Design Thinking and Innovating Solutions in 1st Grade S.T.E.M. Class

Posted on March 18th, 2015 by ssorrentino

Our 1st Grade S.T.E.M. students at Allendale Columbia School have begun their unit on Physical Mechanisms. In this real world context, our young students build structures incorporating gears and pulley systems, learn how to solve for mechanical challenges, identify driver and follower gears, and develop teamwork and critical thinking skills. Students first learn the correct terminology of all the mechanical parts as well as how each part functions.


Throughout this hands-on unit of study, students investigate the effects of friction, energy, force, and speed along with developing design thinking skills including working with constraints and real world, “unexpected function change requests” for innovating solutions (viable prototypes) to the problems posed.

In addition to developing skills in collaboration and problem-solving, our students also experience project management, documentation, data collection, and reporting out results – just like real engineers.  More than learning ABOUT engineering, our young students are learning to BE engineers!

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Posted in: First Grade, Highlights, Lower School

Real-World Collaboration with Rochester’s Seneca Park Zoo

Posted on January 24th, 2015 by ssorrentino

Did you know that it is a strong possibility there will come a time when people living in the northeastern United States may no longer see monarch butterflies? The extensive use of a popular weed killer in the upper mid-western states is to blame. While good for corn and soybean production, this weed killer kills milkweed – the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat. Northern monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico every year for the winter. On their trek back north, they lay eggs along the way…

Weed killer = less milkweed = less food for caterpillars = fewer monarch butterflies in Northeastern United States

Allendale Columbia School has partnered with Rochester’s Seneca Park Zoo to try to save the monarch butterflies by designing and planting a butterfly garden. Lower School S.T.E.M. department members and teachers Carolyn Brockler, Kristen McKenzie, and Gabe Costanzo, are working together to oversee, plan, and implement this ongoing and exciting collaboration.

The first and third graders at AC are becoming butterfly experts by working directly with the staff at the Seneca Park Zoo. Experts from the zoo came to the school and delivered a highly engaging presentation. For instance, did you know that the presence of butterflies indicates a healthy ecosystem?

Our fourth grade students are researching the types of plants that should be incorporated in the butterfly garden to ensure healthy growth during all phases of the butterfly life cycle, including organic alternatives to weed killers. The students will also write blogs to spread the word on their research findings and creating a pledge as they continue their work on the development of the school butterfly garden.

The fifth graders will be surveying and staking out the appropriate location for a 10’ by 10’ butterfly garden. Conditions such as landscape, amount of sunlight, and ability to expand will need to be taken into consideration. A video documentary that follows this project, from conception to completion, is also in the works.

The next visit from the zoo will occur in the spring. During this visit, the first and third graders will share their butterfly knowledge with the rest of the Lower School and the local community. Immediately following the presentation, staff from the Seneca Park Zoo will assist the students with the actual planting of the butterfly garden.

This real world, collaborative experience continues to extend student learning in authentic problem-solving, critical and creative thinking, and solution-focused design thinking. Our Lower School S.T.E.M. students at AC are working directly with professionals and scientists. Most exciting of all, our young students are making relevant connections with their content area learning and the skills applied by creating innovative solutions to the problems currently impacting their world!



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Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, Second Grade, Third Grade

Students Discuss Service Learning through Middle School Service Learning Fair

Posted on November 19th, 2014 by lbrown

Service learning fair 1

On Thursday, November 13th, Allendale Columbia’s Middle School hosted its first service fair showcasing five service organizations from the greater Rochester area. Representatives from Foodlink, RAPA (Rochester Association of Performing Arts), the Center for Environmental Initiatives, Rochester Greenovation, and GRASP (Greece Residents Assisting Stray Pets) spoke to students about their organization’s outreach in Monroe County.

Service Learning Fair 3

Each organization brought in evidence of their work, from Dexter, a stray Basset/Daschund mix who had been fostered by GRASP to an upcycled fork crafted into an octopus necklace by an artist at Rochester Greenovation. Kimie Romeo, who works with the Center for Environmental Initiatives, spoke eloquently to students about their role as stewards of the Great Lakes, our world’s largest source of potable water. RAPA Director, Allan Cuseo, talked about how theater can change people’s lives and Jared Longmore outlined Foodlink’s recent grassroots outreach in urban neighborhoods.

Service Learning Fair 2

Students then broke out into advisory groups to discuss the potential of service learning. They thought that service learning at the Middle School level would inspire awareness, compassion, and gratitude in students. They expressed interest in becoming more aware of who they could help in their community.

They also talked about how they could convert their personal hobbies and passions into service work. A student interested in sharks expressed a desire to work with organizations that aimed to protect coral reefs. Another student passionate about swimming thought she might offer a water safety course to youth who don’t have the opportunity to swim very often.

Students were eager to tackle a wide variety of difficult issues. Some worried about saving rain forests or helping victims of natural disaster. Some were interested in working with people with health issues or special needs. Others were preoccupied by world violence, illiteracy, or access to vaccines.

At the end of the session, each student set a personal service goal. Some goals were small, others very ambitious. “I would like to get a better understanding of the needs in my community,” said one student. “I would like to be out there helping,” wrote another.



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Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade

AC Students’ Projects Represented at the Rochester Mini Maker Faire

Posted on November 18th, 2014 by Tony Tepedino

Rochester_MMF_logos_GooglePlusI am excited to be a part of the upcoming Rochester Mini Maker Faire on Saturday, November 22nd at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. I will be showing off some Allendale Columbia student projects from the Makey Makey May Term class from last school year.  AC students will also be on-site to demonstrate how Makey Makey works. This is going to be a great event! Read below to find out more!

“Ever wonder what you could make with a 3D printer, how to build your own robot at home, or design your own game? Rochester is hosting it’s first Mini Maker Faire. Mini Maker Faires celebrate everyone who loves to make, create, craft, build, and anything DIY. The inaugural Rochester event takes place on Saturday November 22nd, from 10am to 4pm at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center. The day will be filled with exciting exhibitions, demonstrations, and hands-on activities for all ages. In addition, there will be interesting presentations, speakers, live music, and visual and performing arts.”
-The text above is from The Rochester Mini Maker Faire press release.

For more information check out the links below:
Rochester Mini Maker Faire –
List of Makers:
Twitter: @ROCHMakerFaire

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Posted in: Highlights, Lower School, Middle School, Upper School

AC Alum Craig Waxman is Part of an Emmy Winning Team

Posted on August 25th, 2014 by Tony Tepedino

emmyAC Alum Craig Waxman worked on a team for HBO on the Game of Thrones Viewer’s Guide that earned an Emmy Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media!

Craig is humble to the core remarking, “I definitely can’t take all the credit. We had an incredible art director who really captained the ship. I was pretty involved in the building of it (I got hired specifically for the Game of Thrones project), but worked with a super talented team.”

Congratulations, Craig!


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Posted in: Alumni News, Highlights, Kid Kudos

AC Upper School Art Students Awarded Honors in University of Rochester Exhibition

Posted on July 28th, 2014 by Tony Tepedino
Kudos to twelve of our students, who were selected to participate in the “Through My Eyes” art exhibition at the University of Rochester’s Bridge Gallery from May through July. The exhibition featured 50 works of art by local high school students. As the show was described, “Each frame of work provides a glimpse into the artist’s view of the world: a crown of dandelions, dripping cones of gelato, a broken heart, a young woman balanced on a rail leading far into the distance, a young man’s face superimposed on a mountain top.”  Artists from Allendale Columbia included: Jillian Oddo, Gabby Monti, Jacquelyn Casira, Charlie Patterson, Joseph Shearer, Emma Rowlands, Laurie King, Zach Brown, Abby Lindsey, Jaeyeon Chung, Olivia Kneller, and Ken “Yuzong” Dai.
The Bridge Gallery is located within the University of Rochester’s Department of Psychiatry. At the other end of the exhibition, the sculpture – “Portal” by internationally renowned artist Albert Paley was installed with the students’ work.  “The beauty and inspiration of Portal, coupled with the thought-provoking and hopeful pieces in Through My Eyes, provide a warm and dignified welcome for the thousands of patients, families, faculty, staff, and students who pass through here,” says Eric D. Caine, M.D., chair of Psychiatry. “In addition, there is a compelling body of scientific evidence showing artwork in medical settings can have a significant and positive impact on healing.”
Special congratulations to recent graduate Joseph Shearer, whose photograph “Jaapallot” was chosen by the jury as Best in Show. The judges also chose five Top Juror’s Picks, including  Jackie Casira for her print “Koi,” Jillian Oddo for her photograph “Lines,” and Charlie Patterson for his hand colored photo, “Snow in Lines.”


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Posted in: Highlights, Kid Kudos, Upper School

4E Celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Posted on May 9th, 2014 by Tony Tepedino

Video provided by World Language Teacher Erica Ragan.

4E celebrates Cinco de Mayo in the Dining Commons with La Cucaracha and a special themed lunch menu!  Watch the dance here:

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Posted in: Fourth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, Uncategorized

Eight Middle School Students Competed at Local Engineering Competition on March 15th

Posted on March 19th, 2014 by cdixon

On March 15th, eight Allendale Columbia middle school students competed in the local TEAMS competition sponsored by the Monroe Professional Engineer Society at Monroe Community College. The TEAMS program is an annual STEM competition challenging middle and high school students to work collaboratively and apply their math and science knowledge in practical, creative ways to solve real everyday engineering challenges. Working in a team, students completed 40 multiple choice questions in 60-minutes, as well as completed short essays explaining their ideas of engineering solutions based on scenarios presented to them that day.

Based on the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges, this year’s competition theme is “Engineering Tomorrow’s Cities – Improving Urban Infrastructure.” These one-day competitions are taking place at over one hundred locations nationwide between February 10 and March 22, 2014. Involving more than 10,000 students, schools and groups compete vying for competition day, division, and state rankings and awards.IMG_0910[1]

AC’s middle school team: J.T. Coupal, James Bourtis, Danielle Fuller, Aditi Seshadri, Anjana Seshadri, Gio Marino, James Morrell, and Rotsirohawi Galban scored thirty-five out of forty  possible points, earning top honors at this year’s local competition. This score, along with their short answer responses will be sent on to the state level to be judged and considered for national recognition.

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Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade