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

Presenter Nominations Open for TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool 2019

Posted on October 5th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

by The TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool Team

Presenter Nominations are now open for TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool 2019. The event is on February 2nd, 2019, and the theme this year is “Human Simplexity.” The theme is the perfect platform to spread ideas and celebrate the human experience. It is wide open to interpretation and organizers are aiming to get many different types of speakers and performers.

Organizers are hoping to have a lot of student presenters this year so if you’re passionate about something and would like to share it with a lot of people, they would love to have you! Use the online Nomination Form to submit your own idea, or if you think of someone who would be a good presenter for the event, please nominate them.

For more information about the event, please see the website: tedxallendalecolumbiaschool.org.


TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool is an independently organized TEDxYouth event, held annually at the Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, NY. This year’s event will be held on February 2nd, 2019. A student organized event, TEDxAllendaleColumbiaSchool strives to promote idea-sharing through the AC community, the Rochester community, and the global community.

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Entrepreneurship, Highlights, Invent, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

AC is Abuzz in Activity

Posted on September 28th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

By Beth Guzzetta

Fall has arrived and with it the scent of apple pies and pumpkin spice lattes. However, the apples and pumpkins that we are craving were not self-reliant during their early months of formation. No, not at all! In order to pollinate, they relied heavily on the numerous insects that started buzzing around actively in the spring. Allendale Columbia School students, too, began buzzing in activities to support the bees and, in the process, learn about life cycles, environmental impacts, and bees’ role in our food systems.

During that spring, flowers were blossoming, and you were probably thinking, “Go away you irritating bug; I want to enjoy the beautiful flowers.” But you probably were not thinking about the fact that those irritating insects were spreading pollen so the flowers can continue with their life cycle. Without those marvelous yet occasionally annoying creatures, we wouldn’t have as many delicious fresh fruits and vegetables at our AC lunches. The salivating scents of apple delicacies certainly would not have become as abundant or a tradition that we so look forward to as the leaves begin to change colors.

If you’re still reading and have not left to find a warm piece of apple pie yet, I’d like to tell you about an amazing project that I started at AC during The Buds and The Bees May Term class last spring due to the gracious donation and support of the Pinkowski family. For one and a half weeks, Middle and Upper School students joined together to create an apiary on campus for everyone to enjoy.

Students split into areas of interest during this time, working to develop the foundation of this project. They had much to accomplish in a short period of time, but their high motivation and interested was like a continuously fueled fire that kept them energized and engaged. Prior to the actual start of May Term, students had to prepare the hive by weatherproofing it with many layers of polyurethane and/or tung oil.

Once May Term began, students worked diligently with Gabe Costanzo to prepare the school garden by weeding a plot of land and choosing flowers that honeybees prefer. They visited Lucas Greenhouses to gather more information from the very friendly botanists and to pick out their chosen flowers that Lucas Greenhouses generously donated. They planted their flowers in the prepared plot.

Other students created a sturdy stand to hold the hive and keep it from tilting or falling over, especially during periods of high winds. They designed, sawed, drilled, and assembled the stand, and then leveled an area and set pavers for the stand to rest on. Other students needed to “seed” the bars and tack down the bars in the hive boxes so the honey bees would quickly start building honeycomb across them. Another group researched aspects of honey bees and honey, then wrote a book that even included some recipes that contain honey. Once the garden and hive were ready, we introduced our honeybees.

We purchased our bees from Wolf Creek Farms in Tennessee because they have very healthy and docile honeybees that are a mix of Russian, Italian, and Carniolin genetics and have never been treated with chemicals. Michael VanEdwards, a local beekeeper who is educating me as I teach my students about beekeeping, picked up our six pounds of bees and drove them to AC so that they arrived healthy, happy, and hungry. With his help, the students introduced the thousands of bees to their new home. Needless to say, they stuck around due to the yummy homemade nectar that included amino acids and essential oil that we fed them in the first few days, making honeycomb right from the start.

Through the summer and fall, Michael, AC students, and I have been checking on the hive and all of its activity, especially for mites and beetles that can be devastating to honeybee colonies. Luckily the hive is healthy and happy! Naturally, the bees swarmed a bit late and stole some of the honey, so the students began a feeding schedule in September to boost the bees’ honey production so they are able to maintain their colony through the cold winter months that are quickly arriving. Students have been actively learning about their colony and honey bees in general and visiting the hive daily in full beekeeper regalia. They have also been monitoring our swarm in the hope that they too survive the winter and possible come back to a second hive that we plan on installing in the spring.

In the fall and winter, the Middle School students will continue their honeybee research in Seventh Grade Science and Sixth and Eighth Grade Math. They will install BroodMinder bluetooth connected monitors that will allow them to monitor the hive weight and temperature so they can measure their hive’s health and share their data with other beekeepers. Data analysis on our hive, as well as the data entered by other beekeepers nationwide, will help them stay connected and engaged with the dynamics of their honeybee activity. They will also team up with Lower School students to teach them about the honeybees, possibly collaborating cross-divisionally to write the first AC Honeybee book.

Through their involvement this project, students are connecting more with nature and beginning to notice and wonder about other types of beneficial insects that abound in nature. They are paying closer attention to other environmental phenomena, such as weather patterns, plant life cycles, chemicals such as pesticides and their impact on honey bees and other pollinators, food sources, and so much more. Through this increased awareness and engagement, they are being transformed and inspired to make positive sustainable life changes. They are inspiring others to do the same by acting as nature’s stewards.

So if you see a group of large walking marshmallows on campus, stop and say hello and ask them about the sweet work that they are doing. I am sure that they would be happy to engage with you and educate you about their flying community members that live across the creek.

 

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: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade

Discovery, Collaboration, and Community in the 2018 May Term

Posted on June 1st, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Every year at the end of the spring semester, Middle and Upper School students at Allendale Columbia complete their usual curriculum and begin May Term. May Term exists to provide educational opportunities outside of the normal structures of the school year to support intellectual discovery, encourage collaboration, and foster community involvement.

Here are some May Term highlights so far this year:

  • Students learned about honey bees, built a beehive, planted flora that bees love, and installed a starter colony of bees at the school garden in the “Buds and Bees” course led by Mrs. Guzzetta and Mr. Costanzo. Students will continue to monitor the hive and harvest honey in the fall.
  • A panel of judges from the AC Kitchen and maintenance evaluated student culinary creations in a Master Chef-type competition, with students presenting the science behind the creation of those food items in the “Science of Cooking” course led by Ms. Crosby and senior Gio Martino.
  • In “Human Impacts on the Environment”, AC students worked with students from the World of Inquiry School 58 at a Water Quality Summit in Rochester to understand the Genesee River ecosystem, which was featured on WROC and WXXI. Mrs. Lisi and Mr. Godkin led this session.
  • In “Life Underwater”, students explored the flora and fauna in Corbett’s Glen with Mrs. Guzzetta.
         
  • Students visited the Women’s Rights Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls as part of “Nevertheless, She Persisted” (above) with Mr. Neeley

Other topics included:

  • Positive Psychology
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Console Wars: The History of Video Gaming
  • Be Here Now: Mindfulness as a Practice
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What would Susan and Frederick Think? The Legacy of Rochester’s Agitators
  • Muse: Making a Magazine
  • Bilingual Theatre
  • Building, flying and using drones for media production
  • Nicaragua
  • Music with Kids
  • Confidence & Courage: Dare to Show Up, Be Seen, & Be Brave
  • Wheelin’ Through Rochester’s History
  • Stigma and Mental Health: Issues and Interventions
  • Ornithology Science and Art
  • Ableism
  • Exhibition Night Planning
  • Grow Your Own Food
  • Social Impact Filmmaking
  • Day Trading and Cryptocurrency Lab
  • Making Community Service a Way of Life
  • 2019 College Workshop
  • The AC Genome Project
  • Innocence and Guilt: Learning about the Law

We’ll have additional updates as May Term progresses. Everyone is also welcome to participate in an interactive May Term Exhibition Night where students will discuss their projects on Thursday, May 7th from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Entrepreneurship, Global Engagement, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Experience May Term at Exhibition Night

Posted on June 1st, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

One of the highlights of May Term is our culminating event called Exhibition Night. Each May Term session creates an interactive exhibit with which attendees can participate. Experience exhibits spread across the entire first floor of our school, inside and out. Check out our newest residents in the apiary built during May Term, and taste some of the delicacies created by the Science of Cooking class that investigated the chemistry of cuisine.

This year we will share our learning and experiences on Thursday, June 7th, from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. We hope you join us to learn more about the incredibly innovative work happening during May Term. All Middle and Upper School students are required to attend this integral part of the learning experience. For students, this is a dress-up occasion. The Tom Wahl’s food truck will be in attendance for any families who wish to purchase dinner or snacks as they experience the exhibits! (more…)

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Seniors Present Research at SJFC Symposium

Posted on May 8th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Students at Allendale Columbia engage in original research and presents papers and talks for review. Just last month, five AC students in the Science Writing & Research class participated in a symposium at St. John Fisher College in conjunction with SJFC’s symposium on student research and scholarship. These seniors presented their papers before a panel of judges and other observers.

  • Aditi Seshadri: Determining the Relationship Between the Fundamental Properties of Metal Oxide Nanoparticles and their Cytotoxicity to E. coli through Self Organizing Maps (SOMs)
  • Rui (Tony) Zhou: A Deep Convolutional Neural Network for Lung Nodule Segmentation using Mask R-CNN and DenseNet
  • Anjana Seshadri: The Relationship Between Various Chemical Parameters and the Phototoxicity of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons: An Analysis Using Self-Organizing Maps
  • Jason (JT) Coupal: The Psychological and Physiological Benefits of Virtual Environments
  • Tingyan (David) Deng: Using Finite Element Analysis to Determine the Structural Integrity of Allens Creek Bridge

Two others will be presenting their research papers at the May Term Exhibition Night in June.

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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Invent, Partnerships, Twelfth Grade, Upper School