June 2014 SFF Newsletter

Posted On Jun 03 2014 | BY School for Friends

Director’s Report

THANKS – To all the parents who worked during our May 3 clean-up day: Emily Hershenson (chair), Jamar Celey, Catherine Fowlkes, Ann-Marie Mason, Thia Joseph, Adam Lutz, Joel Millar, John Swain, & Abe Newman.

STAFF NEWS

  • May 7-9 Makai Kellogg & Sabina Zeffler attended Quaker retreat in Philadlphia entitled “Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage” based on the work of Parker Palmer.
  • On May 7, I attended a gathering of heads of Quaker Schools in the Baltimore/Washington area – at Friends Community School in College Park.
  • On May 14, Staci Bauer attended a workshop on the CLASS assessment system for Infants and Toddlers.
  • We have a fulltime summer sub this year – Claire Kittle, a student in early childhood development and learning at Central Michigan University.

FAIR – Thanks to our two children’s fair co-chairs (Alyssa John & Tom Hershenson) for a very successful event. We had a record number of current parents in attendance.

FRIENDS COUNCIL MEMBERSHIP – On April 24, the Board of Directors of the Friends Council on Education (FCE) heartily approved School for Friends for continuing membership in the Friends Council. The Friends Council expressed “its deep appreciation to School for Friends community for being the first early childhood school to participate in the new Membership Renewal Process (involving a self-study).” FCE’s “hope for schools is that by engaging members of the school’s constituency groups in reflective work and by hearing the full range of voices in dialogue, this rich learning and growth experience will be a source of renewal for the school’s Quaker faith and practice and a confirmation of the school’s vision as a spiritually based educational community.”

CHILDREN’S ART ON THE PLAYGROUND – It has long been our goal to have children’s art on the playground as well as adult art (in the form of the mural). When we first built the playground, we imagined work along the fence that would greet visitors – work by children. Over the years, we have toyed with lots of ideas – banners, weaving, etc. Then we located the school artist for the early childhood programs at Friends School of Baltimore who agreed to create a mosaic of children-made tiles. Her name is Caren Shelley. She had the children complete their tiles on May 29 and has taken them back to Baltimore to fire. Teachers will also be contributing.

STAFF VACATIONS – During the summer, all the teaching staff and administrators take some of their well-earned vacation. Here’s the schedule of teacher vacations:

  • Julie Baron – June 30, July 7-11 & August 18-22
  • Staci Bauer – June 23, July 25-August 8
  • Elsy Blanco – July 7 & July 24-August 12
  • LaJuan Celey – June 27-30, July 22-25, August 7-11, & August 18-22
  • Cyana Chamberlain – June 26-July 3 & July 14-18
  • Jim Clay – June 13 & July 21-August 4
  • Margaret Edwards – June 25-27, July 10-11, & July 24-25,
  • Makai Kellogg – June 16, June 23, & July 10-21
  • Elizabeth Lambert – July 7-8, July 21-22, & August 11-20
  • Jackie Whiting – June 16-20, July 3-7, July 16-22, & August 12-15
  • Sabina Zeffler – July 28-August 15

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Quaker House Newsletter

Kindergarten readiness:

Lots of experts agree, “Children learn best through meaningful interactions with real materials and caring adults and their peers, not through the drilling of isolated skills.” That said, the previously stronger focus on the social-emotional development has given way to the increasingly academic instruction and expectations starting in Pre K and carrying over into Kindergarten and elementary school. Using the Teaching Strategies curriculum and (common core) for Kindergarten Readiness by the District of Columbia Public schools, as a framework and following the interest of the children, the QH-teachers are always striving to keep the balance between being a play-based program but at the same time providing age appropriate academic challenges, to help children grow in all areas and finally make a smooth transition from the Pre-K classroom to Kindergarten.

But what exactly is expected of children when they finally enter Kindergarten? With that in mind Jim Clay and the Directors Exchange invited two year in a row Kindergarten teachers from public, charter, and private schools to join a panel to help shed more light onto this question. Participating schools were Sheridan, Sidwell, Beauvoir, Janney, Murch and E.L Haynes. An educational consultant joined the panel as well. Although all four schools have different philosophies and approaches to learning, interestingly enough all the Kindergarten teachers seemed to agree on the core expectations for children entering a Kindergarten class.

They found that children with solid social-emotional skills, who are able to function well in a group and cooperate, take turns/share, as well as resolve simple conflicts independently because they are able to express and advocate for themselves, had an easier time to perform well academically.

Being able to solve conflicts seemed to make a huge difference for the children especially on the playground, as there is far less adult presence and involvement.

All of the teaches agreed that Independence, meaning that children are able to take responsibility for their materials, the upkeep of the classroom, personal needs and belongings, is a very important skill to practice in order to function well in a Kindergarten classroom. Being able to zip their coats and tie shoes (this is a bonus), and be comfortable changing clothes if necessary were mentioned as well.

This kind of independence also helps children know how to, for example, wait their turn in a classroom with more children than they are mostly used to, sit for longer periods of time and participate in the many transitions during the school day.

According to the teachers, children who are generally curious, ready to learn, willing to take chances, flexible thinkers and willing to be actively part of teacher directed activities and follow directions will be able to transition and do well in their new environment.

Children entering Kindergarten are not expected to read and write already, except their name and all the capital letters (public school). On the contrary the teachers stressed that the different approaches they use in teaching reading and writing, when children are ready for it in Kindergarten, are essential in creating good and flexible readers as opposed to inflexible ones that use only one approach to decode a text. Lots of exposure to a large variety of books, including non-fiction, identifying the capital and lower case letters in the alphabet, matching most sounds to their letters, and simple word/rhyme play are a good foundation to be able to follow the instructions in Kindergarten more easily.

In math the teachers recommended that children most of all have a solid basic number sense, can rote count up to 20, recognize numerals up to 10 and connect them to a quantity, know the basic shapes and colors.

Last but not least they recommended for pre schools teachers and parents alike to foster good fine motor skills and a sufficient pencil grip.

On the rather practical level they suggested that parents and Kindergarteners-to-be start getting on the new schools schedule a week or two ahead of the beginning of the new school year. This will ensure that your child is well rested. Always keep in mind that children may need more sleep than they normally do in the first weeks of school.

Play dates with old and new friends on the weekends and as much time as possible for free unstructured play may also create a good counter balance to the new experience of a very structured and mostly instructional day as a Kindergartener.

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Rainbow Room Newsletter

Summer is here! Thanks for making the Parent/Teacher Conferences a success. The children have closed out the regular school year and will begin the summer program on June 16. Our summer program will be different this year. Instead of each teacher working with every classroom on a project or activity for the day, teachers will be responsible for the activities for only their class. All of the teachers came together to choose various topics that would serve as themes for a two week period. During those two weeks activities and special days will be planned by each class that relate to the theme across content areas. The themes this summer are Camping, Fantasy, Under the Sea, Theatre, and Messy Play. We hope to plan fun activities that are engaging, exciting, and hands on. We also have planned a celebration of the beginning of summer program for the children, a trip to a Mystics game at the Verizon Center, water play in the pools on the playground, and an end of summer fair that parents are invited to as well as other special days.

For water play and the mud pit, it is very helpful to have at least two sets of extra seasonal clothing including underclothes. Also, every Monday please bring in a bathing suit and towel (for your child for water play and splashing in the pools) that will be sent home on Friday. Sunscreen is important during this time, so please bring in a labeled bottle of sunscreen. Both LaJuan and I will be on vacation at different times throughout the summer and will keep you posted so that the children can predict who will be substituting in the classroom on those days.

Reminders:

  • Please sign the sheet on the stairway doors to inform us of your vacation
  • Please sign up to bring in fruits and veggies for snack

Thanks,

Rainbow Room Team

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Green Room Newsletter

During the month of May I had the opportunity to spend time at three Carolina Friends School: one on Main Campus, one in Chapel Hill (at the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, near UNC), and one in Durham (at the Durham Friends Meeting, on Duke’s Central Campus)

  • Campus Early School: 18 children, taught by two teachers and a head teacher, with the help of Upper School community service students.
  • Chapel Hill Early School: 29 children, taught by three teachers and a head teacher, with the help of work-study students from UNC.
  • Durham Early School: 23 children, taught by three teachers and a head teacher, with the help of work-study students from Duke University.

Each campus is unique, but all three Early Schools provide time for large-and small-group activities, as well as opportunities for interaction with each age group. Each Early School is directed by a Head Teacher.

Daily Schedules

The Early School program recognizes the need of young children to participate in active and quiet play as well as in lerger and smaller groups. The School’s conviction that young children need to make choices for themselves is reflected throughout the daily program.

Supplies, equipment, and other materials are available to the children for exploring the worlds of art, puppets, puzzles, manipulatives, sand and water, blocks, music, drama, games, science and nature, books, numbers, writing, and more. Also, each day children gather in small groups for settling in, reading, singing, storytelling, and other activities planned by the teachers.

They believe in the power of silence, each morning they gather as a community of families, teachers and children to Settle In together. They share reflective silence around a candle to create a peaceful, mindful, and calm beginning for each day.

Reflection on Reggio Schools

The three schools I visited, Durham Friends Meeting, Chapel Hill Friends, and Main Campus Chapel Hill reflected Quaker education philosophy and practices. But the majority of my time was spent at the DES which has a Reggio program in addition to its Quaker education. I was impressed with the Reggio Emilia program teaching style. Our classroom includes on teacher directed activities. However, in the Reggio classroom, learning is child centered while the teachers act as facilitators.

In this model the topics of study are the children’s interests, and they choose their own projects. The teacher’s role is to create the environment (which is the classroom materials and equipment’s), observe and ask the children questions in order to discover the children’s interest, and plan according. I am hoping to implement some of these practices and ideas into the Green Room next year.

I have already made some changes in the Green Room with moment of silence, adding tea lights to the children building structures, using clay each morning and introducing two new games I learnt there. This is a song two schools sang each morning during Settling In!

When we come into the circle

  • We sit down quietly so we can all settle in.
  • It’s time to settle in as we all come together to
  • Find a quiet place each of us has inside.

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Blue Room Newsletter

The Blue Room had a very fun and busy month in May. The weather finally started getting warmer which allowed us to use the mud pit on the playground for more than just digging for worms. We also started using water as a form of exploration, allowing the children to use their imaginations to find different uses for it. They have been using it for painting, making sand castles as well as in the mud pit.

We started the month finishing up learning about Caterpillars and Butterflies, and we had our own caterpillars that we watched transform. When they arrived the children were very interested in them, and through the whole process of their transformation, their minds became more intrigued, and they really enjoyed watching the changes happen first hand. We released them into nature and watched as some flew away and others stayed and traveled around the playground for a little while. Also in May we learned about community helpers which included a field trip to the fire station and the post office. The first week of June was spent learning about buildings and construction, which the class has been very interested in. We built things using different materials like boxes, wood and different blocks in the classroom. To end the theme we went on a walk around the neighborhood to see the different buildings and materials that are in our environment. The final week before the summer program starts we will be exploring light and learning about shadows.

On June 16, the summer program starts which is full of fun activities for everyone! The summer will be structured in themes that last 2 weeks at a time. The themes will be Camping/Picnic/Summer Foods, Fantasy/Magic, Under the Sea, Theater/Music and The Arts/Messy Play. On Monday of each week during the summer, be sure to bring in swimming attire and a towel for your child because we will be having water play on the playground each week which includes wading pools. On Fridays we will send everything home to be washed and ready to be brought back on Monday. This summer will be a lot of fun for everyone!

Important Dates:

  • June 2, 3, 26-30 and July 1-3, 14-18 – Cyana’s Vacation
  • June 5, 6, 23 and July 25-August 8 – Staci’s Vacation
  • June 13, 16, July 7, 8 and August 11-20 – Elizabeth’s Vacation
  • June 23 – Jessie’s Birthday
  • June 29 – David’s Birthday
  • July 4 – School Closed
  • July 5 – Cyana’s Birthday
  • July 7 – Elizabeth’s Birthday
  • July 13 – Jemmy’s Birthday