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
Allendale Columbia Global Engagement Scholars participated in the 9th Annual Global Citizenship Conference: The Next Generation Living in a Pluralistic World held at Nazareth College on Wednesday, March 13th, 2019.
This conference for high school students is designed to give the future leaders of our world the tools to respond to intolerance, improve religious literacy, and show the etiquette required to work in a pluralistic world. Participants become more aware of cultural and religious diversity, gain understanding and dispel stereotypes about various religions, and learn effective skills of discourse based on respect, plurality, and conflict resolution. (more…)
Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Ninth 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
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
Students at Allendale Columbia School have a strong team of Student Support Services professionals ready and willing to work with students from Nursery to Grade 12. The team members discussed their various roles at the Parents of Allendale Columbia Kids (PACK) Coffee Connection on November 14th.
Starmeshia Jones, School Psychologist and Director of Support Services
As the School Psychologist and Director of Support Services, I have the privilege of working with students from Nursery through Upper School. I partner with families, teachers, school administrators, and other professionals to foster a safe, healthy, and supportive learning environment. I consult and collaborate with teachers, meet with parents, and provide short-term or crisis counseling to students. Additionally, as needed, I conduct classroom observations and emotional and behavioral screenings. I am a member of the Student Success Team (SST) in Lower School and similar support teams in Middle and Upper School. Working closely with both the Lower School Reading Advocate and Middle/Upper School Learning Advocate and the Pittsford Central School District, I strive to be a resource for information related to special education. I promote problem-solving, anger-management, and conflict resolution, and I reinforce positive coping skills and resilience. I make referrals to, help coordinate services with, and serve as a liaison for individual community-based providers.
Carrie Shone, Speech-Language Therapist
As the Speech-Language Therapist, I provide observations, screenings, and services to children in grades Nursery through 5. I’m also available for consultation in Middle and Upper Schools (Grades 6-12). As a member of the Student Success Team (SST), I support our students in a variety of ways. Screenings are carried out for Kindergarten students, new students, and students referred to the SST. Services may be provided individually or in small groups. The areas I address include articulation, language, auditory processing, dysfluency, voice, pragmatics, and social communication. The student’s teacher and I determine together the best times for services to be provided, and changes are made as needed. Services are provided in the classroom, the Speech room, or a combination of the two. The least restrictive environment is taken into account as plans are made.
Kristen McKenzie, Math Learning Advocate, Lower School
As the Math Advocate for Lower School, my job is to support teachers and students with math related learning. I also serve as a member of the Student Support Team in the Lower School and of the school’s Academic Leadership Team. My first priority is to ensure that teachers have the support that they need in order to provide the best math education for each and every student in the classroom. I meet with grade-level teams regularly to discuss plans for the daily differentiated learning opportunities that are being provided to students in the classroom. In addition, we discuss student needs at all levels. If a child’s individual needs are not being met with daily classroom math instruction, the teachers communicate with the Student Success Team. SST members discuss an action plan that could include my direct support for a student in and/or out of the classroom. If additional support is recommended for enrichment opportunities or reinforcement of concepts, parents are contacted and a schedule is determined with the classroom teachers. Finally, I help evaluate the Lower School’s mathematics curriculum and Exit Learning Objectives (ELOs) to ensure that we are providing a well-aligned vertical curriculum that will provide students with the necessary tools for their future.
Amanda Gianniny, Reading Advocate, Lower School
I support teachers and students with reading and writing instruction and serve on the Student Support Team and the school’s Academic Leadership Team. First and foremost, I work to ensure that teachers have the support and resources they need to provide differentiated instruction in the classroom. I regularly discuss plans and student needs with grade-level teams at all levels. If a child’s individual needs are not being met with daily classroom literacy instruction, the teachers communicate with the Student Success Team, who then discuss an action plan, which may include my supporting a student directly, in or out of the classroom. Parents are contacted and a schedule is determined with the classroom teachers if this type of additional support for reinforcement or enrichment are recommended. I am also involved in evaluating the Lower School’s reading and writing curriculum and Exit Learning Objectives to make sure that our vertical curriculum is well-aligned vertical curriculum and provides students with the necessary tools for their future. Additionally, I serve as the Special Education Case Manager for the Lower School. If a child receives special education services or is being evaluated for possible services, I work with Pittsford, our home district, to make sure those services and provided.
Seth Hopkins, Learning Advocate, Middle and Upper Schools
As the Learning Advocate at the Middle and Upper Schools, my job is to support each AC student in accessing as much of the program and as many of the learning opportunities as is possible and appropriate for that student. I do this by helping to design, create, and manage systematic supports, but I also individual and individualized supports. In addition to working with and for students directly, I also collaborate with AC teachers, parents, and staff in their efforts to support our kids. I work regularly with students at the group and individual level and have worked hard to make myself, and the advocate position, an important member of the entire AC community. I do this because every student, regardless of the level of academic maturity, effort, talent, or acumen, will struggle at some point during their time at AC, and we want them to know that help is only a far as the nearest adult.
In addition to the AC staff listed above, every faculty member and administrator at Allendale Columbia is prepared to advocate for each child’s learning and knows when to suggest additional resources. AC receives additional services as needed from the Pittsford School District.
Posted in: LS Birches, MS Birches, PACK, The Birches, US Birches
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
“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
For the second summer, local Allendale Columbia students participated in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) here in Rochester. IYLEP* is a four-week exchange program for promising Iraqi students to visit different U.S. cities and learn about leadership, peacebuilding, and civic engagement. Rochester is the only host city that has American students participate in the IYLEP program for the full two weeks, which allows them to build a strong bond and further break down stereotypes and misconceptions.
“Before this program, what I thought and knew of Iraq was based off what I see in the news, and sure, we have our differences, but we have way more in common than I thought,” said AC student Garrett Wilson.
During their time in Rochester, Iraqi and AC students visited an array of places, ranging from workshops at the M.K. Gandhi Institute, site visits to Rochester International Academy, a service project at Foodlink, and a night out at a Red Wings game.
On August 16th, students, host parents, and members of the community gathered in the Curtis Performance Center for the IYLEP Student Showcase. As guests trickled in, IYLEP participants laughed, sang NSYNC, and posed for selfies together, further proving that teenagers are teenagers, no matter where they’re from.
“Just because we’re from different places, it doesn’t mean we have different kinds of hearts.” – Mikayla Gross ‘19
Showcase presentations included a student-produced video highlighting the activities and friendships formed over the course of the two weeks in Rochester; a skit depicting some of the cultural differences identified between American and Iraqi students; and a touching thank you video to the host families. Many participants spoke about the lasting impact of the program, including the simple experiences like living with pets or riding a bike.
The evening concluded with the presentation of awards to the IYLEP participants by RGC Executive Director, Cecelia Hencke, and Program Facilitator, Mary Beth Moyer, followed by a friendly mix and mingle over refreshments in the Dining Commons.
“The lasting impact of this program is the person-to-person connection formed between people from diverse backgrounds,” said Hencke. “It increases international understanding and promotes positive U.S. foreign relations and a more peaceful and prosperous world. The program has a multiplier effect because the students are now ambassadors of one another’s country and will help further breakdown the stereotypes or misconceptions.”
Allendale Columbia School has been involved with IYLEP since 2017, when the AC Center for Global Engagement partnered with Rochester Global Connections (RGC), a local nonprofit organization that promotes cultural exchange, to bring this opportunity to our community. Local high school students who participate in the program are eligible to receive accreditation from AC’s Center for Global Engagement. This year’s participants included 11 high school students and one adult mentor from Iraq and eight local Allendale Columbia students.
Since the program’s founding in 2007, IYLEP has brought more than 2,300 promising Iraqi high school and undergraduate students to the U.S. In addition to promoting mutual understanding between the people of Iraq and the U.S., IYLEP also fosters relationships within the diverse group of Iraqi participants, who represent a broad range of ethnic, religious, and geographic backgrounds.
During their program, IYLEP participants visit two to three U.S. cities where they engage in experiential learning activities and cultural exchange. Upon their return to Iraq, they implement projects in their communities, such as organizing peace festivals and providing relief services to refugees and orphans. As an investment in global understanding and peace, IYLEP has created a cadre of future leaders of Iraq.
It is clear this program benefits both American and Iraqi students alike. Together, it prepares them to become global leaders- to learn global empathy, compassion, and humility. They learn leadership skills- such as working with people from diverse backgrounds, problem solving, teamwork, dialogue, and self confidence. From this experience, students are prepared to be successful in our global and diverse society and be empowered to make a positive difference in our community and communities around the world.
“We hope to continue this program on an annual basis, so I encourage local students to apply!” said Hencke.
*IYLEP is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and implemented by World Learning.
Posted in: Global Engagement, Highlights, Partnerships