January 2010 Student Leadership
AFS and the Friends League Technology Update 3rd Grade Visits DC 8th Grade Debates Diversity Conference Annual Fund Progress January Calendar
in this issue
Abington Friends School
Student Leadership Enriches AFS Community Message from Rich Nourie, Head of School During Quaker Visiting Day last month, members of the Upper School Agenda Committee had lunch with visitors from Abington Monthly Meeting to share their experience of student leadership. Our student government in Upper School follows a Quaker model. An Agenda Committee of 9th through 12th graders meets regularly to name, discuss and plan for action around key areas of interest and concern for the community.
To persevere through disagreement to better understanding is an empowering experience. It teaches all involved how to navigate varying perspectives, advance ideas with clarity and stay focused on the issues at hand. It teaches humility, openness to new understanding and how to make the best use of the gifts of others. It encourages shared responsibility for the work and a sense of genuine accountability that is so good for the moral development of adolescents.
Several features distinguish this process from the typical high school student council. First, members of the Agenda Committee arenâ€™t elected. They are nominated by peers and selected by consensus in committee. Second they make decisions by seeking a â€œsense of the meetingâ€? or a sense of unity rather than by voting. The problem that Quakers identify in voting is that winning can become the goal, pitting the interests of some against the interests of others, and that valuable dissenting voices can be ruled out rather than engaged.
On Quaker Visiting Day, the students shared their key issues for the year. Last year the group led the community to a new cell phone use policy that recognizes the usefulness of the technology for students while also preserving the sanctity of the classrooms. This year the Committee has taken on a deeper topic: how to ensure that each student in the Upper School is encouraged to participate fully in all arenas where student voice is critical. Recognizing that some peers are simply more quiet by nature, the group still wants to be creative in developing processes that encourage full engagement in class discussions, student activities and in the decision-making of the student body. I was truly impressed by the sophistication, sensitivity and ambition of this goal. Seeing the students share their work, I am reminded of how leadership of this kind is embedded in so much of the work that we do with students. Our students in turn enrich our community with their engagement, creativity and inspired approach to problem-solving.
ave the date
In a process focused on reaching unity, multiple perspective is fully engaged to better understand the issues, keep them complex and come to decisions that are more grounded in reality. The goal here is not compromise, but rather to listen carefully to each other, respectfully challenge assumptions, separate out threads of truth and discover sophisticated solutions to problems.
January 2 Community Basketball Game
January 4 School Reopens
January 13 Middle School Instrumental Concert
January 18 MLK Day of Service
February 6 AFS Community Talent Show
We couldn’t possibly include all our students’ accomplishments in this space, but we wanted to share some that have made us proud recently.
Senior Shane Bernard has been invited to participate in the inaugural class of the Alpha Beautillion Philadelphia Program, which identifies young men of promise in area schools and brings them into a mentoring relationship with the men of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. Senior Rachel Roter has signed a National Letter of Consent to join the highly regarded University of South Carolina Equestrian Team. Many Upper School students have taken leadership roles in community service activities. Sydney Levin rallied runners to take part in the Bethanna Thanksgiving Day Run/Walk. Stacey Wanerman organized a Guitar Hero fundraiser for Angel Flight East. David Zaslav and Ted Goh put on a concert to raise funds for the Nathaniel Ayers Foundation. Go to AFS News under the News and Events tab (under Community) on the website to read more.
AFS Athletics and the Friends Schools League by: Jeff Bond This fall, at the Varsity and Junior Varsity level most AFS teams took part in competition governed by the Friends Schools League (FSL). AFS’s formal affiliation with the FSL began at the League’s inception 28 years ago, though the School’s athletic connections to the nine member institutions of the FSL stretch back to the School’s earliest days of interscholastic teams. In 1898, for example, coed AFS sponsored football, basketball and baseball teams took to the fields and courts against the likes of Friends Central, Friends Select and Moorestown Friends. From 1931 to 1966 as an all-girls’ school, AFS faced current FSL schools on the basketball court, in the swimming pool and especially on the field hockey field where every year between 1958 and 1985, the Kangaroos recorded final-season marks of more wins than losses. In 1980, seven Friends Schools looking for more philosophical integrity and equity of girls’ and boys’ athletics than their current league affiliations afforded gathered at Westtown School, and the Friends Schools League was officially created. The original FSL members – Abington Friends, Ger-
mantown Friends, Friends Central, Friends Select, George School, Moorestown Friends and Westtown – were joined by like-minded non-Quaker schools Academy of the New Church in 1993 and Shipley in 2005. Historically, the Friends Schools League has been a healthy environment in which AFS student-athletes and interscholastic teams have been fortunate to participate. The League’s consistent and meaningful embrace of Quaker values; its unyielding emphasis of appropriate sportsmanship; and its stated mission of valuing athletics as an opportunity to teach excellence in character and skill in ways that convey the intrinsic value of each individual student have helped to shape thousands of AFS student-athletes over the years. For the last 18 months the Heads of Schools and Athletic Directors of the nine FSL member institutions have been engaged in a substantive exploration of the athletic experience for students, schools and the League. With subcommittees formed to explore the League’s mission and philosophy, structure and governance, and issues surrounding the FSL’s long-term sustainability, this reflective and strategic work aims to chart a healthy and clear course for the future of the 28-year old organization.
Taking More Steps Toward a Paperless School This has been a busy fall on the tech front, with several new initiatives launched. The faculty laptop rollout has been a great success according to AFS Technology Director John Rison. “It’s helping us transition to a paperless school,” he says. “It’s nice because when teachers walk into a classroom they have all their stuff with them, such as clips they want to show, Powerpoints, lesson plans. Being able to go home and work on the same machine you’re bringing back to school also makes it a lot easier.”
instrumental concert January 13
7 p.m. Muller Auditorium
Moving report cards online has been another environmentally sound move, saving a significant amount in terms of printing, paper and mailing costs. “It’s another way to streamline the flow of information to parents,” says John. Along with Middle School Director Russell Shaw, John presented a series of well-received tech talks this fall where they discussed how new tools are changing the landscape of learning, and how parents can help their child navigate our technology rich world. Many parents expressed interest in different tools, such as Twitter and RSS feeds, and
AFS faculty, including Health and P.E. Teacher Nikki Kent, have benefited from the faculty laptop initiative.
Russell and John plan to offer more workshops in the spring focusing on some of those tools. John is also teaching an Upper School media literacy course. “We’re blogging, contributing to Nings, collaborating, producing a short video in groups and exploring how the world has changed and is changing because of social networking.”
AFS Librarian Tapped to Tweak Noodle Tools AFS Director of Libraries Toni Vahlsing has been invited to work with Noodle Tools inventor Debbie Abilock to help further refine the electronic note taking program.
AFS Director of Librairies Toni Vahlsing is working with Noodle Tools to take the software to the next level.
Toni recently made a presentation entitled “Electronic Note Taking: All The Options” at the National American Association of School Libraries conference in Charlotte, NC, her first national presentation. A large part of the presentation, which attracted an overflow crowd of 75, was about Noodle Tools. “Debbie Abilock was not at my presentation but her friend was sitting in the front row,” recalls Toni. “She went and got Debbie and she found me and asked me to be on her team. Now I’m emailing with her and I’m helping to develop a database of comments.” Noodle Tools, which has been available for about
four years, is a powerful note-taking software that helps students search intelligently, assess the quality of results, record, organize and synthesize information using online notecards and format a bibliography. Toni has been impressed by the software since its debut, and many AFS teachers now incorporate the use of Noodle Tools for student assignments. “They did a huge redesign this year,” says Toni. “I’m a big fan. It helps kids keep their notes in one place, teaches them how to avoid plagiarism, and there’s a new feature where you can take your note cards and put them into an outline on their site. Some kids don't like using it, and that’s what we need to work on. Is it because they don’t know how or is it that they don’t like taking notes or is it that they prefer to write on paper?” Toni says she is thrilled to be involved in further improving the product. “I was flying high for days.”
Students Return From Diversity Conference Inspired
page-turners a racial/ethnic identity came together to build community, fellowship and empowerment. “Everyone felt they could put their stories out there with full confidence,” said Alex. “There was crying, laughing. We supported each other through our stories.”
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart Grades 4 and up This quirky book just might appeal to many readers. Four very bright students pass some unusual tests in order to become secret agents. Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are sent to a strange school where they are in constant danger and have to use all of their considerable resources as a team in order to survive. These characters are so very different from each other and yet endearing in their own ways. This book stands on its own, but you will probably want to find out what happens to these four intriguing young people in their further adventures.
Reeci and Genesis, with AFS alum Amy Wyn Pastor ‘94, TV carpenter for “Trading Spaces,” who met up with our delegates at the POCC Conference.
Six Upper School students traveled out to Denver in early December to attend the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, which is part of the annual People of Color Conference organized by the National Association of Independent Schools. For Alex, Sam, Greg, Shane, Reeci and Genesis, the experience of attending the three-day workshop-packed gathering was transformative. Shane, who was a peer leader at the conference, said it made him realize he has the power to make change. “We are the catalysts. We can spark the fire for change. It is up to us. Let’s learn from our differences. Let’s support one another through our challenges.” The students felt particularly moved by the affinity groups, where students who shared
“There was a tremendous trust that embodied our experience,” said Lower School Director Crissy Cáceres, who was one of seven adults from AFS who accompanied the students and attended the POCC conference. “There was a sense that we weren’t in it just for ourselves, but were ambassadors for everyone in our community. We were inspired to re-enter our community and share what we had learned.” On their return, the students sat down for lunch with Head of School Rich Nourie to do just that. Many of the students echoed Greg’s sentiments when he said that, “The conference does such a good job of making everyone feel connected. It is difficult to recreate such a powerful experience.” They also agreed with Reeci, though, when she asked, “What can we all do together? We have to do something for the entire school. We have so much to share.” Rich noted that, “It takes time for communities to develop the langage to deal with issues around diversity. We are at such an important time in our community. We all have the ability to make such a difference.”
3rd Grade Visits DC As part of a study unit on Asia, the third grade recently went on a field trip to Washington, DC, where they visited the pandas at the National Zoo and toured the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at the National Geographic Museum.
Make it a Day of Service Abington Friends School will host its annual Day of Service on January 18 beginning at 9 a.m. in the Meetinghouse. This year we will again be working with several of the communities and organizations with which we have year-round relationships as well as some new partners. We have many different service opportunities planned on and off campus (transportation provided) that will build on our commitment to deeper relationships and "solidarity not charity."
On the bus to the capital, the children watched a documentary about the birth of the zoo’s pandas. In class, they had studied the history around the thousands of life-size clay figures known as the Terra Cotta Warriors that were buried in underground pits 2,000 years ago to accompany China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, into the afterlife. Their discovery in 1974 was one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century. Though the students had seen pictures of the warriors, encountering the life-size figures face to face fascinated the children. “It was amazing to be looking at something that was in the ground 2,000 years ago,” said Anyae, while fellow student Daniel commented that, “It was interesting to see how well the terra cotta warriors were preserved.” As a classroom activity, Third Grade Teacher Andrea Emmons had staged an archaeological dig where students excavated and pieced together the shards of broken flower pots. “They got to see
how hard it was to dig out all the bits and pieces and put them back together.” At the exhibit, they saw large photos of pieces of broken warriors in the ground where they were excavated. The class had also read books centered around the first emperor and the making of his tomb as part of a broader study of Chinese history. At the museum, said Andrea, “The kids were phenomenal. They knew and remembered so much.” And though it was a long day, seeing the largest display of terra cotta figures and tomb artifacts ever to travel to the U.S. was an experience none of them will soon forget.
8th Grade Speaks Out on Constitutional Issues Is there any situation where the death penalty is justified? Does anyone have the right to determine the life of someone who cannot decide for themselves? Should schools be allowed to test all students in extra curricular activities for drug use?
Stay tuned for more on the service projects we have planned for the day and how you can participate.
AFS Open House Saturday January 23 12:30 p.m.
To bring to life their study of Asia, Felix and Andrea’s third grade class traveled to Washington, D.C., to see giant pandas and terra cotta soldiers.
These were just some of the questions pondered by eighth graders in a recent two-week Social Studies unit on landmark Supreme Court cases, where the students analyzed constitutional issues in controversial cases and presented the case to their classmates along with an explanatory poster. At the end of each presentation, the students gave the class a discussion question and ran a debate about that question.
Eighth graders have been analyzing and debating constitutional issues in landmark Supreme Court cases.
“The kids have been very engaged in both the activity and the discussions,” says Social Studies Teacher Erin Timmer, “and it’s really forced them to think about what the Constitution means in real life situations. The critical thinking part of this is very important to me. I’ve heard students talking about their cases outside of class, which leads me to believe that they are really engaged with the activity. One of the things I’ve told them is you have to think for yourself. It’s important to listen, but not to be afraid to stand on your own.”
afs calendar January Annual Fund Progress Report
New Yearâ€™s Day
Alumni and Community Basketball Game
As of December 15
Total Raised: $268,000
SSATs 8:15 a.m.
Goal: $500,000 Percent to Goal: 52% Parent Participation: 35%
Middle School Instrumental Concert, 7 p.m.
Middle School Instrumental Concert, Snow Date
MLK Day of Service, School Closed
Upper School Exams
Upper School Exams
Upper School Exams
Upper School Exams
Open House, Registration Begins at 12:30 p.m.
tion Goal: 65% AFS Families Who Have Given: 189 Number of Families Still Needed to Reach Participation Goal: 177
Upper School Exams
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Community Talent Show February 6 Ever thought about performing in public? Hereâ€™s your chance! Check the website to find out how to share your talents at this cherished annual community event.
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