Creative problem-solving skills prepare our students to tackle small and large challenges both inside out outside our school walls.Friends School uses Design Thinking to teach our students how to deconstruct problems and design innovative solutions, and what parents can do to support this at home.Read More
Friends Librarian, deana harragarra waters, loves books and reading. So do her students. When she asked our 5th graders about the value of reading, they had some great answers.Read More
There are so many amazing things happening all around Friends School. Our 4 division directors recently shared the highlights in preschool, elementary, middle school and the Teacher Preparation Program.Read More
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 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