At Penn Charter, building community among students, between teachers and students, and between parents and teachers is a hallmark of Lower School. From scheduled goal-setting meetings to student performances to social opportunities, the fabric of our community becomes tightly woven.
Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten teachers visit each family at home in the days before classes begin. Home visits are a way for our youngest students and their parents to be welcomed into the community by the teachers, and speak to the importance we place on the partnership between parents and teachers to nurture each child. The early connection between teachers and parents often makes the first day of school easier for families, having had an opportunity to ask questions about what to expect.
At a home visit, teachers can create a connection with a student where that child is most comfortable. Teachers meet pets. They meet siblings. They meet favorite stuffies. They get a chance to meet the authentic child and form a connection from which to draw on the first day of school. Pre-K teachers take a photograph of the family at the home visit, and those family portraits stay up on the wall in the pre-K all year long, bringing a piece of home into the classroom. In kindergarten, teachers often photograph their students in their favorite place at home, and those pictures also stay up all year long.
These parent-teacher conferences happen on the second Friday of school in September and establish the relationship between teachers and parents. These conferences are not just for new students, but instead for every child, every year. Parents can talk about goals and teachers can check in after getting an initial impression of the child. At a goal-setting conference, parents and teachers can talk about communication strategies, about hopes for the school year, and the home-school bond is strengthened. These conferences happen for first through fifth grades, the home visits being the mechanism for pre-Kindergarten and kindergarten students. Everyone gets on same page about the child. Teachers talk about communication strategy. When the child moves up to Middle School, parents meet with their child's advisors and the goal-setting conference model continues.
Student Showcases and Concerts
In Lower School, every child participates in the Winter Concert and the Spring Concert. Families, friends and older siblings pack the Ball Theater in the Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts to hear each grade sing and perform songs they've rehearsed — and sometimes written themselves!
Each Lower School grade has its own play or major project with a presentation opportunity. Parents are welcome to attend these showcases. Kindergarten hosts an opening for their self-portrait gallery; third grade presents the Wax Museum, with students bringing historical figures to life in Gummere Library and parents and Upper and Middle School students stopping in to admire the students' costumes and memorized autobiographical sketches. Fourth grade hosts the Economic Fair after designing items for sale and setting prices based on materials and labor. The Fifth Grade Egg Drop is an uproarious and zany tradition that combines science, friendly competition among teachers and silly hats.
Parent attendance at these showcases strengthens the home-school bond and allows for connection with teachers and other parents, as well as the celebration of student achievement.
Enrichment for Grades 4 and 5
Fourth and fifth grade students come together around different activities and explore interests in common. Lower School Enrichment is presented by teachers free of charge. Students choose from a variety of offerings such as ukulele, Girls on the Run, knitting and crocheting, make your own board game, and many more. Enrichment sessions happen each week over a period of several weeks. Enrichment offers the opportunity to meet different teachers, form or solidify friendships with children in a different grade, and to try something new.
The Parent Community and Social Opportunities for Parents
The PC Parent Community helps to make the Penn Charter experience engaging and meaningful for parents and families. The group creates opportunities for parents to engage with the life of the school in ways that suit PC parents' individual schedules and interests. Parent socials are come-as-you-are pop-ins, like the Drop-and-Stops on the first days of school or scheduled evening social events. Parents can volunteer to run an event, attend a parent-to-parent workshop on flower arranging or auto mechanics, or stop in to drop off a plate of cookies for a bake sale. Whatever your interest, talent or time, there's a place for you at Penn Charter. Learn more about the Parent Community
Parent Meeting for Worship
The Parent Community organizes a morning Meeting for Worship in the Meeting Room in Upper School, usually on the first Thursday of each month. Parents are welcome to gather in silence in the manner of Friends (Quakers) for half an hour of worship or reflection, interrupted only if someone is moved to speak. These gatherings offer the opportunity to experience Quaker Meeting, but also to connect with other parents both in Meeting and before or after.
The Parent Community organizes Introduction to Quakerism, a workshop led by the national body Friends Council on Education, to offer education and insight into Meeting for Worship, Quaker practice and values, and Quaker education. Dates of this workshop are announced in Parent Post, PC's weekly e-newsletter sent on Friday mornings.
Lower School Family Visiting Day
Penn Charter welcomes Lower School parents, grandparents and friends to campus for a morning in October. Guests experience a day in the life of their Lower School. This event strengthens the home-school connection, and can be helpful in establishing new jumping-off points for conversations and questions more focused than, "How was your day?"