LS Life

LS Life: April 2019

Lower School Life


From the Director's Chair


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:


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!



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




Kate McCallum
Director of Lower School

LS Life: February 2019

LS Life


February 2019


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.


Kate McCallum

Director of Lower School


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


Showing the Love!


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


LS Life: Dec. 2018

Lower School Life

December 2018

First Grade Field Trip

From the Director's Chair


The Importance of Field Trips


When a student is asked what they remember about school or their grade, we often hear about a special project or field trip. We know that field trips allow our students to take what they have learned in the classroom and connect it to real-life experiences. Trips to the theater, farm, museum or our very own community garden, to name just a few examples, help students bridge their classroom learning to the real world and make sense of the world around them and who they are in it.

These experiences outside the traditional classroom spark their interests, passions and desire to learn more. Field trips can inspire students to become change agents and active members of their community.

Pre-K takes various trips to different arboretums to enrich their nature explorations and research. Other field trips throughout the year connect to the emerging interests of the children.

Although it's winter, kindergarteners are busy caring for their garden and learning about plants and flowers through their partnership with the Riverbend Environmental Education Center. Students are asking questions about seeds, flower and vegetables, and Michelle Rebilas from Riverbend has been visiting on blue-Friday afternoons to spend time thoughtfully exploring and answering our kindergarten inquiries. Kindergarteners now have more knowledge of how and why our crops grow and what to expect as they sprout—or why they don't sprout.

In social studies this trimester, first grade students have been learning what it means to be a community hero. After researching real life community heroes, first grade knew it was their turn to be the heroes. They paired up with our Center for Public Purpose to host a winter goods drive benefiting Cradles to Crayons. Students learned about the needs of local children, worked to collect items for the drive, and will be able to see the entire project through when they visit the Cradles to Crayons facility.

Second graders learned about William Penn's vision for Philadelphia and the grid mapping system he created. The class studied the five green protected "squares" in Philadelphia and took a field trip to Franklin Square. There, the students engaged in a mapping activity, ate lunch and ended the day with a horse-drawn carriage ride around historic Old City.  

In third grade, students spent the fall learning about the first people who lived in Pennsylvania, the Lenni Lenape. To extend their learning, they visited the Churchville Nature Center, which is a recreated Lenape village from 500 years ago. Students gained a deeper understanding of what life was like in a village by engaging in hands-on activities such as grinding corn, throwing spears, making pottery, gardening with handmade tools, and trying on clothing made from deer skins.

Fourth grade recently visited the Southeast Sewage Facility as part of the new unit on watersheds and Philadelphia. Students see how our behaviors and habits impact the water supply and also how important these treatment facilities are in our communities. Additionally, we have taken trips to the Wissahickon Valley Park and to the Philadelphia Canoe Club to see how the watersheds are vital to our community.

In collaboration with the art teachers, the fifth grade class took a trip to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. They explored the intersection of art and social justice through a guided tour and an art-making activity.

Marcy Sosa, Assistant Director of Lower School

In the Classroom


Devices and Parental Controls


lf you are like many parents, including me, you find yourself struggling with the pull of buying the shiniest and newest devices for your kids around this time of year. While devices and video games can be a great source for learning new and fascinating things, we as parents might have some difficult decisions to make around technology use at home.

Two of the easiest ways to do this are to have ongoing conversations with your child and to set up parental controls within the devices. This applies not only to cell phones, but also gaming consoles. One of the best resources for setting up controls on a gaming console comes from the Entertainment Software Rating Board, the same people who put ratings on all the games. You can find those access guides here.

If your child is begging, hoping, wishing for a cell phone this holiday, you could ask them the following five questions:

  1. Why do you want a cellphone? The answer to this question could really help you understand the driving force behind their need for a phone.
  2. Do you understand the rules for a cell phone in our family and at school? The answer is probably yes, but this question could help spark a deeper conversation around cell phone use.
  3. What are some concerns you think that your parents might have around you using a phone? Again, another question to open the conversation around what you think is an appropriate use of the phone versus what they might think.
  4. What are five places it is not okay to use your phone? Is the dinner table ok? What about at the family get together for the holidays? Kids are not going to know the proper social phone etiquette unless we teach them.
  5. What will you do if you lose or break the phone? Accidents happen, but your kids should know what the plan is if something does happen.

If you have plans on setting up parental controls on these phones, please visit this page and you will find some clear and easy-to-follow instructions for both Apple and Android phones.


Dan Stahl, Lower School Technology Coordinator

News You Can Use


New Lunch Payment Option


In an effort to streamline the process and give Lower School parents more information about student food purchases, beginning Jan. 2, the MyPaymentsPlus payment option used by families in grades 6-12 will become available for grades 2-12.


This means that Lower School families will now have four payment options for students in grades 2-5:


  • preloading money into a student's MyPaymentsPlus debit account
  • paying with cash at the register
  • contract lunch options
  • bringing in lunch from home


Families using the MyPaymentPlus option for older students can add the additional child(ren) to their current account.


CulinArt, our dining hall provider, recently has installed numeric keypads by the registers for use by Lower School students. Each student will have a four-digit numeric code that connects to their MyPaymentPlus account. If your family is interested in participating, please email your homeroom teacher and they will provide your child's four-digit pincode. This service will be available beginning Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2018.


Lower School Winter Concert


Friday, Dec. 14, 1:00 pm, Kurtz Center

Our students are excited about the upcoming Lower School winter concert. Grades K-5 have been in rehearsals this week fine-tuning their performances. They are looking forward to performing for their families, friends and special guests.

In an effort to accommodate all our our families, pre-K, kindergarten and first grade students will be seated in our audience. Grades 2-4 will be in the choral room and 3-5 will be in the band room waiting for their segment of the concert.This will leave room for families and special guest to sit and enjoy the show. Students saw the entire concert during our dress rehearsal on Thursday, Dec. 13. Stay tuned for a very special ending!

Concert Dress Reminder


Concerts are "special dress" days for all students, K-5, including the Bell Choir. The attire for special dress days is blouses or shirts with collars (tucked in), long dress pants, skirts or dresses. Jeans and sneakers are not permitted.

In the interest of creating a positive and courteous community atmosphere, we would like to remind you of a few important guidelines:


  • No drinks or food in the Ball Theater.  
  • We ask that you not set up video or camera tripods in the aisles. Additionally, please do not come forward to take your child's picture while they are performing. This will allow the concert to flow smoothly, as well as modeling respectful audience behavior for all of our children.
  • We encourage you to stay for the entire concert. If you must leave early, please choose a seat in the back of the seating area so that you will not disrupt others' enjoyment of the concert when you depart.


After the concert, the children will be dismissed to their classrooms. Parents may pick them up at that time or they will be dismissed at regular dismissal time. There will be regular bus service and After-School Program for those students who normally utilize those services.


Important Calendar Dates


Thursday, Jan. 3: Parent Meeting for Worship, 8:15-8:45 am (Meeting Room)


Monday, Jan. 7: Lower School Enrichment begins


Monday, Jan. 21: No classes pre-K to 12. MLK Convocation and Day of Service, 8:30 am (BC)


Thursday, Jan. 31: Parent Meeting for Worship, 8:15-8:45 am (Meeting Room)


Social Media Insights


Instagram: PCLowerSchool



And follow your Lower School grade on Instagram for insights, like this one, below, showing parents visiting proud fourth graders for the unveiling their newspaper.


The handle is your child's graduation year in place of the XXXX: @pcclassofXXXX

LS Life: Nov. 2018

Lower School Life

November 2018


From the Director's Chair


During our opening meetings, Head of School Darryl J. Ford shared with us the theme for this year, Continuing Revelation. A Quaker tenet, continuing revelation is the idea that we are constantly learning and changing our thinking. It is also the idea that we are never truly at a finished product or thought—there is always more truth and more learning that can take place. At Penn Charter, this is a true constant for our teachers, families and students.

For teachers, you can see continuing revelation during our faculty meetings. Teachers have been engaging in conversation around curriculum and our future work as a lower school. Teachers recently participated in a brainstorming activity using large chart papers posted along our hallways. Each poster represented an academic committee, which included math, social studies, language arts and specials. We also posted our core value committees, which include diversity, environmental stewardship, Quakerism, Responsive Classroom, mindfulness, report card and Reggio Emilia.

Teachers then walked around with sticky notes and wrote down multiple ideas for each committee to focus on for the year. After looking at the chart papers filled with new ideas and direction for their committees, there was a hum of excitement from the teachers about the work that they will be engaging in this year.

Committee members will gather in the next couple of weeks to select a goal and plan out their work for the year. It is through this committee work that change is possible: this constant reflection allows for us to adapt new thinking, research current trends and build expanding curriculum.

In support of our theme of Continuing Revelation, we have made adjustments to the parent grade level-meetings (please see the dates below). This year, these meetings will be focused around topics that support learning about the various parts of your children's academic and informal curriculum. These meetings will be centered around topics such as: appropriate use of screen time, math skills and understanding reading levels. 

Marcy Sosa, Assistant Director of Lower School

In the Classroom


Second grade students have been exploring the idea of continuing revelation by thinking about what they would like to see in the world as new truths are revealed. They listed their hopes and dreams, both personal and global, as journal entries. Then, they did a gallery walk around campus and took pictures of positive images that connect to their vision for what they hope to see in their lives and the world. They will use these images to create a collage and collaborative artwork in the coming weeks.


The fifth grade camping trip to the Outdoor School of Horsham provided students with special opportunities to step outside their normal routines, allowing them to connect and bond with peers and teachers. Before they left for their camping trip, fifth grade teacher Naveena Bembry shared with students the "Gifts Story," which encouraged students to notice the gifts and inner light in themselves and others. They were able to experience and notice nature through different lenses such as kayaking on a pond, hiking at night, and caring for chickens and goats. Our fifth grade students were able to take what they knew about an idea or experience and possibly change or adjust their thinking either about a friendship or experience or life.


Report Card Updates


As we approach our first reporting period of the year, we would like to highlight changes we are making to the reporting system for this academic year and offer you a preview of changes to the 2019-2020 report card.  

In response to questions and concerns raised by parents and teachers about the Lower School yearly reporting and conference cycle, we formed a committee, consisting of one teacher per grade and specials teachers, to discuss the purpose and goals for our progress reporting/conferencing system. The committee is focusing on developing a reporting structure that reveals the learning progression for parents as a child moves through the Lower School educational program during a school year and across grades. We also want to align better the Lower School reporting periods with the pace of the curriculum.

Last year, the committee worked to create a new report format that highlights the learning progression of the curriculum and establishes reporting periods that align better with our calendar. Guided by the pace of the Lower School curriculum and natural breaks in the school year calendar, the committee determined that more comprehensive reports, coupled with conferences, would be shared with parents three times per year — in November, in March and in June.

This school year, the committee will continue to meet to refine the content and skills shared in the written report, so that a student's progress can more easily be documented through the school year and over successive years in Lower School.  

We value our partnership with parents as we work together to support your child's academic and emotional growth. When completed, we believe these changes in the reporting and conferencing cycle for Lower School will create a richer, more enduring picture of your child's strengths and areas for future growth. While these formal reports are an important part of the Lower School educational program, know, too, that the day-to-day interactions parents and teachers have with each other support student learning as well.

Parents will receive an email with a link to their child's grade report in the afternoon on Monday, Nov. 12.


Please don't hesitate to reach out to your child's teacher or me if you have any questions. Marcy Sosa

News You Can Use


Social Media Insights


Instagram: PCLowerSchool



Important Calendar Dates


Monday, Nov. 12: Thursday, Nov. 15: All-School Book Fair (Old Gym)

Tuesday, Nov. 13: Third grade parent meeting, 8:15-9:30 am (Timmons)

Wednesday, Nov. 14: Second grade parent meeting, 8:15-9:30 am (Timmons)

Wednesday, Nov. 14: Fifth grade Meeting for Worship, 8:30-8:50 am

Thursday, Nov. 15: First grade parent meeting, 8:15-9:30 am (Timmons)

Friday, Nov. 16: Kindergarten parent meeting, 8:15-9:30 am (Timmons)

Monday, Nov. 19: Parent conferences

Monday, Nov. 19: Friday, Nov. 23: No school for students

Thursday, Nov. 29: Lower School Science Night, 6:30-8:00 pm (Lower School)

Thursday, Dec. 6: Parent Meeting for Worship, 8:15-8:45 (Meeting Room)

Friday, Dec. 7: Breakfast with Your Child, 7:30-8:00 am (Dining Hall)

Friday, Dec. 14: Lower School Winter Concert, 1:00 pm (Kurtz Center)

Saturday, Dec. 15 through Tuesday, Jan. 1: Winter break

Wednesday, Jan. 2: Classes resume


Halloween Parade


Did you figure out who was the "witch" leading the parade? We'll never tell. Enjoy the parade photos. 


Charlie Kaesshaefer, Assistant Director of Lower School

  • LS Life
LS Life: Sept. 2018

Dear Lower School Families,

Welcome back! We have been anxiously awaiting your return and are excited for another incredible school year here in the Lower School. It was an absolute joy to see the students return yesterday morning, and I look forward to watching and supporting their growth throughout the year. (And, the day before, it was a joy to welcome our newest Lower School students, many of whom are shown here in Chigwell Close.)

As we head into this new year, I'd like to share some of the brilliant work that was done over the summer by faculty and staff. While summer may seem like a more relaxed time for teachers, we were fortunate to participate in a wide variety of professional development this summer as teachers traveled far and wide, and met here on campus, to add to their teaching toolbox.

  • Monica FreelyKellyn Zeuner and Whitney Kerner spent a week at Columbia University at the the 36th Annual June Institute on the Teaching of Writing, and Jill Einbender attended the 25th Annual June Institute on the Teaching of Reading later in the summer.
  • Jessica Stusnick-Czyzewski began her Wilson Reading System Training at AIM Academy and will continue this work in the coming year.
  • The second grade team (Monique Durso, Joel Eckel and Sue Shelly) as well as Marcy Sosa and Dan Stahl won a Penn Charter VITAL grant to attend the Buck Institute for Education to focus on enhancing project-based learning and will utilize this in their Costa Rica study and work with PC’s Center for Public Purpose.
  • Naveena Bembry traveled to Japan on her 20-year travel grant and connected with Tokyo Friends School, in addition to other learning experiences related to the testimonies of Peace and Community. We are excited to see all that she brings to her Social Studies curriculum this year as a result!
  • 13 Lower School teachers attended the week-long Responsive Classroom Course or Advanced Course in Wayne, Pa., this summer, continuing the work done last year.
  • Our divisional work prior to the start of the school year also focused on continuing to develop a new reports framework, and providing additional learning opportunities for students related to recess and play.


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!

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 Twitter and Instagram.
Twitter: @PCLowerSchool
Instagram: @PCLowerSchool

Each grade also has an account; the address, or handle, is pcclassof plus the graduation year.

You can also follow the art teachers' account, or the technology account:

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 2018-2019.


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 subsequent 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.

New Faculty and New Roles

We are incredibly lucky to have talented educators join our team, and to have a few others in new roles. Below, please see more information about each of these individuals and their role this school year. 

Sarah Black, fifth grade reading teacher: Sarah has spent many years working at Penn Charter and returns to us full-time as the newest member of the fifth grade team. Sarah graduated from Brown University and earned her master's degree from Columbia University Teachers College. She has experience teaching in almost every lower school grade and holds teaching certifications in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.

Indira Corales, fifth grade Spanish teacher: Indira joins us from Pittsburgh and will be teaching fifth grade and Upper School Spanish. Indira is originally from Chile, but moved to the United States to study music performance at Carnegie Mellon University. Indira holds a bachelor's degree from Duquesne University, where she majored in Spanish, and she earned a master's in teaching foreign language from the University of Pittsburgh. Indira is certified to teach in Pennsylvania and has taught all levels of Spanish. 

Clare Dolan, first grade teacher: Clare returns as a lead teacher in first grade after spending the past year in the assistant role. She joined us last school year from Raleigh, N.C., where she was a third grade teacher for two years at Thales Academy. Clare is a graduate of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she majored in elementary education.

Monica Freely, kindergarten teacher: Monica has joined the kindergarten team as a lead teacher in partnership with Lindsay Franklin after eight years of experience with Reggio Emilia as a teaching assistant in our pre-K. Monica earned a bachelor's degree in communication from Seton Hall University and a master's in early childhood education from Chestnut Hill College; she is certified to teach K-4 in Pennsylvania.

Crystal Jean, teaching assistant: Crystal will serve as an assistant teacher in our Lower School. She has over 25 years of experience in childcare and early childhood education, including positions of assistant director and director in child care centers, as well as lead teacher for the Philadelphia School District's comprehensive daycare, Head Start, and Pre-K Counts programs. She holds a bachelor's degree from Chestnut Hill College in early childhood education and childcare management, and a master’s in education from West Chester University. 

Millie Lockyer, pre-K teaching assistant: Millie will join our pre-K program and serve as an assistant teacher in Megan Kafer's classroom. She earned a bachelor's degree in education from Temple University and holds Pennsylvania teaching certificates in early childhood and elementary education. Prior to coming to Penn Charter, Millie worked for over 10 years as a Pre-K Counts teacher at Special People in Northeast, a nonprofit organization for individuals with special needs. 

Kirsten Tiroly, music teaching assistant: Kirsten joins our Lower School team as an assistant teacher in our Music program. She will also assist with morning drop-off and usher our youngest learners from the bus lane to the Lower School building each morning. Finally, she will conclude each day by working in our After-School Program as a member of Kathy MacMurray's team. Kirsten recently graduated from Temple University, where she majored in Music Education. 

Linh Tran, pre-K teaching assistant: Linh will serve as a pre-K assistant teacher in Caroline Studdy's classroom. Linh first became familiar with our pre-K program back in 2010 when her daughter was enrolled. Since then she has served as a volunteer. Previously, Linh worked as an architect, designing and planning university buildings and campuses. She earned a master of architecture degree from Yale University and a bachelor of arts and science degree from the University of Pennsylvania. 

Last, but certainly not least, Marcy Sosa will continue in the role of literacy coordinator and will take on the additional title of Assistant Director of Lower School, in partnership with Charlie Kaesshaefer. Marcy has been a critical member of the Lower School Learning Team for over a decade and brings both her experience and expertise in a variety of areas to this role. She will also serve as the point person for Lower School while I am out on maternity leave (for approximately three months later this year). Baby McCallum is expected around the winter holidays, and we know that Lower School will be in excellent hands while I care for the newest addition to my family.

With that, 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!

Kate McCallum
Director of Lower School

P.S. Important dates to mark on your calendar:

  • Lower School Back-to-School Night: Monday, Sept. 17, 7 pm
  • New Parents Reception: Saturday, Sept. 15, 4-6 pm, Head's Residence
  • Kindergarten Parent Social: Friday, Sept. 14, 6-8pm, Timmons RSVP
  • Pre-K Parent Social: Saturday, Sept. 22, 6-8 pm, Timmons