The habits we form from childhood make no small difference, but rather they make all the difference. —Aristotle
Welcome to the Lower School! Please enjoy these monthly updates. You will also find Specialist class "spotlights," which feature different classes each month, via the drop-down menu.
Please note: on the homepage, updates for the 2018-19 school year have a white background. If you continue scrolling down, you can find LS Updates from the 2017-18 school year, which have a blue background.
Field Day at Flushing Meadow Park
Our annual Red vs. Blue Field Day on Friday, May 17th, was a tremendous success! The Pre-K through Grade 5 students spent a high-energy, activity-packed day at Flushing Meadow Park under beautiful sunny skies. Both the Red and the Blue teams showed off their athletic skills in games such as Pinball, Capture the Flag, soccer, and relay races! Everyone also enjoyed the playground area and a pizza lunch provided by the fabulous Kew-Forest Parent Association.
On Tuesday, May 21st, our Preschool class participated in a walk to Austin Street playground as their Field Day experience! The children wore their Red and Blue team t-shirts, and had a ball playing on the slides, climbing structures, and swings at the park. They also enjoyed using bubble wands, sidewalk chalk, and had a popsicle snack!
Our Field Day winner was determined by the scores from the Lower, Middle, and Upper School events, which also included our Tug of War! The Lower School partook in this highly popular event at our Spirit Assembly on May 24.
After all the scores were tallied up, it was determined that the RED team was the overall winner of Field Day this year! Congratulations to both teams!
Lower School Slice of Life: Buddy Assemblies
We had a great turn-out for our Lower School Slice of Life event, focusing on Buddy Assemblies.
The buddy classes get together approximately once a month to work on a project or activity related to a seasonal theme, a holiday, or a concept either group is exploring in class.
K-F’s Lower School buddy groupings encourage younger students to feel comfortable working and expressing themselves around older students. It also provides older students with opportunities to develop leadership and take on mentoring responsibilities.
K-F's Lower School students are always excited to spend time with their buddies, and our school community is strengthened as a result of their energy and enthusiasm.
Parents were able to see a "Buddy Assembly" in action during a walk through the classrooms. Since the focus for this assembly was spring, activities/ projects included planting and singing, decorating flower pots for planting herbs, the life cycle of a butterfly, and writing a spring Haiku.
Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day
April 12th is known as D.E.A.R. Day or "Drop Everything and Read" Day, a national celebration in honor of the beloved children's author Beverly Clearly's birthday and to remind families and friends how fun and easy it is to make reading together on daily basis a priority.
Beverly Clearly was so inspired by letters received from readers expressing interest and enthusiasm for D.E.A.R. activities that she included the concept in her book, Ramona Quimby, Age 8. The main character Ramona Quimby (who is the program's spokesperson) gets to enjoy D.E.A.R. time with her class.
Our Lower School community participated in the celebration by "dropping" everything that we were doing to read a favorite book independently or with a buddy for at least 30 minutes.
Poem in Your Pocket Day
Since 2002, Poem in Your Pocket Day has been celebrated as part of National Poetry Month. As stated on the Academy of American Poets website, the New York City Departments of Cultural Affairs and Education in partnership with the Office of the Mayor in New York City initiated the celebration in April 2002. Then in 2008, The Academy of American Poets "took the initiative to all fifty United States, encouraging individuals around the country to participate."
On Friday, April 26th, the Lower School celebrated "Poem in Your Pocket Day" as part of National Poetry Month. Students and adults were invited to select or write their favorite poem, carry it with them throughout the day, and share it with people around the school. Many students brought in poems from home, and others were inspired to write poems during the school day. Middle and Upper school faculty, staff, and administrators joined in the excitement as well. We had a number of special visitors from the Middle School and Upper School stop by the Lower School classrooms during the day to share their poems with the Lower School students. It was a wonderful day filled with sharing the joy that poems bring and a meaningful addition to our annual celebration of National Poetry Month. It encouraged public speaking and community building opportunities, as well as inspiring our young poets! Thank you for encouraging the children's participation!
World Day 2019
March 1st was our annual World Day Celebration! It was such a joyful celebration of shared Kew-Forest values: academic richness, authentic learning experiences, high student engagement, opportunities to share with an audience, and fostering empathy and respect for diverse perspectives and experiences. Please enjoy these photos!
Preschool - Brazil
Pre-kindergarten - China
Kindergarten - Croatia
First Grade - Argentina
Second Grade - Dominican Republic
Third Grade - Kenya
Fourth Grade - Jamaica
Fifth Grade - Nepal
Reducing Food Waste Challenge
The goal of the Reducing Food Waste Challenge is to help students in grades 1-5 become more aware of good eating habits, healthy food choices, and learn about portion control as well as food waste. Students in grades 1-5 participated in an assembly this morning to watch a short play "Don't leave a lot of ORT!" which was written and performed by the 4th grade. The Upper School Advanced Computer Science Class unveiled the Our Remaining Tidbits (ORT) tracker website, to show how elements from the Hour of Code challenge were added to the front page of this web application. They also showed how it worked and provided an update on what they were still working on. When the web application is finished, students in grades 1-5 will use this to measure ORT.
Valentine's Day Assembly
On Friday, February 22nd, the Preschool, PreK and Kindergarten classes presented a Valentines Sharing Assembly including songs, poetry, artwork and a "love train" in the Upper School Library. It was a special event for our students and families as we sang and danced with the special ones we love under the direction of Ms. Frost. Songs included "Skidamarink", "L.O.V.E" by Nat King Cole, "Little Wheel a Turnin' in my Heart" and "Love Train." Earlier in February, the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders sang Valentines songs with the residents at New Homestead Assisted Living Center. Special "L", "O", "V" and "E" signs were created for use during these two events by the Second Grade class.
In addition to numerous grade-level celebrations, during which parents and guardians visited classes to share family traditions, the Lower School celebrated Lunar New Year together during two Assembly periods. To bring increased authenticity and a greater feeling of community to the celebration, we asked Ms. Beverly Jiang, International Student Coordinator; the Upper School Kaleidoscope Club (which Ms. Lowery, Mr. Bartholomai, and I advise); and a volunteer group of international students from China to help us conceptualize and execute the Assemblies.
To plan for our first LS gathering, which was a cross-grade Buddy Assembly, our planning group identified and created samples of crafts that would be appropriate to decorate the Lower School classrooms and hallways for Lunar New Year. The Kaleidoscope Club and international student helpers tried out the crafts themselves to make sure they were age-appropriate for the buddy groups, and Ms. Lowery, Mr. B and I made tweaks to our assembly plan using their feedback.
For our second Assembly period, the Kaleidoscope members and volunteer international students visited the upper elementary classrooms to make connections between Lunar New Year and the concept of ‘windows’ and mirrors’. The Upper School students read PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year, a picture book about a family celebrating Lunar New Year with a visiting grandmother, while the Lower School students took notes about particular aspects of the Lunar New Year festivities that were ‘windows’ and ‘mirrors’ for their own experiences. (With vocabulary borrowed from the National SEED Project, a ‘window’ is when we look outside of ourselves and learn about something that different from our own culture. A ‘mirror’ is a reflection of ourselves and a reminder about what we have in common with another culture or tradition.) The Upper School and Lower School students then gathered in small groups to reflect on their shared take-aways from the book. It was certainly a special Assembly for all involved!
Please enjoy this album of photos. Click on the image on the right to see a short video clip of the children singing Stevie Wonder’s “Happy Birthday!”
The Lower School’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Sharing Assembly was particularly meaningful and moving this year, as the children celebrated the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., made connections to our community values here at Kew-Forest, and paid respects to the many other American heroes who preceded and followed Dr. King -- including 'everyday heroes' right here in our community!
As part of the Assembly, the Fifth Graders read a picture book, Martin's Big Words, which you may want to share at home -- you can access the book here as a read-aloud.
The Lower School Faculty is committed to ongoing professional development (PD) in order to deepen our practice, connect with colleagues at other independent schools, and stay abreast of research in the wider world of education. In addition to attending conferences and workshops and presenting to colleagues back on campus, we also embed 'in-house' PD into our division meetings by sharing best practices with one another.
Thus far this year, LS Faculty have attended the following workshops and multi-day conferences (in approximate date order). Many teachers whose names do not appear on this list will be taking courses in the winter and spring!
*Responsive Classroom Advanced Course (multi-day course) - Heather Cahill
*Quest for Effective Collaboration in the Classroom (NYSAIS - New York Association of Independent Schools) - Leslie Frost
*Teach21 Institute - Eva Brooks
*Promoting a Powerful Interactions Climate Among Adults to Support Student Learning (NYSAIS) - Katie Rayer and Vita Russo
*DEEP DIVE Design Thinking and Innovation (4-part series) (NYSAIS): Matthew Cole, Kathe Lowery, Amy Perez, Katie Rayer
*All LS Faculty visited New York-area independent schools as part of our all-school professional development day in November
*More Effective Teaching and Learning through Improved Executive Functioning (NYSAIS) - Allison Greene
*Responsive Classroom for Special Area Teachers - Narges Anvar
*Analyzing Running Records - Vita Russo
*Developing Capable Children: Positive Discipline (2-day) - Heather Cahill, Allison Greene, and Ann Spelman
Mrs. Perez shows her design thinking 'coat of arms'
Mr. Cole, Ms. Lowery and Ms. Rayer practicing the 'ideation' phase of design thinking
Ms. Anvar shares take-aways from Responsive Classroom with Specialist Teachers
Ms. Frost shares a meaningful classroom image from her professional visit to Avenues
Ms. Brooks and Mrs. Greene talk about strategies for developing strong number sense at all grade levels.
On November 6, Katie Rayer attended a fantastic event at the Calhoun School, hosted by the Parents League of New York. If you don't yet subscribe to the Parents League mailing list, I highly recommend it as a resource for parents and guardians! The Parents League hosts a number of events during the course of the school year, which you can also find via their website.
LS Kicks off Global Read Aloud!
This morning, during LS Assembly, students gathered together in cross-grade groups to enjoy a special read-aloud experience. For the second year, the LS is participating in The Global Read Aloud, an annual six-week immersive experience known as "One Book to Connect the World."
A Wisconsin-based teacher, Pernille Ripp, began the Global Read Aloud (GRA) with 150 participants in 2010, and since then the project has reached 4,000,000+ students from more than 86 different countries!
The goal is simple: over the course of six weeks, students across the world hear the same books read aloud. Teachers use social media outlets to make connections with classrooms in other states or countries that are reading the same book!
In the LS, we love participating in the GRA for numerous reasons:
*The project emphasizes global citizenship and collaboration.
*The organizers of the project use a multicultural lens when selecting books each year.
*The project exposes the students to books and authors they may not be familiar with.
*The project brings us together as a Lower School and connects us to others around the globe!
Students will be continuing their Global Read Aloud experiences over the course of these next six weeks, in Library classes and during Assembly.
To learn more about the Global Read Aloud movement, follow this link . Also, check out the Library page of our Google Site for more info about the GRA at K-F!
Preschool, Pre-K, and K are enjoying an author and illustrator study and will be reading various picture books by Julie Flett and Monique Gray Smith
First and Second Grades are reading A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grades are listening to Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
What a fantastic LS Spring Show we had this morning. Please enjoy video clips of our grand finale, the Kew-Forest Alma Mater, as well as our end-of-year slideshow (with special thanks to Mrs. Perez for putting the slideshow together)!
Many congratulations to all Lower School students, teachers, and parents, on a terrific school year!
We had a wonderful LS Science Fair on Friday, June 1. Many congratulations to the young scientists and their teachers!
As we know, April is National Poetry Month, and I hope you've been hearing lots at home about the poems students have been reading, hearing, and writing! We had a lovely Poetry Sharing Assembly on Wednesday this week, with a number of classes sharing poems - and teaching us about figurative language, such as similes and alliteration, along the way!
Next week, we are excited to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 26! Our Fifth Grade student leaders have been reminding the students about the special day; I'm including here a note that they sent home last week. We look forward to enjoying all kinds of poems as a community next Thursday!
On Wednesday, March 14, in solidarity with the National School Walkout , in which K-F's Middle and Upper School participated, students across the Lower School gathered together in cross-grade groups for read alouds focused on kindness, peace, and children as agents of positive change. Following the read-alouds, students completed pictures and reflections about what they can do to 'be the change' they wish to see in the world. We are so inspired by our positive change makers!
What a wonderful World Day Celebration we had on Friday, February 23! Please enjoy these photos, most of which were captured by the talented Ariel Henry.
Excerpt from "Human Family" by Maya Angelou
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.
I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.
For a well-timed 'warm fuzzy,' please check out these photos of our Kindergarten, First and Second Grade visit to New Homestead today! The students shared songs of love, peace, and friendship, and they gave each resident a handmade valentine, as well!
Shared here are two Lower School communications connected to our first Kew-Forest Lockdown Drill. As always, please don't hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns!
Please see below for another wonderful KFPA Newsletter update from Noelle Shearman, our Lower School Liaison to the KFPA! Linda Toh also created fantastic photo spreads of December's upper elementary visit to New Homestead, as well as the students performing during our LS Winter Show. You can find more KFPA LS updates here. Enjoy!
Last week, Lower School students were excited to participate in our annual Hour of Code (HOC) events in recognition of Computer Science Education Week. Thank you to Mrs. Perez for organizing the special HOC celebration on Wednesday, December 10 -- where, for the third year in a row, we were lucky to host three volunteers from Google (including Zaman Baksh, father of Sameen '29 and Zain '26)!
Kindergarten - Fifth Grade worked together in buddy class pairings during Wednesday's HOC event, and ECD completed activities with Mrs. Perez in their STEAM class on Friday -- so ALL Lower Schoolers participated in Hour of Code, and each child will be coming home with a special certificate for his or her efforts!
If your child would like to continue the types of activities they worked on at school last week, check out the options available through www.code.org, www.hourofcode.com, and www.codesters.com, as well as Google's special coding activity in celebration of 50 years of coding!
Mr. Baksh put together this photo montage from Wednesday's HOC celebration -- and stay tuned to Mrs. Perez's STEAM page this week for more photos from HOC!
Mrs. Rayer made a short video about Hour of Code, which captures our students' excitement about the event, as well as meaningful take-aways from our Google volunteers!
December 7, 2018
The monthly KFPA newsletter came out today, and along with it a fantastic Lower School update from our LS Liaison, Noelle Shearman!
November 10, 2017
Enjoy these photos that Mr. Stefanik took during our Lower School Assembly yesterday, which featured a performance by a professional string quartet, as well as a community celebration of fall birthdays! Thanks to Mr. Wiernik for arranging the quartet, and to Mrs. Russo for organizing the presentation of birthday pencils to students who celebrated their birthdays in September, October, and November. Happy Fall Birthdays, Lower Schoolers!
October 26, 2017
The 10/15/17 New York Times Magazine cover story focused on the increasing anxiety levels in American teenagers today. For example, the article states that, "in its annual survey of students, the American College Health Association found a significant increase — to 62 percent in 2016 from 50 percent in 2011 — of undergraduates reporting 'overwhelming anxiety' in the previous year. Surveys that look at symptoms related to anxiety are also telling. In 1985, the Higher Education Research Institute at U.C.L.A. began asking incoming college freshmen if they “felt overwhelmed by all I had to do” during the previous year. In 1985, 18 percent said they did. By 2010, that number had increased to 29 percent. Last year, it surged to 41 percent." The article is a sobering must-read for parents and educators, no matter the age or tendencies of one's own children, as we all need to take note of these types of statistics in our larger society.
The article, though it focused mainly on teenagers with acute anxiety disorders, made me reflect on the importance of building emotional literacy with all children (defined as understanding one's own emotions as well as the emotions of those around you), starting with our youngest learners. As we know, when a child can name his or her personal feelings, as well as understand how a peer may be feeling, the child will be able to work through his or her 'big feelings' more adeptly and also develop greater empathy for others.
Any LS Faculty member will also be happy to talk more about specific techniques that we use at school, such as taking a break, mindfulness practices, and conflict resolution strategies, to help students develop coping strategies and empathy for one another. Many of these common approaches are informed by Responsive Classroom principles and practices. At Back-to-School Night, we shared a PowerPoint that gave an overview of the ways we use Responsive Classroom as a Lower School; I'm sharing it again here for your reference.
In addition to the in-class discussions about emotional literacy that span grade levels and subject areas, in Third, Fourth and Fifth Grades, students have the opportunity to explore social and emotional topics in even greater depth during Health class with Ms. DeMartino. Please refer to last week's classroom newsletters for more information about recent Health lessons!
I'm also sharing here some resources that focus on strengthening emotional literacy at home, as well as the research behind why particular activities - such as free play - supports the development of children's emotional health.
We all experience times of worry and sadness, of course, but if you ever have a concern about what you're seeing at home, please don't hesitate to reach out. As Responsive Classroom reminds us, teaching social and emotional skills is as important as teaching academic content , and we are committed to fostering a strong home-school partnership in order to support your child in all aspects of his or her development, social-emotional as well as academic.
October 11, 2017
At Kew-Forest, we see all of our students as individuals with limitless potential, regardless of gender. We also recognize that promoting gender equality is an important issue for boys and girls alike! Today is "International Day of the Girl," a UN initiative since 2012 that celebrates young women and their achievements and reflects on the barriers young women face in achieving global equality. With this in mind, here are are some resources that provide context for conversations at home around gender equality at all developmental levels - for today or any day!
September 29, 2017
30 Kew-Forest community members (students, parents, and faculty) attended last weekend's World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science! Eva Brooks, Kindergarten Lead Teacher, and Katie Rayer attended the Make: Education Forum, as well, which was also held at NYSCI.
Find more information about Maker Faire, as well as our community letter (live links in blue) and full photo album (100+ pics!) below!
Katie Rayer and Kathe Lowery pose with David Wells, the Director of Maker Programming at the New York Hall of Science. David has conducted numerous professional development workshops for the Lower School faculty, and he served as an adviser as we designed our new Lower School Maker Space!
September 6, 2017
Happy First Day of School! All that's missing now are the students :)
Can't wait to see you all very soon!
Katie Rayer and the Lower School Faculty
September 4, 2017
Dear Lower School Families,
Welcome to the 2017-18 school year at The Kew-Forest School! We are so looking forward to greeting you and your children on Wednesday, September 6 (and to seeing many of our new families tomorrow at 12:30pm!). On behalf of the Lower School, I hope the following updates will add to the palpable excitement of the new school year ahead.
Firstly, we are excited to share here the 'beta version' of our new Learning in the Lower School Google Site. In partnership with Mrs. Perez and other faculty members, I will be posting Lower School-wide updates to the site in September. Starting in October, our goal is for all of the Lower School faculty to start posting class newsletters, photos, and updates to their sections of the site. Please stay tuned for updates!
This past Friday, to wrap up our Professional Week, David Wells, Director of Maker Programming at the New York Hall of Science, led the Lower School Faculty in a series of challenges that prioritized creativity, team-building, and critical thinking skills. Stay tuned to Kew-Forest's Facebook Page for photos from this exciting and engaging workshop! Here is a favorite from our Fashion Design Challenge 😊
Ms. Henry, Señor B, Mr. Wiernik, and Ms. Peloquin model creations from our maker education professional development session, facilitated by David Wells of New York Hall of Science.
Before we returned to school, many Lower School faculty members devoted a portion of their summer to professional development - all in all, 10 teachers took at least one multi-day course this summer, and many participated in multiple workshops! A number of faculty participated in workshops designed to deepen understanding of shared curricular resources: for example, Teachers College Units of Study in Writing, Responsive Classroom (social-emotional learning), Handwriting Without Tears, and Daily 5 (literacy). Others participated in workshops focused on pedagogy (our approach to teaching) and shared beliefs about how students learn, including the importance of play, how to make student thinking more visible, using STEAM to teach 21st century skills, and shaping anti-bias classrooms. From classrooms at the Harvard Graduate School of Education to Columbia University Teachers College, Lower School faculty deepened their practice and reflected on student experience. Here are some snapshots from our summer professional development workshops.
Mrs. Russo and Ms. Lowery with the leaders of Daily 5, a framework for structuring literacy time that we use throughout the Lower School.
Ms. Lowery pictured with Lucy Calkins, the founder of Columbia University Teachers College Units of Study in Writing program (used from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade).
Ms. Brooks (front row, third from left) at the New York Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS)'s Institute for Teaching Diversity and Social Justice at Friends Academy.