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!).

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!

Trailblazers Visit the Science in Play2GO Exhibit

Pay2Go Exhibit_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

The Trailblazers ventured to the Oldham County Main Library just before Spring Break to explore the Science in Play 2GO exhibit. The children were introduced to blood and the body with hands-on craft and sensory activities. In other centers, they created roller coasters using ramps and balls, sorted and matched colors and shapes, built forts and structures with large foam blocks, and created patterns on the extra-large Light Bright wall. It was a fun, interactive field trip, and as usual, the bus ride was the best part of all!

Thank you to all of our families for supporting the spring egg hunts, and sending in oodles of eggs to support our friends at the Keystone Learning Academy. The children had an eggcellent time searching for brightly colored eggs with the assistance of a special helper, Mr. Bunny!

A special thank you to Jessica Washer for counting and sorting ALL of the eggs and to Dean Bucalos (Deanie’s grandfather) for donning the bunny costume. We also want to thank all of the parent volunteers who hid the eggs and stayed to help the preschoolers FIND them.

Upcoming Dates

  • Friday, April 21st – Big Sing at 9:10 a.m.
  • Wednesday, May 3rd – Preschool Grandparents’ Day from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Monday, May 8th – Paul Harshaw will be reading his book Silo and Plyler’s Derby Horse Adventure to Preschool through 2nd grade from 9:20 – 9:50 a.m.
  • Friday, May 12th – Muffins with Mom at 9:00 a.m.

Anything Goes Recap!

Anything Goes Cast & CrewBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

As I said to the faculty last week, when we return from Spring Break, the final weeks of the school year feel like a rollercoaster car that’s just started on its descent after the climactic apex! All aboard! And while there is a lot left to do, learn, and experience between now and the end of May, I wanted to take a minute to look back at our spring musical, Anything Goes, that wrapped up as we headed to break.

The show was a phenomenal success! One measure is the fact that all four shows basically sold out in advance online! That’s 700 tickets! Another measure is four standing ovations. But most important to me is the fact that 54 Middle School students started this show, and 54 completed it. I’m pretty sure that is a record for a SFS production and represents over a third of our Middle School taking part and staying with it. And during the Sunday matinee we were joined by 26 Lower School choir singers, swelling our numbers to 80 for one song!

As the director of our program, I don’t want to crow too much about the show myself, but instead asked some of our 8th graders to write a paragraph about either the show or the SFS Drama Project. Of the students below, some are veterans of our stage, while one was only here this year. Here are their thoughts:

“Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I dreamed of being on the Goshen stage. I watched my sisters perform, and my older friends. Every year, one of the highlights would be watching another great St. Francis production. Now that I am finished with my time on the stage, I am so grateful to have had the experience. I made friends with kids who I never would have thought I would be friends with, I have grown closer to my current friends, and I have made many memories with the help of my friends. I am so glad that I have been a part of the St. Francis Drama Project and I am excited to come see future productions in the years to come.” – Sophie Johnson

“St. Francis’ musical ‘Anything Goes’ was spectacular. It was such an amazing experience and I loved being a part of it. I learned so much about acting, singing, and dancing from this musical, and I am so grateful for it. I can say that about both of the shows I was in this year. I learned so much and had so much fun doing the shows here because you always feel like an important part of the show and are always treated like you are the star. This program really believes in the saying, ‘There are no small parts, only small actors.’ Even though I was only at the Goshen Campus for one year, I am so glad I got to have the incredible experience of being part of the drama program.” – Katie Mushkin

“The St. Francis Drama Project has truly changed my life. Every show I’ve been in has taught me how to be myself, all the while pretending to be other people. ‘Anything Goes’ sticks out in my mind as perhaps the most demanding experience I’ve had, but by far the most rewarding one. Reno Sweeney made me more confident as a performer than any other role I have ever played. My cast-mates and I truly appreciate all the opportunities St. Francis offers its students, and the input from all the adults that makes the productions so wonderful. So I want to send a huge thank you to Mrs. Erwin, Mrs. Mushkin, Sra. Ponzio, Ms. Donna, Ms. Aberle, Mr. Bertke, and of course, Mr. Gabhart. You all are ‘the top!’” – Teagan Morrison

“The SFS Drama Project has completely changed the way I feel about myself in terms of self-confidence. Without these stage experiences that St. Francis has offered and encouraged, I would not be able to to talk in front of a crowd that is more than just my friends. But because of these plays that I have taken part in, I am able to express myself and be comfortable speaking publicly. In this spring musical of 2017, I was lucky enough to audition and receive the male lead in ‘Anything Goes’ as Billy Crocker. Becoming the lead in a play is very different than acting as a character with not many lines, which I have done many times in the past. There is a sense of much more responsibility and honor when you have to memorize a hundred-plus lines and sing many solos in songs. I have loved every minute of the SFS Drama Project, and would not trade those memories and experiences for anything in the world.” Jimmy Lancaster

As always, it’s hard to let the 8th graders leave us! This group is both remarkably talented but also committed, nice, and simply fun to be around. I will remember them fondly and the special year we had together in drama. But we have a rollercoaster ride to attend to, first!

It was also special to talk during the curtain speech before each performance about our theater expansion and front lobby renovation Capital Campaign project that was recently approved by our Board of Trustees.  With everyone’s support, the venerable Main Amp will take on an entirely new and dynamic look – hopefully for the 2018-19 school year! For me, I just can’t imagine actually having backstage space finally. Let the dreaming begin!

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!