All posts by CPS

Classroom Update: Nutrition for Life

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“What healthy snack are we going to eat today?!” exclaimed Kaleb as nutrition educator Krista La Noce walked into the Pre-K and Kindergarten Classrooms.  Both students and teachers are always excited to see Ms. La Noce walk into our school with her bag of healthy, nutritious foods.

For the past six years, Community Partnership School has had a wonderful partnership with the Health Promotion Council.  Once a month, a nutrition educator meets with each class and delivers a hands-on lesson about healthy eating and living.  Every lesson ends with the children and adults trying out a new healthy snack.

Recently, Ms. La Noce taught Pre-K and Kindergarten children about foods that help us build healthy and strong teeth and bones.  She then shared what would be the healthiest choices at a fast food restaurant.

Ms. La Noce ended the lesson with a hands-on demonstration.  Students learned about the ingredients needed to make guacamole.  “We need to eat the guacamole with chips,” said Raelyn as Ms. LaNoce mixed avocados, tomatoes, garlic and lemon together to make this nutritious dip.

After seeing the delighted responses from our students, we highly recommend that families whip up a batch of homemade guacamole at home!

CPS Winter Concert: A Collection of Fables

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Written by Marlis Kraft, CPS Music Teacher

Finding a theme for the CPS Winter Concert is always an adventure. Living in a multicultural city like Philadelphia, it is important to capture the spirit of the holiday season in a way that celebrates and acknowledges diverse religions and cultures. Our goal is for everyone to find some inspiration from the Winter Concert, from our 4-year-old Pre-K students to families, faculty and staff.

In each of the past 5 years I have worked at CPS, I have invited my colleagues to participate in creating the concert. However, this year I was inspired by the idea of fables because there is something for everyone in these age-old stories. At CPS, we try to broaden our students’ horizons so that they can step into their next schools with a rich experience to draw from. I grew up hearing and reading Fables and loved the simple truths they portrayed. Most of our students knew the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but were able to expand their knowledge of fables through the seven fables performed at the concert.

The Process

At the opening faculty meetings, each teacher chose a fable that seemed appropriate for their students’ age group – and they chose well! Then it was up to the students and me to create performable pieces. In order to break up the narratives, we added instruments, movement, songs, and even demonstrated a science experiment! CPS Art teacher Audrey Jakab helped our students create masks, a giant sun, and mouse ears for costumes.

Our 4th and 5th grade recorder players had just learned “Oh When the Saints,” so we used that song to lead us through the program. Fifth grade even created an original rap for the occasion. The performances were not only entertaining, but also weaved in some good lessons for all of us to take on our journeys through life!

View excerpts and pictures from the concert below!

A song written by CPS students:

Never give up before you try it,

Never give up before you get it

Just one more try, don’t ever give up,

Never give up before you shine!

I can do it, you can do it, as a team –we can do it

Try it once or twice until you get it right.

Never give up before you try it,

Never give up before you get it

Just one more try, don’t ever give up,

Never give up before you shine!

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Cooking with Fifth Grade!


Since October, five lucky fifth graders participated in an eight-week series of cooking classes through the My Daughter’s Kitchen initiative. Led by volunteers Jill Kaiserman and Katie Rhodes – known to the students as “Superwoman” and “Wonder Woman” respectively – the students learned the basics of reading a recipe and preparing a healthy, cost-effective meal from scratch.

We checked in with our junior chefs to find out the best cooking tips they learned during the series, just in time for the holiday season!

1. Make sure you read the instructions beforehand and plan ahead. – Jordan


It’s important to read the recipe all the way through before you even begin cooking, because you want to make sure that you have all the supplies and ingredients you need. We learned how helpful it is to set out all the supplies and ingredients we’ll need for the recipe at the beginning of class, so that we can get right to cooking when we’re done reading the recipe.

2. Always pay attention when you’re cooking. – Journey


Paying attention is important throughout the cooking process, starting with reading the recipe. Otherwise, you may not pick up on subtleties within the recipe – like the difference between “boil” and “broil,” which our class learned while making “the fastest chicken parm” in the broiler.

3. Always be careful with a knife – don’t look away while you are chopping. – Eyoni


We learned that a properly sharpened knife can actually be safer because it prevents foods from sliding under a dull blade. However, the sharp edge is dangerous if you don’t follow knife safety rules! Even a momentary lapse in focus can cause a painful accident in the kitchen.

4. Say “sharp ends” and “hot corners!” – Alana


Alana reminds us to take extra care especially when there are others in the kitchen. We learned some words to say to let other people know when there are dangerous objects close by, to help avoid accidents. This type of communication also builds our sense of teamwork, so that we all work smoothly together to complete a meal.

5.  Don’t doubt yourself. – Amir

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Cooking is an adventure, and it can be scary to try new things. But with attentive teachers and supportive classmates, it can be fun to venture outside your comfort zone – and it might result in something delicious!

6. Have fun!!! – Everyone 


While we have very important rules and guidelines to make sure that we cook safely, it’s equally important to remember to have fun! We get the extraordinary opportunity to prepare something delicious to nourish ourselves and the people we love, and have a blast along the way!

CPS Goes to Camp at Hill Top Prep!

This summer, nine students from CPS had the pleasure of attending summer camp on the beautiful campus of Hill Top Preparatory School in Rosemont, PA!

Over the course of the last school year, students from Hill Top visited CPS each week to work with our Kindergarten, first, and second grade students. At the end of the year, CPS students returned the favor by visiting Hill Top’s campus to hike and have a picnic lunch with Hill Top students.

The CPS students who attended were able to do so at no charge, and transportation was included for them to get to and from camp each day.  Attending the camp provided them with the opportunity to not only interact with a diverse set of students, but to encounter a diverse set of experiences outside the city limits and serve as leaders among their peers.

Our students had a blast doing arts and crafts, camping, sports, and weekly field trips. Below are just a few snapshots from their jam-packed summer:

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Roller Skating

LOTS of roller skating!


The Franklin Institute

Dorney Park

…and of course, some much-needed down time at the end of a long, busy day!

Thank you to Hill Top Prep for hosting our students in such a fantastic program! Their summer camp adventures will surely provide many great stories to share with their teachers and classmates over the coming weeks.

The CPS Strings Program


violin 2This past school year, CPS students received the unique opportunity to learn the violin through a partnership with Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University. The lessons, held twice weekly after school by student volunteer Liv Gusmano, taught twelve lucky students in grades 2-5 the basics of music theory and playing the violin. This spring, the students were able to share their progress over the course of the year with their peers and teachers at Community Meeting.

The program was initiated last fall when the Chair of Temple’s Music Education Department, Dr. Rollo Dilworth, reached out to the school about getting involved with CPS. After seeing a collection of unused violins on a tour of the school, Dr. Dilworth had the idea of offering strings lessons to CPS students. He connected the school with sophomore student Liv Gusmano, an experienced violist who has taught other elementary age children with the Philadelphia String Project at Temple.

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The after school strings program is part of a larger effort to increase enrichment opportunities for CPS students. Research shows that students from low-income households suffer disproportionately from not only an academic achievement gap, but from an “experience gap” stemming from a lack of access to experiences in arts and culture, athletics, and music. Enrichment opportunities and extracurricular activities can help bridge this gap for our students and improve literacy and experiential knowledge. Other partnerships CPS has leveraged to expand enrichment programming this year have included arts and culture experiences through Art-Reach, cooking classes for our fifth grade students through the Vetri Foundation for Children, and an engineering curriculum developed and volunteer-taught by local firm In Posse.

Ms. Gusmano plans to return to CPS this fall to continue the strings program, and has tentative plans to integrate her volunteer work at CPS with her studies at Temple. The program has gained a great deal of popularity: all of the students who participated this past school year will be continuing for the coming school year, and there is a waitlist of students who would like to participate if additional slots become available.

The partnership with Temple’s Music Department has also sparked opportunities for further collaboration.  Dr. Dilworth plans to begin a North Philadelphia-based children’s choir, with the hopes of including CPS students in the program.



Eric Jones: Excerpt from Celebrate CPS Remarks

Excerpt from Eric Jones’ remarks at this year’s “Celebrate CPS” event
April 30, 2015

(Portions in italics indicate additions for purposes of this format)

A core belief informing the work of Community Partnership School asserts that talent, smarts, and want-to exist in every community, no matter the zip code. But data highlighting the situation for many in Philadelphia could lead one to draw a different conclusion about this, the “cradle of liberty.”

In Philadelphia, more than one in four lives in poverty. Children are disproportionately affected, with more than one in three children under the age of 18 living below the federal poverty level. Poverty can be directly linked to a person’s literacy level.

It’s not surprising then that Philadelphia’s graduation rate, despite significant gains over the past decade, is still around 65 percent, 15 percentage points lower than the national rate. And over half of the adult population is low-literate, which means they’d struggle to complete a job application.

Poor literacy levels are strongly correlated not only with poor academic outcomes, but negative impacts that last a lifetime.

This profile characterizes the neighborhood in which Community Partnership School is located and too many neighborhoods throughout our region.

We know the long-term impact of quality schooling, after school and summer programming, and quality parenting. And not just for kids and their individual families, but for the social fabric, for the common good. We know that every child needs this kind of guidance and support. But we also know that children from neighborhoods like the one in which CPS is located are least likely to get it.

While dialogue and debate around what to do about this reality have value, at Community Partnership School we’ve said we can’t wait for stakeholders to agree on a way out. There’s an urgency here demanding our immediate attention.

So we’ve come up with a viable solution: a high quality and affordable early childhood/elementary program primarily for families in our neighborhood and neighborhoods like it; an intimate 7:1 student teacher ratio that allows everyone to know everyone’s name; a place where well trained, mission driven educators and volunteers initiate partnerships with committed and willing parents and guardians; a community where shaping children who develop strong cognitive and social/emotional skills, as well as a strong sense of agency – a belief that I have the power to create/to produce a desired result – takes place every day.

And the partnership extends more broadly. To effectively do our work, we depend on the generous contributions of many supporters like you. Individuals, families and organizations that open doors on our behalf, that bring their know how to bear in support of our work, that attend programs we host like this one and make generous financial contributions. Our work works because of a broad network of civic-minded community members – and folks who just care about kids – galvanized around the idea that we can and must do more for all our children, no matter their zip code, and that doing so is in everybody’s interest.

It’s hard for any child to slip through the cracks when surrounded and supported by this kind of network. And we have found that kids are better positioned to access and maximize social capital when they’re prepared this way.

We look forward to telling you more about our ambitious work and, moving forward, talking with you about our transformative plans for the future.

In the meantime, all the best for a rejuvenating summer!

Volunteer Spotlight: Carlana “Carly” Brown

Overlooking the last year, I am astounded by how much has changed in our lives.  [My husband Charlie and I] are your typical retired couple trying to find something to do with extra time.  Living in an apartment leaves us time on our hands without the need to mow a lawn, clean out the garage, or scour out any overflowing gutters.  We decided to use the time to give back to our community.  The question was, where would we do this and what was our first step to fulfill our desires?

Through online research, Charlie found CPS and began volunteering in Ms. Flores’s kindergarten class. It started out with Charlie getting juiced with helping students with reading and comprehension, and figuring out mathematical equations.

Hearing his stories got me excited. I decided to find out if there was a way I could help CPS with the skills that I am developing within the scope of copywriting.  I met with Heather Lewis, Advancement Associate, and took a tour of the Judson Street facilities.

What impressed me the most during the visit was the students. When we walked into one of the classrooms, two children came up to us, introduced themselves and gave us an overview of what their classmates were working on for the day.  I was impressed by their knowledge, speaking ability and self-possession – while speaking to a complete stranger!

During my time, I helped out with tasks in the Advancement Office. Throughout my time and Charlie’s, we found that CPS treats their volunteers with respect and care.  Members of the CPS community were always telling us how much we are needed and helpful with what we do for the school at large.  That reinforcement made me fall in love with Community Partnership School, and I have treasured coming here every week.

This experience has made 2015 a memorable year for me and my husband.  Thank you Heather, Ms. Flores and all the nice folks at CPS, too.

Celebrate CPS: An Evening in Tuscany

This past April, CPS held its annual “Celebrate CPS” fundraiser honoring board member Jeff Benjamin. More than 450 CPS supporters attended the Tuscany-themed event at Vie for a festive evening of cocktails, dinner, and auctions to benefit the students of CPS.

Confident and upbeat in anticipation of their performance later in the evening, fourth grade students greeted guests as they arrived at the venue on a gorgeous spring evening. CPS staff and Event Committee members, members of the Young Friends of CPS, parents, and weekly school volunteers helped ensure that the night ran smoothly. Many members of the CPS faculty, staff, and board were in attendance, along with new and longtime supporters alike.

During dinner, fourth grade kicked things off with a performance of the song “One Day” by Matisyahu, originally performed for the CPS Winter Concert. One student, Jordan, shared about her experience at Vetri Eatiquette and the lessons she has taken away from the Friday lunch program. Alumnus Zahir revealed how CPS helped him overcome his personal struggle and helped him get to where he is today (click here for more about Zahir).

This year’s honoree, CPS board member Jeff Benjamin, was presented with a citation from Mayor Nutter’s office in recognition of his unwavering commitment to Philadelphia’s school children. In his remarks, Mr. Benjamin discussed his journey to becoming a champion for education, and how he was taken with CPS from the first time he visited and saw the students in action. He stated that a “good enough” education isn’t good enough for Philadelphia’s children and urged the audience to take part in ensuring access to a quality education by participating in the CPS Scholarship Fund, which helps keep tuition affordable for families by subsidizing the cost of the student’s education.

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Events like Celebrate CPS not only help generate needed revenue for operating support, but help to “friendraise” for the school by spreading the word about the work CPS is doing to provide a high quality and affordable education alternative in North Central Philadelphia.

Event sponsors included Jeff and Janine Yass, John and Leigh Middleton, and Philadelphia Financial. For a full list of sponsors, click here.

The evening grossed over $425,000, and was a memorable evening for all.

Reader’s Theater

Written by Marlis Kraft-Zemel, CPS Music Teacher

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Reader’s Theater is a perfect project for second graders! Proud of their reading skills, they can be narrators, while other children fill in the story with imagery and music, or in our case puppets — a great first step to “being on stage” without having to act.

The story was chosen to go with their study of Greece where to this day sheep graze in the rural landscape. Students expanded their vocabulary, learned about sheep and shepherds, and trades like carpentry, blacksmithing, pottery and weaving from YouTube clips. They sketched characters to make puppets and painted the backdrop with Ms. Jakab. They also identified places in the story where sound effects would enhance the telling and brainstormed the lyrics for our song based on one girl’s wistful singing of: “If I could be a carpenter….”

I saw such growth in their awareness and perseverance needed to put on this kind of play. Many layers of the curriculum came together along with the challenge to closely follow a text read aloud by a classmate. Everything hinges on the ability to focus and to work together as a team: when to bring the puppet up, ring the gong, hold up the screen, go to the next assignment, keep eyes open for the unexpected need of a classmate! And as their teacher Ms. Bechill summed up: “This second grade class totally loved it!!!  And they learned some important lessons about working together and taking pride in something they do as a group.”

Bravo to the 2nd graders and thanks to Ms. Bechill and Ms. Jakab for their support!