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Lower School Blog

March 30, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #27


Dear Lower School Parents:


Two very unusual, very different events this week alternately raised my awareness then warmed my heart.  

On the dark side, an attempted abduction at a north county school shook all of us out of our complacency.  I received many emails and calls about this nearly-tragic event, and it drew my attention once again to how trusting we've become and how careful we have to be. Even now, we're reviewing our safety protocols, and below, you'll find information I've sent to all of our teachers that should also be very helpful to you in talking with your kids.  In the very near future, we'll be addressing these same issues with the kids, in a very age-appropriate way, and we'll hope that, should a similar situation unfold for any of our students, they'll have the wherewithall to kick, scream and run as effectively as the targeted young girl did.

On the lighter side, one of our teachers came to me misty-eyed holding a letter she'd received from one of her students.  The thoughtful hand-lettered text and drawings cited the misfortune of a very young cancer-stricken relative of the teacher, and tucked in the envelope was the student's savings of $171 in cash, enclosed to help the young patient.  Most astoundingly, the letter's closing had been edited to include the word "anonamos" (sic) before the word "friend." Both the teacher and I were floored at the absolute and pure beauty of the gesture.

Our students, your children, will be surrounded by good and bad their entire lives.  Our goal has been and will be to prepare them to deal with and process complex problems, in whatever form they appear, while also recognizing and appreciating the beauty around them.  And, perhaps this time around, we'll take our cue from a most remarkable young (anonymous) philanthropist.


Bob Gillingham


Child Safety


Many of you are aware of yesterday's attempted child abduction at Skyline elementary school in Solana Beach.  Fortunately, the child is safe and was not physically harmed.  Although child abductions are thankfully rare occurrences, yesterday's events serve to remind parents that "stranger danger" is a topic that we must discuss with our children.  A little girl is safe with her family tonight due to her own bravery and the quick reaction of nearby adults.

Parents may be fielding questions from their children about their own personal safety, or about what to do if such a situation arises.  We suggest answers that are as honest as possible while still being reassuring and age-appropriate. 

If you would like to read more about discussing "stranger danger" with your children, please check out the following resources:

What to Teach Kids About Strangers

Teaching Kids to Be Safe Without Making Them Scared



Teaching Student About Strangers

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, one of the most important ways parents can protect their children of all ages is to teach them to be wary of potentially dangerous situations. This will help children when dealing with strangers as well as with
known adults who may not have good intentions.  Parents can teach their children to
recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior, such as when an adult asks
them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, asks them to
keep a secret, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.

Another recommendation is for parents to talk to their children about how they should
handle dangerous situations. One suggestion is to teach children the, “No, Go, Yell,
Tell” mantra. In dangerous situations, students should say, no, run away, yell as
loudly as they can (even indoors), and tell a trusted adult what happened right

Other suggestions from the NCPC include:

1. Parents should know where their children are. Make it a rule for children to check in with you before going anywhere. This is especially important with teens. Your children should have your work and cellular phone numbers available and/or memorized.
2. Point out safe places. Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there is trouble.
3. Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell a trusted adult.
4. Teach children to be assertive. Make sure they know it is ok to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in a dangerous situation.
5. Encourage your child to play with others…there is more safety in numbers.

Dr. Bridgett Besinger, Parker's psychologist, also has advice to offer on this subject, and you can read about her thoughts in this article.


Fourth-Grade Play


The fourth-grade play, Oh, California, will be presented for Lower School students next Thursday morning and for parents at 1:30 p.m. that afternoon, all performances in the Szekely Auditorium.  Come join us for this rousing, historical musical favorite. 


Peanut Butter


A recent tragedy took the life of a friend of one of our Lower School teachers, and this really turned my head on the issue of peanut butter in elementary schools.  I've had many requests over the years to be "peanut free," but I always thought that our faculty and staff's excellent management made this unnecessary. However, when I learned that this very cautious 62-year-old woman had died as the result of mistakenly eating peanuts in a kale chip, it changed my perspective markedly.

Last week, I asked the food service staff to remove peanut butter for a week to see if we could operate well without it.  With very few exceptions and few complaints, we have. It was replaced with sunbutter (sunflower seed butter) which I and others found to be quite good, but some children did not.  We were prepared for this by having very plain cheese and very plain turkey sandwiches, and the kids seemed to accept this as an alternative.

We'll continue without peanut butter, because we have among us individuals who would become gravely ill if exposed.  We anticipate having to make additional adjustments to ensure that the kids are well nourished, and should we have children whose needs we haven't met, we'll take a very individual approach to ensure their wellness.

I'd like to ask all of you not to send anything peanut-related to school.  Because we're an elementary campus with children who put their hands on everything, it's just a matter of time before we have an emergency or worse.  

Thanks for your understanding. Please call me directly (619-318-9978) if you have concerns, and I will be happy to work with you to get them resolved well.


Summer Program Update

Please note:  The Early Bird Registration Discount period ends this coming Tuesday, March 31.  Be sure to take advantage of this special pricing over the weekend or by Monday evening at the latest.
If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Monique or Tim in the Summer Program office on 858-569-7900. Monique can be reached on Ext 4109, and Tim on Ext 4236.

SK Open House DVD's

Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the SK Open House the order deadline isFriday, April 3.  The DVD includes the classroom activities and the program in the auditorium.  For orders or questions please visit www.francisparkerdvd.com Thank you very much!!!


Lower School Menu

Menu for the week of March 30

Posted by ls-newsletter on Friday March 27 at 04:22PM
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March 23, 2015; Vol. 24, Issue # 26

Dear Lower School Parents:


Though last week was a short one for students (teachers had a professional development day on Monday), it was, nevertheless, action-packed.  Enthusiastic fifth-grade leaders addressed the entire faculty and staff and all of the students to share the reasons they should be considered for the office of President.  Senior kindergarteners excitedly prepared for their big Open House night, then they charmed the standing-room-only crowd of parents and grandparents with what they've learned in all of their classes; and, even while planning their big science fair next week, and on the heels of their wonderful, student-created musical the week before, the fifth-grade students "shipped out," by participating in the Maritime Museum's pre-Revolutionary War living history program.

So, as I sit here in my pj's writing this on Pajama Day, I'm particularly mindful of and grateful for the article (see below) shared this week by Noelle Ludwig, one of our wonderful Lower School VPs.  The case it makes for the important things that children should master resonate (and manifest) more clearly all the time on this campus.


Bob Gillingham


Late Start Wednesday


This Wednesday is a late start day.  Students are welcome to come to school at the regular time, and they'll be supervised on the playground.  They may also choose to arrive at school as late as 8:55 a.m. for a 9:00 a.m. start.  Buses will run at their normal times.


Spring L.E.A.P. Classes


LEAP's Spring Session Classes are beginning THIS week after-school! It is not too late to join all of the exciting classes LEAP has to offer. To see the class schedule just click on this link below: 
Along with our usual outstanding classes like Chess, Yoga, Spanish, Chinese, Tennis, Soccer, Cheer, Cooking, Publish My Book, Youth Coding, and Fencing, we have added 4 new classes. These classes are Golf, Legomation, Creative Builders, and Animation and Film-making.
If you need any assistance with class descriptions or registering, please contact Whitney Nortonwnorton@francisparker.org or Monique Velde mvelde@francisparker.org or give us a call (858)569-7900 x4109. Thank you and we look forward to seeing you in the Spring Session of LEAP!

Fifth-Grade Play DVDs


Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the 5th Grade Environmental Plays the order deadline is Friday, March 27.  For orders or questions please visitwww.francisparkerdvd.com Thank you very much!!!

Student Council


The Lower School students (SK-5) will elect a new president for the third trimester on Monday after flagraising.  Fifth-grade students campaignined all week last week after giving speeches at the last flagraising, and the stage is set for the election.


Science Fair


The fifth graders have been working on unique solutions to environmental problems, and they'll be exhibiting their designs in the Gooding Courtyard (by the Considine Library) next Friday morning from 8:15 - 9:30 a.m.  You'll be amazed not only by the kids' knowledge and understanding of the science involved in their work but also by their great engagement and enthusiasm.


Girl Scouts

Troop Leader (and fifth-grade teacher) Kris Stone and the Girls Scouts in Troop 3854 write:
"The girls are working toward earning their Bronze Award and will be teaching kids in grades 1-5 how to be prepared in case of a natural disaster. 
The girls will also be issuing a challenge to the 1st-5th grade kids to get prepared for a natural disaster by putting together an emergency supply kit.  Members of our troop will be coming by your classes tomorrow with brochures from the San Diego County Office of Emergency Services.  Included in the brochure is a "Basic Supplies" check list.  We are asking kids to work with their families and create a "Basic Supplies" kit at their home.  
Dr. G agreed to throw a snow cone party at lunch (later this year) if 90% of the kids complete this task.  There's a form for parents to sign and return to our troop once they've made their emergency kit.
Thanks for your help (with the Bronze Award)."

7 things every kid should master

(A wonderful article shared by LS VP Noelle Ludwig which perfectly captures our current goals and aspirations. )


A noted Williams College psychologist argues standardized tests are useful, if they measure the abilities students really need... Read the rest of the article here.

Notes from Nurse Maggie


This month is National Athletic Training month. During
March, athletic trainers across America are being recognized for their commitment
to helping students prevent injuries and stay healthy and active. Athletic trainers
are health care professionals who are found in high schools, colleges, corporations,
professional sports, the military, performing arts, clinics, hospitals and physician
offices. Parker has two outstanding athletic trainers on staff: Niki Dehner and Jarrad
Phillips. Recently at a Town Hall, upper school students were educated by Niki and
Jarrad about the role of an athletic trainer as well as the signs, symptoms,
prevention and treatment of concussions (see injuredathletes.org). Thank you to
Niki and Jarrad for their dedication to our student’s health!


Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of March 23

Posted by ls-newsletter on Friday March 20 at 03:21PM
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March 16, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #25

Dear Lower School Parents:


We observe a long-time tradition this week when the senior kindergarteners welcome their parents into their classrooms to share in the excitement of a typical kindergarten day.  The pride with which the students hold their school at all grade levels is no more on display than in this special evening.

That ownership and the uncomplicated child-like joy the students bring to their learning are what we strive to preserve throughout the students' elementary journey. In these precious few years when they are truly children, we wish for them the starry-eyed wonder of learning and discovery, of being truly and authentically-engaged in their learning.

We've now peeked through the barely open doorway to a world that Col. Francis Parker envisioned long ago: learning fueled by students' interests; by their exposure to opportunities in the arts, athletics and academics; and full involvement in challenges and activities that they not only find worthwhile, but also rewarding.

Don't let the Chicken Dance (an SK Open House favorite) fool you...  it's the start of something big!


Bob Gillngham


Professional Development Day


Monday is a PD Day for faculty, and there is no school for students.  We'll see everyone back at school on Tuesday, March 17 (not a dress-down day).


Student Council


Student Council representatives will meet on Wednesday morning this week at 8 a.m. in Senora Herold's room.

Student council speeches will take place at Tuesday's flagraising, and voting will follow flagraising on Monday, March 23.


Maritime Museum


The fifth graders are off to the Maritime Museum this week (5SP on Wed., 5T on Thurs.) and next (5ST next Tuesday) as students live out the pre-revolutionary days on an authentic clipper.  Entitled, "Prelude to the American Revolution," the museum's literature describes the adventure thusly:  

"Set sail on the eve of the American Revolution! Re-live the turbulent year of 1774 experiencing the struggle of merchant mariners sailing the triangle trade route between New England and the Caribbean. Embarking on a voyage of the imagination, students will role-play with our maritime instructors, raising sails, loading cargo and protecting the vessel from pirates. Navigating their way through the political storms of the era, students will face frustrations that inspired American colonists to revolt. Ultimately, they will choose their own destiny and find out what role they will play in the war for America's freedom."

The kids always have a great time on this trip, and though they're tired the next day, the journey (the ship doesn't actually leave the dock) is always worth it.


Senior-Kindergarten Open House


The senior kindergarteners assume the roles of teachers this week when they invite their parents in to experience a day in the life of a Parker senior kindergartener.  The kids and their teachers have worked very hard to prepare for a special evening this Thursday where parents will gain special hands-on insights into what happens in the SK program.  


PJ Day


Friday is a pajama day for the entire school, as we all support our tired senior kindergarteners (who will have stayed up later than usual because of their open house the night before).  Boys and girls are requested to wear pjs and shoes appropriate for all regular school activities.


Spring Program DVDs


Attention Parker Parents--- If you’d like a DVD of the Spring Concert the order deadline isFriday, March 20.  For orders or questions please visit www.francisparkerdvd.com Thank you very much!!!

Mission Hills Menu

Menu for the Week of March 16

Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday March 14 at 09:11AM
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March 9, 2015; Vol. #24, Issue #24

Dear Lower School Parents:


This year, the faculty have been quite true to our strategic plan, and all of them are searching for ways to elevate students' thinking in ways that the students find not only authentic, but highly compelling as well.  

Below, you'll see a blurb on the fifth-grade play to be held this week, an event that will truly represent the design-thinking approach we're beginning to embrace and study.  Early successes by our teachers and students, where the teaching and learning process has been re-imagined but not compromised, are giving us the confidence to continue the wondering, planning and creating that may soon change the physical arrangement of our campus as well as the way teachers teach and students learn.

We're tremendously excited about our future, particularly as it will affect our students, and all of us can sense a bit of revolution in the air.


Bob Gillingham


Pajama Day (March 20)


In support of our sleepy senior-kindergarten students who will be waking up from sharing their Open House the night before, the whole school will enjoy pajama day on Friday, March 20.  Shoes appropriate for p.e. are still required.


Lost and Found


The office staff has sorted through the Lost and Found box on the playground, returning to their owners any clothing that is labeled.  Clothing not labeled is now located in the office until this Friday, March 13.  At the end of the day, that clothing will be donated to local charities.


Fourth-Grade Business Sale


The fourth-grade students will be offering a "discount" sale next Friday at the barbeque. Items not sold at the business sale two Fridays ago will be deeply discounted for quick sales (and great benefit to the charities the kids will support).


Class Creations

Many thanks to our student artists, but also to Margo Sharp, Kristin Zeko and Libby Donalson for their superb work in showcasing Lower School students' Class Creations which were displayed at the program last Friday.  For the first time, all of the pieces sold in one day, and we're all very grateful to you for your generosity. 

Campfire Kids Bike Rack Dedication


The Campfire Kids raised money for the creation of a bike rack on the north end of the Lower School campus, artfully installed by Scott Smith, Parker parent of Addy and Mike . On Monday afternoon, the rack will be dedicated with a plaque that will commemorate the Campfire Kids' great community service effort to support healthy living and lifelong recreation.


Fifth-Grade Play


The fifth-grade play, entirely written and composed by the students themselves, will be held in the Szekely Auditorium this Thursday morning  for students and Friday afternoon (1:30 p.m.) for parents.  Conceived as a design-thinking exercise, the students have worked with a variety of teachers and in numerous collaborative groups to produce this curriculum-centered masterpiece.  The students' engagement and determination to make the event a most memorable occasion has all of us anxiously awaiting the debut. 


Summer School Program


SUMMER PROGRAM ALERT:  Registration Begins Tuesday!
This coming Tuesday, March 10, at 9:00 am, registration for all Summer Program classes, afternoon activities and sports camps begins.
The online registration system, available at www.francisparker.org/summer, becomes functional at 9:00 am that day.  (There is no advantage to seeking to access the registration system prior to that time.)
The Early Bird Registration Discount is in effect from March 10 - March 31.
Questions?  Please call Tim Katzman on 858.569.7900, Ext 4236, or Monique Velde on 858.569.7900, Ext 4109 for assistance.

Dress-Down and BBQ


This Friday is a dress-down and bbq day.  Parents are welcome to join us in the courtyard during the students' regular lunchtime rotation.


Professional Development Day


Monday is a professional development day for teachers, and the students don't have school.  Teachers will be learning about Inclusivity and fine tuning their curricular documents which define the scope and sequence of academic work on this campus.


Spring Session Afterschool Classes

Spring Session After-School Classes are here! Registration will be available next week as well as fliers for the Monday folders. I have attached the schedule so that teachers can send the Spring Session lineup electronically to parents/guardians. (It includes dates and prices). 
We are offering many new classes this session including Golf, Legomation, Creative Builders, and Animation and Filmmaking.
Thank you all so much for your help and support as we make our After-School LEAP! program the best it can be! 

Notes from Nurse Maggie

March is National Nutrition Month!

While our Parker community supports healthy student nutrition as evidenced by the Nutrition Guidelines found on our website, parents continue to be the most important influence on their children for developing healthy eating habits. Offering a variety of foods helps children get the nutrients they need from every food group. Additionally, children are more likely to try new foods and to like more foods if offered a variety of choices. When children develop a taste for many types of foods, it is easier to plan family meals. Cook with your children, eat together, talk together, and make mealtime a family time! Other suggestions from the United States Department of Agriculture Center for Nutrition:

1. Be a good example: eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains with meals or as snacks

2. Go food shopping with your children and help your children make healthy choices

3. Be creative in the kitchen by, for example, making your own trail mixes from dry whole-grain, low-sugar cereal and dried fruit

4. Offer the same food for everyone instead of being a “short-order” cook

5. Reward positive behavior with attention not food, especially not sweets or dessert foods

6. Limit screen time to no more than two hours a day

7. Encourage physical activity and make being active a whole family event


Lower School Menu

Menu for the week of March 9-13

Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday March 7 at 03:56PM
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Mar. 2, 2015; Vol. 24, Issue #23

Dear Lower School Parents:


Greetings from Boston!

A number of Parker administrators and teachers are attending the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) conference this week, and as always, it's tremendously inspiring.  This year's theme is "design," with the intent of moving our schools away from the tradition-bound, relatively static curriculum of the past to a more student-centric approach which might capitalize on the unique gifts and rich talents of students in identifying and resolving all manner of future (as yet-undefined) challenges and problems.

A common dilemma faced by all of the very good institutions wrestling with this thorny but necessary change, is how to balance the shift of greater responsibility (and indendence) to the students while also maintaining rigor sufficient to prepare them for fairly traditional assessments (e.g., SATs and ACTs, etc.) and institutions (e.g., colleges and universities).

Our first attempts have been more successful than we could have hoped for with student engagement and degrees of learning at unprecedented levels, but it's a messy, noisy business and we're admittedly still fumbling in the dark.  However, I'm also proud to say that I've never seen our faculty and staff leverage the true benefits of independent education quite so well as they have in the last 10 months... all in the hope of better preparing our students for the greater complexities of their futures.

This is a revolutionary time for education, and as several of our speakers said today, independent schools have a chance to lead the way, preparing the next generation of citizens to view their world with empathy, creativity and innovation... and it's great to be on the ground floor.


Bob Gillingham


Spring Concert


The spring music performance, featuring 1st-5th grade choral, strings and band musicians, will take place this Friday, March 6, at 1 p.m. in the Lower School courtyard.


Gala Class Creation Auction


It’s that time of year again…when parents get a chance to own a beautiful piece of artwork made by their child and his or her classmates reflecting their Parker year!  We’re trying something a little different with the auction this year by showcasing it at the Spring Concert this Friday, March 6th.  We will have your children's Class Creations displayed around the courtyard and hope that you will stop to take a look and bid on these artistic creations!  All of the proceeds from the sale of the Class Creations will support current-use needs for student financial assistance and faculty development.

  • Friday, March 6th during the Spring Concert
  • Auction Opens at 11:30 am
  • Auction Closes 20 minutes after the end of the concert
For a slideshow of photographs of some of the student work that went into the Class Creations, check this link!

If you have any questions, please contact Kristin Zeko at kristinzeko@cox.net . We are looking forward to seeing you on Friday!


Summer Program Update


Since the mailing of the paper catalogue and the release of the online comprehensive version earlier this week, new courses have been added. To review course descriptions, please go to www.francisparker.org/summer.  Once again:  Summer Program registration for all courses and activities kicks off on Tuesday, March 10 at 9:00 am.

Please note the following new course titles:

Lower School

NEW! Art and Design, offered by Margo Sharpe (Session II)

NEW!  Beginning and Intermediate Guitar, offered by Darleen Herriman (Session II)

NEW! Design Thinking: Stop Motion Animation, offered by Lindsey Bushard (Session I)

Middle School

NEW! From Cool to Catchy: The Art and & Craft of Songwriting for Beginners, offered by Randy Phillips and Keven Ford (Session I)

NEW!  Paint Like the Masters, offered by Melanie Taylor (Session I)

Upper School

NEW!  Paint Like the Masters, offered by Melanie Taylor (Session I)

NEW! Summer Stock Theater: “13,” directed by Elise Marinkovich – Now open to Upper School students as well as Middle School students (Session I)

Sports Camps

Tennis Camp descriptions will be provided by the Barnes Tennis Center shortly, and then published online.


Lower School Menu

Menu for the Week of March 2

Posted by ls-newsletter on Saturday February 28 at 11:48AM
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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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