From where I sit, it has been a terrific year, and I hope it’s been great for you as well. We’ve accomplished a lot this year, in many different areas of school life. To describe all that we’ve done this year would be impossible in this space; however, I’d like to highlight some of the work of the year:
We have incorporated our core character values (respect, moral courage, empathy, relationships) more fully into our program. We have placed visuals with these values in every office, classroom, and hallway at Sycamore. Our Division Heads and faculty have moved this initiative forward by weaving character objectives ad activities into the curriculum. The core character values have also been points of discussion in division assemblies, athletics, Quest, and after-school activities.
Our teachers have continued working on curriculum development and electronic mapping of curriculum. This year concentration has been on assessment and evidence of understanding. We’ve focused much of our professional development time in this area, and documentation should be complete by the end of the summer.
The Language Arts and Social Studies teachers have been working on implementing 6 Traits (+1) of Writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, presentation) to improve our instructional consistency and quality in writing. As teachers have been steadily working on these traits, they have been sequentially implementing them this year. Next year, implementation should be complete.
We’ve successfully launched our Learning Resource Department. Lori Henderson, our Learning resource Specialist, has worked with students, teachers, and parents to provide support for our twice-exceptional students.
Sycamore’s Board of Trustees has led work on a Campus Master Plan, a feasibility study, and preparation for a campaign to lead Sycamore strongly into the future.
Led by our Advancement Office, we have focused on connecting more strongly with more of our alumni. We’ve had several successful alumni events, which has led to increased participation by our alumni in communication, in service to Sycamore, and in giving to the school.
We’ve been extending Sycamore’s reach into broader communities in several ways: 1) increased visibility and presence in the Indianapolis community; 2) leadership in connecting independent schools with gifted missions across the country; 3) increased connections with universities; 4) increased connections with and service to some of our local public schools; 5) involvement with community leaders through interactions such as Rebuilding Together Indianapolis, IndyGo bus stop adoptions, and neighborhood community activities.
Whew! In a school there’s always plenty of work to be done, and I’m very proud of our Sycamore faculty, staff, students and parents who are willing to roll up their sleeves and take on important work! Sycamore is in a very strong position in every respect–enrollment, program, fundraising, finances. The momentum is positive and we will continue to work hard, because this is too good not to be better!
As a faculty and staff, we commit to summer reading of selected texts that will inspire us and further our own professionalism. I want to share with you what we’re reading this summer, because you may find some of these choices interesting as well:
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: Dr. Brown challenges everything we think we know about vulnerability. She argues that vulnerability is not weakness, but rather our clearest path to courage, engagement, and meaningful connection.
Counting by 7′s by Holly Goldberg-Sloan: Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7′s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents. Suddenly Willow’s world is changed when her parents both die in a car crash. WIllow manages to push through her grief and find a a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family.
Breaking into the Heart of Character by David Streight: The moral failures that have made the headlines over the past decade did not take place because the guilty parties did not know the right thing to do or because they did not know how to do the right thing. Too many ethical lapses take place because someone just did not feel like acting for the common good. This book outlines a compelling case with documented strategies that get past character talk and improve character action.
Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv: Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical condition; it is a description of the human costs of alienation from nature. This book brings together cutting-edge research showing that direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development.
I’m sure I’ll see many of you over the summer. I hope you all have some fun, some family time, and many adventures! Thanks so much for a terrific year, and thanks for sharing your awesome kids with us!
Join the Wellness Committee at the first annual Health and Wellness Fair from 9am-1pm on Saturday, April 19.
Walk through the vendor table area and watch live demonstrations of karate, dance, and fitness classes.
There will also be various raffle prizes throughout the event. as more than 20 vendors convene to give you information on various wellness topics.
Vendors scheduled to attend this event include: the JCC, American Diabetes Association, Outrun the Sun, Sam’s Club (vision and hearing screenings), Walgreen’s (BMI and blood pressure screenings), Indy Dance Academy, and more. We hope to see you there!
OPPORTUNITY FOR SYCAMORE FAMILIES TO BE INVOLVED WITH APRIL 5 WWII HONOR FLIGHT: Some students at Sycamore will be writing letters to vets to be distributed during the Mail Call on the April 5 Honor Flight that is returning to Indy from Washington DC. We invite all Sycamore families to join the campaign to honor our WWII vets by writing them a letter or note. We also invite families to welcome the veterans home from Washington at Indianapolis International Airport on the evening of April 5.
1. Sycamore kids writing thank-you notes to WWII veterans:
The 4th Indy Honor Flight heads to Washington, DC, on Saturday April 5th, The Indy Honor Flight’s mission is to transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor their sacrifices. It is part of the National Honor Flight Network. During the flight, each of the veterans will receive a “mail call” package of letters from their family and friends as well as from individuals both young and old across the Indianapolis Metropolitan area. We are asking you to help contribute to this mail call by having Sycamore students, employees, friends, and family write letters to the veterans for this operation. INSTRUCTIONS/FLYER
2. “Homecoming” and an invitation to all to attend:
We encourage students and families to attend the Operation Homecoming event, also on Saturday April 5, at 8:30 PM at the Indianapolis International Airport Food Court / Central Plaza . This homecoming event was attended by over 3,000 people last Honor Flight and their goal is to double that to 6,000 people! We invite you to attend. It will be a moving experience for both all ages. INSTRUCTIONS/FLYER
Ten 2010 Sycamore graduates were named National Merit Semifinalists for the 2013/14 school year. Once again, Sycamore reached double-digits in the number of semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship program. Sycamore has a long history of semifinalists, including 34 in the past three years. Scholarship winners represent less than 1% of the initial pool of student entrants.
National Science Bowl team
Sycamore advances to National Science Bowl. Sycamore fielded two teams for the National Science Bowl Indiana Regional competition at Indiana State University. Both teams finished in the top five with one team earning 1st place out of 11 teams. As a result of winning the entire competition, the team haa earned the right to represent Indiana at the National Science Bowl Finals competition held in Washington, D.C.
Sycamore students garner high honors in the ISSMA Regional Solo and Ensemble Contest for Voice and Piano. In piano, three students received a Gold rating. Jeremy Klotz and Jonathan Moore received a Gold rating in division I, earning them the opportunity to play at the state level. In voice, four soloists received a Gold rating. Margot Helft, Elsie McNulty and Katie Miller received a Gold rating for their ensemble. Alex Johnson received a Gold rating for his vocal solo in division I, also earning him the privilege of singing at state.
Three Musicians Named to Junior All-State band. Congratulations to Elise Granlund, Alex Johnson, and Julia Mann. Just selected as members of the Indiana Junior All State Band 2014.
Sycamore Earns Medals, Advances to State in Science Olympiad. Sycamore Middle School Students competed at the Regional Science Olympiad competition held at Saint Joseph’s College at Rensselaer, placing 3rd place overall out of 11 teams, earning a chance to compete at the State Science Olympiad competition at Indiana University in Bloomington.
Musicians earn awards at state competition. Sycamore had 26 band students earn honors with excellent performances at the ISSMA State Solo and Ensemble contest.
Nine Sycamore Students are headed to State History Day. Nine current students qualified in Regionals for the state event in May as well as six Sycamore alumni qualified for state in the Senior division.
Our MATHCOUNTS Team wins state. Once again, Sycamore math students placed well in competition with two Sycamore students earning spots in the national competition.
Six authors earn awards in Scholastic Writing Contest. Sycamore entered 6 pieces into the historic Scholastic Writing Contest, and all 6 pieces were awarded prizes! Past national winners have included high school aged Joyce Carole Oats, Sylvia Plath, and Truman Capote.
Sycamore wins prestigious Maestro Award in the Symphony in Color competition. Sycamore School has won the Maestro award at this year’s Symphony in Color statewide competition. The award is given to the school with the most winners out of the six possible submissions. This is only the second time in our history that we have won the prestigious award!
Sycamore students and parents completed the Sycamore Water Challenge in order to have a real-world impact. When preparing for our International Festival, hosted by SSA, we studied the global water crisis and learned that one billion people in our world do not have safe drinking water. By giving up drinks other than tap water for two weeks and donating the funds that would’ve been used for other drinks, Sycamore students and parents raised over $5500 to drill a bore hole at the Chivuti Primary School in Zimbabwe. These students who will now be able to concentrate on schooling because they don’t have to walk miles each day, carrying water.
Four Seventh graders competed in the Regional Science Fair. Kavin Rajendran earned the right to compete in the State competition with his project “What Metal is Safest for a Battery?”
Sycamore 7th Grader second in State Chess Tournament. Pranathi Jothirajah came in second in the 11th annual Scholastic Chess of Indiana Girls State Championship, held in Indianapolis.
Sycamore 5/6 girls basketball team was crowned IISL champions. The 5/6 girls basketball team earned their second consecutive IISL championship on March 6, beating the previously undefeated Park Tudor squad 22-20 in a thrilling title game played at Park Tudor. The team finished the season 15-1, with their only loss occurring in their first game to the same Park Tudor team they beat for the trophy.
Congratulations to the Sycamore Eagles Girls Cross Country team. They captured the IISL Championship. The Sycamore girls team topped a field of seven teams at the North Central High School course. Sycamore was led by Julia Mann,who won the individual title. Using a strong pack of runners, the Eagles won the team title by placing three among the top seven finishers. In the boys race, the Eagles were 5th out of eight teams, and Alex Pirkle took second place overall, in a fantastic duel for the title, finishing less than 0.2 seconds behind the race winner.
Last week was the annual Readathon day at Sycamore – one of my favorite days of the year. I love seeing the kids so eager to enter school, carrying pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals to help them hunker down, cuddle up, and settle into the reading routine. I enjoyed being able to read to kids in all grade levels. (Yes, I shared something in each grade about the Iditarod race, which is now underway for at least the rest of this week.) On Monday, 3rd and 4th graders were treated to a conversation with Stephan Pastis, author of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine and the Timmy Failure books. He was funny and engaging, and if there are any students in those grade levels that have not tried one of his books, I’m sure they will now!
I wanted to share a few resources and suggestions for books for your family to read. With spring break coming up, it might be a good time to stock up from the school or public library! First, there was an article on the Common Sense website about how to hook your kids on books and raise a reader. I thought it had some good suggestions. The website is: How to Raise a Reader
Amazon.com also has many links for children’s books. You can start here: Amazon Children’s Books Home site From here, you can read information and reviews about books for kids of various age categories, along with best books of 2013, book award winners, and best books of the month.
A final site with many good suggestions is the International Reading Association. Here you can choose to look at yearly lists of best books chosen by teachers and children. There are always a lot of good options to be found! International Reading Association book lists
Here are some good books I’ve read recently that I would recommend. I’m going to start with poetry: National Geographic Animal Poetry: 200 Poems with Photographs That Squeak, Soar, and Roar! by J. Patrick Lewis Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou by Dr. Edwin Graves Wilson Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem by Jack Prelutsky (In this collection he talks to the kids about how the poems came about, along with tips for them about writing poetry.) Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins Follow Follow: A Book of Reverso Poems by Marilyn Singer
Here are some picture books to look for: Arrowhawk by Lola Schaefer Tomorrow’s Alphabet by George Shannon The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau Mary Had a Little Ham by Marcie Palatini Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
Finally, here are some chapter books I recommend: Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis Danny’s Doodles: The Jelly Bean Experiment by David Adler The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (This is a mystery that integrates math and art.) Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage (A mystery full of humor; probably for 4th, maybe 3rd.)
Education at its best is a partnership – between students, teachers, parents, and a greater community. The last 36 hours have been filled with stories of the past trimester and tales of things to come. Our students are diligent in communicating with their teachers in the hallways, before/after school, and via email. They bring forth questions for clarification and notions that probe the fringes of current knowledge, share jokes and act bravely when they see a need for change. Their words bring perspective and enlighten.
Our parents take the time to ask questions and share concerns rather than just wonder. Bringing stories of their personal passions about history, literature, numbers, music, art, and research they model what passionate learners look like in the day-to-day. They listen – to their children and their child’s teachers. All of this combined with our faculty’s open ears, insight, and rich educational expertise affords us all to be true agents of change.
Not every learning community has key players who are willing to take the time to converse. But as we know, it is inquiry and conversation that we know yields the most productive growth.
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, concerns, ideas, kind words, and tales for the sheer purpose of a good laugh with us. Whether it has happened in the past two days or in the past few months, it has, and continues to, make us stronger.
Looking forward to hearing from and seeing you all again soon.
Sycamore has surpassed the $3,250 goal for the Access to Water project, as the Sycamore community has raised more than $5,500! One of our families will add to that amount, and we will fully fund a bore hole for a school of 750 in Zimbabwe, so that they can get running water. In the coming weeks, we will receive pictures and letters from students and teachers at the school. Thanks for your support of the project!
The American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults – including the Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, Newbery and Printz awards – at its Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
A list of all the 2014 award winners follows:
John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:
“Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” written by Kate DiCamillo, is the 2014 Newbery Medal winner. The book is published by Candlewick Press.
Four Newbery Honor Books also were named: “Doll Bones,” written by Holly Black and published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division; “The Year of Billy Miller,” written by Kevin Henkes and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; “One Came Home,” written by Amy Timberlake and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.; and “Paperboy,” written by Vince Vawter and published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:
“Locomotive,” illustrated by Brian Floca, is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Brian Floca and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
Three Caldecott Honor Books also were named: “Journey,” written and illustrated by Aaron Becker and published by Candlewick Press; “Flora and the Flamingo,” written and illustrated by Molly Idle and published by Chronicle Books LLC; and “Mr. Wuffles!” written and illustrated by David Wiesner and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
It is truly a happy new year at Sycamore. On December 13, we let you know of a terrific opportunity for Sycamore. We were offered a matching challenge for our Sycamore Fund through the Scott A. Jones Foundation. The challenge was a dollar-for-dollar match–up to $50,000–for gifts or pledges made by the end of 2013. With the holidays and winter break approaching, it was a daunting task to raise that much money!
I’m thrilled to report that our Sycamore family responded with enthusiasm and generosity! Surpassing our hopes, friends of Sycamore pledged or donated $91,560 between December 13 and December 31! Including the Scott Jones match, that translates to $141,560 for the Sycamore Fund! We received gifts and pledges from current parents, current students, faculty and staff, alumni, alumni parents, grandparents, and other friends of Sycamore.
It’s hard for me to communicate how excited I am about this response. The expressed love for Sycamore is incredible and affirming. Thank you so much for being a part of this great achievement!
Hearing predictions of our first winter storm, I think a reminder of how Sycamore responds to bad winter weather is in order.
First of all, we do not follow the lead of area public schools; often, however, often our decisions are the same. If weather is questionable, I evaluate the situation very early in the morning, and sometimes consult with nearby independent school heads, before making a decision about whether to keep school open or close it for the day. We are either open or closed; we do not have delayed starts. Many public schools decide on morning delays due to bus transportation. We, however, believe that if we are having school at all, delaying the start just complicates family routines. Our maintenance staff has snow removal plans in place, and they are always on the job early on bad mornings!
As you know, our families, faculty, and staff come from many areas of the city, and conditions may vary widely. So, ultimately the decision to bring your child to school on a bad weather day is yours. If you do not think you can travel to Sycamore safely, then please stay home or come later in the day. We will not penalize a student for a weather-related absence or tardy. We afford our faculty the same consideration, so sometimes we have faculty members who are also tardy on bad weather days. We always have a core faculty and staff here and can adjust to make the day a smooth one.
If we decide to close school, we will post that announcement on our website, send an email, and call through our automated phone system. There is no need for you to call Sycamore.
This is just a reminder of our approach to bad weather decisions.