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 childrenâ€™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
By Amy Oliveri, Director of the AC Center for Entrepreneurship and May Term Coordinator
This year’s May Term is focused on helping others. Each Session incorporates service learning into its curriculum. Three charitable drives will run until the end of May Term, which culminates in Exhibition Night on June 6th from 6:00-7:30 p.m. This school-wide celebration showcases the projects and learning that take place during these twelve days of interdisciplinary learning, highlighted by cross-divisional and collaborative teaching models. Some of our sessions are even co-taught by students. (more…)
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Entrepreneurship, Highlights, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
By Gabe Costanzo, Music Teacher
Blake Pattengale contacted me around the beginning of March to see if we had any interest in a jazz clinic at AC. I am always looking for ways to bring exceptional performers to school to show students the kinds of experiences they could be having if they continue to develop their musicianship, so this sounded like a great opportunity.
Blake and his band, the Gray Quartet, did not disappoint. They taught our students about jazz by playing a plethora of tunes, starting with today’s pop hits and working back in time to make connections with the jazz tunes that influenced pop music. (more…)
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
The recent news coverage questioning the integrity of the college admission process is unsettling for all of us. Students work incredibly hard to earn a spot into their best-fit college and that is how it should work for everyone. At Allendale Columbia we want to assure you that we have always followed the NACAC’s Code of Ethics and Professional Practices, which governs the actions of college admission officers, high school counselors, and independent admission consultants.
As your family considers next steps for the college application process, and your friends or family members consider working with AC College Consulting, we wanted to share a few reminders and best practices when it comes to supporting your child in his or her college application process.
- Stay encouraged. The vast majority of college admission decisions are based upon the holistic review of students’ merits.
- Trust our experience. Kristin Cocquyt, College Advisor, and Emily Nevinger, College Advising Consultant, have 30 years of combined admissions-related experience. We believe in the ethical practice of college advising, working with families and students on individualized plans for their college search and application processes.
- Ask our advice. If you ever feel like a company or organization is offering you additional support or guarantees that seem too good to be true, you can contact us for help in evaluating the organization.
- Trust the process. We do not condone the financial contributions of families to colleges for the purposes of preferential treatment in the admission process.
- Know we have your student’s best interests in mind, as do college admission officers. We regularly and ethically engage our professional networks to authentically support our students’ success in the college admission process.
Upcoming AC College Advising and College Consulting Events
College Consulting: Creating an Authentic, Well-Rounded Application – April 6th
What types of classes, extracurriculars, and recommendation letters make a college application stand out? This workshop is designed for students early in their high school careers, when there is time to discover and build a strong foundation. This program is open to the public.
AC Class of 2020 Family College Meetings – Now through May 23rd
Family College Meetings, which include student/parents(s)/host parent(s)/guardian(s), are crucial opportunities for us to discuss the family’s goals for the college process. During this meeting, we will create a student’s standardized testing plan, discuss the important criteria and goals for the student’s college search process, and Kristin Cocquyt will follow up with a personalized list of college suggestions and resources. Families should contact Kristin directly to schedule their meeting after one “Junior Parent Survey” is submitted in Naviance Student. Meetings can be scheduled during a student’s free period or at 3:15 p.m. Skype meetings can also be scheduled with international families. Since early planning is key to a successful college process, Family College meetings should be wrapped up before Strawberry Breakfast on May 23rd.
Kristin CocquytUnlike most of our peer schools, we have a dedicated full-time college advisor. Kristin Cocquyt's primary focus is to support, guide, and advise AC students on their college search and application process. She has been in the field of education for 13 years and has visited over 160 colleges, giving her a solid basis for recommending colleges that are great matches for our students. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Public Policy from Hamilton College and is a member of both the New York State Association for College Admission Counseling and the National Association for College Admission Counseling.
Emily NevingerEmily Nevinger is Allendale Columbia School's College Advising Consultant, guiding students in the greater Rochester area and beyond on the college application process, financial aid, interview preparation, essay review, and more! Emily began working at the university level in 2003 and was a senior member of the admission committees for University of Miami, Emory University, and UNC Chapel Hill. Emily holds a bachelor's degree in Public Policy from Duke University and a Master of Science in Higher Education Administration and Enrollment Management from the University of Miami. She will earn her College Access Counseling Certificate from Rice University in 2019.
Allendale Columbia won the Terra School Award at Terra Science and Education’s Rochester Finger Lakes Regional Science and Engineering Fair (TRFSEF) hosted by Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC). Thirteen AC students also received recognitions at the event, including the right to advance to higher-level competitions.
Sixteen AC Middle and Upper School students submitted 11 projects, the most of any participating school, which resulted in the award that comes with a check for $2,000 for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives. The students packed up their AC Innovation Day Science Fair projects and took the displays the next morning to RMSC. After setting up their projects and passing a Display and Safety check (science can be “messy”, after all), the students went to a lunch keynote address by Maria G. Korsnick, President/CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.
“Science Fair is inspiring and invigorating, because all these students are excited about science, every student, from fifth graders who are doing behavior projects with their cats and a dog to senior research projects that have to do with cancer diagnosis and research and machine learning, really high-end stuff,” said Maya Crosby, Director of the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation, and Director-in-Training for TRFSEF. “But everybody who is here is excited about their project and can’t wait to talk about it with the judges who are coming around. That curiosity all packaged in one room is really inspiring; that’s the great part.” (more…)
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School
With the importance of connections being central to the mission of Allendale Columbia School, we treasure opportunities for collaboration across members of our community. On Friday, March 1st, students, teachers, staff, administrators, and family members came together in a special after-school event to build connections through music-making as a band. This side-by-side concert was coordinated by instrumental music teachers Lynn Grossman and Gabe Costanzo.
What is a side-by-side concert?
Side-by-side concerts are opportunities for musicians of various ages and ability levels to get together to perform together as a group and learn from each other while celebrating learning and growth in a fun, low-stress environment. In this event, parents, older siblings, grandparents, extended family, and family friends were all invited. School faculty, staff, and administrators were also welcome to join in the fun. (more…)
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eighth Grade, Fifth Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade
Allendale Columbia’s Middle School students aren’t just building community and an understanding of theatrical productions in this weekend’s Peter Pan JR. They have been engaged in an interesting dialogue about cultural representation.
In the original stage productions of Peter Pan, written by J.M. Barrie in the early 20th century, the people of Neverland were often depicted as caricatures of Native American stereotypes. This was a common trope in the literature and entertainment of the era, though these types of depictions would be decried as offensive today.
Since its initial stage performances, the show has been adapted several times for both stage and film, most famously with the animated Disney film from 1953. Even in this depiction, the people of Neverland are exaggerated and culturally insensitive versions of Native Americans in their appearance, customs, and language. For Disney’s Peter Pan JR. adaptation for the stage, there were notable efforts to reduce the misinformed and insensitive representations of Native Americans, but as a school, we felt even these efforts fell short.
While some of the more distasteful language had been cut for the junior edition, and the song “What Makes the Red Man Red” altered to “What Makes the Brave Ones Brave”, the people of Neverland are still referred to as “Indians”, which harkens back to the story’s history of misrepresentation of culture. Rather than allowing these issues to prevent us from performing an otherwise excellent show, the production team chose to rework the depiction of these characters. We opened up a dialogue with Middle School students about why it is important to properly represent cultures and the reasoning behind the decision to make the changes we did.
The process began when we realized that, if AC is a school that truly values other cultures, it was our job to present a telling of this story that reflected these values. The word “Indians” was still in the script we received, but we felt that this was not an accurate description of the people of Neverland nor the role we wanted to present. In the program, we chose to call them “Neverlanders”.
We discussed with the cast how we could develop Neverlanders’ culture in a way that did not draw from existing cultures, but rather was unique to life in Neverland. As the Neverlanders’ main song has a recurring message of “what makes the brave girl brave?”, we cast all our Neverlanders as girls. We highlighted the idea of strong female role models while developing their characters. This worked with the material in the script and reflected a positive message, replacing the image that was previously intended to poke fun at stereotypes.
The discussions that took place within the cast and in the Middle School as a whole will hopefully continue and build a more educated and culturally engaged environment.
Cassidy DraperCassidy Draper '19 is the Middle School musical's Student Director. Between her Science Research and Writing Project, participation in the regional TEAMS competition, and work for the Global Engagement Diploma, she has performed in 10 AC theater productions between Middle and Upper School and has now decided to bring her theater experience to the next generation of AC's performers. She has enjoyed taking on the Student Director role and the opportunity to build connections between the Middle and Upper School that she hopes will last far beyond her graduation this June.
Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School, PACK, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade
Students throughout Allendale Columbia School don’t just learn about other parts of the world, they become global citizens, learning alongside their peers in other parts of the world. That’s just as true in Lower School.
Last year, AC first-graders explored the Amazon rainforest and ran a successful fundraising campaign to become stewards of a section of the rainforest equal to the size of AC’s campus. Building on that experience, AC’s Head of Lower School, Michelle Feiss, brought in Paul Hurteau, Executive Director of OneWorld Classrooms and a former Upstate New York teacher, who thrilled current first- and second-graders with stories of his experiences teaching students in Ecuador, complete with photos of the people and wildlife, poems, and artifacts from that rainforest community.
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Second Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Third Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School