School for many in Chestnut Hill starts this week.

by Paula M. Riley

It’s that time of year again. The neighborhood’s sidewalks are dotted with children carrying backpacks as yellow buses crowd Germantown Avenue.

As they do each year, local schools are offering new and interesting programs for their students. With new curricula as well as new after-school clubs and classes, the educational experience is constantly changing and expanding.

Gone are the days of the three Rs. The talk today is all about 21st century learning, career exploration, environmental studies and a variety of artistic experiences. Regardless of where a child attends school in Chestnut Hill, something new and exciting is awaiting that student.

This is a look at what’s new at Our Mother of Consolation School, Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, The Waldorf School, J.S. Jenks Elementary School and the Crefeld School.

Our Mother of Consolation School has a new art/music teacher. Beth Mead is a certified, experienced art teacher. She joins Jenne Filipone, the new exercise science/PE instructor. As a result of a grant awarded to OMC by the Chestnut Hill Community Fund (CHCF), the school will design and create an outdoor play and environmental area in partnership with Philadelphia University Landscape Architecture students. Recently, OMC rebuilt the school greenhouse that was damaged in a winter storm. This, too, was through the assistance of a CHCF grant. New after-school activities include culinary enrichment and robotics programs.

The Waldorf School of Philadelphia is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. With 175 students in nursery through eighth grade, the Waldorf School of Philadelphia has grown significantly since its inception as a playgroup. Its Renaissance-like learning environment emphasizes creative and critical thinking, analysis and problem-solving, and practical skills.

Shannon Stevens, a Waldorf parent, joins the staff as a first-grade teacher. In Waldorf Education, the entering first-grade teacher leads the class through 8th grade. This is a distinctive aspect of Waldorf Education. Other interesting aspects of the Waldorf experience include a Games and Movement curriculum of juggling, unicycle riding, tumbling and, eventually aerial work.

This supplements the Handwork, Clay and Drawing class students take twice weekly. Practical arts are important component of the Waldorf curriculum and help to develop eye-hand coordination, perseverance with difficult tasks, right/left brain functions, and imagination.

At Norwood-Fontbonne Academy, students will find an expanded pre-primary school and several other expanded school programs. The independent academy’s dual track program now includes a pre-primary program for 3 and 4-year-olds, which leads to the existing Kindergarten program. This complements the Academy’s Montessori program which has been offering Montessori education for preschool and grades 1-3 for over 40 years.

Norwood-Fontbonne is also introducing an advisor/advisee program for grades 4, 5 and 6. The advisor serves as listener, advocate and helper of the child through group work, individual instruction and meetings on topics, such as setting personal or academic goals, handling conflicts and academic or personal growth. NFA students in grades 7 and 8 will now have an array of exploratory classes from which to choose each trimester.

History of Fashion, Stats on Sports, CSI@NFA, Biotechnology for Beginners, Persona – Art Course and the History of Rock n’ Roll are just a few of the exploratory classes designed to challenge and help the student discover their talents, interests, and preferences.

Despite recent news reports about school budget cuts and Superintendent Arlene Ackerman’s abrupt exit from the Philadelphia School District, J.S. Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill is doing just fine. Yes, they will have to operate on a smaller budget, but that’s not going to stop Principal Mary Lynskey. She has been working closely with parents and staff all summer long to create the best possible environment for her students.

We are rolling up our sleeves and capitalizing on relationships with community members and businesses to offer great programs for our students,” Lynskey said.

Students arrived at school and were greeted by a newly renovated library. Dubbed the “Jenks Library Improvement Project,” this effort involved many parent volunteers who cleaned, paneled and put a fresh coat of paint in the student library.

To accompany this facelift in the library, Jenks is introducing the Destiny system, a brand new automated book catalog system, also implemented by staff and volunteers.

There will be some curriculum changes at Jenks as well. Children in Kindergarten and Grades 1 and 2 will participate in a new “movement” class each week, and those in Grades 3, 4 and 5 will enjoy a performing arts class.

The performing arts class will focus on art and music,” Lynskey explained. “It includes theatre, dance, music – they will get it all.”

Other great programs will continue, such as FLEX (Foreign Language Experience) and JAM (Jenks Arts and Music). JAM is for students in Grades 4 through 8 who are interested in additional instruction in arts or music.

Students apply to participate in JAM and choose a concentrated area of study to pursue throughout the school year. JAM lets children develop portfolios for application to high school and other art specialty schools.

Other new changes at Jenks this year include three new Smart Boards, visiting artists, a partnership with Temple University’s writing program, and the installation of a rock wall and Wii fitness area in the gym.

Just up the Avenue at The Crefeld School, students will return to something old and something new. George Zeleznik, the former assistant head of school was appointed head of school when Dr. Mark Piechota resigned in June. Rod Stanton, former social studies teacher, is the new assistant head of school. Both have been at Crefeld for a decade.

We may have new leadership,” said Joan Giannobile, director of development, “but we are maintaining all that makes Crefeld the special tool that it is.”

As a “progressive” school, Crefeld is committed to developing “critically engaged citizens” and preparing youth to fulfill their responsibilities as citizens. A demonstration of this commitment is the school’s Community Service Learning (CSL) program. Each Wednesday afternoon (during school hours), students and faculty perform community service, addressing local, national and world issues.

New to CSL this year, students will volunteer the Awbury Arboretum by assisting with the maintenance and upkeep of this 55-acre public garden and house located in Germantown.

Each year Crefeld students select a CSL site and visit it every Wednesday for the duration of the school year. Site activities include tutoring at Jenks School, working on trails in the Wissahickon, providing companionship at Senior Care Center and assisting at Cradles to Crayons, Urban Green, food drives and other charity organizations.

Crefeld is perhaps best known for its glass blowing studio.

Our glass studio is quite unique,” Giannobile said.

She explained that during the school day it is part of the school’s arts department, giving students a rare opportunity to work with the amazing art medium of glass and gain valuable teamwork experience while building confidence. During evenings, weekends, and school vacations, the studio is open to the greater Philadelphia community, offering classes and individual lessons for students and adults alike, as well as making facilities available for rental to glass artists.

At the Chestnut Hill Fall for the Arts Festival, Crefeld students will be giving glass blowing demonstrations. Be sure to stop by their booth for a demonstration of this very colorful and interesting practice.