Week 17

Q: How do you keep the Canadian bacon from curling in the frying pan?

A: Take away its little broom.

–Mr. Riendeau, grade 1 teacher

Dear Urban Prairie families,

It’s been too long since we’ve all had the pleasure of hearing one of Mr. Riendeau’s jokes. Seems appropriate now that we’ve made it through a full week back to school in this time of the Omicron variant. Thank you all for striving to keep our community safe.

Look in your email for a separate communication from Finance and Operations Director AJ Lee with very important updates to our Covid protocols.

There’s lots of news this week: Conscious Communication month and Social Renewal, eurythmy, inspirations for MLK Day with your family, and a transition in Admin (including a very excited student teacher headed into the classroom!).

Vegan jokes are expressly invited to sharl…@urbanprairie.org. (Actually, all jokes are invited. 🥸)

In service,


p.s. Many many thanks in advance for the treats still to come for faculty and staff via Anne McDonough’s Community Connections Treat Sign Up. Every little gesture means so much during this stressful time.

Calendar Highlights

January 17 NO SCHOOL – MLK Day Holiday (changed from in-person!)

January 13 Board meeting – closed session

January 15 3rd Grade Parent/Guardian Meeting (via Zoom)

January 19 Board meeting – open session – DEI Audit & Study (6:30pm on Zoom)

January 25 SEED small group session #3

January 26 CANCELED Yellow and Green Color Team Potluck

January 26 4/5th Grade Parent/Guardian Evening (Zoom)

February 3  Middle School Parent/Guardian Evening

February 4 First Friday Coffee

February 8 Alumni Panel (6:30pm on Zoom)

February 16 Crossing the Bridge (rising 1st grade event)

February 21-25 NO SCHOOL – Mid-Winter Break

School News

January Is Conscious Communication Month

Social renewal is cultivating the impulse to see the humanity in one another.

–Jotted down during a recent discussion of how to define “social renewal”

This year Urban Prairie has embarked upon a self-study as part of our accreditation work through the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America. We are studying Waldorf principle No. 2: Waldorf Schools foster social renewal by cultivating human capacities in service to the individual and society. As a Waldorf school, the “human capacities” we focus on are strength of will, depth of feeling, clarity of thought, and the ability to work with others.

In the spirit of Social Renewal during this stressful time, January is Conscious Communication month at Urban Prairie! We invite all in our community to pause and take a moment to see one another, and reflect that particularly in how we speak and interact with each other. Can we collectively cultivate the impulse to see the humanity in one another? This is such good work!

Read our Conscious Communication guidelines on p.42 in the UPWS Family Handbook.

Kudos to 7th Grade Design Project Team

The Chicago Architecture Biennial had a competition for youth in 7-12th grades to submit city improvement project ideas. Amina Riendeau, Helen Prekop, and Zoe Meyer submitted an ’empty lot’ project about improving Slumbusters Garden, which is the space in Lawndale that Gr 7 and 8 worked at frequently in the fall on expedition days. Ms. Avellone is proud to announce that their project is one of the top 3 finalists! They put this project together using almost 100% their own time outside of school, and with little teacher support besides well wishes. It involved a detailed written explanation and a 3D model.

Congratulations to Amina, Helen, and Zoe! We are so proud of them!


Mark Ebersole, our visiting eurythmist, began a 6-week block this Monday. We are very pleased to offer this highly therapeutic movement practice to all of our grades and early childhood classes during this challenging pandemic time. Rudolf Steiner’s aim in developing eurythmy 100 years ago was to “promote culture in both body and soul.”  Mr. Ebersole will also be providing small group therapeutic eurythmy for some students. Please watch for an email from Ms. Choma if your child has been recommended to participate. To learn more about this special subject that is unique to Waldorf schools, watch for an announcement regarding a parent education evening led by Mr. Ebersole, to be scheduled soon (Covid dependent). Hope to see you there!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day – no school

Please note an important change in our calendar: We will have no school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Monday, Jan 17. Unfortunately, many events for 2022 have moved online or been postponed. Here are some ideas for observing this day with your family over the coming weekend and weeks/months:

  • Write letters to legislators in support of voting rights legislation.

  • Listen to the 1963 March on Washington “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King with your family and make time to discuss.

  • Visit Du Sable Museum’s immersive March on Washington and other exhibits.

  • Check out the King Day of Service: Bronzeville 2022 for inspiration.

  • Look for more inspiration in An Unapologetic Dream: A MLK Day Celebration by the Hyde Park Art Center in collaboration with South Side Community Art Center and Arts + Public Life.

  • Learn about other Civil Rights leaders at this NAACP website.

Welcome Ms. Warfield / Ms. Baumgartner Transition

Please join us in welcoming Sylvie Warfield, who joined the Administration at Urban Prairie on January 4. A graduate of Chicago Waldorf School with a BA from Grinnell College, Sylvie brings years of experience providing administrative support in varied settings. Sylvie has arrived because…

Sophie Baumgartner will soon transition her role at Urban Prairie. Following mid-winter break in February, Sophie will pass the reins of Pedagogical Operations Coordinator to Sylvie. Sophie will be serving as student teacher for Megan Rotko and Mat Riendeau as part of her work to complete a Master’s in Education and Waldorf teaching certificate through Antioch University.

After School Programs Winter 2022

Circus Club

Circus club start dates have been pushed back!

Monday (Grades 1-2) January 24

Wednesday (Grades 3-5) January 19

There is still space in both clubs. Please email sophie.ba…@urbanprairie.org if you are interested in registering or have any questions!

Board News

Dear Urban Prairie Community,

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day right around the corner, I invite all in our community to learn more about our school’s work in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ).

Mark your calendars for a special Board meeting next Wednesday, January 19, at 6:30 pm, when Dr. Val Wise of Johns Hopkins University will be our special guest. Dr. Wise is a DEI consultant for independent schools nationwide. Her team will audit our DEIJ practices across our organization and community, conduct focus groups (sign-ups to come in February!), and provide actionable recommendations. As a member of our school’s DEIJ Team, I’m proud to support this important work.

As always, I welcome your curious questions about the Board. Just reach out to me at danila….@urbanpairie.org.


Danila Miranda

President, Board of Trustees

Parent to David and Natalia UPWS’20 and Elena ’23

Community Connections Corner

Calling all home chefs and bakers!

During these unpredictable times, let’s make life a little less stressful for the faculty and staff at Urban Prairie with Sweet Treats and Savory Delights! We’ll be delivering treats every Tuesday and Thursday the next 4 weeks or so. Drop-off for Tuesday’s treat should be early in the morning, preferably before school, and Thursday’s delight can be dropped off any time during the day on Thursday. Please review the available slots below and click on the button to sign up. Thank you!


Color Team Potluck

This month’s potluck for the Yellow and Green teams has been canceled but stay tuned for more info!

First Friday Coffee

Q. What do you call it when cafe customers joke about their coffee?

  1. A brewhaha

Join us for the next First Friday Coffee on Feb 4th at 8am behind the goat shed!

Feeling like a little more community connection?

We’ve made a private Facebook group! This group is for discussions, reminders, open play-dates, item donations, proud moments, and anything else we can think of. This link is available for 48 hours, but you’ll always be able to join.


Parents! Yearbook Team needs your help.

Photos, photos, photos! If you have any photos of any events last year(in-person or remote), we would love it if you could share them with us! Send them to me at anne.mc…@urbanprairie.org

Let’s Get Together!

Looking for someone’s contact to build community, connect with other families, get your children together to play? Find each other here!


Volunteer Opportunities

Have some time to lend a hand? Community Connections is always building our volunteer team and would love to have you! Please email me at anne.mc…@urbanprairie.org or come to one of our 1st Friday Coffees to chat.


Recess in Cold Temperatures

Thankfully we’re back “up” in the 30s these days, but winter is here for the duration. Please be aware that recess may be shortened or even canceled as we monitor the temperatures/wind chill factor to ensure safe outdoor time for students (see our guideline matrix here). A major factor in our decision-making is students having appropriate dress. Please be sure all students have hats, mittens or gloves, scarves, snow pants, warm coats, and boots!

Covid Notes

Vaccination Resources

  • Tuesdays: Healthy Hood (grade 2/EC parent Tanya Lozano’s nonprofit) offers vaccines and booster shots on Tuesdays, 9am-3:30pm, 2242 S Damen Ave.

  • IDPH has approved vaccine booster shots for 12-17 year-olds. Find a vaccine location for a booster shot here.

Testing Resources

  • Healthy Hood (grade 2/EC parent Tanya Lozano’s nonprofit) free testing Monday-Friday, 9am-6pm, anad Saturdays, 9am-4pm, 2242 S Damen Ave.

  • Free walk-in testing site, 140 S Ashland (Link)

  • Testing site near school, 1059 W Taylor Street (Link)

  • Loop Medical Center fast / free PCR tests, 1921 S Michigan (Link)

  • Free COVID Care at multiple sites (Link)

  • City of Chicago resources for finding tests: Link


Due to the rapid spread of Omicron, we are temporarily suspending the test-to-stay option for students and staff exposed to COVID. We will revisit this option again on the other side of this current wave of infections.

Vaccination Status Updates

Is your student newly vaccinated? Please complete this updated Google Form or email ad…@urbanprairie.org with your student’s vaccination dates!

Attendance Procedure

Remember to please email or call if your student will be late or absent from school!

Please report the reason for an absence; if your child is experiencing symptoms we will continue to follow our current COVID protocols.

Outerwear Guidelines

As the weather fluctuates wildly, please send your students prepared with layers! Here is a temperature guideline, please dress for the low so they are prepared for whatever comes!

  • 70 degrees and warmer: Shorts, short sleeves

  • 65 – 70 degrees: Long pants required, short sleeves acceptable; long sleeves encouraged on cloudy and/or windy days

  • 50 – 65 degrees: Long sleeves required; jacket layering recommended

  • 40 – 50 degrees: Jacket required; additional layering recommended

  • 30-40 degrees: Multiple layers required; outermost layer must include winter jacket, hat, and gloves/mittens; scarf highly recommended for all ages / required for lower grades (EC – 3)

  • Below 30 and if snowy: Snow gear required – winter jacket, snow pants, hat, gloves/mittens, and boots

Rain: Please send rain jackets, pants, and boots on rainy days!

  • NO umbrellas

  • A full change of clothes kept at school, especially for younger students, will enable us to keep students dry and learning.