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!  

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!

Living History Museum

Living History Museum_22By Sarah Dewberry, Language Arts/Social Studies – Goshen Campus

As many of you know, Reed is away this week after running the Tokyo Marathon with his daughter last Sunday. This completed the Six Marathon Majors for him and he has been sending us photos of this travels (which can be found in this week’s photo gallery). Lower School language arts teacher Sarah Dewberry is filling in as “guest columnist,” sharing information on the 4th grade Living History Museum.

Colonial America was alive and well in the Lower School on Tuesday when the 4th graders presented the annual Living History Museum. As the culmination of a month’s study of Colonial America and the people of that period who made their mark on history, each 4th grader read, researched, and wrote about someone living in the colonies during that time. They created a visual project to display their knowledge and presented the Living History Museum to their parents and the student body.

As they perused the exhibits, visitors to the museum had the chance to talk with Alexander and Eliza Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Betsy Ross, and Pocahontas, among others! They may have dominated – or been stumped by – a variety of trivia games. Perhaps they heard the story of Mary Ludwig and how she got her nickname of Molly Pitcher. Visitors took in the plentiful information found on a variety of display boards, admired sculptures and scenes created by the students, or found themselves in a tour of a virtual Minecraft creation. Creativity abounds in 4th grade!