Archives for April 2017

Natural Playground Provides Ever-changing Experiences

Natural Playground_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Our natural playground is always changing as we continuously work on ways to improve the outdoor experience for our youngest students. Each day our teachers prepare the playground with manipulatives and other interesting materials to enhance the play experience while enjoying the outdoors. Activities include preparing the sinks in our mud kitchen with water, setting up dinosaur digs in our sand pit, painting, drawing with chalk, and constructing a bridge with logs and blocks. Oh, and let’s not forget observing the plants in our garden and the insects we encounter all around us! The playground is an extension of our classrooms, a place for imaginative play, and a place to connect with nature.

This week we planted sunflowers and a few vegetables in our garden box. Most of the children eagerly helped to prepare the ground for our seeds. Children are very interested in using tools and doing work they see adults do, and they are very capable of helping. Some of the children recall planting last year and the beautiful sunflowers that greeted them in August. I overheard several children say that they have never planted a seed before. I hope this is an experience they will always remember. Thank you to 8th graders Owen Carey and Luis Reyes for helping us prep the ground. Also, a BIG thank you to Alex Taylor’s 6th graders for helping!  They were very enthusiastic volunteers and many of them “remember” being in preschool. We recommend the children’s book If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson to read to your preschooler. The delightful illustrations and storyline that embeds generosity and compassion into a garden tells an important story about kindness.

Preschool Idlewild Butterfly Farm visit_1This morning we had a visit from Idlewild Butterfly Farm and the preschoolers loved getting to see the different kinds of insects. Visit the photo gallery for more pictures from this fun-filled experience!

Don’t let the rainy forecast keep you away from one of Louisville’s Kentucky Derby traditions this weekend: the Cherokee Triangle Art Fair. Our Preschool’s very talented Paul Harshaw will have his own booth displaying his wonderful paintings that are perfect for a child’s room or playroom.  I’m sure your child would love to see him in his other element – the art world!

If you are considering going to the Pegasus Parade, the best spot on the route, in my opinion,  is our Downtown Campus. I have taken my son to view the parade there several times when he was younger and it offered easy access to parking (right next to the school), restrooms (no long lines), food, and being with other St. Francis School families, which made it a great experience for us. And if it wasn’t already great enough, now there are bouncy houses! You can register for tickets here.

Mark your calendars for our Grandparents’ Day Tea and Preschool Derby Races next Wednesday, May 3rd. A parade of class floats will begin promptly at 11:00 a.m. Afterwards we will “Run for the Roses” by class, beginning with the Twos, and then join our special guests in our classrooms for refreshments.

Special Moments from the Week

ERB TestingBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This has been a week contrasted by the seriousness of ERB standardized testing for our 5th – 7th grade students versus the frivolity of many other things I witnessed on the Goshen Campus as we continue to wind down another great year. On the one hand, the Middle School wing has been very quiet as our students gripped their No. 2 pencils with earnest and took on the ERBs for the first two periods of the day. Not exactly their favorite St. Francis activity, but I think they do understand that these tests are a fact of life, and one they will face many times in their academic and professional careers. What I hope they also appreciate is the fact that we don’t dwell on or obsess about these tests and create undue pressure for them. We complete them, do our best, learn from them, and move on. As it should be.

Brownie Troop_4x6Conversely, while navigating around the campus this week, I’ve seen or taken part in the following fun moments:

  • Watching our 3rd grade Brownie Troop 1729 present 20 brand new books about accomplished women in history to our Library, and to Lower School art and science classrooms at Lower School Morning Meeting on Tuesday. They raised money as a troop fundraiser, and this is what they decided to do with their funds. The pride on their faces was very evident, and I thought Judy Riendeau was going to cry on the spot! Thanks to parent Gerri Willis and 3rd grader Bren Willis for Poster_4x6leading the presentation!
  • At the same Morning Meeting, Faith Murphy and I read aloud cards that the elderly residents of the Beehive Home down the road on Highway 42 wrote to us recently, thanking us for singing to them last winter. They all signed the cards and made note of the time our kids put into this, and commented on how “nice it is when the generations can interact.” They included many photos from that day, and Faith mounted them on a posterboard which is outside of her classroom. We hope to renew that relationship next year!
  • I also got to take part in the very exciting “Trivia Lunch” hosted by Lindsy Serrano and Anne Holmes on Wednesday in the Main Amp! Students and teams from 6th and 7th grade challenged each other and several pumped up faculty teams in “Millennial Trivial Pursuit” over their lunch and recess. What struck me most about this was how much fun kids and adults were choosing to have with each other, gladly giving up their recess on a beautiful day! This speaks to the relationships cultivated between teachers and students here (and my team winning helped!).

But to buttress this article with another serious event, Wednesday after school, our faculty stayed for a professional development presentation on dyslexia from Stephen McCrocklin, parent, alumnus, and founder of The Langsford Center. The 90-minute talk with slides and video clips was profound and a stark reminder of the difficulties these kids face in schools every single day simply trying to learn to read with obstacles most of us can’t imagine. Hearing that nearly one child in five is somewhere on the dyslexia scale also brings this into a much clearer perspective. It was encouraging realizing as a Progressive school, we naturally make accommodations for these students, which isn’t usually the case in many schools or for kids undiagnosed. One of the quotes that struck me was from a grown man with dyslexia who said, “Dyslexia forces you to think, and in the real world thinking is more prized than learning.” Again, our focus is also on learning how to learn, rather than simply regurgitation in a timed situation. It was a fascinating presentation, and important that our faculty engage in refresher presentations like these every year.

Finally, as the year continues to spiral toward all the end of the year events, I wanted to invite you to the 8th grade Capstone Presentations next Wednesday, May 3rd from 8:30 – 10:30 a.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room. It is always a fascinating event, both seeing what topics our 8th graders chose to research, and to hear them talk about what they’ve learned and the arduous process they went through to complete it. I leave invigorated by it every year, and it’s also fun to see their huge sense of relief both at their accomplishments – and the fact THAT IT’S OVER! One step closer to their Goshen Graduation! (and they get to enjoy the Kindergarten Derby later that day as well!).

A Progressive School Visit

ISACS_4x6By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Alexandra and I spent Sunday – Wednesday this week serving on an ISACS visiting accreditation team. As you may know, ISACS sends teams to schools every seven years for a visit; our own is coming up this fall. Prior to the visit year, the school conducts a Constituent Survey (which you may recall having taken last spring) and writes a comprehensive Self-Study, covering all school areas and incorporating the data from the Constituent Survey. It is always a rich experience, being able to immerse ourselves in another school’s culture for several days. This particular school – The Roeper School in Michigan – is, like us, a Progressive Preschool – 12th grade on two campuses. We are finalizing the dates for our own accreditation visit, but it is only months away!

This week the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival visited us to perform Julius Caesar. Tonight into tomorrow is our annual Women’s Retreat. We are grateful to parent Karen Morrison and Gilda’s Club for hosting us for this event.  

Alumni Profile: Deron Simmons G’02, ’06

Deron Simmons G'02, '06 (1)Briefly describe your path after leaving St. Francis. 
After leaving St. Francis, I joined the school that the wonderful Kit Llewellyn recommended I visit as a junior in high school: Mercer University. I declared my major in computer engineering, and on the second day of my freshman year, a professor said “Look to your left, then look to your right. Two-thirds of your classmates won’t be here next year.” There were 375 people in that classroom that day. On graduation day, there were only four of us (including St. Francis’ own Brad Green G’02, ’06). 

[Read more…]

Wyverns in Chicago 2017

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Alumni Crawfish Boil 2017

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Photo Gallery for Week of April 24 – April 28

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Advisee Games: A Favorite SFS Tradition

Advisee Games_Main ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

The annual Advisee Games were enjoyed by all on Tuesday. We don’t have the final results yet, but competition was fierce in some quarters; in others, students enjoyed a beautiful day in the sunshine in more laid-back fashion. This is really one of my favorite SFS traditions, and I think most of the student body enjoys it as much as I do!

Before the Advisee Games on Tuesday, the We Act community service group attended part of WE Day Kentucky, an annual celebration of service, along with our Middle School counterparts. Reed Gabhart’s space below is filled with a detailed recap of the event by Shelly Jones, so please check that out. This was a particularly special WE Day for us, because our accomplishment of raising $10,000 over the last several years to fund the building of a school in Haiti was realized this year, and our group was featured in a film shown at the event. Check out the film and our spokesperson Elizabeth Johnson ’19 here.

Earlier in the week, we had a presentation from Moshe Ohayon, founder of Louisville Tutoring Agency and the nonprofit organization Educational Justice. The Educational Justice program matches high school student Activists with middle school student Achievers, with the goal of utilizing the intellect and achievements of the older students to help struggling younger ones. We have several students participating in the program currently, and they spoke about their experience in glowing terms. Moshe’s visit was to get signups from students who are interested in being trained over the summer to become Activists in the fall, and a number of students indicated their interest. It is a one-hour commitment per week for the school year and there is flexibility. Please visit www.educationaljustice.org for more information!

All Things Kentucky Derby

PS Derby Festivities_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

It’s been all things Kentucky Derby this week in the Preschool. It’s Louisville’s time to celebrate and we’re having our own Kentucky Derby celebration right here on the Goshen Campus on Wednesday, May 3rd. Invitations were sent home today for our Derby Races and Tea. Grandparents, parents, or special friends are invited to join us as we parade, run, and celebrate Louisville’s special day. The Parent Association sent a sign-up sheet via email this week for items needed to make this a special day for all of our guests.

The children are very excited about being able to visit the playground again with the warmer weather. Next week we will work on our garden box by planting seeds and flowers. To conclude our week of planting, on Friday the children will enjoy a program from Idlewild Butterfly Farm. The program will include touch-friendly insect ambassadors such as giant cockroaches and exotic walking sticks. We will then head outside for a ladybug release of 500 beetles.

Upcoming Dates

  • April 25th – 27th – Preschoolers work in the garden (dress accordingly)
  • April 28th – Visit from Idlewild Butterfly Farm
  • May 3rd – Derby Race and Tea & Grandparents’ Day at 11:00 a.m.
  • May 5th – No School – Oaks Day
  • May 8th – Paul Harshaw’s book reading for Preschool – 2nd grade
  • May 12th – Muffins with Mom from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
  • May 24th – Last Big Sing of the year. David Beard’s slide show begins at 9:00 a.m. in the Multi-purpose room.  
  • May 24th  – Last Day of School with early dismissal at 12:00 p.m.

Young Changemakers Among Us

We Day_Main ImageBy Shelly Jones, Middle School Dean of Students and Language Arts/Social Studies

“I am a changemaker.”

“I am the leader of today.”

“I can make a difference.”

A crowd of 3,000 students from across Kentucky, including the St. Francis Middle School and High School We Act group members, said these words together on Tuesday morning at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts. The occasion? WE Day Kentucky 2017.

St. Francis students have attended this event (with initially a much, much smaller group of students) since its inception five years ago at the first WE Day Kentucky at the Muhammad Ali Center. St. Francis School’s Mission Statement talks about the compassionate community we strive to create. In keeping with this, all of our students are called to be their most compassionate selves and to think of ways to use their gifts to improve their communities and the lives of others. We have a strong commitment to service learning and community service on both campuses of our school. Thus, when the WE Schools movement came to Louisville, we thought it made sense to join the world’s largest network of kids helping kids. Schools and students can’t buy tickets to WE Day; they earn them through global and local acts of service. This year was particularly special for our students, as the St. Francis School High School and Middle School We Act Clubs were recognized for working together and raising $10,000 to build a school in Haiti with the “Brick By Brick” program through WE Schools. The High School students had to leave to attend their Advisee Games, but our Middle School students had a ball going backstage and then taking the stage to see a video feature about our school’s project and to give a “Thank you, WE Day!” shout out to the audience. Click here for a video that features student interviews and footage of the types of things our students did to raise the money over the last few years, such as cookouts on the Downtown Campus and hot chocolate sales on the Goshen Campus. A series of Parents’ Night Out events for Lower School students and the My School Color Run were also huge fundraisers that contributed towards reaching the $10,000 goal.  Many of you participated in these events, and we thank you!

Along with receiving a bit of recognition, our students heard inspiring words from Rasheeda Ali, Muhammad Ali’s daughter. She reminded the students of her father’s words: “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” Ken Lolla, the men’s soccer coach at the University of Louisville, shared about his work inspiring his players to give back to the children in our community. We also heard from Craig Kielburger, the Co-Founder of WE and Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award Recipient. (The students and I even “geeked out” when we were able to have our photo taken with Craig, who created Free the Children when he was in 7th grade!) Musical guests also entertained and inspired with uplifting songs and words of encouragement. Performances by Jordan Smith, Ben Sollee, Justin Paul-Lewis, Teddy Abrams, and Harry Pickens were particular favorites. One of our 7th graders, Bruce Hanserd, was asked by Dr. Tori Murden McClure, President of Spalding University, to help her during her speech. Bruce held a visual aid, a replica of the boat she rowed to become the first American and the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, Bruce gained a fair amount of recognition when we participated in the final event of the day, the March for Compassion around downtown Louisville. Students from other schools were chanting “Bruce! Bruce! Bruce! Bruce!” as we marched.

While the content students learn in their classrooms is very important, the special, out-of-the-ordinary experiences outside of the classroom sometimes create the most lasting memories and plant seeds of possibility in students’ minds. At WE Day Kentucky, our students felt inspired, recognized, and encouraged to keep giving back to their global and local communities. It was a good day!