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Lower School Life

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Lower School Life

January 2020

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From the Director's Chair

Dear Lower School Families,

Each year at Penn Charter, students, families and faculty join together as a community to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. This year was particularly meaningful for Lower School as our fifth grade students helped to open the keynote, sharing messages and original poems with the school community to start the day. Lower School students then moved on to the service portion of the morning by participating in a variety of on- and off-campus projects. Among the many projects offered, some of our older students went to the Share Food Program to pack emergency food relief boxes for local Philadelphia residents facing hunger. On campus, the younger grades helped to decorate tote bags and write cards for Turning Points for Children, an organization that brings social and health services to vulnerable people.

Our fifth grade students also shared their creativity and leadership through an innovative project that showed both care for community and environmental stewardship. Eloisa Tovar and Naira Presley led students and families in the creation of upcycled earrings using some of the snack bags collected for TerraCycling. Last year in fourth grade, Orit Netter taught students how to use snack bags (cleaned!) to weave beautifully colored strips; students used the weavings to make earrings, which they sold in the grade's Economics Sale.

Building upon this idea, at this year's MLK Day, Eloisa and Naira showed a group of more than 20 students how to weave and construct these earrings. Together, the group was able to complete 64 pairs of earrings. With the help of Alyson Goodner, director of PC's Center for Public Purpose, these will be sold at various events during the school year, including Color Day later this spring. Proceeds will benefit the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals at the conclusion of 2020, when the girls will have sold enough to have an impact. We are so proud of their innovation, effort and leadership in giving back to their community!

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Please read on for important information about the upcoming visit by our author-in-residencenew drop-off and pickup procedures, and how to register for the new drop-in option for the After-School Program.

 

Book Orders for Author-in-Residence Ariel Bernstein OPC '95

This year's author-in-residence is Ariel Bernstein OPC '95. She will be visiting Lower School students to discuss her books on Friday, Feb. 21. For families who are interested in ordering books – from a PC grad! – and having the author sign them, please fill out and bring in this order form by Friday, Feb. 7. There is no obligation to make a purchase. For more information about our author or her books, please visit Ariel Bernstein's website. If you have any questions, please contact Linda O'Malley.

New Lower School Drop-Off Lane 

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Here at Penn Charter we are constantly looking for ways to improve safety and the overall experience of students and families, including the daily process of drop-off and pickup. After discussion with Parent Community representatives and our security personnel, we are writing to announce a new initiative and to remind parents of some parking restrictions. We hope you will support the following.


Beginning on Monday, Jan. 27, we will offer a drop-off-only lane for Lower School students from 7:45 to 8:10 a.m. where a teacher or administrator will meet your vehicle and help your child safely out of the car. This drop-off-only lane will be located adjacent to the Graham Athletics Center, just behind the back door to Lower School. In addition to this option, families may continue to drop students off in the car line that runs in front of the Kurtz Center. All students who are dropped off prior to 8:05 a.m. will be directed to morning care on the blue playground, or downstairs in the Activities Room.

If you choose to walk your child into the building, please park only in a designated visitor space or along the right side of the Kurtz Center. In order to ensure an easy drop-off for all Penn Charter families, please do not park and leave your car unless you are in one of these two areas. We also ask that you closely follow the direction of our security staff as they direct traffic and monitor the safety of pedestrians navigating through the parking lot.


Dismissal: Our dismissal procedure will remain the same at this time, with two teachers available to check students out at the front of the Lower School building, and an additional teacher supporting the car line in front of Kurtz. Should you choose to use this option, please stay with your car and move forward at the direction of our security staff so that we might keep students safe and continue to move traffic through campus. As we move forward, we will continue to look for other ways to make both arrival and dismissal a positive, easy and stress free experience for students and families.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or suggestions.

 

New! After-School Drop-In Option

We are excited to announce that our After-School Program will begin offering a drop-in option on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning on Monday, Jan. 27. We can accommodate a maximum of five students each day.

Families can use SchoolPass to sign up for either the 2:50-4:20 p.m. session (1.5 hours at a rate of $22.50) or 2:50-5:50 p.m. session (3 hours at a rate of $45). There will also be a late fee of $15 an hour, and after 5:50 p.m. the late fee is $3 per minute. All billing will be through SmartTuition. Please note that in order to leave space for another family and to avoid being charged, you must cancel 24 hours prior to the session. Please watch this short video on how to use SchoolPass to sign your child up for the drop-in option.

In order to meet the changing needs of families, we also have a flex option that allows parents to sign up for any five days of care in a billing period at a contracted rate of $13 an hour. This is different from the drop-in option because parents would contract in advance for those five days, deciding which day as they go. Use theASP contract form to sign up for the five-day flex option.

Please email Kathleen MacMurray  with any questions about the ASP drop-in option or flex option, or Tatiana Koltsova for questions related to SchoolPass.

 

2020 Labor Day Heads-Up 

We have come to that point in the year where we are developing the calendar for the 2020-2021 school year!  Please note the following dates in your calendar as some school events will begin prior to the Labor Day holiday, which this year falls on Monday, Sept. 7.

Wednesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday, Sept. 3. Lower, Middle and Upper School registration and orientation.
Tuesday, Sept. 8. Lower School grades 1-5, Middle and Upper School classes begin.
Wednesday, Sept. 16. Pre-K and kindergarten begin.
 

Social Media Insights

Follow us on social media to gain more insight into Lower School teaching, learning and events:

Instagram: PCLowerSchool

Twitter:@PCLowerSchool

 

Save the Date!

Feb. 11, 7 p.m. Moving Up to Middle School, program for fifth grade parents

Feb. 14. Lower School Valentine's Day Bake Sale. Most treats cost $1.

Feb. 17. Penn Charter closed for Presidents' Day

Feb. 18. Lower School faculty workday, no classes pre-K to 5. Image

Feb. 28. All-School faculty in-service day, no classes pre-K to 12.

 

 

Sincerely,

Kate McCallum
Director of Lower School

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Lower School Life

October 2019

 

 

I am always stunned by how quickly the weeks fly once the year is launched! It is already mid-October and we are starting to prepare for the end of the trimester and a variety of upcoming holidays! This month's Lower School Life is filled with important information about daily life here at Penn Charter, plus exciting upcoming events.

Special Area Videos

We had a great turnout at Back-to-School Night, which now feels like ages ago! In case you missed it, or were not able to swing by the Special Areas Drop-and-Stop, please take a look at the videos developed to share curriculum for each grade level.

News You Can Use

 

Morning Drop-Off

 

One of the unique aspects of Lower School at Penn Charter is that we welcome families to drop their child off in the building each day if they are able and choose to do so. We love this aspect of our culture as it enables parents to connect with each other or with teachers, and for students to share recent work or additions to their classroom each day. In order to continue this practice and to keep our students, families and faculty safe in the parking lot, we are asking for your support:

 

  • If you are dropping your child off and would like to walk them into the building, please take advantage of any one of our visitor parking spaces. Should these be full, parents can park along the curb at the back of the Lower School, or drop students off in the front of the Lower School field between the Kurtz Center and Main Building. Morning care is also a great option and begins at 7:30 a.m. on the Blue Playground or in the Activities Room in the Lower School basement in the event of inclement weather.
  • Should you stop by soon, please feel free to drop in at the Lower School main office where we have a number of the printed Community Directories created this year. While Penn Charter is expanding our environmental stewardship by accessing this data on the HUB, we still have a few paper copies left to share.

 

Wearable Digital Devices in Lower School

 

We have recently seen an increase in wearable digital devices that connect to wifi or cellular service in Lower School. These tools are very helpful to families outside of the school day; however, we ask that families either keep them at home or that students turn them off during the school day and keep them in their school bags. Should you need to contact your child directly, please call the main office and we will make sure that a message is delivered to your child. Fitbits, or other similar fitness tracking devices that do not have internet or cellular capabilities are welcome.

 

Halloween Parade Tips, Times and Route

 

On Thursday, October 31, at 8:30 a.m., all families are welcome to attend our annual Halloween parade. The parade for grades K-5 will begin in Lower School at 8:30 am sharp near the science room and end at 8:50 am on the Lower School green. If it is raining, the parade will conclude after touring the Upper School, and children can meet their parents back in the classrooms for final photos. See the parade route.

 

Pre-K students and their families should gather in the pre-K by 8:15 a.m. They will then walk over as a group and watch the parade from the kindergarten playground. Afterward, they will walk back to enjoy their own festivities. If it rains, they will not go to Lower School but will remain in the pre-K. They should follow the same costume guidelines (see next paragraph) as the rest of Lower School. Check the pre-K Hub page for more information.

 

All Lower School children who are participating in the parade should wear their costumes to school. As a Quaker school, we ask that students not wear costumes that are overly scary or violent, or military clothing such as camouflage or other depictions of war. We also ask that they do not carry toy weapons (swords, guns, etc.) or other violent accessories that may be part of their costumes.

 

Be sure your child brings a change of clothes to school. Children will change into school clothes following the festivities and should remove all face paint, etc. Regular classes will resume later in the morning.

 

Alternate Activity for Children Who Don't Celebrate Halloween. Out of respect for the diversity of our community, we will provide, as we have done in past years, an alternative activity for children whose families do not celebrate Halloween. The activity will be held in the small conference room of the Upper School, and students can be dropped off as early as 7:30 a.m. To sign up for this option, contact Lisa Reedich (ext. 171) by Oct. 27.

 

We hope everyone has enjoyed the start of our school year and look forward to the upcoming weeks with Halloween and our classroom festivities.Image

 

Will you be able to correctly guess who the witch will be this year?

 

Social Media Insights

 

To share more with you about Lower School teaching, learning and events, we will renew our social media efforts. Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

Instagram: PCLowerSchool

Twitter:@PCLowerSchool

 

Warmly,

Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

 

P.S. Another important date to mark on your calendar:

Lower School Family Visiting Day: Friday, Oct. 25, 8:30-11:00 a.m. Register if you can come.

3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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Lower School Life

September 2019

 

Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year!  We are so glad to have the students back and to hear the hallways filled with the joyful sounds of their day. 

 

Summer is a time of rest and reflection for faculty, and also provides some concentrated time to dig in to professional learning. Teachers participated in a wide range of professional development opportunities this summer, and we look forward to seeing how these experiences help to foster new student learning and community building. 

 

  • Clare Dolan spent a week at Columbia University at the 26th annual June Institute on the Teaching of Reading. 
  • Sarah Black and Karen Reidelmeir attended the week-long Responsive Classroom Course.
  • Lindsay Franklin attended a weeklong training for the National SEED Project, described as "a peer-led professional development program that creates conversational communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward greater equity and diversity." Lindsay will be partnering with Cory Moy in the Upper School to lead this work with broader PC faculty this year.
  • Lisa Reedich attended the Basic Mediation Skills Training Course at the Center for Resolutions in Media. Facilitators from the Center for Resolutions also joined the Department Chair Group to share peaceful conflict management strategies that utilize a collaborative process.
  • I also had the privilege of joining Penn Charter faculty and student representatives at Howard Stevenson's Racial Literacy Institute. This powerful experience helped us to learn strategies for dealing with racial stress and promoting connection through storytelling. Dr. Stevenson also brought his team to Penn Charter last week to touch upon this work with the full faculty. We are excited to continue to focus on areas of diversity and inclusion as a community throughout the year.

 

One of my favorite things about Penn Charter is our commitment to ongoing learning and a strong emphasis on growth mindset. While these formal professional development opportunities highlight much of what was done over the summer, this does not account for all of the work that individual teachers did personally to continue to develop their practice. 

 

I am excited to see what this summer work looks like in classrooms and for student learning and engagement!

 

Please read below for information that will help you navigate drop-off, bus expectations and safety, lunch options—plus provide updates about ongoing and new members of the PC community.

 

With this newsletter, I think I've exhausted the critical and exciting information necessary to share for our opening days. We are thrilled to have you back on campus! We look forward to seeing you in the coming weeks!

 

Warmly,

Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

 

MORNING DROP-OFF

Mornings are a particularly special time of day for Lower School students. Students anxiously await the time to head to their classrooms each morning. Morning care is available, free of charge, beginning at 7:30 am.  During the warmer months, students can be dropped off on the Blue playground, and in colder months and days of inclement weather students should be brought to the a in the basement of the Lower School. Students in the lower grades arriving by bus will be walked from the bus lane to the APR by a Penn Charter faculty member.

 

Families are welcome to wait in the Lower School lobby until 8:05, when students are released to classrooms. Students waiting in the lobby must be accompanied by an adult at this time. Families are expected to walk kindergarten students to the classroom at this time, and first and second grade families are welcome to do the same. For those of you with students on the second floor (third, fourth, and fifth grades), the opportunity to walk independently to classrooms is an exciting step for our students. You are welcome to see them to their classrooms on the first day of school, but we ask that you allow them the privilege of doing so independently for the remainder of the year.

 

Please see the Arrival section of the Lower School Handbook for additional details.

 

BUS EXPECTATIONS AND SAFETY

As we enter into one of the most exciting times of the school year, we thought it might be helpful to revisit the rules and expectations for students riding the bus to and from school, as well as on field trips. Please take some time to review these with your child: Bus Expectations and Rules for 2019-2020.


Also, I have been asked to offer two important reminders for parents and caregivers:

  1. In the mornings, please be sure to have your child at his/her bus stop at least five minutes prior to the scheduled pick-up time. This makes it possible for each additional scheduled student pick-up to occur on time.
  2. If at any time you would like to arrange for your child to get off the bus in the afternoon with another student, and not at the regularly designated stop for your child, then the school must receive written notification from both you and from the other student's parents or caregivers. For the safety of all involved, we must adhere strictly to this policy.
     

LUNCH

Student in pre-K through first grade enjoy lunch with peers in their classrooms. In kindergarten and first grade, parents can choose to purchase a boxed lunch contract or a drink contract.

 

Students in grades 2 through 5 eat lunch in the cafeteria. Families may opt to pack a lunch or purchase a lunch contract, which includes a drink, entree and snack or a partial contract for drinks only. There is also the option of purchasing items a la carte using the MyPaymentsPlus system. This option is best for families looking to purchase the occasional snack or drink. Please know that faculty and staff are not able to monitor student purchases, thus this might not be the best option for daily lunch. Parents can see the general category, and sometimes the detail of the item purchased using the MyPaymentsPlus account.

 

If you would like to use the a la carte option, please contact Jenny Barone to register your child and receive a PIN number that students can use at checkout. If your child used this last year, the pin number remains the same. 

 

The option to pay with cash remains, as well.

 

NEW ROLES, NEW HIRES

We are thrilled to welcome some new faculty members to the Lower School this year! In addition to these new educators, Marcy Sosa has moved to the front office of the Lower School to be more easily accessible as she assumes the full-time role of assistant director of the Lower School. Please be sure to welcome these new members of our community when you visit this fall.

 

After 10 years in Lower School Admissions for Penn Charter, John Zurcher has changed roles and is now PC's Director of Financial Aid. Allan Brown, who previously held the post, will continue as PC Director of Archives. 

 

Naté Hall is PC's new Associate Director for Lower School Admissions. Nate' is experienced in admissions, college counseling, independent schools and Quaker education; she has taught and served on administrative teams at Bryn Mawr College, Baldwin School and, most recently, Friends Select School. Nate' earned both her BA and MA from the University of Michigan. Her sons, Braden and Noah, will join Lower School in third and fifth grades, respectively. Nate' will have an office in the main building, a move that brings the pre-K to 12 Admissions team into closer proximity. Please be in touch with her if you have questions related to admissions for your family or your friends: nhall@penncharter.com or 215-844-3460 ext. 294.

 

Jill Bown, maternity leave substitute for Laura Valdmanis in fourth grade: Jill has been a member of the PC community as a beloved substitute teacher and Penn Charter parent for many years, including two recent maternity leaves and frequent daily substituting. Jill holds multiple degrees including a bachelor's from Duke University, a law degree from Cornell Law School, and a master's degree in elementary education from Arcadia. Jill has worked in independent education throughout much of her career, including serving as a lead Lower School teacher for another Philadelphia area Quaker school.  

 

Ashleigh Brown OPC '13, urban teaching fellow in third grade: Ashleigh has been a member of our community in a number of ways including as a PC student and substitute teacher. She holds a bachelor's degree from Temple University in Geography and Urban Studies and Environmental Studies with a certificate in Geographic Information SYSTEMS (GIS), and enters her second year as one of Penn Charter's urban teaching fellows. She will be joining Jill Einbender in third grade during the second half of the school year after working at Community Partnership School in the fall.

 

Jake Ernst, first grade assistant teacher: Jake joins us from the Early Childhood Center at Congregation Or Ami in Lafayette Hill. Jake holds a bachelor's degree from Ohio State University in early childhood studies and is currently working towards his master's at Temple University in early childhood education.

 

Luciany Melo da Silva, urban teaching fellow in third grade: Luciany is starting her first year as a Penn Charter urban teaching fellow after spending the past two years as a City Year Corps member and team lead serving students in grades 5-9. She holds a bachelor's degree from Penn State in business, and will be working with Teodora Nedialkova in third grade every other month, spending the alternate months at Community Partnership School.

 

Maddie Perlmutter OPC '13, first grade assistant teacher: Maddie returns to PC as one of our newest faculty members!  Maddie graduated in 2018 from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a degree in education studies and child & adolescent development. She spent the past year as an English teaching assistant through the Fullbright Program in Fuerteventura, Spain, and brings her worldly experience to the first grade classroom.

 

Nina Wojtovic, Lower School literacy coordinator: Nina joins us from Haddonfield, N.J., where she served as a literacy coordinator for seven years at J.F. Tatem Elementary School. She holds a bachelor's degree in elementary and early childhood education from Penn State University, and a masters from the University of Pennsylvania in reading/writing/literacy. Nina holds teaching certifications in elementary education and as a reading specialist in New Jersey. You can find her on the second floor of the Lower School sharing an office with Beckie Miller, our math coordinator.

  

SOCIAL MEDIA INSIGHTS

To share more with you about Lower School teaching learning and events, we will renew our social media efforts. Please follow us on Instagram and Twitter.

Instagram: PCLowerSchool

Twitter:@PCLowerSchool

 

IMPORTANT DATES FOR YOUR CALENDAR

Lower School Back-to-School Night: Thursday, Sept. 19, 7 pm

New Parents Reception: Saturday, Sept. 14, 4-6 pm, Head's Residence

K Parent Social: Friday Sept. 20, 7:30-9:30 pm, Timmons House

Pre-K Parent Social: Saturday Sept. 21, 5-6:30 pm, Timmons House

 

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Enjoy more photos of the first day of school for grades 1 through 8.

 

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3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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Lower School Life

 

From the Director's Chair

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I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on the math professional development sessions Beckie Miller, our Lower School math curriculum coordinator, ran in partnership with grade-level teams. This thoughtful and detailed work is one of the many ways we continue to reflect on our teaching practice, tap into new resources, and consider areas that we want to develop in support of our students. It led me to further reflect on the range of feedback I've heard about learning math in 2019, and the varied experiences and related emotions we have as a community about our own mathematical learning as children.


Parents and students often speak to me about Math in Focus, the curriculum we use based on the Singapore approach to developing mathematical thinking and practice. Some share the joy felt in understanding math at deeper levels, while others express confusion about the "new math" strategies compared with what was taught in the past. This ranges from parents stating, "I wish I had been taught this way. I would have actually understood math!" to stories of students explaining, "Mom/Dad/Grandma, that's not the way we do it at school."

 

While the Singapore approach to math might seem very different, in practice it relies on the same principles we learned as children — such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division — but with different strategies and approaches to help students develop the deeper theoretical concepts of mathematical thinking. The core idea of the program is not that there are people who are good at math, and those who aren't. Instead it relies on the understanding that everyone has the capacity to develop their math skills and access this way of thinking.


What does this approach actually do for our kids? It teaches our students to be analytical and mathematical thinkers — not just the how, but the why and when and what if! Problem solving lies at the core of the curriculum. Rather than telling students that they are right or wrong, teachers ask:

 

  • How do you know?
  • Are you sure?
  • Can you find another way to solve this?

 

This builds mathematical confidence in our students and enables them to articulate their thinking from the earliest grades. The scaffolded learning helps students move from the concrete-pictorial to an abstract approach. We begin with concrete experiences to build deep conceptual understanding, for example, through the use of manipulatives and games. Students use this knowledge to draw pictures about their thinking. This base then creates opportunities for teachers to lead students toward more abstract concepts and broader application of each mathematical strategy, encouraging students to interrogate and ultimately understand the procedure behind the thinking. The curriculum is designed in a pre-algebraic way of thinking. For example, our youngest learners might encounter the following problem and be able to solve it with ease: 7 + 🙂 = 10


In order to support your child with this approach to mathematical learning, it is helpful to know some of the language we use here in school for ideas that you are already very familiar with.  For example, you may have heard your child say "regrouping," and you know it as "borrowing" and "carrying." Regrouping refers to changing place values so that you can manipulate them and serves as a more focused way of talking about this strategy. For many students, "carry" and "borrow" become more confusing as this language talks about the action without providing the context of the place values you are working within.

 

You also may have heard your child talk about "number bonds." While we once learned isolated facts, number bonds give a deeper conceptual understanding of how numbers fit together — how they are composed of one another and can be decomposed. This helps to develop flexibility with number sense and fluidity of math facts. Take a look at the difference between the two examples below, the second of which provides insight into the Singapore approach:

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One asks students simply to do the computation, while the other requires a sense of place value, estimation and perseverance to come up with a correct solution. Our students engage in this type of challenge on a daily basis, and build both skill and resilience in the process.


While the math is the same, the approach can seem a bit unfamiliar. What might you be doing at home to help your child? Something as simple as playing a game can make a big difference to their math learning. Playing cards is something that has gone by the wayside in our culture, yet this really helps students to build number sense. Take a look at some of these modern games for ideas on how to help your child build their math brains while bonding as a family!


Another great resource is Beckie Miller, our Lower School math coordinator. Beckie is always happy to meet with parents to provide resources or ideas for helping students. One of her many talents is sharing her love of the mathematical world with our community and helping others to do the same!

 

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The Matt Miller Garden and Chigwell Close

 

We are so fortunate to have this space for our students to play, explore and connect. Chigwell also serves as a tribute to Matt Miller OPC '86, father to Morgan OPC '18 and Tate OPC '16, and husband to Beckie Miller, our Lower School math coordinator. The Matt Miller Memorial Garden was created to honor his life and legacy, and is maintained each year by a fund set up by the Miller family. We would like to continue to hold Matt's memory in the Light by keeping it as a space where students can learn and grow. With this in mind, I ask for your help in the coming months.


In order to preserve the beauty of Chigwell, we need your diligence in reminding students how to provide thoughtful care and exhibit positive behavior while playing in this space. This includes:

  • refraining from adding materials such as sand from the "beach" to the stream,
  • refraining from moving around or throwing the rocks under the arbor
  • keeping both people and garbage out of the drainage areas closest to the buildings.

 

As there is a significant water feature, we also ask that parents keep a very close eye on children as they play throughout Chigwell, and that children remain within the view of their parent or caregiver at all times.


Thank you in advance for your thoughtful use of Chigwell and the surrounding space, and your careful supervision of children playing in this space. We look forward to continuing to enjoy time with students there in the years to come!

 

Save the Dates!

 

Friday, April 19, School Closed; Good Friday / Passover

 

Friday, April 26, 5 to 7 pm; LS Family Fun Night

 

Grade Meetings
@ Timmons House, 8:15 to 9:30 am, on the following days:

 

  • Pre-K: Tuesday, April 9
  • Kindergarten: Thursday, April 11
  • First: Friday, April 12
  • Second: Tuesday, April 16
  • Third: Thursday, April 18
  • Fourth: Wednesday, April 24
  • Fifth: Monday, April 29

 

 

Sincerely,

Kate McCallum
Director of Lower School

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LS Life

 

February 2019

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Diversity and Inclusion in Lower School

One of the aspects of Penn Charter of which I am most proud is the fact that we, as a community, are willing to lean in to difficult conversations and engage in complex work in order to learn, to strengthen our relationships, and to create spaces where all children, families, faculty and staff are honored and held in the light. The work we do related to diversity and inclusion can be seen in more obvious ways, such as our Distinguished Speaker Series and Movies that Matter programming, affinity groups, and our commitment to welcoming a diverse student body through our admissions process, to name just a few examples.

 

It also thrives in the ways that teachers work proactively and responsively to support student learning through our Quaker values, and is woven throughout both the academic and social curriculums. While diversity and inclusion work is part of the daily fabric of Lower School, it might not be as visible as other work done by faculty and students. I'd like to take a few moments to highlight this intentional work in classrooms, the in-between spaces, and through ongoing professional development.


Academic Curriculum and Diversity and Inclusion

 

The Lower School academic curriculum is designed to embrace and celebrate a diversity of people, places, experiences, cultures, families and genders. This is done to varying degrees in all grade levels and content areas. We strive each year to continue to develop our curriculum so that it provides "windows" into the lives of others, "mirrors" that reflect the lived experiences of each student, and "sliding glass doors" into our shared and varied histories. (More about windows, mirrors and sliding glass doors.) Our writing program helps students to record their own history/herstory/mystory through personal narrative and poetry, and encourages students to share and learn from each other. The Math in Focus text embraces the diversity of our population in that it is intentionally varied in names, gender representation, and inclusion of physical differences.


Social studies is also a natural topic through which we do diversity and inclusion work. Our curriculum, and the ongoing efforts to evolve these learning opportunities, is focused on themes of identity, social justice, global perspectives, service and missing voices in history, with the Quaker testimonies woven throughout. This work can be seen in the identity and community work done through the kindergarten portraits project (shown above) and first grade International Mother Language Day. Second grade learns about missing voices in history through the Public and Mural Arts unit, while third grade delves into religious tolerance through the historical context of William Penn.  Global perspectives are explored through a week-long experience called the World Peace Game in fourth grade. Fifth grade focuses on a variety of aspects of diversity and inclusion in both language arts and social studies, including understanding and identifying microaggressions, feeling marginalized in a community, bias, stereotypes, and analyzing skilled and unskilled questions.


Social Curriculum and Diversity and Inclusion


Our community work around diversity and inclusion extends far beyond the academic work to both the formal and informal social curriculum. This is most apparent in our use of Responsive Classroom practices to structure and support a respectful and nurturing classroom and school community, and in the work done during Friendship Groups by Lower School Counselor Lisa Reedich, also known as our "feelings teacher." Friendship Groups start in the beginning of the school year, and topics are revisited at various times throughout. The depth of these discussions spirals up through each successive grade to match the developmental level of the children.


In Friendship Groups from pre-K  through fifth grade, students talk about the similarities and differences that can be observed in people. Beginning in first grade, Lisa Reedich and the students explicitly discuss race, ethnicity, gender, skin color, body shape and body size, abilities, language, religion, who people love, all kinds of families, and other identifiers. She offers developmentally appropriate definitions for these terms, and guides students in discussing how these differences make each of us unique and special.


Together, Reedich and students talk about how diversity means having all kinds of people present, and that inclusion means making sure everyone feels welcome and included. She models how to ask someone about differences in a skillful manner, and the importance of never teasing anyone about differences. Students are taught the difference between "unskillful" questions and "skillful" questions. An unskillful question, for example, is "What are you?" A skillful question takes into account a number of factors that show care and respect for the other person. As a class, they make lists of categories about which students should never tease each other, hang these in the homeroom classrooms, and refer to them throughout the year.  For pre-K and K, concrete categories are used such as skin color, hair texture, body shape/size, all kinds of families, religion, holidays, etc. One of the students' favorite activities in the younger grades is when Reedich uses puppets to act out unskillful and skillful ways of talking, asking questions, including friends, etc.


Another topic in Friendship Group is the importance of being an "upstander." Lisa Reedich role plays different scenarios around bullying and discusses the importance of being an upstander and not a bystander. This work includes discussing the things that may prevent someone from being an upstander, why someone would be a bully, how a bully gets power, and how bystanders actually assist bullies when they say and do nothing to help. Bullying is also defined—because not all conflicts or teasing are bullying. This is talked about in general terms, but also as related to teasing around identifiers such as race, gender and abilities.


In addition to her work with Friendship Groups and supporting individual students and teachers Reedich has also supported the director of diversity and inclusion and the Lower School diversity coordinators in running affinity groups for fourth and fifth grade students. Past topics were generated by students and have included: all kinds of families and body shape and body size.


Professional Development


I have never met a faculty as committed to learning in service of students as the faculty here at Penn Charter. This ranges from new and best teaching practices to the difficult work of interrogating bias and developing cultural competency. We hold the Quaker testimonies of community, integrity and equality close when we do work related to developing a diverse and inclusive curriculum and school environment, especially when it comes to our own professional development.  


What does this look like in practice? It's visible in some of the books we chose to read last summer as our professional reading such as The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, and The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys, by Moore, Michael and Penick-Parks. It is clear in the development and practice of the inclusive and respectful language we use with students and each other after reading The Power of Our Words by Paula Denton or working with Samantha Taylor from the Gender and Sexuality Development Clinic at CHOP. It can be seen in the many workshops and conferences we attend, host, and at which we present, such as the Multicultural Resource Center conference (MCRC) and People of Color Conference (POCC). And it lives in the work we are planning through our Diversity and Core Values committees and through faculty meetings dedicated to these topics.


Penn Charter and the Lower School are clearly committed to supporting and nurturing all students and families within our community. We do this proactively through curricular work, social-emotional learning and professional development, and responsively by working with individual and student groups as issues arise.  Lower School is an intense period of learning and growth where students continue to develop compassion, empathy and respect. Our job is to help them live this practice, and to facilitate their learning when they make a mistake that hurts a peer or the school community. We, in turn, do this with love and compassion, and with the belief that we can help our students to feel a sense of deep belonging and to thrive in a diverse and inclusive community.

 

A few final things...

 

The key pads are up and running in the cafeteria for students in grades 2 through 5 who would like to purchase items a la carte. Parents can use the MyPaymentsPlus payment option already used by many families in grades 6-12 to add money to a child's account.  Each student will have a four-digit numeric code that connects to their MyPaymentPlus account. If your family is interested in participating, please email Jenny Barone and she will provide your child's four-digit pincode.

 

We have recently seen an increase in wearable digital devices that connect to wifi or cellular service in Lower School. These tools are very helpful to families outside of the school day, however, we ask that families either keep them at home or that students turn them off during the day and keep them in their school bags. Should you need to contact your child directly, please call the main office and we will make sure that a message is delivered to your child. Fitbits, or other fitness tracking devices that do not have internet or cellular capabilities are welcome.

 

Last, but certainly not least, I want to express my family's sincerest gratitude for the love and care we were shown while I was out on maternity leave a bit earlier than expected, and the warm welcome I received upon my return. We appreciated every email, meal, card and gift and felt deeply connected to our Penn Charter family. Baby Clark is thriving at a whopping 12+ pounds, and Elle has been a flexible and loving big sister throughout this time. Chaz and I are reminded each day of how lucky we are to have two happy, healthy tiny humans, and to be part of this amazing school community.

Warmly,

Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

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Important Dates

 

Tuesday, Feb. 19: No classes pre-K to 5; LS faculty workday

Friday, Feb. 22, 7 pm; Saturday, Feb. 23, 2 pm, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2 pm: All-School Musical. Purchase tickets

Thursday, Feb. 28: Lower School Enrichment ends.
Sunday, March 3: Community Meeting for Worship, 11 am

Friday, March 8: Lower School Movies that Matter, Brave, 3 pm

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Showing the Love!

 

Congratulations to students, teachers and parents on a successful and very sweet Valentine's Day Bake Sale!