Sweet ’16

I hope that in addition to time with family and friends, the holidays created opportunities to slow down and reflect. Without such space, we run run run; sometimes forgetting what towards. Visiting relatives in Tucson over break provided me with a few introspective STEM moments. Playing a hybridized version of badminton-lacrosse-soccer, I relearned Newton’s Second and Third laws: force equals mass times acceleration, and that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The ultimate conclusion, my broken foot, slowed things considerably. My second STEM dive was through the door of Yaqui shaman’s sweat lodge. The connection between mass, energy, and light (everything else), e=mc2, manifests during a sweat lodge ceremony. Participants purify purpose and interconnectedness in the rising heat. It was not a large leap (even in a walking boot) to link the sweat lodge and our school journey. As we grow Louisa Boren K-8, each step carries direction, learning, and connections. There is are few exact answers–our Emerging Vision points towards a path we travel together rather than a destination. Rainer Marie Rilke wrote in “The Walk:”


My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

going far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

It has its inner light, even from a distance—


And changes us, even if we do not reach it,

Into something else, which, hardly sensing it, we already are;

A gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…

But what we feel is the wind in our faces.


We are entering the second of three consecutive spring scrambles to grow our school. In addition to creating 7th grade (translation–opening a gate to another universe), we will plan and enact our long-term inhabitation of the Boren building. Arbor Heights’ departure will result in a landslide of moves and changes that will be felt through next fall. Juggling the various balls will open doors for involvement, questions, trust, input, support, and fun. I will do my best to facilitate open communication and participation; I’m asking for forgiveness in advance regarding the many times I know workload will interfere with my responsiveness.


A holiday policy in time for the holidays!

STEM K-8’s Leadership Team and staff have been working to formalize a school policy for holidays. The Louisa Boren STEM K-8 Holiday Policy described was an effort to formalize current beliefs and practices into consistent guidelines for all classrooms. If you have questions or concerns, initiate a conversation with a teacher or me.

STEM K-8 Holiday Policy

Why we teach and think critically about holidays at STEM K-8

  • To make all children feel accepted and to validate the cultures and experiences of their homes
  • To teach about time and cycles of life
  • To teach diversity and tolerance by learning about other cultures, traditions and religions
  • To teach the virtues associated with particular holidays- peace, friendship, love, etc.
  • To create a sense of family or community within classrooms and within our school
  • To have fun


Guidelines for Holiday Activities and Celebrations at STEM K-8

  • To promote the academic environment of the school and decrease disruptions and emphasis on sweets, Louisa Boren STEM K-8 has instituted a “treat-free” practice for birthdays. If you would like to send something to school with your child to commemorate their birthday, please donate your child’s favorite book to the classroom in lieu of food items.
  • In a similar vein, STEM K-8 is “Treat free” for Halloween, Valentines Day, or other celebrations that may occur.
  • We are inclusive and strive to validate all of our students.  We pay attention to the balance and the importance we put on particular cultures.
  • In addition to not over-focusing on particular cultures, we do not over-focus on a particular holiday within one culture.  In this way, we are not defining an entire culture or faith through one holiday.
  • We are careful to avoid stereotypes when presenting holiday information, putting up decorations and implementing activities.
  • We do not teach the religious aspect of only one holiday.  We can explain religious aspects of multiple holidays in a matter-of-fact simple manner.
  • We involve families as much as possible and as is age-appropriate in the implementation of holiday activities.  We will keep families informed of upcoming holiday activities and events. For students whose home culture prohibits a particular celebration or recognition, we will find alternative activities that promote their inclusion in the classroom.
  • There are no hard and fast rules about the time that should be spent because the amount of time will vary according to the age, interests and needs of the children.
  • As we decide on holidays to teach about, we think about our students and teachers reflect on holidays that have importance to them as individuals.  For example, if a teacher has a passion for American history, her class can only benefit from experiencing that passion around Patriots Day. Teachers may also want to consider including holidays that are important to our larger community and city. Teachers are encouraged to discuss with their grade-level partner the list of holidays they are considering.



The policy above is meant to serve as a guide for staff and families as they consider how holiday activities are incorporated into the life of our school. It is our hope that by critically thinking about teaching and celebrating holidays we will more effectively meet the needs of our increasingly diverse student population regarding cultural holiday practices that have so much meaning for children.


This policy was developed through reviewing other school policies throughout the country and in conjunction with careful thought about the needs of the STEM K-8 community (staff, students, families).


Some of the language and format was borrowed from a K-8 school in Boston, which reflected some work from the book Celebrate! An Anti-Bias Guide to Enjoying Holidays by Julie Bisson.


This is an evolving document open to feedback and suggestions from the Louisa Boren STEM K-8 community.


School of Distinction

STEM K-8 was recognized as a 2015 Washington State School of Distinction award last week for being amongst the top 5% of schools in WA for sustained improvement. From the Center for Educational Effectiveness:

The School of Distinction award is the only one in the state currently that focuses on improvement in reading/ELA and math, sustained over multiple years. Achieving this award requires continued, intentional effort from leaders and staff members. It is truly an award that recognizes the accomplishments of a dedicated and focused group of adults doing their best work for their students over several years.


CEE joins with our partner organizations to acknowledge the great work you are doing to benefit student learning and achievement. Our partner organizations—Association of Educational Service Districts (AESD), Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), and Washington Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development (WSASCD)—join with CEE each year to honor the school staffs’ collaborative efforts that lead to sustained and significant improvement in student achievement.


Congratulations STEM staff–the School of Distinction awards note hard work to improve instructional practiced and student outcomes! It’s good to have our effort and skills recognized. And we’re just getting started–this is the first year STEM was eligible as the award requires student data from 3 of the previous 5 years.

12-5-15 STEM K-8 Update

There are many exciting things happening at STEM! Winter PBL projects are in full swing, from designing and testing Mars landers in middle school to explorations that range from from birds to the Civil War in elementary. If you have not put the evening of January 14 on your calendar for our winter PBL exhibition, do it now.


We are starting to tackle a range of facility planning issues regarding future use of the Boren building. The location of grades, STEM programs, and individual classrooms within the Boren building will raise questions regarding enrollment capacity, number of classrooms/grade, building modifications, program needs and more. A steering committee led by AP Kim Noble will be leading planning. Recommendations that emerge will be shared with the Leadership Team, staff, and the PTA/STEM K-8 Community for input before final decisions are made. If this is a topic you want to get involved in, please contact Kim at kfnoble@seattleschools.org.