Learning Report Blog

  • Emily's introduction and thoughts on tech

    Posted by Emily Goldberg on 9/19/2019

    The beginning of school is truly the New Year. New classes, new teachers, new friends, new textbooks, new notebooks, new pens and pencils. Generally speaking, those things don’t happen on January 1. There are far more transitions happening at the end of summer than there are in the dead of winter. That is exciting—but also stressful.

    I can relate to the transitions more this year than I have in the past. At the end of July, after 9 years of living just outside Portland, Oregon, my family and I moved the approximately 1100 miles to make Denver our new home. We made the trek with two cars, two kids (both boys, ages 18 and 20), two cats, and one dog. We moved from a house to an apartment. My husband and I became empty-nesters. We even changed altitudes, and of course I started a brand new job as Stanley’s middle school counselor.

    What has not changed is the pleasure I get from helping children, and their parents, navigate the challenges and joys of early-adolescence. Parenting in general is not for the faint of heart. Parenting a middle schooler…well, that’s hard enough that you might well wish you’d trained to be a Navy SEAL instead. The transitions at this age can occur monthly, weekly, daily, hourly. Your susceptibility to whiplash quadruples during the middle school years.

    Computers in library During the years that I have been a counselor, as well as a parent, the biggest change has been the advent of technology. (Many of you may have engaged in the book club discussion of iGen last year, which offers a fairly wide perspective on kids and technology.) I could bemoan the “evils” of technology for pages and for days, but I realize that’s a waste of time. We can’t go back to the time before tech (and there have certainly been benefits), so our best option is to exert control over the influence it has over our lives whenever possible. Although it may not always feel like it, as parents of middle schoolers, you really do still have some control over your children.

    Over the years, I have reminded parents (and my own children) that the phone actually belongs to the parent, not to the child. Having a phone may feel like a right to the child, but we know it’s actually a privilege. Because of that, you as the parent can take the phone away at any time, for any reason. (The same is true for computers and video consoles.)

    Now, I am a natural worry wart. I love cell phones for the safety they often provide—I have contact with my kids, and they with me, in any situation, including emergencies. However, that connection—and safety—does not require a smart phone. If you find that your child is not handling the use of the smart phone the way you’d like, the most basic of phones still have calling and texting capabilities. Many families I’ve worked with have provided their child with a basic phone as a way to earn the privilege of having a smart phone.

    Additionally, because the phone belongs to you, you also have the right to any and all passwords on the phone. No passwords, no phone. There are parental controls you can put on the phone, including an app that notifies you if your child downloads anything. There is even an app that notifies you If your child tries to hide an app from his or her screen. In other words, as smart as your kid is, and as smart as his or her smart phone is, you can outsmart them.

    Finally, on the subject of cell phones and safety, I will admit that my husband and I have always insisted that our kids have the “find my friends” app on their phones. (It’s probably a little less necessary now that both our kids are in college in the Midwest, but I’ve already confessed to being a worry wart.) We explained to our kids from the beginning that it is not a lack of trust that we require the app; it’s a matter of safety. When they were out with friends, especially in the evening, if they weren’t responding to texts or phone calls, we knew we’d feel better being able to locate them. (This has, in fact, back-fired just since our youngest went to college: for whatever reason, because of the mapping capabilities of the phone, “find my friends” placed our son in the middle of the Chicago River. That was worrisome. But we have since learned that because of the skyscrapers in downtown Chicago, Siri has a little trouble with her locations.)

    Just a few days ago, I was fortunate to get to see a presentation given by Craig Knippenberg, LCSW, M.Div, at St. Anne’s Episcopal School, on the subject of the brain and technology. He very recently published a book called Wired and Connected (link HERE) all about the connection between kids’ brains and technology. He recommends time limits, turning off all technology at least 30-45 minutes before bedtime (great advice for all of us!), and presents information on why it’s so hard for kids to stop gaming and to stop checking their phones (it’s all about the dopamine hit). He makes a great case for completing homework before gaming, and he explains that the intense stimulation provided by all kinds of video games makes it hard to “come down” afterwards and return to any kind of equilibrium. Quite honestly, I wish I’d known about these brain reactions when my kids were exhibiting melt-downs, irritability, and defiance in response to their video game activities.

    The dopamine hits occur not just with being successful (or not) at video games, but also when we interact with social media. I know plenty of adults who base their self-worth on how many thumbs-up they get on Facebook, how many hearts they get on Instagram, and how many retweets they get on Twitter. Our kids are even more susceptible than we are to the havoc this constant affirmation wreaks on our moods and self-esteem.

    Finally, my last comment (for now) about kids and tech is to remind parents of the importance of modeling for their children. Adults are every bit as likely to be tech-addicted as kids are (no judgment). Our kids will end up doing what we do. When my kids neared driving age, I changed the way I drove because I told myself I shouldn’t be doing anything in the car that I wouldn’t want them to do. That constant reminder (and their nagging) made me a much safer driver. The same holds true for technology. Keep in mind that our kids are watching what we do. If we want them to put down their phones and pay attention, we need to do the same. If we want them to take a break from technology, turn things off in advance of bedtime, put their phones away at dinner time, we need to do the same.

    Parenting is a work in progress. I so appreciate the opportunity to be a member of a community that takes the social and emotional life of children as seriously as the intellectual, and I look forward to partnering with any and all of you to support and guide your children toward adulthood. And just to make sure you don’t think I am above spending time on YouTube myself, I will share this video I found, parodying a hit song from a few years ago that some of you might enjoy…and relate to.

    Happy September!


    Emily Goldberg, LCSW
    Middle School Counselor
    303-360-0803, ext. 149

    Comments (-1)
  • From Joanna: Families as partners on your child’s learning journey

    Posted by Joanna Hambidge on 9/12/2019

    At Stanley British Primary School, we value families as partners on your child’s learning journey. Here is a definition of family that I read at the Boston Children’s Museum exhibit on family diversity:


    We may be related at birth, adoption, or invitation.

    We may belong to the same race or we may be of different races.

    We may look like each other or different from each other.

    The important thing is, we belong to each other.

    We care for each other.

    We agree, disagree, love, fight, and work together.

    We belong to each other.

    Family Your teachers and I are happy you are with us for the 2019-20 school year, and we look forward to developing a rich and supportive relationship with you and your child. Please share your family with us so that we can include, validate and celebrate each child’s familial relationships as part of our day-to-day interactions with your child, and all of our children. Here’s to a year of getting to know one another, to listening, to caring, to learning and growing.

    I look forward to seeing you at K-1-2 back-to-school night on Thursday, September 12. K-1-2 parents will meet briefly in the ballroom at 6 p.m. for brief introductions of the K-1-2 resource teachers and a few announcements. Afterwards, you will go to your child’s classroom until about 7:15 p.m. to learn a bit more about their child’s school day. Teachers are excited to welcome you and share with you. Remember, if you want to ask individual questions about your child, please contact your child’s classroom teachers to schedule a time to talk.


    Joanna Hambidge
    Head of K-1-2
    The Stanley British Primary School
    303-360-0803 ext.160

    Comments (-1)
  • Stanley Sketches: Koffi Toudji

    Posted by Stacey Toevs on 9/4/2019

    Koffi Meet Koffi Toudji, who joins the Middle School team formally as music teacher and homeroom partner with Ted and Molly this year. After leading grade-level and elective music classes for several years at Stanley, Koffi is pleased to be building a larger Stanley family. Son of chiefs and kings in his native Togo, Koffi studied accounting at university, worked for his family’s business and was expected to be fêted by dancers and musicians. Happily, he threw off the staid life of numbers for one of ebullience, life, music and dance. “To inspire everyone to embody their positive selves,” that’s his six-word phrase drawn from the Stanley staff’s summer reading. Koffi shares with students that we all have beats – literal heart beats – that unite us through the power of music and dance. He shares his culture with curious students, and grounds his classes in rhythyms and structure and the stories that music tells.

    Koffi's six words “I am beyond excited to start this 2019-20 school year as a full-time music/homeroom teacher. I love it here,” he says. During this school year, Koffi will help our students understand and embody the beats of music and its connection to our own heartbeats. “It is important to understand that without the heartbeats and music, none of us would be alive to do whatever we do for living. Besides playing and teaching music or dancing, I love telling silly stories to my children and family. I also love building musical instruments, playing sports, and, I LOVE smiling and laughing! We will have fun together while learning!”


    Outside of school, his Koffi Togo Vibe jazz ensemble produces a fusion of the heart pumping foundation of West African percussion rhythms, and the beautiful melodies of ngoni, balafon, guitar, keyboard, trumpet, saxophone and trombone. Koffi is also founder & CEO of Koffi Togo Cultural Center Foundation 501c3 (KTCCF). According to Koffi, most people around the world look to Africa for guidance in finding their own rhythms and musical styles due to the rich and diverse culture and traditions Africans have inherited from their ancestors. However, in recent trips back to Africa, Koffi has noticed a huge decline in the pride of their heritage, and a disconnection with the spiritual side of the arts Africans once had. Koffi wants to instill a positive sense of self in the children and people of Africa as they are the generations that have inspired so many musically and culturally. 


    His foundation, supported by many volunteers and family members in Togo (and here in Denver), Koffi’s dream is to create a community space where African children and people can reconnect to the quality and depth of their musical heritage, with an emphasis on maintaining this important cultural tradition and providing support in organically evolving the arts. Participants will learn the importance of being true ambassadors to their culture, and becoming quality leaders and instructors themselves so they may share this information with their future generations, as well as with more people worldwide. The space will also serve as a cultural learning center to teach and train visiting international students and provide a cultural exchange program for teachers from around the globe. 


    Koffi’s team is currently in phase 1 of the project. Construction of the maison, or housing facility, is well underway – and a new roof – after which true purpose of the build can finally be realized – is only $5,000 away. Saturday, September 21, Koffi Togo Cultural Center fundraiser takes place at the Cleo Parker Dance Theater – all are welcome, see the flier for details. Please visit www.koffitogo.com to learn more, and or to make a tax deductible donation to support the cause.

    Comments (-1)
  • 6th-grade humanities book clubs

    Posted by Julie Daughtry on 5/2/2019

    Curious what middle schoolers are reading nowadays? We've moved beyond "Huckleberry Finn" and "The Call of the Wild." In the last weeks of the school year, 6th-grade students will participate in a book club during Humanities class with Angelina and Julie. The goal is to encourage reading of books students might not choose on their own, and that have the added appeal of sparking good conversations. Take a look at these spring reading selections...

    All american boys All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

    Rashad Butler and Quinn Collins are two young men, one black and one white, whose lives are forever changed by an act of extreme police brutality. Rashad wakes up in a hospital. Quinn saw how he got there. And so did the video camera that taped the cop beating Rashad senseless into the pavement. Thus begins ALL AMERICAN BOYS, written in tandem by two of our great literary talents, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. The story is told in Rashad and Quinn’s alternating perspectives, as they grapple with the complications that spin out of this violent moment and reverberate in their families, school, and town. Over the course of one week, Rashad tries to find the strength to accept his role as the symbolic figure of the community’s response to police brutality, and Quinn tries to decide where he belongs in a town bitterly divided by racial tension.  Ultimately, the two narratives weave back together, in the moment in which the two boys, now changed, can actually see each other—the first step for healing and understanding in a country still deeply sick with racial injustice. Reynolds pens the voice of Rashad, and Kiely has taken the voice of Quinn.

    Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

    Esperanza believed her life would be wonderful forever. She would always live on her family's ranch in Mexico. She would always have fancy dresses and a beautiful home filled with servants. Papa and Abuelita would always be with her.

    But a sudden tragedy shatters her world and Esperanza and Mama flee to California, where they settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard labor, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, and lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick, and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances — because Mama's life and her own depend on it.

    One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

    In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. "This vibrant and moving award-winning novel has heart to spare."

    Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined.

    While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

    If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth

    Lewis "Shoe" Blake is used to the joys and difficulties of life on the Tuscarora Indian reservation in 1975: the joking, the Fireball games, the snow blowing through his roof. What he's not used to is white people being nice to him -- people like George Haddonfield, whose family recently moved to town with the Air Force. As the boys connect through their mutual passion for music, especially the Beatles, Lewis has to lie more and more to hide the reality of his family's poverty from George. He also has to deal with the vicious Evan Reininger, who makes Lewis the special target of his wrath. But when everyone else is on Evan's side, how can he be defeated? And if George finds out the truth about Lewis's home -- will he still be his friend?

    My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

    In this powerfully honest, quirkily humorous debut novel, first published in the U.K., 10-year-old narrator Jamie and his family are still dealing with his sister Rose’s death in a terrorist bombing five years earlier. After Rose’s twin, Jas, stakes her independence by dying her hair pink on her 15th birthday, the family falls apart—their mother runs off with another man, and their alcoholic father moves from London to the Lake District with the children, where he lavishes attention on Rose’s urn. Jamie’s pivotal friendship with a Muslim girl, Sunya, is a standout. Pitcher tackles grief, prejudice, religion, bullying, and familial instability through the unsentimental voice of a boy who loves Spider-Man and Manchester United, misses his mother, and—truth be told—doesn’t remember his dead sister all that well. The adults in Pitcher’s story may be a mess, but the kids are all right.

    Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

    Sixth-grader Grayson has ways of getting by—he doodles abstract triangles instead of the princesses he yearns to be, and he wears oversize T-shirts and loose pants instead of the skirts and dresses he longs for. Grayson’s aunt and uncle worry about his isolation (his parents died when he was small), and they are thrilled when he makes his first friend in years and tries out for the school play. They’re less thrilled to learn he auditioned for the lead role—the Greek goddess Persephone. Debut author Polonsky uses the play effectively, showing the community that builds among the actors, Grayson’s connection to Persephone and her underground captivity, and the tensions swirling around the casting choice and the play’s director, a popular teacher who may or may not be gay. Polonsky skillfully conveys Grayson’s acute loneliness and his growing willingness to open up about who he is, though the book has a dutiful feel in its efforts to raise awareness about gender nonconforming and transgender preteens.

    A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

    Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red—but not yellow or brown—foods and screams when he is touched. Strange as he may seem, other people are far more of a conundrum to him, for he lacks the intuitive "theory of mind" by which most of us sense what's going on in other people's heads. When his neighbor's poodle is killed and Christopher is falsely accused of the crime, he decides that he will take a page from Sherlock Holmes (one of his favorite characters) and track down the killer. As the mystery leads him to the secrets of his parents' broken marriage and then into an odyssey to find his place in the world, he must fall back on deductive logic to navigate the emotional complexities of a social world that remains a closed book to him. In the hands of first-time novelist Haddon, Christopher is a fascinating case study and, above all, a sympathetic boy: not closed off, as the stereotype would have it, but too open—overwhelmed by sensations, bereft of the filters through which normal people screen their surroundings. Christopher can only make sense of the chaos of stimuli by imposing arbitrary patterns ("4 yellow cars in a row made it a Black Day, which is a day when I don't speak to anyone and sit on my own reading books and don't eat my lunch and Take No Risks "). His literal-minded observations make for a kind of poetic sensibility and a poignant evocation of character. Though Christopher insists, "This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them," the novel brims with touching, ironic humor. The result is an eye-opening work in a unique and compelling literary voice.

    Comments (-1)
  • K-2 Social Emotional Class wraps up 2018-19

    Posted by Allison Neckers on 4/23/2019

    This spring in social/emotional class we have focused on five main areas:


    1. Problem Solving
    2. Problems Verses Reaction Sizes
    3. Impulse/Self Control
    4. Empathy for the Earth
    5. Stranger Safety


    Throughout the spring, the class discussed and role-played a variety of problem solving techniques such as: walking away, talking it out, using I-messages, ignoring it and asking for help.  We looked at ways we can escalate problems when we yell, pout, jump to conclusions, ignore, become physical, others into it or fail to use self-control. We also looked at problems verses reaction sizes during a lesson from “Lil Gloria” who realized the need to calm her body down to let out anger out in a healthy way as opposed to it bursting out and making a sticky situation.  


    Friends To demonstrate the power of self-control to deescalate a problem, students took part in a marshmallow test.  The students were each given a marshmallow at the beginning of class. If they chose not to eat it (using good self-control) they could get a second one 15 minutes later.  After completing this challenge and a bubble challenge we discussed when self control is important, the benefits of it at home, in class, on the playground, in extracurricular activities and with friends.  We said that we need to practice self-control, so we know we can tap into it during times when it is most needed.


    In April, as Earth Week approached, we read The Wump World by Bill Peet. In the book the Wump’s world is threatened by an invasive human population known as the Pollutians. They come from a distant land and begin building their world and in the process destroy the grassy lands that the Wumps need to survive forcing them down into underground caves.


    The Pollutians continued to dirty the water, air and land so that they themselves eventually couldn’t breathe and are forced to leave.  When the Wumps finally reappear they find their world is filled with concrete and buildings.


    At the end of the story there is hope as the rain eventually cleans the air and plants begin to grow up through cracks.


    This book provided a rich opportunity for discussion because the students could see the parallels between the Pollutians and human beings.  These activities provoked questions like, “ Who is impacted when we pollute? Do we care? And if so, what can we do about it? ” 

    We then watched a movie called, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and looked for ways to reduce our trash impact. 


    As summer vacation is almost upon us, the social/emotional class ended the year reviewing safety. In May, the class turned to stranger safety. We began the unit by talking about all of the ways we feel safe at Stanley and in our homes including locks on doors, family rules about strangers and the abundance of adult support in each setting.


    We then discussed who is a stranger (safe/unsafe), what lures an unsafe stranger might use, and what can be done if we encounter an unsafe stranger. 


    Below you will find some of the responses the children gave. Please continue to discuss this and/or add any new ones to the lists.  Even though statistically speaking actual incidents of abductions from strangers are rare, our goal is to educate the students about possible dangers and build their confidence and self-esteem around staying as safe as possible.


    To wrap-up the month of May we discussed important safety information each child should know including: responsible adult’s first and last name, cell phone numbers, home phone number, street address and city name. Please continue to help your child learn this important information.


    With any questions or concerns please feel free to call or email me.


    Thank you,


    Allison Neckers

    Social/Emotional Teacher K-2


    A Safe Stranger is…

    An Unsafe Stranger is…

    *A safe stranger will ask other grown-ups questions like: “Which way do I need     

    to go?” or “Can you help me with something?’” or “Do you know whose house this is?”

    *An unsafe stranger will ask a child questions like: “Which way do I need to go?” or “Can you help me with something?” or “Do you know whose house this is?” An unsafe stranger will try to trick a child.



    A Lure might be…

    Ways to Stay Safe…

    *a lost pet

    * Stay with a trusted adult in a public place


    *Follow safety rules

    *a gift

    * Listen to your feelings. If you’re uncomfortable tell a trusted adult

    * ”Your mom & dad told me to come.”

    * If a stranger or someone you know asks you  to keep a secret from adults, do not!

    *fun experience

    * Use the “No-Go-Tell” system

    * asking directions

    * Do not worry about being polite or respectful if you feel uncomfortable in any way.

    * Your parents are hurt

    * Private parts are just that. Please tell a trusted adult if as stranger or somebody you know makes you feel uncomfortable.

    Comments (-1)
  • Planning with Intentionality

    Posted by Angelina Nicol on 2/28/2019

    A model for purposeful learning in the Middle School

    Walk into any K-8 classroom at Stanley and you will see teachers collaborating. In the Middle School, our learning model allows for weekly co-planning sessions as well as co-teaching with academic area teachers. This model for collaboration allows for an in-depth look at curriculum and teaching practices and creates a space for students to access information according to their learning profiles. This approach is also intentionally aligned with Stanley’s philosophy – knowing our students and providing them with the challenges, supports and skills necessary to be resourceful in their learning.

    During these collaborative planning and teaching sessions, teachers and a learning specialist come together to:

    • Discuss big picture goals for units – Outlining big picture goals helps teachers align their daily assignments and activities toward those goals. This also makes space for learners to meet the big picture goals in different ways.
    • Long- and short-term planning – Planning sessions are flexible and geared toward what each teacher needs for their students and their curriculum. While some planning sessions lend themselves to more long-term ideas and structure, others are focused on weekly and daily planning. Using the goals teachers have created for honing their craft, as well as observations from time in the classrooms and an astute knowledge of the diverse learners, we are able to tailor each planning session to the needs of the teacher and students within each class.
    • Bringing it down to the students in the room – Once goals and objectives for lessons are ironed out, teachers focus in on the learners, thinking about how they can apply knowledge of each student to determine how the students in the room will meet those learning goals and objectives
      • Differentiation occurs here, where the learning specialist and the academic teachers determine how students will be challenged or supported in any given lesson or unit.
    • Teaching models Structuring co-teaching roles – Utilizing models of co-teaching ensures that all learners within the room are supported in different ways with each teacher and can create a rich and diverse learning environment. Ask your students when they have engaged with two teachers in the classroom and some of the experiences they have had with stations, small group discussions with one of the teachers and two teachers at the front of the room. All of these co-teaching models allow for more teacher student interaction and lower student-to-teacher ratios. (See graphic for visual depictions of the following models.)
      • Parallel teaching
      • Station teaching
      • Alternative (small group) teaching
      • Team teaching
      • One teach, one support 

    An example of the co-planning and co-teaching process in 7th-grade math

    •  Susan and Art looked at the algebra unit before it began, listing each content area goal-specific objective regarding what students will know and be able to do. For example, all students will be able to solve a two-step algebra equation with one variable.
    • Next, daily lessons were reviewed and aligned to the goals and objectives for learners. For example: Day 1 – one-step equations with addition and subtraction; Day 2 – one-step equations with multiplication and division.
    • After outlining daily lessons, the teachers look at each of the lessons and think about all of the different learning styles and needs within the class, posing questions like:
      • How might someone who needs repetition to master a concept get enough practice without falling behind?
      • When a student grasps the concept quickly, how can we provide different options for extension without just adding more?
      • How are we reaching the visual learner, the auditory learner, the kinesthetic learner, etc.?
      • How are we varying content of the lesson, the process of the work and the product to show learning?
      • Who might this be challenging for and why?
      • What scaffolding are we providing?
      • What resources do students have access to in the physical and virtual classrooms?
      • How might we group students to best increase learning?
    • The teachers discuss these questions and many more and adjust lessons accordingly. Adjustments may include: 1) Teaching a class period using the Alternative Teaching model of one group of students working independently with extra practice on one-step equations that involve addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; 2) a teacher working with a group that needs reteaching or more strategies for one-step equations that may include a list of steps, talking out-loud through each problem, using manipulatives to show what is happening and allowing time for students ask clarifying questions; and 3) a third group works on one-step equations that incorporate fractions or are representative of geometry to apply algebraic equations to area and making that connection.
    • Throughout the unit, through co-teaching and observing what is happening in the math classroom, Art and Susan can continually tweak the methods for process and product to meet both the needs of the learners and the learning goals and objectives for the unit. Modifications may include alternative assessments, varied experiential stations, adjusted teaching techniques, and opportunities for extension of thinking as needs and opportunities arise.
    Comments (-1)
  • After Hours with Extended Day

    Posted by Stacey Toevs on 2/14/2019

    Ask Barbara Guynn about Extended Day’s mission, and she’ll tell you it’s “a fun safe place for children to be.” That’s one of those sentences that rolls around in your head and sorts itself into deeper meanings. Yes, Stanley’s Extended Day program is safe and fun and a good place in which to be, but it’s also a great place for kids to simply “be,” and a great place for a kid to be a kid.


    Barbara and friend making Valentine's cookies “Some after-school programs are oriented around academics,” says Barbara, our extended day director, “but Carolyn Hambidge’s vision, which we share, is to support the social-emotional qualities that make children happy and ready to learn.” The program is a great way for kids to develop interpersonal skills – with other students and adults – and to create and maintain friendships across grade levels. The extended day team also takes seriously its role supporting working families – catering to the spectrum of Stanley’s socio-economic and cultural diversity – and being a haven where children connect with others like themselves.


    For Stanley students staying after school, a typical week often includes an enrichment class or two for K-5s, sports for Middle School students, and then time spent in our ever-steady Extended Day room in the Hambidge Commons. Tucked away near the K-1-2 hallway, the hub of a classroom includes zones for playing, reading, arts and homework, and represents a hive of indoor and outdoor activities between 3 and 6 p.m.


    "It's like going back in time to my own childhood," notes Extended Day teacher and Stanley substitute Randi. Everything is so familiar and warm, and intentionally low-tech. You won't see a TV blasting (though movies and wii tournaments aren't unheard of on a long conference day or during the week). Most activities are hands-on and collaborative, and the pace of the Extended Day room is more sedate, less hustle-bustle.


    Barbara and the Extended Day staff provide a home-like atmosphere as much as possible, with daily read-aloud (led by staff and older students), snacks, choice, free-play and crafts activities. The staff plans special events in advance throughout each session, which often connect with multicultural holidays and occasions taking place at the time. This month, kids in Extended Day will have a chance to make soap, African masks, cookies and paper dragons and celebrate George Washington Carver and the Chinese New Year. There are other traditions that pop up throughout the program’s calendar like the Thank You Autumn Tea, Splash Day (borrowed from the book “The Story of Tar Beach”), two breakfast feasts, the Soup Festival (patterned after the book “Stone Soup”), and more.


    Barbara and the team also take advantage of early childhood workshops and conferences through Colorado Shines for professional development, with the bottom line always to make kids feel at home, cared for, and comfortable in a place they can simply be.


    One final note: Just today, Barbara's team received a Valentine from a current parent that speaks volumes:  

    "I just wanted to let you know that as we walked out of extended day yesterday, my son said 'Mom, I love extended day!' Thank you so much for providing a fun environment for the kids!"


    Drop in to the Extended Day room anytime in the morning beginning at 7 a.m. or in the afternoon starting at 2 p.m. to meet Barbara. You can sign up for Extended Day on the school’s ordering website at stanleybps.boonli.com. And remember, there are “Last-Minute” enrichment and Extended Day drop-in slots available on our ordering system should you ever need after-school coverage at the last minute.

    Comments (-1)
  • Social Emotional Class – Fairness, Equality, Empathy

    Posted by Allison Neckers on 2/7/2019

    In K-5 social-emotional classes, beginning in January, we set out to grow our definition of fairness. In the beginning we were on a spectrum of understanding fairness to mean simply sharing equally and treating people the same regardless of outside appearance, money or age. After seven weeks however, we have come to discover that fairness is bigger than just that. Here’s an overview from Allison and Laura of how we’ve spent our time in K-1-2 and 3-4-5 settings:


    K-1-2 Fairness Studies:

    We spent time role playing, taking part in class simulations and reading books about fairness; we found fairness can also mean taking turns, listening to others, equal rights, playing by the rules of the game, being respectful and understanding that fair doesn’t always have to be the same for everyone. Sometimes fairness can mean giving people what they need when they need it to be successful. In the end we determined that playing with fair people is more fun.


    Equity v Equality At the beginning of the semester, the K-1-2s, participated in lessons to that invited them into what it might feel like to be treated unfairly, excluded or discriminated against. In one such lesson, the class took part in a simulation where students were judged by the color of the sticker they randomly received at the door.


    During the simulation, the students were challenged to make fairness posters. They were given supply bags based on the color sticker they received. If they had a yellow sticker, they had limited resources (broken pencils and crayons) and if they were given an orange sticker, they received an abundance of supplies including: scissors, glue sticks, pompoms, Popsicle sticks, etc. Throughout the 10-minute activity, orange sticker students were clearly favored with preferential seats, water breaks and snacks.


    During a follow-up discussion, both sides agreed that it was unfair. Most said it was upsetting and deeply frustrating they were judged by the color of their sticker and not the content of their character. Many with orange stickers empathized with students who were not as privileged, and some chose "boycotting" the privileged snack since not all of their peers could partake. This activity touched the students deeply and laid the foundation to future discussions related to MLK, upstanders and peaceful protests despite having very strong feelings.


    In February, we shifted our definition saying that while fair is sharing equally, it can also mean giving people what they need when they need it to be successful. To make it relevant to the student’s lives, we read a book called “Looking after Louis” about a young boy with autism. In the book, one of his classmates perceives that he is getting preferential treatment from their teacher until the student sees it firsthand his needs. She then understands that fairness is not always equal, but rather giving people what they need when they need it to be successful.


    We then played a game where students could see how this is true both at home and at school. A couple of examples we discussed in the game were: 1. At home, an older sibling might stay up later than a younger sibling because they require less sleep or have more homework. 2. At school, while everyone has a spot in the meeting area, some students need special chairs to help them better be able to focus.


    To culminate, we discussed upstanders (i.e. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc.) both past and present who have stood up to injustice and made a positive difference in the world. We then, watched a clip from the movie Charlotte’s Web. In it, Fern STANDS UP to her dad when he thinks he needs to kill Wilbur because he is a runt. Fern yells, “It’s not fair! If I were little, would you kill me too?”


    Students took the last few minutes to brainstorm for whom or what they might be upstanders. Some ideas included: siblings, the environment, people with disabilities, the elderly, pets, wild animals, our oceans, etc.


    I cannot wait to see where each of these children follows their passions and make a positive difference in the world.


    What a treat it is to work with the K-2 children each week. Thank you –Allison Neckers, social-emotional teacher (K-1-2)


    3-4-5 Fairness Activities

    To spring off the new year, our social emotional morning meetings in 345 have been focusing on the topic of Fairness, Equality and Empathy. In addition to deepening our understanding of these concepts, the primary goal of these discussions is to spark empathy and raise awareness of how each individual may impact our world as an Upstander when observing things that are unfair.


    It's fair In order to illustrate these concepts, the students first engaged in a mock clapping contest designed to encourage them to question the concept of fairness. Students were able to identify which elements of the contest were unfair, how the experience of being treated unfairly made them feel, as well as, how they could redesign the contest rules to reflect fairness and equality.


    Secondly, the children focused on examining the difference between Equality and Equity. We discussed how equity equals fairness by giving people what they need when they need it to be successful, so they have access to the same opportunities. In contrast, we clarified how equality equals sameness and only works if everyone starts from the same place. The children reflected on how they observe equity and equality in a variety of settings including the classroom, on the playground and at home.


    Our discussion revealed how we must first ensure equity before we can enjoy equality. Furthermore, the children participated in an activity demonstrating how fairness leads to a more fun experience.


    Finally, we talked about the power of standing up when things are unfair. The children watched a powerful video chronicling how one 5th grade class channeled their empathy to help support a couple who had experienced civil rights injustice. The children explored some small ways they can practice fairness every day and brainstormed some Upstanding ideas to try when someone isn’t being fair.


    The visuals accompanying this article provided helpful illustrations of these concepts for the 3-4-5 students.


    Thank you for the conversations you have at home to support learning at school. –Laura Weil, social-emotional teacher (3-4-5)

    Comments (-1)
  • "Midsummer Night's Dream" performances on video

    Posted by Laura Gibson on 1/31/2019

    The Shakespeare videos are in!  Depending on which section your child was in at the beginning of the year, you can copy and paste the Vimeo link into your browser and then enter the password to view it.  I would recommend downloading the videos if you want to keep them for longevity's sake.


    Midsummer Note: These Vimeo links are private, so they cannot be accessed without a password. Let me know if you have any technological issues with accessing them, and I will get in touch with Ken Longoria (our videographer) about them.


    Thanks for your patience!!


    6-1 Vimeo Link:  https://vimeo.com/305439091

    password - Puck1


    6-2 Vimeo Link:  https://vimeo.com/307128599

    password - Fairy 2


    6-3 Vimeo Link:  https://vimeo.com/307121224

    password - Oberon

    Comments (-1)
  • Do we need an alliance group for students of color at Stanley?

    Posted by Donna Meallet on 1/24/2019

    Even in the most progressive independent schools, issues of race often lie just below the surface of children’s daily experiences. To alleviate this experience, we’re taking one step in the Middle School to help connect students of color with one another on a regular basis. Our new Middle School Students of Color Affinity group (SOCA) will allow students to gather, talk in a safe space about issues related to their identity, and transfer that discussion into action that makes for a more equitable experience at school.


    SOCA's first meeting Do we really need an affinity group for students who self-identify as students of color? The authors of “Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves” Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards, describe how the physical features that children see — such as eye shape, skin color and hair texture — are connected to our society’s description of race. This physical recognition is children’s first encounter with racial differences. And while Stanley begins early to know all students, give students the chance to do the same, and to give them tools to talk about identity – when children are eager to examine their similarities and differences – still students of color often feel the weight of being one of few in a classroom, in a book group, in a discussion about race.


    Identity and success in the independent school

    How does current research inform us about the experiences of children of color in schools where the dominant racial culture is white? A 2003 study by Edith Arrington, Diane Hall and Howard Stevenson examined the variables that lead to success for African-American students in independent schools.

    Of the students interviewed: 75 percent reported making a special effort to fit into their school communities; 82 percent reported that they had negative school experiences; and 40 percent did not believe the school treated all students the same.


    The authors concluded that, “For black students, success is best defined by a strong sense of connection to the school community; a positive sense of self across contexts, but especially in the school; social and emotional health; and a racial identity that would serve as a resource as they develop, but particularly when students encounter racism.”


    Another Independent School article by Michael Thompson and Kathy Schultz (2003), focusing on the “Psychological Experiences of Students of Color in Independent Schools,” highlights the fact that students of color, because they are in predominantly white schools, often experience intense social loneliness.


    A video, “Independent School Seniors on the Importance of Affinity Groups” from the Southern California People of Color in Independent Schools, gives an idea of the power of affiliation groups within schools like Stanley.


    A mission-driven mission

    Stanley’s SOCA group launch is based in our mission and heritage. Stanley’s mission points in several places to the importance of developing each individual’s voice. Our mission states that “We engage, challenge and inspire children to reach their potential and develop their own voices within an inclusive, diverse and collaborative community that values distinct contributions and abilities.”


    Two of our stated school values directly associate seeing the whole child with important social-emotional and societal values. Our mission states that understanding ourselves as individuals promotes positive relationships:We value individuality. We recognize each child is unique and significant; therefore, we respect and build positive relationships with children and encourage them to know themselves – their strengths, challenges, learning style, culture and interests.”


    Our school values also promote diversity within the wider world and in each individual’s social responsibility role: “We value diversity of all kinds – in students, staff and parents. We develop in children an understanding of similarities and differences in people and the ability to make socially responsible decisions. Towards this end we promote flexibility, resourcefulness, critical thinking and communication.”


    The SOCA is also in keeping with Founding Head Carolyn Hambidge’s vision for Stanley to see the whole child. Educated at the Froebel Institute, Carolyn’s views as an educator brought to life in this school include an intense respect for the person being taught, and the belief that education should be focused on personal growth, fulfillment and care for others.


    Faculty and staff at Stanley believe that diversity and multiculturalism are intrinsic to quality education for all. It is staff and students with this belief that will foster the Stanley SOCA through its first year and beyond, staying close to our mission, and working closely with each other.


    Launching the SOCA at Stanley

    Our SOCA had its first meeting on Friday welcoming about 20 students and five Stanley staff members. It was inspired into being by the germ of an idea from a recent National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference and preceded by weeks of planning and training on affinity groups and best practices, and manifested by the passion of several staff members.


    A letter to went to all Middle School parents from Head of Middle School Greg Chalfin, and the program was kicked off at a Middle School assembly in mid-January noting that I will be facilitating the SOCA group monthly at lunch, and that another group – for students who do not self-identify as Students of Color and wish to learn more about work around being an ally in diversity work – will have an opportunity to do so monthly at lunch with Middle School Counselor Stephanie. Neither opportunity is required for any student, but these spaces are important places for students who seek to have a place to explore their own identity.


    Staff members joining in the inaugural meeting of the SOCA were Jairo Barsallo, Leneta Jones (co-chair of our Multicultural Affairs Committee), Valentina Reiling, Catalina Rincon and myself. Several alums also participated including Katie Boston (current long-term sub), Max Leo, Alex Meallet and Carla Mestas (founder of the CIRCLE organization here in Denver). We were also joined by visiting activist and facilitator Jeremy Michael Vasquez, who worked with Middle School and 3-4-5 students on social activism last semester and facilitated our all-school Martin Luther King Jr. assembly on Friday.


    In his letter, Greg noted that the SOCA is part of the Middle School’s overall initiative to support student voice on campus. “In alliance with the Gender and Sexuality Alliance started by Angelina and Grace in the first semester,” says Greg, “affinity groups offer an opportunity for students to learn, grow, affirm their own identity, and feel empowered both individually and as a group for who they are and what they believe. Through this open dialogue and meaningful conversations, we believe that this will help fulfill Stanley’s mission for students ‘to know themselves – their strengths, challenges, learning style, culture and interests.’ I am excited for the wonderful growth happening within our community for our students and our staff.“


    Let’s get started

    How do you define racial identity development? Beverly Daniel Tatum in “Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” describes it as “the process of defining for oneself the personal significance and social meaning of belonging to a particular racial group.” Children internalize aspects of racial identity from the adults and peers around them. For students of color in predominately white independent schools, resisting negative stereotypes and affirming carefully considered definitions of themselves are critical to counterbalance the limited number of role models who mirror them racially.


    We know that it is not a one-shot deal, we know we need to be continuously engaged with school personnel about how to talk about common ground with students and parents. Children will have developmentally appropriate questions and teachers will need to respond accordingly. 


    We believe that  through open dialog and meaningful conversations more members of the school community will come to understand that well-facilitated, racial affinity groups are gatherings that enable positive identity exploration and are good places where people can pose questions and process issues. As a learning base, affinity groups offer affirmation of identity, empowerment of the individual, and empowerment of the group within the learning community.


    A short list of goals for the program, include:

    • Conduct a Racial Climate Assessment to obtain useful data about students’ school experiences. 
    • Facilitate positive identity exploration, self-awareness, pride, and self-esteem through books, games, discussion, and structured play activities that connect students to each other. 
    • Provide students with the opportunity to discuss topics of race, identity, and diversity in a safe space that will enable students of color to develop their voices. 
    • Encourage and develop leadership skills. 
    • Develop accurate language and vocabulary to describe themselves and others. 
    • Increase the school’s ability to recruit and retain families and teachers of color. 
    • Provide a majority experience for students regularly who are in the minority at school.


    On Friday, as a group, the SOCA laid ground rules like “Don’t put down other races. Don’t label other races as ‘others’”; “Be supportive. Respect the speaker”; “Respect those not in the room by not using names when talking about other people”; And “Don’t put words in other people’s mouths.” The played an ice breaker aimed at taking apart first impressions, and why we all associate certain traits with certain people.” Together, they forged on to establishing mission and goals in collaboration with all of the group members, aligning with Stanley’s mission and vision and communicating the group’s core values and common interests.


    Going Forward

    Attending the SOCA lunch is completely optional, and important that it is so. Our goal is for everyone to feel as though they have a safe and comfortable spot. Through continued education efforts at all levels, we will grow together as community in our understanding of each other and the work it takes to be a diverse and welcoming community.


    Affinity Group lunches are designed for students to develop and strengthen their own racial/ethnic/group identity rather than as a time to learn about others. The qualitative difference between affinity group work and other aspects of school is that safety and trust must be fostered, expected, and assured by each member to explore shared racial/ethnic/group identity development.


    Some of this work is uncomfortable—no question. We will be working with all the students throughout the remainder of the year on developing skills and working with issues of oppression in a variety of forms. This is a journey and there is no quick, easy or right resolution.

    While we know that what often drives inclusivity practices is the desire for universalism and “equity through neutrality,” we know that in fact the end result can be the silencing of the needs, concerns and experiences of the marginalized members of our community. We don’t want any of our children, or their families to feel they have to “check any part of themselves at the door” or not feel the joy of being seen and appreciated for their authentic selves. Some of us may be uncomfortable as a result, but we are working towards becoming a community where it is safe to be yourself and know that you are welcome.


    Goals for students

    Ultimately, our planning and process boil down to what students can expect to experience – and making that our top priority. Why would they want to participate in affinity group dialogues?

    • Through talking with people who are like us, we can gain new insights into our own beliefs as well as others.
    • We can gain support. We can practice talking about difficult issues before we join discussions in a mixed group.
    • We can unpack our own “baggage” before joining dialogues with mixed groups.
    • We’ll get beyond celebration. An affinity group should not be simply an “identity pride” space. Together, we can ensure the SOCA translates conversation around identity-related issues into action that helps mitigate those issues at your school.
    • We’ll focus on empowerment or allyship and explore different ways to work with others. Effective affinity groups serve the needs of marginalized students — those outside the dominant culture— to undermine systemic inequities. A group that is only about the identity of whiteness, without acknowledging the dominance of whiteness as a source of inequity, will fail to meet this goal.
    • Together, we’ll gain mutual support, new relationships and trust and learn that we have a voice in making a difference.


    The SOCA meets on Friday during lunch in the Pub. All middle school students of color are welcome to join these conversations. In Session 1, we connected with the issue of racism and each other. In Session 2, we will talk about how people from different backgrounds can bring about change in the community. In Session 3, we’ll reconnect and identify what action we can take.



    Donna Meallet




    Identity Development Theories Resources

    Comments (-1)