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Lower School Life

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Dear Lower School Families,


Tradition is such an important part of who we are as a school community. While some of our Lower School traditional activities will have to wait until next year, thanks to the hard work, innovation and organization of our fifth graders in partnership with Malcolm Ford and Steven Wade, we are excited to share Penn Charter's very first Virtual Egg Drop! This event, held each year on the balcony and patio behind the Upper School, is a beloved annual event that students across all grade levels look forward to. Take a look! Maybe it will inspire your child's own engineering excitement … or at least a weekend omelet!


As the year comes to a close, it feels a bit strange not to have the markers that help us make the transition to summer, for example, the class picnics and parties, and the final hugs or high-fives of the year. Know that the latter will be waiting for your child when we return to campus, and that teachers are carefully crafting new ways of celebrating the end of the year next week. You might consider reflecting with your child by looking back at pictures or school work throughout the school year, and highlight how much they have grown in all facets of life over the year. Celebrating this journey together, even in small ways, can help your child make the transition to summer, and to bring a sense of hope and excitement for all that is to come!


We look forward to all of the virtual events next week, and to starting summer break at its conclusion!


Quick reminders


For the week of June 1-4, academics will include:

  • Two video lessons in core content areas
  • One special-area video per subject
  • Students are not being asked to submit new work via SeeSaw or Google Classroom.

 

On the last school day (Thursday, June 4), please look to your classroom teacher for the final class meetings or activities. There will not be any additional synchronous meetings or live streams -- with the exception of the Fifth Grade Graduation for those students and their families, as well as the Lower School faculty.

 

The Parent Community is delivering a pre-K to 12 surprise package to every PC student the week of June 1. If you are not living at your permanent address, please email Jenny Barone, Lower School divisional assistant, with your temporary address so we can mail the surprise. 
 

For fifth grade students and families (Zoom links sent in Fifth Grade Team communications):

  • Fifth Grade Family Meeting For Worship. Wednesday, June 3 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Fifth Grade Graduation. Thursday, June 4 at 1 p.m.

 

Be well! You are missed!


Warmly,
Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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Dear Lower School Families,


Many families shared their thoughts and gratitude this week for the new small-group learning opportunities with Beckie Miller and Nina Wojtowicz in the lower grades; the edits made to improve the clarity and ease of using Google Slides to direct student learning; and for the opportunities for music, movement and creation with Margaret Lea, David Bass, Tori Small and San Valentin. It seems that Lower School families and faculty hit their stride this week and we are so grateful for the continued commitment and hard work our teachers and families are putting into teaching, learning and connecting!


Below you will find some clarification regarding questions we've been asked about assessment, end-of-year reports and class placement for the 2020-2021 school year. Please read carefully, and feel free to reach out to me or Marcy Sosa should you have any questions.


Assessment During Distance Learning

Throughout the school year our teachers used both formative and summative assessments with our students to gauge the level of progress our students are making within the curriculum. Formative are those assessments that collect information that "forms" or influences upcoming instruction, while summative assessment provides a "summary" of a child's learning.


During distance learning, we have been using primarily formative assessments to note the current academic growth of our students, and to plan for support during synchronous small groups. Teachers have been assessing students' understanding through work submitted in Seesaw and Google Classroom, as well as through conversations and work completed in our synchronous small groups.


End-of-year Reporting

We will have an end-of-year report that briefly summarizes your child's learning in our distance model. This format will provide families with a narrative report that highlights the academic skills taught this final trimester and describes your child's continued work throughout distance learning. Specials teachers will not be reporting this final trimester, as the concepts addressed during distance learning were optional for families and students.


Class Placement for the 2020-2021 School Year

We are beginning our process of creating classes for the 2020-2021 school year. We are very thoughtful in this process because we want every child to be matched with a diverse cohort of peers with whom they will connect, the classroom teacher that will bring out their best qualities and help build areas of development, and a learning space that will meet their individual learning style. To do this, we consider the individual characteristics of each child, the strengths and passions of each teacher, the student's current class and relationships, and a variety of other factors.


We also know that your partnership is critical to ensuring your child's success.  Please use this form to share any information about your child that we might not otherwise know based on their time at Penn Charter and close relationships with teachers. While your observations around your child's learning preferences and how they might match with particular teaching styles or pedagogy are helpful, we ask that you specifically do not request to have, or not to have, a particular teacher. Also, please know that your feedback will be shared directly with teachers across grade levels and subject areas as we work collaboratively to place each child and form richly diverse classes within each given cohort. In order for your feedback to be considered, please complete this form no later than next Friday, May 15 at 12 p.m.


Fifth Grade Transition to Middle School

This morning during Morning Meeting, fifth grade students viewed this video prepared by the Middle School team detailing important information for the transition to sixth grade next year. Next Friday, May 15, fifth grade students will participate in a virtual Moving Up day from 1-2:30 p.m. Students will move through virtual rotations with their homerooms to meet the sixth grade faculty; they will learn about expectations as well as events they can look forward to in Middle School.  The fifth grade team is collecting questions from students that will inform this program.


Coming up in Lower School

Lower School Family Meeting for Worship: Tuesday, May 19 at 7 p.m.


Lower School Spirit Week: Monday, May 18, through Friday, May 22 (details to come in next week's newsletter)

 

Be well!  You are missed!


Warmly,
Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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Dear Lower School Families,


I write to share some of the latest updates and additions to the Lower School distance learning approach! 

 

We carefully reviewed your feedback from the survey last week, revisited previous conversations with families and faculty, and are excited to introduce new synchronous learning opportunities that will be added to those already in place, plus two tools that should further support families in pre-K, first and second grades.


Live-Streamed Lower School Opportunities

Thanks to the popularity of Linda O'Malley's read alouds, we are adding Sing with Margaret Lea and Fun Activities with David Bass, so that students have live-streamed opportunities each day. These live streams can be viewed live from 9:00-9:20 am Monday through Friday and will be recorded for viewing at a later time. Homeroom teachers will provide links to archived videos on their slide. The new schedule is as follows:

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Starting Monday, May 4, we will use this Google Meet Live Stream link for all live streams. (Past recordings can be found on this webpage.) Teachers will add this live stream link to their suggested calendar on their slides. Important to note: Students must log into their Penn Charter Google accounts in order to access the live streams. Anyone outside of the Penn Charter domain will not be able to view. Accounts were created earlier this month for students in pre-K through second grade, and third through fifth grade should use their existing accounts. Directions for logging into the Penn Charter Google account for pre-K through second grade students can be found here


In addition to those already offered, we are adding the following synchronous learning sessions at each grade level:

 

Pre-K: Studio and Physical Education
K-3: FUNdations with Nina Wojtowicz and Math with Beckie Miller
4-5: Executive skills with Kristen Tran

 

The scheduling and planning skills our upper elementary students have been developing are an unforeseen benefit of distance learning! In speaking with third through fifth grade teachers, we have found that many students are truly rising to the occasion and utilizing a variety of tools to plan their day and attend live meetings. We also know that younger students need support with this. With this in mind, we have populated the live meetings for students pre-K to 2 within their Google Calendar. After logging into their Penn Charter Google accounts, families can now access the weekly live meetings, and also will have a daily list in the Google Meet app. Take a look at this screencast for directions and a preview of this new tool.


Two more important notes:

  • We were thrilled to see families and students this week during the LS materials pick-up. Thank you again to the teachers and staff who helped to pack, move and distribute these boxes earlier this week. If you were unable to pick up your box, we will be delivering these to local families late next week, and shipping remaining boxes to families that have temporarily relocated out of state.
  • Save the date! We are working on the details for the Lower School closing assembly and Fifth Grade Graduation planned for Thursday, June 4, at 1 p.m., as well as the final LS Meeting for Worship where we honor the voices of our fifth grade students. More information to come!

Finally, I would like to share a heartfelt thank you to Kennie Huang, who was an enormous help while Michelle Dowd was out on maternity leave. We were so grateful to have her as part of our community! We are also excited that Michelle has returned and is again working in partnership with Karen Riedlmeier on their outstanding art lessons!


I hope that you are well and getting some opportunities to enjoy this beautiful spring weather!


Warmly,
Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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Lower School materials pick-up process.

Dear Lower School Families,

 

We appreciated the opportunity to come together as a Lower School community via Zoom on Tuesday evening for the Lower School Forum. Marcy Sosa and I heard your concerns. We are working on these, including planning for the possibility of additional synchronous, small-group learning opportunities in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!


Some important information regarding the process for picking up student materials and personal items:

  • Lower School families may come to school on Monday, April 27, at specific times between 1 and 4 p.m., and Tuesday, April 28, between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.
  • Prior to leaving home, families should write the Last Name, First Name of each student on paper to hold up in the car window when you arrive on campus.
  • Families should come at the time designated for the first letter of the child's last name.
    A-G: 1-1:45 p.m. on Monday, April 27 OR  9-9:45 a.m. on Tuesday, April 28.
    H-O: 2-2:45 p.m. on Monday, April 27 OR 10-10:45 a.m. on Tuesday, April 28.
    P-Z: 3-3:45 p.m. on Monday, April 27 OR 11-11:45 a.m. on Tuesday, April 28. 
  • When you arrive, please enter on School House Lane ONLY and drive to the line waiting by Dooney Field House. (Our set-up is pictured above.) Our staff will be present to retrieve your student's boxes from the field house and will place these directly in your trunk.
  • If you are unable to come to school, or do not feel comfortable doing so, we will send or deliver materials to you in the coming weeks. For those families that are temporarily relocated, please email Jenny Barone your current mailing address.
  • For those families with two households, when possible, additional materials have been placed in your child/children's boxes.  

 

A few answers to FAQs:

  • Why do I need to post my child's work on SeeSaw? SeeSaw, particularly in the younger grades, allows us to collect and assess student work – both to drive instruction and report back about learning and progress at the conclusion of the school year. We recognize parents need to post in the early grades, and ask that you post when possible so that teachers can gather information on your child's learning and provide specific feedback and instruction during small group meetings or one-on-ones. Teachers may provide brief comments or praise, but the bulk of their feedback will occur during small groups or one-on-ones.
  • What is mandatory in terms of school work and Google Meets, and what is not? Given the wide variety of experiences and needs that families are facing during this pandemic, we ask that you do the best that you can. Prioritize reading, writing and math work, and use the special-areas lessons as enrichment and extension. It would be ideal for students to attend each synchronous opportunity for connection and community, but the most critical are the Morning Meeting and small groups or one-on-ones as this maintains connection to peers and gives teachers opportunities to provide feedback and targeted instruction.
  • How are you going to address any curriculum from this year that was not covered and make sure that my child is ready for next year? Are you going to adapt the curriculum in the fall to address this? The very short answer is yes, and more. We have used an approach called Backwards Design to identify the core teaching points remaining this school year, and have designed the remaining portion of the year around this. We have it documented in a shared space, and will use this to partner across grade levels to weave additional skills and topics throughout the curriculum in the upcoming school year. What is most important is that we keep them emotionally and physically healthy so that they are ready to jump directly back into learning when we return to campus.
  • How are you working to streamline communication? Many families have expressed overwhelm at the number of resources, email, and the pure volume of information they are receiving each day – from Penn Charter, the national media, professional organizations, friends etc. We hear you. Beginning today, families will no longer receive an end-of-week newsletter from classroom teachers, as the feedback we received was that it was redundant. Please keep an eye out on Sunday for a communication from your child's teacher about the week's academics. 

When you have a moment, please take some time to visit some of the many PC Lower School Instagram accounts (@PCLowerSchool, @PC_LSTechnology, and, for each graduation year, @PCclassof20xx) to experience some of the joy and levity of Lower School distance learning through pictures and anecdotes.

 

In the meantime, I would be greatly appreciative if you could fill out this survey whether you have kudos or advice for improvement to give. It is critically important for us to have an accurate sense of the wide variety of experiences of Lower School families so that we can work to meet your child's needs and your family's interests. This brief survey will help us do that more effectively.


Hoping you and your family are well! We miss you!


Warmly,
Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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Dear Lower School Families,

 

Lower School distance learning was in full swing this week as students engaged in new learning across content and special areas. With the introduction of Google Slides as the home-base for learning, we hope you had easy access to the lessons and activities and were able to move at a pace that fit your family's schedule and needs.


Next week will look similar to this week, with one addition: The administrative team will be hosting a Lower School Parent Zoom on Tuesday, April 21, at 7 p.m.  Alison Grossman and Ashley Crandall, the Lower School Parent Community chairs, have collected questions for us to answer, and we will be sharing some insight into our process and the research that has informed our distance learning approach.

 

Should you have additional questions, you are also welcome to email them to me by Monday, April 20. Please know that we will conduct another parent survey at the end of next week to collect another round of feedback so that we might continue to adjust our program to meet family and student needs.


A few critical items of note.  

  • Last week Lower School technology coordinator Dan Stahl sent out instructions for signing pre-K through second grade students into their Penn Charter Google account. Beginning next week, you will need to sign in with your child's account in order to access the Google Meets, particularly Building Community Connections, as special area teachers do not have the ability to admit users who are not within the Penn Charter Gmail domain.  Directions for this can be found here.
  • Next week we will begin gathering instructional materials and some student personal items for you to retrieve from school using a strategically designed no-contact approach. Lower School families can come to school at times designated by last name on the afternoon of Monday, April 27, and the morning of Tuesday, April 28, and boxed items will be placed directly in your trunk. If you are not able to come to campus, we will arrange for materials to be sent or brought to you. Precise details to come in next week's Friday newsletter. 
  • We know that families are feeling distance learning in a range of ways.  Some need more, some need less. When possible, please prioritize reading, writing and math. The special-area activities and lessons are meant for extension and enrichment, but are not considered "mandatory."

 

Highlights from Lower School

 

The joy of connection and learning can still be felt from afar! Second grade students and parents created this video to the tune of "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. Artwork and creativity abound, and a few of our future Penn Charter community members made an appearance on Instagram with Michelle Dowd and Laura Valdmanis! There have also been many sibling science experiments! Below, enjoy these pictures from our class Instagram pages!


We truly miss you and your children each and every day! Be well.


Warmly,
Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School

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3000 West School House Lane   Philadelphia, PA 19144
215.844.3460

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