A Time for “Thanks!”

You Can't Beat the House_Main Image_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

As Grandparents’ Day preparations and rehearsals gear up for the “Big Day” next Tuesday, I’ve been thinking about many things at SFS for which I am thankful.

At press time, it’s closing night for our fall play, You Can’t Beat the House. This zany comedy has absolutely delighted our audiences who have rewarded us with three standing ovations and riotous laughter at every performance! I am thankful to work at a school that supports the arts in such an overwhelming way, and to have Middle School students willing to take on extra work in their already busy schedules. We become a little family during our time together, and it’s always sad when it ends. This family has truly warmed my heart.

I am thankful to work with a faculty and staff so committed to a school and its mission. I have been to many Open Houses over the years, but the one we held this Tuesday was the best I’ve ever experienced! Not only were the numbers outstanding, with 28 families in attendance representing 39 students, but we also had an Activities Fair prior to the Open House with everything from academics to the arts to athletics represented. After sifting through those attractive presentations, parents toured the school in five different groups and then were treated to an engaging panel discussion featuring SFS students, parents, and teachers. My favorite moment was when one prospective parent told Jackson Sleadd he was “adorable!” Kudos to Trisha Amirault and Kelli Carter for organizing and pulling off a fabulous Admissions event!

I’m also thankful for colleagues who are eager to better themselves professionally. Last week, Alexandra, Shelly Jones, Christine Brinkmann, Annette Rudd, and Lindsy Serrano, along with Head of Downtown Campus Suzanne Gorman, attended the ISACS conference in Chicago and came back energized and ready to share! They also visited the famed flagship of Progressive schools, the Francis Parker School, and were delighted to see how similar we were in approach to education and students. As Shelly said, “They are doing many of the same things with their kids that we are in advisory, and also experiencing the same types of challenges.” Sometimes you have to get away to gain perspective on your own day-to-day experience. Here is a comment from Lindsy Serrano on the conference:

“This year’s ISACS conference was filled with timely and interesting sessions that will enrich our classrooms for the coming year. There was a wide variety of topics covered, including incorporating MakerSpaces in the classroom, teaching students how to evaluate news and information that they come across, uncovering our own implicit biases and how that might affect our classrooms, and so much more! Professional development opportunities like this one are a great way to refresh and get new ideas and inspiration for the school year!”

And, of course, I am thankful for our music teachers who are currently hard at work getting the students ready for their Grandparents’ Day performances next week. They are always so entertaining and heartwarming and make for the perfect send-off to this most family-based of holidays. We hope you ALL have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week!

Encouraging Positive Behavior

Encouraging Positive Behavior_Main Image_2MPBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Recently, in our Fours classes, we introduced the book Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness For Kids by Carol McCloud. The story encourages positive behaviors and gives children a visual representation of what it looks like to fill someone’s bucket with acts of kindness, appreciation, and love. While “bucket dipping” occurs at times, the story doesn’t focus on the negative behaviors but on ways we can help each other. The Fours have a class bucket that they are working on filling, and each day will have its fair share of ups and downs as days typically do. The work of filling another’s bucket is rewarding (and hard at times) and we’re here to support them as they practice these important skills.

Did you know?
We are always working on developing fine motor skills when using art materials: gluing with glue sticks, peeling stickers, picking up small materials, pinching, and sprinkling. Developing these skills is necessary for children to grasp a pencil correctly and to develop pre-writing skills. We are also working on following simple one- or two-step directions, beginning and completing a task, and developing attention span. Our art projects also contain color/letter/shape recognition exercises.   

Mark Your Calendars

Tuesday, November 14th at 9:00 a.m. is our Open House! The Open House is for anyone considering our School as an option for their child. Please invite your friends and neighbors who may have preschoolers. Our parents are our best ambassadors!

Friday, November 17th from 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. is our annual Preschool Thanksgiving Luncheon. Please join your child’s class for a family-style potluck luncheon. The PA will be sending out more information about this event soon.    

Best of Luck, Mr. Walter!

Mr. Walter_Main Image_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This Tuesday at an all-school assembly, Alexandra and I had to announce that Walter Denham was spending his last week with us! Students greeted this sad news with groans and even a few tears.

“Mr. Walter” is in his seventh year with us and has made a name for himself in many areas! He has been a bus driver extraordinaire, maintenance man marvel, “ManVenture” favorite in our Uniquely St. Francis auction items (with compatriot Bob Bertke), and drama set engineer and troubleshooter. In addition, his influence on the growth of our Derby Camp experience has been legendary! This annual trip now sells out and brings in around 50 kids for a weekend of food, frivolity, and adventure. This is mostly Walter’s doing, as he has worked so hard to make sure our students have fun. And if you need someone to play the “fool” in an assembly, Walter Denham is your man. He has been a 70s disco dancer, Kenny G-playing flutist, member of Devo, and the list goes on and on.

To put it simply, Walter has immersed and invested himself in the St. Francis experience and the students can see and feel that palpably. They know he cares about them and St. Francis, and he has made a large impact on our school culture. Walter has a wonderful job opportunity, but leaves us reluctantly. The impact of Walter Denham will remain on our campus for years to come.

All-State Choir_2MPAlso this week, we honored 15 Middle School students who attended and performed at the KYACDA All-State Choir gathering in Lexington last weekend. Students have to audition into this choir and we have a proud history of getting many of our students in over the past five-plus years. That is in large part to the dedication and talents of music teachers Bob Bertke and Kim Rash, who also attended with the kids. From Bob:

“We’re immensely proud of these students who joined 600 other students from across the state in an intense weekend of music-making that ended with a fantastic concert at the Singletary Center for the Arts on the University of Kentucky campus. These students represented our school community exceptionally well!”

Here is the list of our All-State Choir members:

  • Harrison Aberle
  • Catherine Dewberry
  • Lucy Frederick
  • Molly Hales
  • Kameron Julian
  • Sophie Kirby
  • Caroline Koloff
  • Julia Koloff
  • Ayda Marshall
  • Caroline McCurry
  • Jane McLeroy
  • Zoe Petiprin
  • Jude Sleadd
  • Mya Stevenson
  • Molly Waggener

And some quotes from a few of the kids:

“It was interesting getting to meet new kids, plus I got to sing, so it was fun!” – Jude Sleadd

“This was my third year auditioning into KYACDA All-State Choir. I learned so much from our conductor, Dr. Lesley Mann. The weekend was very fun, but it was also a great learning experience that taught me so much as a singer and a person.” – Jane McLeroy

“It was really nice because you get to sing all day. There was a pool, and I got to bond with my friends.” – Zoe Petiprin

How can you go wrong with a pool? Congratulations again to these students and our fabulous music department!

Halloween is a Real Treat!

PS Halloween Parade_Main ImageBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Thank you to everyone who came to the Parent-Teacher Conferences last week. It is always a rewarding experience to take a moment and talk about your child with you.

Through a child’s eyes, I can’t imagine a better way to start the week than with a Halloween parade full of excited preschoolers. All of our classes had a great time parading outside for families and our 4th and 5th grade friends. Thank you to all the parents who brought in food and special treats for our parties.

Mark Your Calendars

Tuesday, November 14th at 9:00 a.m. is our Open House! The Open House is for anyone considering our School as an option for their child. Please invite your friends and neighbors who may have preschoolers. Our parents are our best ambassadors!

Friday, November 17th from 11:00 – 11:45 a.m. is our annual Preschool Thanksgiving Luncheon. Please join your child’s class for a family-style potluck luncheon. The PA will be sending out more information about this event soon.    

“Which Wolf Will You Feed?”: Reflections on Big South Fork

Big South Fork_Main Image_4x6By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Two weeks ago we had another uplifting backpacking trip to the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area with our 8th graders. While I went for only half a week, joining one of the watch groups on Wednesday at lunchtime, the trip was the fulfilling experience it always turns out to be. One of the “stars” of the experience this year was simply the weather: daily highs were around 70 degrees with bright blue skies, nighttime lows were around 40 – nice and brisk when we emerged from our tents each morning – and NO RAIN!

In addition to the miles of backpacking, cooking, and purifying water, another special aspect of the BSF trip is the conversations we share as groups around the campfires each night. We ask the kids many questions and everyone gets a chance to speak (s/he who holds the flashlight is the only one speaking). One of the things we discuss is why we take this trip. Why do we put a halt on academics to take our 8th grade backpacking? After a few days in the woods, they know the answers – and there are many. We’ll leave those reasons around the fire where they belong.

We also can get pretty “deep” philosophically around the fire. I thought I”d let you in on one of my favorite parables I share with the kids at BSF (and credit goes to trip originator, Mike Black, for sharing this with me many moons ago). It’s a Cherokee Indian parable that goes like this:

A Cherokee grandfather was teaching his grandson about life.

“A fight is going on inside of me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

“The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about what his grandfather had said and then asked, “Which one will win, Grandfather?”

The old Cherokee replied simply, “The one you feed.”

IMG_1691We never explain this parable, but rather let it percolate among the kids and take root (and I hope our 7th graders don’t read this!). I was so pleased when I returned to school and found this written on the blackboard in the 8th grade locker area: “Which Wolf Will You Feed?” It seems we’d made an impression. And the piece of artwork to the right turned up in several areas in the school too. 

I found out Katy Roemer was responsible for the artwork and was gratified she felt so touched by this story. There are many moments like this at BSF, just as there are many reasons why we take this special trip. Congratulations and BIG THANKS to Patrick Donovan, our Outdoor Education Coordinator, Mike Black, Angela Ponzio, Tina Brown, Salema Jenkins, and High School Science teacher David Word for being fellow watch group leaders at BSF this year!

Here are a few reflections from the kids on the week:

The time I spent at Big South Fork was amazing! I never thought that hiking with a 20-pound backpack on your back could be so much fun! I will admit that going into it I was not excited about a week-long backpacking trip into a place where black bears live. If someone told me that I would have loads of fun at Big South Fork a week before the trip, I would have laughed at them. While on the trip I realized that it is not about if the trip is hard or easy – it is about the people who you are experiencing it with. My group was amazing! We laughed, cried, even fell on the trail together. The teachers leading us were great, too! I remember on the first day of Big South Fork, Ms. Ponzio said a quote that I will remember forever, “If you only do the easy things, life will be hard. If you do the hard things, life will be easy.” I kept that quote with me whenever I thought something was too hard. Mr. Word taught me and my group things about the park and about nature that my group and I never knew. Mr. Gabhart (aka “Gabo”) kept conversations going on the trail so nobody was bored just walking, and he brought s’mores! I came into the trip thinking that I could not accomplish the task, but I came out thinking I could do anything. I will forever remember my time at Big South Fork. I will remember learning new things about my classmates. I will remember falling down on a trail. I will remember hiking 10 miles a day. I will remember a lot of things about this trip and I will never forget the great experience I had with my grade at the one and only Big South Fork! – Riley Elliott

I think Big South Fork was a wonderful experience. I really enjoyed the people in my watch group. The first two days of the trip my leaders were Mrs. Ponzio and Mr. Word, a High School teacher. On Wednesday, Mr. Word left and Mr. Gabhart came. On Monday we hiked across a beautiful bridge and then to our camp site for the night, which was an awesome cave. On Wednesday we climbed up a mountain and camped on the top and it was really pretty. On Wednesday night we all sat around the campfire and Mr. Gabhart told us a story about two wolves. When we finally got to the group campsite on Thursday we were happy to see all our friends again and drop our packs. I was really nervous to go on this trip, but now I can say I’ve been backpacking for a week. Going to BSF was definitely worth it. We saw so many good views and got to know everyone in my group so much better than I already did. My favorite part of the trip was when we got to drop our packs. All in all, I am super glad I went on the trip even though I may not have liked it so much while I was there. –  Katy Roemer   

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.