IMPACT OF YOUR GIFT
The Fund for Friends, our annual fund, provides the foundation for philanthropy at Friends. Gifts provide essential support during the current school year for the School's operating budget, contributing about 7% on an annual basis. Gifts to the Fund help provide for financial aid, respectful faculty salaries, athletics, performing arts, technology and more, which bolster our mission.
The Fund in 2018-19 raised $2,587,952 with 82% parent participation, 16% from alumni and 70% from faculty and staff.
We are grateful to the donors, volunteers and advocates of the School who recognize the importance of their support in creating an unparalleled learning environment.
INTEGRATING EDUCATION WITH COMMUNITY SERVICE
Lower School teachers Linda Chu and Jeneen Mangel incorporated service learning in their curriculum through a year-long investment in composting. Students planted a variety of flowers and other plants in the tree beds along 15th Street, just outside Stuyvesant Square Park. Throughout the year students collected fruits and vegetables from each of the Lower School classrooms, fermented it in the classroom for two weeks at a time, then buried it in the park, using the Bokashi method of composting.
Toward Spring, students dug up the compost they had produced, then mixed it with the dirt in the tree beds when planting their flowers. The project was in collaboration with the Stuyvesant Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA) and hallmarks our School’s Service Learning Mission to instill a sense of stewardship of school community and respect for responsibility to our urban neighborhood and beyond.
EXPLORING CURIOSITY THROUGH TECHNOLOGY
One of the activities in Judith Seidel’s robotics and programming class is helping prepare Grades 3 and 4 to teach their younger buddies in Kindergarten about the Bee-Bot robot and ScratchJr coding language. Together they figured out how they should code each Bee-Bot to reach destinations and avoid obstacles. They created courses, animations and stories in ScratchJr and scanned blocks of code to make the KIBO robot move, shake and sing. Students supported each other in the process and learned about coding and robotics through play, problem-solving and experimentation.
Judith, the Lower School Technology Integrator, explains: “It's exciting to see Third and Fourth Graders teach their Kindergarten and First Grade buddies to control Bee-Bot and program with ScratchJr. The older students learned about robotics and coding from their buddies when they started at Friends. Designing and revising a path for the Bee-bot to reach its destination — that's computational thinking! What better way is there to reinforce learning than for inter-age groups to share discoveries and solve problems as a team.”
EQUALITY IN LEARNING
After nearly a decade at Friends, Susan Schwartz has strived to create equality in the classroom and demystify how children learn to read in order to grow successful, happy readers. As a Lower School Learning Specialist and expert in cognitive and language development, Susan is adept at providing remediation and specialized support strategies for students struggling to read and write.
With the generous donation of one grateful parent whose child was encouraged and supported by Schwartz, the School was able to invest in piloting an assistive technology program, which will help all children with their reading and writing. By marrying traditional reading with the support of audiobooks, headphones, and iPads the program aims to create an atmosphere of accessibility for all students, not just those who may struggle with academics. Allowing students access to a digital library or text that can be simultaneously read and heard may be a game changer for some who struggle. The ultimate goal of the program is to encourage children to be adaptable to new technology and preserve learner confidence, all while ensuring students have the necessary tools to learn.
Susan delivered the 2017 Art of Teaching Lecture where she discussed how collaborative relationships between learning specialist, parents, and teachers, along with brain imaging research, facilitates early identification, and is foundational to successful learning interventions.
Activist Akeem Browder, who leads the Campaign to Shut Down Rikers, shared his family’s story of incarceration and injustice with Upper School students during Friends’ annual Peace Week last February. At 16, his brother Kalief was accused of stealing a backpack and was imprisoned for three years — spending two of them in solitary confinement — on Rikers Island without being convicted of the crime or going to trial. He endured brutal beatings, starvation and paranoia. After his release, Kalief dedicated himself to academics and attempted to maintain a normal life, but ultimately took his own life in June 2015. Akeem founded the Kalief Browder Foundation to tell his brother’s story and illuminate the injustice of the prison industrial complex and the need for just and merciful alternatives. Akeem’s visit was part of a larger exploration of justice and mercy and the discussion on criminal justice reform and advocacy.
As an extension of Peace Week, Upper School students traveled to Albany with members of the Kalief Browder Foundation to join the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) and other advocates from across the state who are lifting their voices for criminal justice reform. Students tested their lobbying skills in a number of meetings with New York representatives in support of The Humane Alternatives To Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (A.2500 / S.1623). They spoke to the importance of creating effective alternatives for isolated confinement, especially for vulnerable groups, and to make the prison and jail disciplinary processes fairer, with more transparency and accountability.
The group also attended a mid-day rally and some took a virtual tour of solitary confinement, simulating both the physical environment and the psychological disorientation of prolonged isolation. Others experienced the effects of solitary confinement in a replica cell that was set up at the capital. In between meetings and activities, students listened in on a press conference led by several key sponsors of the bill as well as Browder, who had been leading educational sessions with the students in preparation for the event.
They continued the work back at the School as the Student Service Committee hosted an advocacy table with informational materials on mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and injustice within the criminal justice system. Students took this opportunity to collect signatures in support of a call for the state senate to pass the HALT Act and for Governor Cuomo to sign it into law. In addition, students and community members participated in an immersive, haunting virtual tour of solitary confinement, simulating both the physical environment and the psychological disorientation of prolonged isolation. Following the VR experience, participants were encouraged to utilize the Quaker practice of silence to reflect and consider the testimony of peace and its connections to justice and mercy.
INNOVATION IN TEACHING
Last year Hassan Wilson, Assistant Head of the Upper School, was once again recognized nationally as one of the top 100 innovators by Flipped Learning Global Initiative (FLGI). Through a flipped classroom, Hassan essentially reverses traditional learning, introducing students to materials before class through a variety of channels, which allows dedicated class time to focus on active discussion, one-on-one assistance and lab work.
As an FLGI innovator and ambassador, Hassan is at the forefront of new product launches, online courses and research, advocating for others who wish to apply the flipped method at their schools. Through his responsibilities as an ambassador, Wilson was featured on BAM Radio Network, the largest education radio network, which introduces parents to the latest insights from thought leaders within early childhood education, physical education/motor development, play research, child development, and the neurosciences. In his interview, Wilson discusses giving more power to students through flipped classroom and his major/minor construct, while further examining educational models that balance the mandates of the curriculum with students' individual needs.
Wilson, who previously served as the Science Department Chair and a Grade 8 teacher, began incorporating his unconventional methods in the classroom in 2013. The flipped classroom blurs the line between work done at home and in the School, freeing students from being locked in to a concrete pattern of knowledge gathering. He investigates his students’ ambitions and incorporates this into the curriculum and structure. By identifying core skills and content while leaving a margin for students to explore their passions, he said he’s able to reach them on a deeper level.
The flipped approach is currently being utilized by several of his colleagues in the Science department, with Chemistry and Physics teachers mixing elements of flipped learning into some units, expressing their students are excited about the increased independence it allows.