Archives for March 2017

Parent-Teacher Conferences Strengthen Communication

Parent-Teacher Conferences RHBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Parent-Teacher Conferences are on Friday, March 17th. These conferences provide a valuable opportunity to strengthen communication between home and school. You and your child’s teachers can share information, as well as brainstorm ideas for any areas of concern. Our partnerships with our families are important because working together improves the likelihood of a successful learning experience for our preschoolers.    

Did you know?
Our teachers receive a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education each year. Over Winter Break, we attended a workshop on classroom environments. Our approach has always been to look at the classroom as a third teacher.  It’s more than rearranging furniture and placement of materials on the shelves. Everyone returned with new ideas and reflected on what our space means to our families, children, and teachers. We’re sure the children will notice the changes in their classrooms right away.

Thought-provoking for Students and Parents Alike!

Screenagers_4x6_RG ArticleBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This week on the Goshen Campus we showed the recent documentary, Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age, to both our Middle School student body and to interested parents in an evening showing on Tuesday. Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age takes a hard look at the deleterious effects of ever increasing screen time via cell phones, tablets, and computer screens among our youth. It was appropriate for kids and adults both – although the two groups may have widely divergent views on the film’s themes!

Here are some of the salient points and memorable quotes I took away:

  • Searching for information and stimuli via electronic devices satisfies basic human instincts and, in fact, produces dopamine and pleasure.
  • When asked how they feel about their cell phones, many teens used the word “addicted” without any sense of shame.
  • Multi-tasking via multiple screens may appear more productive, but studies have shown that it actually reduces one’s productivity.
  • Using cell phones during class reduces students’ comprehension of classroom material. In fact, if two students are sitting next to one another and one has a phone out, it reduces both of their comprehension levels. This is contrasted with doodling, which actually increases concentration for some students. They are engaged with what is going on, whereas with cell phone usage, students are “elsewhere.”
  • Teenage boys are currently averaging 11.3 hours per week locked onto screens outside of their time in school. In many cases, most of these hours are spent on video games, and those are often of a violent nature. These type of video games usually produce a decrease in one’s ability to have empathy and instead increase aggressive thoughts.  
  • Teen (and pre-teen) age girls, conversely, frequently use their cell phones to post photos on social media, and often these are pictures of themselves attempting to “pose” as they see adult women portrayed in the media.
  • Schools tend to have one of three responses to cell phone usage: an outright ban on them; the “anything goes/Wild West” approach; or something in the middle. The last approach attempts to teach kids about how best to use this technology as they will use it in their adult and work lives. While we don’t allow cell phones to be out and used in general on the Goshen Campus, this is more in line with our current practice. Teachers determine when they are appropriate educationally in their classrooms.

So what to make of all this? While students may think we show them films like this to drive home the point that “cell phones are bad” or harmful, that is certainly not our intention. We had our kids discuss the movie in their advisory groups afterwards and the discussions were lively. Shelly Jones led a summary of those conversations at Morning Meeting on Wednesday and many of the kids clearly understood that we are in partnership with them in trying to find the proper balance of healthy technology usage in their lives.

The parent discussion after the adult screening was also very engaging. Here are some of the takeaways from that discussion:

  • Limit-setting regarding screen time in the home is perfectly acceptable. Kids need to have limits and know that other families are doing the same thing. Firmness in this area is essential by the parents. Many families collect screens at a certain time every night.
  • Some families even provide their kids with cell phone “contracts” upon receiving them, defining parameters around their usage.
  • Kids need to be taught that time away from screens is critical and real! Learning how to maintain eye contact and have two-way conversations is a skill that humans will always need. (As one expert said, “No business contract is ever sealed over a teleconference. The business trip will never go away.”)
  • Participating in extracurricular activities and other healthy alternatives to excessive screen usage is more positive for kids.
  • Consider alternatives to constant technology usage such as “a no-screens carpool time” or “tech-free Tuesdays”.
  • Talk to your kids about screen usage. Having an honest exchange and explaining your reasoning is better than simply issuing edicts.

There are no easy answers. But one thing is for sure – this topic is not going away. The best thing we can do is help  educate our kids and stay engaged with them on this topic. And thoughtful movies like Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age are a step in the right direction.

I also want to take a moment to thank all of you for your kind words of support in regards to my recent trip to Japan to run the Tokyo Marathon. I could feel the support of the whole SFS family and it helped tremendously when the going got tough. I feel blessed as always to be a part of this special community!

Diversity Week Events bring Understanding

Diverstity Week HS 2017By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I asked Terri White, School Counselor, to recap the Diversity Week that she and Spanish teacher Angela Katz, along with a group of students, held last week. A huge thanks to Terri White and Angela Katz and the excellent leadership in the student committee for all their work on this multi-day event! Read on for Terri’s account:

The High School’s annual Diversity Week brought thoughtful and interesting programming to the Downtown Campus all week. Highlights of the week included a two-part panel on Tuesday, a privilege activity on Wednesday, the Diversity Fair on Thursday, and the Diversity Potluck on Friday.

The panel first featured speakers from the community. Ted Farrell, a local immigration attorney, answered questions on immigration, current laws, the three branches of government, and the impact of the new administration. Karina Barillas from La Casita answered questions and presented information on the experience of documented and undocumented immigrants. Fatima Zuhali and her daughter, Ayah Kutmah, spoke about their experience as Muslim women in the United States and how to be an ally. Then it was our students’ turn: six of our own students (Iqlas Abukar, Muni Yusuf, Shams Shaker, Andrea Brito, Aakriti Bista, and Hana Ibrahim) shared their experiences of being immigrants to the United States or children of immigrants, of being Muslim and wearing – or not wearing – the hijab. It felt significant for students to hear both from adults in the community and from peers that they sit next to every day.

On Wednesday, students participated in an activity designed to understand privilege. The students were divided by grade, lining up side by side. Several statements were read. Students were then asked to take a step forward for each statement that was true for them. The activity offered a visual representation of privilege. The activity was followed by an all-school discussion. The discussion was an amazing moment for SFS. Students were sharing their experience of privilege or lack of privilege and educating each other. You could hear a pin drop as all of the students were focused on whoever was speaking. The amount of support and respect in the room was palpable. This was one of those moments when you truly appreciate and are in awe of the SFS student community.

Thursday brought the Diversity Fair, an event first held last year that invites any student or group who wishes to have a booth or table. This year, displays included Gender Club, Black Students Association, Chinese culture, Jewish culture, Sweden, Mexico, Somalia, Appalachian music, henna, and traditional dress worn by students representing Nepal, Somalia, Mexico, Ukraine, and Iraq. There were many games and activities to help educate and entertain the students.

The events were capped off on Friday with the annual Diversity Potluck, where students bring in and share their favorite dishes during lunch. A feast of epic proportions and rich in ethnic and cultural variety was served to the student body. The Diversity Potluck never disappoints and is always a wonderful and different way that the students share themselves with the community.

School Notes for Week of March 6 – March 10

The Science Olympiad Regional Competition is Saturday, March 18th at KCD and parent volunteers are needed to prepare and run events. Science Olympiad is an all-day competition where Middle School and High School teams participate in 23 events covering all aspects of science; from technology and engineering, to chemistry and physics, to life sciences. Teams from both of our campuses have been working hard collecting materials, studying, practicing, building, breaking, and rebuilding.

The Louisville Regional Competition is the only one in the state that is completely organized and run by teachers and volunteers from the competing schools. For this year’s competition, we are still in need of Event Supervisors for three of the events at the High School level: Remote Sensing (using remote sensing imagery, data, and computational process skills to complete tasks related to climate change processes in the Earth system), Hydrogeology (manipulating a groundwater computer model to answer questions about groundwater concepts, and evaluate solutions based on hydrogeological evidence, to reduce anthropogenic effects on groundwater), and Experimental Design (determining a team’s ability to design, conduct, and report the findings of an experiment actually conducted on site).

If you or anyone you know would be interested in volunteering to prepare and run an event or would like more information about the events, please contact Downtown Campus chemistry teacher Luke Johnson

Photo Gallery for Week of March 6 – March 10

 

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NAIS Conference brings Inspiration

NAIS logo_4x6By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I’m writing this from the NAIS Annual Conference in Baltimore. NAIS is always one of my favorite professional development opportunities; the depth and breadth of the workshops and speakers are superb. The opening keynote speaker was Onaje Woodbine, author of Black Gods of the Asphalt: Religion, Hip-Hop, and Street Basketball. He was accompanied by dance and spoken word to deliver his thoughts on the storytelling that occurs through basketball on the streets. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking delivered the afternoon keynote. Sir Ken Robinson and Brené Brown are speaking today; I look forward to those sessions as well!

In attending workshops at the conference, I generally choose topics that focus on the health and well-being of students and faculty. I think the school environment and culture at St. Francis is healthy and corresponds well to the mission and core values of the school, but I also think there’s always room to be better and that we never want to become complacent. I hate being away from school, and in particular from the students, but this conference is always worth it in the thoughts it provokes and ideas it inspires.

Speaking of thought-provoking and inspirational, our annual Diversity Week has been the best yet, thanks to Terri White, Angela Katz, and our student Diversity Committee. Because I had to miss several of the days, Terri will share a report on the week’s activities in next Friday’s newsletter.

Please come out to see Nineteen Eighty-Four tonight or tomorrow – 7:00 p.m. both nights in the Performing Arts Space on the Downtown Campus!

Living History Museum

Living History Museum_22By Sarah Dewberry, Language Arts/Social Studies – Goshen Campus

As many of you know, Reed is away this week after running the Tokyo Marathon with his daughter last Sunday. This completed the Six Marathon Majors for him and he has been sending us photos of this travels (which can be found in this week’s photo gallery). Lower School language arts teacher Sarah Dewberry is filling in as “guest columnist,” sharing information on the 4th grade Living History Museum.

Colonial America was alive and well in the Lower School on Tuesday when the 4th graders presented the annual Living History Museum. As the culmination of a month’s study of Colonial America and the people of that period who made their mark on history, each 4th grader read, researched, and wrote about someone living in the colonies during that time. They created a visual project to display their knowledge and presented the Living History Museum to their parents and the student body.

As they perused the exhibits, visitors to the museum had the chance to talk with Alexander and Eliza Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and Pocahontas, among others! They may have dominated – or been stumped by – a variety of trivia games. Perhaps they heard the story of Mary Ludwig and how she got her nickname of Molly Pitcher. Visitors took in the plentiful information found on a variety of display boards, admired sculptures and scenes created by the students, or found themselves in a tour of a virtual Minecraft creation. Creativity abounds in 4th grade!

Parents Extend a Helping Hand

CarpoolBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

We want to thank Shari Broecker (Olivia Kate’s mom) for helping us with carpool on Monday. She didn’t hesitate to jump in and help when she heard the majority of our teachers hadn’t made it to school yet due to an incident on Highway 42. Fortunately, our teachers were only a few minutes late, but the kind gesture is one of many that we experience from our parent community each day. We also want to thank the Brabandt family for the occasional unexpected doughnut drop-off; it is always very appreciated!

Parent-Teacher Conferences are Friday, March 17th. Please note that the Preschool will be closed on Friday, March 17th and the conference sign-up link will be emailed to families early next week.

Summer Camp dates and information can be found on our School’s website. Our one-week sessions feature a summer full of outdoor activity, imaginative learning, and creative fun! There is still time to receive the early bird discount for signing up before Monday, April 10th. Use the code EarlyBird when registering. 

School Notes for Week of February 27 – March 3

Attention, 8th Grade Parents: If you and your child are interested in attending Admitted Students Day on Sunday, March 5th from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m., please be sure to RSVP to Kisha WattsAll 8th graders from our Goshen Campus are encouraged to attend if they are considering the High School at St. Francis!

We’ll have activities planned for the students to get to know their future classmates. While your child is making new friends, you will have the opportunity to meet other parents of incoming students and participate in a Q&A session with school administration. We will be providing refreshments during the event.

The Science Olympiad Regional Competition is Saturday, March 18th at KCD and parent volunteers are needed to prepare and run events. Science Olympiad is an all-day competition where Middle School and High School teams participate in 23 events covering all aspects of science; from technology and engineering, to chemistry and physics, to life sciences. Teams from both of our campuses have been working hard collecting materials, studying, practicing, building, breaking, and rebuilding.

The Louisville Regional Competition is the only one in the state that is completely organized and run by teachers and volunteers from the competing schools. For this year’s competition, we are still in need of Event Supervisors for three of the events at the High School level: Remote Sensing (using remote sensing imagery, data, and computational process skills to complete tasks related to climate change processes in the Earth system), Hydrogeology (manipulating a groundwater computer model to answer questions about groundwater concepts, and evaluate solutions based on hydrogeological evidence, to reduce anthropogenic effects on groundwater), and Experimental Design (determining a team’s ability to design, conduct, and report the findings of an experiment actually conducted on site).

If you or anyone you know would be interested in volunteering to prepare and run an event or would like more information about the events, please contact Downtown Campus chemistry teacher Luke Johnson

Photo Gallery for Week of February 27 – March 3

 

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