Is Your Child Starting From Behind? Why Others Look to AC for Early STEM Education

Posted on October 26th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia 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.

STEM-based education is a very new notion in Belarus, an Eastern European country bordered by Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Young people have limited access to STEM-based education due to lack of resources and trained teachers. The goal of this visit was to introduce Belarusian professionals to innovative practices of promoting and implementing STEM-based education programs for school-age children in the United States.

Even in the U.S., it’s estimated that 2.4 million STEM jobs are going unfilled. According to Pew Research, one of the biggest cross-national tests, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), placed the U.S. 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science, and out of the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science. In addition, 78% of high school graduates don’t meet benchmark readiness in math, science, or English. Also of concern is the disproportionately small number of girls/women and minorities in STEM fields.

The solution, according to the Smithsonian Science Education Center, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and many industry experts, is to begin STEM education at an earlier age. In that, AC is a known leader.

AC Lower School Director of STEM Sue Sorrentino and Lead STEM Teacher Donna Chaback, who have hosted dozens of these types of visits for U.S. and foreign schools, began with an overview of the Lower School program, which begins with basic concepts of navigation using colorful and friendly-looking Bee-Bots in Kindergarten (even Nursery and Pre-kindergarten students are introduced to them in the second half of the school year). They demonstrated a full progression of increasingly advanced concepts and, very importantly, hands-on, team-based problem-solving experiences with a variety of robotics systems, based on the students’ developmental stage through to fifth grade.

“We believe firmly in a bottom-up approach, starting at an early age with age-appropriate experiences,” said Sorrentino. “Children are naturally curious problem-solvers. We teach twenty-first century skills that they can build on, like innovation and collaboration. Students who go through our program are able to tackle much more complex problems when they get to Middle and Upper School.”

Eyes lit up as the delegates heard what young learners were able to do. Their questions ranged from structural issues like the amount of time students spend in STEM education to questions about the progression of programming and how learning is evaluated.

Maya Crosby, the Director of AC’s Invent Center for STEM and Innovation, and Kate Western, Interim Director of the AC Center for Global Engagement, then introduced the visitors to a panel of Middle School and Upper School students. The delegates wanted to know more about how these student’s experience in early STEM education helped them solve engineering problems. Next, the delegates visited with a Middle School physical science class doing a lab on mineral identification. These students were able to demonstrate how the focus of STEM education at Allendale Columbia School is on the “how” of science. Teacher Teresa Parsons explained to the delegates that the goal of the lab was on developing the skills used, not on memorization of content. Finally, the delegates toured the Middle School and the Upper School robotics design and building rooms to see the current space exploration themed challenges students are working on in their FIRST Robotics competition teams.

At the conclusion of their visit, Head of School Mick Gee talked about how Allendale Columbia prioritizes “can-do” versus “must-do”. “Instead of teaching more and more curriculum, we have to be intentional about providing opportunities throughout the curriculum for students to do their own projects, do their own research. We want to give students opportunities to be a scientist, to be an engineer, not just learn about science and engineering.”

Our local partner, Rochester Global Connections, provided some reactions from the group. Two of the delegates mentioned that AC is what they would like their schools to look like in the near future. Another delegate expressed how extremely impressed they were with Sue’s and Donna’s presentation. “The work they are doing is innovative and incredible, and the concepts discussed will be truly useful in helping to structure our own curriculum with children.” During the last action planning session, about half of the group highlighted AC as the best site visit they had throughout the Rochester portion of the program. They were thrilled to have the opportunity to observe a robotics activity and interact with the kids in a classroom setting.

A strong partner with the AC Center for Global Engagement, Rochester Global Connections, helped facilitate the Rochester portion of their tour. Rochester Global Connections is a non-profit organization that works with the U.S. Department of State, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and U.S. embassies abroad as a liaison between international visitors and their Rochester-area counterparts. The tour was sponsored by the Community Connections Program of USAID, and was funded through USAID’S Bureau of Education Growth and Trade (EGAT)/Office of Education. The broad public diplomacy goal of the Community Connections Program is to contribute to economic and democratic reform and to promote mutual understanding through exposure to U.S. society and personal connections with Americans and participant countries.

Photos by Zhanna Ivanova from Rochester Global Connections and John Palomaki.

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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

School Scientists Document Campus Invaders

Posted on October 26th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia 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!

Kristin Cocquyt

Elizabeth Guzzetta

Beth, 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.
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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Upper School

AC is Abuzz in Activity

Posted on September 28th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

By Beth Guzzetta

Fall has arrived and with it the scent of apple pies and pumpkin spice lattes. However, the apples and pumpkins that we are craving were not self-reliant during their early months of formation. No, not at all! In order to pollinate, they relied heavily on the numerous insects that started buzzing around actively in the spring. Allendale Columbia School students, too, began buzzing in activities to support the bees and, in the process, learn about life cycles, environmental impacts, and bees’ role in our food systems.

During that spring, flowers were blossoming, and you were probably thinking, “Go away you irritating bug; I want to enjoy the beautiful flowers.” But you probably were not thinking about the fact that those irritating insects were spreading pollen so the flowers can continue with their life cycle. Without those marvelous yet occasionally annoying creatures, we wouldn’t have as many delicious fresh fruits and vegetables at our AC lunches. The salivating scents of apple delicacies certainly would not have become as abundant or a tradition that we so look forward to as the leaves begin to change colors.

If you’re still reading and have not left to find a warm piece of apple pie yet, I’d like to tell you about an amazing project that I started at AC during The Buds and The Bees May Term class last spring due to the gracious donation and support of the Pinkowski family. For one and a half weeks, Middle and Upper School students joined together to create an apiary on campus for everyone to enjoy.

Students split into areas of interest during this time, working to develop the foundation of this project. They had much to accomplish in a short period of time, but their high motivation and interested was like a continuously fueled fire that kept them energized and engaged. Prior to the actual start of May Term, students had to prepare the hive by weatherproofing it with many layers of polyurethane and/or tung oil.

Once May Term began, students worked diligently with Gabe Costanzo to prepare the school garden by weeding a plot of land and choosing flowers that honeybees prefer. They visited Lucas Greenhouses to gather more information from the very friendly botanists and to pick out their chosen flowers that Lucas Greenhouses generously donated. They planted their flowers in the prepared plot.

Other students created a sturdy stand to hold the hive and keep it from tilting or falling over, especially during periods of high winds. They designed, sawed, drilled, and assembled the stand, and then leveled an area and set pavers for the stand to rest on. Other students needed to “seed” the bars and tack down the bars in the hive boxes so the honey bees would quickly start building honeycomb across them. Another group researched aspects of honey bees and honey, then wrote a book that even included some recipes that contain honey. Once the garden and hive were ready, we introduced our honeybees.

We purchased our bees from Wolf Creek Farms in Tennessee because they have very healthy and docile honeybees that are a mix of Russian, Italian, and Carniolin genetics and have never been treated with chemicals. Michael VanEdwards, a local beekeeper who is educating me as I teach my students about beekeeping, picked up our six pounds of bees and drove them to AC so that they arrived healthy, happy, and hungry. With his help, the students introduced the thousands of bees to their new home. Needless to say, they stuck around due to the yummy homemade nectar that included amino acids and essential oil that we fed them in the first few days, making honeycomb right from the start.

Through the summer and fall, Michael, AC students, and I have been checking on the hive and all of its activity, especially for mites and beetles that can be devastating to honeybee colonies. Luckily the hive is healthy and happy! Naturally, the bees swarmed a bit late and stole some of the honey, so the students began a feeding schedule in September to boost the bees’ honey production so they are able to maintain their colony through the cold winter months that are quickly arriving. Students have been actively learning about their colony and honey bees in general and visiting the hive daily in full beekeeper regalia. They have also been monitoring our swarm in the hope that they too survive the winter and possible come back to a second hive that we plan on installing in the spring.

In the fall and winter, the Middle School students will continue their honeybee research in Seventh Grade Science and Sixth and Eighth Grade Math. They will install BroodMinder bluetooth connected monitors that will allow them to monitor the hive weight and temperature so they can measure their hive’s health and share their data with other beekeepers. Data analysis on our hive, as well as the data entered by other beekeepers nationwide, will help them stay connected and engaged with the dynamics of their honeybee activity. They will also team up with Lower School students to teach them about the honeybees, possibly collaborating cross-divisionally to write the first AC Honeybee book.

Through their involvement this project, students are connecting more with nature and beginning to notice and wonder about other types of beneficial insects that abound in nature. They are paying closer attention to other environmental phenomena, such as weather patterns, plant life cycles, chemicals such as pesticides and their impact on honey bees and other pollinators, food sources, and so much more. Through this increased awareness and engagement, they are being transformed and inspired to make positive sustainable life changes. They are inspiring others to do the same by acting as nature’s stewards.

So if you see a group of large walking marshmallows on campus, stop and say hello and ask them about the sweet work that they are doing. I am sure that they would be happy to engage with you and educate you about their flying community members that live across the creek.

 

Kristin Cocquyt

Elizabeth Guzzetta

Beth, 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.
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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade

Discovery, Collaboration, and Community in the 2018 May Term

Posted on June 1st, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Every year at the end of the spring semester, Middle and Upper School students at Allendale Columbia complete their usual curriculum and begin May Term. May Term exists to provide educational opportunities outside of the normal structures of the school year to support intellectual discovery, encourage collaboration, and foster community involvement.

Here are some May Term highlights so far this year:

  • Students learned about honey bees, built a beehive, planted flora that bees love, and installed a starter colony of bees at the school garden in the “Buds and Bees” course led by Mrs. Guzzetta and Mr. Costanzo. Students will continue to monitor the hive and harvest honey in the fall.
  • A panel of judges from the AC Kitchen and maintenance evaluated student culinary creations in a Master Chef-type competition, with students presenting the science behind the creation of those food items in the “Science of Cooking” course led by Ms. Crosby and senior Gio Martino.
  • In “Human Impacts on the Environment”, AC students worked with students from the World of Inquiry School 58 at a Water Quality Summit in Rochester to understand the Genesee River ecosystem, which was featured on WROC and WXXI. Mrs. Lisi and Mr. Godkin led this session.
  • In “Life Underwater”, students explored the flora and fauna in Corbett’s Glen with Mrs. Guzzetta.
         
  • Students visited the Women’s Rights Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls as part of “Nevertheless, She Persisted” (above) with Mr. Neeley

Other topics included:

  • Positive Psychology
  • The Great Outdoors
  • Console Wars: The History of Video Gaming
  • Be Here Now: Mindfulness as a Practice
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What would Susan and Frederick Think? The Legacy of Rochester’s Agitators
  • Muse: Making a Magazine
  • Bilingual Theatre
  • Building, flying and using drones for media production
  • Nicaragua
  • Music with Kids
  • Confidence & Courage: Dare to Show Up, Be Seen, & Be Brave
  • Wheelin’ Through Rochester’s History
  • Stigma and Mental Health: Issues and Interventions
  • Ornithology Science and Art
  • Ableism
  • Exhibition Night Planning
  • Grow Your Own Food
  • Social Impact Filmmaking
  • Day Trading and Cryptocurrency Lab
  • Making Community Service a Way of Life
  • 2019 College Workshop
  • The AC Genome Project
  • Innocence and Guilt: Learning about the Law

We’ll have additional updates as May Term progresses. Everyone is also welcome to participate in an interactive May Term Exhibition Night where students will discuss their projects on Thursday, May 7th from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

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

AC CodeX Club Teams Compete at Lockheed-Martin Code Quest

Posted on April 27th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

by Elizabeth “Liza” Cotter ’20

On Saturday April 21st, six Allendale Columbia Upper School CodeX club members traveled to sunny Owego, NY, to compete in the 6th Annual Lockheed Martin Code Quest competition.  Code Quest is a 2.5 hour computer programming event where teams of up to three students are challenged to solve a collection of 15-20 questions.

Here’s a question from the 2017 competition:

The home keys on a keyboard are imperative to quick typing if you are a touch typist, but what if you are off just one key? Imagine you accidentally placed your left index finger at D instead of F and your right index finger at H instead of J. 

Translate the following messages as if you were retyping it with the wrong home key finger placement.

Example:
Hickory dickory dock    Guxjiet suxjiet sixjm

(If you find problems like this interesting, ask Mrs. Crosby or me for more information about Code Quest and other programming competitions!)

The day started with the competition, which included some difficult problems that required teamwork, persistence, and attention to detail. The most significant item I learned that day was the importance of asking a well-thought-out question when clarification is needed.

We also went on a great tour of the Lockheed Martin plant, including an up-close look at US Navy Seahawk helicopters. While inside the hangar, we learned about the stages of production that each helicopter goes through. The best part was standing in the soundproof chamber of the hangar. We all got to ask questions about the helicopters and about Lockheed Martin and have a closer look at a possible future career path!

AC’s “hACkers” Aditi Seshadri ’18, Anjana Seshadri ’18, and Liza Cotter ’20 competed in the “Advanced” Division. AC’s “Aces” Luke Dioguardi ’20, Matt Duver ’20, and Cameron Perry ’20 competed in the “Novice” category where they won 3rd place and an excellent trophy to add to the AC STEM trophy case!  Even though all six of us are members of the CodeX club, we were all relatively new to programming competitions. This made the competition all the more challenging, and a little scary, but everyone agreed that it was a fun event and that we should return next year.

 

Kristin Cocquyt

Elizabeth Cotter

Liza is a sophomore at Allendale Columbia School. She enjoys being on the Cross Country, Swimming, and Track teams at AC, as well as participating on the Robotics team, Math team, and TEAMS (engineering) team. She spends her (minimal) free time cooking, petting her cats, and watching Emma Chamberlain videos with her sister Mary.
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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Invent, MS Birches, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, The Birches, Twelfth Grade, Uncategorized, Upper School, US Birches

AC Teams Take 1st Place in TEAM+S Competition

Posted on March 23rd, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

by Danielle Fuller, Aditi Seshadri, and Anjana Seshadri

A total of 17 students from Allendale competed in the annual TEAM+S (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science) competition on March 3rd. The 9/10 team and the senior 11/12 team both won first place at this regional competition. For the senior 11/12 team, this win was particularly significant because they toppled 3-year champion McQuaid. (more…)

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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Invent, Ninth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Uncategorized, Upper School

Student Scientists Explore Caves (Not Quite Live)

Posted on March 16th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

by Teresa Parsons

Did you know that 175 minerals are found in limestone caves? Did you know a troglobite in an animal that spends its entire life in a cave? Most troglobites lack pigmentation and have small or no eyes at all! These are just some of the things Mrs. Guzzetta’s 7th grade life science and my 6th grade earth science class learned together by participating in CavesLIVE.

CavesLIVE is a distance learning program made possible through many partnerships, including the National Forest Service, the USDA, and the National Parks Service. Students watched a 40 minute video allowing them to virtually visit different caves and learn from many different types of scientists the importance of caves. After, students were able to submit questions to a panel of scientists.

On Wednesday, March 14th, a panel of scientists presented a live webinar from Luray Caverns in Virginia to answer student questions. Some 6th grade students were able to join me during lunch, hoping to hear their questions answered. Risa Carlson, an archaeologist, answered Owen Palomaki’s question “What is the coolest part of a cave you explored?” with this response: 

“Many years ago I was called into a cave because two beautiful stone tools had been found on the floor of the cave passage. When I paused to set my light down on a ledge, I saw small pieces of charcoal right where I was going to put MY light. I realized that people long before me had chosethe same spot to rest their light while they explored the cave. I radiocarbon dated the charcoal and it was 3,300 years old!”

Students learned how important caves are in providing fresh drinking water, and that astrobiologists use cave environments to help understand how humans might one day visit Mars.

Kristin Cocquyt

Teresa Parsons

Teresa joined the Allendale Columbia team as a Middle School STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) teacher after spending 15 years in the engineering industry. She was a product engineer, then she transitioned into marketing and business development. As a business development manager, she created and provided product training, and it was in that role that she discovered her passion for teaching. Teresa earned a Master of Science Degree in Education from Nazareth College, and also holds two bachelor's degrees in Interdisciplinary Engineering/Management from Clarkson University and in Physics from the State University of New York College at Geneseo.
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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Highlights, Invent, Middle School, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade

Kindergarteners Present MLK, Oceans at Performance and Art Show

Posted on January 25th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School
Kindergarten students put on a small Ocean Performance and Art Show on Thursday, Januaary 25th. In the Curtis Performance Center, the children sang some ocean songs they were taught in music class with Lynn Grossman. They also sang a few songs inspired by their study of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that they were taught by their Kindergarten teachers Amy Mealey and Barbie King, including a recitation of a portion of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the song “We Shall Overcome” with sign language (see the video below). Then the children took their parents on an ocean scavenger hunt to find all their wonderful ocean creature art projects from their Ocean Adventure Project Based Learning unit.
Kindergarten MLK/Oceans Collage
Additional photos and videos are available in this Google Photos Album.
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Posted in: Kindergarten, Lower School, LS Birches, The Birches