Monday, September 19, 2016

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip

Mr. Rickbeil's Field Trip
Part 1:  Less is More

This post is the first installment of a five-part series, chronicling Mr. Rickbeil's educational trip (and much needed vacation) to Finland this past summer.

This summer, I decided to take a field trip to a faraway place to learn about the most successful and efficient school system in the world.  I wanted to see how a different culture educates their kids.  I wanted to learn from their successes and see what aspects of their educational system are applicable to American schools, Catholic schools, and all of us at Trinity.  My journey took me over 4,200 miles away to a small country on the North coast of the Baltic Sea.  This is the story of my trip to Finland.

Finland has been an educational giant in the developed world since the results of the first PISA tests sixteen years ago, which ranked Finland 1st in reading literacy, 4th in math literacy, and 3rd in science literacy.  If you find it surprising that Finland ranked at the top of the list, nobody was more surprised than the Finnish people themselves.  When the first results were released, the educators themselves figured it was some kind of mistake.  This “mistake” was only confirmed three years later, when Finland placed 1st in the world in reading literacy and science literacy, and second in the world in math literacy.  Finland clearly had a good thing going after all.  Of course, humility comes somewhat naturally to Finnish culture, which may explain their top ranking in the world after all.

In my 16 days in Finland, I was constantly surrounded by a people and a country where less is more.  The city of Helsinki contained fewer skyscrapers than any big city I have ever seen, with two modest Cathedrals setting the skyline for the city.  The Finnish people live in modest homes and apartments, retreating to small cottages in nature as their favorite vacation spot.  Although it helped that I was on vacation, I was constantly presented opportunities to slow down, enjoy a cup of coffee, and take in a meal at a cafĂ©.  Finland was a good destination for business travel and relaxing, and people genuinely seem to enjoy a slower pace of life.

This culture of "less is more" permeates their education system as well.  Children start their formal schooling in first grade at the age of seven with hours that resemble my half-day kindergarten back in the 1980's.  Finnish students take recess several times per day, with law mandating a 15-minute break after each 45-minute class.  Doing the math, this adds up to as many as six recesses a day in a common middle school schedule.  Finnish teachers spend significantly fewer hours teaching the week and more time collaborating with other Finnish teachers over warm cups of coffee.  Visiting Finnish middle schools, it was not uncommon to find foosball and ping pong tables in the hallways, as students needed something to do with all of their break time in the middle of the day.

The most amazing thing about their "less is more" philosophy is that it worked.  I knew about their approach, their recesses, and their efficiency in class.  What surprised me was their rationale behind their approach.  Finnish children do not get so many breaks because it lightens their load or because guilty Finnish adults worry too much about the stresses on today's youth.  The breaks and "less is more" mentality is emphasized because it gets results.

In a trip designed to learn from Finnish culture and schools, I am not 100% sure what to make of all of this.  I'm not sure that frequent recesses, breaks, and foosball tables would improve our education in the United States as it does in Finland, although I call dibs on the foosball table if we ever get one.  However, as we start a new school year, I do know that I could benefit from a little more "less is more" in my life.  I know that my work could improve with a little more sleep, a few less 10-hour workdays, and a few less activities crammed into my free time.

This may be the place many of our families find themselves in as we enter this new school year.  As we settle into the September routine, I encourage you to think about "Less is More".  You may find that by doing fewer activities and allowing more open time on your family calendars, you will find yourself happier and more productive.  Maybe the "to do" list could be shorter so long as the things at the top get done.  Maybe we can all benefit from a few more lazy Sundays, a few more opportunities to relax on the margins of our daily schedules.

This school year, don’t be afraid to do a little less.  As the Finns taught me, less can definitely be more.

Apple Science Experiment in Mrs. Buckley’s Kindergarten

During our unit on Apples, the kindergartners used the scientific process while observing how different liquids affect apples.

First we picked apples from the apple trees on the Trinity campus. 

In the classroom we set out five containers with a few apple slices in each one.  We labeled the containers with the name of the liquids we were going to use. We also set up a “control” cup of apple slices with no liquid. 

Each kindergartner drew their predictions on a recording sheet.

The liquids were added to the containers. After two hours we observed the apple slices again and recorded our observations again, noting any changes.  We recorded observations the next day also.

The control apples had started to oxidize, as had the apples in water and soda.  The children’s least favorite was the apples in vinegar because they were “stinky” and very, very brown.J

Kelly Buckley
Kindergarten Teacher
Trinity School
(443) 498-5071

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Virtue of the Month for September: DILIGENCE

Virtue of the Month

Comes from the Latin word diligere meaning to value highly,
to take delight in

A DILIGENT person works Hard to finish a job.

A DILIGENT person is:

a hard worker

A DILIGENT person applies himself/herself to the task at hand;
Starts working right away;
Works hard to finish a job;
Invests time & energy;
Does a job efficiently;
Applies his/her God-given talents;

DILIGENCE is a key ingredient to success in practice, exercise and study.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Trinity Summer Camp is in Full Swing

Summer is here and, for many of us, not a moment too soon… but, as the school year ends and the warmest months of the year descend upon us, a new program comes alive at Trinity School – The Trinity Summer Camp! Newly revamped for the summer of 2016, Trinity Summer Camp has a whole new attitude towards summer fun, education, and child care. With fantastic new staff, lots of exciting new specialty programs, and extended child care options, Trinity Summer Camp has truly embraced modern parenting while providing a safe, fun, and educational experience for its campers.

Offering unique programming for kids of many different age groups isn’t always easy, but the Camp Director, Mrs. Sally Sweeney, enjoys the challenge. By dividing the campers into three program groups based on age and interest, Trinity Summer Camp provides a uniquely tailored experience to each child – optimized for his or her age, interests, and education level. These groups include a traditional Summer Camp (for kids Pre-K4 to Grade 5), a Middle School Summer Camp (for kids Grade 6 to Grade 8), and a Sports Camp (for kids Grade 2 to Grade 8).

Don’t think because the camp takes place on the sprawling Trinity School campus that campers will spend the summer in a class room – oh no! Trinity Summer Camp works to engage children both indoors (when weather isn’t so sunny), and outdoors. This year’s Summer Camp program includes exciting outdoor activities, including Wildlife Adventures and group sports. For days when there’s rain, or it is too hot to be outside for the entire day, Trinity Summer Camp offers arts and crafts, a Science Extravaganza, and even magic shows.

The Trinity Summer Camp program begins the week of June 13th and continues to offer weekly summer activities through August 12th. The final week of Trinity Summer Camp includes an annual tradition – The 20th Trinity Summer Olympics. Because campers can be registered in weekly increments, children don’t have to attend for the entire duration of the program – but many children decide to stay, hang out with their friends, and build memories that last a lifetime.  Don’t forget about the extended before and after care options, too, which are great for busy parents.

Interested in learning more about Trinity Summer Camp? 
Curious to see if there is space for your child in the upcoming weeks? Please contact the camp director, Mrs. Sally Sweeney, at or learn more on the website here:

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Virtue of the Month for May is REVERENCE


* Reverence is embracing and respecting the sacredness of all beings.

* It is reverential treatment of life as if all beings and things are sacred and special.


* Reverence is about practicing respect, recognizing the presence of the scared in everything` our bodies, other people, animals and nature.

* Respect/Reverence is characterized by COURTESY.

* Polite behavior shows respect for other people.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Public Speaking Skills Start Early at Trinity School

At Trinity School public speaking skills start early and continue through 8th grade. 
In preschool the student of the week brings in a poster about themselves.  They present the poster to their classmates and talk about what makes them special.  There are also performances for the parents at Halloween, Christmas, and at the end of the school year.

In kindergarten the big event in the spring is the 3 Piggy Opera.  This is the musical version of the Three Little Pigs performed on the music room stage by the whole kindergarten.  Family and friends enjoy many pink refreshments in the kindergarten classrooms after the play. 

Another highlight of the kindergarten year is the Saint Project.  Students choose a saint to research and present to the class.  For the class presentation the children dress as their saint.  After each student's presentation Mrs. Buckley asks the class if they have any questions or compliments.  Mrs. Buckley reports that there are no questions - only compliments.  At Trinity the students are so used to speaking in front of the class that this is a fun assignment for them.

The parent of one of our recent graduates reports that at Loyola High School public speaking is required in Freshman English class.  Her son told her that all of the Trinity boys thought this was no big deal while students from other schools really struggled.   At Trinity School you really do learn everything you need for life in kindergarten!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Trinity Students Get Ready for Earth Day

Trinity School enjoys finding new ways to celebrate Earth Day.  This year the 5th grade will be sewing and germinating seeds in the Green House.  A variety of seeds were used: Herbs, Vegetables, and Flowers.  This is the first time students will be using the new Green House.  In order to be “green”, they recycled old newspaper to create their own seed starter planter pots.  No plastic pots needed!  These pots are easily transported into the ground when ready and are biodegradable.  We should have lot’s to harvest when we return to school in the fallJ