Grandparents’ Day at the High School

HS Grandparents' Day_1By Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Today we welcomed over 50 grandparents to the High School for Grandparents’ Day. They went to two classes with their grandchildren and enjoyed a delicious lunch provided by our Parent Association and many parent volunteers. I absolutely love Grandparents’ Day because it allows grandparents to get a little view into the everyday life of their grandchildren, actually sitting in class, listening to the discussion, and sometimes even participating themselves! Unfortunately, unless their grandchild has a free period during their visit, grandparents won’t get to try their hand at pool and ping pong, but there’s always next year!

Next Monday is our annual Cultural Day. Each year, we take one day to focus on a particular area and explore our downtown environment – all of the places we visit are walks! The 9th graders focus on media, with visits to the Courier-Journal, Metro TV with the Mayor’s Office, Actors Theatre’s social media coordinator, and Louisville Public Media. The 10th graders’ theme is the arts; Flame Run Gallery, 21C, the Louisville Orchestra, and the Louisville Palace. The 11th graders learn about the legal/justice systems, with this year’s offerings including a visit to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, a talk with an immigration attorney, and a trip to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The 12th graders stay closer to home, focusing on the transition to college and life, with topics like financial literacy and car maintenance. It’s always an interesting experience for the students, and should be a fun way to kick off the week before Spring Break!

Different Forms of Writing Spark Creativity

Preschool Projector Drawings_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

In our classrooms we introduce many different forms of writing to our preschooler, including story books, information books, magazines, recipes, and credible information from Internet sites such as PBS. These examples are the kinds of writing that our children and teachers are reading together to aid in learning about the topics we are teaching. We then often see our students act out their favorite story, draw pictures of a story they have created, and use materials such as clay and Play-Doh to represent their ideas.     

Here are a few spring books we recommend:

  • What Makes a Rainbow? by Betty Ann Schwartz
  • When Will It Be Spring? by Catherine Walters
  • Grow, Flower, Grow by Lisa Bruce
  • The Lamb and The Butterfly by Arnold Sundgaard
  • Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallett
  • Wait by Antoinette Portis
  • Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert

Don’t forget that Summer Camp registration is live on our website. Click here for more information.

Upcoming Dates

  • Wednesday, April 12th from 9:15 to 11:00 a.m. is our Spring Egg Hunt

Spring Egg Donations Still Needed

  • 24 plastic eggs per family, filled with items such as stickers, colorful Band-Aids, erasers, non-chocolate candy, small trinkets (remember they can be picked up by a child as young as two)
  • Please tape the eggs shut for ease in hiding and finding
  • Half of the donated eggs will go to Keystone Learning Academy for their egg hunt
  • The deadline to turn in donations is Monday, April 10th

SFS Track on “Track” for Re-opening!

Goshen Track re-openingBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

As we’ve finally entered spring (and the promise of Spring Break) after the winter that wasn’t, that can only mean it’s time for another action-packed track and field season at St. Francis! And on top of that, we were proud to show off our newly renovated track at our first meet on Thursday! By last season, the lane lines and relay markers had become so faded over time that the colors were difficult to distinguish (and as a sometime volunteer relays judge, I speak from experience). So this past winter, we had the track entirely resurfaced, new lanes painted, and a “dip” on the backside filled in – and our track looks (and feels) practically brand new!

To celebrate, we brought a little pomp and circumstance to our first meet by having the entire track team run an inaugural lap before the meet and breaking a ribbon to commemorate the renovations. Our Wyvern mascot was on hand presiding over the ceremonies. Track and field has a long and storied history at St. Francis, and we’re sure this year will be no different. Dedicated head coach Shavar Cowherd has a fantastic team of coaches assembled once again, highlighted by the return of SFS track legend Mike Black as his right-hand man coaching our distance runners. No one runs a better track meet than Mike Black! Also returning are Goshen alum Chase Carlson G’06, working with our throwers, and parent Mark Green, to work with our hurdlers. The team is a robust 45 strong and ready for action. We have three home meets this year, so be sure to get out for one of them to root on the Wyverns!

Spring Musical_4x6Tonight is opening night for our SFS Drama Project’s spring musical Anything Goes! We had an assembly today to perform three songs in the show so our Lower School students would get a chance to see our Middle Schoolers perform. Tickets for the Friday opening and Sunday matinee are sold out, but plenty of tickets remain for next week’s shows on Tuesday and Wednesday nights at 6:30 p.m. I hope to see you there for a “De-lovely” time!

Steve-o The Magician Delights the Preschoolers

Steve-o The Magician_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

The preschoolers were treated to a very entertaining magic show by Steve-o, aka Louisville magician Steve Haffner, on Tuesday. The children were delighted with Steve-o’s brand of comedy magic, the opportunities for audience participation, and all the boisterous fun!  

Thank you to all of the families who made donations to the Love from Louisville Drive. We are overwhelmed with your generosity and willingness to support our efforts with a short time frame. Our drive at School will conclude on Monday, March 20th. The drive will continue in the Louisville community until Wednesday, March 22nd. Click here for information about additional items needed and other drop-off locations.

Upcoming Dates to Remember

  • Tuesday, March 21st – Big Sing
  • Thursday, March 30th – Fours class visits the Oldham County Main Library’s Science in Play 2 Go Exhibit

It’s De-lightful, It’s De-licious, It’s De-lovely!

Anything Goes Dress Rehearsal_1By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

For those of you who have been in the Main Amp over past couple of weeks, you have noticed our stage has undergone a major transformation into a cruise ship! The perfect backdrop for the St. Francis Drama Project’s spring musical production of Anything Goes! Here is a description of the show you can find on our ticket reservation page: 

Music, dance, laughs, and the age-old tale of “Boy Meets Girl” – no musical puts it on stage better than Anything Goes! And the St. Francis Drama Project is proud to present this hilarious shipboard romp as our spring musical! The story centers around madcap antics aboard an ocean bound from New York to London. Billy Crocker is a stowaway in love with heiress Hope Harcourt, who is engaged to English dandy Lord Evelyn Oakleigh. Nightclub singer Reno Sweeney and Public Enemy #13, Moonface Martin, aid Billy in his quest to win Hope. The musical is wrapped around one of Cole Porter’s most magical scores and introduced such songs as “Anything Goes,” “You’re the Top,” and “I Get a Kick Out of You” to the American public. Please plan on joining us for Anything Goes, a show that is quite simply “Delightful, Delicious, and De-Lovely!”

Performances are Friday, March 24th at 7:00 p.m., Sunday, March 28th at 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 28th at 6:30 p.m., and Wednesday, March 29th at 6:30 p.m. Tickets online are $9.00 for adults and $6.00 for students and can be purchased hereTickets at the door are $8.00 for adults and $5.00 for students; however, we cannot guarantee that seats will still be available.

On a personal level, it is so gratifying to see Middle School kids delighting in the music of Cole Porter! You can hear them singing the tunes walking down the halls between classes, without a trace of sarcasm to be found! Also, to have 54 Middle School kids in involved in the show speaks volumes about their dedication to our drama program. And if you happen to see the Sunday matinee on March 26th, an additional 20 Lower School students will join us for one number, bringing the number on stage from 54 to 74 overall for that one song! I can safely say that’s a new St. Francis record! I hope you get a chance to see this ambitious production and all the work so many have put into it. And I wouldn’t wait on purchasing your tickets – our musicals have a tendency to sell out in advance!

On another fun note, I opened a door in carpool this morning and was suddenly looking at Sophia and Emmy Sower! They are on spring break from their new school in Michigan and decided to pay their “old” classmates a visit. I had forgotten today was that day! What struck me was Andrea Sower’s comment, “Only at St. Francis would kids want to give up a day of spring break to go back to their old school voluntarily (and be allowed to do it!).” Our pleasure. Former students are always welcome here, and we were thrilled to welcome them back!  

The Importance of Discovering Talents and Abilities

Woodworking projectBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I saw some fantastic keynote speakers at the recent NAIS Conference. Alexandra is writing in the upcoming Wyvern Report about Dr. Brené  Brown, so I want to share some thoughts here about Sir Ken Robinson’s talk.

You may have seen one of his TED Talks; he is interesting and engaging in those, as he certainly was in person. His message was that we (society and educators) need to think differently about people’s talents and abilities. In terms of students and education, he believes that if time at school is disengaged from students’ talents and energies, the things that lift them up, then they will become enervated. This resonated with me in terms of the importance of extracurriculars to a healthy school community, so that – in keeping with Progressive philosophy – we educate the whole child. Finding something every student loves and is good at is vital to development, and I certainly believe that when a student finds a passion outside of the classroom, academics actually tend to improve, as well.

Robinson believes that the goal of education should be learning, rather than training. As he notes, we are glad our children have sex education, but we would not be so much in favor of sex training! Education is, he says, not to prepare them for something to come but about who they are in the here and now.

Ultimately, he concludes, if children discover what they’re good at, feel good about those things, and have a solid community around them, they’ll learn better. I couldn’t agree more.  

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.

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!