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Lower School Blog

Nov. 17, 2014; Volume #24, Issue #12

Dear Lower School Parents:


On behalf of the Lower School Faculty and Staff, I'd like to wish you a very happy Thanksgiving.  I'd also like to thank you for your remarkable generosity.  Your contributions of time, talent and treasure in the first third of this school year are too numerous to mention, but we have appreciated each and every kindness.

It's our great pleasure to be able to partner with you in the growth and development of your children.  Your collaboration, commitment and participation are integral to the success of this school community, and I believe them to be what truly sets this school apart.

As we head into the holiday season, our very best wishes for good health, happiness and every success in the balance of this school year for you and your children


Bob Gillingham


Season of Giving

The Season of Giving is approaching, and this year it will begin on Dec. 1.  Following are some of the events that will be included so you can mark your calendars (more details to follow!):
• Book Drive (in conjunction with the Book Fair), Dec. 8-12  
• Dress-down, bbq and hot chocolate sale, Dec. 12.
• Food Drive, Dec. 15-19
• Toys 'R' Us Student Council trip, Dec. 17  
• Holiday dress-down, bake sale* and Sing-Along, Dec. 19.

Sir Readalot’s Castle of Books is Coming Soon!

The Lower School Scholastic Book Fair is coming up, fast on the heels of Thanksgiving Break.  Enjoy a respite from the season’s stresses by stopping in to shop, or by working a shift or two, in our kingdom of books. The fair runs Monday, December 8th-Thursday, December 11th , 7:30 am-5 pm and Friday, December 12th, 7:30 am-1 pm in the Scripps Lecture Hall.

To preview the books available at the fair, visit this website:


Please sign up to volunteer by accessing the Google Doc link below:


Thank you, and see you at the Fair!

Book Fair Co-Chairs

Junior-Kindergarten Prospective Parent Presentation

This Wednesday morning from 8:30-9:30 a.m., Sara Knox, Bob Gillingham and Heather Gray will share their insights about the Lower School program and community with prospective parents in the Szekely Auditorium.  Any new families (parents only) who would like to know more about the Lower School are more than welcome.

Kinder Feast

On Wednesday, the kindergarten students will enjoy a lunchtime feast to commemorate the first Thanksgiving.  In a near miraculous transformation, tiny SK desks are pulled together, covered and decorated as they become a beautiful harvest table.  The students spend time reflecting on what they are thankful for, and all enjoy a sumptuous feast that they have helped to prepare.

JK Parent Preview

This Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. in the Szekely Auditorium, JK parents are invited to view the Junior-Kindergarten Thanksgiving program that will be presented to the grandparents on Grandparents' Day.  This is always a very special event... and for many of the students, the first of many performances they will give at school.  

Pet Day in the Community

Ruth MacPete, the chair of this year's Pet Day, carried Lower School art out into the community, adding another wonderful dimension to this traditional day.  
She writes: "The second grade's fabulous blue dog artwork is officially on display at the San Diego Dept. of Animal Services - 5480 Gaines St. (in Linda Vista) until December. Please come by and check out the amazing artwork (see it here!) and of course check out all the wonderful animals that need a home for the holidays!  Thanks, Ruth

PS - a huge thank you to Michelle Huber for this fabulous idea and Art teacher Margo Sharpe for getting everything laminated!"
Many thanks to everyone associated with Pet Day for helping to make this event an ever more special and meaningful occasion.

Second-Grade Play DVD

Attention 2nd Grade Parents --- If you’d like a DVD of the Coming To America performance on November 7, please order by Friday, November 21, by visiting www.francisparkerdvd.com

Grandparents' Day

Thursday is a big day for grandparents at the Lower School.  Following is the schedule for the day:
JK grandparents' registration from 11:30-11:50
JK program in the Szekely Auditorium beginning at 11:50 a.m.
SK-5 grandparents' registration from 12:15-12:30 pm.
SK-5 program beginning at 1:00 p.m. in the courtyard
Classroom visits by grandparents immediately following the program
The last shuttle for grandparents parked in the neighborhood leaves the Lower School at 3:15 p.m.
Parents are reminded that the Grandparents' Day programs are for grandparents only.  Parents will be treated to the same program the following day.

Thanksgiving Program

The Thanksgiving Program begins at 1 p.m. in the Lower School courtyard
Please note that there is no Quick Pick Up this coming Thursday or Friday (or any program day).

End of First Third of School Year

This Friday marks the end of the first third of the school year with vacation following.  School resumes on Monday, Dec. 1.

Lower School Lunch Menu

Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday November 15 at 04:56PM
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Nov. 10, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #11


Dear Lower School Parents:


Heather Gray, our Lower School Assistant Head, and I spent much of our time over the last week or so meeting with the Lower School faculty to talk about goals they've set for themselves for this school year.  And though we've touched on a wide range of topics including literacy, math, student collaboration, and design thinking, Heather and I couldn't help but notice, yet again, a resounding theme. 

At one point, I found myself so enthralled by what a teacher was saying that I literally got chills up my spine (in a good way!).  Lower School teachers are so remarkably passionate about their work, and it's that very inspired collective approach that has allowed us to change our teaching and the students' learning over the last few years.

These days, teachers are talking about how to help the students think more clearly, more deeply and more independently.  We've shifted from "getting through the curriculum" to meeting students' individual needs and advancing them from wherever they happen to be.

As one of the meetings progressed, I was as captivated and engaged as the teacher's students must be daily as she described her striving to know more about each of her students so she could help each of them to advance.  It's a sometimes frustrating process, as it can be difficult to tease out just what each student needs to thrive.  Yet, it's our focus at the Lower School, and we're thrilled to see it manifesting in greater engagement, understanding and joy in learning, not just for our students but for teachers and staff as well.


Bob Gillingham


Simple Machines


Our fifth-graders have been exploring scientific and physical concepts by building simple machines.  Their creations will be on display in the Szekely Auditorium this Tuesday in the Szekely Auditorium from 1:30-2:30 p.m.  Come on by and see the Design Thinking process in action!


Parent Coffees


Third-Grade Parents are invited to join Dr. G., Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Knox for a parent coffee this week in the Szekely Auditorium on Wednesday from 8:20- 9:00 a.m. (rescheduled from an earlier date).

Please note that the first-grade coffee, originally scheduled for this coming Friday, has been moved to Dec. 10.

During the coffee, parents will be treated to visual tours of the students' days, and Bob, Sara and Heather will share insights about the students and program.  Join us if you can!


BBQ/Dress-Down Day


This Friday, we'll all enjoy a bbq and dress-down day!  Students may wear clothing appropriate for all of their activities (including p.e.), and parents are more than welcome to join us at the barbeque during their children's regular lunch times.


Season of Giving News


This year we'll begin our Season of Giving * on December 1.  In the past we have collected canned food during November to donate to food banks at Thanksgiving.  However, understanding that there is a critical food shortage right after Thanksgiving, we're shifting our food drive to the middle of December (details coming in a few weeks).

*For those of you who have not experienced the Lower School’s Season of Giving: The Season of Giving is a combination of small student-council organized fundraising activities (for money and donations "in kind”) set throughout the holiday season in order to emphasize charitable giving and enhance our kids’ opportunity to help others in our community. These activities often include a canned food drive, a used book drive, a new toy drive, a hot chocolate sale and a bake sale.


Lower School Menu

Menu for the week of November 10-14



Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday November 8
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Nov. 3, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #10


Dear Lower School Parents:


The Lower School Halloween activities were great fun and so well-organized yet again this year, and our thanks go out to the many parent volunteers and staff members who were involved.  Though I've witnessed the process for many years, it never fails to amaze me that the playground changes from completely normal at 7 a.m. to full-blown carnival by noon and back to regular playground by 5 p.m., all in the space of a day*.

* The Haunted House (halved when we took part of the tumbling room for an office, creating twice the work for creative volunteers) is the exception.  Transforming the space is a multi-week effort, fully involving our fifth-grade students as designers and actors, and always resulting in a work of art. 

Behind the scenes, parents had been working hard for nearly a year, planning, rounding up volunteers, rethinking booths and activities, and creating new, exciting experiences for children who will always remember them as magical times.

On behalf of everyone at school fortunate enough to take part in this wonderful community day, thank you for the treat!


Bob Gillingham


A Halloween Wrap-Up From our LS Parents' Association V.P.s


Thank you to the 250+ volunteers that gave their time, energy and talent to the Halloween Carnival!  This is one of those events that truly can’t happen without the amazing Parker community.  We are grateful for all the amazing creativity of parents - from decorations to creating a whole booth in just a few hours to alien themed haunted houses!  More thanks go out to Student Council and Señora Herold for their creativity and work on the new ticket system.  A big thank you to Ditas Mauricio who was able to get nutritious donations of snacks from KIND bars, Sneakz, Arctic Zero, Popcorn Indiana, 18 Rabbits, Annie Chun’s, HeartBar and Bare Snacks!  The maintenance crew, upper school students, and so many more helped make the day a tremendous success.  We are grateful.

If you and your kids had any energy left to go trick or treating on Friday and ended up with more candy than you want or need, please bring in your unwanted Halloween candy Monday morning.  We will be collecting it to give to the troops.  Thank you! 


Admissions Open House


This coming Thursday, the Lower School will host its first Admissions Open House of the year beginning at 3:15 p.m.  Prospective families will visit to learn more about the school, and they'll be treated to personalized tours with our very own fifth-grade Squires.  Interested families should contact Sara Knox at sknox@francisparker.org.


Second-Grade Play


This coming Friday, the second grade will present their play, Coming to America.  Students will see it in the morning, and parents will attend at 1:30 p.m. in the Szekely Auditorium.  A special receptiion will follow for the students and their parents and relatives.


Parent Mixer


The First-Grade Parent Mixer  will be held at the Upper School in Nicholas Commons from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Friday.  This event is a great way to meet and greet other parents at your child's grade level and to enjoy a bit of food, drink and conversation, completely agenda free.


Notes From Nurse Maggie

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month Collaborating Organizations (http://www.nbcam.org), breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women. About 1 in 8 women born today in the United States will get breast cancer at some point. The good news is that many women can survive breast cancer if it is found and treated early. A mammogram—the screening test for breast cancer—can help find breast cancer early when it’s easier to treat. If you are a woman age 40 to 49, talk with your doctor about when to start getting mammograms and how often to get them. If you are a woman age 50 to 74, be sure to get a mammogram every 2 years. You may also choose to get them more often. Men can also get breast cancer. Look for any changes in the breast area including nipple tenderness, a lump or thickening in or near the breast or underarm area, a change in the skin texture or an enlargement of pores in the skin of the breast (some describe this as similar to an orange peel’s texture). It is important to remember that all lumps should be investigated by a healthcare professional, but not all lumps are cancerous. Talk to a doctor about your risk for breast cancer, especially if a close family member of yours had breast or ovarian cancer. Your doctor can help you decide when and how often to get mammograms. Questions? Please contact me at mwest@francisparker.org or 619-717-0235. 

Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of Nov. 3

Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday November 2 at 06:38AM
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Oct. 27, 2014; Vol. #24, Issue #9


Dear Lower School Parents:


Among the many joys of my job is the privilege of observing frequently in all of the classrooms.  My perspective is a bit longer than most, as I've had the great honor of doing this for 24 years.  In that time, I've seen tremendous change in our academic program, most recently manifested as a shift to instill 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity)  in our students.  

To my great delight, and as is typical of Parker faculty, the teachers have managed to refine everything that has worked so well for our students (e.g., the introduction and mastery of basic elementary skills) while also paying attention to and implementing new techniques and strategies to prepare our students for a world in which they will have to sort through and make sense of more information than we might once have thought possible.

In short, our teachers are preparing our students to think expansively, to persevere when at first they don't succeed, to work closely and productively with those who may have different styles and perspectives, and to create original products truly reflective of their understanding and application of key concepts.

The rules of the learning game have changed, and Parker's Strategic Plan is rich with vision and goals established  to position our students to succeed in a future much less well defined than the one we encountered upon leaving school.

Following is an article sent to me by several of you which captures the spirit and intent of our current approach to teaching and learning.  By incorporating Design Thinking principles into more and more of our school day, teachers are preparing students to think, analyze and make sense of their world through meaningful inquiry.  In the article, if you substitute the word "exploration" for "play," the article's premise can easily generalize to the very foundation of Colonel Francis Parker's original vision for this school.



Bob Gillingham




The Carnival is almost here!  The Lower School will celebrate Halloween this Friday, October 31st.  Children may wear dress-down clothing to school, but the balance of their costume (including hair spray, gel, make-up, etc.) should be brought to school, not worn.  Also, if you think that your child’s costume accessories might appear too scary or too realistic (e.g., swords, guns or knives), please check with the school before finalizing costumes.  

The fun beings at 1 p.m. with a parade in the courtyard, and we’ll wrap up at 4 p.m. Please note that the after school program will continue as normal.

We are still looking for more general volunteers.  If you can, please consider helping out Friday morning by signing up here: https://docs.google.com/a/francisparker.org/document/d/1fDzxoufsPgNlSt5yGKtdxXVGNIbbpeH2qNMmBFFno4E/edit

We hope you are also getting some creative ideas for the Cake Contest!  More information about the rules and other info can be found here: http://www.lxt9.com/2014HalloweenFlyer.pdf

If you just feel like baking but don’t want to enter the contest, please feel free to bring baked goods that children can win in the Cake Walk!  Tables will be set up in front of school the morning of the carnival where you can drop off your baked goods.  If you are participating in the Cake Contest, please don’t forget to print out your cake tag and attach it to your cake.  www.Lxt9.com/Cake

If you have any questions at all, please contact the Halloween Chairs, Noelle Ludwig & Julie Turner at pa-halloween@francisparker.org


Late Start Wednesday


This Wednesday will be our second late-start Wednesday of the year. The additional time allows our faculty to train together and to make our program even more effective.

Students may arrive at their regular time (as early as 7:00 a.m.), but they may also choose to arrive as late as 9:00 a.m. when the first bell of the day will ring.  Buses will run at their regular times, and the playground will be covered as usual.


Notes from Nurse Maggie


This week's article centers on the Ebola virus in an effort to bring greater clarity to this issue.


Lunch Menu

Menu for the Week of Oct. 27


Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday October 26
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Oct. 20, 2014; Vol.#24, Issue #8

Dear Lower School Parents:


I am most grateful to all of you as well as our faculty and staff for a very successful conference week.  The teachers appreciated hearing your thoughtful insights, and they will incorporate what they've learned from you and what they've gleaned in the first weeks to create an even more effective learning environment for all of your children.

Behind the scenes, and in order to avoid having to send all of the students home during conferences,  the special teachers crafted unique classes for the kids.  Using Design Thinking, the teachers created lessons with which students were able to explore buoyancy, musical composition, natural shelters, climbing walls, literature and other exciting topics.  Though exhausted, the teachers were able to see the seeds of their creative programming begin to take root, and that was quite fulfilling.

And, as if that weren't enough for one week, great spirit permeated the campus in preparation for Homecoming.  The irrepressible Erik Keskinen and Cindy Velasquez were joined by Jenn Brady (next year's Chair inductee) in putting together a true children's delight complete with our very own band, balloons aplenty, a parade which included circus acts, and the Upper School cheerleaders.  

For me, the week represented all that's remarkable about Parker.  Though we had a busy three-ring circus of a time, teaching and learning, close collaboration with parents, and all that's magical about the Lower School were all accomplished in concert in a most delightful, successful way.

Happy Homecoming!

Bob Gillingham


Kids' Newsday for Rady Children's Hospital

Be sure to bring money this Tuesday, Oct. 21, to support Kids' Newsday by purchasing a special edition newspaper from our 3rd Grade Brownies. All proceeds from the Kids' Newsday newspapers, which will be sold in front of school from 7:30 to 8:15 am, support Rady Children's Hospital. This year, instead of asking for $1 to purchase a newspaper, we are asking for a donation of any amount. This means you can still buy a newspaper for $1 or donate even more money if you so desire. Along with heartwarming stories of patients of Rady Children's Hospital, each newspaper will contain a coupon worth $2 to be used to purchase a coffee at Starbucks on Kids' Newsday.

Once again, Dr. G will be offering the Lower School's very own Golden Ticket. Whoever purchases the one newspaper with the Golden Ticket inside will be treated to lunch for them and a friend, ordered from Sam's and enjoyed in the Lower School courtyard. (The day of the lunch will be determined by Dr. G and the winner.) Last year, the Lower School sold out of newspapers before the bell even rang!

Halloween Cake Contest

It's that time of year again and we are looking for all your little ghouls and goblins to use their imagination and creativity to create a Halloween Cake for our Cake Contest!  It's for all kids... JK-5th grade. The only rules are.... (1) the cakes must be prepared and decorated by the kids (parents can help only with things that are hot or can hurt), and (2) everything on the cake must be edible, including ALL decorations!  There are three winning categories (1st, 2nd, 3rd place) in each grade!!  Plus, this year we'll continue the "Kids Choice Award" that will be voted on by the kids Student Council Reps!  As always, there will be an Adult Cake Contest category as well as the contest for Middle and Upper School students.  So, look for the flyer (http://www.lxt9.com/2014HalloweenFlyer.pdf ) in your child's Monday envelope, print out your cake tag atwww.Lxt9.com/Cake , affix it to the cake, and help us make this year’s Cake Contest the best one ever!! If you have any questions or concerns (including nut or allergy free entries), please contact Kristin Zeko at: kristinzeko@cox.net or Alexander Thomas at: Lxt9@Lxt9.com.    BOO!! 

Gala Volunteer Meeting

Gala Meeting: Friday, 10/248:00am coffee, 8:30am start in Conference Room next to Café at LV Campus.  Come join the fun Gala team of volunteers.  We will be assigning Chairs, tasks, etc.  We’d so appreciate the help!  New to the school?  Come learn about the Gala, timing, and volunteer opportunities - a great way to meet Parker parents. The Gala this year is April 25 at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, in beautiful and historical Balboa Park.  The countdown begins!  Questions?  Contact Gala Chairs Gayle Nuffer and Randie Lettington at pa-galachair@francisparker.org.

Girls' Science

Ms. Rendon and Upper School student Anoushka Bose have teamed up over the last few years to offer exciting afterschool science classes for girls in grades 3-5.  Those who have been involved have loved the program. Click here to learn more about Girls' Science for girls in grades 3-5.

Second-Grade Math Morning

Come join us on Tuesday morning from 8:20-9:00 a.m. to learn more about Singapore Math (Math in Focus) at the second-grade level.  Carrie Hasler will be leading a hands-on workshop to highlight just how dynamic and essential this program is for our students.

BBQ This Friday

This Friday will feature a bbq and dress-down day, but it will also include a 2nd-grade parent coffee hosted by Dr. G, Mrs. Gray and Mrs. Knox.  Together, they'll share insights about students at this grade level, highlight program expectations and show you what a day in the life of a second grader really looks like.  Join us if you can!

That evening at 6 p.m., there will be a JK Parent Mixer at the Nicholas Commons (til 7:30 p.m.) on the Linda Vista campus.  Plan to join your grade-level friends for conversation, food and drink in a beautiful, relaxing setting.

Notes from Nurse Maggie

Importance of Handwashing:

In celebration of Global National Handwashing Day last Wednesday, and in light of the recent prevalence of enterovirus, pertussis and Ebola in the news, here are a few reminders about handwashing. According to the Center for Disease Control, handwashing is the single most important act to help stop the spread of infection and to help people stay healthy. Due to proper handwashing with soap and water, there are an estimated one million deaths prevented globally each year. Additionally, up to 80% of all infections are spread by people’s hands. Doorknobs, animals and food also can spread harmful germs. The CDC recommends that you wash your hands before preparing food, before and after eating, after using the restroom, after sneezing/coughing, after playing with your pet, and after coming off the playground.  For more information about proper handwashing, please watch this video clip from the CDC: http://www.microbeworld.org/washup/handwashing-videos/488-put-your-hands-together Please contact me with any questions at: 619-6=717-0235 or mwest@francisparker.org

 Mission Hills Menu

Menu for the Week of October 20

Posted by ls-newsletter on Sunday October 19 at 11:50AM
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Choose groups to clone to:

As Head of the Lower School and member of the Parker administrative team, Dr. Gillingham is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Mission Hills campus. In addition to overseeing curriculum and instruction, Bob also works closely with the school's Parents' Association in coordinating parent volunteers and campus activities. He also... Read more.

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4201 Randolph St.
San Diego, CA 92103
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