Students also celebrated International Education Week November 18th-22nd. The week was dedicated to celebrating the benefits of international education and exchanges worldwide. It is a joint initiative of the US Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to prepare Americans for a globally interconnected world and encourage the development of global leaders. AC celebrated the week by conducting a Kahoot! cultural trivia contest in the middle school and upper school. There was also a middle and upper school international photo contest. Our Lower School students participated by bringing in photos of their international or domestic travels. Photos are displayed on the Global Engagement bulletin boards in each division.
In December, a month known for holiday celebrations and excitement leading up to a well-earned break, AC student musicians did their part to spread joy with performances in two Winter Concerts, caroling at the Genesee Valley Club, performances at the AC Holiday Book Fair at Barnes & Noble and, of course, to complete the circuit, the Holiday Breakfast.
Mark your calendars for upcoming concerts and musicals!
Last Friday, December 13th, the Middle School ceramics class presented The Willow Center of Rochester with a donation of $1,368, which they raised at their fifth annual Empty Bowls event at Allendale Columbia School on November 26th. The class made a lot of ceramic bowls and worked with AC faculty and students to help them make items for the fundraiser. They also wrote letters asking local artists to donate items to the raffle.
Empty Bowls is a worldwide grassroots movement to fight hunger and provide items for basic needs. The Willow Center is a nonprofit organization in Rochester that offers a variety of services to families and children. The AC ceramics class was happy to donate all of the proceeds from the event, in the amount of $1,368, to the Willow Center.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eighth Grade, Entrepreneurship, Kid Kudos, Lower School, LS Birches, Middle School, MS Birches, Partnerships, Seventh Grade, The Birches, Upper School, US Birches
Allendale Columbia’s seventh grade class traveled to Camp Pathfinder, a camp for boys owned and operated by AC alumnus Mike Sladden ’76, located in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. For more than twenty years, AC seventh graders have made the trek into the Canadian wilderness for this annual outdoor education experience. During their stay, the students learn a variety of outdoor skills, become more self–reliant, and gain a greater appreciation and respect for nature.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Highlights, Middle School, MS Birches, Seventh Grade, The Birches
Director of the NASA Langley Research Center, Clayton Turner, returned to campus to discuss the important role our 6th grade students play in on-going scientific studies and research. As a GLOBE school, AC students serve as citizen scientists reporting daily cloud observations to help researchers improve the interpretation of satellite readings, provide ground-based data on contrails, and help better calculate the rate of heat exchange in the atmosphere.
Mr. Turner encouraged students to follow their passions, ask questions, and do research THEIR way. “There are many ways to learn and many pathways to success. These different approaches are often how we make new discoveries. Find what YOU are passionate about and the way that fits YOU!”
AC Faculty Member Beth Guzzetta Recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science TeachingPosted on October 16th, 2019 by Amelia Fitzsimmons
AC faculty member, Beth Guzzetta, was presented with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) in October 2019. The PAEMST Award is the highest award given by the U.S. Government to K-12 teachers. Beth was one of four teachers selected from New York State to receive this honor. Nominations and awards were facilitated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the National Science Foundation, and a panel of distinguished mathematicians, scientists, and educators at the state and national levels.
“It is an extreme honor to receive the prestigious Presidential Award. I am grateful to those who have inspired me to pursue my passion for bringing creativity to the classroom. Receiving this award refuels my drive to instill the joy of learning within my students so they realize the impact they have on the local and global community, and continue their pursuit of knowledge. With this award comes the responsibility to share my experience with other educators so that they, too, may be inspired.”
Beth Guzzetta has been an educator for over 25 years, spending the last 19 years teaching at Allendale Columbia School. She currently teaches seventh-grade Life Science and sixth and eighth-grade mathematics. She also taught at DeSales High School in Geneva, NY and schools in Massachusetts and Florida.
Beth’s love for science helps her develop innovative projects on campus. She runs a maple sugaring project, a honeybee apiary, and a trout project. After school and in the summer, she runs science camps to excite and engage younger scientists.
Global connections and scientific research are areas that she enjoys sharing with her students through domestic and international trips. These experiences have brought her and her students to Madagascar for biodiversity and archaeology research, the Florida Keys for marine biology research, and Camp Pathfinder in Canada and the Adirondack Mountains for outdoor education.
Beth’s leadership among educators has led her to conduct annual presentations at the National Science Teachers Association National Conference since 2012 and presentations at the Science Teachers Association of NY. She is also a National Geographic Certified Educator.
Beth has a B.A. in mathematics from St. John Fisher College and a M.Ed. from Curry College. She is certified in secondary mathematics and elementary education.
A crucial part of any successful middle school experience is a positive transition from Lower School. Beginning anything new can be anxiety provoking for newbie middle school students, and unfortunately, a positive mind-set is challenging for our budding middle school students. They often are consumed with questions and fears around homework, bathroom locations, lockers, new teachers, and new expectations before the year even begins. Without a thoughtful and supportive transition experience, these fears will extend beyond the “honeymoon” period of middle school.
For students at Allendale Columbia, our focus has always been around 3 key points when it comes to welcoming and supporting our new 6th graders:
- Help our students develop a realistic and pragmatic expectation of what middle school will be like
- Provide a positive and successful first impression of their peers, schedule, school community, and teachers to support their role as decision makers and community builders
- Ensure a successful introduction to the middle school experience from day one, through meaningful and targeted coursework to support their unique perspective
The schedule and program of the entire 6th grade year is built around the concept of this transition, as we believe it extends far beyond the first few weeks of school.
Here are some programmatic pieces specific to the AC 6th grade experience:
Research shows that Middle School students benefit from specific and targeted opportunities to learn about self-advocacy. The days of study halls in which students sit passively awaiting the end of the period are over, and we are pushing to create opportunities for students and teachers to actively engage together to help students better understand both themselves as learners and the content they are learning about.
Given this, Allendale Columbia has created a year-long block of time called “Advocacy” for our 6th grade students. It is targeted time during the school day when students have access to teachers and advisors for help. Managed by our Upper and Middle School Learning Advocate, Seth Hopkins, 6th grade students have advocacy anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes at the end of each day with their teachers. This includes opportunities to access our shared Middle School and Upper School writing lab, as well as connect with teachers from whom they need help. Middle School students are supported to be actively engaged in managing their time and will work in their advisories to build the organizational and advocacy skills to help them manage this time effectively.
The theme of the 6th grade year in advisory is ”independence.” Middle School is a perfect time to introduce topics of independence as students transition from Lower School to Middle School. Advisory is more than just a time during the day where a 6th grader meets with a group of fellow 6th graders and an advisor. At AC, advisory is a mindset. It’s a group where a student can take risks questioning things, expressing themselves, and pushing back on things at are confusing or troubling. Self-advocacy, accountability, and individuality are key parts of the 6th grade advisory program, and faculty advisors support these themes among a small cohort of students.
Advisory also aims to provide all 6th grade students with an adult advocate who thinks about them holistically. An advisor serves as both their “home base” teacher helping them navigate the logistics of Middle School, as well as an academic and personal advisor who actively teaches self-advocacy, executive functioning, and communication skills. Advisors are also a 411 service for parents. Parents can call their child’s advisor for anything, and often an advisor is a great first phone call or email if parents have questions or concerns regarding anything school related.
What Middle School Values
Taught by our Upper and Middle School learning advocate, Seth Hopkins, this course is taken by every 6th grader in the fall semester. What Middle School Values asks 6th graders to explore Allendale Columbia’s Core Values as they work to understand and individualize the Middle School context. During the time in the class, each student will increase their understanding of themselves as an individual learner and identify and tailor learning strategies that promote their own success. Here, 6th graders explore the importance of resilience and curiosity as they leverage their individual and collective creativity in solving Middle School problems at the individual and community level. Building on the sense of community, they participate in activities and conversations that deepen the robust connections they have already made with their classmates, as well as begin to build these relationships with new classmates just starting out at AC. Through selected readings from Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens and using George Doran’s S.M.A.R.T criteria, 6th graders gain a sense of ownership and power throughout their transition, easing their anxiety.
One of the goals of our 6th grade program is to develop students who are digitally literate and able to navigate within digital environments using various devices, while also evaluating, managing, and communicating information efficiently and ethically. In this course, students engage in a variety of projects, both collaborative and individual, which are designed to promote growth in the areas known as the 5 Cs: Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Citizenship and Personal Growth. In a safe environment, 6th graders become adept Chromebook users as they experience the powerful possibilities of the digital world while learning the ethics and responsibilities necessary to find success in any discipline. This course, taken in the fall of their 6th grade year, helps to build a solid foundation of digital confidence, while honing in on clear expectations around technology usage and ethical decision making.
Although not a programmatic piece, one of the most important times of the day can be one of the most stressful. For new 6th graders, knowing where to sit, what to talk about, and the culture of sitting down for a meal can cause great anxiety. Fortunately, AC lunches are more about community and sharing than just a quick break of eating before the next class.
As a middle school, students are assigned seats with a faculty member at every table, which rotates throughout the year. It’s not uncommon to hear lunch room banter from table to table about their favorite movies, yesterday’s sports events, music, and even themed table trivia contests. With the spirit of inclusion, 6th grade students feel part of the community from the very first day, and lunch becomes a time to relax, eat, and celebrate a morning of hard work.
Tina DuverAt Allendale Columbia, Tina serves as the Head of Middle School. She has taught Science and Leadership at AC for over 20 years. She also served as Assistant Head of the Middle School and Dean of Students. Tina earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She brings her natural curiosity, energy, and excitement to education. Tina is also a die-hard Red Sox fan.
By Judy Van Alstyne ’88, Head Librarian
You never know what kinds of seeds are planted during May Term. Four years ago, Tony Tepedino and I offered a Middle School May Term called Getting Schooled the Minecraft Way. At that time, Mojang still owned Minecraft; MinecraftEDU was a separate installable modification (mod) which allowed teachers to host servers specifically for their students to engage in Minecraft activities designed for learning all kinds of concepts.
We had high expectations for the ten Middle School boys who signed up. They weren’t going to be students in a Minecraft activity designed by us grown-ups; they were going to have Lower School teachers as clients, designing educational activities for students in grades two, four, and five. For the second grade class, four boys (Dylan Reece, Ben Smoker, Jack Wheeler, and Garrett Wilson) designed “U.S. Landmarks” to teach about symbols of the United States. For the fourth graders, three boys (Marlin Bassett, Henry Grasman, and Cameron Perry) designed “Bomber Math” for practice in calculating area. For the fifth graders, three boys (Caden Kacprzynski, Peter Klem, and Kasi Natarajan) created “Island Adventure” to teach geometry, measurement, and economy. The boys worked hard and had fun, and when we concluded by inviting the Lower School students in, everyone had fun playing and learning. It was a success that we were sad to end.
But this past week, the Rumsey Library was alive again with students (this time in Upper School) busily playing and creating with Minecraft thanks to two of those former Middle School students, Caden Kacprzynski ‘20 and Cameron Perry ‘20, running a student-led May Term titled Experimenting with Architecture and Code in Minecraft: Education Edition. Now computer experts, they explained to me much that has changed in the Minecraft education world. Mojang was bought by Microsoft, which created a new product for teachers called Minecraft: Education Edition. Caden and Cameron explained how much easier it is (no need to create a local server, for example) and it has a coding curriculum already built in (in conjunction with Code.org). Learning how to code has the immediate benefit of allowing users to create more efficiently and with enhanced functions, for example, building a wall with one command rather than placing each block individually. There are also more possibilities for saving work to be shared with others in the future.
Caden and Cameron decided that for their May Term, they would keep the parameters somewhat loose, requiring only that students work solo or in groups to create worlds for others to play and explore, so long as they incorporated coding into each world’s creation. Each world provides challenges for players such as finding secret levers, parkour, and escape rooms. They reflected on how much noisier those ten Middle School boys were compared to this group of fifteen Upper School girls and boys. Also of note is how much more skilled older students are with group problem-solving. Although they were initially concerned that their peers might not follow their instructions or be engaged in the work, they were pleased to see everyone working very hard on their projects, even skipping breaks or parts of lunch in order to make more progress. Similar to what Mr. Tepedino and I discovered long ago, giving students autonomy to play and create keeps them very engaged!
In preparing for May Term Exhibition Night, I discovered the laminated Minecraft instructions from four years ago. While the Lower School players from the past are now in Middle School and probably don’t need them, we suspect some parents will find them very helpful! I also found the signs we had put up for each of the projects the Middle Schoolers had created. Cameron and Caden each took one as a souvenir; Caden remarked, “This is more meaningful to me than any certificate I could have gotten from a summer camp.” We are so proud that Caden and Cameron decided to share Minecraft with new learners, and we hope they are proud of themselves! And we hope you found a chance to play a little Minecraft on Exhibition Night, June 6th!
Judith Van AlstyneJudy worked as a reference librarian and children's librarian in several public libraries in the Rochester area before coming to Allendale Columbia in 1997. At AC, she serves as Head Librarian and teaches Digital Literacy, Information Literacy, and library classes for students in nursery through first grade. Judy holds a bachelor's degree from Tufts University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a Master of Library Sciences Degree from Simmons College. Judy is leaving AC after the 2018-2019 school year to complete her PhD in Education (Teaching & Curriculum) with a focus on digital literacies and online learning.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Invent, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School