Week 8

Dear Urban Prairie Families,

As I followed the third grade this morning with their buckets full from the woodchip hills around to the front gardens … (with my own minor detour to scratch some goat horns) … then watched that class harvest the giant nodding heads of this year’s sunflowers … while making space for the 7th grade chemistry class, who were studying the ashes in the fire pit from the fire they’d observed burning yesterday … I was thinking to myself all the ways to define learning.

The nip in the air, the smooth purple and white nubs of the not-yet-ripe sunflower seed rows, the lesson books and colored pencils … This is experiential learning on a regular old Wednesday at our school.

I love it! And I’m so excited for the conversations we’re having across the school right now. From diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice work to the Waldorf principle of Social Renewal, we are digging in and digging deep this year. Read on to learn more and for this week’s news and reminders.

But first: A Farewell to Kim George. It’s with a heavy heart that I announce the departure of our beloved Ms. George, who joined us just 6 weeks before the pandemic lockdown in 2020 and in less than two years has worked her way into all of our hearts. Kim’s own heart has always been in serving the underserved on Chicago’s West Side. She’s headed there next, to work with Y Men as director of operations, where she’ll serve the mission of preparing young men and women in North Lawndale for leadership by helping them grow in their faith and character, develop a love for learning, and use their talents to serve the community and strengthen their families. Her last day with us is next Wednesday, November 3rd – look for plans for a community goodbye! – but of course this is not goodbye. I’m certain there will be collaborations and connections with Ms. George in her next great work in this world. We will miss her though, that’s for sure.



This Weekly Admin Newsletter includes:

  • Calendar highlights

  • School News

  • Board News

  • Community Connections Update

  • Important Reminders

  • UPWS Admin Contacts

Calendar Highlights

November 4 NO SCHOOL (Diwali)

November 5 NO SCHOOL (Teacher Work Day)

November 9 Grade 1 Parent Meeting

November 10 Color Team Potluck: Red & Orange Teams – 6:30pm

November 12 First Friday Coffee

November 15 Lantern Walk (Grades 1-3)

November 17 Lantern Walk (Early Childhood)

November 19 Festival of Thanks

November 22 Parent/Guardian Teacher Conferences – No School

November 23 Parent/Guardian Teacher Conferences – No School

November 24 Independent Work Day – No School

November 25, 26 Thanksgiving Holiday

December 8 First Friday Coffee

December 9 Board Meeting – via Zoom

School News

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Justice Team News

The school has officially convened its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice Team (DEIJ), and the group has set our goals for this year.

The team includes the Head of School (Sharla Paul), President of the Board (Danila Miranda), Directors of Curriculum & Instruction and Enrollment Management (Jen Kang and Jenn Zielinski), faculty representative(s) (Xuefen Ding), and a member from an outside/affiliate organization (currently Dr. Chrisna Perry of Comprehensive Learning Services). The DEIJ Team’s goals for this year are:

  • Facilitate a DEIJ audit by Dr. Valaida Wise of Johns Hopkins University, to gather baseline data on current DEIJ efforts at UPWS to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats and to inform and steer future planning.

  • Provide a series of anti-racist and gender-based professional development workshop trainings for faculty/staff.

  • Develop and articulate to the entire community a clear Discrimination, Bullying, Sexual Harrassment, and Other Misconduct incident reporting, follow-up, and resolution process process, including identifying the Reporting Team to handle and respond to incident reports.

  • Launch our 2nd community SEED.

DEIJ Audit?

Yes! Dr. Wise is a DEI consultant for independent schools nationwide and an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University. We found her through workshops offered by National Association of Independent Schools following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. Dr. Wise and her team will audit our DEIJ efforts across our organization and community, conduct focus groups, and provide actionable recommendations. Last February, Dr. Wise brought our faculty her workshop Creating Space for Students of Color in our Classrooms: Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy.

Self Study: Social Renewal

This year Urban Prairie has launched a self study as part of our accreditation process as an Associate Member in the Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA). We’ll be studying ourselves in light of one of the seven Principles of Waldorf Schools. Our chosen principle is No. 2: Waldorf Schools foster social renewal by cultivating human capacities in service to the individual and society. For a Waldorf school, human capacities are expressed with strength of will, depth of feeling, clarity of thought, and the ability to work with others. In this city of Chicago during this time in our world, how can we nurture our adult and student capacities in a way that motivates them to serve humanity?

It’s a lot to unpack! This principle has been framing our conversations in the faculty and administration and most recently at the Board level. All three groups will engage in the self study, which will also include a review of our policies and practices to discover where this principle is living strongly, where we are innovating, and where we have challenges to address. More to come as our study progresses!

Festivals Update

Halloween in School

Friday, October 29

Grades 1-6

Costumes: Grade 1-6 students are invited to come to school in costume. Costumes should follow guidelines shared by class teachers. Masks that cover eyes and media characters are never allowed. Costumes should be easy to move in.

Fall Fest at Simpson: Grade 1-6 students have been invited to attend Simpson’s Fall Fest. Simpson is the school just west of our building. There will be booths and treats for students.

Grades 7 & 8

Grades 7 & 8 are asked not to come in costume on Friday as they have expeditions.

Dia de los Muertos

Monday and Tuesday, November 1 and 2

We will celebrate Dia de los Muertos with an Ofrenda. Students are invited to bring in pictures and favorite items of loved ones who have passed. Pictures should be of people, not pets.

Pictures should be in frames and be labeled with the student’s name on the back. Pictures can be brought until October 29.

A seed from SEED: The Danger of a Single Story

Last night we kicked off our 2nd annual community SEED (Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity) seminar. On the agenda was viewing and discussing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s lecture The Danger of a Single Story. The group discussed times when each individual had been viewed in terms of a “single story” – and when they’d cast others in that way.

Curious about SEED? Founded in 1987 by Peggy McIntosh (author of Whie Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack), the National S.E.E.D. Project is a peer-led development program co-facilitated at UPWS by Rob Welcher and Jenn Zielinski.

Community Connections Corner

Potluck Update!

In just a few weeks we will have our first color team potluck dinner! Red and Orange teams will kick off this event in the Early Childhood yard on Wed Nov. 10th at 6:30pm. We’ll warm things up with a toasty fire and conversation. Invitations coming soon!

Potluck Schedule

Red and Orange Teams: November 10th

Yellow and Green Teams: January 26th

Blue and Purple Teams: February 16th

Not sure what your color team is? Email Jenn Zeilinski at jenn.zi…@urbanprairie.org

Calling All Dog Lovers!

Interested in leading or joining a dog walking group? A dog walking group is a great way to meet and connect with people. It’s also great for dogs as group walks can keep them mentally and physically fit. Pack/group walks also build the bond between you and your dog, so it’s a win-win! Excited yet? Please email anne.mc…@urbanprairie.org with your name and contact info.

Anyone interested in a kids winter clothing swap?

So many of us have younger children that go through sizes so quickly! We are hoping to host a clothing swap but wanted to see how many people are interested. If interested please email Anne with your contact info. Thanks!

Quick Coffee Reminder

The 2nd First Friday Coffee will be on Nov. 12 at 8 am behind the goat shed. See you there!

Building Connections

Looking for someone’s contact to build community, connect with other families, get your children together to play? Find each other at UPWS Resources.


If you’re interested in any of the many volunteer opportunities here at Urban Prairie please contact me at anne.mc…@urbanprairie.org


Board News

Dear Urban Prairie Community,

It’s been a productive Fall!

At the October Board meeting, we heard highlights from the past year and plans for the year ahead. The Board approved the 2021-22 UPWS Annual Plan and the most recent revision of the school’s Governance documents. The school’s current governance structure was inaugurated in 2019-20 and is revisited and fine-tuned each year by the Faculty and Administration, with final input and approval from the Board of Trustees. The Governance structure calls for an Annual Plan to be put forward each year by the Head of the School, outlining goals and priorities across the school. A major revision this year was the addition of a new section delineating the role and responsibilities of the Level Chairs as the faculty leadership body.

During the October meeting, there was a meaty discussion of Social Renewal and how the school cultivates student capacities. One Board member noted, “The reason most of our families are at this school is for the heart work! You really don’t get that anywhere else.”

Curious about the Board? Our charge is to ensure and plan toward the long-term legal and fiscal sustainability of the school. Our next meeting will be held via Zoom on December 9 at 6:30pm. Come join us! Reach out to me anytime at danila….@urbanprairie.org.


Danila Miranda

President, Board of Trustees

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


Outerwear Guidelines

As the weather fluctuates wildly, please send your kiddos prepared with layers! Here is a quick 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! We ask students NOT to bring umbrellas as they present a safety concern on the play lot. It is always a good idea to send a full change of clothes that stays at school, especially for younger students.

Vaccination Status Updates

Middle school parents: Please update the school on the vaccination status of your child! Email ad…@urbanprairie.org with any vaccination dates occurring after the start of school.

Allergy/Asthma Action Plans

If your child has an Allergy / Asthma Action Plan please check with Kimberl…@urbanprairie.org to ensure that we have the most up to date information and medication. Medication should be sent to school in a ziploc bag labeled with your child’s name. This will stay with the class in their park bag as to be in reach at all times.

Your doctor should have these forms on file, and you can find them here:

Illinois Allergy Action Plan

Illinois Asthma Action Plan


For curriculum and classroom-related questions and concerns, please start by contacting your class teacher or subject teacher.

Administrative questions may be directed to:

Kim George, Operations Coordinator


Sophie Baumgartner, Pedagogical Operations


AJ Lee, Director of Operations & Finance


Sharla Paul, Head of School


Jen Kang, Director of Curriculum & Instruction


Jenn Zielinski, Director of Enrollment Management