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
Student birthdays are celebrated a little differently at Friends School. Students are treated to deliciously, sweet, kind and funny words of appreciation for their classmates on their big day. One mom shares her experience in witnessing her own child’s celebration.Read More
Growing up in the Bay Area, Friends art teacher Bryn Pennington was exposed to a rich tapestry of cultural traditions. She felt humbled to experience the traditions of her closest friends, and today shares them with her students in Art Studio.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
Parents of Friends preschoolers know that their children are learning at one of Boulder’s best preschools. What’s often a surprise for them, however, is the added parent education they receive from our amazing preschool team.Read More
Halloween and Day of the Dead are not the same thing. Friends Spanish Teacher, Maria Gamboa, loves sharing this important tradition of her native Mexico with her students and integrating it with beautiful art projects.Read More
Middle school science teacher Kevin Nugent does his part to lessen his carbon footprint. For one, he commutes by bike from Denver to Boulder every day. While it can be overwhelming for our students to tackle climate issues, Kevin showed them with one project they can lessen our impact on the world.Read More
By Honor Taft, Head of School
On a recent Friday, while visiting with our middle school students, I witnessed something unique that I believe captures some of the magic of our school. As part of the daily welcome, middle school science teacher Kevin Nugent prompted the students to share one or two things they are grateful for. As this traveled around the group of nearly forty students, and as students expressed gratitude for pets and food and family, at least 6 of them included “Friends School” on the short list of things that they are grateful for. One student went further, saying “I am grateful for friends, and just to be clear, I mean the school and the people.”
If you haven’t spent much time around middle school age students, this may not seem noteworthy. But if you have (or when you do), you will know that for a middle school student to be so bold and proud as to speak up and compliment their school in front of their peers is something truly special. Students at our school are not only being challenged in their classes, they are seen, known and valued for who they are and they feel this to their very core.
As a parent remarked to me at the close of graduation in May, Friends School sent a class of students into the world having loved middle school and that is an accomplishment to be proud of. How many of us as children loved our own middle school experience? I can’t say that I loved mine like our students love Friends.
This is the power of Friends School – cultivating a love of learning and a secure view of self that results in empowered, thoughtful and skilled people who know what community feels like and who do and will have a positive impact on our world.
We are honored to provide this experience and environment for our littlest preschoolers all the way through to our 8th graders. And we are grateful to be part of this remarkable community…the school and the people.Read More
by Jenefer Donovan, Friends School Community Board Chair
The new school year is now well underway and off to a great start! From day one I have been overwhelmed by the multitude of ways in which I have witnessed all the elements of Friends School’s mission in action…I have felt the energy and excitement of a dynamic community reuniting and reaching out to support one another and welcome our new families; I have been amazed by the wealth of team-building, collaborative projects and hands-on academic activities taking place in classrooms and I have been touched by the kindness of children connecting and helping others transition. I have felt the renewed energy of our wonderful teachers and met enthusiastic teacher candidates. I have admired the creative process of an elementary all-school collaborative art project and overheard middle schoolers display their passion for learning in eagerly asking when their full schedule would start! I have noticed the time taken in every grade for students to reflect on and share about themselves and listen to their peers, and for teachers and students to all get to know each other again; and I have seen the 5th graders already stepping up as leaders showing compassion and empathy for the new Kindergarteners helping them to feel safe, welcome and at home at Friends School.
These are just a few examples of the elements of the Friends School mission being put into practice, and all of this was in just the first week!
Before Honor started at Friends School, she began looking at everything here through the lens of the school’s mission and vision. One of her priorities in her first year was to “align decision-making practices with the mission and vision of the school”. She worked to bring Friends School’s mission and vision into everyday decision-making, keeping them front and center, putting children and mission first and consistently using the mission and vision to guide her and her leadership team. She encouraged all teachers and staff to do the same. Honor has also brought the 3 core principles of the vision to the forefront: ‘challenging minds, nurturing spirits and honoring individuality’. These provide the framework for all that the school does and, as you know, they have been chosen as the theme for the school this year.
In early September, the Friends School Community Board met for the first time this school year. I would like to thank all of our dedicated trustees for their hard work and commitment to the school. Over the summer the board read First Do No Harm, Progressive Education in a Time of Existential Risk by Steve Nelson and was inspired by his demonstration of “how education can nurture engaged and motivated children who actively discover their world and grow up to be good citizens”. Friends School has been the leader among Boulder schools in social and emotional education for over 32 years and we were proud to appreciate, while reading this book, that Friends School excels on every aspect of Nelson’s ‘Educational Bill of Rights’:
- Recognize the broad consensus that early childhood education should be primarily dedicated to free, imaginative play;
- Provide arts programming, recognizing that the arts are critical to all learning and to understanding the human experience;
- Provide ample physical movement, both in physical education classes and in other ways, recognizing that exercise enhances learning for all children;
- Exhibit awareness that children develop at different rates and different ways; that strict age or grade level standards and expectations are meaningless and damaging;
- Acknowledge the large body of evidence that long hours of homework are unnecessary and detract from children’s (and families’) quality of life;
- Exhibit genuine respect for all children;
- Honor a wide range of personalities and temperaments;
- Encourage curiosity, risk-taking and creativity;
- Cultivate and sustain intrinsic motivation rather than relying on elaborate extrinsic systems of rewards and punishments;
- Understand that brain research supports active learning, engaging all the senses;
- Understand that all children are intelligent in multiple ways and that all these intelligences should be honored and developed;
- Listen to each child’s voice, give them real experience in democratic processes, and allow them to express their individuality;
- Know each child well, appreciate the unique mix of qualities each child brings, and never demean, discourage or humiliate any child.
This year, Friends School Community Board has the important responsibility of creating the next strategic framework/plan for the school. Each of our board meetings throughout the year will include a strategic thinking work session. As we move through the process we will first examine our mission and vision, our “North Star”, guiding us through the journey of creation and implementation of the framework/plan. We will then gather input and data from the entire Friends School Community – teachers, staff, students, parents, families, trustees, founders, alumni parents and alumni students, before synthesizing and processing the data and formulating a strategic, flexible, forward-thinking framework/plan for Friends School.
I am looking forward to working on this process with the Friends School Community Board and our Strategic Planning Committee, led by alumni parent and trustee Anne Hunter. I am also excited to hear from all of you. Over the next few months the Strategic Planning Committee will reach out to all of you with various opportunities for you to provide your input – these could be surveys, small group vision meetings, or larger ‘dream-catcher’ meetings. We hope that you will participate in whichever ways work for you. Friends School is one of Boulder’s best independent schools because it has a strong community that cares.
Thank you all for being part of what makes Friends School such a special place for all our children.
Jenefer Donovan, Friends School Community Board Chair
If you would like more information on the role of the Friends School Community Board or are interested in being part of one of the Community Board committees, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.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
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 Anastasia Hook, at Friends School since 6th grade.
Name: Anastasia Hook
What grade are you in and how long have you been at Friends School?
I am in 8thgrade and I have been at Friends School for three years – since the beginning of 6thgrade, so all of middle school. Before this I went to Community Montessori.
This is a much smaller school than Community Montessori was. The teachers really have time to work with me one-on-one and go through things in a lot of detail to make sure you really understand things.
How old are you?
I am 14 years old.
Share a memory from a ceremony or trip. Tell me about the experience and what it meant to you.
Last year in Moab all the girls were in one room and we stayed up until about 1:00am talking about all kinds of stuff. We were sad that the year was ending and, even though we would be together again the next year, we were sad it was ending. And Kevin was downstairs and he heard all of our secrets. We were both embarrassed and we thought it was funny. We were laughing and covering our faces when we found out.
Tell me about a project or class that stands out and/or inspired you.
Science really inspires me. Kevin is one of the greatest teachers ever. He has us do really creative and interesting projects. Also, if we are struggling he gives us really inspirational talks. Pretty recently, for example, he gave us a talk about what it will be like when we go to high school. He said there will be the chance for a lot of parties and things, but we should always remember to put our school work first. We need to do this because getting a strong GPA from the start is easier than bringing it up if you start off with lower grades. I had no idea about this before.
What will you take from your experience here into your future?
Friendship. I worked on being friends with people. At CM making friends depended on how we acted. Here, because it is so small, we really only had each other. We might not have been friends in another setting, but this taught me to expand the kinds of friends I have. I know that I can be friends with people even if it doesn’t seem like I can.
Tell me about a person from Friends that stands out and/or inspired you.
Kevin. He has taught us so much in science and otherwise. Also, my friend Ali who gives me a lot of inspiration to try things I wouldn’t try otherwise. She helps to push me out of my comfort zone. And all of my friends here who help me to be the best version of myself.
Do you have advice for future Friends students?
There will be a point some time in life – I don’t know when – when you will feel like what you’re doing doesn’t really matter, or that your grades aren’t important. Even if it is unimportant to you, it is important to someone else, so just work on it and get it done. Also, take every opportunity to do more – if there is extra credit work you can do, do it!
Do you have any advice for me, things to change/things not to change?
Be a friend to the people in the school – being a friend may be more important than being a head of school.
Do you know where you will go to High School?
New Vista – I am so excited. I am ready for a bigger environment, making new friends and having new experiences.
The following questions were asked of Anastasia by first grade students Johnny and Olive, who were acting as junior heads of school for the day:
Johnny – what is your favorite sport?
I’m not really a sports fan, but if I had to choose, I would go for running or volleyball.
Olive – What is something in your life that you would want to go back and change?
Nothing, because if you change something, then you wouldn’t be where you are. I am glad for the experiences I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made and the people I know. I wouldn’t change anything.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 Tori School, at Friends School since 3rd grade.
Name: Tori Schell
What grade are you in? 8th.
How old are you? – 15 years old. My birthday is February 17. I have been at Friends School since third grade. Before that I was in a Montessori school, and before that I was in SC at a school called St. Matthews.
Tell me about a person from Friends that stands out and/or inspired you. Diane Bramble inspired me in so many ways. She is the person who taught me to read which is so incredibly special. Diane has been there from the beginning. She will talk with me about absolutely anything and she always listens to me, too. I know that Diane always has my back.
When did you feel like Friends School was the place for you? For me, this happened on my first day of school. I started a couple of days late, because I was on a trip or something. So it was a few days into the school year in Diane’s class and things had already gotten started. Also, many of the kids already knew each other from second grade. So I was a little nervous. I walked in and there was no one in the room. All I saw was Diane sitting there quietly and I was really confused. I walked in and then, to my surprise, everyone jumped out from behind bookcases and couches and surprised me! I felt welcomed and excited and I knew then that this was the place for me.
Share a memory from a ceremony or trip. Tell me about the experience and what it meant to you.
We were just talking about a memory today – when we went rafting. I got teary-eyed – there have been so many fun times. Every memory I have of a trip or ceremony has been special to me in different ways. I can’t really choose a favorite because I loved them all.
One memory that shows how caring everyone is takes me back to Grade 5 when we were coming back from our trip. I had gotten very sick and still wasn’t feeling well on the bus. To make things worse, we had completely run out of tissues. My teacher, Liz, got the bus driver to go to Target and everyone was encouraging her to get the best tissues for me. She returned to the bus with a big box of tissues and I slept in the back of the bus for the rest of the ride feeling supported and cared about by my teachers and friends.
What was it like being a part of starting the middle school
It was really fun, I have to say. There have been times when we’ve had to be flexible and go with the flow, but we are such a connected class and it really feels like we are a part of something special. Whenever we say, “do we have to…?” Kevin always says, “no, you get to…!” After hearing that for three years, I think it’s finally starting to sink in.
Do you know where you will go to High School?
I am going to Monarch. I’m excited and a little bit nervous. Mostly, I’m nervous about getting lost.
What will you take from your experience here into your future? There are a lot of lessons I have learned from being here. Especially in the middle school. I was shy and being here has really brought me out of my shell, and helped me believe in myself. I am still a perfectionist, but being here has taught me that it is okay to be a little less perfect. Learning this has been helpful because I now try new things and feel good about who I am.
Do you have advice for future Friends students? I think the advice I would give is to really connect with the people around you. Knowing that you have a community around you will really lift you up. I can’t say enough how grateful I am for my friends and the friendships I have. Bring your peers up and they will bring you up too.
What question haven’t I asked you that I should have?
What makes this school special? It is the community. It is really special and I am going to miss it a lot.Read More