By Bryn Pennington, Friends School Art Teacher
Our middle school students love creating art. I love helping them develop their creative expression. When I can weave a larger world mission into an art studio project, it’s a plus for everyone. This week, our 6th graders had the chance to do both.
On March 18, the 6th grade students interviewed contemporary artist Lin Evola during their recent art studio project. Lin is the creator of Peace Angels, a creative project turned non-profit that began as her response to street violence in Los Angeles. When Lin learned of the LAPD gun collection program, she gained permission to melt down the collected weapons and transform them into symbols of peace. Her most famous works are the Renaissance Peace Angel housed in the permanent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museumin New York City, and the Johannesburg “Spirit of Africa” sculpture unveiled by Desmond Tutu in 2003.
6th graders were invited to sculpt their own Peace Angels based on Lin’s words: “Before we can have peace in our world, we need to make peace in our home”. During this project, the 6th graders became curious about the artist and her process. They decided to interview her directly. They brainstormed rich questions, then made the call.
Rohan’s question was about her start as an artist. Lin was born an artist, painting and drawing early in her toddler years. By the end of high school, she was preparing for gallery shows in her hometown, Chicago.
Sadie next asked about her artistic inspiration. Art and life are the same for her, she mused, and art is her mode of expressing and exploring issues that call to her in our world.
Zahara inquired about her process and the time involved to make each artwork. Lin first “captures the lightning” by connecting with a concept. Next is the longest part of her process: researching and making drawings for an angel specific to a place or city. Depending on the size of the sculpture, assistants help her wield and sculpt the models, which range from 3’ to 11’ tall. After, she takes her sculpture to a foundry to be cast as metal from the molten weapons. This part of the process can take over 6 months.
Sadie asked what inspired Lin to first create the Renaissance Peace Angel. Lin began the first angel drawings in 1994, years before the 9/11 tragedy, as a “Renaissance of Humanity”. The sculpture stands for life and a reminder to lift each other up, rather than kill each other. She intended for it to be placed at the World Trade Center in New York, a place where people all over the world came to visit and work. Lin transported the Renaissance Angel to New York City in October 2001 as an act of gratitude for those working at Ground Zero. Over time, hundreds and hundreds of firefighters, police and workers signed their names and messages of thanks at the Angel’s base. Their words remain.
Aiyana asked why the peace angels are so big. Lin reflect that their scale really makes a different impression…more of an impact. Each is made from collected weapons and discarded nuclear casings, so the bigger the sculpture the more weapons are off of the streets. Lin’s current proposed project for a 64’ tall Angel, for example, would remove one million weapons from the world!
Henry asked what the Peace Angels represent to her, and why she choose angels. As an artist, Lin needed a symbol that could lift human beings up….one that could get “humanity beyond ourselves”. She also needed a symbol that could inspire, but still be relatable. So, she choose angels.
Zahara wanted to know how many angels Lin has made. Two Peace Angels have been installed so far, as well as many dozens of smaller models. For example, President Bill Clinton and Jordanian Queen Noor al Hussein each accepted smaller angel sculptures from Lin. Her next big projects include twelve 11’ Peace Angels throughout Los Angeles and three monumental sculptures in New York City, Los Angeles, and Silicon Valley.
Aiyana asked how much each sculpture costs and where she gets the money to make them. A family friend gifted Lin money for the initial foundry work on the Renaissance Peace Angel. She now funds all of her work through sales of art and jewelry. Some patrons purchase angel sculptures for $250,000, but most donations are small. Because so many people donate money toward the Peace Angels, Lin considers them a project by and for everyone.
The final question gave Lin some time to reflect. What was a recent accomplishment or struggle as an artist and what did she learn from it? For Lin, it was letting go of the Renaissance Peace Angel after it’s installation at the 9/11 Memorial Museum. She had spent over 30 years thinking about it, creating it, and then moving it and installing it at its new home. She likened it to raising her son and then sending him out into the world. With its installation at the Museum, Lin joined the few hundred living American artists whose work is part of a permanent collection. Feeling this accomplishment, Lin set the Renaissance Peace Angel free and can focus on new cities, angels and art.
As the interview ended, the 6th graders put on the finishing touches on their own clay angels…the wings. The spirit of Lin’s work and the sound of her voice resonated in the art studio. The final step was to bury a paper scroll inside each sculpture. On each scroll, students had written a “trouble” – a regret, source of pain, or something they found it hard to forgive themselves for. As the angels are fired, the scrolls burn to ash. Whatever “trouble” kept students from finding peace is gone.
The Peace Angels project has a profound impact on our students. I hope they share their work with you and inspire you to spread more Peace Angels throughout our world. We’re honored to be doing our part at Friends School to bring Lin’s message of “holding up the light” to our community and beyond.
Volunteer Profile: Erin Picone
by Lou Bendrick, Director of Development
Volunteer activities at Friends: CommunityBoard Trustee, Investment Committee Chair, Risk Management Committee Member, Advancement Committee Member, COT Committee Member. I also help re-shelve books with another parent volunteer in our wonderful library.
Personal: We moved to Colorado 4 years ago and love the change of pace, family friendly vibe, and 300 days of sunshine. Chloe started in Preschool with Jessie and Hetta and is currently in the 1st grade with Annika and Kenly.
Education/current or previous employment:I graduated from University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in Psychology. After graduation, I worked for Putnam Investments for over a decade before leaving to start a family.
Hobbies & passions & talents: Reading, spending time with family and friends, and trying new recipes.
Q: How did you find Friends School & why did you choose it for your child? We attended an open house at Friends in April 2015. Jessie and Christie blew us away with their passion, knowledge, and expertise. We were reading How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough, and their program brought this book to life! Christie was named the Early Childhood Educator of the Year for Boulder County in 2014 and Jessie received the same award in 2015.
Q: What motivates you to volunteer? It fills my bucket! Every time I volunteer or attend an event at the school (Board meeting, committee meeting or Parent Connect) I’m reminded of what an amazing school and parent community we have. If you’re interested in getting involved and volunteering for a committee, please talk to Elizabeth Henna or Maureen Espinoza.
Q: What books are you reading right now? I’m reading Change Your Schedule, Change your Life by Dr. Suhas Kshirsager. It talks about harnessing the power of clock genes to lose weight, optimize your workout, and get a good night’s sleep. It’s fascinating!
Q: If we were to open your fridge, what would we find? A new recipe (or two) that I’m trying out. I check out roughly 6 cookbooks a month from the Boulder Public Library. It’s my never-ending quest to keep it fresh with tasty, healthy family dinners.
Q: How do you recharge? We ski at various mountains in the winter and spend summer months with family and friends in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.Read More
by Chris Hollinger, PE Teacher & Director of AfterCare and Enrichment Programs
The Big Blue Blocks (BBBs) are here, and are capturing hearts and minds of the Friends School community! During the past week and a half, grades Kindergarten through fifth have had the opportunity to become familiar with this new and awesome addition to our playground. Each grade was separately introduced to the BBB’s. This served several purposes, including providing a low-stress environment when first using the equipment, age-appropriate comprehensive and inclusive discussions about safety and respecting school equipment, free play with like ages, and getting all kids involved in the pack-up process (cleaning up and storing BBBs).
Already the kids have been using the BBB’s to:
- create forts with water systems
- organize and play their own sports games
- create and problem solve ball ramps
- engage in fair-trading
- build items from speeder bikes to lawn mowers to giant cats
We are excited to introduce the BBBs to the community at large! You will see your child engage in unstructured, child-directed free play. And when weather permits, we’ll bring them outside.
This kind of play is critical to a child’s intellectual, social, physical and emotional development. The three core elements to the BBB’s are: Loose parts, a manipulable environment and “Play Associates” (“Play Associates” are your loving teachers and staff, trained to oversee an open setting where children can direct their own play, while maintaining a safe and welcoming environment). A changing collection of moveable or “loose” parts lets children make each play session a new experience. Children play most creatively in settings that they can manipulate..
Warning: With Big Blue Blocks, children are highly likely to have fun and learn!
Enjoy this short video of our students engaged in play with the BBB’s.Read More
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
by Honor Taft, Friends School Head of School
At this end of the month , I’ll be taking a trip abroad. Normally, a head of school wouldn’t take time away during the busy month of January. This trip, however, is deeply meaningful to me, so I’d like to share why I’m going.
On Saturday, January 26th I will set off to Leiden, Netherlands in honor my great-grandfather, Peter Debye who among many accomplishments, won a Nobel Prize in 1936. He is perhaps most famous for his discovery of the “dipole moment” (Dipole moments occur when a molecule creates temporary charges and builds bonds between atoms) and development of equations to calculate the size of the dipole moment (called a Debye). His discovery contributed immeasurable to our understanding of molecules which is the foundation for so much of what we understand and can accomplish in science today.
Along with some members of my family, including my father, step-mother and my father’s cousins, I will attend an event at the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave. This event will honor and celebrate the handing over of heritage objects, including letters, photos, school diplomas among others items, which will be added to their national science collection. This museum already holds heritage collections of many Dutch Nobel Prize winners, and they are excited add these to their collections.
During this event, a number of people will speak about the importance of my great-grandfather as a Nobel Prize winner. Wiel Rousseau, a Dutch scientist who learned from my great-grandfather and with whom I have kept up a connection, will talk about his discovery of the heritage objects and how he has cared for them through the years. My father will also speak about his life growing up with Peter Debye’s in Ithaca, New York, where Peter served as Professor of Chemistry, Principle of the Chemistry Department and eventually Professor Emeritus at Cornell University (our family donated his Nobel Prize, and some other medals to the University in 2004). These medals had an interesting life of their own, a story I would love to share one day.
Of particular importance for me in the story of Peter’s life is that he was born into a poor family in Maastricht, Netherlands. As such, he was entitled to an education only through grade 5. During his schooling, however, a teacher took note of his potential and lobbied to the state requesting that his education be funded (this letter is among the heritage items that will be presented to the museum). Achieving this funding laid the groundwork for Peter Debye’s rise through academia and ultimately for his contributions to science, which arguable impact how we live today. This story reminds me of what I believe and why I do the work that I do – a teacher, through their belief in a child, can change the course of that child’s life, and even change the world.
I look forward to sharing photos and moments from this trip as I travel, and when I return. You can follow me on twitter @HonorTaft for ongoing updates from my adventure.
Volunteer Profile: Lisa Steinkamp
Parent Council Chair, Advancement Committee, Classroom help (spring fling, class play, field trips)
“I have such warm, fuzzy memories of elementary school, so I love just being in that environment. It’s also great to see my kids’ faces light up when they see me being a part of their school. They think it’s really cool, and I think it sets a good example of giving back and supporting them.”
Hometown: Morris, OK
Personal: I live with my husband, Chris and our two sons, Will (6thgrade at Summit), and Nicholas (3rdGrade at Friends School).
Education/current or previous employment: After graduating from the University of Oklahoma, I moved to Los Angeles and worked in Advertising and Marketing for companies including Disney, Baskin-Robbins and The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
Occupation: When we moved to Boulder (2 ½ years ago) I decided to launch my own food business, something I had thought about for many years. Boulder is such a natural foods hub, it was a perfect fit! I started The Campfire Bakery, selling granola and goodies at the area farmer’s markets. Now you can buy our granola at Lucky’s, Alfalfas, and a few other stores in the Denver/Boulder area.
Hobbies & passions & talents: I spent most of my 20’s and 30’s living and breathing horses. I trained and competed in hunter/jumpers, and spent every spare minute at the LA equestrian Center. I still ride whenever I can, and love being around a barn . . .even just smelling one makes me happy! I also love interior design and refinishing furniture. Random, I know.
Q: How did you find Friends School & why did you choose it for your children?
When we decided to move to Boulder, we looked at every school option. I had flown out a couple of times for tours but hadn’t seen Friends yet. Chris had to come out for business and I asked him if he could squeeze in one last tour before we decided. He called me from Friends School and said “I think we’ve found our place!”. He was right. We really value the warm, enriching environment and knew our boys would love it!
Q: What motivates you to volunteer?
The more I give my time and get involved, the more I feel connected to the school, and also the community of Boulder. This year, as the Parent Council chair I’ve been able to get even more engaged and have made some great new friends. I also love planning and organizing so it’s been a good outlet for that!
Q: What books are you reading right now? (Alternate question: If you could have one super power what would it be?)
I just finished the book SPARK by John J. Ratey, about how exercise affects the brain. We read it for our Friends Connect meeting this month and had an awesome discussion on it!
Also, my super power would definitely be that I could convert cupcakes into all the nutrition I needed!
Q: If we were to open your fridge, what would we find? (send us a photo of the inside of your fridge!)
Sadly, no cupcakes. But the labels all facing forward is no accident. That’s my OCD in all its glory!
Q: How do you recharge?
I love walking and hiking with my buddy Charlie, our lab.Read More
Congratulations to Friends AfterCare teacher Rashel Gandhi-Besbes who has been named the outstanding graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences at CU Boulder for fall 2018. Rashel’s honor thesis is about conservation efforts in Tanzania. She is graduating summa cum laude in anthropology from the University of Colorado Boulder. Read more about Rashel’s work and award here.Read More
By Meg Hansen, Director of Marketing and Communications
The Coffee Cart
We all know that Friends School teachers, like their students, are lifelong learners. Constantly honing their craft and looking for new ways to engage their students, 4th grade teacher Emma Thomas and 5th grade teacher Leigh Houser put their skills and expertise together this fall to try something new at Friends School. What resulted was a real-world lesson plan that provided not only a worthwhile hands-on learning experience for our students, but also gave our parents and staff a jolt to start their mornings.
Both Leigh and Emma began the year teaching all subjects to their respective students to establish community, rituals, and routines in their classrooms. They soon realized the benefit of each teacher sharing their own expertise with the other’s students. So began “content specializing” with Leigh teaching math to both 4th and 5th graders, Emma teaching literacy to both groups, and both teachers teaching combined 4th/5th classes in science and social studies. This thoughtful and meaningful approach to teaching gently introduces this age group to how middle school works, and the students get the best of both teachers.
So began the Coffee Cart project.
As part of content specializing as well as project-based learning, Leigh charged her students with coming up with a real-world business that they could set up and run by themselves, integrating all aspects of math. The business needed to anchor within it first unit of study in math, such as operations and numbers sense, addition/subtraction, division/multiplication. The students researched the best items to sell to our community including lemonade and baked goods and finally settled on coffee. Why coffee? What better way for our parents and staff to start their days on chilly autumn mornings than with a steaming cup of coffee. It turns out, it was the perfect product for our coffee-loving customers.
A few goals were set:
- Kids do it all: prep, brew coffee (with adult supervision), grind beans, sell
- All math is done without a calculator
- Adult-only customers (sorry, coffee-loving kids)
- Daily supplies are limited – when it sells out, we close for the morning
Preparation began several weeks in advance of the business’s opening day: Math, math and more math! Leigh worked with the kids on measurements, ratios, costs, and profits. Emma began working with the students on flyer and brochure design and writing persuasive pitches on buying our coffee vs. the other guy’s (focused on advocating for a particular “Be the Change” project that the coffee cart proceeds would support). Oh yeah, the coffee. What kind of coffee should they sell?
The students contacted Josh Crane of The Coffee Ride, a Boulder-based business that roasts and offers weekly bike-delivered coffee beans to local Boulder coffee lovers. Josh was excited to help the kids with their project and taught them everything they needed to know from how to brew coffee using the French Press, the ratio of grounds to water used, the different kinds of coffee beans, how to roast them, and finally what goes in to labeling and packaging the beans. Josh shared some of the real-life problems a business owner faces and of the ways he uses math on a daily basis to solve problems and run a successful business. He and Leigh even created “problems of the week” which the kids worked diligently to solve.
The students also learned about materials cost and calculating profit, based on those costs. Josh sold his beans to the students at cost and will be reimbursed from the profits they make from their weekly sales. Cups and lids were generously donated by EcoCup and school chef Dacia Horn supplied the sugar. After the purchase of four French presses and a supply of milk, they were ready for opening day.
The Coffee Cart opened for business on October 15 and served its final cup of coffee on December 20. For those two months, twice a week before school, rotating groups of 4 students held specific jobs including brewer (with adult supervision and delivery), sales, barista, price calculator (without using a calculator), cashier, and customer service. On those mornings, parents gathered with their cups of delicious steaming coffee while they took a few extra moments to enjoy conversation with each other. Teachers rushed over before the start of class to get their cup of enjoyment. A time or two, a thoughtful parent delivered a piping hot beverage to the staff on parking lot duty. The vibe on the steps of the elementary front porch was the same as a buzzing, happily bustling coffee shop.
The students received weekly accountings of their sales and studied gross and net sales, tips, and even replied to happy customer reviews through their sales app. After weighing all of their options, they decided that proceeds would fund their campaign to Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots project. Roots and Shoots is a youth service program that challenges students to map their community to determine its potential problems and help make a change. Leigh and Emma’s students will focus on homelessness as their community project and their work on the Roots and Shoots project will tie into the 4th/5th grade current social studies “Be The Change” unit.
Leigh already has plans for future hands-on math units anchored in real-life projects including fractions (cooking), geometry (tiny houses, raised garden beds), data and probability (games and surveys). Emma’s upcoming literacy lessons include narrative writing (witness statements and character writing for our upcoming government unit), a book club focusing on different kinds of American experiences, and a deep dive into the following questions: Who has power in the US? How did they get their power? How do we use our power?
Yes, content specializing by our dynamic teaching duo of Leigh and Emma, and projects like The Coffee Cart, prepare our students for middle school and gives them a chance to interact with a larger social group. Perhaps more important are the real-life skills like collaboration, communication, relationship building, and teamwork that, mixed with rich academics, prepare kids to thrive beyond the Friends School walls to become engaging, contributing, life-loving citizens. Just what this world needs right now. Pass the cream and sugar, please.Read More