The Gift of a Spring Preview

Gift of Spring PreviewBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

This week we have enjoyed the gift of a spring preview. The Preschoolers have enjoyed many opportunities for outdoor play on the playground, a visit to the garden, and a community Big Sing.

Did you know?
There is an important space in each of our classrooms dedicated to the discovery and interactions with nature. These spaces are often referred to as our science centers. They may contain items that children have found outside, such as rocks, seed pods, sticks, pinecones, acorns, evergreen needles, leaves, and occasionally a birds’ nest. Sometimes, items such as seashells, fossils, cocoons, or flowers are brought from elsewhere. These spaces are also the place where tools for investigations are located. We use magnifying glasses, magnets, tweezers, eyedroppers, tornado tubes, scoops, funnels, plastic tubing, or color wheels, among others! Our teachers sometimes add tubs of water, sand, ice, or snow to aid in the children’s exploration. Often, children can be found working together with these materials, and we ask them questions to enhance their collaborations and practice new vocabulary words. As with all of our classroom centers, our curious preschoolers surprise and delight us with their questions, comments, and creative ideas.  

Preschool summer camp dates and information are now on our School’s website. Our one-week sessions feature a summer full of outdoor activity, imaginative learning, and creative fun! Camp sessions fill up quickly, so reserve your spot today!

Chant, Debate, Yak Dance, and Snow Leopard Dance!

Tibetan MonksBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

At the High School, we enjoyed a fabulous presentation on Wednesday from a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks. Thanks to parents John and Cindy Borders for making their visit possible and to parent Will LeStrange for accompanying the monks and helping explain the various aspects of their performance – chant, debate, Yak Dance, and Snow Leopard dance. The students were charmed by the monks and learned quite a bit about their culture, in addition.

Our Black Students Association (along with their counterparts from the Goshen Campus) had the opportunity to go to the Speed Cinema on Thursday for a special viewing of “I Am Not Your Negro”. We appreciate the invitation by SFS parent and Speed cinema curator Dean Otto. The groups returned to the Downtown Campus for pizza and discussion afterward.

Continuing these themes, we are gearing up for Diversity Week, with special programming each day next week planned by our student Diversity Committee under the faculty guidance of Terri White and Angela Katz. I’ll report more on that next Friday!

College Corner March 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your March college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.

Sophomores:

  • On Sunday, March 19th, all sophomores will sit for the Pre-ACT from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. on the Downtown Campus. Please bring three #2 pencils (non-mechanical), a calculator, a snack, and $12 cash or check (issued to St. Francis School).
  • Begin visits to nearby colleges/universities.     
  • Research interesting and challenging summer courses, jobs, and activities.                
  • Use Spring Break to visit colleges along the way, if you are traveling.   
  • Take virtual tours online.

Juniors:

  • If you registered, take the SAT test this month.                   
  • Sign up for the May or June SAT, June ACT, or June SAT Subject tests, if applicable.
  • Use Spring Break to visit prospective colleges.    
  • Keep reading and finish up strongly this year.
  • Meet with Kit Llewellyn to look over your preliminary list of suggested colleges and share them with your parents through Naviance.
  • Compile your activities/community service into a resume on your Naviance account.
  • Research summer camps, seminars, and summer academic sessions on college campuses for your enlightenment.

Seniors:

  • Report any issues to Kit Llewellyn.
  • If colleges require additional information, send it immediately.   
  • If accepted, denied, or wait-listed by a college, notify Kit Llewellyn.
  • All colleges should reply with financial aid packages/scholarships by April 1st, or at least early April.
  • Meet with parents and  Kit Llewellyn to discuss which college is the best match.
  • Consider financial aid packages carefully!
  • Try to revisit colleges where you have been offered a place.
  • Listen to the advice of parents and Kit Llewellyn, but insist on your choice, if it feels right to you.
  • Follow acceptance/housing instructions carefully.
  • Students on wait-lists should write letters expressing interest and send additional  information (for instance, update on your Senior Project or any awards/honors received).

Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age

083016__FB_POST (1)St. Francis School and the SFS Parent Association are excited to announce an upcoming Parent Education opportunity. We will be showing “Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age,” a documentary film about the impact of the digital age on children and how to help families minimize harmful effects and find balance.

As stated on the website, “Award-winning ‘Screenagers’ probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including the director’s own, and depicts messy struggles, over social media, video games, academics, and internet addiction. Through surprising insights from authors and brain scientists, solutions emerge on how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world.”

There will be screenings followed by discussion for parents on both the Goshen and Downtown Campuses, and parents from either campus are encouraged to attend whichever screening is more convenient. We do ask that you register below for a free ticket. These showings are for parents only. The film will be be shown to Middle and High School students during the school day.

Tuesday, March 7th at 6:30 p.m.
Goshen Campus
Click here to register for your free ticket.

Thursday, March 9th at 6:30 p.m.
Downtown Campus
Click here to register for your free ticket.

You can find more information at www.screenagersmovie.com.

First International Trip of the Year!

Galapagos ImageBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

We sent our first international trip of the year off on Thursday – 18 students, Spanish teacher Angela Katz, and science teacher David Word headed to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands for nine days. They’ll be immersed in all things Spanish-language and ecological; it promises to be a wonderful trip. We’ll share some pictures in an upcoming newsletter. Next up: our Spring Break trip to China!  

Sarah Burrill, an educator from Freedom from Chemical Dependency spent three days with us this week, meeting twice with each grade, once in small groups and once in a larger group. She also hosted a Parent Discussion Group with our counselor, Terri White. Sarah connected well with the students and shared FCD’s core message of “delay” regarding substance use. She emphasized the plasticity of teenage brains and the importance of making healthy, rather than unhealthy, connections. Delaying use of legal substances until age 21 is key in preventing addiction. One of the things we ask in our Parent Expectations (listed in our Student-Parent Handbook) is for parents to support our efforts to prevent student use of alcohol or other drugs. Over the break, you might talk with your student about what s/he learned from and thought about the FCD sessions. We will be asking students for their feedback, as well.

Wishing all our students (and parents) a wonderful week. See you on the 20th!

A Little “Wove” in the Air This Week

Preschool Parties_1By Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

We have noticed a little “wove” in the air this week. I overheard an original love song being sung this week to a group of children at carpool. It went something like this, “Standing in the wight (light) of the stars we have wove (love).” The friend who was singing this song announced very matter of factly that we all have “wove.” I can say with a great deal of certainty that small children don’t understand why they are celebrating Valentine’s Day at Preschool. In our classes, we are using this holiday as an opportunity to highlight feelings and emotions. We can’t forget that giving children the words to express their feelings for those big emotions they feel is important work for us all. When children recognize their feelings and emotions, it strengthens their self awareness and also the awareness of the feelings of others.

Here are a few children’s books that we recommend:

  • You Are My I Love You by Maryann K. Cusimano
  • Love Is A Family by Roma Downey
  • A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams
  • Mystery Bottle by Kristen Balouch
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney

JK/Ks Delight the Residents at the Beehive Homes!

Beehive Homes Visit_1By Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

Everyone talks today about how “busy” we all are and the hectic pace of such a connected world. But sometimes you just have to take a step back and make room for something worthwhile and special in your day. That was the case this Thursday when I accompanied our JK and K students on a field trip just down the road to sing Valentine’s Day songs to the residents at the Goshen Beehive Home.

And while I thought about cancelling to make sure I attended to all of my “important” emails, I’m so glad I didn’t! Faith Murphy, Lower School music teacher extraordinaire, had our little ones in tip-top shape and ultra-excited to sing to their newfound friends. It was so heartwarming to see the responses from the residents who tapped their toes, nodded their heads, sang along a bit, and smiled throughout. Our teeny chorus enthralled them with their enthusiasm, dance steps, voices, inimitable cuteness, and, of course, youth. What led to this touching field trip? From Faith:

“When Kim Aberle taught the JK and K kids, she used to take students to sing songs at nursing homes. I felt it was time to bring back that tradition. I really wanted to go to Beehive because they are so close to our school. We started practicing at the beginning of January, and the children all worked hard and were very excited for this visit. It was very well received by the residents there, and I am hopeful that we can continue a relationship with them in the future. Everyone, big and little, got something out of it. I couldn’t be more proud of my students!”

One of my favorite moments of the exchange was at the end when our kids presented valentines to the residents. They approached them a little timidly in groups of two or three and asked them questions. As they grew more confident, the questions turned to laughter, shortly thereafter followed by hugs, and I even saw a kiss on the the cheek. Talk about lumps in the throat!

At St. Francis, we are firm believers in service learning and contributing to the local community. This was one of the finest examples I’ve been able to witness. Kudos to the JK and K teachers and Faith for making such a wonderful memory  – for the residents at Beehive, and for our impressionable youngsters as well. I hope everyone has a wonderful Winter Break!

Winter Sports Spirit Night

Spirit WearBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Tonight we celebrate our Winter Sports Spirit Night, honoring bowling and basketball athletes. The School Committee planned a Pajama Day yesterday, followed by Wyvern Wear Day today, and has also made banners for the basketball teams to run through prior to their games. Activities will get underway at the Goshen Campus as soon as we get out there after dismissal, as the faculty take on the students in a basketball game. (It is important to note that we do not allow current basketball players to take part in this. After all, we do not want them worn out for their actual games. And also, we don’t want to lose too badly.) Class of 2017 athletes will be honored with Senior Night festivities prior to tip-off of the boys’ basketball game v. Covington Latin at 6:00 p.m., followed by the girls’ game against Covington Latin at 7:30 p.m. Students will enjoy free popcorn and soft drinks and some halftime contests during both games. Thanks to the School Committee and to our Athletic Coordinator Catherine Lafronza for all the planning and work on this – looking forward to a fun night!

Our Faculty in Action!

Debbie Adkins Science ProjectBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

This is the time of year when my Lower School counterpart, Jen Griffith, and I take a few weeks to observe each and every faculty member teach a classroom lesson. We do this for several reasons: to provide teachers with feedback on their teaching techniques; to see what is going on and be present in the classrooms; and to keep abreast with curriculum. As I always say to our wonderful teachers, I inevitably wind up feeling like I get more out of it than they do! And it is a visual, sonic, and experiential reminder of all the wonderful things happening in our building every single day. In the last two weeks alone I’ve witnessed:

  • Students doing a group work simulation on how pollutants get into waterways in Debbie Adkins’ class.
  • 7th graders learning how to play and sing “Hey Jude” on ukuleles in Bob Bertke’s music room.
  • Students learning about the Han Dynasty in ancient China through visiting multiple classroom stations (art, calligraphy, inventions, etc.) in Brandon Doble’s room.
  • Mexican Suns Alex Taylor Art ClassColorful Mexican sun masks coming to life via clay and kiln-firing in Alex Taylor’s art room.
  • A wonderful parallel between the difficulties associated with excessive immigration in the Reconstruction Period in post Civil War America and what is going on politically today in our country (through poetry no less!) in Patrick Donovan’s 8th grade language arts class.
  • Another simulation that demonstrated the vast differences in wealth and power among social classes during the Middle Ages in Julie Mushkin’s class. (Skittles are great motivators!).
  • And finally, an impressive experiment that culminated with DNA being extracted from strawberries for all to see in a lab in Jason Chlopek’s science class.

And from Jennifer Griffith:

  • Andrew Frechette, Heather McGraw, and Annette Rudd’s junior kindergarten and kindergarten classes preparing for the Chinese New Year celebration by reading books about Chinese customs and culture, and creating a dragon head from cardboard for the parade.
  • Colonial America Activities_12nd and 3rd grade Spanish classes starting rehearsals for “The Three Little Pigs” play with Salema Jenkins, which they will perform for the Lower School at the end of April.
  • 1st graders in Julie Dayton’s class preparing for the 100th day of school by writing what they think they will and won’t do when they’re 100 years old.
  • 4th graders making toys, crafts, and foods (johnnycakes) to experience what life was like for children in Colonial America with Sarah Dewberry, Joanne Brock, and Christine Brinkmann.
  • 4th graders in Michelle Hall’s science class making and experimenting with pulleys.
  • 3rd and 4th grade “Acts of Kindness” Project holding a bake sale to benefit Go Ministries. They made $300!

What you will notice in all these scenarios is that few of these activities involve worksheets or rote memorization. Almost all are interactive, interesting, fun, involve group work, and generally allow for differentiation. And I have to say in an ironic way, this is “routine” for St. Francis. We sometimes focus so much on all the other good things we’re doing around here that we forget that some of the most magical things are happening right under our students’ noses every day! I can’t wait to continue on in this journey over the next few weeks!

College Corner February 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

Don’t forget about your February college preparation to-dos! Read on to see what you should be doing now as a sophomore, junior, and senior.

Sophomores:

  • Consider a college summer program. Do your research on the Internet or with Kit Llewellyn.
  • Continue enjoying your extracurriculars, hobbies, or a part-time job.
  • Think about using the February Winter Break for visits to nearby colleges/universities for initial comparisons.
  • Give a lot of energy to your studies!

Juniors:

  • Register for the SAT and ACT tests online at www.collegeboard.org or www.act.org.
  • Those students who are eligible for extended time need to check in with Michelle Salerno in order to complete registrations for the SAT and ACT.
  • Those students who believe that they will qualify for fee waivers for the SAT/ACT, please see Kit Llewellyn.  
  • This is the last semester that counts towards your GPA so go for it; show the colleges what you have to offer!
  • Consider a college summer program, course, or job.
  • Each junior will have an individual meeting with Kit Llewellyn and together they will generate a list of suggested colleges.
  • Parents of juniors are encouraged to make appointments with Kit Llewellyn after the lists are composed for further discussion and planning.
  • Plan on taking the SAT in March or May, the ACT in April or June, and SAT Subject Tests in June if your colleges require those tests.
  • Consider planning some college visits during the February Winter Break and the April Spring Break.

Seniors:

  • Complete your taxes, send financial aid forms (*FAFSA and CSS Profile forms when required) and the specific aid forms from the individual colleges.
  • If a seventh-semester transcript is required, please ask Kit Llewellyn to send it.
  • Mid-year reports are required by some colleges.
  • Continue to research scholarship info in Kit Llewellyn’s office and online at fastweb.com
  • Keep working on your Senior Projects and enjoy!
  • Your senior grades will always be a permanent piece of your high school record…don’t slack off!
  • Check that all of your colleges have received all materials: applications, fees, test scores, recommendations, and financial aid forms.
  • Carefully read all emails and information coming from admissions offices: acceptance procedures, housing, financial aid procedures, registration, and orientation. Periodically check your spam because sometimes important messages may be posted there.     
  • Keep Kit Llewellyn informed of your acceptances (and otherwise!).