by Meg Hansen, Director of Marketing and Communications
Third grade teacher Caroline Long is always looking for the next great adventure and thinking of ways she might weave it into an interesting lesson for her students. It’s just one of the things our students and parents love about Caroline and what makes her a great teacher.
Back in December, the great uncle of one of Caroline’s students shared something that sparked her interest. A 45-day expedition to Antarctica was about to take place and her students had the chance to be part of it. Through modern technology, a crew of scientists and marine exploration experts were allowing students around the world to track and interact with them via weekly video conferences as they boarded the S.A. Agulhas II on the Weddell Sea Expedition in Antarctica.
This program, offered through Reach the World, a nonprofit global education organization out of New York, connects schools with explorers and scientists around the world. It was the perfect segue to Caroline’s upcoming units on weather, explorers and other cultures. She started researching and even studied for a technical test she had to take over winter break in order to be considered for the program. She passed and she and her third graders were accepted into the program.
Caroline picked this particular expedition to share with her students for two reasons (with its connection to her curriculum):
- Environmental impact– The explorers were looking at the Larsen Sea ice shelf that broke off near the Weddell Sea in Antarctica in 2017. In particular, they were studying global warming’s effect on Antarctica and the broken ice shelf’s impact on water levels, the environment and the rich sea life that exists in this region. (Curriculum link: The class is studying weather and, in particular, they are looking at how climate change impacts weather and changes the overall climate in the U.S.)
- Finding the Endurance Shipwreck– Additionally, these explorers hope to use Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) to be the first to find Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance, which was lost in an ice floe off Antarctica in 1915 and never found again. All members of Shackleton’s crew survived, but all missions to find the ship have failed. (Curriculum link: The class is studying explorers, namely the Spanish and French explorers who settled in Colorado, their country of origin, and what it took to travel all the way to Colorado.)
Caroline receives an email from the ship every Friday and on the following Monday the students learn of their assignment and plan their weeks around the call with a variety of experts on the expedition. Soon the students made connections with Holly, the main scientist on the ship, and began following her blog (many of our students used their time during Readers Workshop to read about the expedition). John Shears, one of the scientists on the ship, offered his thoughts on the expedition and the kids surprisingly learned that John won the Polar Medal from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Wow! The students began keeping logs of what they were learning, and a list of questions and what they wanted to learn from the explorers. They wanted to know a lot. For example:
- What makes this expedition different from Shackleton’s Endurance and what would happen if the SA. Agulhas II got stuck just like the Endurance?
- How on earth do they get all that safety equipment and people to Antarctica?
- How do planes stop when they are landing on a sheet of ice?
- What were the scientists learning about wildlife in Antarctica?
- What does Antarctica have to do with Mars?
- What are the explorers learning about other cultures since they are mostly just encountering animals?
- We know a lot about collaboration at Friends School, but why is collaboration in Antarctica so important?
- Tell us where flexibility, adaptability and unpredictability lessons were part of this expedition?
The answers are fascinating! See one of our third grader experts who would be happy to share answers to these questions and all they’ve learned about this project. (Teaser: You can’t touch or hug a penguin in Antarctica unless it’s on the runway, and NASA is studying Antarctica in the hopes it will help astronauts one day live on Mars.)
The students are particularly excited about their last video conference which will be a YouTube live stream with John Shears reflecting back on everything they learned on their voyage: has the climate changed and what are the effects, has the ice gotten thinner, and…did they find the Endurance? We can’t wait to find out!
It turns out modern-day explorers are all around us.You don’t have to go to Antarctica to be an explorer. Visits from two Friends alumni will bring modern-day expeditions right into the classroom. Phoebe Norman (Friends School Fifth Grade Class of 2011) visited 3rd grade last week, and Michael Hansen (Friends School Fifth Grade Class of 2007) will visit soon to share their own experiences of exploring the world and learning about new cultures. Through Where There Be Dragons, Phoebe went to Senegal and Guinea for three months and stayed with two different host families. She shared with the students about adapting to a new religion, living in different homes, eating/cooking different food in different ways, and learning new languages. The kids were all surprised to hear that in some places there wasn’t technology or access to WIFI and phones and that she was only able to communicate back home a few times via email. They loved seeing her pictures and learning about a new country and her experiences
as an explorer. Michael will be visiting the students in March to talk with them about his annual college trips to Argentina to study their culture and business economy. After graduating from college, he traveled to Tanzania to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro where he was immersed in the African culture and completed this expedition that was both physically and mentally challenging. There were challenges and surprises along the way and times where he needed to adjust the course of his travels. But all of them were worth it for the people he met, the places he saw, and some of the unidentifiably delicious food he ate.
Whether it’s Antarctica or Africa or just around our beautiful state, Caroline is always challenging her students to reach beyond their own cultures and learn more about our larger world. She hopes the Weddell Sea Expedition project and the real-life expeditions of their Friends classmates who walked our halls long ago spark a desire to continue to explore and discover new lands and cultures. It’s easy to search online for any place on earth these days. While technology can help us explore different lands and cultures, true exploration happens by actually physically traveling to lands near and far and immersing yourself in the culture.
Which one of our current third graders’ future expeditions will inspire the next generation of Friends students to explore our greater world?Read More
Friends School’s first 8th grade class will be graduating in May. As they look towards high school, Honor has taken the opportunity to interview each of them to find out about their time at Friends School, whether they are “lifers” (here since Preschool) or brand new to Friends School. Please enjoy this interview of Avery Lidge, at Friends School since 2nd grade.
What grade are in?
8th. I have been here since second grade. This is my seventh year.
How old are you?
I am fourteen – my birthday is November 20th.
Share a memory from a ceremony or trip. Tell me about the experience and what it meant to you. The first thing I think of is Moab, the most recent trip we went on in seventh grade. We went to a baseball field near where we were staying and we played “where is my chicken” and we were laughing so hard and rolling on the ground and having so much fun. It is a really great memory.
Also, in fifth grade our graduation ceremony stands out. I remember that the music teacher, Monica, told us that she would give us all a Hershey kiss if no one sang during my solo. We never did get those Hershey’s kisses…. But, for the record, no one did sing during my solo.
What is a life lesson that you learned at Friends School?I have definitely learned many ways to express myself – theater, music, science, so many different ways to see what I can do, which is really fun. I think being at Friends has helped me learn how to develop deep friendships. At Friends there is a lot of support for getting through difficult times. One time we all came together to help a friend who sprained his neck and had to go to the ER. It was really scary for us, and for him, but we all helped each other through that – and he was okay in the end.
Also, if and when we have arguments or disagreements, the teachers support us in communicating and finding a way through.
What will you take from your experience here into your future? My work ethic and perseverance with assignments or things that happen. Just knowing that you can push through something and finding the courage and the ways that you can get through it.
Working hard and finding ways to work smarter, not necessarily harder.
Striving to do my best in everything I can while not devoting my life to school work only.
Tell me about a project or class that stands out and/or inspired you.Well, I can say that ever since I’ve had Kevin as my science teacher, I have been so passionate about science. One that stands out is the genetics project in seventh grade. The goal was to create and draw little creatures using Punnett squares showing why they had different colors, shapes or markings. It was really fun to do and I still have the poster I made. Mine was on squirrels – SCIURUS CANDENTIS – which means glowing squirrel.
Tell me about a person from Friends that stands out and/or inspired you.
Diane has definitely inspired the literature side for me. I was not a great reader when I came to Friends in second grade and I had Diane for 2nd and 3rd grade and she really helped it all come together for me.
Another person is Steve de Beer who really inspired my acting. I really loved the 5th grade play where I played both the crazy cook who loves pepper and a sassy flower. I learned how much fun it could be to express myself on the stage as someone else or as myself and see how that felt. Now every summer I do theater camp.
How is Friends School different from your previous school?
It was definitely more relaxed and friendly feeling which felt good. It was a lot less pressure and I could be who I am.
Also, in my first grade I had to move around between many classes, which we do in middle school, but in elementary school I really liked to have a base that I came back to. It felt good to have a stabilizing space that I knew I could just be in.
Do you have advice for future Friends students? Oh gosh, that’s hard. “Never give up” is a good one. You should really never just stop doing things. And have fun with it! I was a stress ball in sixth grade. I had a tough time adjusting because I was stressed by everything. It’s not a giant transition unless you make it that. Try to find ways to balance and have fun.
Do you have any advice for me, things to change/things not to change?
I can’t think of anything – I think things are great the way they are.
Do you know where you will go to High School? 1st, 2nd, 3rd choice
It is possible that I will go to Dawson, but it is not decided just yet.Read More
by Honor Taft, Friends School Head of School
I am excited to share that teachers Rebecca Gorton (Kindergarten) and Annika Nygren (1st grade) have joined the ranks of teachers with Orton-Gillingham(OG) training. This is a multi-sensory approach to phonics instruction that was originally designed to teach children with dyslexia to read. We now know that all learners benefit from this rich instructional approach and we are excited to integrate it into our literacy program for all students at Friends.
Annika says of the experience: “While it was hard to leave my first graders, the Orton-Gillingham training was phenomenal. The OG method intentionally creates instruction that is accessible to all learners. I have already been able to implement the visual, auditory and kinesthetic components of the methodology into my small literacy groups. I can’t wait to continue deepening the strong literacy foundations of the Friends School students.”
Rebecca explains “Orton-Gillingham is multi-sensory, developmentally appropriate, and science-based. OG balances respect for a child’s development and love of reading with scientific-based sequencing that allows me to teach with confidence and outcomes in mind. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have completed this excellent training! I am already witnessing my students’ literacy growth because of Orton-Gillingham in my classroom!”
Annika’s and Rebecca’s completion of this training means that as we begin our 2019-20 school year, we will have four OG trained teachers at Friends elementary – Kindergarten, first and second grades, as well as Tricia Callahan, our literacy resource teacher. One of the marks of a strong elementary program is a skilled faculty who participate in ongoing professional development to enhance their teaching, and this team is eager to engage in continuous learning.
Another mark of excellence is a cohesive, carefully coordinated curriculum that forms the backbone of the learning experience. This OG professional development kicked off the first step of a careful examination of our elementary literacy program. Upon Annika’s and Rebecca’s return from training, this teaching team, led by Mandy Stepanovsky, critically examined the K-1 literacy curriculum and revised and expanded on the already strong work of the Friends School program. Over the next few months Mandy will lead similar reviews of the literacy program in grades 2–5. Look for more on this from Mandy in the next several months.
As we do this work, we are carefully attending to our purpose and priorities: At Friends School our students collaborate, create and engage their passions while learning. Our goal: raise and educate good people who can and will enact change for the better. Learning to read and write is useful in and of itself, but it becomes truly meaningful when it helps us communicate, collaborate and get things done.
Thank you to those who support professional development for our faculty, which is one of the most meaningful ways to impact our students’ learning experiences. We are grateful to you. I look forward to sharing more as we continue to fill these sails with wind and move swiftly into the future.
Head of SchoolRead More