Field Day Festivities

Egg in spoon races, potato sack hops, and obstacle courses can only mean one thing: Field Day in the Lower School! An annual favorite for kindergarten through 5th grade students, a sunny but windy day set the stage for a fun-filled Field Day last Friday May 28. 

Mr. Tim Subialka, Lower School physical education teacher, organizes this full day event, and ensures that there are enough parent volunteers to help run the stations on the football field, where Field Day takes place. In past years, all participating grades were out on the field at the same time. This year, due to COVID-19 protocol, third, fourth, and fifth graders participated during the morning, while kindergarten, first, and second graders participated in the afternoon. 

Some Field Day activities, including the obstacle course, potato sack race, 50 yard dash, hurdles, and egg balancing race, were conducted in heats, boys against boys and girls against girls. Girl and boy heats ended in a final round to determine winners. The other activities consisted of the long jump, egg toss, shoe kick, and softball throw. Students practice these events in PE class in anticipation of Field Day to prepare students for full participation in the day’s events. 

Second graders Gunnar Bassett, Nolan Hubbard, and Calvin Connelly enthusiastically jump over hurdles as a part of Field Day festivities last Friday on the PA track. (PAW photo credit: Mrs. Rachel Hope)

Though the day is full of unique activities and competitions, some students are still most excited for traditional foot races. Second grader Calvin Connelly commented, “My favorite activity for Field Day was the 50 yard dash.” In this activity, students simply had to stay in their own lane until the finish line. The winners of each round faced each other in the final race. 

Fourth grade teacher and PA track coach Mrs. Amy Hohenecker reflected on the student favorites, “Students tend to like the ones where they’re competing simultaneously.” 

Field day cultivates a competitive spirit which also teaches students important lessons regarding teamwork and good sportsmanship. Hohenecker elaborated, “It’s a big team building event that teaches kids to be okay if something doesn’t go the way they want it to.” 

First graders Jack Illies and Rey Sharma approach the halfway point in the potato sack race on the football field during Field Day. (PAW photo credit: Mrs. Rachel Hope)

Mrs. Becky Connelly, a parent volunteer, assisted at the softball throw station, where students threw a softball twice, recording their best score. At the end of the activity, the top four scores for boys and girls were recorded. Connelly reflected on her experience with the students, “The kids were adorable, good little listeners.”

Subialka commented on the purpose behind Field Day, “Mrs. Galgano (the Lower School Director) and I both agree that Field Day is all about the classes having a fun class experience.” He added, “The fun comes from sharing the day with your classmates.”

A Second Grade Sacrament

Spring is in the air, which often brings with it flowers blooming, weather warming, and kids and adults alike eager to shove off jackets and run around.  But for those in the second grade at PA, spring also brings white dresses, small tuxedos, and excited relatives.  In other words, the sacrament of First Communion is just around the corner. Over the winter, parishes prepare young congregants for their First Communion and typically celebrate the sacrament during the Easter season.  The PA community shares in the excitement of this commemorative moment by guiding Catholic students in their steps toward this sacrament and by helping them to receive “Second” Communion here at PA.

Parents and teachers help students form a foundation for understanding the meaning and importance of the sacrament of First Communion. Mrs. Kesney McCarthy, parent of second grader Fallon McCarthy, reflected on how she helps her children prepare to receive Holy Communion for the first time, “As a parent, I consider it my job to help my children understand what the sacraments really mean and how we can apply them to our daily lives.”

Second Grader Wells Martin poses in his First Communion suit in front of the alter in the Providence Academy Chapel. (Photo Credit: Mrs. Karen Dierberger)

Providence Academy intends to help students accomplish this very task.  Second graders learn crucial elements of the sacraments in their religion class, focusing on Reconciliation the fall curriculum, and First Communion during the spring. 

Second grade teacher Ms. Katie Bjorgaard elaborated, “We help our students prepare for their First Communion throughout the school year using our Religion curriculum, school Mass, classroom visits from Father McClellan, and in our day-to-day interactions and discussions.”

Father Michael McClellan, Chaplain at Providence, explained what is crucial to a student’s understanding about Holy Communion, “They need to understand how much Jesus loves them. I make it a habit to remind them that Jesus is always even more excited than them when they receive their First Communion.”

Father McClellan commented on how parents can guide their children in preparation for this sacrament, “Parents should model weekly reception of Holy Communion, making sure that their students go to Mass.”

Students in Mrs. Dierberger’s second grade class (Lucia Barron, Liliana Barron, Hank Polich, Roman Crow, and Wells Martin) prepare for their second Communion at school. (Photo Credit: Mrs. Karen Dierberger)

But Providence Academy goes beyond teaching the students about First Communion.  After Easter and throughout the month of May, Providence Academy invites students to take their official second communion in the chapel.  Students who receive their First Communion at their parish over the weekend celebrate at school the following Monday with all the pomp and circumstance of a First Communion.  Students are able to dress up in their First Communion outfits, partaking in the procession for the Mass, and receiving a blessing and prayer card. This year, a total of 31 students have celebrated their First Communion in this way at school.

Bjorgaard emphasized the joyful spirit that accompanies acknowledgement of First Communion at school, “We love getting to celebrate our First Communicants as a school family.  It is a chance to congratulate and uplift each other, and it allows for more discussion about the Sacrament.”

The PA community actively supports the Catholic faith life, and as a result, students are encouraged in their faith in school in addition to church. McCarthy commented on the significance of this, “I think it helps children know they are surrounded by people that support them in their faith journey at school, home, and church. It’s an opportunity to share in a hopeful, loving tradition of our faith.”

Colorful Classes: Lower School Art

In addition to the beautiful campus, visitors to PA often notice student artwork adorning the schools walls. Undoubtedly, one important method of fueling PA’s youngest minds is art class. Through the work of Mrs. Lara Johnson–Kindergarten through 3rd grade art teacher–and Mr. Christopher Santer–4th and 5th grade art teacher–students learn early on the skills and lessons of making art to foster (teachers hope) a lifelong appreciation for beauty and the creative process.

Each Lower School class meets with their art teacher once a week for 40 minutes. Johnson commented on the nature of her classes, “It’s art class, so it’s an adventure.” 

Johnson introduces new projects, artists, concepts, and materials during her classes. Her students then use those skills to create their own artwork. 

The Lower School art curriculum focuses on an outline of art history and art concepts. Many of Santer’s projects, for example, are centered around the technique of the Renaissance, as well as traditions from around the world. 4th graders learn about art and architecture from Medieval Europe, Africa, China, and the Islamic world. 5th graders dive into Renaissance art, landscape painting, and Japanese art, and even learn how to sculpt and design their own Japanese clay garden. 

Santer reflected on the importance of art, “My first hope is that students learn about the beauty of being alive! Beauty is everywhere and learning to recognize it and respond to it by creating is one of the great joys in life.”

Lower Schoolers learn how to apply skills and ideas to their work inside and outside of the art room. 

Mrs. Danette Jaeger, a fourth grade teacher, explained, “The students often comment on different things they have learned about in art”. She continued, “Sometimes it’s connections to historical places that they have studied, and other times it’s a connection to artistic techniques they’ve learned as we work on new projects.”

Clay pots that Mrs. Johnson’s second graders crafted lay out to dry in the Lower School art room.  Clay is one of the more difficult mediums students work with throughout the year.

Johnson uses the story of the famous artist, Henri Rousseau, to teach her 2nd grade students an important message: Rousseau was not classically trained, and persevered through failure. 

Johnson reflected, “Even though he failed, he continued to persevere in art because he liked to do it. It’s important for kids to know that they can fail and try again.”

Johnson’s students work on a multitude of projects each year. Every grade completes some sort of project involving fabric, such as a yarn. For example, her first graders are learning how to weave on a loom.

For younger, Kindergarten students, Johnson begins with basic skills, specifically learning how to use art materials properly and clean up in order to gain experience. Her students also enjoy working with clay, but it is a difficult art, as it is tricky to work with.

Will, a Kindergarten student, poses proudly with his skillfully made clay pot.

Art class helps students learn new skills that they can apply to everyday tasks at school. Jaeger clarified, “I think art forces students to exercise different parts of their brain, and it stretches them to have to think outside the box.”

From the chairs in the art room to the desks of the classroom, Lower School students cultivate creativity and skill through art class. 

Johnson concluded with her perspective as an art teacher, “I hope they learn to have confidence in themselves and in their art-making process.”

A Fun and Faithful Catholic Schools Week in the Lower School

Every year Catholic schools around the nation look forward to the celebratory events of Catholic Schools Week (CSW). During this week, Providence Academy’s Lower School in particular cultivates fun and faith with its traditional activities and out-of-uniform days. From classroom bingo to a magician show, themed dress-up days to guessing how many starbursts filled the library candy jar, PA’s youngest students enjoyed the CSW festivities last week. 

Lower Schoolers had the opportunity to partake in four themed out-of-uniform days. Students dressed up in their designated class color (red, blue, purple, or green) on Tuesday, in patriotic colors on Wednesday, spirit wear on Thursday, and a sports jersey on Friday. Second Grader, Calvin Connelly, commented that his favorite theme was Jersey day. 

Mrs. Sarah Evens, a kindergarten teacher, stated, “My favorite part of Catholic Schools Week are the dress up days. It’s fun to see the kids get creative with what they wear!”

Students in Mrs. Even’s kindergarten class dressed up in jersey day gear.

In addition to festive themed dress days, Lower Schoolers also had multiple opportunities to win prizes of different sorts throughout the week. Students decorated a medallion in advance of Catholic Schools Week and were assigned a number which was then put into a raffle. At the beginning of each school day, Lower School Director Mrs. Nancy Galgano picked two numbers per each class of each grade. Lucky winners picked a prize from the treasure chest in the Lower School office.  

Mrs. Galgano’s treasure chest that Lower School students choose a prize from if they win the raffle during CSW.

Galgano reflected that the medallion raffle is her favorite part of the week, “I get to be a part of it with the kids. The odds of winning are fairly decent as well.”

Evens’ class agreed with Galgano.  Evens remarked, “I think the kindergarten favorite is the morning raffle. They love it when their classmates win! The little prizes really make their day!”

Students also participated in daily activities which reflected the mission of Providence and CSW. Lower Schoolers engaged in a CSW prayer intention at mass on Monday, crafted patriotic projects on Wednesday, and even attended a magic show on Friday. CSW gave students  the perfect chance to show their appreciation for Father McClellan, PA’s chaplain, by giving him cards and flowers. 

Traditionally, there is a full Lower School bingo game, but that could not be played due to social distancing requirements. Instead, lower schoolers played bingo in their classrooms. In lieu of the annual pep fest as well, Hudson the Magician visited the Lower School and performed various magic tricks. 

Connelly stated, “My favorite magic trick was the rope trick. The magician had three ropes- two were the same length and one was shorter. Then he put the rope in his pocket, pulled it out, and it was the same length as the other two.”

Between magic tricks, festive games, and fun out-of-uniform days, the Lower School had a blessed and memorable Catholic Schools week. 

Galgano concluded with a reflection on the importance of Catholic Schools Week and how intrinsic Catholicism is to the identity of the school, “It makes us focus on the fact that we are a Catholic school. We live Catholicism day in and day out, and the week shows us that faith is something we share.”

A New Tune: Christmastime in the Lower School

Every Christmas season, voices of Lower School students fill the Performing Arts Center during their annual Christmas concerts. Because of COVID-19’s restrictions, Lower School music teachers, Mrs. Maureen Woeltge and Mrs. Adrienne Johnson, have had to make some adjustments to these traditional festivities. 

Amidst the musical changes of this year is the new format of this year’s Christmas concerts. Rather than performing live in front of an audience of parents, each Lower School class recorded a video of some Christmas carols. Students recorded their songs six feet apart in the Performing Arts Center, with masks on. Some of these festive songs included Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, Silent Night, White Christmas, and Here Comes Santa Claus. The videos will be sent out to parents for an at-home viewing of the virtual concert. 

Mrs. Beth Reopelle, a fifth grade teacher and parent of fourth grader Camille Reopelle, commented, “Every adult can remember performing in concerts or Nativity plays growing up, and as parents, we long to have our children make those memories.” She continued, “I think that parents are encouraged to see Christmas through the eyes of a child as they watch performances.”

Students prepared for their concerts in creative ways that go beyond singing. Like the performances, classes are largely similar to those of past years, yet students rehearse six feet apart and there is minimal singing. Students also participate in musical games, one of which involves boomwackers, which are musical instruments that help students practice the rhythm of a song. Mrs. Woeltge, the second-fifth grade music teacher, reflected,“It’s challenging not always singing in class. We have some singing, it just is never the focal point.”

In another effort to keep the Christmas spirit alive, Mrs. Woeltge’s students are also learning about the Nutcracker and will have an opportunity for a Christmas sharing day, where students can share music with their classes.

Mrs. Woeltge’s fourth grade students rehearse during music class with boomwackers, which make up for the minimal amount of singing done in class.

Despite the difficulties of this school year, there is still a heavy presence of learning and fun in the classroom.  Mrs. Johnson, who teaches kindergarten and first grade music, stated, “My favorite part of teaching in general is watching the excitement of the students as they discover new songs, learn lyrics, play games and just plain have fun in the music room.”

Mrs. Woeltge leads her fourth grade music class in rehearsal.

Johnson also commented, “Lower School music classes are singing our way through the pandemic and having a jolly fun time singing holiday favorites.” Her classes are taking this time to discover new and exciting songs, one of which is called, “When Santa Got Stuck in the Chimney”, and has become a classroom favorite. 

Between Christmas carols and musical games, the Lower School is surely singing its way through the Christmas season here at PA.