Meaningful conversations, thoughtful discussions, enjoyable games, Meeting for Worship, stories, activities, and more created an atmosphere of sharing and community at the schoolwide Friendship Day celebration today.
Mixed-aged groups of students (approximately 15-20 students in each group) gathered with faculty/staff members throughout the school. Groups were led by Middle School students in team-building games such as “Crazy Counting,” “What Am I Doing?” and “Zoom Eek.” An “Inner and Outer Circle” exercise allowed group members to share with each other their personal definitions of peace, along with many other tidbits such as favorite foods, personal points of pride, inspiring music, and much more.
Upper School students were charged with leading a Courageous Friendship activity which centered around reading and acting out the book I Really Like Slop, by Mo Willems. After reading the book aloud and acting it out, the Upper School students facilitated discussions about the book and its themes with questions like: “What do you believe to be true about friendship?”
All groups attended a 30-minute Meeting for Worship during which fourth grade students shared messages of friendship out loud.
Friendship Day started in 2015 as a schoolwide celebration of the International Day of Peace. In 2016, the date was changed from September 21 to February 14.
The Lower School Theater Club will present its first-ever play, Peter Pan, on Tuesday, February 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the Auditorium. Admission is free for all attendees.
Peter Pan reaches the stage after five months of learning, fun, and preparation in the Lower School Theater Club, an after-school club that has met every Tuesday since September. Prekindergarten Teacher Jenny Torgerson developed the idea with Director of Summer/Auxiliary Programs Martha Cameron and former Drama Director and Theater Instructor Angela Wertner. Ms. Torgerson wrote the adaptation and is directing the MFS production; Third Grade Teacher Ted Quinn is the set and technical manager.
Before embarking on this theatrical journey, Ms. Torgerson had prior experience with the story of the “boy who never grew up.” “I do a similar project every year at the Delaware Children’s Theater,” she explains. “Peter Pan is one story we have done there, and it was successful for us. It’s a story everybody knows and everybody can get excited about.”
Registration for the club quickly maxed out, and participants kicked off their roles in the production by meeting one on one with Ms. Torgerson. If students had a particular request, Ms. Torgerson attempted to work their ideas into the script. Students have also participated in several activities to learn about each stage of putting on a show.
“In addition to working on the play and blocking, we’ve done a lot of character development,” Ms. Torgerson says. “We also made all the sets ourselves. Mr. Quinn has used the [1st floor Lower School] hallway for long pieces, and then my classroom to start working with props. If I’m working on a scene with the pirates, I don’t need the Lost Boys, so they can go across the hall with Mr. Quinn and work on something.”
Students are currently putting finishing touches on the set and dress rehearsal is just around the corner. As the big day approaches, Ms. Torgerson mentions that audience members can expect the unexpected on the 19th.
“There are students in this show – who I know pretty well or have had before in class – who have surprised me,” she says. “I think if parents, friends, and teachers come and see some of these performances, they will see a completely different side of some students. I think it’s pretty special to get to uncover something new about a person.”
On Thursday, January 17, Lower School students participated in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day program — a longstanding MFS tradition. The program grants students in kindergarten through fourth grade an opportunity to honor King’s life through historical recitations and song, while preschool and prekindergarten students watch the event unfold.
Lower School Director Kelly Banik compares the program, held annually in the meeting house, to a mosaic. “Each grade has a little piece of the play,” Ms. Banik says. “It brings the themes of equality and information about Martin Luther King, Jr. all together for students to celebrate diversity and equal rights.”
Melissa McCourt, the Chester Reagan Chair for Religious and Quaker Studies, greeted students and teachers at the meeting house entrance and provided an opening welcome. This year’s program featured seven songs — from “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” to “Free at Last” — sung in unison by all Lower School students and conducted by Lower School Music Teacher Joanna Stamper. Between each song, segments of dialogue illustrated key points in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life. The segment covering the 1955-56 bus boycott featured an additional layer of activity, as fourth graders marched around the center of the meeting house while carrying handmade protest signs.
Kindergarten Teacher and Lower School Diversity Coordinator Emily Bowditch finds that this event has ripple effects for students, especially when paired with in-class lessons about civil rights. “I think it’s a really important time to lay the foundation — to make sure students understand what respect is and what it means to have the rights we have today,” Ms. Bowditch says. “When students learn honestly and authentically about the importance of fairness and equality, then they’re able to gain more empathy and more care for each other.”
In the weeks leading up to the program, each grade learned about the historical figures or events present in their speaking portion. However, the themes of King’s work continue to resonate throughout the year. “It’s not just a month-long celebration or a day’s celebration,” Ms. Banik says. “Service and stewardship are an incredibly important part of any grade at MFS. They are built into the ways we conduct ourselves, inside and outside our classes, and into the lessons that teachers are working on every day.”
Moorestown Friends School has announced the appointment of Jenel Giles as Lower School Director, effective July 1, 2019. Giles succeeds Kelly Banik, who will depart at the end of the school year to become Head of School at the Raleigh School in Raleigh, NC.
Giles is an experienced educator, serving for more than a decade as a kindergarten lead teacher at Bank Street School for Children in New York City. In May, she will complete her Ed.M. from the Klingenstein Leadership Academy at Columbia University’s Teacher College. She also has an M.Ed. from Bank Street College of Education.
A graduate of Barnard College (B.A.), Giles began her career as an assistant teacher at Bank Street before moving to Collegiate School, also in New York City, where she was a first grade teacher before returning to Bank Street. In addition to her teaching duties at Bank Street, Giles has served on the school’s Strategic Planning Task Force, Brain Research Team, Diversity Leadership Council, and Faculty Council.
“When I visited, I was struck by the care and thought that is put into every element of the program at Moorestown Friends,” said Ms. Giles. “Faculty are always thinking about best practices to help students develop the tools they need to be active learners. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to becoming part of the Moorestown Friends School community.”
Giles was a leader in Bank Street’s Summer Camp program for 14 years. She served in various roles including Middle and Upper Camp Director for a program enrolling 200 campers ages 6-15. In this role, she oversaw curriculum development, discipline, and parent communication. She worked with the leadership team to shape the vision and growth of camp programs and hired and supervised 20-40 staff across various subject areas including science, Spanish immersion, creative arts, travel, and sports.
Giles has been a presenter at the Everyone Reading Conference at New York University, the Bank Street Teaching Kindergarten Conference, and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) People of Color Conference. Her professional development experiences have included: the Interschool Leadership Institute, Handwriting Without Tears, Sounds In Motion, Undoing Racism, Border Crossers, Responsive Classroom, and more.
Giles’s appointment concludes a national search conducted by a committee clerked by Associate Head of School Chris Kimberly.
On Wednesday, January 30, Moorestown Friends School will kick off Fox Tots, a new five-week program designed for children ages 2.5 to 5 and their parents.
Fox Tots is designed to generate curiosity and imagination while providing parents/guardians the opportunity to meet highly qualified MFS teachers and experience our engaging curriculum alongside their child.
Dates: Wednesdays, January 30, February 6, 13, 20, 27 Time: 9-10 a.m. Registration fee: $50 for the entire five-week program
The program will include five themes… • Story and Song • Breakfast with Bots • Craft a Masterpiece • The Magic of Music • Yoga and Mindfulness
This program is open to the general public. Join us each Wednesday, starting on January 30, for five weeks of hands-on fun.
At the Preschool and Prekindergarten informances, students join their parents in the Lower School Music Room for a fun-filled session of shared rhythm and song.
LS Music Teacher Joanna Stamper introduced the informances three years ago, and they have since become key events in the Beginnings arts curriculum.
“It gives children and their grownup an opportunity to make music together and have a bonding experience,” Ms. Stamper says. “This felt like a developmentally appropriate way; it was not the stress of standing on stage but it gave grownups an opportunity to see what they were learning and get a glimpse into how the process works.”
The activity and song selections for each Informance showcase a variety of musical styles. For example, a recent Prekindergarten informance had students creating sound effects on instruments as Ms. Stamper read a storybook. One Preschool Informance added crafts into the mix as students arranged pieces on a paper snowman and then sang about their creation.
“I always try to show a variety of what’s happening,” Ms. Stamper says. “We keep the traditions like the opening and closing songs. There’ll always be something that’s a chant versus singing. Then there’s an element where we get up and move our bodies. So it’s trying to have different meters and different tonalities, so that their brains and their ears have a sonic vocabulary to draw from.”
Parents and students will have additional opportunities to gather when the next set of informances occurs in the spring.
When developing their lesson plans, Kindergarten teachers Emily Bowditch and Kenya Barber think about how to encourage their students’ natural curiosity. As kindergarteners take their community walks and begin to meet faculty and staff around MFS, they often want to learn more.
“A lot of the students’ questions revolve around ‘What does this person do?’ or ‘I see this person when I walk into school; what is his or her job?’” Ms. Bowditch explains. “We’ve found that each year those questions keep coming up, and it seems like a natural progression in the unit for us to bring people in to share about their jobs.”
This year, the Kindergarten class welcomed eight visitors from a range of different departments, including Athletics, College Counseling, Admissions, Maintenance, and Front Desk Reception. This year, Head of School Julia de la Torre was the first guest.
“I think that it really helps to build community and helps the students make connections between who works in the Lower School and who works in the Middle and Upper School,” Ms. Bowditch says. “[Director of College Counseling] Mr. Vassall came earlier this week and decided to do a ‘pinky wave.’ Just today, we were walking to assembly and saw him in the hallway. [He and the students] had a little secret gesture to do and he was giving them high fives. So I think that helps them feel more included in our community and gives them things to look forward to in the future.”
After a field trip to the Philadelphia Walnut Street Theatre in to watch The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley Jr., which told the story of a young boy who was “flattened” by a bulletin board, Lisa Martin’s prekindergarten class was inspired to create their own versions of having 2D adventures. The children decided they wanted to transform themselves into a “Flat Prekindergartener!” Mrs. Martin and Teaching Assistant Jessica Durdin printed photos of the students, laminated them, cut them out, and asked volunteers within the MFS community to take the Flat Prekindergartener on a journey with them for a day.
Through their Flat Prekindergartener versions of themselves, the students were able to follow a typical day for a staff member of the marketing department, the front desk coordinator, the school psychologist, a first grade teacher, an Upper School Spanish teacher, a Middle School English teacher, and more!
The students loved seeing their Flat Prekindergartener classmates on their various journeys that allowed them to learn more about all the people who work at a three-division school.
Eighth Graders Alexis Hehn ’22 and Ella Miller ’22 co-wrote this blog post to describe the Lower School Buddy Program from a student’s perspective.
Lower School Buddy Program
Around two years ago, an idea was brought up during a Middle School Student Government meeting between nine seventh and eighth grade students sitting in Mrs. Corsey’s office. Mrs. Corsey is the Director of Middle School Student Life and led Middle School Student Government last year and this year. The idea at the time was very vague, and most thought that it was too big to accomplish. Our goal was to establish a way for Middle School and Lower School to share a connection. We wanted lower schoolers to get to know us, and to provide middle schoolers with the opportunity of being a teacher and having responsibility. So, with that goal in mind, we began the planning process for the Lower School Buddy Program. After many presentations, powerpoints, emails, worksheets, and planning in Mrs. Corsey’s office, the Lower School Buddy Program was finally ready to take flight.
After initial approval from Mrs. Corsey and Middle School Director Mrs. Clarkson to come up with a proposal, the first thing we needed to do was to create a presentation so that we could clear out the jumble of ideas we had and set a firm path to follow. We began to tackle big questions, such as where and when we would meet with the lower schoolers. We didn’t know if it was going to happen during Activity (the class period when we have electives like Student Government, MathCounts, Science Olympiad, Robotics, Newspaper, arts ensembles, and other things), lunch, or after school, and it was very difficult to work around the Middle and Lower School schedules. However, after many emails to and from Lower School, it became clear that our activity period, which happens once every 6 days, would be best for the Lower School Buddy Program. We did not know how many classes we would be able to visit, so we had to wait to address that until our presentation.
After more weeks of planning and a summer of work, we had a second presentation. During this presentation, we proposed our idea and plan to Mrs. Clarkson and Lower School Director Mrs. Banik. It was nerve wracking, and we all wanted it to go well. Afterwards, we were asked many eye-opening questions that helped us to realize that there was still a lot of work to be done to make the Lower School Budy Program work.
The next problem to tackle would be who would be meeting with the Lower School. If it was going to be an activity, should Middle School Student Government test it out first? Should we allow for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders to participate? What is the number of Middle Schoolers we can accept into the activity? Many different questions were brought up, and we had to work through each one carefully. After many discussions, Middle School Student Government decided that the activity should only be open to 7th and 8th graders. The students would essentially be leading the class entirely for the whole activity period, and that requires a lot of responsibility. The next problem was addressing how many middle schoolers could actually sign up for the activity.
After more planning and presentations, we were finally ready to start the Lower School Buddy Program. It would take place on A day during the activity period, and we would cover the two kindergarten and prekindergarten classrooms. We would be split into groups of four, one group for each class, and every time we would visit them we would have a new activity planned for that day. During every class, we would have something new and fun that we could do together with the children. It was surreal when we had our first activity with the lower schoolers, and it was very nostalgic for those nine Middle School Student Government kids who two years ago had begun planning the idea.
The first time we went down into the classroom, the younger students were eager to listen and learn from us. We all split into groups of 4-5 people to go into each classrooms (Prekindergarten and Kindergarten). We introduced ourselves and began to find games and different, fun ways to connect with the students. We did a few icebreakers such as tossing the ball around and saying our names, our favorite food, and favorite color.
Since then, the kids look forward to seeing us every single week. Whenever we enter the classroom, their eyes light up. We always come prepared with new arts, crafts, and games to do. We normally spend about half an hour with them, meaning that it is sometimes hard to find things to do in such little time. When we first ran into this problem, we decided to work in stations, fixing our time management problem.
The things that we observed were that the younger students enjoyed picking out books for us to read with them. In some of the classes we read The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. We have made arts and crafts with them, such as playing with model magic and making letters with it. For this particular activity, we would ask the students “what words can you make with that letter,” and “what are some activities you can name that start with the same letter.” When we came back from spring break, we brought in another activity where we had them draw the fun things they did over spring break.
The Lower School Buddy Program has been a life-changing experience. We have connected with the children, taught them things, and we have had so much fun in this activity. This activity also has given middle schoolers many valuable life and problem solving skills. For example, if we ever become teachers or have our own children, we will know what activities to do, how to act, and how to be responsible around them. It is very rewarding to see our hard work from the past two years paying off, and we cannot wait to see where the Lower School Buddy program will go in the future.
Investigating Biological Life Cycles in Kindergarten Butterfly Study
In Kindergarten, students in Ms. Barber’s and Ms. Bowditch’s classes investigate different types of insects and their characteristics. As part of the Kindergarten Butterfly Study, they explore the life cycle of insects by observing the changes that occur as a caterpillar grows and develops. The students learn about the stages of the life cycle as the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis and then emerges as a butterfly. The students write down their observations in a special journal and learn what it means to be a scientist. At the end of the Kindergarten Butterfly Study unit, the classes release the butterflies as a concluding celebration.
During this time, the kindergarteners also study the author Eric Carle and read the book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Eric Carle wrote many fiction books about insects and animals that are stories inspired by factual information. These stories are read in conjunction with the Kindergarten Butterfly Study. The students participate in a variety of art activities and other fun games to learn more about Eric Carle.