On Tuesday, visitors from Rochester’s sister city of El Sauce, Nicaragua, met with Middle and Upper School Spanish classes to raise awareness of the existing needs of Nicaraguan children. Marta Rojas and Ashley Sullivan, a Hilton native, both live in El Sauce, and they have dedicated their lives to making an impact on children of need in their community through the Ciudad Hermana (Sister City) Scholarship Project. (more…)
Posted in: Centers for Impact, Global Engagement, Highlights, Middle School, Upper School
Lower School students in Grades 3-5 delighted the audience on December 18th. The 4th and 5th Grade New Instrumentalists started things off, followed by the Beginner Band, Demonstrations of Music Classroom Learning in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, with the Lower School Chorus wrapping things up.
Posted in: Lower School, Middle School, Pre-Primary School, Upper School
On Fearless Friday, Super Chef Yessy Roman prepares a vegetable for Food Service Director Laura Reynolds-Gorsuch to try, along with a panel of Lower School students. Today, Super Chef prepared Crispy Sunchokes, adapted from Bon Appetit’s Crispy Jerusalem Artichokes with Aged Balsamic. We omitted the butter and roasted them instead of making them in a skillet. We are using organic white sunchokes from Maum Gardens farm.
Posted in: Lower School, Middle School, Pre-Primary School, Upper 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. (more…)
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
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!
Elizabeth GuzzettaBeth, 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.
Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Upper 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.
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
“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