A Trip to the SFS Pumpkin Patch

Zach Folley Face PaintingBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

The children spent Tuesday morning outside, celebrating fall and participating in a few special activities for our in-house field trip! The Adventurers and Trailblazers ventured to the school’s garden to “pick” the perfect pumpkins while the Pandas class, much to their surprise, found their pumpkins hidden on the Preschool playground. Faith Murphy led us in a festive sing-along of songs about leaves and Halloween, and each class delighted in playing a few games, having faces painted, and eating a special snack for our fall celebration. Thank you to Preschool parent and SFS teacher Jason Chlopek for helping set up our pumpkin patch and SFS teacher Joanne Brock for helping with face painting.

It is that time of the year when the change in the season is visible everywhere we look. The children have noticed the cooler temperature in the mornings; they may need larger clothing; they are making friends outside of the family; they may have learned to tie their shoes!  Internal changes are also occurring as children are settling into a rhythm, learning the names of new friends, engaging with new materials, and accomplishing tasks independently. All of these things add to a profound sense of self and confidence, an invisible transformation that begins in early childhood.

Upcoming Dates

Thursday, October 26th is a professional development day for our Preschool teachers. The Preschool will be closed and no childcare will be offered.

Friday, October 27th is Parent-Teacher Conferences. You can sign-up for a 15-minute conference with your child’s teachers using the link emailed to you Thursday. The Preschool will be closed and no childcare will be offered.

Tuesday, October 31st brings our Halloween Parade and Parties. This is a low-key event with a parade in costume around the front drive of the School and then a party in the classrooms. Your teacher will send home more information as we get closer to the big day. The Parade will follow 9:00 a.m. carpool drop-off and parents can line up on the circle in front of the Main Entrance.

Ms. Mushkin Goes to Maine

JM Visit and Baby WyvernBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Recently, 7th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher Julie Mushkin had the incredible experience of becoming an intern at noted educator Nancie Atwell’s Center for Teaching and Learning in Edgecomb, Maine. Nancie Atwell is a guru in Language Arts instruction and was the winner of the first $1 million dollar Global Teacher Prize (like the Nobel Prize in teaching), so this was a prestigious coup for Julie. You can color me not surprised that someone as dedicated to her craft as Julie was one of a handful of teachers nationwide who were selected for this program!

And since I have been in the woods at Big South Fork Wednesday through Friday of this week, I sent Julie an early “interview” to hear about her experience in Maine! Enjoy her report and we’ll share our stories about the 8th grade trip next week!

What was it like to be the student, as opposed to the teacher, again?
Since I just finished a master’s program last year, I still remember quite well how it feels to be a student. That said, I haven’t sat through an 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. school day as a student in over 20 years, and it was really exhausting! Honestly, by the end of the first day of solid notetaking and listening, I had a renewed appreciation for our students. Being a student is a very difficult job!

What single lesson or technique you observed made the biggest impression on you?
I was blown away by the daily poetry lesson and the students’ ability to analyze the poetry at such a mature level. They not only engaged with the poems emotionally, but impressively dissected the pieces using advanced poetic terms and literary vocabulary.

Have you been able to incorporate any of your experience into your own classroom yet?
Actually, we began “Poetry Monday” this week! The first poem we discussed was “I Look at the World,” by Langston Hughes, which speaks of oppression and leads nicely into our new unit on dystopian fiction. The students were both able to identify the obvious theme of racial oppression and tie the piece to the concepts of dystopia, totalitarian control, and lack of individualism. They also learned how to correctly apply poetic terms such as anaphora and caesura, which was fun. This format of poetry analysis is just one of many things I am incorporating into my teaching, and I am excited to share the dozens of new resources I am creating with my students and their parents over the coming weeks. Believe me, this is just the beginning!

What was your reaction to being chosen when you found out?
I was thrilled and, honestly, a bit surprised. Approximately 25 teachers from all over the world get chosen each year to participate in this internship, 15 of whom are middle school teachers, so it was a tremendous honor to receive the invitation. I have no doubt I was accepted because St. Francis School has an incredible reputation in the national academic community. They only invite teachers who they know will be supported by their administrations in implementing this curriculum. I obviously have the full support of the SFS administration and my colleagues!

How was Maine and did you get to do any sightseeing?
Maine was absolutely beautiful, but very rural. Edgecomb is about an hour north of Portland, and it was similar in size to Anchorage, Kentucky. I drove to some nearby towns after school, but most are just a small strip of locally-owned boutiques. I did drive about 45 minutes to see the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, but it gets really dark in Maine by 6:00 p.m., so after a quick walk along the rocky coast, I headed straight back to my B&B. There were no hotels!

Can you summarize your time in Maine in three words or less?
Inspiring and intense.

It’s clear Julie had an incredible professional development experience in Maine, and one from which she and our our students will surely benefit!

Learning to Follow Directions

Hank WasherBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

One thing we work on every day is following directions and taking care of one’s own needs. Being able to listen and then follow instructions is important not only in Preschool, but throughout life. With our younger children, we use age-appropriate choices and expectations. Our goal is to then increase each child’s independence as s/he approaches Kindergarten. We want to share with you how this looks during snack time with our Trailblazers class. 

During snack time, Kelly Pfeiffer or Paul Harshaw might ask the children what they need for the snack they are having. As they think about it, they may answer that they need a napkin, cup, and a spoon. Then, as snack begins, it is their responsibility to pick up these items and take them to the table. We try to give short, concise directions and illustrate by holding up the items they will need. If they get to the table without a necessary item, it is their responsibility to go back and get it. They are responsible for opening any snack packages with scissors and they help clean up after snack is over. Their competence in these skills is increasing each day. Soon they will begin pouring their own cups of milk or water at snack times.

At home you can help refine these skills by playing a game where you give directions – one to two steps for our younger children and three or four for the older. Also, you could give your child jobs to carry out, such as putting napkins at each place setting or wiping off the table after a meal. Remember, the focus is on learning to follow directions. Your child’s competency at placing napkins and wiping off the table comes in time.

Upcoming Dates

Tuesday, October 17th is our in-house Pumpkin Patch Fall Fun Morning. Our older children will find pumpkins in the garden and our younger children will find their pumpkins on the playground. We will have a face-painting station and Faith Murphy will delight us with a fall sing-along. We will spend most of the morning outdoors.

Thursday, October 26th is a professional development day for our Preschool teachers. The Preschool will be closed and no childcare will be offered.

Friday, October 27th is Parent-Teacher Conferences. You can sign-up for a 15-minute conference with your child’s teachers using the link emailed to you Thursday. The Preschool will be closed and no childcare will be offered.

Tuesday, October 31st brings our Halloween Parade and Parties. This is a low-key event with a parade in costume around the front drive of the School and then a party in the classrooms. Your teacher will send home more information as we get closer to the big day. The Parade will follow 9:00 a.m. carpool drop-off and parents can line up on the circle in front of the Main Entrance.

St. Francis Day, Uniquely St. Francis, and “Honest Abe!”

Jayden and ElizaBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

It’s been an active week on the Goshen Campus! Tuesday, of course, brought one of everyone’s favorite events – St. Francis Day! And this year the weather cooperated gloriously, as did the menagerie of animals (for the most part!). I think we may have had our most varied “turnout” this year. Along with the many handsome dogs and cats, I saw a hedgehog, a snake, a miniature bull (a zebu, according to expert Devyn Hebel), rabbits, a lizard, miniature horses, a turtle, a ferret, and even a pineapple (don’t ask). All were blessed under a glorious sun, and as I said at the next day’s Morning Meeting, I think St. Francis himself would have been proud of the event and atmosphere on our campus. Look for many awesome pictures in the gallery this week.

Wednesday we had a full-school Morning Meeting to showcase our teachers’ offerings in Uniquely St. Francis, a component of the Our Good Earth Gala next Saturday night. As part of the fun, Eliza and Jayden Frazier were “Mr. Gabhart for the Day,” which they won at last year’s auction. They kicked off the assembly with IU garb, bad jokes, and pink slips to show off! But what was most impressive was that 22 of our teachers were onstage to describe all the wonderful activities and services they were willing to offer to our students. That’s pretty phenomenal when you think about it, such a high percentage of faculty willing to share weekend time with kids in the school to help support this critically vital fundraiser. And just as noteworthy is the fact that students at all age levels want to spend time with their teachers outside of class! I think this speaks volumes about the ethos of our school.

And lastly, while we looked forward to a visit from Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governor Jenean Hampton Friday, we were surprised with a presentation from “Honest Abe” himself earlier this week! Arranged by 5th grade teacher Billy Spalding to complement the class’s unit on the Civil War, Mr. Lincoln was quite the public speaker (upholding his vaunted reputation!). Here is a comment from Billy:

Abe Lincoln“5th grade had a surprise visit this morning from President Abraham Lincoln. The Great Emancipator was there to teach the students about his life, from his humble log cabin days to his time in the White House during the Civil War. His visit coincides with our study of the Civil war and our abolitionists projects.  

5th grade really enjoyed the visit from Abe and had the following to say:

Nola Melhuish: “He was really good. He had the voice of Abraham Lincoln and he had a bunch of real things to show us. Like, he had a fake family Bible that he learned to read and he had a model of the cabin he grew up in.”

Zoe Petiprin: “I liked him, but he didn’t mention any of the negatives about Lincoln, like how he imprisoned people at the beginning of the war without trial.​​”

Molly Waggener: “He was amazing! I really liked it because it wasn’t the basic stuff that you already know, he went much deeper into the story.”

Abby Hairgrove: “I learned a lot! He was really fun and energetic. You should definitely bring him back next year.”

Eden Bess Farmer: “I liked that he didn’t only talk about the Civil War. He gave a bunch of information about his life growing up as well.”

History coming to life! Next week brings our annual Two-Campus Field Day with our High School students visiting Goshen to connect with their Lower and Middle School counterparts, and, of course, the Our Good Earth Gala next Saturday! Buckle up and stay tuned for more wonderful stories!

Celebrating Fall!

Carrot HarvestBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Throughout the Preschool, children are learning about the wonders of our beautiful world. They are noticing the changes in the weather and the addition of more leaves under the oak tree. The Pandas and Adventurers classes have been learning about the colors of fall in various ways: gluing fall leaves on paper, painting with fall colors, creating nature collages, experimenting with fall-themed sensory bins, and tasting carrots harvested from our garden. (I can’t believe how many carrots we were able to harvest!) The Trailblazers class taste-tested red, yellow, and green apples and made apple crisp – which was delicious, too. When children participate in activities that engage their senses, the depth of their learning and experience is enhanced.

On Friday we enjoyed our first Big Sing of the season! Faith Murphy introduced us to a few of the Preschoolers’ music class favorites.

Exploring Nature Together

PS Garden Art_Main ImageBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

This week, the preschoolers spent time with Garden Coordinator Christine Brinkmann preparing the planter barrels for lettuce seeds. Each group used their hands to move the soil, add seeds, and water. One child excitedly exclaimed, “Now the seeds need sparkling water to grow!” This knowledge of the growth process was shared by many of the children who participated. Our little Wyverns also had an opportunity to make SAGE pasta with ingredients right from our garden, and then they got to sample their culinary creations! The children aren’t just learning about seeds and their growth process; we also are supporting their sense of wonder and curiosity, and they are learning to respect nature.

Here are a few ways families can explore nature together: look for wildflowers and insects at parks or in your own backyard, adopt a tree and watch the changes that unfold throughout the year (take pictures of the tree with your phone and revisit them as the seasons change), and revisit your own sense of wonder about nature. Your child will likely follow!

Rosh Hashanah at Morning Meeting

Katy Roemer MMBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

As anyone who has spoken with me on the subject knows, I am a huge fan of our Morning Meetings and think they are such an important part of our school day. Whether in Lower, Middle, or High School, they allow us to gather together first thing in the morning to talk, listen, and simply share a collective experience. Wednesday was just such a day in Middle School. In addition to the usual “housekeeping” announcements (Picture Day details), routine business (who stays for drama rehearsal), sports scores (the field hockey C team beat Collegiate on Tuesday!), birthdays (Aidan Keegan), and Student Council updates (a Halloween Buddy Day in October!), we also had some special moments. In addition to our usual moment of silence (led off with a quote from Aldous Huxley, courtesy of Shelly Jones), we also took time to talk about the victims of the Mexico City earthquake, as well as Hurricane Maria wreaking havoc in Puerto Rico. It is good for our kids to reflect on what is going on in the world around them in addition to what they face in their daily lives. These moments are provided at Morning Meetings with careful and thoughtful framing.

They often provide amusement as well! On Wednesday, Brandon Doble gave an informational talk about Rosh Hashanah in advance of the the Jewish holiday beginning on Wednesday night. He explained its meaning and some of the traditions associated with it, such as eating apples and honey on those days (in fact, he also treated many of the Middle School kids to this delicacy at snack break!). Explaining the beliefs and customs of others is typical of a topic we might cover at a Morning Meeting. But the highlight occurred when he showed everyone a shofar, a hollowed-out ram’s horn traditionally sounded on Rosh Hashanah. No munchkin, Brandon admitted he couldn’t get the shofar to make a peep. At that point, 8th grader Katy Roemer volunteered to show him how it was done. She bravely came forward and produced a noteworthy blast to thunderous applause! Unscripted moments such as these at Morning Meetings occur all the time! If you’ve never seen one, I encourage you to pay us a visit on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday at 8:40 a.m. in the Middle School Amp, or on Tuesday in the Lower School Amp, to see all the fun!

Preschool Transportation Day!

unnamed (3)By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Today we hosted one of our most highly anticipated events in the Preschool – Transportation Day! The assembly of vehicles mirrored the internal workings of a city. There were vehicles represented ranging in variation from a motorcycle to a city bus.

The Transportation Day committee would like to extend a BIG thank you to the following businesses and friends of the School who participated in our event: North Oldham County Fire Department, TARC, Kroger, Ernst Construction, Waste Management, Oldham County Police Department, and Pro-Lift. We also want to thank our friends from Keystone Learning Academy for spending the day exploring cars and trucks with us.

We could not have accomplished any of this without our fabulous Preschool PA Co-Chairs, Jacquelyn Stack and Renee Reithel, for the volunteer support and coordinating this event. We would also like to thank former Preschool parents, Lillian Brents and Randall Hood, for their continued dedication to Transportation Day (even after their own children have moved on to the Lower School). Thank you to parent volunteers Shari Broecker, Anthony Celasun, and Deena Neimat. And lastly, we want to thank our very own Preschool teacher, Holly Whitaker, for continuing to keep the event special in the eyes of our tiniest students.

Next week we will have Picture Days on the Goshen Campus. Preschool pictures will be taken on Tuesday, September 19th for the following children: 2 Day Twos and Threes,  5 Day Twos and Threes, and Mr. Paul’s group. Wednesday, September 20th, the 3 Day Twos and Threes and Ms. Kelly’s group will have their pictures taken. If you have a student in the Lower or Middle School and you would like a sibling photo taken, please contact your child’s teacher and Rosanne Conlan.

Associates in Pediatric Therapy screened the Preschoolers on Wednesday. Children who attend on Tues/Thurs will be screened on Tuesday of next week.

Please note: Preschool classes will operate on a regular schedule for Wednesday, October 11th when the rest of the school dismisses at noon for faculty professional development.

Supporting New Teachers and Service Learning Fair!

Mr. Spalindg's 5th Graders_1By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

I thought I would write this week about how St. Francis School supports our new teachers. This year we have four new faculty members: Leonor “Leo” Provan in LS Spanish, Danny Ruano in 2nd grade Language Arts/Social Studies, Billy Spalding in 5th grade, and Maggie Sun in MS Chinese. First, we hold a New Faculty Orientation prior to school starting, at which Jen Griffith and I explain both our school philosophy and mission (which they are always already familiar with due to interviewing and personal research) and the ins and outs and procedures particular to St. Francis (I call this the “Kitchen Sink Meeting!”). Then they have lunch with their assigned mentor teachers. Veteran faculty members are assigned to new teachers to be their personal guides, helping navigate their way through all the aspects of school life a teacher faces, from the mundane (like email and voicemail) to the more involved (progress reporting and parent-teacher conferences). Having a friendly face nearby to answer your questions goes a long way to helping a new teacher become acclimated to St. Francis.

During the first month of the school year, Jen or I observe each of them teaching a lesson and give them feedback and any advice we may have. This will be followed up with another such observation mid-year, as well as an observation by their respective department chair. Then this week, our new teachers all attended a one-day professional development workshop put on by ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States who is our accrediting institution) called the New Teacher Institute. This features informational sessions and conversation pertinent to Independent school life. All four of our teachers reported a great day at this workshop and found it affirming to talk with other new teachers about what their first month of school has been like. Finally, Jen and I had a follow-up lunch with all of them this week to check in and answer questions they may have to date, such as on our upcoming interim progress reports going out next week.

All four of our new teachers are off to a fantastic start this new school year, and we are confident they are “St. Francis people” who will thrive here!

Service Learning Fair_RG ArticleThis week was also time for our annual Service Learning Fair put together with great care by our Service Learning Coordinator and Librarian, Lindsy Serrano. From Lindsy:

Every year, the Goshen Campus hosts a Service Learning fair, which is an opportunity for students to meet with local community service organizations and hear about ways that kids can help the community.  

Organizations participating this year included Creasey Mahan, Kosair, Paws with Purpose, Water Step, Arrow Fund, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Louisville Nature Center, Dare to Care, Neighborhood House, Volunteers for America, and Louisville Grows.

In the next few weeks, each grade will pick a service learning project and build a partnership with a community organization. It is always wonderful to see students get inspired and dream up ways they can help their community. Many of our visitors commented on how impressed they were with our students at SFS!

The Service Learning Fair is always an inspiring and noisy affair in our Main Amp but at the heart of it lies compassion and a desire to help others while also nurturing our students’ personal growth as people and citizens. Congratulations to Lindsy for making it such a success!


Preschool Back-to-School Luncheon

PS Luncheon_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

It was wonderful seeing everyone at the Preschool Back-to-School Luncheon! We enjoyed sharing our School and our goals for the year with you, along with the good food. Thank you to our fabulous Parent Association for bringing side dishes and assisting with cleanup.

Next Friday is TRANSPORTATION DAY! This is an exciting day that you don’t want your child to miss. If your child attends Preschool on Tuesday/Thursdays, you are welcome to bring your child and attend Transportation Day with him/her. Please send your little one to school prepared to spend the day outside climbing on and in a variety of cars and trucks. We prefer that they wear closed-toed shoes for this event; sneakers are the best for climbing. Children need to be signed into their classrooms by 9:00 a.m., so we can begin promptly at 9:30 a.m.