The Children Are Watching

Dear Fairville Families,

I am certain that many of you watched the political ads that aired regularly during the presidential campaign. The ad that reminded the viewer that "our children are watching" always captured my attention. There was plenty of negativity on both sides of the campaign and I was worried about the messages the candidates were conveying to our youth through their words and actions. Last week, after the election, we witnessed several middle school and high school students engaged in hurtful acts that targeted specific members of their school communities. Yes, the children are watching and what they are learning from prominent adults in their world is distressing. Yet, I remain optimistic. I know that we have the power to change the message from one of divisiveness to one of love and inclusivity. And when we do, I know the children will still be watching, and listening too. That’s what makes our work as Quaker school educators so important.

From the very first day of a new school year, the teachers at Fairville devote an extraordinary amount of time to helping young children develop valuable social skills. Children practice listening, communicating wants and needs, sharing and working with others, waiting for a turn, and being still for a moment of silence. They learn skills that are needed to function as a positive member of a community and, most importantly, they learn what it means to be kind: to people, to animals, and to the environment. We do not take this work lightly, it is every bit as important as learning about letters, numbers, nature, or scientific principles. From International Day of Peace, to our outreach programs, to our morning Meeting for Worship and our playful interactions in the classroom and on the playgrounds, children are learning to love and care for themselves, for one another, and for all who exist in the world outside our gates--with no exceptions. This is the message we strive to impart to our young learners and one that we believe will one day have a lasting impact on the world.

Yes, the children are watching. They are listening. Let’s offer them messages of love, peace, and unity.

In friendship,

Sharon

 

All About Wood at Camp Aka Maka

Our first week of camp, All About Wood, ended on Friday. It was a fun week filled with lots of practice using real tools and working with wood in various forms. Campers participated in activities such as hammering golf tees into floral foam, pounding nails into tree cookies and attaching foam shapes to cork with small nails. We worked with clamps and screwdrivers, assembled a children's adirondack chair and created wood sculptures using wooden blocks, sandpaper and glue. Campers brought in objects made of wood to share with friends in morning meeting and to practice speaking in front of a group. We made some wooden bead necklaces and built a campfire in a fire pit. We also dodged quite a bit of wild and windy weather throughout the week but still found time to play in the sprinklers, eat popsicles, and chase bubbles around the taxi yard! Please enjoy some photos of our week... and make plans to join us for more adventures as the summer unfolds!

Snowy Day

We had a delayed opening recently. My car was the first vehicle to head up the lane after the snowplow made its exit. It was quiet and still as I approached the bridge, then the beauty of the scene forced me to quickly stop my car. I was awestruck by the site of our simple country lane on that snowy winter morning. Fresh, newly fallen snow clung to all the trees, decorating them in dazzling splendor. Driving slowly up the lane, I saw the bushes in front of the building sprinkled with sparkling white and our camel wearing a comical hat! I knew that in a mere five minutes the roadway would come alive with the arrival of staff, parents and children, all eager to start the school day. But for just that moment, all was still silent. I took a breath and gazed at my surroundings with eyes wide open, grateful for the many gifts, and the moments of peace, that we receive from nature.

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Romping Through the Rainforest

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What fun the past six weeks have been! The rain, snow and unpredictable winter weather didn't stop any of us from taking daily romps through the rainforest! Once a year all of the classes at Fairville plan units of study that support a common theme. This year our rainforest study was enjoyed by children across all ages, with books, poems, stories, two visits from the Brandywine zoo, a Kindergarten play, and lots and lots of artwork! I know some of you who are on the tall side struggled a bit to get down our hallway recently, dodging snakes in trees and birds in flight as you made your way to your child's classroom. Despite the obstacles, we hope you enjoyed watching our hallway rainforest come to life as much as we did!

All-school themes provide the opportunity to build excitement for learning across the classes and allow our teachers to engage in collaborative teaching. They work with one another and with the children to explore, discover and create. We are all learners during an all-school theme, building our collective knowledge around a common area of interest. Plenty of cross-classroom learning took place and many children became experts on particular rainforest creatures. I was a little sad on Friday as we dismantled our rainforest; the hallways looked white and stark. I know it won't be long until children's art adorns the halls. I also know that another all school study will take place next year...and I can't help but wonder where our imaginations will take us!

A Season of Giving

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often express gratitude for our friends, our families and our many blessings. It is also a time when we think of others who are in need of our generosity and support. While it can be difficult to explain homelessness to very young children, many children do seem to grasp that we can help others by providing food for those without enough to eat, warm hats, mittens and socks to ward off the cold, and toys for children who may not have any under the Christmas tree without our donations. The children are eager to bring donated items to the front of the Meeting room and pleased when we acknowledge their kindness. These are wonderful early lessons in giving and sharing.

This year your generosity provided Thanksgiving side dishes for 75 families through the Blessings in a Backpack program, 30 sets of hats, mittens and socks for La Comunidad Hispana's Warm Wishes Celebration, and several boxes of toys for Chester County Family Services. Sincere thanks to everyone who helped to make the holidays brighter for so many families in need. You are truly amazing!

The students and staff at Fairville were also on the receiving end of a special gift this holiday season! We were delighted by our third annual visit from the Wilmington Friends School Kids Choir. The Kids Choir stopped in to share music with us on their way to a performance at the Brandywine River Museum. By singing together we have discovered that we know and enjoy many of the same songs! A new tradition has been established, one that we hope will continue for many years.

I am grateful to all of you for supporting the school and our outreach efforts, and for giving us the simple pleasure of spending time with your children. That is a most wonderful gift!

Warm wishes to all for a peaceful and joyful holiday,

Sharon


A Beautiful New Structure at Fairville!

A very long time ago, a detailed plan of possibilities for Fairville's play yards was designed by an ad hoc Playground Committee and submitted to Board of Trustees for consideration. During my second year at the school, I discovered the old plan, dusted it off, framed it, and brought it to the attention of the current Board of Trustees. This generated quite a bit of excitement, and in the years that followed, we began fundraising and allocating funds to add to our play yards some of the features that were imagined in that original drawing. First, we designed and built the brick bike path and added the man-made hill to the taxi yard. Then we purchased the play structure with the deck and slide. The following year we installed the very popular climbing bars. This year, thanks to two generous donations, one from a former family and one from a former student, we were able to add an amazing outdoor stage!

You may not have seen this beautiful addition to our play yards. The stage is tucked back into the corner of the bike path and has already been used by the Kindergarten and Inchworm classes for afternoon Meeting for Worship and by many of the children for imaginary outdoor shows and pretend concerts! We are looking forward to the many ways that we will use the stage this year and in the future.  We welcome you to visit the bike yard to see what a positive impact the generosity of our families, past and present, can have at our special school. Fairville is truly a magical place for children thanks to all of you!

Using Sand Tray Practice to Strengthen Verbal Language and Storytelling

From apple picking in the Ladybug class to nature patterns in the Kindergarten, the teachers and children at Fairville are taking full advantage of all that fall offers to explore and extend classroom learning. Throughout the school there are many examples of children sorting, classifying, counting, painting with and examining natural materials. This year the teachers in the Grasshopper and Butterfly rooms have also introduced the children to sand tray practice, which uses sand and a variety of appealing natural materials to help develop children's language and storytelling abilities. During sand tray practice the children weave together verbal and visual language as they construct their own worlds through the arrangement of materials in a tray of sand. This type of symbolic play is powerful for preschool age children and allows them to make meaning out of their personal experiences.


A Peaceful Beginning

With two full weeks of school behind us, the children are beginning to settle into the school year. Classrooms are full of smiling faces, intentional activity and playful learning. Many of the children are also regularly raising a hand and participating in our morning Meeting for Worship. Even our moments of silence are going well--and that is wonderful to see this early in the year!

Last Monday and Tuesday we celebrated International Day of Peace. Each child and staff member received a peace shirt to celebrate the day. We held our Meeting for Worship outdoors in the bike yard, walking to the yard in silence (well...almost!). The afternoon Inchworm class and the Kindergarten also shared an afternoon Meeting in the Gazebo yard. Peace books were shared at our Meetings and many children returned to the classroom to complete a peace-related project. While this concept can be difficult to convey to young children, it is an important tenet of Quakerism and central to our school's mission and philosophy. The children told us that peace means: peace and quiet, taking a nap, snuggling with parents, playing nicely with friends and siblings, cleaning up, being kind and helping others. I don't know that I could have said it any better!

Wishes to all of our Fairville families for a wonderful and peaceful school year! We are happy that you are here!

Fondly,

Sharon


Remembering Oscar

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Dear Families,

Many of you are aware that during the summer our beloved bunny Oscar passed away. Oscar was quite a character and he led a charmed life as part of our school community. He was treated daily with fresh food from our gardens and kitchen and received regular visits from the children and our Fairville families.

Oscar came to Fairville as a very young rabbit. His primary caretaker was Jeannine, our kitchen manager at the time. Jeannine cared for Oscar at the school and took him home with her on the weekend. Jeannine told us that Oscar was often groomed by her cat as they lounged together in her sunroom! When Jeannine and her family moved to Texas, I became Oscar's new caretaker and started bringing him home with me for the weekends. He was nearly as big as my dog and showed no fear when they were outside together on my deck. Oscar liked hopping and jumping all over the deck, sitting on the deck furniture, or laying in the sun in all kinds of weather! A jumpy and feisty bunny when young, Oscar became much calmer as he aged. In his later years the children could open his hutch and pet or feed him; he truly seemed to enjoy the attention.  

The staff and I feel it's important to share with the children the happy memories of our days with Oscar before we remove his rabbit hutch from its place outside the kitchen. I will do this during Meeting for Worship early in the school year. We have also been discussing getting a new pet for Fairville--I will let you know when we've come to consensus and choose our new animal friend.

In friendship, 

Sharon

Early Childhood Educators Gather at Fairville

On Thursday, April 16th, Fairville hosted early childhood educators from Friends Schools in the local area and from destinations as far away as Connecticut and North Carolina. Board members, program directors, classroom teachers and administrators all participated in activities to broaden our understanding of the relationships between art and meditation. Thursday's program began with a luncheon that was prepared by Fairville's staff and yoga training sessions that were taught by certified yoga instructor Disha Mattive. The yoga sessions offered participants practical ideas for integrating yoga into a regular classroom setting. Participants also had the opportunity to take guided tours of the school and campus, and to observe a Fairville Art Show demonstration and slide show. In the late afternoon we traveled to Pendle Hill, a Quaker retreat and conference center, for dinner and a video presentation and discussion on forest schools. Our group met again on Friday morning for Meeting for Worship and a session in the Pendle Hill Art Studio where we explored the relationship between spirituality and art. We worked on individual and paired pieces of art that incorporated natural materials and mixed media. At the end of the session we combined our art pieces to create an interesting mandala. Discussion focused on ways in which young children express ideas of spirituality and how we can support and encourage those ideas when children are creating art in the classroom. Feedback on both days of the inservice was very positive. We all left the sessions feeling rejuvenated and inspired!

Risky Business or Simply Fun?

During the recent snowstorm I watched a television news segment on the sledding ban on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. The ban was initiated as a security and safety precaution by the local police and despite efforts by several local officials to have the ban lifted, the sledding ban remains in effect. Some members of the staff at Fairville have reported hearing news stories of sledding bans in other towns and other states, all instituted in the name of child safety. We have also been made aware of the many schools in our area and around the country that do not allow children to touch the snow much less pull out a sled and glide gleefully down a small slope.

One needs to spend only a few minutes in our Gazebo yard watching the children at Fairville, ages 2-6, sledding and rolling down our child-sized hill in freshly fallen (or ice-encrusted, or mushy, or almost non-existent) snow to see the joy children receive from this simple pleasure. One by one, in pairs, and in small groups, the children tirelessly pull the sleds up the hill and then slide down--with squeals of delight and plenty of laughter!

Of course we don't want any of the children to get injured, but we recognize that there is value in allowing some amount of risk in the play yards. Without it, children don't have the opportunities they need to assess their own skills and match them to the demands of the environment. Children need time outdoors to learn how to sled, roll or slide down the hill safely, to swing high but not dangerously high, and to gauge how long they can hang from the climbing bars without falling. An environment that allows this type of outdoor play builds resilience, competence and increased knowledge about appropriate and inappropriate risk-taking, which are all important for growing minds and growing bodies.

To learn more, read "The Role of Risk in Play and Learning" at www.allianceforchildhhood.org

Under the Sea with Fairville!

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The month of January can be cold and dreary in some places, but not this year at Fairville! Our entire school, from the young ones in Preschool Playtime to the "big kids" in Kindergarten, has embarked on a study of the ocean and its many creatures. Children are learning about sharks, whales, dolphins, sea urchins, eels, rays, crabs, jellyfish, and more!  Classroom learning has been made visible by decorating classrooms, creating dramatic play and sensory areas with ocean-related items, and by working together to give our main hallway a special underwater feel! We trust that our families are enjoying watching our ocean hallway come alive!

All-school themes are engaging for children and staff. They provide us with an opportunity to share materials and information across the classrooms and help to build school community since we are working together with a common purpose. We thank you for participating in our theme by sharing books and materials from your homes and by supporting your child's interest in our ocean theme! Only four (or more) months to go before it's truly beach weather!

Light!

At Meeting for Worship last week I read Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, a book that included the original 1806 poem by Jane Taylor.  During the silence I asked the children to think about the different kinds of light in their lives and to share a light that makes them feel happy.  I was amazed (as I often am) by the wide variety of responses I received from your young, bright and delightful children.  From starlight to the lights at Longwood Gardens, the children had plenty to share:

 

Light is a world-wide symbol of joy and hope.  Wishes for a holiday season filled with light--and plenty of love!

Warmly,

Sharon 

But we’ve already paid our tuition!

We are certain by now that you have received an Annual Giving card from the school asking you to contribute to our 2014-15 Annual Giving Campaign. Those of you who are new to independent schools may be wondering why the school is asking for your financial support above and beyond the tuition dollars you are already spending to send your children to Fairville. The fact is that tuition dollars alone do not completely cover the costs of providing a high quality educational program for your children. In general, independent schools try to keep tuition dollars as low as possible and then rely on fundraising, grants and donations to the Annual Giving Campaign to provide approximately 20% of the funds needed for daily operations. The extra gifts we receive from Trustees, faculty members, administrators, current and former families, alums and friends of the school allow us to provide the type of caring and creative programming you have come to expect from our school.

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Our goal each year is 100% participation in Annual Giving from our current families, teachers, administrators and Board of Trustees. All gifts are important to the school regardless of the dollar amount. This is especially true when we are applying for grants since grantors want to know that those who will benefit from the grant believe strongly enough in the mission of our school to offer us extra financial support.

We recognize all of the gifts you bring to our community and are thankful for the many ways in which you already support our school and its programs. Fairville would not be a happy, loving and nurturing place for young children without your efforts. We are truly grateful for all you do for our school and ask you to consider giving as generously as you can to our Annual Giving Campaign.

With sincere thanks,

Sharon

Spotlight on our Young Scientists

We have a curious bunch of young scientists in this session's science enrichment class! The children are learning what it means to be scientists and are practicing using scientific tools such as magnifying glasses, tweezers and cameras. We have been busy during this first session learning all about seeds, composting worms, and silkworm caterpillars.

The children discovered that there are seeds in most of the fruits and vegetables that we eat; some of the seeds we consume and others we put in the compost. They have planted pea, radish and carrot seeds, used seeds to make feeders for the birds and eaten seeds in the form of poppyseed muffins and popcorn. We have learned that plants grow above and below the ground and that sometimes we eat what grows above the ground and sometimes we eat what grows underneath it. It has been exciting exploring seeds, especially when we get to cut something open and examine the seeds within...or, better yet, eat the seeds! 

Looking for Seeds Inside a Pumpkin

Looking for Seeds Inside a Pumpkin

Making Poppyseed Muffins

Making Poppyseed Muffins

We also worked hard in our first few weeks of science preparing a bed for our composting worms. We dug and mulched and dug some more! When the red wiggler worms arrived, we chopped fruit and vegetable peels and added them to the garden soil along with some shredded paper, then put the worms in the center of the bed and waited for them to dig under the dirt. We have added water, coffee grounds, leaves, and more kitchen waste to the bed to keep our worms healthy and happy. The children like digging up a few worms now and then to see how they are faring in their new environment. The worms are wiggly and active and it appears that all is going well!

We're also raising a batch of silkworm caterpillars in science.  The children enjoy observing the caterpillars munching on mulberry leaves and are amazed at how quickly the caterpillars are growing! It won't be long until the caterpillars are fully grown and ready to spin cocoons.  

If you think your child might enjoy Fairville's Young Scientists enrichment class, it's not too late! Our second session begins on Monday, November 3rd. Our unit of study for Session B is Simple Machines--if your child likes machines and movement, please consider having him or her join Judy and me for the next session!

                                                                                               


A Week of Peace

Last week we had two special Meetings for Worship in honor of International Day of Peace.  We held Meeting for Worship outdoors in the Bike Yard on Monday and Tuesday.  We read books about peace (The Peace Book by Todd Parr and Can You Say Peace? by Karen Katz) and sang several peace songs.  In the classrooms, children learned about friendship, peaceful ways to play with others, and shared what peace means to them as young children.  Each class completed a square on our "Peace at Fairville 2014" wall hanging.  On Friday the children had an opportunity to tell us about their peace square (what they made, how they made it, what they were thinking about as they made it) during Meeting for Sharing.  Our beautiful wall hanging is currently on display in the front of our Meeting room.  Please stop in to take a peek!  It's a lovely piece of work created in celebration of International Day of Peace!

Now that the children are settling in to the school year, please feel free to join us for Meeting at 9:00 am every morning. If your child is in the afternoon Inchworm class, meeting takes place on Thursday afternoon at 1:15.

A Great Start to a New School Year!

Welcome to a new school year! It's always rewarding when we can shift gears from preparing for school to spending our time getting to know your children! The children at all age levels have been learning classroom, lunchroom, Meeting for Worship and outdoor routines. They have been painting, playing with play dough, listening to stories, exploring the play yards, touring the school and making new friends. The children are settling in nicely--we have seen plenty of smiles and very few tears from this bright and curious group! Here are a few photographs from our first week:

This year I hope to get to know not only your children but also all of you! I invite you to share your time and talents with the school and encourage you to stop in the office at any time to share a concern, a marketing idea or any creative thought. My door is always open!

Warm regards,

Sharon

Final Meeting for Sharing

Approximately once a month throughout this school year we have gathered for Meeting for Sharing.  This special meeting differs from our daily gatherings in a couple of ways.  During Meeting for Sharing we sit in a large circle facing one another.  Instead of listening to a story, each class has the opportunity to share something of significance that has taken place in their classroom.  Our last Meeting for Sharing for this school year was on Thursday, May 22nd.

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The Kindergarten class shared the family portraits that they had just finished drawing and painting.  Andrea explained that the children had also drawn portraits at the beginning of the school year.  When comparing the earlier drawings to the more recent ones, the children were amazed by their growth as young artists over the course of the year!

The Butterfly class has been studying transportation and shared a song about a Ford in which each verse builds on the verse that precedes it.  We were impressed by how well the class could remember all of the verses of this fun song:

...Now on that feather there was a flea, the cutest little flea that you ever did see!  The flea was on the feather, the feather was on the hat, the hat was on the girl, the girl was on the seat, the seat was on the Ford, the Ford was on the wheels, the wheels were on the ground, and the engine in the Ford made the wheels go 'round!  Boom-da-de-ya-da, Boom! Boom!

The Grasshoppers studied the life cycle of frogs this spring and were mesmerized as they watched tadpoles metamorphose into baby frogs.  During Meeting, the Grasshoppers shared camouflaged frogs that they had painted, explaining that frogs are very good at blending into their natural surroundings!

The Ladybugs brought plastic bags with them to the Meeting.  The bags contained beans that they had sprouted in their classroom window!  The children were delighted to see the seeds sprout and the roots and leaves begin to grow!  The Ladybugs told us that seeds need sun and water to sprout...and soil if you want them to keep growing!

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The Fireflies were pleased to share the button collages that they created after reading books about the consequences of pushing (or not pushing) buttons!  The class sorted, counted and compared buttons, played button games, and discussed what they like to do after they tire of pushing all those buttons in our technology-laden lives!

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The Bumblebees shared the 3-D bumblebees that they made as expressions of long-lasting friendship.  Sandy likes to remind the children:  "Once a Bumblebee, always a Bumblebee!"

Special thanks to all of our families who attended Meeting for Worship and/or Meeting for Sharing sometime during the school year.  We are pleased that we could share this important component of our school day with you!  We look forward to seeing many of you again next year...to those of you who are moving on, our best wishes for a successful year in your new schools!  We will miss you!

Signs of Spring!

Although it is still cold and wet outdoors, inside Fairville signs of spring are popping up all over!

 

Although we are creating beautiful art inside, we can't wait until we can spend more of our time outdoors!  Teachers and children are looking forward to leaving boots, hats, coats, snow and mud behind us and enjoying all that our campus has to offer when the weather is nice!  In the meantime, we'll keep making paper flowers and colorful artwork to help cheer us until "Mr. Sun" appears on a more regular basis.  Happy spring to all!

Warmly,

Sharon

What's a Publishing Party?

I'm sure by now you recognize just how much we love having kindergarteners at Fairville!  One of our goals for this group of emerging readers and writers is to give the children opportunities to share newly acquired literacy skills. One way in which we do this is by hosting Publishing Parties.  At a Publishing Party each of our young authors has the opportunity to share a recent piece of written work with members of the school community. The students take drafts of their work, "fix and fancy" them up, add covers and "About the Author" pages, then read their work in front of families, staff and other children at Fairville. The celebration of writing ends with a special snack prepared by Judy, sometimes with assistance from the children.

On a recent Friday, this year's Kindergarten had a Publishing Party as the culminating activity of their winter unit on Space. Each child choose a planet to research, made a list of facts about his/her chosen planet, and then used the fact sheet to create text and accompanying illustrations for a book. Decorative covers were drawn and "About the Author" pages were created, followed by several days of practice in which the children learned to read slowly, loudly and clearly, turn the pages of their books quietly, and share each illustration with the audience. We couldn't have been prouder of our Kindergarten students when they shared their written work in front of an audience of their parents, siblings, teachers, and the children in the Fun Friday class. Each child's pride in her/his accomplishment was evident! The readings were followed by a snack of homemade pudding and fruit kabobs (served sticking out of an orb made from a honey dew melon). It was clear to me that we are giving our Kindergarten children a gift that cannot easily be duplicated in a larger school setting. Through individual attention and encouragement, our Kindergarten students are developing confidence, finding their voices, and becoming independent learners---bravo, Kindergarten!