Class of 2019 Has Diverse Plans, $3.6M in Scholarship Offers

Posted on June 13th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

by Kristin Cocquyt, College Advisor

AC's Class of 2019 on College Decision DayCollege, travel, work, and seminary: these are some of the diverse plans of the Allendale Columbia School Class of 2019. The newly-minted graduates will be attending colleges across the country, including 9 different states, the District of Columbia, and 18 different colleges and universities in New York State. In addition, the Class of 2019 has reported over $3.6 million in four-year academic scholarships! Congratulations to the Class of 2019! Click here to see our graduates’ plans. (more…)

Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, The Birches, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Students Conduct Scientific Inquiry In 10-Day Costa Rica Trip

Posted on June 6th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School
By Kelsey Lisi, Aaron Shepard, and the Costa Rica Trip Students

Twelve Allendale Columbia students conducted scientific inquiry while immersed in regional culture and Spanish language during an intensive 10-day trip to Costa Rica during AC’s May Term session in the final weeks of the 2018-2019 school year. The experience took place in the region between San José and the Caribbean coast and was organized by the AC Center for Global Engagement and the AC Invent Center for STEM and Innovation.

We began our journey at the Ecology Project International (EPI) campus in San José. From there we traveled to the Tirimbina Biological Reserve where we spent two days exploring the rain forest, conducting scientific inquiry, and learning about native species. Our next destination was the Pacuare Reserve, a nearly 2,000 acre tropical forest with six kilometers of beachfront. Pacuare is one of the most important leatherback sea turtle nesting sites in Costa Rica. We were fortunate to take part in three nights of turtle census work, during which we encountered several females that had come up on the beach to dig their nests and lay eggs. Some of the students were able to take measurements and act as “midwives” by collecting the eggs in a plastic bag for relocation to a safer area.

On the return trip to San José, we stayed one night at Casa Calatea, a community–supported neighborhood hostel high up on a forested mountainside. Here we enjoyed delicious food and an amazing view that included howler monkeys and toucans. The next day we traveled to the village of Cahuita, with its eponymous national park, where we went on a snorkeling expedition. We had a tasty lunch at a local diner before continuing our journey back to the EPI campus in San José. Our final full day in Costa Rica included a visit to the active Poás volcano and a tour of the Toucan Rescue Ranch, a rehabilitation facility for numerous wild animals such as toucans, sloths, owls, and monkeys.

As chaperones, we found the experiences we had to be life–changing, and can only imagine the impact it had on the students’ lives. They were an inspirational group who are forever bonded by their unique experiences on this trip. You can read their impressions below.


Blog Post 1

During our trip to the Pacuare Reserve in Costa Rica, we excavated a previously relocated leatherback sea turtle nest.  Researchers excavate the nest after sixty days to see if there were any survivors who had hatched but had not been able to reach the surface and to collect the egg remnants to determine hatching success of the nest.  When the nest was relocated, the team dug the nest to a matching depth to the original nest, which is usually about 80 centimeters deep!

The researcher found seven living leatherback sea turtle hatchlings which we were able to exhume and release for the long journey to the ocean.  Although it was tempting to carry the sea turtles to the water, the turtles had to make their own journey to the water so they could pick up chemicals and environmental clues which will help them to return to the beach when they are of breeding age.

Since we couldn’t carry them to water, the group was assigned individual turtles to follow them on the sand to ensure that they make it to water. Along the way, the turtles were met with debris such as sticks and trash, sandy hills, and vicious crabs hoping to make a meal out of them.  The turtles made the approximately 30 meter trek from the nest to the ocean in about 20 minutes. During this time, we were their cheerleaders and their guardians. Some of us chose to take the time to name our turtles; others viewed the journey as a race and started to cheer for their turtle to win.  Marlin Bassett said, “I felt really protective of the baby turtles as they moved toward the water.”

All seven of our turtle hatchlings made it to the ocean and were carried away by the waves after submerging.  This experience gave us hope for the future of sea turtles and the marine environment. Hopefully in twenty years we can see our turtles return to the beach to lay their own eggs and ensure the success of the species.  This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that made our trip so memorable.

Mrs. Lisi collected some responses from our reflections that afternoon.  There were many words and phrases to describe this experience and the trip including magical, powerful, thankful, incredible, and fortunate.


Blog Post 2

During our trip to Costa Rica, we spent nights 4-6 on Pacuare Reserve. We had 4 hour shifts nightly for turtle censuses, at either 8pm or 12pm. Both of us (Marlin and Greg), were given the opportunity to be up close to the Leatherback Sea Turtle while it laid its eggs. At around 1pm on night 4 Marlin saw the massive Sea Turtle, while Greg saw the Sea Turtle on night five around the same time. Even though we both worked with different turtles our experiences were very similar. Only females lay eggs and they come ashore on the beach to do so. She will dig a hole in the sand about 70cm deep with her massive flippers, and lay around 80 eggs. What’s unique about Leatherback Sea Turtles, is that they first lay their fertile eggs, and then on top of the hole infertile eggs. This is done to protect them from predators, and shield them from the elements such as heat. Their eggs unlike any other reptiles are very soft in the beginning, so they don’t break while falling into a 70cm deep hole. If you were to look at the dug hole from the side, it would have a unique shape similar to a boot.

We both had the opportunity to hold this ancient dinosaurs flipper while it laid its eggs into her hole. Before she started to lay her eggs we had to place a large plastic bag under the cloaca so we could collect and relocate the eggs to a safer location, away from poachers. Our main job during this activity was to try and count the eggs that she laid as well as moving the flipper out of the way so other people could observe the amount of eggs that she laid. We both felt how strong she was even by just holding her flipper. Although we tried to move her flipper sometimes it became apart very quickly that once she decided she was moving her flipper, she was moving it and we had no way to stop her. She continued laying eggs for about 10-15 minutes depending on the turtle. When she was done laying, we had to quickly remove the bag before she started filling the hole back up with sand. We then handed over the bag to on-site researchers, so they could relocate it to a safer place which has a higher egg hatch rate. It would then be monitored and checked after 60 days. Data would be collected on the amount of hatched and unhatched eggs.

This made us feel humbled and gave us an overwhelming amount of respect for the Sea Turtles. They have been alive longer than us and have experience far greater than we could ever know. Especially with the problems of pollution and poaching even the effect of global warming it is truly amazing how this animal survives each day and makes this trip to lay its eggs. It makes us hopeful for future generations of life watching the eggs, knowing they will likely hatch and go on to become adults. Thus changing the lives of people like us.


Blog Post 3

On our second day at Tirimbina, we had a midday snack led by our trip guides, Katherine and Catalina. It consisted of the sampling of eight tropical fruits. These were Cocoa beans, Guava, Sour Guava, Passionfruit, Granadilla, Starfruit, Pejivalles, and Mamey Sapote. We ate the pejivalles with mayonnaise, which tasted similar to very dry squash. Starfruit and sour guava were dipped in salt to enhance the flavor. Overall, our favorite fruit was the granadilla (4 orange masses), which had a similar feel to the passionfruit. It was quite sweet with a tang, and its innards were protected by a styrofoam-like barrier. The granadillas were simple and fun to crack open, as we pushed our thumbs into its side and ripped it in half.

For the duration of the trip, we ate rice and beans for practically every meal. However, it was prepared differently each time and even through our various locations, we never repeated a meal. It altered between the separation and combination of these two dishes. There was also consistently a variety of sides, such as plantain chips, shredded cabbage, chicken, fish, beef, mashed potatoes, diced vegetables with corn, mango, watermelon, pineapple, and papaya. We also had many different fruit juices each day, including Passionfruit, Hibiscus, Watermelon, and Cas.

Our favorite meal was at our stay in Casa Calatea. We stayed here for one night after our three days at Pacuare, which was similar to a giant tree house. The staff made us an incredible dinner, which was made up of very tender chicken, mashed potatoes, diced vegetables with corn, plantain chips, and a very good, sweet coconut dessert. It was in a dark brown bar shape and combined coconut pieces with sugar and butter.

 

Kelsey Lisi

Kelsey Lisi

At Allendale Columbia, Kelsey teaches AP biology, biology, and chemistry. Prior to coming to Allendale Columbia, Kelsey taught at St. Paul's School in Brooklandville, Maryland. She earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree at St. John Fisher College and her Master of Science Degree in Biology at Towson University.

Aaron Shepard

Aaron Shepard

Aaron has 16 years of experience as an educator and has been teaching at Allendale Columbia for ten of those years. He began working at AC as a long-term substitute teacher for fifth grade and began teaching in the Middle School full-time shortly after. Prior to joining AC, Aaron was a special education teacher at BOCES and in the Bradford Central School District in Bradford, New York. He earned a Specialized Technology Degree from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary and Special Education, with a focus on English, from the State University of New York College at Geneseo, and a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, specializing in gifted and talented education, from the University of Connecticut.

 

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

You Never Know What Seeds are Planted During May Term

Posted on June 6th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

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.

Garrett Wilson, Ethan Truong, Carter Previte, and Ben Smoker work on Minecraft during AC May Term 2015.

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.

Jonathan Ragan tries his hand at a Minecraft May Term in 20115.

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.

Cameron Perry ’20 and Caden Kacprzynski ’20 lead a student-led May Term titled “Experimenting with Architecture and Code in Minecraft: Education Edition.”

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 Alstyne

Judith Van Alstyne

Judy 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.
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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

AC’s Innovative 3-Day Play Stretches Imagination

Posted on May 31st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia Upper School students participated in an innovative experimental theatre experience: a Three-Day Play! Students worked with AC faculty and community experts to write, design, stage, and perform an original play, complete with a set and costumes…in one weekend!  (more…)

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Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

AC Mexico Trip Builds Connections and Global Mindset

Posted on May 31st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Rodrigo Gutierrez and Maiyen Sulera Frere 

There’s nothing like traveling to a different part of the world to develop a new perspective. Through the Allendale Columbia Center for Global Engagement, a group of 11 students and two teachers traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, on a cultural immersion trip during AC’s 2019 May Term.

The following notes and photos are taken from a series of emails sent to parents of the students on our AC Mexico trip. (Check back for updates.) (more…)

Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth Grade, Partnerships, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

May Term Focuses on Helping Others With 3 Charitable Drives

Posted on May 23rd, 2019 by Allendale Columbia 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…)

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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

“That Band Was Sick!” Jazz Clinic Hones Student Musicianship

Posted on April 12th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia 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…)

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Should Figures from the Past Meet Today’s Moral Standards?

Posted on April 12th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

At the end of rehearsal, Mr. Gutierrez gives some final notes.

By Rodrigo Gutierrez, History Teacher 

Should public figures from the past be judged by today’s moral standards? Ninth-graders chose that topic for the Freshman Forum because of its relevance, especially with recent controversies regarding the reevaluation of the legacies of John Wayne, Michael Jackson, and others.

I had the pleasure of being the faculty mentor for the Freshman Forum this year. The process takes about six to eight weeks. Students volunteer to be part of the Forum and give up free time to prepare. After identifying students that want to participate, they discuss and debate possible topics. After they choose a topic, they research it. Students have a small tryout, and then we work together to assign roles. Once students have their roles or positions, they go through the writing process: outline, rough drafts, and final speech. Along the way, they get advice and revisions from faculty members and others.” (more…)

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Posted in: Highlights, Ninth Grade, Upper School