What do toys do at night?: A Movie Premiere

Attention ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! We are very excited to announce that you are cordially invited to the Pre-K’s movie premiere of What do toys do at night?

You have been watching our script develop and now we are getting ready to put the final touches on our performance.  Our annual, student-written play will be converted into a short feature film, allowing the students to share the experience with family and friends. Once again our class has partnered with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers to help us shoot and edit the film. The students have been working tirelessly on making costumes, learning their lines, and making props and scenery.

The screening party for our movie will begin at 5:30 PM on May 29, 2014.  We will gather to dine with the actors as we rub elbows with this soon to be famous crew.  Dinner will be followed by the official screening in the multipurpose room at 6:15 PM. Please join us in celebrating the work of these amazing students!

Official invitations to follow.

What’s in a name?

Our play officially has a name! After some brainstorming, and careful consideration, the students unanimously voted for…”What do toys do at night?”. Now that we have settled on a name, it’s time to get working on our costumes and set. The fun is just beginning!



The Pre-K Play: a first draft (2014)

We are excited to announce that our students have officially written the script for our upcoming pre-k play! We started writing our play in January, when we returned from winter break, and have been working on it ever since. The story and characters have changed many times as the students’ ideas have evolved. Below you will find the first draft of our play. You’ll notice that in the beginning stages, the students tend to write several separate stories and often leave out important story elements, such as dialogue. This will come later when they begin to better understand the various dynamics of story writing.



Pre-k Play: First Draft

E.S. – Jockey
A.J. – Lion
O.A. – A giant bear a black bear
S.B. – the swan princess
S.M. – a pet black bear
(E.S.) I play music.
The swan princess decorates the Christmas tree. The lion is playing the flute. The black bear watches the swan princess put the decorations on the tree.
Once upon a time, there was a jockey and a lion and they were playing music. While they were playing music the swan princess decorated a tree, while the bear watched. The bear puts the star on the top of the tree. The swan princess leaves to go get a pet. The swan princess comes back with the pet black bear and the bear dances.
All of the sudden, Darth Vader uses the light saber and chopped down the Christmas tree and everyone said, “oh no!”.
“That’s not good we don’t like it. It hurts our chrismas party.” said the swan princess.
The pet bear said, “Darth Vader you should get us a new tree”.
So Darth Vader went and got a new tree and they had their party. It was getting very late and everyone went home.
T.O. – a bad clone trooper
H.P. – Luke Skywalker
J.J. – a bad Clone trooper
At Tatooine. There are two suns. It is very hot
The bad guys don’t like the good guys. They had an epic battle. Luke skywalker uses the force to make the clone troopers move back. The clone troopers fall down. The epic battle ended.
A.R. – a fairy
S.C. – Princess Aurora
D.K. – cat
H.P. – Wizard
T.O. – Black cat
The cat is the fairy’s pet. We’re in Princess Aurora’s house.
The fairy brought the cat to visit Princess Aurora. The cat sat. The fairy pets the cat. A wizard came. He put a spell on Princess Aurora and says, “You’re going to sleep for 100 years”. The wizard stays and waits for his black cat to come.
The fairy tries to wake her up with her wand, but the wizard puts her back to sleep again. This happens again and again.
The cat would hold the wizard by the arms so he can’t do his spells. The fairy uses her wand to wake up Princess Aurora. When she wakes up, the fairy uses her spells to make the Wizard and the black cat fall asleep. The wizard snores loudly and the fairy and princess and cat all run away.
The End.

News from the Director

Upcoming Dates and Information from Laurie Vennes


December 5, 8:15 – 9:15 a.m., Library
Contact: Laurie Vennes, 412-486-8341 or vennesl@winchesterthurston.org

Your feedback is important to us! Now that you have received a copy of our new report cards, we want to hear your impressions and ideas for improvement. Please join Laurie Vennes for coffee to discuss the new report cards and assessments at WT.



December 5, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Contact: Brock Perkins, perkinsb@winchesterthurston.org
The fifth grade Medieval Festival includes a medieval feast, dance, and other merry-making.



December 6, 8:30 a.m., Multipurpose Room
Contact: Laurie Vennes, 412-486-8341 ext. 11 or vennesl@winchesterthurston.org
Students should show their WT pride by wearing their WT t-shirts accompanied by uniform bottoms on Spirit Day.


December 6, 8:30 – 10:30 a.m., at the home of Amy and Larry Zana, 3284 Windstream Drive, Gibsonia, PA 15044
December 13, 8:30 – 10:30 a.m., at the home of Marina and Kenneth Lehn, 5061 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15232
Contact: Stacie Schmidt, 412-578-7512 orschmidts@winchesterthurston.org
To celebrate the season, all WT families are invited to brunch at the home of City and North Hills families. Please stop in for a quick coffee and pastry on your way to work, or stay for the morning!


– What Parents Are Saying, December 11, 8:15 a.m., Library
Contact: Laurie Vennes, 412-486-8341 ext. 11 orvennesl@winchesterthurston.org
We thank the approximately 45 parents and faculty members who attended two open forums about the future of the North Hills Campus, held on November 6 and 8. In dialogue with Gary Niels, Laurie Vennes, and other members of the administration, participants learned about and gave input to strategic directions for the campus. To give more parents the opportunity to participate in these important dialogues, a third session has been scheduled.

Here’s what some parents said after attending the sessions:

“…The meeting offered me great insight into the level of commitment that Winchester Thurston School has toward the North Hills Campus. The interactive nature of the meeting between Gary, the faculty, and the parents (all of the involved stakeholders) impresses me that my concerns, ideas, and feedback are both appreciated and will be taken into consideration as the school moves forward with its strategic plans. Ultimately, it is supportive of the notion that I have my child in the right place.”

“In particular it was great to see a combination of parents and teachers and administrators there trying to generate ideas to strengthen the North Hills Campus…I would encourage other current parents to attend so that they could hear more about the direction of the school and voice their input so that they might help guide the future at WT.”

“The parents of the North Hills Campus have a passion for their children’s learning and for the environment at North…They value the open, fresh air concept that North provides with all of the ‘outdoor classrooms’ that each teacher uses to excite their students into exploring and using their mind in many other ways, not just ‘book’ learning. Not only are the parents involved with their children in the learning process at home, they are involved almost daily with the teachers and administrators. They are consistently and actively engaged with the school itself by sharing their thoughts and giving their time and making suggestions that are met with an open mind. Thank you for that!!”

Light bulb moment: Seeing the breakdown of the costs associated per student for North vs City and what having a full enrollment means to North and how much the tuition actually covers. I had never seen this before and it gave me a much better understanding of the fiscal responsibility the school has and how it still manages to keep the excellent teachers we have at North.”

Topics for the discussion include:

1. How can we shape the educational and extra-curricular program to better differentiate WT’s North Hills Campus from other educational options in the area?

2. How can we more effectively engage the North Hills community to strengthen enrollment at North?

3. How will the Celebrate WT campaign impact North?

A supportive and engaged community is so important to the success of our school, and we thank you for your involvement and dedication. Please plan to attend this important session.


December 19, 2:00 in the Multipurpose Room.
Dress Code: 
Pre-k /k- dress clothes and soft soled shoes
4th Grade -fun hats for a funky dance, can be knit or hip hop type (bring in A.S.A.P. for teacher approval)
1st through 5th grade students-Tan uniform pants, White collared uniform shirts, soft soled shoes
All other costumes will be provided.

Friday’s Premiere of “Birds”



Dear Families,

We are so very excited and I’m sure you share our anticipation for this Friday’s premiere of “Birds”. The movie will begin at 10:00, but if you can make it a few minutes earlier, you won’t want to miss our stars as they walk the red carpet. There will be opportunities to have your picture taken with the actors and to speak with them about their roles.

Complimentary popcorn will be available before the stars arrive. After the presentation, please join us in the library for another chance to schmooze with the stars while enjoying refreshments.

All stars should consider wearing clothes that make them feel fancy. The Red Carpet has seen haute couture from jeans and leather jackets to ball gowns. Help your star find something in their closet that makes them feel like “the star of the show”.

See you soon!

Birds: A Movie Premiere!

Attention ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! We are very excited to announce that you are cordially invited to the Pre-K’s movie premiere of Birds!

This year, our class embarked on a new adventure into the world of movie-making. We decided early on to turn our yearly play into a short feature film, allowing the students to share the experience with family and friends. Our class has partnered with the Pittsburgh Filmmakers to help us shoot and edit the film. The students have been working tirelessly on making costumes, learning their lines, and making props and scenery.

The screening of our movie will take place in the multipurpose room at 10:00 AM on May 17, 2013 followed by a reception in the library. Please join us in celebrating the work of these amazing students!

Official invitations to follow.

Draft #3

It is now March and our story is starting to take shape. Each character now fits into one story that not only has a beginning, middle, and an end but it finally has a plot as well! The story and script is completely written by the students and it quite colorful, to say the least.



(Please note that some students may be missing from this version as they were out due to illnesses)


The Three Horses (March 6, 2013)


The mean ballerina fairies are having a party under the bridge. (Cl, Ra, So)

Along came the littlest horse (K)

“No one is allowed on our bridge, it’s just for us!” said the mean ballerina fairies.

“Wait for my medium brother. She is much bigger and much juicier.” Said the littlest horse.

And the horse went across the bridge and ate at the grassy hill. (K)


When along came two medium sister horses. (Sa and Re)

“You can’t go across our bridge, it’s just for us!” said the fairies. “You have to solve our riddle. What makes scribbles? The second answer is those kind of scissors. Now you may cross.”

And the medium sister horses crosses the bridge.


Then came along the big daddy horse.

“You can’t go across our bridge, it’s just for us!” (Fairies)

“What do I have to do then?” (So)

“You have to solve a daddy troll mystery. Who goes into something tall?” (Fairies)

“People in the loft.” said the bid daddy horse and she knocks them over. (So)


When along came two Thomas trains. (A and Ev)

“You can’t go across our bridge, it’s just for us!” (Fairies)

“Beep beep!” said the two Thomas trains and they went across the bridge.


And the three mean ballerina fairies were trying to figure out what was going on, a rotten egg (J) rolled in and the mean fairies tried to cook it. But the rotten egg rolled away.

And they all came back to have a dance party on the bridge.


The End.

Second draft…

By the time February rolled around, our story had changed quite a bit and many of the students created completely new characters. As you can see in this version, the story is starting to become more like one story with several characters.


Version #2 Feb. 8, 2013

(Updated Feb. 19, 2013)



J– A cat

Ca, Ra, and K – mice

Sa – Ariel

A and O – giants

El – a talking sandwich

Ev and Re – dogs

Cl – an old grandpa/the owner

So – the mom


Once upon a time…

This kitty (J.) went to his owner (Cl.) and his owner started to say “the kitty can’t leave” but he did and the kitty ran away and they never found it again.

And then the grandpa (Cl.) came and tried to find the cat, but still couldn’t.

The dog (Ev.) goes to find the cat. And he finds the cat. And the cat chases the dog and the dog runs away.

The cat falls asleep.

And then the owner came and put a leash on the cat and he takes the cat home.



The mice (K, Ra, and Ca) are in their hole.

Two dogs (Ev. and Re.) chase the mice. And the mice chase the dogs too.

And then they become friends. And then they all go home.

Ariel (Sa.) comes and picks up the dogs and they go in the castle.

Ariel goes and gets her mice and she takes them to her dog and feeds the dog her mice.

The grumpy old man (Cl.) takes the other dog home.

Ariel says, “Where’s my dog?”



The giants comes. And the first giant (A.) says, “BOOM” and the other giant (O.) says, “Go away!” to the princess (Sa.) and she runs away.

And the mom (So.) says, “Time to come home boys” and they go home and eat their food.

The giants were about to eat the sandwich (El.) and the sandwich said, “DON’T EAT ME!”  and the giant (O.) said, “Let’s be friends”.

The sandwich says, “Alright, let’s go back to my house.”

And they all go back to the sandwich’s house.


The End.

May 17 Save the Date!

20130314_8431Save the Date!

May 17, 2013

10:00 a.m.

The Pre-K Performance

Working Title: Children’s Literature Unbound

The Pre-K Performance this year is going native. We are putting the script writing*, prop collection, costume design, and set construction in the children’s hands.  Following many years of successful teacher created, directed, and designed plays, we began to reflect on the purpose of putting on a show.  We decided that there were certain lessons that we wanted our students to get from such a project.  Some of these included performing for a group, taking pride in a performance, problem solving as issues arise, and persistence in complicated tasks.  We also wanted them to have an opportunity to express themselves, take responsibility for their own performance, and practice editing a story.  We decided that they could get all of these opportunities by making their very own play.

The children are currently working on a recreation of the popular children’s story, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”    We are working on a few ideas regarding the sharing of this story with our families.  We’ll let you know the plan as soon as we have all arranged.  However, please know that you are invited to arrive at WTN  at 9:45 on May 17th to see our thespians perform at 10:00.  The show will be followed by a reception in the library.  Afterwards, your child may either go home with you or stay for the rest of the day.

*Curious about the script? We’ll be posting some of the previous drafts soon!

Chicka Chicka Wow!

Yipeee! Our play ran without a hitch! The children worked so very hard over the past few months getting ready.  All of us were a bit nervous since this is the first time we’ve ventured away from the tried and true “Very Hungry Caterpillar”.

A few of you have asked about the video of the children reciting the book.  The students’ recording of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom will be part of the DVD package we’ll be putting together for you at the end of the year.  I do not have a clean copy of the entire performance to offer, but if you are looking for one, I’m sure we can find one for you somewhere, just let us know.

Thank you all for joining us yesterday!