Franke Fund

The Franke Family Fund was established in 2008 by Barbara, Richard, Katherine ’77 and Jane Franke ’80 to support programs that enhance students’ experiences during the academic year.

The Fund encourages faculty to develop creative and unique ideas that are school-wide in scope, broad in interpretation and application, and significantly and positively impact the school community. Past themes and one or more of the visitors contributing to each Franke Fund project are listed below.

Richard J. Franke

Franke Fund Program Archive

Students watch a solar eclipse.


Our AWEsome Earth (2023-2024)

In the ecological spirit of making the best use of what we already have, the 2023-24 Franke Fund theme, “Our AWEsome Earth,” built upon last year’s “Native Narratives” theme and aimed to enhance, expand on and complement all the things the North Shore Country Day community already has been doing to care for the planet we all call home. Indigenous wisdom recognizes the value of all of life’s diversity, human and non-human, and since we all share this planet, we have a shared responsibility to care for it. 

Students work on an art project.


Native Voices (2022-2023)

During the 2022-23 school year, the Franke Fund aimed to center Native voices and provide a way for our students and schoolwide community to engage with and learn from members of Chicago’s robust Native community. We kicked off the year with an art exhibit in the John Almquist Gallery. Throughout the year, featured artists returned to NSCD to offer day-long workshops for our students on a variety of topics.

Exploring Protests (2020-2021)

In celebration of upstanders and activists, teachers curated learning experiences for JK-12 students to explore the value and necessity of protests to bring about change. Each grade studied protests in their own developmentally appropriate way, from JK students studying identity and learning about self which ultimately led them to hold a protest about littering, to middle and upper schoolers having open dialogues about systemic and institutional racism.

Centennial (2019-2020)

The Franke Fund was incorporated into the Centennial in educating students and faculty about the history of traditions and events at NSCD since our school was founded in 1919.

You Belong (2018-2019)
The theme aligned with the schoolwide theme “You Belong” learning about one’s identity, using dance as a medium for self expression. Lower School parent Chiara Mangiameli Lumpkin, founder of Studio Mangiameli in Evanston, and her team led a series of workshops on Flamenco music and dancing, and performed and encouraged student participation during a Morning Ex program. Students also took hand-clapping rhythm and singing workshops, and a dance class that focused on the elements of Flamenco.


Spinning Dot Theatre Company (2017-2018)

Spinning Dot Theatre Company, founded by former NSCD Choreographer and French Teacher Jenny Sawtelle Koppera, based in Ann Arbor, MI, spent three days on campus as artists in residence. The troupes mission is to change the world through theater—one play at a time. Spinning Dot’s name grew out of the idea that the world is just a tiny, spinning dot in the universe, and by focusing solely on international works, they try to “make the world feel bigger and smaller at the same time,” Jenny explained. The group performed three different plays in addition to conducting a variety of hands-on workshops and guided discussions on important issues like cultural appropriation and playwriting.


Telling Our Stories: Courage, Understanding, Hope and Challenge (2016-2017)

This year's Franke Fund focused on the school's work in equity, inclusion and diversity. The goal was to build on last year’s Upstanders theme. Members of the NSCD community were encouraged to find stories everywhere and to think about the core questions from the Morning Ex that kicked the Franke Fund off for the year: What is a story? Where do they live? NSCD believes stories are everywhere in the work educators do and in our lives in general. The school promoted the theme in a spring Morning Ex where students across divisions shared personal, unique and honest stories in different forms.


Upstanders—Marjorie Agosin, Professor, Writer (2015-2016)

Students were encouraged to “embrace the challenge to speak out, do the right thing, and make decisions that help create positive change in our world and make a conscious choice to step in instead of stand by.” The Upstanders theme was integrated into curricular and co-curricular programming, such as advisory and community conversations. Franke Fund events included a visit from Marjorie Agosin, a Chilean-born American poet, writer, human rights activist and professor at Wellesley College, and an Almquist Gallery exhibit of her Arpillera collection; faculty/staff professional development focused on developing Upstanders; a Lower School Upstander book series; and Harold Hines Fellow Bryan Stevenson,  founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative, the author of the New York Times bestseller Just Mercy, and a MacArthur Fellow. 


Food— Bob Aiken, CEO, Feeding America (2013-2014)

The 2013-2014 Franke Fund program focused on food topics including nutrition, urban agriculture, food sourcing, hunger and a variety of other subject. Lower School engaged in studying food waste at NSCD and continued the development of the aquaponics program in 1st grade; the Middle School spent time on area farms as a part of its Service Week; and the Upper School’s E-Club developed on-campus composting and hydroponic growing systems. Additionally, a number of upper school Interim Week programs were centered around food including several service programs and one on the science behind molecular gastronomy. Bob Aiken, the CEO of Feeding America, the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief organization, presented at a Morning Ex. 


Design Thinking—Design for America (2012-2013)

The program kicked off with a Morning Ex featuring Design For America students from Northwestern University talking about their earliest memories of designing something, and inviting students from the audience on stage for a hands-on design challenge. Throughout the year, students were asked to embrace Design Thinking in a variety of ways: design a way for a person on crutches to carry their lunch tray and design the tallest structure possible with dried spaghetti and marshmallows. Nasa Astronaut Dr. Gregory Charmitoff visited and talked about making dreams come true—how to design your own future. The junior kindergarteners designed and built models of tree houses. Finally, students used a collection of foam blocks in the science center to build something. The process and results entertained and inspired those who passed by.



The History and Art Form of Tap Dance—Chicago Tap Theatre (2011-2012)

This year's Franke Fund program brought Chicago Tap to NSCD. Tap is a unique art form that combines storytelling through dance, rhythm and strong emotions. The organization's mission is to keep tap dance alive and share the history of tap began. The group demonstrated the use of jazz, modern music, beat boxing to show different ranges of discovery and expressions. In addition, Chicago Tap Theatre held multiple workshops with the students.


Storytelling Through Video—Filmmakers Mason Bendewald and Ben Kegan '05 (2010-2011)

Video can be used to create compelling and engaging stories, and communicate beyond traditional methods of writing and speaking. Driven by the increased availability of low cost digital video cameras and those built into computers and cell phones, more and more students are creating video projects when given the option. This year's Franke Fund included a workshop to train faculty so they could guide and push students to cultivate and develop their voice in this medium. In addition, two filmmakers came to campus. Mason Bendewald and Ben Kegan ’05 spent three days sharing examples of their videos and guiding students in producing videos. Teachers were encouraged to assign students video projects as an alternative to written papers.


Poetry—Calef Brown, Poet, Author and Illustrator; Cin Salach, poet (2009-2010)

Poetry was spread throughout campus through a multi-sensory, multi-discipinary program that immersed the entire school in poetry for two weeks. Every student participated whether writing or reading poetry, creating poetry-themed art, viewing poetry projects on campus or listening to poetry during Morning Ex programs. Among the highlights were a community-based art installation of a six-foot canvas on which students and faculty wrote poems or verses; a silly haiku project; a one-line-a-day challenge to memorize a poem and recite it to someone; Calef Brown visiting poet, author and illustrator; the Funky Snowman play premiere inspired by a Calef Brown poem; Poet Cin Salach performed in the upper school; and poetry videos and visual art projects displayed around campus.


Woody Guthrie: Songs in the Key of Change (2008-2009)

The first Franke Fund initiative was an interdisciplinary school-wide program investigating the role music played in affecting social change in the 20th century. The curriculum was implemented elements across disciplines and divisions throughout the school year. Often seen as an exclusively American folk icon, Woody Guthrie was embraced by people all over the world. His music and ideas have been translated into myriad languages and reinterpreted in many different cultural and historical contexts. Dr. Bucky Halker, noted scholar and musician, presented the life, times and songs of Woody Guthrie to the faculty; upper and middle school students attended a presentation “Global Woody: Language, Culture, History and Harmony” by Jorge Arevalo, Woody Guthrie Archives Curator; and lower school students heard granddaughter of Woody, and programs and events coordinator for Woody Guthrie Publications Anna Canoni brought Woody’s story to life.