Trailblazers Spend Time in the Woodshop

Preschool Bird Houses_2_2MPBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

On Monday, as I was walking up to the school, I noticed one of the Trailblazers’ birdhouses hanging from the big tree by the playground. It was lovingly created by their class last week in anticipation of wintry weather. They were constructed of wood and drilled together with the help of their teachers. The woodworking skills of the Trailblazers has increased since the beginning of the school year, with Paul Harshaw and Kelly Pfeiffer ensuring that each child is comfortable using small tools. Young children love using tools that they see the adults in their lives use (vacuums, brooms, rakes). Using real tools, not just pretend versions, helps build confidence and self-regulation in children. We look forward to observing the birdhouses throughout the winter and providing food for our friends in nature.

The Adventurers have been busy creating a wintery scene (although winter is playing hide-and-seek) on their wall with white lights and shimmery trees. The Pandas are busy exploring sensory bins filled with potato flakes and rice, painting with blue and green, and using glue (their current favorite).

Our Holiday Big Sing is coming up on Wednesday, December 20th at 9:10 a.m. This is always a festive morning for everyone.

6th Grade Quick Recall Team Soars and Scores!

6th Grade Quick Recall_1_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

At Middle School Morning Meeting on Monday we applauded our 6th grade Quick Recall team for their stellar showing at the 6th Grade Showcase last Saturday! While our team was the smallest there in terms of numbers, they made up for it in knowledge, skill, and heart! Team members included Micah Ghiassi, Zack Mushkin, Allie Rahman, AJ Stevenson, and Mya Stevenson. Here is a summary of their success from coaches Anne Holmes and Debbie Adkins:

Overall Finish: 3rd Place
Quick Recall Finish: 2nd Place (Lost in the final in overtime!)
Science & Social Studies: AJ Stevenson, 1st Place
Arts & Humanities: Allie Rahman, 1st Place
Math: Zack Mushkin, 6th Place

And a comment from Anne on this scrappy team:

“There is only one word to describe the performance of this team in Saturday’s competition: Wow! These five scholars had just returned from a week away at Pine Mountain and were awesome academic competitors. The Showcase competition is made up of three parts: written composition, written assessment, and quick recall. Our team was unable to compete in composition due to the trip to Pine Mountain, so the fact that we placed third overall is truly outstanding.”

I couldn’t agree more! We love to give our talented students academic competition opportunities and this team is a great example why. And a BIG thanks to Anne Holmes, Debbie Adkins, Lindsy Serrano, and Misty Chanda for spending a Saturday with these go-getters and coaching them so well!  

A Busy Week Back from Break!

9th & 12th Pizza Lunch_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

After Thanksgiving break, we all returned to school life with a bang! The Showcase of Plays premieres Friday night, with a repeat on Saturday night – come out to see our talented playwrights, actors, directors, and improv troupe, at 7:00 p.m. both nights. Our basketball teams kicked off their seasons at Brown, with a resounding win for the boys and a hard-fought (came back from a double-digit deficit) two-point loss for the girls. The 9th and 12th graders shared a pizza lunch on Thursday, along with the chance to get to know one another better and for the seniors to give the freshmen some advice on exams and school life. And on Friday, we welcomed Representative Attica Scott (D-41), whose district in the Kentucky House includes the Downtown Campus. Rep. Scott reached out to us through the America’s Legislators Back to School Program, a nationwide event sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), with the goal of helping students understand the value of democracy.  

Exams are coming up in just a week and a half; the schedule is listed under School Notes and each student should also know his/her schedule. The school will be open normal 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. hours during exams. Students only need to be here for their specific exams, but they are welcome to be at school anytime during those usual hours.

Our Director of Admissions/Diversity Kisha Watts and School Counselor Terri White (along with Goshen Campus Spanish teacher Salema Jenkins) are attending the NAIS People of Color Conference this week; I look forward to hearing what they learn and seeing how we can use it to the benefit of student culture and school environment.

Our Preschoolers “Try On” Kindergarten

K-Try-On Day_1_2MPBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Starting kindergarten is an important life event for a child (and for parents), and to facilitate a smooth transition, we wanted to give our preschoolers an opportunity to visit kindergarten with their current preschool teachers. Our Trailblazers class of four- and five-year-olds spent the morning “trying on” kindergarten while parents attended an informational coffee with Head of School Alexandra Thurstone and Lower School Director Jennifer Griffith. The children had the opportunity to visit several specialty classes like PE, art, music, and Spanish, as well as spending time with the JK/K teachers in their classrooms. The morning was complete with a tour of the cafeteria and each child receiving a snack through the lunch line. Learning more about kindergarten will help set our preschoolers up for success as they make the transition to Lower School. A few comments from the children following their “try on” included “I want to stay in kindergarten forever” and “That was fun, I liked art.” Each child was energized by the change in routine and is looking forward to what the future holds.

We Thank You
Our Coat Drive ended today and Elyse Folley said that she may need to borrow a bigger car to deliver our donation. This is exciting news! Thank you to those who took the time to dig through those closets and contribute coats to this cause. We also want to thank Highland Cleaners for donating their services. Deena Neimat and Elyse Folley, Coat Drive Co-Chairs, were instrumental in making our Coat Drive 2017 a success!

Thank you to all of the families who donated books to the Preschool through the Scholastic Book Fair.

Did You Know?
You can find the medicine permission form in the Parent Portal. Save time at drop-off by completing it at home.

Reducing Prejudice

8th Grade Prejudice Workshop_1_2MPBy Reed Gabhart, Head of Goshen Campus

While our 6th grade class was off enjoying the unseasonably warm weather during their outdoor education trip to Pine Mountain Settlement School this week, our 8th grade class was immersed in a day and a half-long workshop focused on prejudice reduction. In order to fully engage them without interruption, we held this workshop off-campus at Gingerwoods Reception Hall, thanks to Hope and Morton Boyd G’82. The workshop was led by two facilitators from the Peace Education Program. Their program is part of an award-winning, international training process designed by the National Coalition Building Institute (ncbi.org). It is designed to build on what people have in common while also honoring their positive cultural differences. I let the other kids know at Morning Meeting on Monday what the 8th graders were doing, pointing out the fact that at St. Francis, we don’t just talk about the value of diversity, but actually bring programs to the students that help them to really understand the values and principles therein. School Counselor Julie Marks arranged and attended the workshop along with other 8th grade teachers and had this to say about it:

I had the privilege of witnessing the 8th graders expand their understanding and appreciation of the diversity within their class. The first part of their workshop was spent playing cooperative games and discovering the similarities between the students in order to create a safe environment conducive to sharing. As the day progressed, the students identified the groups in which they belong, the stereotypes of each group, and what members of each group wished others knew about them. I could tell by the looks on their faces and the comments expressed that everyone gained a great deal of insight and understanding. The second day was very emotional as many students shared deeply personal stories of times they felt teased, harassed, and/or discriminated against. The class then had the opportunity to affirm one another and pledged to stand up against these types of prejudice in the future. Overall, the workshop was a very powerful experience for all present. Below are some quotes from 8th graders about the workshop.

“This was a great chance to learn more about my classmates for me and a way to grow closer to them. As I only came to this school last year, I haven’t learned much about my classmates that I am not around all the time. The teachers taught the class really well and I learned about how to use I-statements and how to de-escalate a situation. I also was taught about how to talk to others I disagree with. It was overall a great opportunity and I’m glad I had it.”

“This workshop was very helpful because we all were able to know more about how to deal with conflict and we learned more about our classmates. We were all given the chance to share stories if we chose to. I enjoyed getting closer to my classmates and hearing about difficult times in their lives and I learned some things I never knew about them and I felt that everyone got just a little closer.”

“The workshop we went to was interesting, I thought it was extremely intriguing to hear the stories from my fellow classmates. I was able to learn so much about the people around me and find a new appreciation for them.”

Again, thanks to Julie for arranging such a positive, pro-social workshop and to the Boyd family for their generosity in hosting us!

College Corner December 2017

college-cornerBy Kit Llewellyn, College Advisor

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

Sophomores:

  • Talk to your senior friends about their applications/visits to campus/interview experiences
  • Be sure to keep up background reading (newspaper, novels, magazines, sci-fi) to maximize your performance on the SAT next year
  • Research possible colleges for admission using handbooks, catalogs, videos, virtual tours, and online resources
  • When your PSAT test scores arrive in early December, study the results to discover where you need more focus or assistance. You will be sitting for a practice ACT test in the winter (Sunday, February 25th from 1:00 – 4:00 p.m.) for experience.
  • Mark your calendars to attend the Introduction to the College Admissions Process program on Tuesday, January 23rd at 7:00 p.m. with Kit Llewellyn and Annie Murphy, Associate Director of Admissions at Centre College.   

Juniors:

  • When you receive your PSAT test results in early December, make sure to discuss your scores with Kit Llewellyn
  • Using your PSAT scores as a preliminary indicator, begin narrowing the range of colleges you are researching
  • Research possible colleges for admission using handbooks, catalogs, videos, virtual tours, and online resources
  • Register for the SAT and the ACT on one of the spring test dates (observe that some of the test dates fall during Winter Break, Spring Break, Derby, et al) so plan ahead
  • If you are interested in SAT/ACT prep courses or tutorials, Kit Llewellyn is a good source of information, especially since the SAT and ACT now have a writing component
  • Keep your academic focus during exams and this next semester
  • Check into some summer programs that you might coordinate with the proposal of your Senior Project

Seniors:

  • All of your evaluation forms and teacher recommendations have been submitted via Naviance to your colleges
  • You should complete SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Tests (if required) testing this month. Walk-in registration is possible, if you did not register on time. Remember that it is your responsibility to send your official scores from ACT and College Board to the universities.
  • If you are accepted early decision, withdraw applications to all other colleges by writing a note
  • If you are deferred early decision, write to the college stating that it is still your first choice and you will attend, if accepted in the spring
  • Parents, finish filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS profile (if applicable) for January mailing. The earlier the better!
  • Deadlines for scholarships, whether college-related or outside sources, are NOW! Please do your research and keep an excel sheet of your priorities and deadline requirements.
  • Everyone will enjoy the holidays more if all of your paperwork is completed by exam week.
  • Realizing how the juggling of your daily work, sports, drama, jobs, friends, and family can be overwhelming, try to stay organized and manage your time wisely.
  • If a college requires an interview and you cannot make it to campus, it is your responsibility to call the admissions office and set up an alum interview locally.
  • As always if you need clarification or are confused about any piece of this process, do not hesitate calling or emailing Kit Llewellyn at 502.736.1012
  • Make sure to get all information regarding the financial aid process at EACH college/university; their requirements and deadlines vary

Preschool Thanksgiving Luncheon

PS Luncheon Main ImageBy Renee Hennessy, Preschool Director

Our annual Thanksgiving Luncheon is more than just a meal; it is a gathering of our children’s most treasured people: their families and their teachers; and all of us connected by a common thread, St. Francis Preschool. We came together as a small community representing many different cultures and countries. Families sat in small (and I mean tiny) chairs to share a meal and conversation all because of their children. As I walked around and visited each class, I was reminded of how special this day truly is, and that it is our hope that we can change the world through our children.  

On Tuesday, we hosted our Open House for prospective families. We had a wonderful turnout and I want to thank Deena Neimat for assisting us in giving parent tours. We understand how important this decision is to families choosing a program for their young children. When talking to families about our program, the first thing I mention is the relationships that we build with our children. Our teachers take the time to connect with and get to know “full well” each child in their group. Establishing this trusting relationship is at the heart of our program. Harvard’s Graduate School of Education recently released an article for parents, How to Pick a Preschool, written by Suzanne Bouffard, a writer and researcher on child development and education. The article discusses five evidence-backed signs of a successful program that parents can use as a guide. This informative article can serve as a reminder for current families and are points to share with your friends and neighbors about how to determine a quality program.

We are accepting gently used or new coats for our Coat Drive to benefit the children and adults Keystone Learning Academy. The Coat Drive will run through Friday, December 1st and donation boxes are in front of the doors in the Preschool area.

What I Find Myself Grateful for at SFS

Brent Fryrear_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

Heading into Thanksgiving week, I find myself grateful for so many things related to St. Francis School.

I am grateful to have been at the ISACS Annual Conference last week (along with Alexandra and several Goshen Campus colleagues), attending sessions on implicit bias in the classroom, the science behind happiness, how to discern fact from fiction in the news, and more. I also visited the well-known progressive Francis Parker School (whose Head chaired our recent ISACS Visiting Team); seeing another like-minded school is always terrific professional development. (I am also grateful to be through our ISACS visit!)

I am grateful for a student population where advocacy is a way of life, and particularly this month for the Project Green Challenge, created and run entirely by students on our Climate Council. Each day for two weeks, the Climate Council leaders have given the students, faculty and staff a “challenge” to complete if they wish – from watching “An Inconvenient Truth” to calculating one’s water footprint to eating meatless for a day – and made all of us more aware of the resources we are using. 

I am grateful for all the students and families interested in the High School. At our Open House last week, we had over 60 prospective students, along with their parents – over 100 new visitors to the school. They enjoyed an Activities Fair covering our athletic, extracurricular, and other special activities, heard from a panel of students and parents, and then toured the school. As each group came downstairs after visiting the academic departments, parent after parent commented – as they always do – “I wish I could go back to high school and take these classes!”

I wish all of you a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving!

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!

Mental Health is Health

Mental Health_2MPBy Suzanne Gorman, Head of Downtown Campus

I am at the ISACS Annual Conference and look forward to sharing more with you about the conference next week. In the meantime, I want to share with you some communication from our school counselor Terri White, who has just completed education on depression and suicide prevention for each grade level.

From the Counselor…

One of my goals as Director of Counseling Services on the Downtown Campus is to educate and raise awareness about mental health. Mental health is health. This is the message I am trying to teach to our students. Too often, there is a stigma associated with mental health, and adults, as well as students, ignore, or aren’t fully aware of important signs that indicate there may be a problem. Beyond that, we all should be taking steps every day to manage our stress. In my 12 years at St. Francis, I have noticed an increase in the number of students who are experiencing anxiety and depression, which coincides with national mental health trends.

Below is an excerpt from an October 11th, 2017 New York Times article, “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?”

Over the last decade, anxiety has overtaken depression as the most common reason college students seek counseling services. In its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting “overwhelming anxiety” in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent. Those numbers — combined with a doubling of hospital admissions for suicidal teenagers over the last 10 years, with the highest rates occurring soon after they return to school each fall — come as little surprise to high school administrators across the country, who increasingly report a glut of anxious, overwhelmed students.

Last year, I began implementing a depression and suicide awareness program, “The Lighthouse Curriculum: Depression and Suicide Awareness for High School Students.” The program was developed by Erika’s Lighthouse: A Beacon of Hope for Adolescent Depression, which is a mental health education and advocacy organization. The program goals include raising awareness of depression and its symptoms, reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and encouraging the utilization of support services if necessary. I recently finished teaching the curriculum to all students in grades 9-12. The student were taught the risk factors and warning signs of depression and suicide, how to help a friend, how to access resources, and daily considerations and actions to address their own mental health, including sleep, nutrition, exercise, and other coping skills. Parents, grandparents, and guardians can help support good mental health by modeling healthy behavior; talking with your adolescent about his/her sleep, exercise and eating habits; and encouraging students to ask for help when they need it. If you ever have a concern about your student and you think I could be helpful, please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you are interested in more information on depression, suicide and other mental health issues, below are a few helpful websites:

Erika’s Lighthouse

National Institute of Mental Health

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Continuing the conversation, Wednesday, November 15th at 8:30 a.m. on the Downtown Campus. Dr. Kevin Chapman will be leading a parent discussion, presenting on stress and anxiety in adolescence. Dr. Chapman will be providing the latest information on this topic, as well as identifying emotion regulation strategies that can be helpful in managing daily stress and anxiety. Goshen and Downtown families are invited. Please contact Terri White, Director of Counseling Services, Downtown Campus, if you would like to attend. Coffee and breakfast food will be provided.