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.
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.” “
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.”
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.”
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.”
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
Last year, as AC began the regularly scheduled re-accreditation process through New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), it became evident that our mission was no longer representative of the impactful work we do everyday and why we exist as a school. Since AC’s last mission statement was launched, our programming and curriculum has expanded and evolved to meet a new set of needs in our ever-changing world. While we continue to take pride in our academic preparation for college, we also focus on helping students develop the skills and experiences needed to make a positive and lasting impact in a technology-driven, global society.
“The mission guides us internally as we evolve and change to meet the needs of the students and families who walk through our doors,” said long-time AC faculty member Tony Tepedino and re-accreditation co-leader. “If [the mission] doesn’t align, then we are not able to provide a clear and unified vision and program for the families who place their trust in us as an institution.”
“We haven’t lost the original mission of the school,” said Head of School Mick Gee.
“In fact, it is because of our dedication to a student-centered education and AC’s core values that we have continued to adapt and evolve as an institution to meet the changing needs of the world and the way we prepare our students for life outside these walls. The lessons our students learn here at AC extend beyond the walls of our classrooms, and it is our responsibility to prepare them for the world they will inherit.
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, LS Birches, Middle School, MS Birches, Ninth Grade, Nursery, Pre-Primary School, PreKindergarten, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, The Birches, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Uncategorized, Upper School, US Birches
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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix 1 cup of oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- Add cauliflower florets to bowl and mix to coat.
- Spread cauliflower on a shallow pan, and roast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
- While cauliflower roasts, heat remaining 1 cup of oil in a deep frying pan.
- Add garlic and red onions, and cook until onions sweat.
- Add lime and lemon juice, and cook over low heat until onions soften slightly.
- Set onion mixture aside to cool slightly, and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Put roasted cauliflower in a bowl, pour onion mixture over the cauliflower, and serve.
“Our children are so happy this year.”
That’s what Lisa Shearer, mother of two students who transferred to Allendale Columbia School this year, said at a recent PACK meeting. “The very purposeful building of community and connections amongst students, staff, and faculty has made a world of difference for my children. They were instantaneously embraced by the entire community in such a meaningful way!”
At Allendale Columbia, “the importance of connections” is listed first of our four core values. While everyone works throughout the year to help students build connections with each other and the adults supporting them, we especially focus on connection at the beginning of the school year, when new and returning students arrive and are welcomed into the AC school family.
According to the longest longitudinal study on happiness out of Harvard University, “Personal connection creates mental and emotional stimulation, which are automatic mood boosters, while isolation is a mood buster,” says Dr. Robert Waldinger. In our role as an educational institution, it is vital that we teach and model for our community not just the importance of connecting, but also the skills needed to foster connections in any context. (See an article about the Harvard study and Dr. Waldinger’s TED Talk.)
It starts from the beginning of the admissions process, where every inquiry is followed up with a personal phone call, not just an email message. New students and their families are invited to on-campus orientation sessions before school starts, whether they are brand new to the school or just transitioning from Lower School to Middle School, or Middle School to Upper School. Each spring, students get a taste of what’s ahead for the following year when they are matched up with buddies in the next grade and invited to walk through a school day together. They can experience what the coming year would be like and have a personal guide they can turn to for questions.
“We think it’s important to build connections with the students and also with the parents,” Head of Lower School Michelle Feiss remarked. “We hold Hopes and Dreams conferences before the first day of school, where families meet individually with teachers to better understand the child and how best to support him or her. These meetings set the tone for the year and help to create a bond between parents and teachers.”
During the first week of school, a number of activities establish a foundation of connections for the year. Middle School and Upper School take the first Friday of the school year to bond as a class and focus on community building and fostering interaction between faculty and students outside school. These events address skills and themes which help instill core values, and they help build the community and connections students will rely on for this year and years to come. You can read about Middle School’s Advisory Day and Upper School’s Class Day to see how they explored this year’s themes. Students leave these events with friendships, teamwork experience, and mutual respect.
“For my son, the senior overnight trip at the beginning of the year was important,” noted Mrs. Shearer. “When he returned, he told us that he felt close with the entire class and had tons of friends. He also really appreciates the way the teachers engage with him and treat him like an adult.”
Every day at AC is an opportunity to build and strengthen connections. Students are welcomed with smiles at the car or bus door by staff and parent Helping Hands (equipped with umbrellas when needed). They offer a lift out of the car and handheld walk to the door for the youngest students, or assistance gathering backpacks and other daily paraphernalia for the older students. A welcoming “have a good day” to child and parent, often with a cheerful compliment or joke, starts the entire family off on a positive note.
“In the Middle School, mornings do not start with announcements or shuffling students off to class,” says Tina Duver, Head of Middle School. “Mornings begin together, as a group, recognizing each other for strengths, accomplishments, and contributions to the community. Attendance can wait for just a minute because here at AC, building those connections of community and thankfulness are important to building peer-to-peer and faculty-to-student relationships. The mindset starts early and continues throughout the day with positivity and reflection of self-worth within the community.”
Advisory groups of students and faculty meet weekly to check in on student well-being, address concerns, and build support networks through team-building and conversation. Advisory groups are intentionally small (usually just six students), allowing advisors and students to focus on what students need that day, or that moment. Some days the focus is on mindfulness, and other days the focus is on upcoming academic projects or social and emotional needs. And sometimes it’s working together on a community service project, getting students to go beyond themselves and connect with the larger community.
“My daughter’s entire experience has been seamless, and she has felt very supported and has lots of friends,” continued Mrs. Shearer. “The study skills, time management, and work organization class, along with her Advisory group, have helped the school year to be stress-free.”
Even lunch promotes connection and inclusion. With family-style lunches, faculty members each host a table of students from across grades within their division. The students are assigned tables every month in Lower School, and every two weeks in Middle and Upper School, providing opportunities to get to know virtually everyone in the division. Students rotate through responsibilities for bringing food to the table and clean-up, and faculty members keep table conversations inclusive and respectful. No one sits by themselves at AC lunches.
AC School Counselor Starmeshia Jones is available for students who may want a bit more support making connections while on campus. “At any given point in a school year, I am working in small group, whole group, or individual settings with students who have had difficulty connecting or maintaining fulfilling friendships. All too often I think that self-esteem, anxiety, or self-consciousness can contribute to actual or perceived social disconnect.” Working with students on activities designed to build self-esteem, exploring themes of friendship, and gradually pushing them out of their comfort zones in building relationships can be useful. She continues, “seeing students move from a place of anxiousness last year to connecting more with their peers this year has been wonderful. They look more comfortable, and I’ve gotten reports that they are happier and more engaged with the adults and other youth in their lives.”
Special events at AC go deeper than they might at other schools. Blue/White Day isn’t just a school spirit day. It’s about pairing younger students with older students who guide them, do activities together, and cheer each other on. It’s competition mixed with collaboration, where teams of students age 6 to 18 work together to transfer water to a bucket or to guide a ping pong ball to a distant bucket. Older students know they are setting an example, and the younger students leave with a “big kid” friend and another familiar face around campus.
Professional development activities for faculty, planned by teacher Tony Tepedino, provide guidance for teachers around team-building and making connections that help them collaborate with and support each other. “Meetings start with an introduction to our group norms as a way to create a safe space for the work that will occur. We then move on to an entry activity that encourages attendees to connect with each other as humans first, which hopefully allows for more authenticity and openness while we learn together. The idea is to create a shared environment where students and teachers are comfortable to be themselves and take risks.”
“I am passionate about my children and their happiness. I’ve definitely shed my fair share of thankful, happy tears this year,” concluded Mrs. Shearer. “Brian and I have been very impressed with so many things. As parents, it was immediately apparent to us that AC’s intentional focus on connection is groundbreaking and very different from other educational experiences we’ve had. I wish AC’s model could be replicated nationwide to combat bullying in schools and promote inclusion on all levels.”
What’s your favorite way that AC connects? Tell us!
Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School
If you’re looking for a healthy, protein-rich vegan entree, side dish, or tasty snack, you’ll want to try today’s Fearless Friday treat, Mediterranean Flavored Roasted Garbanzo Beans. Super Chef Yessie Roman fixed up the bean dish for noted vegetable-resistant Food Service Director Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch to try along with four student volunteers and Evan Dumee, our new Physical Education teacher, at Lower School Lunch. It received a thumbs-up from all six taste-testers!
Recipe: Mediterranean Flavored Roasted Garbanzo Beans
- 2 15.5-ounce cans of garbanzo beans
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 Tbs sea salt or kosher salt
- 2 Tbs garam masala
- 1 Tbs onion powder
- 1 Tbs garlic powder
- 1/2 Tbs curry powder
- 1/2 Tbs turmeric
- 1 Tbs paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground peppercorns
- 1 Tbs cumin
- Rinse beans and let dry.
- Mix all ingredients and spread onto a sheet pan.
- Roast in oven middle rack at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or 5 minutes more if you want it more dry.
- Remove from oven and let cool.
Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Kindergarten, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade
By Shari Ellmaker and Arielle Gillman
Young readers often get stuck in a particular book genre, especially if they’ve become fond of a series. To expand their palates, Allendale Columbia School’s third grade teachers held a “Book Tasting”, something you can also try at home.
To prepare, we spent some time learning all about a few different genres of texts: biography, fantasy, nonfiction, graphic novel, realistic fiction, and poetry. We also practiced “interviewing” a book to see whether it is a good match for the reader by reading level, interest, etc.
Next, our “Book Taste Testers” entered our classroom restaurant. Their servers, Ms. Gillman and Mrs. Ellmaker, took their requests for an appetizer, an entree, and dessert, and delivered them one at a time. Students sampled the texts and wrote a brief review of each course. By the end of the meal, everyone was full from great books!
Why is reading different genres important for young readers?
Young children love to hear stories read to them over and over again. Many parents encourage their young ones to listen to a different story, but to no avail. Your little one is “feeling like a reader” when they hear predictable text each night. You may notice them “reading” along with you and finishing sentences. They love books with patterns, sound words, and repetitive phrases.
As the children get older, they are more open to different genres. Parents should take this opportunity to explore a new genre. Why?
Students are learning that a genre is a form of text that follows a particular format and structure. Using the word “genre” provides a way for the students to organize and talk about their observations of texts. When a student can identify a genre, they can recognize what they are reading and quickly adjust their reading style. So for example, if they read an article about how to make something, they can read the text at a slower pace in order to follow specific directions. Students will learn information quickly and efficiently when using headings, for example, while reading informational texts.
So, the more children are exposed to different genres, the quicker they will be able to take information and synthesize it for understanding and application. Parents should model reading a variety of genres and spend time reading with and to their children.
How and why should a child “interview” a book?
A reader interviews a book by asking a lot of questions:
- Does the title sound interesting?
- Do I know anything about the author?
- Does the blurb on the back of the book sound interesting?
- Is the book a genre I like to read? (Hint: some books have words like “Mystery”, “Memoir”, or “Fiction” in the corner of the back cover.)
- Did the book win any awards?
- Is the book too hard? Try the beginning and read a page from the middle to decide. Use the “Five Finger Rule” to decide if the book is too hard. Read a random page, put a finger up for each unknown word you encounter. If you reach four or five fingers before the page is finished, it may be too hard. Three may be right and one or two would be too easy.
Setting up a Book Tasting at home is a fun way to get your child interested in different genres and extend your child’s reading range. Have your child help you set up a restaurant-like environment in your kitchen or dining room. Find your favorite apron, table setting, flowers, and notepad to “take the guest’s order.” Use books from your child’s collection and sort them by genre. Begin by serving the child choices from the menu of genres. You can then try swapping roles so the child is the server asking you for different genres you’d like to read. Take some time to interview the book and talk together about your review. By the end of the experience, both you and your young reader will have an appetite for books of all different genres!
Reading Rockets. The Importance of Reading Widely (2010). Retrieved from http://www.readingrockets.org/article/importance-reading-widely.
Kissner, Emily. Using Genre to Help Students Learn from What They Read. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/ascd-express/vol5/511-kissner.aspx.
Inquiry By Design, Inc. Setting Up the Literacy Studio (2013).
Sharon EllmakerShari has been an educator for over 26 years, and teaching at Allendale Columbia for 19. She has taught second, third, and fourth grade with experience in public school, suburban, inner-city, independent, and college-level settings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Bluffton University.
Arielle GillmanArielle has been involved in the field of education, either through volunteering, as a college student, or as a teacher, since she was 14 years old. She has taught students in multiple grades in Penfield, Fairport, Webster, and Newark and has also worked at the Mary Cariola Children's Center and The Community Place of Greater Rochester. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Childhood Education from SUNY Fredonia and her Master of Science Degree in Literacy Education from SUNY Geneseo.
by Jennifer Truong, Lynn Grossman, and AC Second Graders
In studying parts of speech, second grade students at Allendale Columbia School imagined a fictional town where nouns, verbs, and adjectives come to life. We combined our love of music and singing with our “Noun Town” creation to write a song and make a music video. Throughout this project, we were reading and writing and learning about music form, beats, rhythm, song writing, rhyming words, syllables, story boarding, common nouns, proper nouns, verbs, adjectives, population, 3-digit numbers, symmetry, ROYGBIV (the colors of the rainbow), teamwork, creativity, green screen effects, editing, parodies, and more! We even got to experience what it’s like to be a recording musician!
You can watch the Facebook Live video of the premiere from May 29th here:
Do you want to know more about the making of “Noun Town”? View the slides and photos here:
Jennifer TruongJenn, awarded with AC's Virginia and Fred Gordon Chair in Elementary Education, has been teaching for almost 15 years and is entering her seventh year at Allendale Columbia. She has attended and facilitated several professional development courses to improve her pedagogy and influence the pedagogy of colleagues, understand how a young childâ€™s brain learns best, and implement best practices in diverse classroom settings in the Rochester area, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. Jennifer holds a bachelorâ€™s degree in Elementary Education and a masterâ€™s degree in Reading, both from the State University of New York College at Geneseo.
Lynn GrossmanLynn Grossman specializes in elementary general and instrumental music education. She studied bassoon performance and music education at the Eastman School of Music where she earned both her bachelorâ€™s degree and masterâ€™s degree, and she taught K-2 music in the East Irondequoit School District for eight years. Lynn is the President of the New York Chapter of the Gordon Institute for Music Learning (NY-GIML), which provides professional learning opportunities to music educators. She has co-presented her work in the US and the UK and is co-author of a chapter in Envisioning Music Teacher Education (Rowman and Littlefield). She enjoys professional collaboration and research in music education and enjoys teaching music to ACâ€™s Pre-Primary and Lower School students!
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Highlights, Lower School, Second Grade
A long-standing tradition at Allendale Columbia School, Strawberry Breakfast always draws an appreciative crowd as we kick off the Memorial Day weekend. In fact, the audience has grown to the extent that it’s held in the Gannett Gym for greater accessibility, and it’s streamed live on the internet.
The expected traditional pieces, such as the Maypole Dance, Sword Dance, and the “Inch by Inch” song by second graders still enthralled. See the entire agenda below, and click here for more photos.
Former AC parent Mitzie Collins again joined our ensemble for the Maypole Dance. Mitzie created the recordings that have been used for the dances at Strawberry Breakfast for over 30 years. She has a long-standing career in music performance and research, teaching music history and hammered dulcimer at the Eastman Community Music School.
Strawberry Breakfast concluded with…strawberries and donuts!
Head of School Mick Gee
Sophomores Fiona Lutz and Roxy Reisch
Upper School Select Chorus
Featuring AC Fourth Graders
Crowning and Pinning of Seniors
“Now is the Month of Maying”
Upper School Chorus
AC Fifth Graders
AC Third Graders
Middle School Chorus
The Sword Dance
Music performed by Upper School Band and Mitzie Collins
“Garden Song (Inch by Inch)”
AC Second Graders
The Maypole Dance
Music performed by Upper School Band and Mitzie Collins
When You Believe
All Strawberry Breakfast Performers
Sophomores Fiona Lutz and Roxy Reisch
Senior Recessional Chain
Featuring AC Fourth Graders
Posted in: Alumni News, Fifth Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Second Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Upper School