November 30, 2017

You’re Invited to the Friends School Birthday Party!

Not many of us are ecstatic about a birthday that moves us onward and upward into our next decade. Do you remember leaving behind your twenties and turning the “big three-oh”?

At Friends School, we are over the moon about our 30th birthday! We have so much to be proud of and celebrate: three decades of passionate, soulful teaching and hundreds of thriving graduates who make this world a better place.

If you haven’t seen this video about our humble beginnings, please take two minutes to see what 1987 at Friends School looked like. Back then we were Friends British Primary School. The original logo is on the flags in the photo at the top of this article.

As many of you may have heard, our auction is on hold this year so that we can focus our resources on making gifts to our Annual Fund a priority. My wife Steph and I have decided to triple our Annual Fund gift this year, bearing in mind what we would have given to the auction. 

During this break year our staff is exploring alternative fundraising events, such as benefit concerts and farm-to-table dinners. Please keep your eye out for an upcoming survey so that you can weigh in on the discussion. 

In the meantime, we know the importance of coming together as a community is critical to who we are. Here at Friends, we believe in the importance of celebrations. We know that honoring momentous events, holidays and traditions as a group confers a sense of belonging and deep human fulfillment.  Check out this May Day celebration photo from our early days. Does anyone see a familiar face in that group?

Parties of course, are also just plain fun. We are having a fun 30th Birthday Party at Rayback Collective on January 19th. If you didn’t see the Save-the-Date, I’m including it below. This family-friendly party will include a credit toward dinner and cake (gluten-free). Our in-coming Head of School, Honor Taft, will be there with her family. (I think this makes this event a double-header). 

A little background on Rayback Collective: it’s a community park in the heart of Boulder with local food trucks and craft beer. It began with a dream and a kickstarter campaign and is deeply rooted in community. We think its philosophy and laid-back authenticity make it the perfect venue to celebrate our 30 years of teaching to the head, hand and heart.

Please save the date and join us. Come as you are and bring nothing but your appetite and love of celebration.

November 15, 2017

Honoring the Human Side

1st grade teacher Beth Huennekens
With an undergraduate degree in human development and family studies, our 1st grade teacher Beth Huennekens is uniquely qualified to recognize the human-ness in our Friends School classrooms and culture.

Beth is in her ninth year at Friends School, eight of them as the lead teacher in the Kindergarten-1st grade loop. She has been an integral part of our community for so long because she is inspired daily by her teaching colleagues, who challenge her to become a better teacher in a completely supportive environment.  Her colleagues are her friends, her peers, her mentors, and her family. She is energized by knowing the human side of her colleagues, as well as respecting them as outstanding professionals.

In addition to her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin Madison, Beth has a Masters in Educational Psychology from University of Colorado Denver and is a graduate of our own Friends School Teacher Preparation Program.

She believes that her role as an educator is to guide and honor her students' natural curiosities, individuality, and passions for the world around them. This is something she realized in her own educational experiences and is also what drew her to the field of education.

Beth was drawn to Colorado from Wisconsin because of the like-minded people that she met from here.  So determined to move to Boulder after college, she first took jobs here as a nanny, before serving as the registrar at Bear Creek Elementary School.  Drawn to teaching, she entered a teacher training program at CU, but withdrew after realizing she would be spending almost all her time in graduate classrooms and not learning through and alongside children.

Beth and a friend during the Lead King Loop
Beth heard about Friends’ unique TPP and how the program immediately puts our TCs into a co-teaching role with direct student interaction. One visit to our school and she was hooked!  The delicious smell of Dacia’s lunches helped!  Beth completed the TPP, with her Masters degree and a Colorado teaching license, was hired at Friends in the K-1 loop and the rest, as they say, is history.

In her free time, Beth’s curiosity and love for new adventures are fulfilled through trail running, snowshoeing, seeing live music, reading, and travelling. She loves the balance and meditative nurture that running brings to her. Just this fall, Beth completed the Lead King Loop 25K race in Marble, CO. She loves being outdoors!

Beth tells me that she is inspired on a daily basis by the supportive, passionate, deep thinking, and unique learning environment that the Friends School families and teachers help her create. Like her first graders, she learns a little something every day and she knows that she will still be learning as long as she is teaching. And likely far beyond that.

As one of our staff members told me this week, when I mentioned I was writing this piece about Beth, “I love Beth. The few times I get to be in her classroom, there’s a vibe of pure joy! Those kids are happy, Beth is happy, it feels good in there. Yay, Beth!”

We are lucky to have this amazing human being teaching at our school.

I wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving with time to celebrate, relax, laugh together, and express gratitude for the gifts we enjoy in our lives.  I feel truly blessed to be part of a school community where every day we are surrounded by kindness and human-ness. 

November 9, 2017

Like Shark Tank, Only Nicer!

5th grader Levi explaining his invention
“Like Shark Tank, only nicer!” This was the headline over several photos that our Director of Advancement, Lou Bendrick, posted on our school’s Facebook page earlier this week.

I’ll be honest, I had to Google “Shark Tank”.  Call me a philistine because I don’t watch television (ok, I lie, I do enjoy the occasional English Premier League football game!) It turns out that it is the name of a reality TV program, now in its 9th season (who knew?!) According to Wikipedia, “Shark Tank” shows aspiring entrepreneur-contestants as they make business presentations to a panel of "shark" investors, who then choose whether to invest.

This was the concept behind the Invention Expo that 4th and 5th grade teachers Leigh Houser and Liz Richards dreamed up for their lucky students.

Parents, other teachers, and several of our administrative staff were invited to attend and play the role of investors at our upper elementary Invention Expo /Shark Tank.  Our instructions were to listen carefully to students' presentations or sales pitches and to focus on their ideas and thinking behind their inventions. 

The students were challenged to think about common everyday problems and to create a device to help solve a problem. Their inventions were prototypes made out of recycled materials, so they had to use a lot of imagination to fulfill their ideas. 

As ‘investors’ we had to use a bit of imagination of our own in playing the role of venture capitalists, deciding whom we thought had marketable ideas. Our job was to offer feedback and a financial proposal to at least 3 entrepreneurs on investor proposal sheets.

The recycled innovations wowed the big crowd of would-be investors. The inventions ranged from bunny cage-cleaners to skyscraper construction safety devices, from automatic pet bird feeders to a vacuuming system that encourages you to get off the couch and exercise!

Liz and Leigh, along with their teacher candidates Pepper and Callie, have been inspiring their classes jointly in this integrated unit of study that combines science, entrepreneurism, art, travel, language arts, history, and an inventive spirit!

They have taken field trips to factories in the area, and hosted a panel of experts who discussed the role of inventiveness in business, as well as the patent process. 4th and 5th graders had to work collaboratively in teams.

At press time, I have not heard which students or which project attracted the most shark investments.  I did hear however many words of admiration from all of our investors who were in attendance. 

November 2, 2017


This week, our middle and elementary students and families celebrated our annual Halloween parade.  Our preschoolers had a blast carving and exploring pumpkins.

If you missed all of the fun photos,you can see them here. Preschool photos are here. Or if you haven’t had a chance to watch the video of our teachers and staff dancing to Weird Al Yankovic’s Eat It, you can see it here. 

We have another amazing video of a giant tub of popcorn dancing its way through the preschool playground.  

I love that our middle school students come to our elementary/preschool campus to join in the festivities.  They were back the very next day connecting with their buddy classes in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  And they had been over to South last week supporting our fifth graders in their production of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Fourth and fifth graders have recently visited the North middle school campus to  use our fantastic maker space and to utilize all that our expanding school has to offer.

Teacher and staff dancing to Eat It!
We love that our two campuses are becoming ever increasingly connected, and that our sixth and seventh graders have these important connections with the lower school.

In an NPR article from last week , researchers continue to claim that that students who go to a stand-alone middle school fare worse academically, socially and emotionally, compared to the kids who get to be the oldest students at K-8 schools.

A new paper in the Journal of Early Adolescence reinforces this message. The study found that starting a new school in either sixth or seventh grade hurts students' perceptions of their own reading ability and motivation to work hard in English language arts.

The study tracks nearly 6,000 students from Kindergarten through eighth grade. The authors compared the performance of students who attended a K-8 school to those who left for a middle school in sixth grade or seventh grade. They focused on outcomes by eighth grade to rule out the negative impact that may have come merely from making the transition to a new school itself.

One of our parents told me an interesting story this week from when she was driving seventh graders between campuses. The students were moaning about an assignment.  When the parent asked them how their first grade buddies were, instantly the mood changed. They exclaimed “Oh! They are so cute!” and, “I’m so happy. My buddy likes me.” They shared stories of first graders asking seventh graders to come play with them at recess and the seventh graders having to explain gently that they couldn’t today.

The parent observed that the middle school students “are so kind when they are with the little kids and they have a chance to step up in a leadership role.”

Now about that giant popcorn….

…this is must-see-TV!  School chef and events coordinator Dacia Horn made herself a fabulous homemade costume out of foam core and house insulating foam.  Watch the excitement of the preschoolers (and their teachers!) as she comes dancing across the playground.  Legendary!