Page 1


fall 2012

Dear Friends, In ways that are age-appropriate and situation specific, educators have the opportunity and the challenge of assisting parents in the moral and emotional development of their children. This crucial partnership is reflected in the overall ethos of the school, certain aspects of the curriculum, and also in the very specific responses to incidents as they arise. In many ways this relationship defines the essence of the school-home partnership that is so valued at Friends Academy. Recently I had the opportunity to spend time with Harvard professor Richard Weissbourd, author of The Parents We Mean To Be; How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development. He speaks passionately about something that teachers observe on a regular basis—that students do not have a lack of understanding regarding values such as fairness, caring, and responsibility. They know the right answers and feel patronized when adults think they do not. The challenge is helping children to adopt and live those values. “The issue is not moral literacy,” says Weissbourd, “it’s moral motivation.” Weissbourd talks about the need for developing “anchors” for our children, like the capacity for empathy, appreciation, the ability to know and value others, and a sense of gratitude for what they themselves have. These anchors can help to give children a context within which to make good decisions. By developing a strong sense of self, children can better gauge the emotions that drive their moral choices in times of stress. At Friends Academy, participation in any number of activities helps our students develop these anchors. Through servicelearning projects, like the organic gardening effort described on page 4, we hope that students will gradually gain an understanding that their actions have implications beyond the classroom. Likewise, in Constellation Groups, at All-School Meeting, and by utilizing responsive classroom techniques, our teachers are acting intentionally to help students develop a capacity for empathy and appreciation. Workshops run by respected speakers reinforce our students’ understanding that moral development is a long-term commitment with conflicts and contradictions that adults wrestle with as well. How does one decide, for example, when matters of honesty and loyalty bump up against each other in direct conflict? Ultimately we must all develop our own moral compass, a belief system guided by the influences that define our identity and shape our understanding. This is an individual journey, involving guidance by adults, self-inquiry, some “hard knocks” experience, and reflection. As our world grows more complicated this challenge only becomes more urgent. Friends Academy will endeavor to implement its mission with purpose and to mentor children who will graduate with a “strong moral core,” well fortified to take on the vicissitudes of adolescence, young adulthood, and beyond.

Stephen K. Barker, Head of School 1



FA fourth graders boarded buses to Mystic Seaport earlier this fall to begin their study of whaling. “There’s plenty of whaling history right in our midst,” says their teacher, Steve Mogilnicki, “but we chose to initiate our study from inside the hull of the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling vessel, built in New Bedford, and anchored in Mystic, Connecticut, because of it’s ability to help students visualize life aboard a whaling ship.” From the hull of this National Historic Landmark, students saw first-hand how whaling ships functioned not only as fishing vessels, but as oil refineries, processing the blubber and sheltering the crew for months at sea. Fourth graders took time to explore the ship’s chambers, touching its beams, and imagining life on the water in the mid-nineteenth century. They even had a chance to throw harpoons. The group will have the opportunity to take advantage of neighboring New Bedford resources over the course of their unit on whaling, including a trip to the New Bedford Whaling Museum with their teachers, Jennifer Carter, Jodi Lawless, and Mr. Mogilnicki.

During this six- to eight-week Social Studies unit, students have, among other things, been role-playing the life of whalers and writing letters home from sea on parchment paper, and imagining day-to-day living aboard ship in the New Bedford fishing community of the 1800s. In addition, by unit’s end, they will have devised and constructed board games that test their knowledge of whaling terms and concepts, and prepared flow charts to help them identify steps in the process of a whale hunt.

“By studying whaling, an industry deeply rooted in the South Coast, we help our students to better understand the history of New Bedford, its rich cultural heritage, and the important part it played in Third generation New Bedford fisherman supplying light in this country, before and scrimshaw artist, Al Doucette, visited the widespread use of electricity,” says in October and demonstrated the art of Mr. Mogilnicki. “Fourth grade is also a scrimshaw, sharing local artifacts from perfect time to introduce students to the the whaling era to help students broaden legacy of Melville’s Moby Dick,” he says, their understanding of and appreciation “long considered perhaps the greatest of for the vocations associated with nineall American novels.” teenth century life in New Bedford. 2

NOT YOUR AVERAGE PLAYGROUND A SPACE FOR ALL THE SENSES A new outdoor play space has quietly made an appearance beside the Friends Farmhouse, adjacent to the school’s organic garden. This is not your average playground, but instead, is a carefully designed and constructed wonder garden that encourages outdoor play and feeds children’s inherent curiosity about the natural world.

What surprises many who enter through the split-rail garden gate is the simplicity and creativity that has gone into reimagining an outdoor play area used primarily by Friends’ youngest students in the early childhood program at the Farmhouse. This natural playscape, complete with obstacles and challenges found in nature, creates an inviting and unusual world for our youngest students. Tree stump stepping stones, dry river beds, sandy exploration pits and beach grass barriers, together create a sustainable garden and play area for all the senses. The butterfly garden, rain garden, woodland exploration area, sand and water play areas, spiral path for tricycle riding, and the high and grassy berm were the outgrowth of our teachers’ imaginations. After meetings were held between Rhode Island-based landscape designer, Brooke Merriam, and FA teachers, Cheryle

Walker-Hemingway, Amy Peckham, and Dana Bullard, a carefully crafted design emerged that brings science and sustainability to life for young people. Peter Bullard of Atlantic Landscaping worked with Director of Development, Jodi Pink to see the project through to completion during the late summer weeks before the start of school. “The project was funded by leadership gifts from within our community,” says Ms. Pink, “and it is still a work in progress.” The school hopes to one day add a gazebo at the center of the space that will act as an outdoor classroom. Another element that has yet to be installed is a willow tree hut for the woodlands exploration area. The hut will grow over time to be completely encapsulated by willow branches, serving as a living example of science and sustainability

at work, and providing play space and shelter. Finally, a lean-to/stage element will be attached to the sand and water play area and will be built in part by students in the Friends Academy woodshop. The Farmhouse’s new playscape nurtures a sense of wonder and curiosity that is central to the early childhood program offered here. It helps develop children’s observation skills, their appreciation of nature’s beauty, their willingness to use all their senses to make discoveries, their understanding of themselves and their relationship to the natural world, and their drive to experiment and communicate about nature. It is little wonder that Friends Academy has moved purposefully toward the installation of this outdoor gem.



by Kyle Riseley

Clearly, to be capable of producing the kind of yield that is coaxed from 1900 sq. ft. of bed space each season, one needs to be mindful of the numbers. But for Mr. Walach and his band of harvesting heroes, that is only part of the story. “I’ve been fortunate to have the support of many members of our community—students, faculty, parents, alumni, and my family —who step up throughout the cycle to help with planting, reaping, weeding, and delivery,” he says. When asked, Mr. Walach easily recounts the names, whereabouts, and contributions of a variety of students, parents, past parents, and alumni who have given their time and expertise to help build a legendary garden filled with 10-foot sunflowers, and multi-varieties of cabbage, cauliflower, kale, tomato, squash, rutabaga, pepper, lettuce, onion, and anything else you can add to a pot of boiling water. This fall, FA gardeners battled a tomato blight that arrived mid-August, probably caused by the extra mild winter of 2012. “The beds really took a beating,” Walach says, “and although we harvested 475 pounds of tomatoes, we should have had 200 pounds more.” Students removed the blighted plants by hand and then used broad forks to aerate the soil. The plants were not composted as usual, but instead sent off to the landfill where the 4

offending fungus should be killed off given normal weather conditions this winter. Organic gardens are subject to all kinds of natural challenges, so Mr. Walach and his students practice crop rotation and feed the soil with a careful blend of organically-approved nutrients. The key to increasing yield, it seems, is the continued practice of using one wheelbarrow load of compost (approximately 5 cubic feet) per crop, per bed. Walach’s students also add greensand for potassium, blood meal for nitrogen, and alfalfa meal for nitrogen and potassium, with every planting. If you really are serious about this stuff, you will also want to know that they have recently begun using “a slurry made from soft rock phosphate —approximately six diluted quarts per bed, per planting—drenched and then sprayed with a special mix of compost tea.” Perhaps this explains why the garden’s yield ratios easily keep pace or exceed those of area growers. Work in the garden happens over a ten-month cycle, from February to midDecember. The student labor pool comes from a variety of sources. Groups of student volunteers sign up for three-month stints via the school’s Service-Learning program and form the backbone of the operation.

When Steve Walach talks about the FA garden, he spews numbers: 475 pounds of tomatoes harvested this year...a 285 day maturity cycle for winter carrots…one square foot of garden real estate yields one pound of winter carrots... an estimated 5,000 pounds of produce harvested from the garden this year… over 500 pounds of Portuguese kale harvested for area soup kitchens...

Mr. Walach also works with sixth graders as part of their health curriculum. These dedicated 10- and 11-year olds plant, weed, and harvest from September to December, sifting and loading wheelbarrows of compost and organic nutrients and witnessing the growth cycle in reverse, beginning with the harvest and moving into bed preparation for the following season. In the spring, the season begins anew with the seeding of onions and lettuces as early as February. “A sixth grader’s journey through the school year parallels the 285-day life cycle of a carrot!” says Mr. Walach. Over the summer, Mr. Walach and his wife Helen work alongside alumni, who in the past have included Blace Houle ’06 (who seeded the rutabagas that will be ready for Thanksgiving) and Erin Murphy ’08. The Walachs, with help from summer students—mostly rising 7th graders—and their families, clock in anywhere from 12 to 20 hours per week, weeding, re-seeding, and picking produce and making sure it gets delivered to the Grace Church Soup Kitchen. The walls outside Mr. Walach’s classroom in Stites are papered with thank you letters from area food pantries and soup kitchens. Grace Church Pantry in New Bedford coined the “Souper Hero” term, and the Blackstone Valley Emergency Food Center and Pawtucket RI Soup Kitchen have written letters about the luxury of fresh vegetables.

“My grandfather raised eight kids on nine dollars a week, as a laborer in a Rhode Island textile mill during the Depression,” says Mr. Walach. “His large garden played a big role in feeding the family.” Fortunately for all of us at Friends Academy, Mr. Walach’s fascination with producing record quantities of vegetables from small patches of dirt is his genetic inheritance. He has taken the garden, begun in 2006 to educate students about the importance of locally grown food sources and sustainability, and grown it into a reliable source of fresh vegetables for local food pantries, and an evolving opportunity to teach and demonstrate lessons in ecology, eco-literacy, and civic responsibility. Outside of school, Mr. Walach enjoys the symphony, and is a follower of the Rhode Island Philharmonic in his hometown of Providence. When he gracefully credits students and community members who have pitched in over the last six years since the garden was created, it is easy to see that this Middle School English teacher (with a Brown University education) loves his work as maestro of the garden.


here comes the


sun finally


A few short years ago, Matt Walker, Colin Babbitt, and Ben Wiegandt (class of 2010), eighth graders at the time, submitted a proposal. Growing out of an idea that hatched in the fall of 2009, the three decided to initiate an independent study to explore the feasibility of making Friends Academy a green energy school. Their plan was to decrease the school’s electrical usage by installing solar panels to generate electricity. First they researched types of solar panels and different types of installations. They looked at other schools with solar installations, found consultants, and followed the processes involved in locating panels and calculating the amount of energy that could be generated. They presented their findings to the Building and Grounds Committee of the Board in April of their eighth grade year, explaining the process they’d been through, the choice of sites, and the details of financing the project. Two and a half years later, after various delays, the school has found a company to guide it through the process of building, financing, operating, and maintaining the panels. The Board of Trustees has voted to enter into an agreement with My Generation Energy of Dennis, MA. A multi-year arrangement will allow Friends Academy to save money on the electricity we use month after month by 6

sustainability and the environment. It also speaks to our belief in connecting our students with authentic learning opportunities.”

installing solar panels at the far, unused end of the camp-out field between the field hockey and soccer fields. Initially, the cost of installing the entire system is born by My Generation. When contracts are signed, the solar company will own, operate, and maintain the panels, and the school will buy its electricity at about 82% of what it currently pays. The school will receive all its electricity from a solar source located on FA property without any up-front costs. Later on, perhaps seven to ten years down the road, the school will have the option of a buy out. At that point, FA will produce more electricity than it currently uses and electric bills will be zero, a significant savings for the school. As Head of School, Steve Barker said in an announcement last month: “Switching to solar energy makes a bold statement about the school’s commitment to

Middle School science teacher Mary Pierce has played a pivotal and persistent role in bringing this concept to fruition. “The curriculum possibilities related to the project are important and limitless, and we expect students will be fully engaged in monitoring the output and efficiency of the solar panels,” she says. “Reducing our carbon footprint sends a strong message to our community,” says Mrs. Pierce, “and we are looking forward to seeing this idea, initiated by our students, finally coming to fruition.” While timetable details for the solar panel project are not yet firm, the school hopes to see construction activity begin before the end of the year and then powering up in 2013. Ben, Colin, and Matt may have had to wait to realize their dream of a solar powered campus, but now, finally, they can revel in the fact that their vision will become a reality.

Director of After-School Programs, Charley Pelissier, takes a group of 8 to 10 kids out mountain biking on Tuesdays. “We mostly ride close to campus,” he says, “and we stress safety and challenges.” (He’s grateful that school nurse, Maura Reimer, is his co-instructor!) There is an extensive network of paved roadways throughout the campus that lead to

Meeting Families’ Needs for

What do the sound of cellos, the whir of bicycle spokes, the hum of motorized robots, and the absence of sound all together have in common? All are the noise of after-school enrichment programs at Friends Academy. In science labs and classrooms, on yoga mats and gym floors, and along wooded paths and paved roadways, students are stepping out of their comfort zones and into new adventures after school. Ask some of the sixty plus students who are enrolled this fall and you will learn that in one or more different ways, they are learning to master something new.


Afterschool Enrichment

wooded trails through the woods. Kids wear helmets and ride mountain or BMX bikes allowing them to trailblaze. We’ve been to a place called “the bowl,” says fourth grader, Liam Cogliano, who explains that it’s “filled with hills and jumps, which all the kids love.” The group has also developed their own sport, called “Mountain Bike Soccer” which they play on the lower soccer field. “All you have to do is to keep at least one foot on the pedals of your bike in order to pass the ball or score,” says Charley Pelissier.

programmable LEGO NXTTM and MINDSTORMSTM software, originally developed by the LEGO/Dacta and Tufts University Center for Engineering Educational Outreach partnership. “As On Thursday afternoons, the Commons we continue to develop this after-school program, our vision is to grow it, eventubecomes a yoga studio, where certified ally establishing a robotics team that children’s instructor, Joan DeVignon can participate in the First Lego League demonstrates simple poses designed competitions,” says Mr. Hamer. “These specifically for young people. Kids are local, regional, and national competitions developing the concentration needed to provide opportunities to encourage practice feats of flexibility and balance. Yoga is known to develop inner discipline student creativity and the thoughtful and self-control. Not only does it increase uses of the technology. coordination and help kids develop The halls are alive with the sound of cellos, strong and flexible bodies, it can also help For more information about upcoming violins, and violas on Monday afternoons build their attention span, focus, and winter trimester offerings watch for as dozens of students in grades two an announcement in the weekly Head’s self-confidence. through eight participate in the new afterUp or visit our school website at school strings program, a collaboration Also on Thursdays, an exciting trend in of the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra STEM (Science, Technology, Engineerand Friends Academy. We expect to hear ing, and Math) education is manifesting more from this group in the days and itself in our new afterschool robotics weeks ahead, including information about program. Under the guidance of Middle a possible second weekly meeting to School Head, Sean Hamer, FA students increase practice time and allow children are participating in individual and to play together in a larger group. small-team robotic design projects using 7


SF ROI E UN DNS DA CI AND EGM SY 1088 tucker road, north dartmouth, ma 02747 fall 2012

We have exciting news to report! Annual Giving match challenges new and experienced donors With help from a generous supporter, we are offering a special one-time match for first-time donors to the Annual Fund. Every gift of $50 or more from someone who has not previously given will be increased by an additional $50. Likewise, if you have been a past supporter of Friends Academy through Annual Giving and you increase your last gift by $50 or more, an additional $50 will be added to your donation. Join us and take advantage of this matching opportunity to increase the impact of your gift. Whether you are new to Friends Academy, a loyal donor, or considering adding your name for the first time to the long list of parents, grandparents, alumni, faculty, and special friends who help us to inspire children, know that we value the contribution you make to helping us fulfill and advance our mission. Make your tax deductible contribution online at: or call Jodi Pink, Director of Development, 509-999-1356, x1129.


Soundings, Fall 2012