuasive writing, and mini research projects on different inventors.

When I asked Liz what the biggest take-away that she thought her students would get from this process, she didn’t hesitate to say resilience, or what she called stick-to-it-ness!  There have been ideas, and revised ideas, and attempts, and failures and success.

I am grateful to these two master teachers, Leigh and Liz, for the amazing learning experience they provide for their students every day. 

October 5, 2017

Guest author: It Takes a (Friends School) Village

Melanie Leggett, our Director of Admissions, takes the pen this week to write a guest blog. What a wonderful story!

Roy, Willa and Mel Leggett
Everyone’s heard the expression that it takes a village to raise a child. Unfortunately, there’s all kinds of research out there that our society no longer has those villages, and that raising a kid today is an entirely different proposition then it used to be, without the support that used to be there for new parents. To those researchers I say… you must not have talked to anyone at Friends School. My daughter Willa turns one on Monday, and writing this blog brings tears to my eyes as I reflect on what a powerful village this place has been for my family over the past year.

The Friends village was there for my family before Willa was even born. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and taking a 3-month break from my job would normally give me extreme anxiety. In this case though, Mari Engle Friedman, our former Admissions Director, out of her love for the school, agreed to step briefly out of retirement. Having Mari in charge was a huge relief, and let me truly concentrate on Willa, knowing everything was in great hands and would be here when I came back.

Parent and trustee Mo Espinoza holding
Willa at a meeting
Once Willa was home, the Friends village continued to provide, this time in the form of food – almost more food than one family could handle! It was so nice in those first weeks of maternity leave to have visitors bringing us treats and sneaking in a few Willa snuggles. We were so spoiled, from so many people, that I can’t name them all. However, special thanks go out to Mandy Stepanovsky, who stopped by every other day for weeks on end making deliveries from Friends.

When my maternity leave was over, a few truly challenging months were upon us. I know that I am so fortunate to have a healthy baby and a safe and comfortable life to raise her in, but that being said, my first few months back at work were hard!! Willa refused to take a bottle, which took all of our well thought out plans for my return to work, and threw them right out the window. My Friends village took this in stride, told me they had been there too, and asked what they could do to help. Willa’s very first babysitter was Steve’s daughter Emma, who watched her at Friends during my first week back at school. Over the next few months, I essentially had to set up a nursery above the preschool, and between my husband, a babysitter, and various staff members and parents volunteering to be Willa holders, I was able to do my job, and Willa was able to be fed. Where else can you work where the board chair offers to take your kid for a walk so she can sleep and you can give a tour?!

In addition to helping me take care of Willa, Friends School also took care of me. Somehow it seems like this story keeps coming back to food, but I couldn’t talk about the village without mentioning its chef, Dacia. Dacia’s lunches were bright spots in my busy days, and gave me the fuel I needed to be a working mom. I was also sent home with quite a few dinners, and as everyone knows, food = love.

Just another day in the office!
Although those first months back at work were challenging, they were also lovely. Having Willa around led to many new connections with parents, staff, and kids. From conversations on the playground commiserating about our kids refusing bottles, to casual offers of amazing baby gear (basically every stroller and carseat that Willa has came from a Friends parent!), the parent community wrapped Willa and I in their collective arms. One parent told me about a story she had heard on NPR about how happy lives aren’t necessarily made up of huge moments, but instead a bunch of small positive moments, and that when she heard that, she thought of our middle schoolers lighting up when they got to see Willa. I think that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Instead of feeling like having Willa at work was a burden, everyone – from kids, to parents, to teachers, to staff – made me feel like getting to see her was a privilege. Even now, the most common greeting I get most days is “where’s Willa?!”

Today is a momentous day for me – it’s the first day since I went back to work last January where I didn’t need to go feed Willa on my lunch hour. She’s drinking milk from a sippy cup now (never did get that bottle!), and eating food, and can make it through the day without me. But it feels great to know that if she couldn’t, my village would help make it work.

This is just my small story of how our community was there for me. I’ve seen hundreds of more examples, big and small, of our village being there for people over my three years at Friends. Our village is powerful, and it’s real. I challenge all of you to think about our village, and how you contribute to it. Think about how you can make someone’s day, be it parent, student, or staff, a little brighter. And know that if the day comes when you or your child needs a little help, the village will be there for you, too.