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The Window offers an inside look at Dock Mennonite Academy
A PASSION FOR COMPASSION
Brenda Shelly, June 2018
A little kindness goes a long way. So there’s no telling the distance a big kindness like this could travel.
Early this school year, Mrs. Kelly Kratz’s fifth grade students began brainstorming ways to combat recess loneliness.
They didn’t just sit on their idea to see what would hatch. They pursued their cause with determination!
Younger children were surveyed, a letter was written to administration, and parallel biblical concepts of a welcoming community were drawn.
A presentation was given in chapel where the students told the story of the Good Samaritan in a new way.
A bulletin board was created, the focus of which was to spot kindness in others and to keep lifting one another up.
The final goal of the project was to add a “Buddy Bench” to the elementary playground.
If a student is feeling lonely, that student could take a seat on the bench. When other students notice, the hope is that surrounding students will try to include that person in play.
As energy for the project continued to build, a presentation was prepared by the students for a select group of potential donors. I spoke with one of the donors immediately after the lunch meeting. My friend, Dorothy was very impressed by the earnest student presentations. She noted that the children were so engaged in their quest to be servants, one of them even chivalrously offered to return her lunch tray the split second she finished eating!
The bench project provided a wonderful way for two generations to come together.
I love to think of these ten and eleven-year-olds demonstrating so visibly their profound passion for compassion.
The unconstructed bench arrived on campus in a large flat cardboard box on May 8th. The FedEx delivery truck pulled in just as the last of the buses were pulling out.
Mrs. Kratz’s fifth grade class was hoping to meet the truck on delivery day, so the dismissal hour timing was not ideal! Fortunately, a handful of the students were still on campus for “Dock Girls Run” (an afterschool running club) and “24 Club” (an interactive afterschool math game).
THERE WAS A LOT OF
EXCITEMENT WHEN THE STUDENTS
WERE INFORMED OF THE
Mrs. Kratz signing for the delivery
Since most of the students missed the bench delivery, the entire class participated in a box signing the following day.
Assembly and bench decoration were next on the agenda. This part was a lot of fun for the creative souls in the group!
It was a beautiful day when the students began painting primer on the waiting boards.
Despite careful instruction about tapping the brush on the can...primer painting did not happen without lots of dripping.
"Watch your shoes, painters!"
These two were the muscles behind the drying dock!
Mrs. Kratz sharing some helpful tips for "painting while outside." The painters were listening but trying not to be blinded by the sun as it had been a FULL WEEK of clouds and rain prior to this lovely painting day!
Close proximity to the elementary playground makes signs quite necessary! Drying primer paint is serious business!
The kindergartners are writing their names on the boards between the primer coat
and the base coat. What a great way for them to feel included.
The next step was circle tracing in preparation for the colorful paints to be done in
conjunction with several of our younger classes. The younger students will benefit from the bench in
coming years. A memorable shared experience for our elementary and EC students!
FINALLY ADDING SOME
It was so inspiring to listen to the fifth graders taking leadership of their project and helping the smaller students with painting and instructions. The photo below shows fifth grader, Seth, giving encouraging instructions to the first graders and reminding them of the importance of the buddy bench.
Concentrating on keeping the paint within the circle!
The following smile-inducing snippets were overheard as the fifth grade boys worked
tenderly with their young painting partners:
"I love being a group leader. Helping the kindergartners is the best." - Jordan
"You have the chance to sign your name inside the circle so you will always be a part of the bench!" - Corbin
To say Mrs. Kratz is ALL IN on this project with her students would be an extreme understatement!
Once the creative embellishments are dry and the pieces are assembled, the bench will be carefully positioned on the Elementary Playground.
Alongside our industrious fifth grade students, we have great hopes for Dock’s new Buddy Bench.
May it be a wonderful tool for fostering new friendships and inspiring creative acts of kindness for many years to come.
BAMBOO. It's Not Just for Pandas!
Brenda Shelly, April 2018
Our fourth graders are embarking on a creative journey in art class.
They are working on some beautiful Chinese-inspired art.
An underlay of pastel watercolor paints is being carefully applied to plain paper.
This background sets the stage for original India ink designs and careful placement of Chinese symbols.
Lovely Liliana is especially excited about this project.
As one of our current Chinese-born students, it is special for her to enjoy an artistic and cultural connection.
Mrs. Bergey’s sample piece includes a tree and the Chinese symbol for peace.
You'll notice most of the students are wearing matching shirts in these photos.
Some adult-sized 5K t-shirts from a past school event transform perfectly into protective smocks for small artists. The smocks came in handy for this project.
Mrs. Bergey enlightened her students with some great laundry advice.
"India ink is the blackest ink you can buy. It stains LIKE CRAZY!"
The students enjoyed handling a Chinese art kit, a loan from one of our kindergarten teachers.
Years ago, Ms. Price taught at a school located in Zhejiang Province, China!
At the posting of this blog, the student's Chinese-inspired watercolors are still in progress. Most of the students are working at finishing up paint and/or underlying pencil drawings. A few of the speedy ones have already applied ink!
I enjoy the way Mrs. Bergey interacts with her students.
“If you hear ‘scratchy scratchy scratchy,’ you do not have enough water on your brush!”
After a long day of coaxing artistic energy from young spirited students, one might imagine an elementary art teacher goes home at a reasonable hour and slips into a pair of fuzzy slippers.
In lieu of slippers, Mrs. Bergey sets off on school related expeditions! For this particular project, the expedition involved searching out and physically gathering bamboo for her students.
Mrs. Bergey has a sister-in-law whose back yard contains an enthusiastic thicket of bamboo. (Every panda’s dream, but a veritable nightmare for anyone trying to keep an unruly patch at bay.)
Rumor has it, our devoted art teacher spent hours determinedly chopping away at the resilient stalks.
She had dual motives for this imaginative scheme. Bamboo “quills” serve as the actual writing tool for her students. Touching the staining black ink to contrast the waiting colors on the page is an authentic way to form the Chinese symbols.
Stubborn lengths of bamboo are also used in this project as ingenious bars to hold the finished artwork for display.
Our very own Dock Mennonite Academy Bamboo Harvester....
Above and beyond…Mrs. Bergey! Above and beyond.
"The most destructive experience the inhabitants of this island have ever seen."
No one who lives in Puerto Rico will ever forget the night of September 19, 2017.
That's when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and left most of it in shambles. Power went out on the entire island. There was no clean water. Many no longer had a roof over their heads.
In the six months since the storm, Mennonite churches, schools, and relief agencies have worked together to restore hope.
Now, Dock is asking you to help, too.
On Tuesday, March 20, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., we invite you to come to the EC-Grade 8 Campus as we try to ease the burden experienced by our brothers and sisters because of this storm, and help them get back on their feet.
Specifically, our goal is to raise a total of $10,000 this school year to rebuild, re-stock, and re-supply our sister school in Puerto Rico, Academia Menonita Betania. Our students held a couple of fundraisers back in the fall to get the relief effort off the ground, and we have already raised a little over $3,000—leaving us $7,000 short of our goal. While we don't necessarily expect to raise that much in one night (it's OK if we do!), we want to put a serious dent in our goal. Will you please join us?
Read a first-hand account of the devastation at Academia Menonita Betania from school superintendent Alex Gonzalez in The Mennonite (above).
Watch students run through the halls cheering when the power came back on at their school (below).
Our Partnering with Puerto Rico Family Fun Night will have something FUN for everyone.
- Play Dodgeball and Knockout against teacher teams
- Duct tape one of your teachers (or a principal?!) to the wall
- Learn how to salsa dance, sample Puerto Rican food, and lots more!
Brenda Shelly, February 2018
I am a fan of “giving” holidays, but let’s be honest. Valentine’s Day is rather odd.
When I was a student, there was not much I enjoyed more than spending hours at my kitchen table preparing homemade construction paper and lace valentines for the boys and girls in my class. Chunky paste piles and careful penmanship (formed on the edge of my ruler) were important parts of the equation.
Some years later, a box of store-bought valentines filled the bill. But not without stress!
Deciding which girl should receive the tiny colorful “best friends” Minnie Mouse card was almost as dicey as determining which of the cootie-laden boys was worthy of a signed cheesy request from Mickey Mouse and me.
Asking a random classroom boy to “be mine” was the stuff of nightmares; an utterly nerve-wracking enterprise.
Two to three decades later, my own children entered Cupid's favorite fray. Valentine cards had evolved into a Superhero folded version of their predecessors. These colorful paper mandates all but shouted the sender’s wishes, forcefully pressing recipients to HAVE FUN OR ELSE!
It was almost impossible to find cards offering gentle suggestion. The mid-90s was a time of insistence, the message of children’s valentine cards peppered with at least one exclamation point!
And here we are in 2018, having strayed into a ritual where almost every folded valentine’s command includes a sample of unnecessary tooth-decaying indulgence. Ingredient lists are weighed down by sugar, artificial dyes, and preservatives with names like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
If the dental assault is not sufficient, Valentine’s Day paraphernalia appears on store shelves the day after Christmas, shoving the traditions of this formerly sentimental holiday fully into the commercialized realm.
But even with my wet-blanket assessment of the procedure, I admit there are elements that
cannot be ruined
by the overzealous marketing of your local Stuff-Mart.
The third graders from Miss Slemmer's class joined with Mrs. Quirk's kindergartners on Friday afternoon for some Valentine's Book Box Buddies time.
The bonding of different age groups is something Dock Mennonite Academy does really well.
Older children and younger children LOVE spending time together.
Nostalgia pierces even the most hardened when
small children begin the annual task of creating
their Valentine’s Day “mailboxes.”
Construction begins with simple items like
tissue boxes and brown paper lunch sacks. Glittered
and stickered embellishments are added, and the
mailboxes are arranged in classrooms with care.
Anticipation grows as finished cards are dropped covertly into the waiting containers!
When the day finally arrives, the ritual of dumping the contents of one’s mailbox for inspection is one of the mountaintop moments of childhood!
Let's be honest.
There is not much finer than swimming in a marvelous stew
of encouragement, admiration,
and the kindness of one’s peers.
This is the part that makes all the rest of it worthwhile!
A valuable Senior Experience
Jay Gordon, January 2018
"Shadowing made me realize I may not be able to work alone on a project for days and days. Research is incredibly interesting and important, but I feel myself already leaning to the more hands-on medical parts of science. I still plan on majoring in biology, but now I will take more pre-med courses. I don't know yet what level of medicine or specialty I will study, but I am so happy to have more clarity." ~ Ella Barlick '16
For most seniors, the end of their high school experience brings a mix of strong emotions, ranging from joy to anticipation to anxiety. Important questions and difficult decisions await answers. What's next? What college should I attend? What should I major in? What careers interest me?
At the end of semester one, Dock provides a week in seniors' schedules to help them work at the answers to these questions. As a component of the senior-level Bible class called Kingdom Living, students develop a proposal for a week-long independent project. This project can involve job shadowing or service, or some combination of the two. These experiences can take place locally, across the country, or halfway around the globe. Wherever they go and whatever they decide to do, students are required to keep a journal of their experience.
The quote (above) from Ella Barlick's journal from two years ago is indicative of the value students place on this Senior Experience. For students who choose to primarily job shadow, Senior Experience can affirm a college major or career path—or perhaps rule one out. For those who choose service, the experience is often an eye-opening introduction to the way people live in other cultures, and helps develop a passion for serving others that often lasts a lifetime.
At the end of Senior Experience week, seniors spend two days in a retreat setting to reconnect, fellowship, and reflect on their service/job shadowing experiences.
Celebrating the Best Gift of Christmas
Brenda Shelly, December 2017
Middle School Student Council representatives met for lunch one day, way back when the mid-October temperatures were pretending it was still summertime and the trees were still holding tight to most of their leaves. The discussion at hand was the annual Christmas parade. Students, advisors, and Kathy Gordon began brainstorming ideas for this year’s school float.
Between bites lifted from their green plastic lunch trays and home packed baggies of PBJs, the suggestions were coming fast and furious. Some proposals were offered humbly and softly. Other ideas spewed forth with great enthusiasm, highlighted by the percussive sounds of crunching Doritos.
Simon was pretty sure camels should be involved.
The long-held tradition of throwing candy soon turned to deliberation on collecting contributions that might help others in need. The idea of gathering diapers for families without means was floated. (Pitiful pun intended).
Miles immediately began to channel his inner poet and with his customary incendiary grin, he threw out this little ditty. “If your baby’s in need and you like Mr. Freed…we’ve got what you need….” And for good measure, someone added, “Maybe Mr. Freed could be sitting on the float atop a haybale….”
Oh boy. I’m not sure how our unsuspecting athletic director got involved, but the conversation was thankfully and deftly guided back to the general parade theme of “silver and gold” by Mrs. Wanamaker.
One month later, we were back to handing out something sweet.
An afterschool meeting was held for the assembly of chocolate bags. Student Council representatives joined forces with the little people of our afterschool program (Penn’s Pals).
It was an inspiring dovetailing of ambitious early teens and their adorably eager counterparts.
As boxes of supplies were unpacked, some of the older boys were captivated to discover large swaths of bubble wrap.
Mrs. Kotecki put a quick halt to the misappropriation of what appeared to be her preferred antistressor.
“Stop squishing the bubble wrap! You’re stealing my joy!”
The mission at hand:
A certain number of gold and silver Hershey’s kisses were counted and sealed in a baggie with a message containing school information and Christmas greetings.
The chocolate scent in the room was overpowering.
“Imagine the torture of working in a chocolate factory all day,” mused one of the students.
But Mrs. Wanamaker established firm boundaries. “Our priority is FILLING THE BAGS…not EATING the chocolate!”
Dr. Swartzentruber stopped by and named the energetic scene. “It looks like a party in here!” He was absolutely correct.
But one of the smallest candy-counters took issue with the comment, viewing his important task in a much more serious light.
With solemn expression, he countered, “This is not a party…this is a FACTORY!”
With the oldest students manning the staplers, the work was completed cheerfully and effectively.
No fingers were stapled, and as far as I know, no child labor laws were breached....
Parade preparations for float décor continued at subsequent student council meetings.
Parade day loomed, and the forecast called for partly cloudy skies and a whopping HIGH temperature of 48 degrees. Those new Christmas sweatshirts would come in handy, adding another layer of warmth for the riders and walkers representing our school.
Despite discouraging temperature predictions, the sun was shining beautifully on the morning of the parade.
The crowds and parade participants were jubilant with Christmas cheer!
Our energetic banner holders, Miles and Ryan were more than ready to go! To the casual onlooker, it appeared for all the world that they'd each consumed a gallon of coffee before arrival. Note the hilariously dispassionate expressions of their female counterparts.
Links below for short video clip:
Girl’s basketball coach and former Dock parent, Jim Rittenhouse arrived in his shiny red sleigh to pull the float. His sleigh was the color of a perfect candy apple and maybe it was really a shiny red truck….
The initial curbside throng was so thick, our student elves ran out of Hershey’s kisses before the last third of the parade route!
It was quite a party to ride on the school float, thanks to our "DJ" Ryan Detweiler’s stirring Christmas tunes thumping from the back of the truck and Jayne Longacre who always brings the celebration to a new level!
(Seriously, WHO gave that exuberant gal a megaphone)?
I discovered that my upper body muscles are in pitiful shape; still noticing the effects of tenaciously waving at curbside friends two full days later....
What a great start to our favorite season and a wonderful way to celebrate God’s indescribable gift to the world.
Merry Christmas from the EC-8 Campus of
Dock Mennonite Academy!
Jay Gordon, November 2017
'Twas a month before Christmas, when all through the schools
Not a singer was silent, not even an alto;
The songs were selected by the directors with care,
in hopes the world would hear us sing on the air…
— with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore
Christmas music is in (and on) the air
Dock enters the B-101 Christmas Choir Competition!
The question has been debated, seemingly, for ages, generating passion and controversy on both sides of the issue. As with other matters of disagreement in this polarized age we live in, there is precious little ground in the middle on the matter. Friendships strain and families divide over the question:
When is it OK to start listening to Christmas music?
Some practically forbid it before the turkey is digested. Others look forward to the first strains of White Christmas as soon as the last trick-or-treater toddles away from the front door. And there are always a few hearty souls who, when the question is put to them, are quick to volunteer that Christmas music suits them just fine all year long.
The Dock community had some extra incentive to embrace the musical spirit of Christmas a little earlier than usual this year: for the first time, Dock Mennonite Academy entered the B-101/More FM Christmas Choir Competition!
Since it was launched in 2009, the B-101 More FM Choir Competition has quickly become one of the most widely anticipated choral competitions in our region, with dozens of local choirs competing in two divisions, K-8th grade and grades 9-12. We are grateful to both our Middle School and Concert Choirs, as well as their directors, Mrs. Laura Landes and Ms. Emily Grimes, for all of their hard work in practicing and recording their songs (have a listen below!).
While Dock was not selected as a finalist in either division this year, we're confident that with choirs as good as ours, and the support of a fantastic school community, it's only a matter of time before we bring home the prize!
Because the competition generates such strong interest in the community, Dock chose to advertise on B-101/More FM during the month of December. In fact, our ads were prominently displayed during voting for the K-8th grade division, and the top prize went to a local school, Bridle Path Elementary School in Lansdale. Listen to B-101 and visit the Christmas Choir Competition web site to learn more, and to see our ads.
Middle School Choir member Allie Delp pauses during a break in recording.
$5,000 cash prize & the opportunity to perform with The Philly Pops at the Kimmel Center on 12/13/17
Next year, perhaps another Lansdale school will win the top prize—Dock Mennonite Academy!
A screen shot of Dock ads that appeared on the voting page for B-101.1/More FM's Kindergarten to Grade 8 Choir Competition.
Have a listen!
Middle School Choir
"Mary, Where is Your Baby?"
Brenda Shelly, October 2017
Looking at the main courtyard in recent weeks makes me want to sing the Hallelujah Chorus! Despite my indescribable joy, I’ll save you all the agony of hearing my serenade.
Over a decade ago, someone carefully considered what plantings should be placed in the courtyards of our new school building. Their vision has blessed us with the opportunity to appreciate various blooms and fruits, continuing to delight us when the seasons change.
However, after 14 years, it is fair to say even the best visions need a good caretaker to make sure things are as they were meant to be. Weeds and volunteer plants make their presence known when given the opportunity! Enter John Frankenfield.
John was our school’s Director of Development from 1974 to 1986. Sarah Price, one of his lovely twin daughters, is a devoted kindergarten teacher on our EC-8 campus.
When John heard there was a need, he made the decision to volunteer his time, adopting a courtyard in need of some TLC.
The courtyard face-lift began on a Wednesday as John stood in the courtyard chatting with a family member and imagining how he would tease and tweak the space back to its original orderly beauty.
His imagining was interrupted only slightly by the deafening strains of a planned school fire drill. Undaunted by the piercing sound, he considered which items needed removal, which existing plants were due for a haircut, and how many chrysanthemums would be needed to make his plan a reality.
On Thursday, he returned with the gorgeous plants he intended to donate. Dressed for the job and with appropriate tools in hand, he coaxed the earth into submission, leaving bunches of perfectly positioned colorful mums in his wake.
Friday rolled around, and John was back. This time, he brought friends!
Eldon Miller, Wilmer "Wib" Zook and Libbie Derstine were his crew. Mulching was the order of the day, and what a wonderful difference it has made! Eldon and Wib are retired Dock Mennonite Academy teachers, having cumulatively served our high school students for 56 years.
Eldon's wife, Gem, continues to teach 1st grade students (right), and if her lovely home garden is any indication, this was not Eldon's first mulching rodeo.
Ninth grader Libbie thought she might have at least part of her day off on Friday to relax like most of her classmates. But it was not to be! Her grandfather (John) is apparently as proficient at coercion as he is at gardening.
I think I saw the crepe myrtle smiling this morning with all that gorgeous mulch around its feet. Even the birds seemed chatty and thrilled with the makeover of one of their favorite spots.
Our students love to spend time in the courtyard. Classroom games, outdoor lunches, seasonal learning and special reading times are all favorite activities in this wonderful space.
Ms. Price’s kindergarten students are seen below, checking out the handiwork of their teacher’s father.
Libbie thought she might have at least part of her day off on Friday to relax like most of her classmates. But it was not to be! Her grandfather (John) is apparently as proficient at coercion as he is at gardening.
There are other reasons our Main Courtyard is a special place. Several plantings in our courtyard honor friends we miss.
A columnar oak was planted in remembrance of a wonderful kindergarten teacher, Janice Meyers.
Another tree reminds us of beloved math teacher, Karen Nofziger. When the white flowers bloom on her dogwood, it makes us smile.
A gorgeous butterfly bush from the high school class of 1991 honors the memories of both Travis Bechtel and Garrick Clemmer, graduates of Penn View.
We suspect John Frankenfield would like to fly under the radar (or as Director of Marketing, Kathy Gordon, so aptly phrased it, “Mum’s the word.”) But we who peer through the window each and every school day could not be more appreciative. We didn’t want to miss a chance to give thanks for the generous investment of time, energy, and beautiful flowers.
The courtyard renaissance is a truly wonderful gift to our school community.