2016-2017 ONE AUTHOR, ONE COMMUNITY
SFX is pleased to present a “One Author, One Community” program for our PreK-8 students during the 2017-2018 academic year. Our author, Kirby Larson, visits St. Francis for in-depth conversation on May 19th.
Kirby Larson has written 20 books for children, including picture books, non-fiction titles, and middle grade and young adult novels. Most of her books feature the overarching themes of resilience, empathy, and finding strength from within, which compliments our own Crusader Covenant. Ms. Larson is the recipient of the 2007 Newbery Honor Book Award, the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Prize, and three dozen state reader’s choice awards. To learn more about Kirby Larson, please visit her website at www.kirbylarson.com.
Kirby Larson’s presentations are both thoughtful and inspiring. She brings tremendous energy and passion for writing and books to our SFX student body this year. Her books fold nicely into our “Respect Each Difference” (RED) campaign, a series of speakers and conversations around themes of respect and empowerment.
Lloyd Bachrach, a Paralympian and motivational speaker, visited with our K-8 students in February to kick off our “Respect Each Difference” campaign. Lloyd, who was born with bones missing in his legs causing him to have difficulty walking, shared with students his belief that God gave him these challenges so that he could go out into the world and teach others. Lloyd believes he is called to share his challenges with students and empower them to find the grit and strength within themselves to overcome the obstacles that may lie on their own paths. The theme he explores in his presentation to youth is “Yes, You Can!”
Lloyd challenged our notion of “disabled” and “handicapped,” calling out the negative connotations these terms often convey. Instead, he suggested that differently-abled is a more apt term, pointing out that despite having some physical differences, he has always found his own way of doing things. Lloyd shared his five keys to success and overcoming challenges with our students: Build high self-esteem, Have a positive attitude, Set realistic goals – give your brain space to reach, Have perseverance, and Take care of your health. Children who would enjoy titles exploring more on this theme should consider: The Making of My Special Hand: Madison’s Story by James Riggio Heelan (for grades K-3), The One Handed Catch by MJ Auch (for grades 3-5), and A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman (for grades 6-8).
OFFICER NANA OWUSU
Officer Nana Owusu from the Northfield Police Department visited with our 6th-8th grade students in April as part of our RED campaign. Officer Owusu discussed with students the concepts of stereotypes, biases, and perceptions. He challenged them to examine how these issues influence their daily lives and the ways in which they come to exist in the first place.
Students were challenged to contemplate themes of assumptions and bias, and provided thoughtful and considerate responses. Officer Owusu’s message was “don’t judge a book by its cover.” His words dovetailed nicely with the tenets of our Crusader Covenant, which calls students to live with integrity and act with benevolence. As with our first RED campaign speaker, Lloyd Bachrach, Officer Owusu encouraged our students to live in harmony with others – especially those who are different from us – and to act with benevolence and integrity as we treat others the way we would want to be treated.
We have enjoyed visits from several illuminating speakers this year as part of our RED initiative. BMX biker and X Games medalist, Matt Wilhelm visited with our K-8th grade students in early May. In addition to performing some amazing bike tricks, Matt spoke of his life experiences, how he was bullied in middle school, and how one student standing up for Matt when he was being abused by bullies helped him to overcome his fear of these students. He encouraged us to remember that words are powerful and how kind, nice words make us feel valuable. He encouraged the children to be someone’s superhero. “Be their Batman. When you see someone being bullied, step up for them.”
Matt also spoke about dealing with the disappointments in life. He talked about the first time he went to the X Games, confident that he would medal only to fall multiple times and come in last place. He candidly told the students that he was ready to quit, but then realized if he worked harder and trained harder he would succeed. He went back to the X Games the following year and brought home multiple medals. He told them, “Don’t listen to the voice in your head that says ‘give up.’ You can overcome any challenge you face.”
Matt’s presentation compliments the tenets of our Crusader Covenant. He encouraged our students to live in harmony with others – especially those who are different from us – and to act with benevolence and integrity as we treat others with kindness and respect.
ONE BOOK, ONE COMMUNITY 2015-2016
St. Francis was pleased to introduce its Respect Each Difference (RED) Campaign with the featured One Book title, El Deafo: the story of a girl who navigates friendships and life at school with a large and awkward hearing device called a phonic ear. Exploring El Deafo by Cece Bell as a community allowed SFX to build a dialogue around age-appropriate themes from the text in support of acceptance, respect and understanding. In many ways, the learning moments central to RED build upon the groundwork laid during our community reading of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. SFX partners with our friends at St. Thomas of Canterbury for all “One Book, One Community“ initiatives.
Central to RED was a series of events and conversations scheduled throughout 2016 that involved the participation of students, parents, teachers, St. Thomas friends and outside presenters. We gratefully acknowledge the guidance and support of Linda Sawyer and Karen Godfrey for bringing RED and “One Book, One Community“ initiatives to life for our learning community.
Grades across our school population have worked under the guidance of Visual Arts Teacher Gaby Porras this year to explore themes of respect and understanding through art. Our 6th grade homerooms created logos to represent this year’s RED initiative. 4th graders created El Deafo book covers to reflect their own “super powers.”
Beth Finke, NPR commentator and author, visited with students in February to share her story and answer questions. Beth blogs and writes books about her experience as a blind person. She also visits schools and organizations to create awareness and learning moments around the issue of blindness and understanding. Learn more about Ms. Finke here. Visit her blog here. Read about our visit with Ms. Finke here.
MARY CATE LYNCH
St. Francis welcomed the Lynch family (along with St. Thomas students) for a visit on campus in April. Mary Cate lives with Apert Syndrome, a rare craniofacial condition that affects the head, feet and hands. Individuals with Apert Syndrome endure many surgeries over the course of their lifetime. Mary Cate’s family has chosen to share their story with others through visits, blogging and more to create awareness of Apert Syndrome and to help others learn to celebrate differences. Learn more at mymarycate.org.
In mid-May, author Danny Kravitz will be coming to speak with our 2nd-4th grade students about his book, Tommy McKnight and the Great Election. This historical fiction title ties in with our RED campaign as the story explores life for a young boy crippled by polio and how he is inspired to stand up to a class bully by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who is not letting his disability prevent him from running for the presidency. Learn more at dannykravitzbooks.com.
St. Thomas of Canterbury students joined SFX students via Skype for a visit with Cece Bell this March. The Newbery Honor Book author met with students in groups for age-appropriate conversations about her life and the challenges of being hearing impaired. Ms. Bell also shared detailed about her book, “El Deafo” as part of our One Book, One Community reading initiative. Visit Ms. Bell’s website here. Learn more about “El Deafo” here.