Category Archives: Highlights

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.



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.

The 4th and 5th Grade Wax Museum


Fourth and fifth grade took the CPS community back through time to recognize and celebrate inspiring African-American figures from history. Each student prepared a display and then took on the persona of the individual they learned about, in order to share their story with visitors to their station.

Each “character” had a diverse story to tell about their contribution to American society as we know it. “Billie Holiday” shared her journey to becoming a jazz legend; “Wallace Henry Thurman” told about his role as a journalist during the Harlem Renaissance; “Annie Turnbo Malone” explained her entrepreneurial pursuits as the first black female millionaire in the United States.

The students used props and costumes to help their peers and other members of the community better understand their character’s life. In addition to helping them engage hands-on with history, students reported feeling inspired by seeing the accomplishments that these figures were able to make in spite of setbacks due to their race, gender, and/or class.

We hope that our graduating fifth graders will take the lessons that they learned from participating in the wax museum with them as they graduate and go on to become the leaders of the next generation.

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The CPS Continent Fair

This May, the halls of CPS were filled with sights, sounds, and smells from all over the continent of Europe! The annual Continent Fair presents students with the opportunity to engage with different countries from all over the world by immersing themselves in the geography, history, and culture of one country from the continent. Each class picked a European country to study over the course of the spring semester and present to the CPS community.

In their study of Greece, 2nd grade made their own tzatziki sauce using Greek yogurt, dill, garlic, and cucumber – and then they were able to use what they learned to teach their peers about tzatziki at Vetri lunch! Meanwhile, 3rd grade was given the opportunity to enjoy authentic Italian cuisine at Vetri restaurant Osteria.

But food is just one exciting aspect of a new culture to learn. Visitors to the Continent Fair also got to participate in Olympic games, read traditional folk tales, and browse art from the different countries, including first grade’s “Picasso” paintings as part of their study of Spain.

The students of CPS will go on to learn a whole new set of histories and cultures for next year’s Continent Fair. We look forward to finding out this fall where the next journey will begin!


Fifth Grade Tackles Being a “Square Peg” in a “Round Hole”

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This year, the fifth grade class has taken on the fun and challenging task of writing and performing an original play. The piece, called “Square Pegs, Round Holes,” takes the students’ own experiences of feeling like an outsider and uses them to emphasize the CPS values of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

The play wrestles with the hardship of not fitting in, tackling issues like racism, gender divisions, and cultural differences. However, through these difficult experiences, the characters are able to understand how their differences can also be a positive factor.

In developing the script, volunteer director Susan LaPalombara led the students through improv exercises to help generate ideas. She and Ms. Kim then helped hone their ideas into believable, compelling stories. The process helped students understand the elements of a good story, including characterization, messaging, composition, and dialogue.

“It’s really great to see them find themselves both as actors and writers,” says Ms. LaPalombara. “When you write something, you have ownership of it, and you really see that come across in ‘Square Pegs, Round Holes.’”

Though many of the characters reflect the personal experiences of the writers, the students did not always get to perform as the characters that they wrote. In the casting process, the focus was on roles that would stretch the students as actors and provide them with the opportunity to reveal a new side of themselves. The students have run with the new experience, and are beginning to add new, unscripted elements of their characters in rehearsals.

However, the process hasn’t been without its struggles. The students are employing new skills, such as memorizing lines and “covering” for each other on stage. Some students have great line memorization, but then forget to express emotion when delivering them. Meanwhile, some students are naturals at covering for missed or forgotten lines, while other students prefer to be “word perfect” and deliver all of their lines exactly as they are written.

“It’s a new learning curve for these guys,” remarks Ms. LaPalombara. “They are on stage, whether they’re performing or not, and that can be a challenge.”

But challenges are something the class is learning to embrace through “Square Pegs.” Above all, the students hope to convey the message that no matter how rough life gets or how tough people are, having a support network can help you find the courage to embrace your individuality. The play concludes with a splash of self-love from 5th grade.

“I’m really proud of them. I think that they’ve written a beautiful play.”

The original performance of “Square Pegs, Round Holes,” scheduled for Thursday, March 5th, was postponed due to weather cancellations. It was performed in the CPS Auditorium on Tuesday, March 24th at 9am and 1pm.