It’s About Mental Health, Charlie Brown!

Posted on November 16th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Stressing over homework. Feeling inadequate. Teased by peers. Anxious about a special someone.

Poor Charlie Brown.

Anxiousness, uncertainty, and sadness are just a few emotions that all of us have or will experience at one time or another. In You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, based on characters in Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts comics and on stage this weekend at Allendale Columbia School, we see the characters express those feelings and more.

We witness how Sally becomes so angry because her jump rope was tangled. She is so angry that she found it hard to verbally articulate her displeasure. We then see Schroeder become a sounding board, driving home the point that support comes in many forms including family, friends, teachers, and, in the case of Snoopy, pets.

Lucy is faced with the truth of her crabbiness and then commiserates about all of the unhappiness she has been spreading and bemoans feeling undeserving. Thankfully, Linus encourages her and affirms her reason for living by reminding her that she has a little brother who loves her. It’s meaningful for all of us to receive a reminder from time to time that there is someone in our corner, who values us without qualifiers and recognizes our uniqueness.

We see this again in Lucy’s psychiatrist booth when she strives to support Charlie Brown. Her approach is not seamless, and she may appear to judge him harshly at the start, but she validates his feelings and provides a listening ear. Most importantly, what she relays to Charlie at the end of their session is powerful: “For whatever it’s worth Charlie Brown, you’re you.” Despite any symptoms of depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem, Charlie Brown is remarkably unique. He is a real boy, not the sum of his faults, insecurities, or differences. He’s human. He’s deserving. He’s worthy.

Students can often struggle with identity and self-discovery. As parents friends, and support professionals, we can remember that sometimes all a student needs is a listening ear — though charging 5 cents, as Lucy does, is not necessarily recommended.

All of us, students and adults alike, can take many of the tidbits of wisdom gleaned from You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown to heart as we consider our interactions with others, including those who may be experiencing challenges with their mental health. We can express our feelings. We can acknowledge our faults as well as our strengths. We can listen without judgment. We can accept, even praise, people for who they are.

The good news is, friends often come through when they see someone feeling down. Charlie Brown himself, despite his woes, still manages to look at life with hope and has developed resiliency. And if Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, and crew were at AC, they’d know they have a full support network to help them through these emotions.

Even though adults are absent from the script, typical for Schulz’s comics, we should also remember that we can seek help from trusted adults when needed. Allendale Columbia’s students have a team of support professionals offering a variety of resources to help with learning differences, strategies for success, and even stress, anxiety, and other social and emotional issues. (See “Students Supported by Ready Team of Professionals”).


You can see the Upper School’s performances of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown, with the “Charlie” cast this Friday, November 16th, at 7:00 p.m., and Saturday, November 17th, at 2:00 p.m., and the “Snoopy” cast Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, November 18th, at 2:00 p.m. in Allendale Columbia’s Curtis Performance Center, 519 Allens Creek Road, Rochester, NY. Tickets are available at the door or online at


Kristin Cocquyt

Starmeshia Jones

Before joining AC, Starmeshia worked as a School Psychologist in the Indianapolis Public Schools and as a Residential Counselor at DePaul Mental Health Services. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in School Psychology as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study from Roberts Wesleyan College, and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP).
Kristin Cocquyt

Rachael Sanguinetti

Rachael is in her third year teaching music at AC. A recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music with majors in Music Education and Musical Arts with a minor in Psychology and an Arts Leadership Certificate, she's working toward a masters degree at Ithaca College. She brings experience teaching kindergarten-8th grade music in Rochester, 6th-8th grade general music and choir at Burger Middle School, and 2-3 year olds as part of the Eastman Community School Early Childhood Music Program.
Kristin Cocquyt

John Palomaki

After working at a small college in California and some early tech companies, John spent a stimulating 10 years at Microsoft through the 90s as a systems engineer and managing executive relations programs. Since then, John has worked with non-profit organizations and has held leadership roles in independent schools in New Jersey and Connecticut in development, communications, and technology. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Natural Sciences (Biology) from Colgate University.
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Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

AC Alum Recognized as 2018 CNN Hero

Posted on November 9th, 2018 by cnickels

Veterans Day celebrates our soldiers and marines who served this country or, in some cases, made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. But what about all those people who help our troops? The people who live in the country that is being torn apart by war. The people who risk their lives to help our soldiers communicate, navigate, and survive. What about them?

Matt Zeller, an AC Class of 2000 alum, left our campus with ideas of being a lawyer or a politician and went on to earn degrees from Hamilton College and Syracuse University before joining the U.S. Army.

In 2008 his life, and his future, changed forever.

During a battle with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, Matt was out of ammunition and seeking safety in a ditch when a coalition force translator saw two Taliban fighters moving toward him. The translator started crawling in the bushes toward Matt, and when he got close enough, he fired at the men, killing them. Matt soon learned the name of the man who saved his life was Janis Shinwari.

Janis lived in Afghanistan and saw firsthand the terrible things the Taliban had done in his country. He decided to support the coalition forces by serving as a translator, but never imagined being on the front lines of battle. Janis met Matt just 10 days before saving his life. Dressed in fatigues and carrying ammo, Janis looked, and served, like any other coalition soldier — except when it came time to go home. Matt was sent home to safety in the United States, while Janis stayed on, serving more missions, and continuing to live in a country where he was not safe. He served as a coalition translator for nine years. Local nationals who help coalition forces are added to a list by the Taliban. Bounties are placed on their heads and the heads of their families. Hit teams are sent out to find them, kidnap them, and torture them. Unless they can get out.


“Interpreters and translators should be treated like the war heroes that they are.” – Rep. Seth Moulton (D) Massachusetts


In 2006 and 2009, the U.S. government established Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs to help Iraqi and Afghan translators move to safety in the United States. A limited number of SIVs are authorized every year for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who have worked for, or on behalf of, the U.S. government in Iraq or Afghanistan. Nationals must apply for these programs with a recommendation from their U.S. supervisor and an explanation of the threats they are facing in their home country.


“My interpreter was absolutely critical to me every single day. He helped me understand what I was hearing. He helped me work my way through the translation of what was being said to me. And I think, more importantly he put that in context to make the kind of decisions I had to make as a division commander and a multi-national corps commander. He was absolutely essential to my mission accomplishment.” – General Peter Chiarelli


Matt was able to help Janis get to the states after nearly five years of hard work. When Janis and his family finally arrived, Matt held a fundraiser to help him buy a car for job interviews, go grocery shopping, and take his kids to school. Janis was overwhelmed by the generosity extended to him and his family, but he wouldn’t accept the money offered. Instead, he asked Matt to put it towards helping other translators left behind in Afghanistan.

That’s when No One Left Behind was born.

Matt and Janis co-founded No One Left Behind to help wartime allies and their families move to safety in the U.S. and get on their feet. Since the organization began, they’ve helped 8,300 people move to safety, but they estimate more than 50,000 interpreters, translators, and other wartime allies are still living in danger in their home country.

Mohammed, an Afghan national, served with the coalition forces despite the risks he knew it posed to his family. He was on duty one day when he received a call from his family that people were at his home, threatening his mother. They told her that they knew her family members were working with the coalition forces and that they would be back to hurt them. It was then that Mohammed began the arduous process of applying for his visa to move his family to safety. For five treacherous years, they waited. Many who applied were denied, but Mohammed, his wife, and young children were some of the lucky ones. He received his visa and moved to the United States, where he can now visit the playground and give his children the freedoms they would never have had back in Afghanistan.


“We have an obligation to look after those who have served us, and served our mission, and served their own country, so very faithfully and often involving a great deal of sacrifice.” – General David Petraeus


Ellen Smith is the Rochester Chapter President of No One Left Behind. Her job is 24 hours a day, answering messages on Facebook and What’s App from allies looking for help. When they arrive in the U.S., her job is far from over. No One Left Behind pays for the first month’s rent, furnishes their homes, and helps families enroll in school, English classes, and support from job agencies. They do whatever is needed until families are fully settled and integrated into their new home country. The first group of people that No One Left Behind helped just finished the process to become U.S. citizens. Janis is due to receive his citizenship sometime in the next year.

In recognition of the work his organization has done, Matt Zeller, a Rochester native and AC alum, was named a 2018 CNN Hero. His commitment to helping translators and interpreters move to safety in the U.S. has been supported by leaders in the military and political circles nationwide. But the work isn’t over. Thousands of allies still need our help.

This Veterans Day, Allendale Columbia remembers our soldiers, marines, and the many local nationals who helped our brothers and sisters complete their missions and return home safely. Matt Zeller, Janis Shinwari, and Ellen Smith will be at Allendale Columbia School on Thursday, November 15th, to share their story in person. Commemorate Veterans Day with us.


The Forgotten Soldiers: The True Cost of War for American Allies
Thursday, November 15th
6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

$5 General Admission
Students FREE with valid ID
(seats are limited; order tickets in advance)

Allendale Columbia School presents this event as part of our commitment to exposing students and the Rochester community to global opportunities and multicultural perspectives, creating a culture of global empathy. Learn more about the AC Center for Global Engagement.


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Posted in: AC in the News, Alumni News, Authentic Learning, Entrepreneurship, Global Engagement, Highlights

Standing Up for Civil Discourse

Posted on November 2nd, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

We see it every day: increasingly polarized and unfiltered outbursts on hot-button issues, shouting back-and-forth with neither side giving credit to the arguments of the other, and falsehoods repeated with assertive tones. This isn’t a children’s playground, it’s the world around us.

Ted Hunt recognizes a student’s point in his popular Democracy and Discourse class.

Is there room for civil discourse in today’s democracy? How do we prepare students to engage in public discourse with strategies for success and resilience?

Ted Hunt, an Allendale Columbia History teacher for 36 years, takes on this charge vigorously, helping to coordinate student examination and participation in public discourse in his popular Democracy and Discourse class. Students in that class had a set of Letters to the Editor published in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle on October 27th. But it doesn’t stop there. Ted has been helping to coordinate a civil discourse program, the Forums, for all Upper School students for the past 10 years. Allendale Columbia’s Class of 2019 recently demonstrated their increasing proficiency in these areas at the Senior Forum on October 25th, where they addressed one of the hottest issues of our time, immigration.

Forum moderator Cassidy Draper

Forum moderator Cassidy Draper

In some years, students need to be encouraged to participate. This year, perhaps as an indication of the increasing frustration with the state of discourse in the country, interest was high. “It was fantastic this year – nine kids stepped up. They drew lots for the five positions, and the other four were so interested, they wanted to be aides,” Hunt said. Aides conducted research and helped craft messages for the lead speaker. “They worked really well together.”

The American Psychological Association recently presented a “National Conversation on Civility” at The George Washington University. Co-hosted by the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD), the event was a wide-ranging discussion of the reasons for the decline in civility and mutual respect in public discourse. APA’s 2017 Stress in America survey found that nearly 60 percent of Americans felt stressed because of current social divisiveness, “which no doubt has contributed to the high levels of negativity in our civil discourse. Living with this type of stress is not good for our emotional and physical health,” remarked APA President Arthur C. Evans, PhD.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse has even received calls from people unable to interact with relatives at holiday dinners, religious leaders dealing with congregation members not speaking to each other, and corporations whose staffs have not returned to pre-election levels of productivity.

AC tries to address this by teaching respectful ways to conduct public discourse and giving students opportunities to practice it.
Misha Zain speaks on family separation policies at Senior Forum 2018.

Misha Zain speaks on family separation policies at Senior Forum 2018.

Students select the topics, either from issues they want to talk about or from suggestions Mr. Hunt makes. “There’s always some topic in the summer that dominates the news which usually provides the theme of the Senior Forum,” Mr. Hunt noted. Preparation begins about six weeks before the topic is discussed, with milestones along the way. The Junior Class has recently begun preparations for their Forum on December 13th with the topic, “Should Celebrities Speak Out on Political Issues?”. The students meet during their Club Block, and assign roles or points of view. “In some years, the Forum is more of a debate and students are asked to take on opposing viewpoints, even if it doesn’t represent their own personal views,” Mr. Hunt explained. “Every four years, during presidential elections, they’re encouraged to do a mock presidential debate. That’s often challenging, and we sometimes see that students mistake the role with the debater’s personal position. But usually, as in the last one when Phelan Conheady ‘17 portrayed Donald Trump, students know the difference between the student’s personal position and the candidate’s position.”

After assigning roles, the next meeting is a discussion on the topic, and the following week they need to have an outline prepared. Then they start writing. They produce two drafts and have a final rehearsal, receiving feedback at each stage. The day before the Forum, Mr. Hunt asks them questions to prepare for the types of questions they might receive from the audience. “Speeches are easier, they’re in the students’ control. But their ability to address the questions often determines the winner.”

Senior Forum 2018 participants: Tsioianiio Galban, aide to Mikayla Gross; Nicole Filippi and aide Sasha Furdey; Nate Pifer, moderator Cassidy Draper, and Nate's aide James Morrell; and Naomi Taggart, aide to Misha Zain.

Senior Forum 2018 participants: Tsioianiio Galban, aide to Mikayla Gross; Nicole Filippi and aide Sasha Furdey; Nate Pifer, moderator Cassidy Draper, and Nate’s aide James Morrell; and Naomi Taggart, aide to Misha Zain.

The seniors always have the first Forum. Cassidy Draper served as moderator, setting up the discussion with a recap of the history of immigration in the U.S. and introducing the participants. Nate Pifer, assisted by James Morrell, spoke on the topic of open borders. Nicole Filippi spoke about the necessity of enforcing current immigration law, assisted by Sasha Furdey. Mikayla Gross discussed the history and modern impact of ICE, with Tsioianiio Galban as her aide. Finally, Misha Zain, aided by Naomi Taggart, spoke on the controversial family separation policies. Several students talked about their personal and family connections with their topics.

A panel of judges, usually consisting of alumni and former teachers, evaluates each performance on:

  • content (knowledge, preparation, logic, accuracy of the role, understanding of other speakers’ points),
  • delivery (poise, pacing, diction, expression), and
  • responses to questions (same as above criteria, but also consistency with role, wit and charm, and ability to think on one’s feet).

Senior Forum 2018 judges Toddy Hunter, Lorraine Van Meter-Cline, Ebets Judson, and Kayla Himelein.

Recent judges have included Ebets Judson, Ken McCurdy, Toddy Hunter, and Lorraine Van Meter-Cline. At the end of the year, one class is selected for the Class of ’57 Forum Award, with a plaque commemorating their award.

Forums started at Columbia School in the 1940s, well before the merger with Allendale. Each of the four grades in Upper School hold a Forum, typically putting four students on stage with a moderator to present well-researched and carefully crafted viewpoints on a common subject and address questions from the audience. In addition to the Junior Forum on December 13th, the Sophomore Forum will be held on March 6th, and the ninth graders take their turn on April 11th.

Memorable Forums
Olivia Quatela '12 delivers her thoughts on the effect of the September 11th attacks at the Senior Forum (from the Synergy 2012 yearbook).

Olivia Quatela ’12 delivers her thoughts on the effect of the September 11th attacks at the Senior Forum (from the Synergy 2012 yearbook).

“The all-time most famous forum performance, at least in my years here, was by Kristen Wiig,” related Mr. Hunt, speaking of the former AC student who went on to star in Saturday Night Live and other films. “She was kind of a quiet girl in her day-to-day life here, but when you put her on stage, she was a dynamo. She even dressed as and took on the mannerisms of the role she played,” which was, as might be expected, somewhat provocative.

The 2012 Senior Form, which was held in October 2011, was about the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and how 9/11 changed American foreign policy and culture. Mr. Hunt related, “Those students were in second grade when it happened, and at the time of the attack, President George W. Bush was in a second grade classroom, so it was particularly meaningful.”

Speaking of another memorable forum, Mr. Hunt said, “In the mid-90s, the ninth grade class had five girls speaking on the dangers of negative body image on teenage girls. They renamed it ‘The Freshwoman Forum’.”

Democracy and Discourse

Ted Hunt’s Democracy and Discourse class examines the ways in which public discourse is conducted.

Mr. Hunt’s one-semester course, Democracy and Discourse, examines the ways in which public discourse is conducted through both written and oral expression. After looking at the First Amendment to the Constitution and its implications for public discourse in the United States, students then look at the question of how one judges the information that is presented in our nation’s public discourse, most notably via the internet. They explore the various modes of written discourse, examining pieces already published and producing their own. The class also examines oral public discourse, including speeches, debates, and public demonstrations. The course finishes by evaluating the accusation that free speech is under assault at the nation’s universities. Issues such as race, religion, and American politics form the core of the material, as they evaluate the arguments at the heart of the tension between individual freedom and the desire for a civil society.

The D&C recently published letters by Mr. Hunt and three students as they put their learning on written public discourse into practice. Evelyn Van Arsdale ’20 wrote a letter suggesting that Columbus Day or Indigenous People’s Day be renamed American Discovery Day. Cassidy Draper ’19 submitted a letter about the opioid epidemic. Bobby Shearer ’19 wrote about the benefits of protecting NFL quarterbacks.

Mikayla Gross fields a question from the Senior Forum 2018 audience, with Nate Pifer ready to add his remarks.

Mikayla Gross fields a question from the Senior Forum 2018 audience, with Nate Pifer ready to add his remarks.

Are Forums and classes like Mr. Hunt’s improving the state of public discourse? “If you take a look at society as a whole today,” Mr. Hunt said, “you can’t say that what we’re doing here at Allendale Columbia is having much of an effect. But education is tricky; you don’t see the results for years. The best we can do is ask, ‘Are our kids doing it the right way?’.” On that count, seeing how students are conducting themselves at school, at college, and in public life, with alumni like Matt Spaull ’01, Matt Zeller ’00, and even Kristen Wiig ’91 as examples, AC seems to be making good progress.


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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Is Your Child Starting From Behind? Why Others Look to AC for Early STEM Education

Posted on October 26th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

A delegation of educators from Belarus, seeking ways to boost innovation and economic development and cultivate a competitive workforce, visited Allendale Columbia School because of its reputation as the best school to visit for its “bottom-up” approach to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), which formally begins in Kindergarten.

STEM-based education is a very new notion in Belarus, an Eastern European country bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Young people have limited access to STEM-based education due to lack of resources and trained teachers. The goal of this visit was to introduce Belarusian professionals to innovative practices of promoting and implementing STEM-based education programs for school-age children in the United States.

Even in the U.S., it’s estimated that 2.4 million STEM jobs are going unfilled. According to Pew Research, one of the biggest cross-national tests, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), placed the U.S. 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science, and out of the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science. In addition, 78% of high school graduates don’t meet benchmark readiness in math, science, or English. Also of concern is the disproportionately small number of girls/women and minorities in STEM fields.

The solution, according to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and many industry experts, is to begin STEM education at an earlier age. In that, AC is a known leader.

AC Lower School Director of STEM Sue Sorrentino and Lead STEM Teacher Donna Chaback, who have hosted dozens of these types of visits for U.S. and foreign schools, began with an overview of the Lower School program, which begins with basic concepts of navigation using colorful and friendly-looking Bee-Bots in Kindergarten (even Nursery and Pre-kindergarten students are introduced to them in the second half of the school year). They demonstrated a full progression of increasingly advanced concepts and, very importantly, hands-on, team-based problem-solving experiences with a variety of robotics systems, based on the students’ developmental stage through to fifth grade.

“We believe firmly in a bottom-up approach, starting at an early age with age-appropriate experiences,” said Sorrentino. “Children are naturally curious problem-solvers. We teach twenty-first century skills that they can build on, like innovation and collaboration. Students who go through our program are able to tackle much more complex problems when they get to Middle and Upper School.”

Eyes lit up as the delegates heard what young learners were able to do. Their questions ranged from structural issues like the amount of time students spend in STEM education to questions about the progression of programming and how learning is evaluated.

Maya Crosby, the Director of AC’s Invent Center for STEM and Innovation, and Kate Western, Interim Director of the AC Center for Global Engagement, then introduced the visitors to a panel of Middle School and Upper School students. The delegates wanted to know more about how these student’s experience in early STEM education helped them solve engineering problems. Next, the delegates visited with a Middle School physical science class doing a lab on mineral identification. These students were able to demonstrate how the focus of STEM education at Allendale Columbia School is on the “how” of science. Teacher Teresa Parsons explained to the delegates that the goal of the lab was on developing the skills used, not on memorization of content. Finally, the delegates toured the Middle School and the Upper School robotics design and building rooms to see the current space exploration themed challenges students are working on in their FIRST Robotics competition teams.

At the conclusion of their visit, Head of School Mick Gee talked about how Allendale Columbia prioritizes “can-do” versus “must-do”. “Instead of teaching more and more curriculum, we have to be intentional about providing opportunities throughout the curriculum for students to do their own projects, do their own research. We want to give students opportunities to be a scientist, to be an engineer, not just learn about science and engineering.”

Our local partner, Rochester Global Connections, provided some reactions from the group. Two of the delegates mentioned that AC is what they would like their schools to look like in the near future. Another delegate expressed how extremely impressed they were with Sue’s and Donna’s presentation. “The work they are doing is innovative and incredible, and the concepts discussed will be truly useful in helping to structure our own curriculum with children.” During the last action planning session, about half of the group highlighted AC as the best site visit they had throughout the Rochester portion of the program. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to observe a robotics activity and interact with the kids in a classroom setting.

A strong partner with the AC Center for Global Engagement, Rochester Global Connections, helped facilitate the Rochester portion of their tour. Rochester Global Connections is a non-profit organization that works with the U.S. Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and U.S. embassies abroad as a liaison between international visitors and their Rochester-area counterparts. The tour was sponsored by the Community Connections Program of USAID, and was funded through USAID’S Bureau of Education Growth and Trade (EGAT)/Office of Education. The broad public diplomacy goal of the Community Connections Program is to contribute to economic and democratic reform and to promote mutual understanding through exposure to U.S. society and personal connections with Americans and participant countries.

Photos by Zhanna Ivanova from Rochester Global Connections and John Palomaki.

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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Invent, Kindergarten, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

School Scientists Document Campus Invaders

Posted on October 26th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

By Beth Guzzetta

Invaders seem to be taking over large parts of Allendale Columbia’s campus, but seventh grade science students are on the case!

My 7th graders have been learning about a problem that affects not only AC’s campus, but many parts of the world: invasive species. Today, the students worked with our special guest, Hilary Mosher from Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL PRISM), to take multiple 10-meter transects of various parts of our campus and document the invasive species that have taken hold there.

Invasive flora and fauna infiltrate our native species, and because they have essentially “escaped” their original habitats, they have no local, natural predators to keep them in check. Each student has explored a few of these invaders in depth, learning about their characteristics, their degree of pervasiveness in the region, and ways to manage their presence. Invasive species impact our economy, disrupt the food web, and endanger the local native species.

On AC’s campus, students identified Buckthorn, Privet, Garlic Mustard, Multiflora Rose, Purple Loosestrife, Periwinkle, and Mugwort as particularly prevalent in their transects along the borders of grassy areas and in the shallow woods. They are busy uploading their findings to iNaturalist under our class project so scientists can verify our findings. Once that is complete, the students will upload their findings to the NY iMapInvasives project for documentation and tracking.

During the next month, students will determine which invasive species (“invasives”) have the potential to cause the most damage and which can be managed by the school. Then they will assemble a plan of action and present their plans to the AC Leadership Team for further action. It’s all part of being a scientist, as we say, not just studying science.

While we were doing our fieldwork, Travis Godkin’s 9th grade biology class presented their studies of invasive species. Invasives are a pervasive theme!

Kristin Cocquyt

Elizabeth Guzzetta

Beth, AC's Lucius and Marie Gordon Chair in Science and NY State Finalist for the 2016-17 Presidential Awards for Excellence In Science Teaching, has taught mathematics, science, and computer courses at the middle school, high school, and college levels in addition to private tutoring for 29 years. She has also coached Varsity boys and girls soccer and Modified softball and basketball. Beth has coached Odyssey of the Minds, helping one team receive second in the world, and enjoys bringing students on domestic and international academic and cultural experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from St. John Fisher College as well as a master's degree in Education from Curry College, and brings experience from an international exchange program in Wales.
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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Upper School

NASA Langley’s Deputy Director Encourages AC Students to Stay Curious

Posted on October 19th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Sure, you need to be smart and know some science and technology. But to succeed in landing on the moon, sending humans to Mars and back, or just about any goal, it takes a lot of curiosity, collaboration, communication, and the relentless pursuit of a dream. At least, that’s the message Clayton Turner conveyed to Allendale Columbia students from his 28 years of experience at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, where he is Deputy Director.

“I have a strong belief that our future is right here in these classrooms.”

A Rochester native, Turner visited Allendale Columbia as part of a trip to meet with the President’s Roundtable at RIT, of which he’s a member. He never imagined he’d work for NASA at the time when he was a young boy and the first human walked on the moon. After attending McQuaid Jesuit High School, Monroe Community College, and enlisting in the Army, he still wasn’t sure. But he kept searching for the “passion in his heart” that ultimately landed him at his dream job at NASA, where he gets to help fulfill their mission to “Reach New Heights” and “Reveal the Unknown” to “Benefit All Mankind”. Now, he’s sharing that passion with others. He was connected to AC through Leslie Wilson, parent of 10th grader Myles Wilson and RIT’s Director of Alumni Relations.

Clayton Turner, Deputy Director of NASA’s Langley Research Center, met with a Middle School Robotics class.

He began the visit by ideas from the Middle School FIRST LEGO League Robotics class, coached by Teresa Parsons, on how to clean up and avoid space debris, which is the theme for this year’s robotics competition. “Remember, anything you shoot up into space to collect debris needs a big rocket to get it there, so that’s just going to add to the problem,” Turner said, challenging students to think about other methods, such as using equipment in orbit already or engineering items to degrade after their usefulness.

“Hands-on projects like robotics keep students enthusiastic about learning,” he asserted, having visited many schools across the country. We need to keep that curiosity flowing” if we’re to address the problems in the world today, he said. “And Robotics teams are actually a great exercise in teamwork and problem-solving” in addition to coding and technology. “After judging many competitions, I found that you can quickly see the groups that are working as a team and the groups that have one smart person directing everyone else.” “

AC 4th graders have been participating in a project based learning unit on space exploration. They impressed NASA’s Clayton Turner and his colleagues with their questions!

He then met with an enthusiastic group of fourth graders, who have been engaged in a multi-disciplinary project-based learning unit on space exploration since the beginning of the school year, led by Lower School STEM Lead Teacher Donna Chaback. They peppered him with questions, which he delightfully addressed, often with a question of his own to stimulate their thinking.

When asked if AC is succeeding on its core value to foster curiosity and creativity, he said, “I shared the questions that the 4th grade sent me with my colleagues back at Langley to show them how impressive they are. They were astounded when I told them ‘these are 4th graders!’, and they weren’t asking me about if aliens exist or any of that stuff, they were asking me about the Keiper system, black holes, trajectories for getting something to the moon from the earth. Things they’ve obviously heard in class and they are curious about and want to learn more.”

NASA’s Clayton Turner explained that communication, collaboration, and people skills are just as important as engineering and mathematics, and that NASA also needs psychologists, attorneys, accounts, and people from all professions in their quest to land humans on Mars.

He concluded his visit by talking to Upper School students in physics and 3D modeling classes. “No one can really be successful working alone any more. All of the work we do today involves interacting with teams of people from all over the world,” Turner told them. He related how his first job entailed working on a business-card-sized circuit board to aim lasers, but it was just a tiny part of a bus-sized satellite that so many other people worked on.

When asked by one student on what they needed to do to pursue a career at NASA, Turner noted that getting a college degree is only the starting point for a job at organizations like NASA. “That shows you can learn and know how to do some work,” he said. “Just as important is seeing evidence of teamwork, collaboration, and people skills.”

“When you think about sending people to Mars, you have a small group of people that will be in a space only this big,” he said, indicating a space about 12 feet square, “for eight months to get there, and another eight months getting back. We need scientists, mathematicians, and engineers, but we also need psychologists, people who have studied human behavior, to address these types of challenges. We also need accountants, lawyers, and people from all professions” in order to fulfill a quest like putting humans on Mars by the late 2030s.

Maya Crosby, Director of the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation who coordinated the visit, was especially pleased with that message. “One of the things we strive for in the Invent Center is to help broaden the appeal of STEM. We aim to help students understand that STEM is more than just hard technology, that these other fields are important to the success of technology-focused businesses.”

WHAM-13 covered Mr. Turner’s visit to AC. Click the image to see their video and recap.

NASA certainly explores some immense challenges. He said, “One thing I hope they take from this is the difference between hard and impossible, and sometimes replace one for the other, and that they get to know what’s just hard and requires work.”

Turner also warned against anyone who dismisses an idea with, “That’s not the way we’ve always done it.” He encouraged students to prize diverse thinking, to consider multiple perspectives, in order to solve problems. “It’s the wide range of thinking, that diversity of thought, that’s what’s going to help take on the challenges we have.”

“What I find most enjoyable is that I get to look into our future and see all the challenges that these students are going to overcome for us, all the amazing things that they are going to do.”

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Fearless Friday: Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Pickled Red Onions

Posted on October 12th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Super Chef Yessie Roman prepared a Fearless Friday treat that was so good, one Lower School student took the entire plate back to his table. The Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Pickled Red Onions was a surprise hit!

Food Service Director Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch, who notoriously doesn’t like vegetables but is willing to have Super Chef make a preparation that she might like, wasn’t so sure about the cauliflower dish. She knew what the ingredients were, since she does the food purchasing, and she even had some chocolate milk ready to wash it down if she didn’t like it. Maybe it was the purple color, but she declared it one of the best vegetable dishes she’s ever had!

Recipe: Roasted Purple Cauliflower with Pickled Red Onions


  • 1 lb. purple cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbs garlic powder
  • 1 large red onion, sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix 1 cup of oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. Add cauliflower florets to bowl and mix to coat.
  4. Spread cauliflower on a shallow pan, and roast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
  5. While cauliflower roasts, heat remaining 1 cup of oil in a deep frying pan.
  6. Add garlic and red onions, and cook until onions sweat.
  7. Add lime and lemon juice, and cook over low heat until onions soften slightly.
  8. Set onion mixture aside to cool slightly, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Put roasted cauliflower in a bowl, pour onion mixture over the cauliflower, and serve.


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Posted in: Highlights, Lower School

Cultural Connections at Heritage Night 2018

Posted on October 12th, 2018 by cnickels

Heritage Night 2018 brought together nearly 100 people to learn, eat, and celebrate the heritage of our AC community. Although Allendale Columbia is a small school, students recognized that there are still a lot of differences that can separate us. The Heritage Night dinner helps people learn things about others that they may not have known before.

One student shared the story of her grandparents’ arranged marriage in India while another talked about the difference between his life in Korea and America. A student shared his experience as a Native American, another as an African American, and a third explained what Jewish traditions are all about. Other students performed a musical number as part of the program. Faculty were also featured as speakers and shared stories of growing up in Cuba and French music. One faculty member talked about her time living and teaching abroad in Kuwait saying, “We can’t always believe what we see on the news or read in the papers. Kuwait, although in the Middle East, is not a war-torn country. I had a wonderful experience teaching there and met some amazing friends with whom I still communicate to this day.”

Finally, the entire group came together over a potluck dinner celebrating the food of many cultures. Talented cooks, including Mr. Gee, shared Shepherd’s Pie, tres leches cake, arroz con gandules, and potato latkes, among other delicious dishes. As someone once said, “Food is the ingredient that binds us together.”

The second-annual event was sponsored by the Global Engagement Club and the Social Inclusivity Club as a way to celebrate different ethnicities through performance and food.



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Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School