What is British Primary?

  • The British Primary educational philosophy is a unique instructional approach created almost 50 years ago under the direction and leadership of Founding Head Carolyn Hambidge.

    This philosophy encompasses the practices of many well-known educators and theorists, best described as constructivists, including Jean Piaget, John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky. 

    Constructivists believe people cannot be "given" information and then instantly understand and use it. Instead, individuals must "construct" their knowledge and understanding for themselves.

    Under this theory, Stanley BPS emphasizes hands-on problem solving that allows children to tap into their natural curiosities. As educators, we focus on making connections between facts and fostering new understanding in students. 

    >>Learn more from our Head of British Primary Professional Learning in the "Living British Primary" blog. 

Foundational Principles

  • Friedrich Froebel, Constructivist Educator Our Founder Carolyn Hambidge's views as an educator were dramatically influenced by the principles of Friedrich Froebel, a German educator known for his progressive views of early education. Carolyn was educated at The Froebel Insititute, now a college within the London University systems.

    Key elements of a Froebelian education in action at Stanley British Primary School:

    • There should be intense respect for the person being taught.
    • People should be active agents in their own learning.
    • There should be a continuing relationship between the learner and the teacher.
    • Learning should be a cumulative, integral process rather than one consisting of fragmented, discrete elements.
    • Education should be focused on personal growth, fulfillment and care for others.

    Learn more about Stanley's fundamentals through our Vision, Mission & Values.

  • "The Art of Being Human"  Our philosophy in a colorful nutshell: "The Art of Being Human," available at school, on Amazon.com, or at Tattered Cover in Denver. School-sales proceeds to Stanley teachers!

On Froebel

  • "Froebel had a very different way of looking at children and teaching, which was radical in his time. He valued children as children and felt they should develop all sides of themselves. He saw the classroom as a garden, which the teacher would create, providing materials that were aesthetically pleasing and yet challenging to children that would bring out of them what was natural to them. 


    To do this, you must realize that each child is unique, and learns in a different way. So you must understand where the child is developmentally and then provide him the opportunities to learn in the way he learns best."
    —Carolyn Hambidge, Founding Head Stanley BPS

Living British Primary Blog

  • Forging Relationships

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 4/20/2023 3:15:00 PM
    After Spring Break, faculty and staff came together for our professional development day before welcoming students back to campus. We reunited over breakfast, sharing stories of our time away and ready to engage with the last couple months of school. In our first session of the day, we discussed and shared ideas on the BP value of the importance of forging relationships.

    Our Vision, Mission and Values statement reads: “We value relationships. We recognize that positive relationships are fundamental to student learning and to the successful operation of the school.”  Here are a few of our words:

    Why are positive relationships important?

    Having people who are there for you is the essence of life, and love. 
    ― Joanna Hambidge, Head of British Primary Professional Learning

    Relationships give us purpose and meaning; they inspire us to be more and do great things. 
    ― Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher

    Positive relationships are grounding. You have these people in the world you love so much and they love you. It allows you to take risks and grow. 
    ― Jon Gottesfeld, 3-4-5 teacher

    We are unreliable narrators of who we are.  We tell the stories of ourselves that we want to tell. Without other people we can’t build an accurate story of who we are.                     
    ― Sam Pfeiffer, 3-8 Fellow

    Positive relationships enable people to be their whole selves without judgment.
    ― Jackie Rose, 3-4-5 teacher

    Positive relationships fulfill the human need for connection which is the purpose of life.
    ― Sophia Cruz, K-5 Spanish teacher

    Relationships are foundational. They are everything. 
    ― Kathy Muller, 7th grade Language Arts teacher

    How do we forge positive relationships with learners?

    As a teacher I always want to be present, for my students to see me and think, “There’s Valentina, and she loves me and she’s comforting and supportive.” We offer consistency and predictability. We do things a certain way and we speak a certain way, and that feels safe. I think being generous with our presence, fully being there with our students, is how we forge positive relationships with learners. They know when we are. 
    ― Valentina Reiling, 3-4-5 teacher

    Slow down, watch, notice.
    ― Andrea Arnold, K-1-2 teacher

    We are curious, continuing to learn more about who someone is and where they are now and what they’re thinking. 
    ― Joanna Hambidge, Head of British Primary Professional Learning

    We are unassuming. You can get into habits with people you know or, when you get to know someone, you might assume how they feel or assume how they’re going to react to something or assume what they’re thinking.
    ― Sam Pfeifer, 3-8 Fellow

    In a truly great relationship you’re willing to have difficult conversations. 
    ― Jon Gottesfeld, 3-4-5 Teacher

    When teachers create lessons that are engaging and exciting and feel meaningful to kids, it also helps forge a positive relationship. “Here’s someone in front of me who has the capacity to help me be excited and learn new things and discover new capabilities that I wasn’t sure I had.” I think that makes a big difference to a kid being respectful, wanting to listen, wanting to engage.
    ― Nan Munger, 6-7-8 Art teacher

    We explain the “why” with what we’re doing. “Here’s why this is happening and this is why I want you to know this.”
    ― Kathy Muller, 7th Grade Language Arts

    We allow relationships to grow. Relationships are ever evolving and ever changing. People grow and change and become better versions of themselves. 
    ― Nicky Arja, 3-4-5 teacher

    As we enter these last months of school, we find ourselves busy with so much to do: class trips, musicals and shows, final projects and presentations, ceremonies and celebrations. At Stanley, we know that at the heart of all this is our relationships with each other. During our professional development session, we were reminded of the importance of slowing down to be with each other, to connect, to share stories, to see each other. 

    We are grateful for the relationships with each member of our joyful learning community, and we remember Carolyn’s teaching on how to forge relationships in this last stretch of the school year.

    Trust, listening, understanding where the other person comes from – their passions and interests, giving strength to each other, encouraging growth, being a friend, sharing creativity and passions, apologizing, listening to their point of view, sharing positivity, asking, “What can I do to help?” 
    ― Carolyn Hambidge, Founder


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  • Constructivism

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 3/2/2023 3:00:00 PM

    Kindergarteners were learning to snap their fingers and count out syllables. Later that day at the water table, some of them noticed that when their fingers were wet, they could not make the snapping sound that they could when their fingers were dry. The next day at the water table, one of the children noticed that as he brought his thumb out of his fist, it made a snapping sound. He kept trying it and discovered that as the water evaporated and his fingers became dry, the sound stopped. He then made the connection to the discovery from the day before: “When I snap like this, my fingers have to be dry. When I snap like this, my fingers have to be wet.”  


    Constructivism is reflecting on experiences and actively creating an understanding of the world. It is asking, “How does the new fit with my previous knowledge and understanding?” As we “construct” or build meaning, we play with ideas, concepts, connections, words, definitions, and materials. We explore from different angles and perspectives and form new connections. Then we revise and play around some more! In addition to interacting with our environment and people, we interact with our own thinking. We reflect on our experiences and our evolving thoughts and then make sense of it all. Constructivism is at the heart of our BP philosophy. With a constructivist approach, we know that learners understand deeply. Constructivism is how Stanley teachers believe children learn best because it is, in fact, how we all learn best.


    In a constructivist classroom, learners are doing the doing, whatever that doing is! Learners are engaging, immersing, interacting, thinking, synthesizing, creating, asking questions, putting together ideas. Learners are hypothesizing, investigating, exploring, grappling, revising, facilitating, paraphrasing. They are engaged and active. As Grace Reilly, 8th grade science teacher, shares, “Teachers are giving space and students are taking up the space. The teacher might be facilitating, but the students are the ones doing the talking, thinking, learning and doing.” 


    The teacher, though, does not take a passive role. The constructivist teacher is a mentor, a consultant, a coach. a facilitator, a mediator, a prompter. The teacher is orchestrating. The teacher is creating the open container for discovery, and holding a vision with flexibility. We thoughtfully design the learning experience and environment. We create an invitation for students to enter into learning. We think about the experiences and materials, choices and time needed to build upon and extend a learner’s understanding of the world. We make sure the environment is open and safe and welcoming for learning. Katie Boston, 3-4-5 teacher, describes, “When you construct anything you’re going to build, a bridge or a sandcastle, it takes planning and some trial-and-error, and a strong foundation, and then some flexibility, and time. As a teacher you need all of that. You're developing this plan, and trial and error, and flexibility and a strong base - generally this is where I'm going, then just time.” 


    Constructivism places the student at the center of the learning. In doing so, constructivism allows students to learn how to learn! Students learn to wonder, observe, ask questions, investigate, communicate, create, and think critically. As Nan Munger, Middle School Art Teacher, shares, “When a teacher just tells a student something, they’re just not going to remember it and internalize it as well as when they come to it on their own. Either you'll remember it better because you went through the process to figure it out for yourself, or if you don't remember it later, you know the process to get there.” 


    Within constructivism, learners develop confidence and trust in themselves. A learner puts all the pieces together and builds their understanding. Being in that active state of creation is empowering. Constructing the stories that we want to tell, the meaning in our lives, and developing a vision of where we're going builds agency. 


    A K-1-2 teacher had just finished a math unit on patterns with her kindergarten math group. They had been studying growing patterns by creating their own pattern shapes that were symmetrical. Using a mirror, they were seeing if their patterns were the same on both sides. Then, they started building up with their patterns rather than out. The teacher described her surprise. “I was not expecting that. I was expecting them to build out, but they actually started building patterns in space and they were symmetrical! They took a skill and they were applying it to something totally new that I didn’t even fathom. I knew that they understood what patterns meant, how to apply it and how to transfer that knowledge and create from it.”


    Within constructivism, a-ha moments happen for learners when they take what they know and apply it to something new. This transfer of knowledge is powerful for them. It is powerful for us! 


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  • Start with Strengths

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 1/19/2023 3:00:00 PM

    Susannah Marais was at lunch with her class when one of her students asked her, “Who’s your favorite in the class?” Susannah responded, “All of you are my favorite for different reasons.” Naturally, one student asked, “What’s your favorite thing about me?” Susannah replied that she loved that they were friendly to everyone. Curiously, another spoke up, “But, what’s your favorite thing about me?” Susannah shared that she loved that they liked to make their friends laugh. Susannah spent the rest of lunch sharing her favorite thing about each student.


    While January is a time when we often focus on our shortcomings, making resolutions to improve ourselves, at Stanley we believe that one of the most powerful choices we make as teachers - as people - is to start with our strengths.


    Elena Aguilar, in her book Onward, writes, “Focusing on strengths, assets, or ‘bright spots’ is an extensively researched approach in psychology, organizational change management, and neuroscience - and researchers in all these fields agree that focusing on the positive not only feels good but also works when you’re trying to change or you want others to change.”


    Stanley teachers know that starting with strengths is about more than just supporting change. As K-1-2 teacher Emily Sprayregan explains, “Every single person wants their strengths to be seen. It just naturally makes you feel good and makes you a little more open and vulnerable.” 


    For Stanley teachers, starting with our students’ strengths is at the heart of our relationships. It is how we build trust and see our students for who they are. Katie Russell believes that starting with strengths comes back to storytelling. She notices that our teachers continually ask, “What story are we focusing on – what are we telling ourselves and others about the person or situation in front of us? Are we helping learners find and tell stories about their strengths?” Stanley teachers notice and articulate students' strengths to guide our teaching and to help students recognize and use their strengths.


    The way we scaffold and differentiate for learners builds on our students’ strengths. Our teachers know what each student needs to be their best selves and we adapt lessons or expectations accordingly. We might write for a student who has a passion for words but has challenges putting their vision on paper. We might help a student who has a vivid imagination visualize, and perhaps diagram, a math problem. Or, we might help an energetic and passionate student focus by asking them to take a lap before beginning a project. We not only support learners in accessing their strengths, we draw upon these strengths in the classroom when we ask our students to teach others. Our classrooms do not have one or two teachers; they are filled with thirty teachers!


    Our teachers encourage learners to lean into their strengths to overcome challenges. We know that when we help learners see the impact of their actions from a place of strength, we are empowering them. We are showing them that they have agency. Peter Johnson in his book Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning, explains, “Drawing children’s attention to their successes and showing them how their decisions and strategic actions were responsible for them increases children’s perceptions of their ability.”


    Ultimately, we believe that it is important to start with strengths because it honors the students in our care. 3-4-5 teacher Jon Gottesfeld reflects, “Maybe we’re not told enough about these wonderful gifts that we have. In the end, where we lean into our lives is into our gifts.” British Primary teachers believe that knowing our strengths allows us to contribute to a cohesive whole that we help create, whether it’s in our classroom, or in the world.


    Chris Belanger and Kelsey McGuckin have created a lovely birthday tradition in their 3-4-5 classroom. They begin by asking all the other students in the class to share positive qualities, talents and strengths of the birthday child. This student watches as hands wave in the air. They watch the board fill up; the student is a Lego-builder, passionate about animals, an inclusive friend, they notice when others are hurt . . . Once the board is covered, the class reads the list aloud altogether and ends by loudly proclaiming, “And so much more.” 


    Starting with strengths changes us. It impacts how we see the world, and ourselves. Let’s resolve to begin 2023 by loudly proclaiming our own strengths and the strengths we see in each other so that we can enrich our relationships, confidently face challenges, and ultimately change how we see and live in our world.


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  • Reflections on How We Learn Best

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 12/8/2022 3:00:00 PM

    Here at Stanley, learning unfolds in our classroom guided by teachers who have passionate beliefs about how our students learn best. This past week, the 3-4-5 classes demonstrated a culmination of months of learning with their Invention and Toy Convention. This joyful and uniquely “Stanley” celebration and the process of learning that led up to it truly capture what we believe about how learners learn best. 


    A learner learns best when learning is meaningful. 3-4-5 students began their invention design process by brainstorming problems that come up in their lives and in their world: waking up on time to get to school, getting laundry down the stairs to the washing machine, helping grandmothers get their medicine quickly. Here at Stanley, we believe that learners are motivated to learn from experiences that are connected to their lives, culturally relevant and authentic. Learners learn best when they are interested and care about what they are learning. 


    A learner learns best with choice. 3-4-5 students were encouraged to think big. While teachers were available to brainstorm and to provide resources, students ultimately chose the direction they went with the invention they wanted to create. Here at Stanley, we believe that learners are naturally curious and are motivated when they have some ownership over their learning and are able to make decisions about how and what they learn. When learners are allowed some autonomy and time to explore, experiment, problem solve and enjoy their learning, they are invested in their learning and actively participate. 


    A learner learns best when doing and thinking. These 3-4-5 scientists grappled! There were inventions that were redesigned and rebuilt up to the day of the celebration. Students explored first hand how the dynamics of simple machines brought their inventions and toys to life . . . or didn’t, and then they tried again. Here at Stanley, we believe that learners grow in understanding of how the world works from the continual interaction between an experience and how the mind makes sense of the experience. Learners learn, building upon what they already know, by organizing experiences and making sense, or meaning, of what they encounter, developing schemas for how the world works and constructing meaning. Learners learn most effectively as a result of their own effort, action and struggle to understand. For learners, particularly young children, their doing and thinking, and making sense of their world, what is happening in their lives, is often done through play. 


    A learner learns best from interacting with others. Working in groups of two or three, 3-4-5 students became design teams. Ideas were shared, compromises made, mistakes and frustrations felt and successes celebrated. Here at Stanley, we believe that as learners communicate, collaborate, exchange points of view and solve problems together, they learn. As learners discover with mentors, they learn. As learners interact with kind, inclusive people, they learn. They observe others and then try it out for themselves: skills, strategies, habits of mind and heart, compassionate ways to care for themselves and others.


    A learner learns best when devoting time. 3-4-5 students began their unit on simple machines in the first weeks of school, engaging with toys to learn the beginning ideas of these concepts. Over the last three months, students explored and delved deeper into these ideas, experiencing them firsthand through experimentation. Here at Stanley, we believe that in order to learn, learners need time to explore, practice and eventually build expertise. How we choose to spend our time reflects what we value and leads to new growth experiences. 


    The 3-4-5 Invention and Toy Convention brought together parents, K-1-2 and 6-7-8 students, and administrators. It was a joyful celebration honoring some of our strongest British Primary values. At Stanley, we believe that a learner learns best when engaged within a rich process of learning. When learners are engaged, they do not have to be made to learn, they want to learn. They put in energy, even if it’s hard. When learners are intellectually and emotionally involved, they are happy to focus, dedicate time and persevere. They become joyful, lifelong learners prepared to make a positive difference in the world.


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  • The Privilege of Seeing Possibility

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 11/10/2022 3:15:00 PM
    In our TK and K-1-2 classes, the dramatic play area is a dynamic place. One week a child might be a shopkeeper, the next week, a veterinarian. Children pretend, imagine, and envision what’s possible. At Stanley, teachers know the power of seeing possibilities.


    At Stanley, we provide opportunities for students to explore who they are and who they can become. We choose to use a lens of abundant possibility, one where we see each child as made up of many sides, endless paths and unlimited potential. For K-1-2 teacher Emily Sprayregan, seeing possibility in a learner means, “seeing where they are, appreciating where they are, while also recognizing all they’ve yet to acquire.” 
    Stanley teachers believe in each student and have bold expectations for our classrooms. Laura Gibson explains, “I think it’s the job of the teacher to be the visionary and to really believe in the vision. To be able to say ‘this is possible.’ The way we get there is going to be different because each kid is unique and what they need is different. But the possibility is there. To have that strength and assertiveness and vision and experience is the teacher’s role.” At times this means that as teachers we must help students create a new vision for themselves. As Grace Reilly knows, “Kids are so quick to put themselves in boxes: ‘Oh I don’t do musicals.’ ‘I’m not a math person and I’ll never be a math person.’ Seeing possibility is helping to see that one can grow out of those boxes and that they’re not actually inhibiting the path forward.” 
    Sometimes helping students take ownership of their own potential simply takes “spotting it, catching them in the act or drawing connections, really being present to notice,” as Randy Jones, Middle School Teaching Fellow, describes. We know that having curiosity as teachers allows possibility because we are open to what our students bring to us, who they are and how they are thinking. As Laura explains, “Seeing possibility starts with just seeing in general. Really trying to see a person and reflect back to them what you see. I think possibility comes out of that, if you’re really observant and present and able to say, ‘I see you.’” At Stanley, teachers know that at times, seeing possibility is trusting what is, and allowing it to unfold without judgment of what it could be. 
    At Stanley, teachers focus on what we say, how we say it, when we say it and our body language – the subtleties of language that create shifts in our students. The ways we communicate create our students’ own ability to see possibility in themselves and in others. Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander in The Art of Possibility share, “Speaking in possibility springs from the appreciation that what we say creates a reality; how we define things sets a framework for life to unfold.”


    At Stanley, we focus on the learner being an active agent of their growth, taking responsibility for their impact on materials, on people, on the world. With this comes a need to support kids as they venture outside of their comfort zone and take risks in their learning. Kiayan Reuter, K-1-2 Teaching Fellow, shares, “I think the important part is getting kids comfortable being uncomfortable, where there is that potential or possibility that they never thought of. It doesn’t always look the same for every child but when you’re asset-based you find the tools or the language to give them the courage or bravery to take the step that they didn’t anticipate.” 


    Emily shares, “I think if a child sees that you see possibility in them, they will see it in themselves very naturally.” Ultimately, our goal is to create students that see possibility in themselves and take responsibility for their own learning and contributions to their communities. We know the powerful impact we can have as teachers who see possibility in our students - the power to create responsible learners and leaders and doers in their world. 


    Seeing possibility is optimistic, hopeful, encouraging, supportive, it’s our ultimate belief that a learner can learn and become more. Carol Ann Tomlinson in her book So Each May Soar: The Principles and Practices of Learner-Centered Classrooms beautifully states, “Still, we are better teachers as we become more and more able to say about every learner in our care, ‘there is so much potential in this young person that no one has yet seen. I am privileged to work with this child, first to help her realize whole new ceilings of possibility and then to help her push beyond those ceilings as well.’” 


    Many of you have had the opportunity to meet with your child’s teachers for our Fall conferences. During these conversations throughout the year, you will hear the many ways that we see possibility in your child. And, the privilege is ours.


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  • We Prepare Teachers

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 10/6/2022 3:15:00 PM
    Throughout its 50 year history, Stanley British Primary School has had a deep commitment to teacher preparation. The second sentence of our school’s mission statement reads: We prepare teachers to implement our vision, mission and values and we share our educational approach with the larger community. Over 500 teachers have spent a year at Stanley learning to teach in the British Primary Way. Today, a remarkable 40% of our 90 current faculty and staff have been trained at Stanley!
    After two years of Covid taking a toll on the field of teaching and as schools nationwide are experiencing shortages causing some states to drop requirements for being a teacher, the importance of supporting teaching at Stanley and the field of education at large has never been greater.


    Over the years, teacher preparation has undergone a few iterations and today, those interested in learning to teach at the Stanley British Primary School currently have two options: The Stanley Fellows Program or The Public Education and Business Coalition Teacher Residency Program.
    A year and a half ago, we (Joanna and Sumant) began interviewing countless faculty and staff who went through teacher training at Stanley as well as speaking with teacher training programs around the country. The feedback and lessons learned helped refresh the Stanley Fellows Program in an exciting and mission aligned way. Overseen by the Director of British Primary Teaching and Learning, the Fellows program has placed a greater emphasis on the British Primary philosophy,  provides an avenue for master British Primary teachers to be leaders and teach coursework to fellows, and aims to attract individuals who have been historically underrepresented in the field of education.
    This year, Fellows work four and a half days in the classroom alongside a mentor teacher, and meet regularly with their mentor and advisor to discuss their classroom experience and the next steps in their development as a teacher. The time in the classroom is augmented by engaging in a professional learning community (PLC) every Tuesday afternoon from 12:15-2:45p.m. with other Fellows, the Head of British Primary Professional Learning, and other master British Primary teachers. During these PLC times, Fellows reflect upon and discuss the time in the classroom and focus on key British Primary concepts such community, diversity and agency. The foundation and lens for the BP Fellows is the mission, vision and values of Stanley. Fellows are also given two hours each week to observe in different classrooms and engage with short meaningful assignments for the next week's PLC gathering. Fellows are supported to feel successful in their first year teaching at Stanley, and then to take what they have learned to continue their teaching career at Stanley or at other schools across the globe.  
    The second pathway of teacher training  at Stanley is to be a resident inThe Public Education and Business Coalition Teacher Residency Program. Residents work in the classroom four days a week and have a Stanley mentor teacher. They engage in coursework with the Public Education and Business Coalition one day a week and complete several assignments, such as a child study and a unit plan. They have a PEBC advisor and at the end of the year receive their Colorado Teaching License. If accepted into the PEBC program, residents have the opportunity to use their coursework to get credit towards several different Masters Programs. 

    This year, we have four wonderful fellows/residents who are profiled in the Bulldog. Randy Jones ‘01, Sam Pfeifer ‘13, and Caitie Chicester are a part of this fellow program while Kiayan Reuter is a part of the teacher resident program. And we are grateful to the advisors and mentors for each of them who have helped make this experience so meaningful and impactful! 
    If you know someone who might be interested in this type of program or if you’re interested in finding ways to support teacher training at Stanley please reach out to Sumant or Joanna! 
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  • Creating the Rhythm of Routines and Rituals

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 9/8/2022 3:15:00 PM
    When walking through our campus and classrooms in the middle of the year, one might notice students knowingly forming a circle on the rug after coming in from recess to be ready for mindfulness, one student organizing the art shelves at the end of the day and another watering the plants. British Primary teachers know that time invested at the start of the year creating routines and rituals is necessary to create a strong culture and foundation for learning the rest of the year. 

    In your child’s first weeks of school, they have been immersed in lessons and activities to create, practice and reflect on classroom and schoolwide rituals and routines. In the beginning of the year we are learning to live and work together. Teachers and older students in the class share and model the routines and rituals, and then we fine tune and practice some more! Your child may have voted on the song that will remind them it is time to transition. They might have illustrated posters titled “Classroom Promises.” They will begin to remind each other that they can sit on the spinning disc on the playground rather than stand.

    As Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete share in The First Six Weeks of School, “Students must know how to leave the room without interrupting the teacher or other students… They must know how loud ‘indoor voices’ can be...They must know something of their classmates’ strengths and fragilities. They must know how to ask each other for help. They must know how to get into groups quickly and efficiently with the materials they will need. They must know how to put the special drawing pencils back in the art cans so that they will be there for the next student who needs them.”

    When learners know expectations, routines, and rituals, they feel safe to take risks. When children feel safe and know what to expect, they can focus on learning. Children rely on the simple, the predictable, the consistent parts of our days and weeks. These rituals and routines create a rhythm for coming together and moving apart throughout the day. They are comforting to us when things feel complicated; they ground us when we are ready to tackle more complex and creative challenges. There is something sacred in these repeated actions that mark the beginnings and ends of our days, the ways we move throughout our classroom, the words we speak and communicate with each other.
    Ralph Peterson in Life in a Crowded Place: Making a Learning Community, explains, “Ritual has a centering effect…I do not search for the right words to say or worry about what to do next. My body knows what to do… Ritual allows teachers to use one of humankind’s most prized forms of expressing meaning and creating order.”
    Most likely as your family has transitioned back to school, you too are finding grounding in the routines that help smooth the busyness of the earlier mornings and full afternoons and evenings. Your children bring their rituals of home with them to share with us at school, and perhaps you are beginning to hear about those that they are creating at school. Together, these simple, predictable, and repeated actions of our days create meaning in our lives and allow us to say as a Stanley community, “This is who we are, and this is the way we do things here.”


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  • The Wisdom of Reflection

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 5/19/2022 3:00:00 PM

    Whether your child ends the year exploring fractions, building bridges, performing The Phantom Tollbooth, or writing poetry, their learning doesn’t end once they finish the show, the coffeehouse, or the test. Here at Stanley, after the culminating event of a unit, it is time to reflect on what they have learned. As the 2021-22 school year comes to an end, it feels fitting to share a few thoughts on the British Primary value of reflection.


    At Stanley, reflection happens throughout your child’s day, but especially at the end of a unit, at the end of trimester, and at the end of a school year. As Stanley BPS teachers, we invite students to reflect on what they learned from the unit, not only the content, but also on the process they experienced. We support them to reflect on what they learned about themselves as a learner, and what they will take with them into future learning experiences. We provide opportunities for students to think about where they started and where they ended up, and to remember and review the steps and strategies that helped form new understandings, growth and learning. We believe that even reflection on their false starts or dead-ends is valuable. Reflection helps reinforce habits of mind and dispositions as learners.


    An interesting question we might ask our students to reflect on is, “How does this connect with other parts of your life, or other things you’re learning or thinking about?” As Nan Munger, Middle School art teacher describes, “I do final critiques with the eighth grade and reflection forms with all my students. They consider questions like, which of the school’s seven goals for learners have I built most and how? What was I most proud of? What do I want to build going forward? What will be helpful for next year?” We create opportunities for reflection that show the interconnectivity of our world. 


    A natural reflection question is “What am I still pondering about this topic? What am I still curious about?” We emphasize with our students that life-long learning means pursuing one topic at various points throughout their lives for many years! As Nan Munger says, “With final projects where it’s open-ended, I’ll push learners to consider things like, ‘What are some things I’ve enjoyed most in this block? What are some things I wish I would have gotten to?’ And that’s often how they figure out what they’re going to do for their final synthesis project.”


    While learners might first translate “What did you learn?” into concrete facts, Stanley teachers know that there’s more to learning than facts. Perhaps that’s where questions like, “What does this mean for who I want to be in this world?” come in. As Carolyn Hambidge, founder of Stanley BPS, shares, “Reflecting is important because you get to know yourself more. Each child gets to know themselves. Until they really have a knowledge of who they are and finding out what they love to do and what they are passionate about, that's how wisdom grows. You can’t have wisdom without knowing yourself a bit, and reflecting helps you. So often people do what they’re told in school but don’t reflect. I love how the children here are allowed to reflect on what they’ve done.” 


    As Carolyn so beautifully captures, reflection grows wisdom. We can have a lot of life experiences, but until we slow down and reflect, we don’t necessarily develop wisdom. These last days of school will be filled with reflection for your children, many moments for wisdom to grow! They’ll reflect about their learning, about their growth as learners, about themselves as an important part of a community, and about how what they have learned connects to their lives and the world around them. We hope that you, too, will pause and reflect on your child’s and your growth this year. 


    We wish you a beautiful summer, full of learning, growth, and joy. We wish you many moments to stop and reflect before we all return in the Fall well-rested and wiser.


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  • The Joy of Knowing! - Communicating our Learning

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 4/14/2022 3:00:00 PM

    At the end of a poetry unit, K-1-2 students carefully choose, revise and publish several poems in a class book, and then joyfully create a class coffee house to share them with an audience. At the end of a physical science unit focused on simple machines, 3-4-5 students demonstrate novel devices featuring levers, pulleys and inclined planes to visitors at an Invention Convention. In 6th grade, students immerse themselves in the language and stories of Shakespeare in a unit that culminates in a stage performance of one of his most well-known plays. At Stanley, learners are constantly sharing their learning and understanding with their community of peers, teachers, and parents. We know and value that there is great joy in knowing, and in sharing that knowledge with others!


    After a rich investigation process led by inquiry, learners feel a strong desire to express what they know.  When students create a demonstration of their learning, they synthesize and problem-solve. They show that they can use what they have learned in an original and real way. They are motivated to teach others about their new discoveries.


    Stanley teachers support learners to figure out what they have learned, to organize their thinking, and to envision how they are going to communicate what's essential. As Stanley teachers, we help learners frame their learning and figure out how to communicate it. We ask questions: 

    • What have you learned? 
    • How could you communicate about what you have learned? 
    • What conclusions have you reached? Why? 
    • What information can you use to support your conclusion? 
    • What’s most important? 
    • What information helped the most to answer your question? 
    • How could you show your understanding of…? 


    As Stanley teachers, we carefully choose a culminating project that best represents our study or investigation, or better yet, let the learners figure out the best way to express what they have learned. We aim for culmination projects that will involve deep thinking just as the investigation process did. Alongside the students, we figure out the best way to communicate – pictures, graphs, displays, music, dance, sculpture and/or writing. How can students show their thinking and learning – not just the final product, but snapshots into the beautifully messy process they just journeyed? We aim for authenticity. It is important for learners to communicate in a way that is meaningful for them and engaging for those with whom they will be sharing.


    Culminating projects and share times are a celebration of the learning journey. Learners gain confidence by sharing their discoveries. We develop our identities as experts, as people who know, as people who know how to “do.” As learners, when we communicate our understanding with others, our voices grow stronger, developing agency.


    Our interactions with our audience provide room for collaboration of ideas and new wonders. Sometimes sharing shows us what we don’t know and inspires even more questions and deeper thinking! Sharing can be the beginning of an ongoing conversation, and we initiate a special connection with the person with whom we share. To be the receiver of knowledge is a sacred space.


    Here’s a poem of Stanley teachers’ words about the importance of these end of unit demonstrations and sharing times:


    The joy of knowing


    Sharing discoveries





    Connection with others

    Deeper understanding

    More questions

    Trail of our thinking

    -The Stanley Teachers


    As our school year comes to an end and we welcome parents back into our classrooms, we hope that you enjoy and learn from your children’s end-of-year demonstrations. We hope that you feel the special connection made in these moments, and that you embrace the sacred space you provide for your children as they invite you to share in their joy of knowing. 

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  • Love is at the Heart of Stanley

    Posted by Stanley Communications on 3/10/2022 3:00:00 PM

    Love is at the Heart of Stanley


    When I visited Julie Colthup and Emily Sprayregen’s K-1-2 class in February, they were writing about Love. Here are the children’s words:


    Love is calm and safe

    Love is peaceful and playful 

    Love is happy and kind 

    Love is mindful

    Love is easy

    Love is caring 

    Love is sharing 

    Love is including people in the play 

    Love is being with your friends and looking out for them 

    Love is good sportsmanship and helping someone up 

    Love makes other people happy and hopeful and loved 

    Love is being you

    Love is when you have a very tight connection with someone because no matter what happens in either of your lives you stick together.

    Love is integrity and respect

    Love is friendship and nice 

    Love is family and friends

    Love is warmth inside 


    How to spread love is: giving hugs 

    Giving stuff that you really want to someone else 

    Being nice and kind when playing with others

    Love feels good 

    Love Is You.


    Love is being respectful to the Earth and people. 

    Love is joy and spreading our love to the world 

    Love Is Love.


    Love is not typically talked about in the context of a school setting; and yet, it is a driving force for parents, teachers, and students. There are many kinds of love, the love you have for your children, the love you have for your parents, the love you have for your extended family, the love you have for friends, the love you have for your dog, the love teachers have for students. Many languages have more than one word to describe love; the Greek language has seven!


    Stanley teachers show their love many times every day in small ways like following up on something the student said or did, bending down to have a conversation at eye level, providing a resource about a passion or interest, supporting at a challenging moment, or sharing a new perspective. Stanley teachers listen deeply everyday. Educator, Parker Palmer, explains the value of listening, “Behind their fearful silence, our students want to find their voices, speak their voices, have their voices heard. A good teacher is one who can listen to those voices even before they are spoken-so that someday they can speak with truth and confidence.” 


    He goes on to list what it means to listen to a voice before it is spoken. “It means making space for the other, being aware of the other, paying attention to the other. It means not rushing to fill our students’ silences with fearful speech of our own and not trying to coerce them into saying the things we want to hear. It means entering empathically into the student’s world so that he or she perceives you as someone who has the promise of being able to hear another person’s truth.” Each of these ways of listening is love in action. As Katie Russell, former K-1-2 teacher and current teacher coach, says, “Small things can make a huge difference and our teachers fill their classrooms with love through small actions every day.”


    As witnessed in our K-1-2 classrooms in February, our youngest Stanley students understand the power of love. As Regie Routman, says in Read, Write, Lead, "It’s always all about relationships, in school and in life. When those relationships are genuine, caring, and trusting, all things are possible.” 


    May we all remember and experience the power of love in our lives.

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Froebels's Principles in the Stanley Classroom

  • Froebel Trust

    Our method and practice of teaching rely heavily on many of Friedrich Froebel's principles. They include:  

    • Skilled and informed observation of children, to support effective development, learning and teaching 
    • Awareness that education relates to all capabilities of each child: imaginative, creative, symbolic, linguistic, mathematical, musical, aesthetic, scientific, physical, social, moral, cultural and spiritual 
    • Parents/carers and educators working in harmony and partnership
    • First hand experience, play, talk and reflection 
    • Activities and experiences that have sense, purpose and meaning to the child, and involve joy, wonder, concentration, unity and satisfaction 
    • A holistic approach to learning which recognizes children as active, feeling and thinking human beings, seeing patterns and making connections 
    • Encouragement rather than punishment 
    • Individual and collaborative activity and play 
    • An approach to learning which develops children's autonomy and self confidence

    Source: The Froebel Trust