Our return to a Preschool Advent Retreat was a huge success! Our committee chairs enthusiastically took to their tasks and brought a fun-filled and engaging evening to all of our families. Ms. Nancy started off the evening with a Nativity Play with our 4-year old preschoolers playing all the roles. She told the story and the children made the story come to life in their actions and costumes. Each child took his or her role very seriously and enjoyed being part of such a beautiful story! The costumes and props will be available in our multi-purpose room throughout the Advent season for all our Preschool children to participate in the Nativity story with their classes. Participating in the tale makes the story come alive for little learners and helps them to empathize with each character. They especially love being the animals!
We asked each family to bring in a large box of candy canes to benefit our little friends at Duke Children’s Hospital. They were so excited with our donation of Trick or Treat bags at Halloween that they requested a candy cane collection. Our families, as usual, were overly generous and brought many boxes to brighten the lives of the children on the hospital floor this Christmas season.
Jen Campbell coordinated the Soup Kits for Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Louisburg. This was a fun way for families to participate together to help families in need. Each bin contained an ingredient for the soup kit and families walked down the tables scooping and pouring each ingredient, in turn, into the bag. At the end, a recipe printed in English and Spanish as well as a lovely message from the Preschool was tied onto the bag. Thanks to the hard work of our families, we were able to bag up more than 100 soup kits! An additional thank you goes out to Jen for measuring out all the ingredients for the spice packets that were prepackaged for the kits. That was a labor of love!
Our Advent Wreath and Jesse Tree Ornament stations were coordinated and put together single-handedly by Susan Gowland and her family. Susan designed the wreaths, purchased all the supplies and worked her fingers literally to the bone as she wired the greenery for the wreath base! There was a constant crowd of people around the tables throughout the evening and it was a craft that was enjoyed thoroughly by everyone who participated.
She also photocopied, printed and packaged all the Jesse Tree ornaments for the Jesse Tree station. The Jesse Tree is named from Isaiah 11:1: “A shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots.” It is a vehicle to tell the Story of God in the Old Testament, and to connect the Advent Season with the faithfulness of God across 4,000 years of history. The Branch is a biblical sign of newness out of discouragement, which became a way to talk about the expected messiah (for example, Jer 23:5). It is therefore an appropriate symbol of Jesus the Christ, who is the revelation of the grace and faithfulness of God. To find out more about the Jesse Tree, click here.
Tara Heller was the baker behind the Cookie Decorating station. In order that there might be nut-free cookies for everyone, Tara made countless batches of sugar cookie dough, rolled it all out and cut out about 150 circles and baked them to perfection. To be sure that there would be enough, Maggie Hemedinger – a 7th grader at TFS whose Science Fair project was coincidentally the effects of different sugars on the consistency of sugar cookies! – made another several dozen. The children had colored frosting and sprinkles to decorate their tasty confections and baggies to slip them into to take them home (although most of the cookies I saw were slipped into little mouths!)
Moira Roberts was the worker bee behind the Advent Calendar. Our version was not an ‘open the door’ type of calendar, but a chain of good deeds. Moira cut nearly 2,000 strips of colored paper and packaged them up for our station. She brainstormed a list of ideas of good deed and holiday help that little ones could easily do: I put my dirty clothes in the hamper, I made my bed, I helped decorate the Christmas tree. Each day, a good deed is written on a colored strip of paper and then formed into a link on a chain. This way, they are counting up the days until Christmas with a chain of loving acts and kind works.
Mr. Jim brought his guitar and had jingle bells and shakers on hand for participatory music. He sang songs that the children are familiar with from music class and songs of the season for our children to sing, dance and shake along with. Thanks to Ms. Kathryn for helping sing along as well!
We also had celebrity storytellers pop in and share a Christmas story in between Mr. Jim’s jam sessions. Ms. Tanya, Ms. Kathryn and Ms. Nancy each read a story of Jesus’ birth to the children as they sat in rapt attention.
We are so grateful to the help of all the teachers who helped out at all the stations and read stories to the children and to Maggie Hemedinger who stayed from set up right through to clean up to help with anything that was needed. A very special Thank You to Jenn Lopez for the gorgeous signs that she made especially for us! We could not have put on this event without all of your help! And again, thank you to our families who participated and shared their evening with us and made our Advent Retreat a fun and exciting event. The children at Duke Children’s Hospital and the families of Our Lady of the Rosary parish also thank you for your generosity. It was a wonderful way to kick off the Advent season and we look forward to putting on another retreat next Advent!
Harvest Moon Festival
The Harvest Moon Festival is a long-standing institution for the Preschool. We have held this festival since the school opened 20 years ago! It has had many incarnations but it has basically remained the same throughout, a family-fun festival geared toward preschoolers.
We thank all the families who came out on a beautiful fall day to support St. Francis of Assisi Preschool. It was an afternoon filled with happy laughter and chatter as children played carnival-style games, took a turn on the Cake Walk, marveled at the sheer size of our baskets for raffle and shared some delicious food together. We are grateful to the Knights of Columbus who provided the food for the event and stayed to serve it up with a smile! We thank our Harvest Moon committee who organized and put the entire event together and the volunteers who worked at the stations or set up/ cleaned up. Through your generosity, we were able to raise over $6,000 for the Preschool and the Dan Kenna Endowment fund! Thank you and we’ll see you next year!
Trick or Treat Bags for Duke Children’s Hospital
Halloween and Trick or Treating are one of the most treasured memories of youth. We can all remember the excitement children dress in fancy or scary costumes and prepare themselves for a euphoric trip around the neighborhood where each house brings more delight than the last! Some children, though, are unable to participate in this ritual of childhood because of hospitalization. Our 4-year old students know what an exciting holiday this is for them and can clearly empathize with a child who is not able to go Trick of Treating. It was easy for them to come up with a solution to this sticky situation.
In that knowledge, the 4s of St. Francis of Assisi Preschool brought in candy and small treasures to fill treat bags. It was a fun and engaging time as their little hands worked to carefully fill each bag. They used twist ties to bring it all together and some classes even added their own sentiments in the form of cards with ‘get well’ wishes. It is a joy to see their smiling faces as they think about others and do something constructive to make a difference!
The Trick or Treat bags were combined with treat bags made by a 3rd grade class at The Franciscan School. The combined bags were brought to the hospital and delivered to the children on Halloween day. What a fun activity for all!
Halloween is lots of fun at the Preschool! Each class had something fun to do to celebrate: some carved pumpkins, some made Halloween crafts, some sang songs, some dressed in their costumes and held a parade for all the parents to see. Here are some photos of the classes all decked out to charm or scare.
Caring for All God’s Creatures
This month, the 3-year old classes, in conjunction with the Feast of St. Francis, held their service project. We wanted to honor St. Francis and his love of all God’s creatures, so we reached out to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Wake County. They told us they needed unopened bags of pet food to fill their Pet Food Pantry. This is a program that helps families, already in economic distress, to be able to keep their pets when money is tight. They provide a month’s worth of pet food to those who come in and demonstrate a genuine need. As you can see, our families responded overwhelmingly to a plea for bags of food and it made an impressive display as the Conley family loaded into the family car to haul to the SPCA. You can find out more about this program by clicking on the following here: SPCA Pet Food Pantry.
We also wanted to make sure that the children were an integral part of this service project. We used an SPCA recipe for homemade doggie treats and the children measured, mixed, rolled and cut the dough into doggie-bone shaped biscuits. With 6 classes baking, we were able to fill 3 large canisters with doggie treats for the pets in the shelter. Our children were heartened by the thought that their hard work and generosity would bring much joy to a pup penned up in a cage, waiting for a new home. The can definitely identify with the joy of a treat!
In addition, we reached out via our parish’s FrancisFest and collaborated on a project. Families worked on making dog toys in the preschool area to benefit the pets of the SPCA. From a mountainous pile of recycled fabric scrap strips, families chose 3 colors to knot together and then braid into a doggie tug-toy. Working together as a parish, we were able to create a large box filled with colorful and recycled dog toys to make a ‘soon to be’ pet’s time in the shelter more fun.
A very big thank you to the teachers, children and parents who helped to make the treats, the families who donated food, the parish for helping to make the toys and to the Conley family for bringing it all to where it needed to go! You are a blessing to this school and this parish: we can truly move mountains when we all work together!
Blessing of the Animals
In honor of the Feast of St. Francis, Fr. Bill McConville came to the Preschool to meet with the 3- and 4-year old classes to share the story of St. Francis and what this Saint means to us today. They learned that St. Francis was a man of prayer who loved God with all his heart. He did not care for material possessions and gave away his own belongings to the poor and needy. He had a special relationship with all animals, both large and small, many of which would come and listen when he was preaching. Fr. Bill pointed out that he dresses like St. Francis in order to remind him of St. Francis and his great love for God and for all of God’s creation.
Our children brought their own animals (only in stuffed varieties, though!) for Fr. Bill to bless. He blessed the children, their pets at home and their families as well as the cuddly friends they brought with them — friends that bring comfort and security to children in the same way that God does!
Thank you, Fr. Bill for taking the time to come and visit with us!
Our 4-year old classes hosted a Tea Party for their grandparents and for the Seniors of St. Francis of Assisi. The seniors who participated read books to the children about intergenerational friendships, about families and about love that has no boundaries. Afterward they shared stories about themselves and enjoyed each other’s company over cookies and lemonade.
Many of our families have grandparents who are actively raising their grandchildren. Many of the Seniors of the parish are similarly engaged as well. It is a joy to see such interaction between generations and a blessing for all when families are close. But for those whose families are far away or whose grandparents are already with our Father in Heaven, the children of the Preschool were able to make some new friends with our parish Seniors. A lovely time was had by all and we look forward to further gatherings with our new friends!
Our First Days of School
Energized and eager to meet new classmates and see old friends again, our families and their children entered the doorways to the Preschool for another year of fun, faith and education. The hallways were filled with excited chatter and fond greetings. There were some tears and a few uneasy partings, but our teachers were quick to provide distractions and enticements to bring back the smiles and giggles. By pick-up time, everyone was happily reunited and looking forward to the next class day!
We are pleased to present to our families the redesigned preschool bags which highlight our 20th Anniversary! The bags were designed by a talented and very patient preschool parent – Elana Harriss. She generously donated her precious time, effort and talent to create this icon for our celebratory year. Her son, Blase is in Ms. Connie’s class this year and Ronin is in Ms. Lynda’s class, and her daughter, Ella is still at home, impatiently awaiting her turn to be a preschooler. You will notice the logo on many other items this year: a banner in the entry way to Clare Hall from the sidewalk, car magnets to proudly proclaim where your children attend preschool and t-shirts that will soon be available for purchase. We are so grateful to Elana and her husband, Ed, as they worked with us over the summer to make this logo part of our Preschool!
Class of 2012
We are excited to open our doors to the students and families of the 2011-2012 school year. The teachers and staff of St. Francis of Assisi Preschool have been busy at work planning lessons, arranging classrooms, preparing materials and sharing ideas. Families brought their children to visit their new classrooms and meet their teachers and their new classmates on August 26th. There was still the same feeling of excitement and joy in the air as when we first opened our doors to families 20 years ago. The first days of school are always filled with new sights, sounds, feelings and nervous energy and this year was no exception. It has been our pleasure to serve the families who have trusted their children to our care for all these years and we are all looking forward to a successful and blessed year together once again!
We wish to welcome our new staff members: Paula Dolan, who will teach the 3s; Gabby Smaltz, who will assist with the 4s and Tanya Chaput, who will teach the 4s.
Popsicle Playdate with Moms, Pops and Tots
On August 17th, St. Francis of Assisi Preschool hosted a ‘summer’s last hurrah’ in conjunction with the Moms, Pops and Tots group. From 10 am until noon, families with preschool-age children mingled with one another as they watched their little ones make new friends and play on the playground. The Preschool was available to tour if families expressed an interest in the program or facilities and Deirdre O’Malley of the Moms, Pops & Tots group shared their upcoming playdate schedule. It was a great opportunity to meet new families and for children to form new friendships. The day itself was gorgeous – sunny and breezy and just right for a cold popsicle!
Moms, Pops and Tots meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month from 10 am until noon. Here is the tentative schedule for the rest of 2011:
- 9/7 – North Hills Playground (Chowan Circle)
- 9/21 – Laurel Hills – All-Children’s Playground (Edwards Mill Road)
- 10/5 – Baileywick Park (Baileywick Road)
- 10/19 – Blue Jay Point Park (Pleasant Union Church Road)
- 11/2 – Honeycutt Park (Clear Creek Farm Road)
- 11/16 – Williams Park (Lead Mine Road)
- 12/7 – Southpoint Mall Play Area
- 12/21 – Holiday Break — Merry Christmas!
Easing the First Day Jitters: Preschool
After a long summer filled with fun and excitement and the security of seeing their caregiver constantly, children might be feeling a little bit anxious about beginning this new adventure called “preschool”. Here are a few ideas to help make the transition a positive one for both caregiver and child:
• Prepare your child mentally by reading books about the first day of school like, Maisy Goes to School or Little Critter: First Day of School. This allows your child to process the idea of going to school and opens a dialog between you and your child.
• Roll-play what it might be like on the first day. This will allow your child to have a concrete idea of what will happen on that first day.
• Visit the classroom and meet the teacher – Friday, August 26th is the day to come to St. Francis of Assisi Preschool to meet your child’s teacher and visit the classroom.
• Establish a “goodbye” ritual. A special hug, a special goodbye spot, a special silly phrase (see ya later, mashed pa-tater!) and a predetermined “hello” ritual when you arrive to pick your child up can help them through the transition from being at your side to in the classroom.
• Make your drop-off smooth and avoid the temptation to rush in and ‘rescue’ your child. If your child is having difficulty separating from you, the best thing you can do for your child is to remain positive, remind him of your ‘hello’ ritual, blow a kiss and walk out the door.
• Arrive a few minutes early to pick up your child. This will ease your child’s anxiety that he has been forgotten!
Parents.com has an article online if you would like to have more ideas:
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Getting Your Child Ready for Preschool
Betsy Flagler of the News & Observer’s parenting column, Parent to Parent, wrote a great article a few weeks ago about preparing your child for school. Transitioning from the carefree days of summer to the regimented schedule of school can be difficult. She suggests ending the summer with “plenty of talking, playing and reading.” She even gives some strategies to achieve those goals:
• Build a rich vocabulary. Talk about what you see and do with your child. Use synonyms to introduce new words. For example, the child says, ‘I’m really happy today.’ The parent can follow with, ‘That’s nice to hear: why are you glad today?’
• Introduce and encourage rhyming, which helps children break down large words. Read Mother Goose rhymes, sing songs and read poetry.
• Encourage children to identify the relationship between sounds and symbols. For children ages 4 to 5, work on identifying the first letters in their names.
• Keep a variety of books within easy reach. Take your children to the free local library programs and as an extra bonus your children will get to practice self-control with their peers at the story time.
• Studies have shown that a child’s ability to listen, pay attention, follow through on a task and remember instructions are key predictors of academic achievement in later school years.
Summertime may be on the wane, but a great new school year is in store for your little ones! See you soon!
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Our Constant Companion
“Frankie” has been our preschool mascot for the past few years. He sits proudly upon Ms. Denise’s expansive desk, eagerly welcoming all who enter. Many of the children begin their day with a sing-song “Good morning, Frankie!” or beg their caregivers to pick them up so they can see him. As the school year ramps up to begin, “Frankie” is an important part of our staff. There are times when new children are too shy to speak to an adult, but will happily babble on and on with our finned friend. He helps to ease the transition from home to school for many of our children. We salute you, “Frankie” and thank you for your years of dedicated service!
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St. Francis of Assisi Preschool hosted a mid-summer playdate on the playground for its families and for the Moms, Pops and Tots group of St. Francis. It was a huge success with many families from both organizations represented and also a great opportunity to meet new people and make new friends.
St. Francis of Assisi Preschool is always looking for ways to meet the needs of young families and we were delighted to share our facilities with the Moms, Pops and Tots group. Moms, Pops and Tots is a group of St. Francis families with young children who meet twice a month at various locations around town for fun and fellowship. Their schedule for the remaining summer weeks are:
June 15: Harrington Grove Playground
July 6: Sertoma Arts Center Playground
July 20: Harrington Grove Playground
August 3: Sertoma Arts Center Playground
August 17: St. Francis of Assisi Playground
Piñata Party for the Monkey Class
This Friday, May 13th was anything but ‘unlucky’ for the Monkey class. They began their day with Dad’s and Donuts and ended it with the Piñata Party won for the class by the Roberts family. The Piñata Party was one of the class party items that was offered for bid in our silent auction during the Mardi Gras Festival. Señora Gail made a custom piñata for the Monkey class and filled it with treats. Música Mexicana played in the background and the class was introduced to a few Spanish words.
Each little Monkey had 4 chances to crack that piñata open and they put all their energy into busting the candy out.
Despite their valiant efforts, it took the strong and determined whacks of Ms. Kathryn, Ms. Kathy and finally Ms. Denise to free the fun treats inside. What a fun way to raise money for the Preschool!
Thank you to the Roberts family for being the winning bidder on the Piñata Party with Señora Gail — all the little Monkeys had a great time, and so did the mama Monkeys!
Dan the Animal Man
Last week, the Preschool got a visit from a fascinating guest — Dan the Animal Man! Dan Breeding describes himself as ‘just a guy with a cool job.’ And what a job that is! He brought in 4 different animals for the Preschool children to learn about and to actually see (and sometimes touch!) these wondrous creatures.
The children sat and watched in amazement as Mr. Dan pulled a knotted coil of snake out of a crate. “Adam,” the ball python slowly relaxed and then spent the rest of the time entwined around Mr. Dan’s arm and constantly flicking out his tongue. Mr. Dan did not even need to explain that the snake was ‘smelling’ the air with his tongue because some of the Preschoolers already knew that! The best part was when Mr. Dan brought ‘Adam’ around and invited anyone who wished to feel his scales. ‘Adam’ was not at all slimy or even slippery, and with careful touching one could feel the individual scales and also feel as he contracted and expanded while moving.
Once ‘Adam’ was returned to his crate, Mr. Dan took a towel out and covered up his hand. He reached inside the crate and quickly wrestled out a small American alligator. He may have been small, but his teeth were still very sharp and pointy! Mr. Dan showed the Preschoolers how powerful the alligator’s tail was and that he uses it like a motor on a boat. Everyone knows that, but did you know that an alligator can open its mouth underwater and not get water in its throat? True! Alligators have a special valve that close the throat off so that water cannot enter. It also has a special 3rd eyelid that will close and still allow the alligator to see underwater. Just like goggles! Sadly, Mr. Dan did not pass around the pointy-toothed, American alligator for touching.
The children must have thought that this next animal was impressive because they were chattering up a storm when Mr. Dan brought in a beautiful Eagle Owl. This creature was quite large, about 8 or 9 pounds, and very serene. He had piercing eyes that seemed to look right at you. Mr. Dan showed us that the owl could only turn his head about 270 degrees (not all the way around like it was mounted on a swivel as it is in cartoons!) but Mr. Dan also told us that ALL birds can do this cool trick. Apparently it is just highly noticeable because the owl is the only bird with forward facing eyes. Whoa! Mr. Dan riled him up a bit in order to get him to flap his wings and the amazing part was that we didn’t hear a thing. As Mr. Dan says, “This is the last sound a mouse will never hear.” The owl’s beating wings made no noise at all. It was completely silent. Except when he hooted for us. Then we all had to hoot along. ‘natch.
Finally, Mr. Dan brought out his pièce de résistance, ‘Maddy’ the black and white ruffed lemur. She was big, lumbering and very energetic — she certainly liked to ‘move it, move it!’ Mr. Dan showed us that she has 4 hands, not 2 hands and 2 feet. Her feet have thumbs just like her hands so she can hang upside down from a branch. She clung onto Mr. Dan’s hand and drooped down so that he could tickle her under the arms. She loved that! ‘Maddy’ eats fruits and leaves and small insects and in nature, is found only on the African island of Madagascar.
The funniest part of Mr. Dan’s presentation was that at this point he pulled out a lint roller and continually steamrolled it over his shirt and his sleeves. Apparently, of all God’s creatures, Mr. Dan is only allergic to lemurs!
Mr. Dan helped us to remember that all animals are God’s creatures and that he made them unique and able to adapt to their own environments. O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions.
Thank you to Mr. Dan and his animals for a wonderful, hands-on experience with God’s creation!
Mr. Jim and his Band of Pirates
Our very own Mr. Jim Wahl of St. Francis of Assisi gave a delightful, family-friendly concert for the Preschool and for the K-2 families of TFS. The weather that evening was absolutely perfect for sitting on the lawn in front of the Labyrinth and enjoying the original and faith-based songs of Mr. Jim. His Band of Pirates included Brother Dwayne on keyboard, Mr. Rich on electric guitar (that’s Ms. Maribeth’s hubby!) and Mr. Patrick on drums.
Right away he began with a song that got the crowd on its feet and moving along as the children ran, walked, danced, tip-toed around the walls of Jericho! The amphitheater was filled with families picnicking on blankets, camped out on chairs and dancing around the grass. Even the adults were caught up in the Spirit and rockin’ it out on the lawn!
I bought Mr. Jim’s CD, Songs from the Big Book, and the kids have been listening to it non-stop all weekend. They really enjoyed the evening and were glad to have the music to take home to continue the ‘party’.
Thank you to Mr. Jim for putting on a great concert and also to his mighty Band of Pirates. We look forward to the next concert – arrrgh!
‘Little Hands’ Helping our Neighbors in Need
The children and families of St. Francis of Assisi Preschool were stunned by the tragedy and devastation left in the wake of the tornadoes that passed through our area. Our hearts and prayers went out to those affected. We acted quickly to bring together supplies needed for families left homeless by the storm. In the short amount of time we had before Spring Break, we collected a truck-load of diapers, baby wipes, formula, toiletries and many other badly needed items to be delivered to Catholic Parish Outreach. Monetary contributions were also collected and totaled over $300. Thank you to all the families who reached out to our neighbors! As the children poured into the school carrying bags of pull-ups and cans of Enfamil, they were proud to be part of something greater than themselves. They truly were “Little Hands Building God’s Kingdom.”
Annual Preschool Art Show
The Preschool hosted its art show the week of April 11- 15. Each class worked hard to create a Spring-themed piece of art to display in our hallways and reception area. We even had a surprise guest visit the show: Bishop Burbidge! He popped in to view the art show and got additional bonus – Mr. Jim was leading his music class so the bishop and Fr. Mark joined in. Mr. Jim shared his original composition about Elijah. The bishop was very impressed with the children’s creativity and their enthusiastic singing!
Mardi Gras 2011 was a huge success!
Thank you to the youth of St. Francis of Assisi and to all the volunteers who helped to make our annual fundraiser such a successful and fun event. Our chairs, Michelle Cash and Moira Roberts worked tirelessly to ensure a good time was had by all.
Close to $10,000 was raised during this event. These funds will be used to enhance the Preschool program and curriculum. We are grateful for the support of our community – Thank you!
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