21 Apr

Message from Kim Lewis, LS Principal

One of the wonderful components about being a part of a school community that spans preschool 3 through grade 12, is joining together across divisions to learn from each other about special events and holidays observed by the rich diversity of our community.  Families and caregivers are likely to have heard Lower School children talk about various joyful cultural celebrations and religious observances that they have learned about across the span of the school year.

This month, however, there have been some special national observances that highlight times throughout history and present time when people have not been accepting of human difference and where fear, misunderstanding and hate of the “other” prevailed; thrusting groups of people into devastating conflict and horrendous outcomes that we must strive not to replicate.

The Lower School faculty was faced with examining these more challenging observances, that will be discussed in age-appropriate ways in the Middle and Upper Schools, in ways that would best resonate with Lower School children.

The Lower School Diversity Professional Learning Group (PLG) took on this charge and planned two events that sought to help our youngest community members understand, value and celebrate our commonalities and our differences.  Guided by the school’s Diversity Values Statement and the school’s Mission Statement, The Day of Remembrance and The Day of Silence were approached from a place of love and understanding.

On Wed., April 19th the Lower School approached the Day of Remembrance, which focuses specifically on the atrocities of the Holocaust, yet also begs us to call to mind the painful reality of the impact of genocide of people across various cultures and communities.  A decision was made to refocus the Lower School’s observance of this day by helping the children to appreciate, notice and wonder about our commonalities and differences and how those commonalities and differences can foster unity and peace.  The journey to the April 19th exhibit was paved with full participation of each Lower School faculty member.  The culminating event was very powerful and is something that we would like our families and caregivers to experience.  Please read the article here in this issue of Lower School Notes, submitted by the Diversity Professional Learning Group,  that outlines specific details about the approach to this day. Please also “Save-the Dates” from May 2 through May 5 to experience this “Day of Remembrance – Celebrating our Commonalities and Differences” Peace and Unity Gallery exhibit, and to learn more about our quest to celebrate our commonalities, our differences, peace and unity: click here for details.

On Fri., April 21st, the Lower School also approached the national Day of Silence, which focuses on the silence that gay and lesbian people experience as a result of bullying and intolerance. Through the guiding hands of the Lower School Diversity Professional Learning Group, we approached the observance by focusing on how love makes a family.  We were joined by students from the Upper School who listened to our faculty read a story about love in a family.

As we enter the weekend where many families will observe Earth Day, it is our hope that some of the themes that the children encountered this week – unity, peace, and love – transfer easily into conversations about our shared responsibility, across differences, to take good care of our planet.  This issue of Lower School Notes also includes an article about the Lower School Planeteers First Annual Reunion Celebration submitted by Lower School science teacher, Beth Lemire. As a bonus, there is an article about ping pong coming to the Lower School.

Finally, a few upcoming event reminders:

> D-E 360° Summer Connections (SC) Open House is this Saturday, April 22.  This year, SC 2017 is in session from June 26 – August 4, 2017.  Explore the Habitats of the World with the Discoveries & Adventures and Junior Summer Day Camp offerings for children in preschool (age 3) – Grade 4. Click here or visit de360.d-e.org/summer for details.  Call 201-227-3144 or email de360info@d-e.org with questions.

> The D-E Spring Carnival is this Sunday, April 23, “RAIN or SHINE”! This FREE admission annual event is for all D-E families.  Volunteer for “D-E Fights Hunger” (our community food packing ), from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM in Modell’s Sports Complex. Click here to volunteer.  From 12:00 – 3:00 PM, enjoy activities hosted by D-E Student Activities and a NEW! STEM Festival in Hajjar STEM Center, featuring 3D Printing, Robotics demonstrations, “dry ice” ice cream.  For more details click here or visit http://www.d-e.org/news.

> Save the date & celebrate Cinco de Mayo in style on Thursday, May 4: the 8th Annual Fiesta Mexicana is for all D-E families and is held to support efforts for teacher education training in Mexico. Click here to learn more.



21 Apr

A Day of Remembrance: Celebrating Our Commonalities and Differences


Submitted by Sophia Dorner on behalf of the Lower School Diversity Professional Learning Group (Ericka Collado, Madison Farrar, Ashley Gray, Sandra Harrison, Mary Heveran, and Jennifer Koteles)

“Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.”

–Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Guatemalan Indigenous Rights Activist, 1990 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, 1992 Nobel Peace Prize Winner; b. 1952*

How does one explain genocide to children who know only love? That was the charge of the teachers in the Lower School as we sought to become one with the Middle and Upper School during reflection and learning about Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Diversity Professional Learning Group under the incredible tutelage of principal, Kim Lewis, took hold of the challenge. Ms. Lewis brought artist, Maureen Bennett, on board to help bring our vision to life.

Maureen Bennett is a visual artist who works in oils, acrylics, pastels, graphite, mixed media and collage. As a community activist, Maureen created the global traveling art project known as “Peace by Piece.” As a teaching artist and creative consultant at Mercy Center in the South Bronx, NYC, Maureen has been awarded numerous grants to support her use of art as a transformative force for social change. The work that she continues to design and implement through her creativity workshops particularly in areas of expression about poverty, violence, hunger, wellness and peace appealed to the vision of the Diversity Professional Learning Group.

We knew we wanted to have a day of remembrance that celebrated our commonalities and differences, and we also wanted the children to experience the value of the concepts of unity and peace. We began to brainstorm the best ways to make that happen considering our audience ranged in age from 3 to 12 years of age. We recognized the need to use a universal image and landed on eggs. We reached out to our colleagues, Lower School science teacher, Beth Lemire, and Middle School theater arts teacher, Carla Moriarty, who were able to assist us with obtaining fresh, organic eggs with varying colored shells. Each class was provided with 3 eggs that differed in color on the outside but when cracked appeared to be quite the same on the inside. Teachers read a range of stories to the students, depending upon particular grade-level clusters, that acknowledged differences among the characters while celebrating commonalities. The books that were read were: Whomever You Are by Mem Fox – Early Childhood; Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah – Grades 1 through 3; and The Sneeches by Dr. Seuss – Grades 4 and 5.

The next phase of celebrating our commonalities and differences extended our collaborations even more. We brought in resident art teacher, Elisa Garcia, to guide our students using a variety of artistic techniques as they decorated their very own wooden egg to depict their version of peace and love. Fourth-grade teacher Michael Rodenbush assisted artist, Maureen Bennett, in photographing each child’s hands holding their decorated egg on top of a color-coded backdrop.  In addition, a group photo of all of the eggs for the grade was taken showing the children the unification of their class and grade level bringing it all back to unity and peace for us all. For the Diversity Professional Learning Group, it was important because this final concept hits home the idea of how we need to unify despite our differences to stamp out hate that leads to disharmony and hate crimes and atrocities like genocide.

After many hours of cutting, spraying and mounting, the beautiful photographs of the children’s hands holding their eggs, were placed onto Giant Eames cards and stacked together in a variety of towers that were put on display in the Lower School gym on Wednesday, April 19th, transforming that space into a museum bathed in soft lighting.

To add to the experience, music teacher, Lisa Dove, provided audio featuring our early childhood students in grades preschool 3, preschool 4 and kindergarten, singing “Peace Like a River” as students and faculty moved throughout the display.  Thanks to David Viera from the tech department for providing just the right technical support needed and to Susan Abramson for her help and support throughout the project.

As students entered the exhibit, they walked along a pathway featuring their uniquely decorated wooden eggs.  After viewing the exhibit, they were asked to share some of their thoughts and feelings about the full experience from seeing the actual eggs, reading the story, designing their own wooden eggs and experiencing the exhibit.  Some of their responses are captured below:

  • Preschool 3: “I didn’t make this one, but I like it!”
  • Preschool 4: “This makes me feel so excited!”
  • Kindergarten: “Each egg is beautiful in a different way.”
  • First Grade: “I felt like I was in a new world.”
  • Second Grade: “It reminded me that you can do anything that you put your mind to.”
  • Third Grade: “It was really nice to see all of our eggs together.  It made me feel calm”
  • Fourth Grade: “This was way more than I expected.  I felt peace inside.”
  • Fifth Grade: “It was inspiring and made me feel hopeful.”

As one views some of the photos, it is important to note that each background color palette represents not only a grade level, but also a theme of peace taken from the PEACE flag.


On the Peace Flag – Red stands for courage.

Red chakra – grounding, security


On the Peace Flag – Dark blue suggests pessimism, reminding us of less fortunate people in the world who are in need.

Blue chakra – intuition


On the Peace Flag – Orange offers the vision of possibilities.

Orange chakra – emotions


On the Peace Flag – Green represents growth.

Green chakra – love, hope, compassion


On the Peace Flag – Purple is the color of warmth, beauty and friendship.

Purple chakra – understanding, enlightenment


On the Peace Flag – Sky blue suggests far horizons, the need to provide education and help to unfortunate people and to strive towards global unity.

Sky Blue – creativity, communication


On the Peace Flag – Yellow represents the challenge that green has kindled.

Yellow chakra – energy, desire

It is our hope that this project will serve as an anchor for future discussions in the Lower School that seek to foster understanding across difference.

We hope that parents will be able to view this exhibit while it is on display in the Art Gallery in Swartley Gallery from May 2 through May 5. Click here for details.

 For now, please enjoy photos from this memorable display: click here or click on the “Day of Remembrance”  album in the Gallery tab above. 

*20 Quotes Praising Cultural Diversity, University of Florida International Center

21 Apr


The Planeteers is an environmental group that meets after school to learn about issues of our planet and our school. They learn how to create positive change and let their voices be heard on environmental issues that are important to them.

On Monday, April 17, the 4th and 5th grade Planeteer group hosted a Planeteer reunion! We had the pleasure of visiting with some of the Planeteers from the past several years, who are now in Middle and Upper Schools.

Former Planeteers shared with each other the things their groups had accomplished from letter writing, bringing composting and safer nontoxic cleansers to our school to writing letters to the President. The students spoke about how they began to take leadership roles around environmental concerns. They reminisced about fun times and the lasting memories they had as Planeteers.

The current 4th and 5th graders also shared the work that they are doing. It was very inspiring for the younger Planeteers to hear from older students about student government at D-E and how to continue to create positive change in our world.

We ended with food and song!

Well done, Planeteers!

21 Apr

Lower School Ping Pong Lessons!

By fourth grade students, Melissa and Alia

This year the third and fourth grade students were lucky enough to have special ping pong lessons. These lessons were sponsored by the Chinese Affinity Group. We were so lucky that the parents who are part of this group arranged for Cheng Wang, a member of the 2008 US Olympic team and Jason Yutian Wang, the 2016 Table Tennis US Open Champion to come to the Lower School each week for 8 weeks to provide this experience. Third graders met on Wednesday during recess and fourth graders met on Fridays. We learned how to hold a ping pong racquet, the different rules and techniques and got to play ping pong for the whole recess! Georgia, a fourth grader, said “The teachers were very kind.” Maddy, another fourth grader, added, “I liked playing and watching.” and Amanda, a third grader said,” Ping pong was the best thing that happened to me.” We want to thank the parents for arranging this amazing experience, and also for donating a ping pong table to the Lower School. We are so happy and excited we get to keep playing here at the Lower School!

07 Apr

Welcome back from spring break

Welcome back Lower School friends and families after what we hope was a happy and healthy spring break. Whether your family was traveling, staying home for rest and relaxation, or a little bit of both, we hope you found the two weeks off restful and rejuvenating. Our faculty and staff were delighted to see the children on Monday morning, and we’ve had a busy week with exciting projects, interesting activities and much to look forward to as we enter the final months of school.

The next few months are brimming with school and PA sponsored activities – from the Ice Skating Party this weekend to the Spring Carnival to the Fifth-Grade Opera, there is so much to look forward to. We look forward to spending these next few months with you and your children.

07 Apr

Book Club

Following the success of the fall parent/child book club, on Tuesday evening, third graders and their parents gathered in the Lower School for their second book club.

This time they read The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Since the story revolves around animals, students were invited to bring their favorite stuffed animal. The book club discussions began with children introducing their stuffed animals. Immediately following that was a deep and engaging conversation about the book. Participants were able to share their insights and gain new insights from other book club members.

After nearly 45 minutes of conversation, when one book club leader announced that it was time to conclude, one student shouted, “Already?” and another added, “That felt like just 10 minutes!” The evening ended with cookies and milk and more lively conversation.

It was a great way to bring the community together and share a love of literacy.

07 Apr

Canine Companion

Both second grade classes completed a heartwarming social studies project helping a local organization, Canine Companions. Canine Companions trains service dogs to assist people with disabilities. As part of this project second-grade students learned about volunteering and Caryl Swain visited the Lower School with her training dogs, Andy, Pedro and Forest. Ms. Swain taught the children about how the dogs are trained to assist people. The children were so excited and inspired to help they had a Read-A-Thon and raised $527! Mrs. Byrne used the money raised to purchase dog toys, food, crates and other supplies to support the work of Canine Companions. Finally, and perhaps most exciting, on the Friday before spring break the second grade visited the Canine Companion site to see the trainers and service dogs in action. It was amazing to learn, as Caroline noted, that it takes $45,000 to train one dog, and Jacob found out that there are over thirty different commands a service dog has to learn. And finally, Maya found out that there are two breeds of dogs best suited for this type of work, labradors and golden retrievers. The Canine Companion project has become a beloved second-grade tradition, and we are thrilled this group was able to experience it.