by Meg Hansen, Director of Marketing and Communications
A beautiful, symbolic mural now graces the east side of our elementary school building, receiving praise from our internal community and those who pass by on 55th Street each day. Not only is it a stunning piece of public art to be enjoyed by all, it’s filled with symbolism from the birth of our school in 1987 to now. This years-long project became a reality thanks to the founders of Friends School and many others.
Under the guidance of Head of School Honor Taft and then Board Chair Jenny Donovan, the search began for a local mural artist who would not only create a beautiful visual for all to enjoy, but who would capture a design that reflects the values, vision and priorities of Friends School, including our commitment to protecting the environment and to diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice. After reviewing the work of several local and national artists, and with the help of Street Wise Arts, Friends selected artists Jaime Molina and Pedro Barrios from The Worst Crew to create this meaningful piece.
At the end of April 2022, parents, teachers and staff joined Streetwise Arts and artists Jaime and Pedro to explore our shared values and themes for this special mural. Subsequently, the artists spent time at the school meeting with all the elementary school students and teachers and surveyed all community members to capture multiple voices to use for their initial concept for the mural. And then they went to work. Several weeks later, they presented their design which was received with unanimous approval.
On September 1, 2022 Jaime and Pedro arrived with scaffolding equipment and began drawing the mural in real size on the side of the building. Students, staff and families were intrigued and often visited the wall over the next couple weeks to check on the progress and celebrate in the excitement of what was to come. Every day it progressed, the excitement built.
Work was completed on September 16, 2022 and unveiled to our community and all who pass by.
Each mural element tells the story of Friends School, all of which was captured from the history of our school and from the thoughts and dreams of our community members.
- Rain Cloud and Seeding– Represents the process of teaching and learning
- Head, Hand, Heart– Evolution from knowing to caring to loving to doing
- Cottonwood Branch– Story of the stars inside of the cottonwood branch. Reminder about the importance of wonder, respect for nature and the endless possibilities in creating your own world
- Bridge Shapes– Representative of the actual bridge in the preschool play area, and part of the beloved preschool silver and gold transition ceremony. Also a metaphor for compromise and using creativity to meet challenges and solve problems of all sorts
- Door– Represents the plethora of possibilities in learning when young people are encouraged to be active in their education and to open doors for themselves and for others in their community
- Puzzle Piece– Represents the process of students taking all of the experiences and knowledge that they have acquired and thinking critically to pull those pieces together
- Blank Page– Represents the eventual graduation of our students. Like all of our Friends School alumni, their futures and stories are unwritten and super exciting
- Flower heart – if regular love is symbolized by a heart with two humps, then this three humped version illustrates the extra love that you have that you wish to put out in the world. The symbol also represents the head, hand, heart that is central to the Friends School mission.
- Constellations – Illustrating the idea that the stars are out there for everyone to create their own constellations. You don’t have to accept the old fables that have been handed down. You can use your imagination and create your own.
Many thanks to everyone who was involved in this incredible project:
- Larry Gold and Hope Morrisett for their financial gift and initial vision for the project
- Jenny Donovan and Honor Taft, who spearheaded this project and pulled everything together from gathering proposals, to organizing our community, to managing the entire project.
- Friends art teacher Anna Ura and the Friends School students, teachers, staff, and parents who gave their input and shared stories of the things they love about our school to make sure that this artwork reflects our values and who we are as a community.
- Jamie Molina and Pedro Barrios of The Worst Crew for their incredible design and installation of this very meaningful piece of art.
- Leah Brenner Clack at Street Wise Arts who graciously and patiently guided us through this process.
K-8 PE Teacher, Steve Fragleasso (pr: frag-lee-AH-so) joined the Friends School team in January this year, bringing the joy of outdoor education to our students. Learn a little bit more about him in this brief interview.
Where are you from and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Golden, Co. Its proximity to trails and mountains shaped my future. Since then, I have bounced around the Colorado area a little, spending about two years in Lakewood and the past 9 years in Boulder. I just moved to Lafayette with my partner, Megan, where we bought a house.
Personal stats (family):
I have one younger sister who has a 1 and 4 year old that I take on adventures often. My father still lives in my childhood home in Golden.
What did you do before working at Friends School?
Before coming to Friends School I worked with a handful of organizations that got kids outside learning about camping, climbing, biking and other outdoor activities. One of those organizations is Avid4 Adventure and it is where I plan to continue to spend my summers.
What do you think will be interesting, fun or challenging about your job at Friends School?
When guiding and working with summer camps, I only get to spend about a week with the same kids before they are on to the next thing. I’m very excited to get the opportunity to work with students for longer periods of time.
What’s an interesting fact about you?
When I was 26, I attempted to hike the Colorado Trail solo only a few months after being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I overcame a large learning curve and I hiked from Denver to Gunnision in 18 days. In Gunnision I had to end my hike because of early winter storms.
What’s your favorite kind of music, favorite band, book, movie, food – you pick?
My favorite food is coconut lemongrass green curry.Read More
Gitanjali Rao is Time Magazine’s Kid of the Year and last week, our 5th-8th grade students had an exciting opportunity to meet with her and learn that she shares many of the same ideals we hold for our graduates.Read More
by Honor Taft, Head of School
The violent events at the nation’s capitol on Wednesday evening were a shock to all of us. At Friends School we teach our students the importance of being good community members. Our students learn to think critically, to see things from another’s perspective, and to honor different opinions while treating others with kindness and respect, always. In doing this, we teach our students about the meaning and power of democracy, they learn that they can and should take action and seek to make a difference, and to do so with empathy and compassion.
The last year has been challenging for our country and world with a pandemic as well as environmental uncertainties and social unrest. Our concern is for the health and healing of our country, our democracy, and for the wellbeing of our students. Some of our students may have seen the events unfolding on television. Talking about these events and the feelings that they ignite in age-appropriate ways, is important. We will continue to provide a safe place for our students to ask questions and express their concerns, and we will continue to offer comfort and stability in a world that has been increasingly confusing.
We encourage our parents to respond in ways that feel comfortable to you, with your child’s development in mind. Consider providing space for open discourse with your children if they come to you with questions. As adults, we can help process what is seen and heard, correct misinformation, and fill in the gaps with facts while creating safe spaces for conversation. While we may not be able to answer all of their questions, we can approach these conversations with curiosity, listen, and help them process their ideas and questions.
As we navigate these challenging times, I think once again of the strength of the Friends School community and I am filled with gratitude. That our children have the opportunity to to learn and grow as students and as human beings in this kind, caring environment and thoughtful community fills me with hope for what is possible. #FriendsTogether
Head of School
by Friends School mom and local trauma therapist, Lauren Hassan, LCSW
Many thanks to Friends School mom and trauma therapist, Lauren Hassan, LCSW, who met with our staff last week to provide tools and resources to navigate these challenging times. Lauren shares her experience as this week’s guest blogger.
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with our incredible teachers and staff at Friends School. We addressed what it means to be living in trauma and how to actively and purposefully cultivate resilience. And how to do this while being both present in our bodies and with each other. Our time together was a little bit of everything.
As a trauma therapist, I have been working in a microcosm of this pandemic. Sitting with individuals and feeling the depths of their experience through the unique lens of each life that sits with me on my screen. We dive deep into pain, we connect in vulnerability, we rebound in connecting to resources and resilience, often times we laugh and then we do it again the next week. This work is profound. I am privileged, humbled and honored to be invited into peoples’ worlds in this way.
Yet, there is a part of me that feels connected to something so much bigger as I think of all the shared pain, loss and fear; all who are sacrificing during this time. Each day I take the kids to school and pick them up, I find myself moved by the commitment our community is making. All of us! How can we truly support and show up for this community from within. From our core sense of self, reaching each individual who so passionately commits to our families and our children. I invite you to consider the same. Not just for our Friends School community, but for all communities in your life…family, friends, groups you are a part of, others in need. What could this look like if we all put our whole hearts into loving and showing up for each other?
Resilience. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but when we do this, when we give, even if we feel we have nothing to give, we expand our capacity to cultivate resilience. And with that, I leave this letter here for our incredible teachers and staff.
Dear teachers and all staff… all who work tirelessly to keep our school running,
You continue to show up in ways that you did not choose or necessarily sign up for. What you are enduring now, was likely far from your radar when you chose to engage in this line of work. You are being asked to establish safety for our community and our children and in that, to monitor behavior and circumstances that require hypervigilance every single day. Your roles have been renegotiated. How you connect and work as a team has been redefined. How you adapt is requiring intense flexibility and rigidity all at once. You are not only having to work with your own emotional needs and livelihoods, but you are supporting our children in theirs and identifying how to relate to and work with parents who likely all have a unique reaction to how everything is being handled. All while still teaching…still educating our children in their whole sense of self.
Oh and let’s please not forget, you all were heroes before this pandemic entered our lives. Committing to our children and our families through incredible skill, knowledge, collaboration, and empathic care. I said this when I first invited you to join me – you are warriors. Warriors who will forever be imprinted in the maps of our lives and in the narrative of our stories. We are forever grateful.
With all my love,
Learn more about Lauren and her work at laurenhassan.com.Read More
by Lucy Goldstein, Pre-K Parent at Friends School
Last week as a Pre-K west volunteer parent, I wrote a note of appreciation to the teachers for the month of September. To my surprise, they asked if I would share my thoughts with all of you. It was a note to say thank you, particularly as Harvest Week arrives because there is so much for which we can be grateful. Most importantly, the school has made it through September and part of October without a hitch! At least that is how the teachers, staff and administrators have made it seem from our side of the fence when we drop off our children. And while I do not see all of the labor that goes into keeping the school doors open, the teachers and staff have done a wonderful job of thinking outside of the box, continuing to be positive, and providing all of us an in-person school experience despite the personal hardships everyone is taking on. And that’s where my thoughts turn more serious too.
Every day while our children go to school, our whole country is still experiencing such unprecedented loss: loss of lives, loss of jobs, loss of the way we used to do things, loss of in-person schooling for the majority of our country’s children, loss of the simple things like being together unencumbered by worries of contagion, and on a macro level, loss of honest and dignified political leadership at the highest of levels and in every branch of government. Indeed, with each new week of news and an election around the corner, our spirits are being asked to re-examine who we are as a country. What should health, justice and equality look like for ourselves and those different from ourselves? At the same time, I also have an unextinguished hope that we will, as a more unified people, prevail. That with this degree of disruption and pain, the soil of our humanity is being tilled, and from that, new growth will occur.
Part of this new growth is, I believe, apparent in the way Friends School guides each child. Despite COVID-19, the injustice to black lives, RBGs death, fire ashes falling in the air as I write, our teachers still show up every day with a big smile, upbeat voice, and open arms engaging children in the most important of human skills: curiosity, presence, joy, learning to listen – not just to others, but to their own bodies and the elements around them, asking deep questions about kindness and what it looks like, giving children healthy language to play together and apart, teaching them to balance acceptance of others with self-advocacy. In truth, these are the most essential tools for us as humans because they help develop wisdom and compassion. They teach our children that despite our differences, each human and the nature around us has value – no matter where we are born, and no matter what color, gender or religion. And that is the real heart of the matter, making sure the next generation honors each other in a more thoughtful way than many of our current societal structures demonstrate.
In light of Harvest Week, I am grateful for the intention Friends School brings to every child. We are so fortunate to have such a caring and intelligent school community. And, on behalf of all of the parents, thank you, Friends, for a wonderful September and October in such challenging times. May we continue to reap the harvest of the teachers’ and staff’s thoughtful labor.
by Honor Taft, Head of School
Last week as we closed our fifth week of school, and Rosh Hashanah began, the news about supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginserburg flooded my screen world, as I imagine it did yours. This felt like another blow in this surreal and ublievelable reality that is 2020. And, as I find myself thinking about the strength and resolve of this incredible woman, I am inspired and feel called to action.
RBG took steps every day to make the world a better place. She did not retreat when the fight became hard or the work seemed too much… though I am certain there were moments in her life when she considered it. RBG believed in the beauty of humanity and the possibility of a more just and kind world – a belief that I believe we share.
RBG’s legacy makes me think about what we are doing at Friends School each and every day. More than ever, our approach and philosophy of education, built upon the work of the great minds of progressive education, is especially essential. Drawing upon the work of John Dewey, we endeavor to teach students how to think over what to think. We do this by engaging students in work that is both meaningful and impactful. Through this, our students learn that they have agency, that what they do, can and does make a difference.
Many things are difficult right now, and so much is unknown on a daily basis. The challenges seem unrelenting at times, and we can easily spend all of our time solving for the next few moments, hours, or day. Even within this, though, Friends School knows our call to action. We meaningfully provide for the children in our care, helping them find their passions and their voices, encouraging kindness and empathy in a world that needs it now more than ever.
Friends School, and each of you makes a difference in the daily lives of children and in so doing we are making a positive difference in our world. This is an incredible bright spot and cause for celebration.
Friends School: Making the world better by challenging minds, nurturing spirits and honoring individuality.Read More
Today marks the first Friday of in-person learning for our students in Kindergarten through eighth grade (our preschool division begins Monday). Getting school up and running is an event in any year, but 2020 has been a whole new experience.Read More
School may be out for summer, but warm memories of the 5th grade passagework hike still fill our hearts. And while “what happens on the hike, stays on the hike”, one graduating parent gives us an inside glimpse into this very special ritual.Read More
Statement to the community by Honor Taft, Head of School and Jenefer Donovan, Friends Community Board Chair
June 2, 2020
Dear Friends School Community,
There is a problem in America affecting all of us. At Friends School we stand unequivocally against racism and believe we can and must be part of the change for a better world by honoring, nurturing and challenging one another.
We mourn with Black communities, the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Their tragic deaths are only the most recent harsh reminders that the ugly truth of racism is both prevalent and systemic.
The pain of the past week’s events weighs heavily in our hearts and we stand in active solidarity with all who strive for social justice. Friends School is committed to preparing strong, courageous people to use our voices to promote justice.
We believe that ending racism begins with education, compassion, and critical thinking and that having difficult and important conversations with our children will make an impact. Friends School has gathered these resources to support families in navigating these critical conversations about race. Additionally, we would like to share the following links:
- Race and parenting: Why raising ‘colorblind’ kids is actually a terrible idea: https://www.today.com/parents/how-teach-kids-about-race-don-t-be-colorblind-t115136
- Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge: https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-05-30/dont-understand-the-protests-what-youre-seeing-is-people-pushed-to-the-edge
- Kojo For Kids: Jason Reynolds Talks About Racism And The Protests: https://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2020-06-01/kojo-for-kids-jason-reynold-talks-about-racism-and-the-protests?
- A Child’s View of the Death of George Floyd: https://stonesoup.com/post/a-childs-view-of-the-death-of-george-floyd-by-amara-9/
Head of School
Friends School Community Board Chair
We love hearing stories about the ways our students are spending their time away from the remote classroom. This week, guest blogger and Friends School mom Chelsea Flagg, describes some of the amazing performances her three daughters have been putting on the last couple months from home. We’re excited to attend one of their Sunday afternoon plays.Read More
Friends School parent Jody Castrillon is a Registered Nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado. We recently caught up with her to get the lowdown on what her experience has been on the frontlines of children’s healthcare locally right now. We thank Jody for blogging with us, and for her impactful work!Read More