Learning Report Blog

  • From MSLR: Learning Like a Jungle Tiger

    Posted by Middle School Learning Resource Team on 1/16/2020

    At Stanley, teachers are always looking for new ways to get better and grow in our practice. We live and breathe the idea of being a lifelong learner. In a quest for new ideas and ways of thinking, one of our middle school learning specialists attended a conference on learning. At The Learner Workshop, Trevor Ragan and his team at The Learner Lab, introduced the concept of learning like a ‘jungle tiger.’ 


    Learning Resources Jungle tigers are ready to learn, ready to try, and ready to fail. They know that they must persist and try a new strategy when they fail; that they are unable to quit and say, ‘I must not be the hunting type.’ This is the zone in which we learn. 


    Zoo tigers are in their comfort zone, always getting what they need and taking very little risks. This is where we like to be, but not where we are learning. The zoo tiger will not survive in the wild.


    Key Ideas from The Learning Workshop:

    • In order to learn anything new, we need to be in the jungle, not the zoo
    • Fear and stories keep us in the zoo
    • We can use good science to overcome our stories and fear in order to spend more time in the jungle and become better learners


    Connection to Curriculum in the Middle School

    In the middle school Learning Center, we spent the first part of the year exploring the idea of being a ‘jungle tiger’ versus a ‘zoo tiger.’ We discussed that jungle tigers take risks in their learning, knowing it will be challenging and uncomfortable and explored the stories and fear that can keep us in the zoo and away from learning opportunities. Then as jungle tigers, we examined our executive function skills, what they are, and strategies we can use to support these skills as related to the content happening in the classrooms. 


    We want students to objectively examine their learning, much like a scientist would. We want them to experiment and fail, feel the pain of that, notice what went wrong, and develop new strategies for next time. We want students to name the strategies that work for them and become advocates who own their learning and the unique way in which they can approach their learning. 


    Modeling For Our Children

    One of the most important ways we can support our children, then, is to model this process for them. We know that when we learn through modeling, skills and strategies are better learned and transferred. At home is a wonderful place to continue the learning and modeling of the process.


    When a parent can share their stories and fear that could be holding them back from taking opportunities to learn and grow for themselves, they are normalizing the process for their children. Talking about the places and spaces in which we feel challenged and need to jungle tiger can open up the conversation for risk-taking, and allow a space to feel uncomfortable together.


    A parent may say:

    • I am afraid to do this. 
    • Oh man, my brain just told me a story that I might look bad trying, so I almost didn’t try! 
    • Wow, I am really working through the fear that I will fail at this right now. 
    • I failed at ____. I need to take a step back and examine how that happened and what to try next. 
    • I can appreciate that within this challenge, there is something that will help me grow.


    Think about:

    • What are the stories that keep you in the zoo? 
    • When is the fear center of your brain keeping you from taking a risk? And how can you notice the fear, move through it, and try anyway?
    • Have you discussed one of your own failures with your student today? 


    Let’s demystify the process of learning, become objective about our own learning, get messy, and take more risks together. 

    Information adapted from The Learner Workshop, summer 2019, and from thelearnerlab.com

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  • From Greg: Middle School - What are we doing here? Gratitude, indefatigability, community and a desire to learn

    Posted by Greg Chalfin on 1/9/2020

    When I meet people outside of Stanley and tell them I’m in education and work with middle schoolers, the response I usually get is one that is suggestive of an unfortunate middle school experience. Channeling their own angst, new acquaintances have gone as far as to question my sanity or accused me of masochism. These people, of course, haven’t met our amazing student body, and as I explain to them, it is the important challenge and profound impact of these years that serve as primary reasons the exemplary middle school faculty and I choose to work this age of students. Simply put, embracing the mess and helping unlock the puzzle that is the life of a middle schooler makes coming to Stanley every day such a joy.

    Middle School class and Buddies rehearse
    Over break, I had the opportunity to connect with some former students from my work prior to Stanley. Now in college, these students reflected back to their middle and high school years with me, updating me on classmates, informing me of new social media trends, and reminiscing about years gone by and funny moments from their past. The students who contacted me to get together were among the “messiest” of my students, kids who struggled in school to discover who they are and what they wished to become. It might come as no surprise then that these families were among the most distressed, anxious, even fearful of what the future might hold for their kids. A failed test or a poor decision could send them into a tailspin, projecting that the, for example, failed science test would lead to a life of disappointment, even failure.

    Life post-middle school and high school, of course, has been nothing like that for these kids. The students are thriving, telling me about their classes and how well prepared they have been to navigate the social and academic pressures in front of them. Just prior to seeing these former students, I heard the same refrain from former Stanley students as well. While I haven’t been here long, I had a truly joyous evening right before break spending time with many Stanley alums at the Alumni Holiday Party. Both recent graduates from the Class of 2019 and adults who graduated before the school ever moved to its current campus reflected on how Stanley prepared them well to be well-adjusted, kind, empathetic, and intellectually curious individuals. I left proud to be part of such a positive and impactful community that has a legacy of wonderful success.

    The teenage years of middle school and high school can be a time of fear for families. What path will my child choose? How will they find their way in the world? How can I prepare them, even protect them, from a world seemingly evolving more rapidly each and every day? The fact of the matter is the middle school faculty and I don’t have specific answers to these questions. 2020 will look different, perhaps even unrecognizable, from 2030, 2040, and 2050. However, the universal truths, the ones I hear as hallmarks of what students have been thankful for after emerging from the turbulence of adolescence through a supportive experience at Stanley are gratitude for understandings of self, the value of community, a desire to learn more, and possessing an indefatigable spirit in the face of adversity. These tenets align and capture Stanley’s goals for its students: self-awareness, collaboration, respect, curiosity, perseverance, academic resourcefulness, and joyful, lifelong learning.

    When your child comes home stressed or upset in the coming weeks, their world seemingly crumbling right before your eyes, fear and panic may enter your bloodstream. Nothing could be more normal. In those moments, I invite you to picture your child as an alum, cheerfully chatting with former teachers and Bulldogs, young and old. I promise you it’s a beautiful vision to see. 

    All the best,


    PS There are many amazing middle school events upcoming, opportunities to discuss important topics in the coming weeks around identity, social pressures, substance abuse, learning differences and more. All of these opportunities created are intentional to helping middle schoolers and their families navigate the turbulent waters that can be early adolescence. Indeed, it can be a scary proposition to tackle all of the pressures facing our children, and it is why I am truly grateful to be part of a community where school-parent partnerships are valued so highly. Thank you sincerely for all of your support.

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  • Expanding the cultural classroom in K-1-2 Room 2

    Posted by Susannah, Lilly & Kate on 12/5/2019

    Teachers Susannah, Lilly and Kate in classroom 2 on the K-1-2 hallway are encouraging students to share a bit of themselves in weekly “Culture Club” share-time. Many students at this age love to share in morning meeting, and the regular practice makes it easier for retiring kids to do so; and it gives classmates a larger view of the lived experiences around them.


    Why is it important to celebrate our home culture at school? The teachers in room 2 wanted to find a way to bring into the classroom the diverse backgrounds and cultures that go on outside of simply learning about and celebrating holidays. We believe celebrating and learning about ourselves and others’ cultures helps develop a positive self identity and build self esteem, says Susannah. “Culture Club was born out of our desire to expand understanding of each other and to celebrate what makes each of us unique.” We know that cultural appreciation and awareness contribute to building a positive self image. Developing a strong foundation of belonging and acceptance through cultural celebration and education helps children to create a diverse social network and builds knowledge and empathy throughout our lives.


    Each week a student is “Star of the Week.” In addition to sharing photographs and items from home, the K12-2 teachers ask each student, along with their families, to bring in a way to teach others about their culture. Whether that looks like baking Nonna bread with your grandfather or sharing a lucky red envelope from China, everyone has enjoyed getting to know the classroom’s families and their cultures on a new level.


    Room 2’s doors are open! If you have a chance to visit the K-1-2 hallway, make sure you stop by their Culture Club board to marvel at the beautiful diversity that makes up our classroom and our school.


    Culture club reel
    Pictured left to right: Hanna, Noah and Bahazhonii share a view into their cultures -- Iranian New Year, China, and Montana’s Prairie Chicken Dance performed by a child of both the Dine'-Navajo and Haliwa-Saponi tribes.

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  • From Emily: What kids want you to know...

    Posted by Emily Goldberg on 10/17/2019

    At the 6th parent coffee on Thursday, someone asked me what I think their children would want them to know. That was a great question, and also a tough one. Often, middle schoolers themselves don’t even know how they’re feeling or what they’re thinking, so for the rest of us to try to figure out what might be going on is a serious challenge.

    cross country What we do know about young adolescent development is that kids this age are trying to figure out who they are, and where they fit in. It turns out brain development isn’t complete until about the age of 25, so expecting our kids to have impulse control and to understand fully the consequences of their actions is unrealistic. However, this is the perfect age for them to be learning, from the caring adults in their lives, how to make decisions and resolve conflicts while they’re in the process of determining who they want to be.

    When your child comes home with a problem, seems distraught, is so agitated about something that he or she might even have trouble getting the words out, the best thing to do is…nothing. (Unless he or she is bleeding or has stopped breathing, in which case, action is definitely required.) I know how hard it is not to jump in immediately with a list of possible, and guaranteed, solutions. After all, we’re older, we’re more experienced, why shouldn’t our kids benefit from our knowledge? The answer is, because it won’t actually benefit our kids in the long run, and probably not even in the short-term. You don’t do your kids’ homework for them (I hope). And the reason you don’t is because you want them to learn the material for themselves, even though you could provide the answers in a heartbeat.

    The same is true for problem-solving in social and life-situations. The absolute best thing you can do for your child is listen. Just listen. I’ll take it one step further and strongly suggest that you listen without judgment. And, further still, try not to have any facial expressions. No raised eyebrows, no frowning, no pursing your lips, no shaking your head, no looking at your spouse and rolling your eyes. And definitely no long-suffering sighs. So much easier said than done, I know! Why is this so important? Because, as your child gets older, he or she will be much more likely to come to you for advice, with questions, describing tricky scenarios if he or she doesn’t feel judged by you. You want this because, eventually, your child will want to know from you how to handle situations involving sex and drugs and other potentially-dangerous circumstances. So now, today, is the perfect time to let your child know he or she can trust you to listen without condemning certain behaviors or certain people off the bat, to listen with an open mind, and to show that you trust your child.

    Picture this: your child comes home understandably upset because the girl who used to be her best friend (and whose parents are friends of yours) is suddenly ignoring her, not letting your child sit with her at lunch, and is even spreading lies about your child. Your heart is breaking for her. You know what this is like. This is mean and unfair. It would be so easy to get to the bottom of this by calling the other girl’s parents, since you’re friends anyway. It would take only a moment to fire off an email to your child’s advisor, asking the advisor to look into this and help with the situation. These impulses of course come from a place of love, of wanting to protect and soothe your child.

    The course of action that will benefit your child best? Listen. Sit with your child. Allow some silence as you and your child process the information, the situation, and the feelings. (A great article that reflects on why this is so helpful can be found HERE.)

    Time is your friend. Given time, before you start brainstorming solutions, or expressing your own feelings, or even criticizing the guilty party, your child (and you) can breathe. Your child can feel safe in taking a few moments to think through what might be the best solution for her. The other really important message you’re sending, by not rushing in with your own suggestions, is that you trust her to come up with some possible solutions on her own. As a confidence-builder, few things are as important to your maturing children as knowing you trust them to make good decisions.

    So, back to the scenario involving your middle-schooler being mistreated by someone she thought was a friend: When you’re done listening, and you both have had some time to think, empathize. Say something like, “That sounds really hurtful. How are you feeling about it?” It’s possible your child will not want to talk about it right away, and that’s fine—offer to talk when she’s ready. When that time comes, ask her if she has any ideas about how she might handle the situation. Again, listen without judgment, even if she says, “I want to sneak into her room at night and cut off all her hair.” Just respond with, “Okay, that’s one idea. What else could you do?” As she comes up with more potential responses, continue to listen, and once she’s thought of several options, praise her for having so many ideas. Then ask her which ones seem to make the most sense. Once she’s narrowed down her ideas, you should feel free to guide her and ask follow-up questions. For instance, if she says, “I’m going to get my other friends to stop hanging out with her so she can see what it feels like,” ask her what is likely to happen as a result of that action. (Maybe her other friends won’t agree to it, maybe she’ll feel guilty, maybe it will make her ex-friend behave worse, etc.) When she comes up with a solution that she feels most comfortable with, ask about her plan for implementing it, remind her she can take some time to think about it if she wants, and then ask her to let you know how it goes.

    Is helping your middle-schooler with a problem always going to be this easy? Unfortunately, no, of course not. This is a basic template that I recommend because it supports the process of your child making his or her own decisions about how to handle some tricky situations. You’re letting your children know you’re there for them, you’re modeling logic and reason, you’re encouraging independence, and you’re increasing their self-confidence.

    If stepping back from your children’s problems causes stress and anxiety, I suggest retail therapy, a night out, or binge-watching Poldark. No judgment. For a clear picture of what not to do, you might enjoy this clip from The Office.

    Please always feel free to reach out to me with comments, suggestions, questions, and concerns.

    Happy Fall!

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  • From Allison: Snack & Recess

    Posted by Allison Neckers on 9/26/2019

    Having had the opportunity to be on the school playground for over 20 years I have seen many snacks, containers and clothing options come through the recess field. It makes me exhausted to think how much planning and spending it takes to get your child out the door with the right gear for the ever-changing weather in Colorado and plenty of snacks to keep your child going throughout the day. While I do not pretend to have all of the answers I would like give you a few of my observations, some tips for what research suggests and provide you with links your family might find useful. 

    1st week on the playground First of all as it states in the Parent Handbook, The British Primary philosophy recognizes the importance of outdoor play as an integral part of the curriculum. Children will play outside twice each day unless there is severely inclement weather. Please dress your child accordingly. Hats, mittens, warm coats, and boots are a must on cold, damp days. If children are well enough to be at school, it is expected that they will participate in outside time. Appropriate clothing is very important. Please label ALL items of clothing and check the Lost and Found in the Community Space frequently for missing belongings. Unclaimed items will be donated to charity at the end of each month.

    As I have always stated to parents per my own mother, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate dress.” Playing outside in all types of weather can be so much fun for children if they are dressed appropriately. Please help prepare your child each day by staying abreast of the weather forecast. While flip flops, sandals and ballet flats are cute, sneakers on the playground seem to be ideal for climbing on the red ropes, running, shooting hoops and even building fairy houses.  

    Having spoken with parents at school, friends and siblings of mine throughout the United States, it sounds like packing snacks and lunches for your child can be complicated task especially when you factor children’s ever-changing interest in certain foods, the enticement of playtime over eating and the cost it takes to purchase food your children will actually eat.

    Research suggests that protein intake for children is very important to help keep their immune system strong and healthy. Packing a healthy, protein packed snack is key to a child’s development, school performance and overall health. However what good is it, if it ends up in the trash? Katherine L. Carson from Clemson University suggests that planning is key when packing snacks and lunches making sure to include at least three of the five (fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy) food groups in your child’s lunch. Equally important is letting your child make healthy choices. When children get more say in choosing what they eat, they often eat better.

    While we know pre-packaged foods can be appealing, we are really trying to go greener at Stanley. If at all possible, please try to pack your child’s snack and/or lunch in well-labeled reusable containers or bags. If your child has a thermos, please try to heat up your child’s lunch at home to save time and microwave usage.

    Here are some healthy, kid-friendly snack ideas:

    • banana, cranberry or zucchini bread
    • bagel/cream cheese
    • humus, refried bean dip, salsa or dressing with cut up veggies (cucumbers, carrots, celery), pita bread or crackers
    • fruit with dip
    • a hard boiled egg
    • tuna/chicken on a cracker or in a pita
    • deli meat –ham, turkey, salami, roast beef
    • yogurt dip and fresh fruit
    • quesadilla
    • mini sandwich-turkey pinwheel, PB & J
    • bumps on a Log- celery slices with cream cheese/peanut butter
    • oatmeal cookie with raisins
    • healthy muffins – zucchini, blueberry, apple, etc.
    • cheese and crackers with fruit slices
    • trailmix-dried fruit and nut
    • last night’s leftovers- pasta with cheese meat/veggies
    • cottage cheese with sliced peaches, cranberries, walnuts
    • pretzels and cheese
    • granola bar
    • apple sauce and graham crackers

    Here are some other fun and healthy snack options and “recipes with pizzazz” including: an apple-cinnamon sandwich, turkey rolls, a fruit salad medley, cranberry bread, one bowl banana bread, very berry muffins and berry good snack mix. (Source: Clemson University.) Feel free to email me, stop by my office or call me with any added suggestions, questions or concerns. 

    Thank you,

    Allison Neckers
    K-1-2 Social Emotional Learning
    303-360-0803, ext.136

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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