Following the adoption of our new Core Values, SFS leaders are taking turns writing about the ways in which those values are lived out every day on our campuses. This week we are sharing with you the Core Values of Creativity and Expression. “Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye.” — Dorothy Parker St. Francis School has always held Creativity and Expression as esteemed, essential values to its identity. Everyone connected to the School universally speaks to the joy found here and makes direct connections between that joy and the creative expression encouraged and celebrated each day on both of our campuses. Recent examples that come to mind include vibrant paper lanterns under construction in Judy Riendeau’s Lower School art classrooms as students prepare to celebrate World Kindness Day at the first-ever Lantern Walk on the Goshen Campus, the Middle School Drama Project’s recent production of Zink, and the “function art” hanging in the Algebra II classroom at the High School. Teachers in all content areas prioritize creativity and expression: on any given day in any given classroom in any division, you will find multitudes of examples of students creating and expressing their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and new learning. But what is the value, both for the learner and the culture? Why are Creativity and Expression, as essential as they are to our identity as a school, so integral to the learning process in a Progressive school? How do these Core Values help our students grow into engaged, mindful contributors to the world around them? When I [...]
At every level of Preschool - 12th grade education, the parent/school partnership is vital, but perhaps never more so than in high school, as it’s the time when teenagers’ independence is increasing and their parents’ influence is decreasing. This is as it should be, since it’s a necessary developmental step in becoming truly self-sufficient and moving toward successful college/adult life — but that doesn’t make it any easier or more pleasant for parents! As a School, we understand this challenge and we put a great deal of thought into how to both encourage students to take full responsibility for their own education and behavior and to work with parents during these last few years before at least a partial launch into adulthood. Our faculty and staff are always available to parents, not only through scheduled check-ins like grade reports, parent-teacher conferences, and events hosted by our School Counselor and College Counselor, but also through emails, calls, and meetings whenever needed. While we believe it’s important for students to take responsibility for their work at school, we also want parents to be fully informed, because we know that students are best served when all the adults in their lives are working in partnership. Getting your teenager through these four years isn’t always smooth sailing. We get that. We’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers and their parents to help navigate adolescence. One important benefit — for parents! — of a St. Francis education is the wrap-around experience our faculty and staff provide, and our deep knowledge of what’s going on with [...]
The following article (and the photo above) reflects how we incorporate community service into the curriculum and student life in a normal, non-COVID school year. We expect to resume our normal community service program in 2021-22! Because serving the community is a core tenet of Progressive education, the High School has a long tradition of community service, with our program dating back to the 1990s. We believe service is so important that it is built into the school day, rather than requiring students to earn service hours outside of school on their own. The entire high school student body and all the faculty/staff participate in six half-days spread out during the school year, contributing about 2,500 hours of service to the community annually. The goals of the St. Francis community service program are for students to understand and care for the world around them and to cultivate a lifelong desire to serve others. Students and faculty/staff are assigned to different sites or groups that they stay with for the year (and sometimes for multiple years), each of which falls within one of three major strands: human services, civic literacy, and environmental stewardship. We prefer to work with sites in our immediate vicinity downtown if possible in order to have a positive impact on our neighborhood, but some sites are a bit farther afield, as well. In 2019-20, St. Francis students worked at the following sites: Main Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library, Project Warm, Gilda’s Club, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Louisville Grows, Kentucky Science Center, Louisville Nature Center, Chestnut [...]
I am writing this with a full heart, knowing that the school year is coming to an end. Here at the High School, we are through Advisee Games, halfway done with AP Exams, and staring down the pike at Awards Day, Senior Tributes, exams, and of course, Graduation. May is a complicated, contradictory time; I feel pulled halfway between celebrating these important moments and shifting to begin planning and preparing for the fall. Frankly, this whole year has been a complicated, contradictory time, to say the least. As we wind down, I am conscious of many things for which I am truly grateful in this most unusual time. I am in awe of our faculty, who have been superhuman in their ability to pivot between modes of school and to juggle ways of teaching, always with the students' best interests at the fore. I am so proud of our students, who have made the most of everything they could and are clearly so tired and worn down from a year-plus of pandemic stress, but keep showing up (on the computer or in the classroom) and making it work. I am beyond appreciative of our amazing staff and the ways in which they keep everything running so that the teachers can teach and the students can learn. And I am very grateful for you, our parents - for the support and the partnership that has enabled us together to give these wonderful teenagers a reasonable semblance of a high school year. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for [...]
Earlier this week at the virtual Middle School Talent Show, Reed Gabhart shared how it was this time last year when we first began adjusting to virtual ways of connecting and building community, and virtual meetings, at that time, being the primary means of connecting. The Middle School Talent Shows, both this year and last year, showcased the spark, joy, and tenacity of our Middle School Wyverns. (Henry Johnson on piano is not to be missed! And neither is Molly Waggener, the last of a long line of Waggeners to perform in Middle School Talent Shows, performing vocals to rival Adele’s original while accompanied by her brother, Nate.) Upon hearing Reed’s reflection on the joy we felt this time last year in our ability to gather virtually, I began remembering how in May of 2020, there were still so many unknowns about what school might look like for us this year and what the pandemic might mean for our School community. To say this has been a school year for the history books is no understatement. Through the support and relentless efforts of every single teacher, staff member, and administrator, and through our families’ trust and faith in our ability to deliver our Mission and Values, we have continued the important work of teaching and learning in the most joyful manner possible, whether learning remotely or six feet apart in masks. Never did I imagine we’d have directional arrows on the floors of our Progressive School where, in non-pandemic times, “Wise Freedom” often looks like free-range children, skipping through [...]
We had a wonderful time last week at our Preschool Derby Parade and Races, and while we missed hosting our parents and grandparents this year, we didn’t let that hold us back from our celebrations! Each class worked on a float for the parade -- Ms. Carmen’s class made a fairy house, Mr. Paul’s class rode in a “chip bucket” (only they know the joke there), Mr. David and Ms. Breck’s class filled their float with pictures and memories of their year together, and Ms. Penny and Ms. Holly’s class decorated their float with festive Derby accessories (the gluing was their favorite part). The horses were lovingly created and aptly named by their riders. It gave us a sense of normalcy as we gathered together albeit separately, but for the same goal -- to have fun and celebrate! We hope everyone enjoys this video created by our talented Ms. Faith.
This week the Preschool classrooms have been stocked with cardboard boxes, socks, pillow stuffing, paint, and the usual assortment of googly eyes. The handiwork of Derby horses and floats has officially begun! At this time, we are unable to host guests in the Preschool; however, we will still parade, race, and enjoy celebrating the Kentucky Derby as individual classes on Wednesday, April 28th. After each class races, the children will return to their classroom for light refreshments. We will record and share the running of our 25th Preschool Derby with parents via email. Stay tuned!
The cyclical nature of high school is one of the many things I love about my job. It's always hard to say goodbye to the graduating class, but that emotion is tempered by both excitement at the prospect of what lies ahead for them (college and adult life) and anticipation for the new incoming class and all that we will experience together in the coming years. Last week was bookended in a poignant way: on Friday, we celebrated with our seniors and on Sunday, we welcomed our incoming freshmen. Friday was Senior Class Adventure Day for the Class of 2021! Because we were not able to take them on the usual August whitewater rafting trip, we scheduled a sleep-in morning, a kayaking afternoon, and an evening with a burrito bar, movie, and bonfire. The seniors have only three more weeks of school and we have several more opportunities to celebrate them, starting next week with the College Decision Day/Alumni Welcome Luncheon on Tuesday and continuing through Prom, the Senior Tributes, and of course, Graduation. On Sunday, we brought together the incoming Class of 2025 for the first time! They learned one another's names, played some games, and took a look at the construction zone soon to become the new athletic spaces that will open as the freshmen arrive in August. They were energetic and lively, and I cannot wait to get to know them all better next year!
Last week I was fortunate to accompany the 8th grade class and their other fearless chaperones on a three-night Wyvern Retreat to YMCA Camp Piomingo in Otter Creek Park, just southwest of Louisville. In other years, the 8th graders travel to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in Oneida, Tennessee for a week of backpacking. The pandemic presented health and safety challenges for us in planning the same type of Wyvern Retreat; however, the creativity and problem-solving skills of our team kicked into gear! Parents eagerly transported their students to and from the camp experience, and students enjoyed three nights of solo-tent camping in a beautiful, natural setting with the added fun that comes along with being at a summer camp facility. The core mission of the St. Francis School Wyvern Retreat Program is to conduct a safe and structured educational experience designed to inspire self-esteem, self-reliance, concern for others, and care for the environment. The program is intentionally designed to allow students the opportunity to meet challenges and move beyond self-imposed limitations through responsible risk-taking and hands-on involvement. Similar to the Big South Fork trip, students took ownership of cooking for themselves, menu planning in advance, and learning how to cook on small, portable camp stoves. They worked together to set up and tear down camp, weathering cold temperatures the first night and taking down camp in steady rain the final morning of the trip. It wasn’t all hardship -- there was a great deal of laughter and fun, too. The pipeline slide in the pitch-black [...]
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are central themes at St. Francis, woven into our values, philosophy, and everyday life. Our official Diversity Statement reads: At St. Francis, we believe there is an inherent strength in a community, a city, and a world in which members exhibit a breadth of talent, skills, and attributes. We define diversity as differences embodied in (but not limited to) age, ethnicity, race, family composition, gender, gender identity and expression, geographic origin, learning styles, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economics, and ideologies. We seek to prepare students to live in and contribute to their world by acknowledging and celebrating who they are and who they wish to become. In addition, given the fact of profound inequalities of opportunity that still exist in our world, we strive to foster a respectful and welcoming school community for us all as a model for the challenges that face us each day as global citizens. Our work around diversity, equity, and inclusion takes various forms at the High School, starting with student groups. Under the leadership of a Director of Diversity and a number of other faculty members, organizations such as the Black Students Association (BSA), Afro-Americans Fighting Racism and Oppression (AFRO), the Muticultural Students Association (MSA), the Queer Students Association (QSA), Q-Club, and the Gender Rights and Equity Initiative (GRE) meet regularly to discuss topics, invite speakers, and plan events. AFRO and Q-Club are affinity groups; BSA, MSA, QSA, and GRE are open to all. In non-pandemic years, Diversity Week, Soul Week, and Gender Week are popular annual happenings planned by [...]