Challenging Minds, Nurturing Spirits, Honoring Individuality as we start a new school year at Friends School
Introduction by Jenefer Donovan, Friends School Board Chair with excerpts from our division directors (Jessie Vanden Hogen, Mandy Stepanovsky and Shelby Pawlina)
The first weeks of school are an exciting time of building the wonderful community and norms that carry us through the school year and for which Friends School is known. Across the school from Preschool, through the elementary and middle school years and into the Teacher Preparation Program, Friends School is already challenging minds, nurturing spirits and honoring individuality. We invite you to read these back-to-school updates from our program directors.
PRESCHOOL NEWS UPDATE (& Parent Reading Recommendations for all ages)
The Preschool is off to a great start in co-creating our new communities. We had a great New Parent Orientation, delightful day of Class Lemonades, and welcoming Home Visits. Included in this new batch of morning preschool families are some old friends and some new friends. We are growing connections and building trust with parents and children as we set out to create a very gentle, supportive and successful first school experience for the littlest ones. We take our jobs very seriously as we know the dynamics of the gifts and challenges in beginning the journey of separation.
With Head of School Honor Taft’s 4 trail-markers in mind – 1) Social and Emotional Literacy, 2) Creativity, Collaboration and Communication, 3) Rich Academics, and 4) Diversity, Social Justice and Service Learning – the preschool team picked up a few books for our summer reading. NOTE: Some books and authors definitely challenged our thinking and beliefs as well as gave us new perspectives! Our ongoing commitment to professional education and best practices is part of what we believe makes us the best preschool in Boulder.
- Being at Your Best When Your Kids are at Their Worst – Practical Compassion in Parenting By Kim John Payne
- From Teaching to Thinking By Ann Pelo and Margie Carter
- Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers By Dr. Gabor Mate´
- It’s Ok Not to Share and Other Renegade rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids By Heather Shumaker
- StoryMaking – The Maker Movement Approach to Literacy for Early Learners By Michelle Kay Compton and Robin Chappele Thompson
What we came away with were some themes to work with throughout the year ahead: Empathy – Boundaries – Community – Play
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL NEWS UPDATE
“It looks so open in here!” “The school feels wonderful” “Everything is so light and bright.” These are just a few of the accolades heard as parents entered the elementary school for the first time this school year. It was a busy summer with painting, purging and preparing for students to arrive. The energy in the building has been full of anticipation and excitement for the year ahead. We have only been in school for a short time, but there is already much to celebrate.
We are already challenging minds through:
- Assignments and projects focused on celebrating our summer vacations and setting goals for the year ahead.
- 4th and 5th grade Invention Convention projects
- Implementation of the new math curriculum
- Benchmark testing in literacy and math
- Teacher participation in a day-long Design Thinking workshop with Future Design School that prepared them to bring design thinking into their classrooms this year.
We nurture spirits through:
- Welcoming our new Kindergarten friends and their families to the community, and new friends in other grades too.
- Implementation of Responsive Classroom practices in our K/1 classrooms after teachers participated in a week-long training. With the new implementation of full-day Kindergarten throughout Colorado, we continue to be the most intentional, nurturing, and best Kindergarten in Boulder.
- Time taken in each classroom to set class norms, create class constitutions and engage students in creating the type of learning environment they would like to have.
- Start of the 8 week parent Mindfulness workshop
We are honoring individuality through:
- The creation of a “cool down” space in the old copy room. This is a place where students can go to quietly draw, or jump on a trampoline when they need a moment to reset during the school day.
- Projects and assignments aimed at sharing individual interests/experiences as students get to know each other at the start of the school year.
- The creation of learning plans to further differentiate learning for students who need specific accommodations across subject areas.
- The exploration and celebration of Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences in 3rd Grade
MIDDLE SCHOOL NEWS UPDATE
The middle school has grown by over 50% this year, and the energy in the building is exciting and inspiring! This incredible growth is a great demonstration of the need for a new, more progressive Boulder Middle School option.
- Summer book discussions – Each grade had a book to read over the summer that Diane chose specifically for its appeal to middle schoolers. One parent of an 8th grader reported that her child LOVED the book so much…a first for him! Each class discussed their opinions of the book, character development, plot, and other aspects of the book. It was a nice way to begin an academic conversation while getting to know one another.
- Problem- solving activities – Remember the game of Mastermind with the colorful pegs? At the middle school there is a similar game that we play…Pico-Firme-Bago in which students have to guess a set of numbers in a particular order while being given feedback of the accuracy of their guesses. The cheers that come from the homeroom when the correct number is finally guessed/ revealed are always enthusiastic. On a physical level, the popular camp game Human Knot got students problem-solving in a different way. Nuno led good reflective sessions on the process, connecting this to group work and problem-solving in general.
- Camping Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park -Temple Grandin has discussed the importance of leveraging the skills of visual learners and making sure our children learn the basics of cooking, shopping, and fixing things- engaging in hands-on learning as much as possible. Our trips program is underpinned by these expectations. In the days before the trip, students developed the menu for the trip, went grocery shopping for the ingredients (comparing products, figuring out amounts, and managing a budget), and learned how to set up/ dismantle the tents independently. On the trip, every student had an opportunity to be on a cook team and clean up team. For some students, these were first time events. There is something about doing things that expand our comfort zones that builds a greater and more nuanced sense of self, increased self-awareness and self-advocacy. In middle school, this is what we are going for.
- All About Me – One of our first central activities is the “All About Me” assignment that culminates in a Gallery Walk before the camping trip. Each student creates a poster of their design and presentation that includes information about each person’s personal heroes, favorite books, important event in their lives, etc. These are great ways to get to know one another as well as serving as jumping in points for teachers to connect curriculum with student experiences. These will decorate the homeroom and hallways.
The school year is off to an incredible start, and we can’t wait for a full year of challenging minds, nurturing spirits, and honoring individuality in this incredible school community.Read More
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.
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