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  Early Winter 2015

Our Mission: The Friends School of Portland challenges and empowers students to develop their intellectual, physical, emotional, creative and spiritual potential. We honor our students' natural gifts as they learn to enter the world with confidence, competence, joy and a sense of purpose. We are guided by the Quaker values of simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality, stewardship, and truth.

Important Dates
In This Issue
From Jenny
Reaching Outward
Learning and Stewardship
All About Our New School
In the Classrooms
Admissions Open House

Quick Links


Board of Directors  

Naomi Beal
Katie Brooke
Perry Clark
Andrew Dixon
Peter Gilmore
Hildy Ginsberg
James Grumbach
Leslie Manning
Doug McCown, Clerk
Rob Ravenelle
Sam Solish
Karin Wagner
Lise Wagner

Advisory Committee

William Bickley
Charmarie Blaisdell
Nancy Boothby
Chris Branson
George Chappell
Stephen Gefvert
Frances Hitchens
Robert Knight
Janet Lohmann
Nat Shed
Adelaide Solomon-Jordan
Sarah Standiford
Nancy Stearns
Jackie Stillwell
Elizabeth Tarasevich
Meryl Troop
Tom Welch

More News? 

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Welcome from Jenny
We have ushered in our 10th year at Friends School of Portland, and in this early winter newsletter you'll see a great deal of thinking and talking about our new school building in Cumberland.  Inside the super-insulated walls and within the forest of hemlock, pine, and maple, our FSP education is still fully recognizable and strong. 

It is wonderful to have a space that can be used by the larger community.  Lectures, concerts, and meetings are already happening more frequently.  We hope we will see you at one venue or another.

Many thanks for your interest and support. 

Wishing you happy winter days ahead--
Jenny's signature
Reaching Outward
Nell Sears, Director of Studies
As a F riends school, silence, listening, reflecting-- "reaching inward," as Mary Tracy put it--is a key element of our shared experience. Our school is, in many ways, outward-oriented. The learning space outside our school walls has always been as important as the spaces inside them. This was an easy and natural thing on on Mackworth Island. As teachers anticipated a move to our beautiful new facility, our questions were often related to envisioning our new outside space. How would we change science investigations to suit our new ecosystem? Where in those deep, dark woods would the younger children find spaces to play? How would we have Applelympics without our beloved apple tree? What would it mean to be farther from the city of Portland?      
We are three months into our new space, and the outside feels as much home as does the inside. Children in preschool through second grade have explored every nook and cranny during their outdoor adventure times. Here, in their own words,  are some of their observations:

"We found a den that we think is a fox den. I can't wait to see some discoveries about the leaves in the den we found."

"There's a dragon cave. It's a little cave me and Jonathan found and it's guarded with all these trees and leaves and little holes you can go into. You could curl up and read a book or something."

"I call the stream 'the paradise.'"

Older students are also engaging with our woods and fields through academic exploration and play. During Body, Mind, Spirit, middle schoolers have taken responsibility for identifying and creating special spots in the woods that can be used as "outdoor classrooms." In science, 5th and 6th graders designed a nature-based scavenger hunt to demonstrate their understanding of natural history, forest ecology, and their ability to write and navigate. Seventh and eighth graders spent time in the woods creating societies as an introduction to a culture studies. In PE, team challenges and outdoor education activities have taken place all over our  woods and fields. As a tie-in to their colonial times unit, third and fourth graders harvested clay from the ground outside of the building to shape and fire beautiful ceramic pieces.

The increased distance from Portland (as well as the untimely loss of our dear mini-bus Moby) have not dampened students' connection with the community beyond our campus. Younger students visit the Cumberland library regularly. Older students have conducted field studies at a salt marsh, beach, and on a lobster boat; stenciled storm drains in Falmouth; and visited community action organizations in Portland.    

As we continue to learn and grow in our new space, we will define and redefine our connection to it and to our community, but it is exciting to see the ways our school community has integrated into its new home. Perhaps most important, a crew of volunteers has even transplanted our graduates' orchard, ensuring plenty of apples for our fall festivities in perpetuity.  

Jenny Rowe, Head of School
On November 6, Friends School of Portland's faculty attended the New England Friends Conference 2015 entitled "Integrity: Honoring Truth and Wholeness" at Moses Brown School in Providence, RI.  Head of School Jenny Rowe was asked to be part of a keynote panel.  Her piece, below, shares the challenges and successes she has found in creating a culture of integrity in a variety of settings.

Of all the Quaker SPICES, I find integrity the most difficult. It starts out sounding simple:  speak the truth and be honest in your dealings with others.  It gets more challenging:  let your life speak. Be consistent in word and deed.  But it gets even more complicated when you realize that truth can mean different things to different people.  Whenever you are part of a community, you confront those differences. 

Integrity as a word has its roots in "wholeness" or "soundness." So, as I've been thinking about integrity, I've pictured it as a cloth that gets woven in one's own life and as a shared tapestry, especially in a school community.  It's about my colorful, sometimes fraying and uneven thread that, as a school leader, I offer to the fabric of a school made up of the unique threads of hundreds of others over time. 

As head of three different schools, two of them Quaker, I've had a lot of opportunities to experience these pieces as they conflict or coincide.  Integrity is called for when a school is facing change, and I haven't been in a school yet that wasn't in some sort of transition.

My first director position was at the Monteverde Friends School, which had been established by North American Quakers in 1951 when they settled in Costa Rica, which had only just abolished its military.  Fifty years later, the school had gone from serving a handful of white Quaker children to being 85% Costa Rican.  It was still English dominant, and North American teachers outnumbered "Tico" staff.  In the spirit of equality and integrity, faculty meetings, parent-teacher
conferences, report cards, even messages in Meeting for Worship were given in both Spanish and English. Faculty were often in the role of being far behind their students in their second language development, so it was important to model learning and laugh when I inevitably made some embarrassing mistake. 
Learning and Stewardship
As part of their People of Inspiration unit, the 1-2 class learned about Rachel Carson and her efforts to protect people and the earth from dangerous chemicals. With the help of a parent, the students wrote a letter to President Obama outlining their concerns about pesticides that are still being used today. It was quite exciting when the President wrote back, sharing his commitment to working together to protect our planet. What a wonderful way to inspire our next generation of leaders!

Our 3-4 class started the school year with a unit on Casco Bay. After field trips to each of our four ecosystems here--including a trip out on a lobster boat with water quality testing, and in-depth study of a salt marsh--each student picked a Casco Bay critter to study. A written report accompanied a 3-D model of each animal, such as a sea urchin made of fudge, a furry sea otter, a paper mache octopus, a clay puffin, and an osprey fashioned out of an old lobster buoy and seaweed. To cap off the unit, the 3rd and 4th graders stenciled storm drains in the Falmouth Flats neighborhood, reminding residents to help protect the bay by keeping the streets free of trash. Our students do this every two years.

Several of our 7th and 8th grade students have been working to advocate for the environment, inspired by the climate change work of 7-8 teacher Lee Chisholm. A few budding artists have painted posters, many took part in the "My World in Your Hands" initiative, and several students and alumni attended a recent 350 Maine rally in advance of the Paris climate change talks. At the rally, one of our 8th graders gave a speech that read, in part, "Here in the United States, we are blessed to live safely and with resources to deal with the immediate threats of climate change. I am so afraid that that safety will allow our leaders to avoid the hard choices that must be made to save the future of our planet. Millions of people around the world are already suffering and dying because of climate change. Many wise peacemakers have said, 'A society's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.' I want the leaders in Paris to hear my voice, on behalf of the people who don't have one, and act now. These problems cannot wait for another generation. So I am asking, with all my heart, that the people of the United Nations do not waste any more precious time."

We are proud of our students, who understand the interconnectedness of all living things, and of our teachers, who model the careful use of resources and how to care for the world.
All About Our New School  

Did you know that Friends School of Portland is the first school in Maine, the first commercial project in Maine, and the third school in the nation to achieve Passive House Certification - the highest voluntary energy efficiency standard in the world?

Friends School of Portland is net zero--we burn no fossil fuels! We expect to produce as much energy from our solar panels as we consume over the course of a year. We are net zero because of our friends at Ocean View Retirement Community, who bought the 144 solar panels on our roof. In 2021, they will donate those panels to us. We are still on the electrical grid, and when the sun isn't shining (on a cloudy day or at night) we access electricity from Central Maine Power. When our solar panels produce more power than we are using, we get credits from CMP. An iPad mounted outside our meeting room displays the amount of energy we create each day, serving as an interesting learning tool for our students.

Passive House buildings are known for their tight envelope: We have insulated walls (36" thick), insulated ceilings (44" thick), and an insulated foundation (26" thick). The walls, floors and ceilings are all sealed with tape and breathable fabric membrane so no air or moisture leaks in or out. The windows and doors are TRIPLE-paned and come from Lithuania and Germany. The size and location of the windows allow for solar gain in just the right places.

Our building has a variety of other earth-friendly features. Lights are turned on by a motion sensor, automatically adjust to the natural light in the room, and turn off by themselves after about 15 minutes. Toilets at FSP use 1-1.5 gallons of water per flush--much less than the 3. 5 gallons used by the average American toilet! The wood used on the walls and ceilings throughout the school and Meeting Room comes from the white pines we had to cut to make room to build.

We compost food scraps and paper towels in every classroom and in our kitchen. Garbage to Garden makes them into compost, and we will use that compost in our flower and vegetable gardens. Rain and melted snow from behind, around, and on top of the school is collected and flows into the storm water drainage system in this circle. Careful layering of rock and vegetation like switch grass helps filter the water quickly back into the earth.

On the evening of November 20th, donors to the Turn to the Future capital campaign were invited to gather in our new building to reflect on and appreciate the successful project. Gratitude was expressed all around. Mary Tracy, founding teacher of FSP, conveys this gratitude well: "This school building manifests our collective vision, not only of the way a school can be, but of the way buildings can be. It inspires all who enter to tread more lightly upon the earth. It invites us to enjoy angles of light and a wavy wood ceiling and splashes of bright color, to learn that being frugal with resources does not have to be drab. It takes a community to create a school, and I'm deeply grateful you are all part of that community."
In the Classrooms
As the first term draws to a close, we have had some great opportunities to hear about student learning.  Brief all-school Morning Meetings on Tuesdays allow one class to choose something they are learning, share it, and relate it to a Quaker value.  The 5-6 class shared what they had learned from a visitor from Somalia, for example, and why welcoming immigrants was so important (community).  The 1-2 class sang their good morning song in multiple languages and then helped us to learn about the paper towel composting system they had devised for the school (stewardship).

A recent assembly, entitled "What's Up, FSP?" saw each class presenting: a skit about the Russian a nd French Revolutions (by the 5-6 class), a poem about Hannibal and Ancient Greece (7-8), a song from a music history class (3-4), paintings depicting things that the children a thankful for (Kindergarten), and a story acted out about a courageous librarian in Iraq (1-2).  
We are grateful for these many opportunities to learn from one another!

Admissions Open House--January 9    

Do you have a child entering preschool-grade 8 in the fall of 2016? Would you like to learn more about us?
Click here for a full list of upcoming admissions events, and mark your calendar for our winter Family Open House on Saturday, January 9 at 10:00am. Please note that our "priority" deadline for admissions is January 31; after that, applications will be reviewed on a space-available basis.