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. 

August 31, 2016

Why Friends’ School is Bringing Rosalind Wiseman to You

Rosalind Wiseman
All of us at Friends’ are so happy to have all of our students and their families back in school this week. We love the sound of joyful play emanating throughout the preschool building and playground on our South Campus.

Back to school— joyful as it is—is also a time of transition. And transition to school, like any change, can bring up all kinds of feelings for children and parents alike.

For some of our students, this month brings a big change: for the three-year old it means entering a school setting for the very first time; Kindergarteners are finding their place in the “big kid school”; for the sixth grader it’s a time to begin middle school on a new campus at the other end of town; and even for children who are continuing on with the same teacher (such as our 1st, 3rd and 5th graders), there will be new classmates, new routines, and new expectations.

Best-selling author Rosalind Wiseman recently wrote on her blog, Parents are naturally preoccupied about getting everything ready. We run around filling out the right permission forms, buying all the things on the school supply list, and figuring out our child’s class schedule. But for our kids all of those things are usually way down the list of priorities. Instead, much more important to them is their social lives. Even kids who generally like school and have friends worry if their friendships changed over the summer.”

Wiseman is a dynamic speaker whose personal mission is to help communities shift the way we think about children’s emotional and physical wellbeing. She is a teacher, thought leader, author, and speaker on bullying, ethical leadership, and media literacy. You might know her as the author of the best seller Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World. Queen Bees and Wannabes, now in its third edition, is the groundbreaking, best-selling book that was the basis for the movie Mean Girls. Rosalind’s latest book, Masterminds & Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World was published in September 2013.

We are very excited that Rosalind will be speaking at our very own Friends’ School event on September 20th, at Unity of Boulder Church. She will discuss bullying, parenting, ethical leadership and the use of social media in her talk “Creating Cultures of Dignity.”

Her message will ring true in our community of parents and educators who have chosen a school like ours, where we believe in the importance of social and emotional learning.

Friends’ social and emotional curriculum helps students learn self-awareness and self-regulation, which in turn facilitate their interactions with and understanding of others. This begins with knowing our own emotions and needs and how to express and manage them appropriately. It includes recognizing and responding to the needs and emotions of others through empathy, gratitude, compassion, and the intentional teaching of kindness. Ultimately, having effective strategies for listening and speaking with one another develops a person’s ability to problem solve in all kinds of situations, often leading to inspired conclusions and stronger interpersonal relationships. Friends’ students learn this every day.
Lou Bendrick, who recently joined our school as our Director of Development, and who is also a parent at Friends’, recently shared this note with me, that she wrote to our fifth-grade teacher Leigh Houser:

“I wanted you to know that I was on recess duty today. Watching the older boys (your 5th graders) be so gentle with Blake and River playing football brought tears to my eyes! They let the boys make a touchdown ....It was so lovely.”

Blake is a first grader at our school, River is in Kindergarten. Lou explained that the 5th graders made a point of passing the ball to the younger children. Then the bigger boys allowed the younger boys to run between them for the touchdown.

That is “recognizing and responding to the needs and emotions of others through empathy, gratitude, compassion, and the intentional teaching of kindness.”

Powerful stuff.

I look forward to seeing you on September  20th when Rosalind can help us all continue to create a powerful Culture of Dignity. You will receive your invitation next week. This event is free and open to the public, so please bring your friends and neighbors. 

August 25, 2016

A New Journey

Ribbon cutting on the very first day of Friends' Middle School
Welcome back to school.  We are so glad you are here for our 2016-17 school year! 

We have many new families at Friends’ this year, in every grade from our youngest three year old classes, to our very first middle school class, and we warmly welcome you all to this very special community. We are thrilled to have our elementary and middle school students on each campus and we look forward to having our preschoolers begin next week.

Each week, in this space, I share with you this blog.  It will contain stories of what is going on around school, reflections on general trends in education, anecdotes about different people in our school community, or news of school developments.  My intention is to make it a useful and informative resource for you, occasionally amusing, and perhaps even poignant sometimes.  I hope you enjoy.

As wonderful as the start of the school year has been, we were not expecting the delayed start of school that happened on Wednesday with police activity in the neighborhood. Thank you all for your understanding and flexibility as we made the best decision for the safety of our students and community.

Friends’ School always puts the safety of our people first.  Our staff undergoes rigorous safety training twice a year and we invest annually in safety upgrades to our campuses.  In a September blog, I will update you on all that we do to make our campuses as safe as possible and the latest changes.  In the meantime, if you have any questions about school safety, please do not hesitate to connect with me or your program director.

First day of Kindergarten
We have a new administrative structure this year as we evolve to support each program in our growing community in the best way we can.  Caroline Holland is our new Director of Preschool, Associate Head Mandy Stepanovsky takes on an additional role as Director of Elementary School, and Shelby Pawlina, in her 22nd year at Friends’, is our Director of Middle School. Each of them work closely with me, and with each other, to support the students, parents and teachers in their respective programs.  You will hear more from each of them at your program’s Back To School Night that are all coming up in early September.

As I look back on these first three days of school, I have loved hearing the laughter in the buildings, seeing children greeting old friends, and witnessing the warmth and smiles as new friends are made.

In a letter that Kindergarten teacher Beth Huennekens sent out to her parents this week, she wrote; the random acts of kindness, communication skills, boundless energy, and contagious curiosity has set this group apart.”

At our brand new North Campus, Shelby let 6th grade parents know: “I witnessed a conversation about cell phone use at middle school. Through their discussion, students came to the same conclusions that are in our family handbook without ever mentioning any preexisting “rules”. Voice, choice, and respectful listening…I wish I had this one on video. I’m sure it won’t be the last time! In the gaga pit today, students negotiated rule changes, and demonstrated honest sportsmanship. This class really cares about one another. You would be hard pressed to know who the new students are in the group. Kudos to all these great people! Already, what I have been dreaming about is coming to fruition! We are in for a great year!”
Language Arts teacher Diane Bramble and music
teacher Maria Burbano at our elementary
school gathering this week

And in a letter to our teachers and staff from Friends’ Community Board Chair Elizabeth Henna, I read: “At the new family picnic for elementary families last night, I visited with a dad who was setting foot on Friends’ campus for the first time the night before his oldest child starts kindergarten today. It was wonderful to see his excitement and hear how impressed he already is with our welcoming campus and people. I know that while the kids and their parents are beginning their school year now, each of you has been working hard over the past weeks and months to prepare for this time. I want you to know that I and other trustees deeply appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work required to launch a new school year, especially when that year includes a new program, new facilities, new staff, and new responsibilities.”

I get the fortunate privilege of working with all of these individuals, and all of you, each and every day as we team together to educate and raise the most important people in the world: the next generation. 

Thank you for entrusting us with the journey.