LS Students Wake Audience with “I’m Not Sleepy…Yet!”

Posted on February 16th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Lower School students in Grades 1-5 should rest well now, having thrilled audiences with their musical, “I’m Not Sleepy…Yet!” Last performed when this year’s seniors were in 5th grade, this home-grown story mixes popular lullabies and a theme song written by an alumnus with the background of a sleepover at school and students’ playful attempts to resist the teachers’ plans to have them get to sleep.

Students acted, sang, played instruments, and even became puppeteers for memorable songs like “Puff the Magic Dragon” and a spectacular black-light rendition of “All the Pretty Little Horses”. And what’s a sleepover without a pillow fight?

Click to open 2018 Lower School Musical Program“Sleepy” was written and directed by 5th grade teacher and Artistic Director Randy Northrup, with musical direction from music teachers Lynn Grossman and Rachael Sanguinetti and assistance from all of the Lower School faculty. The main song was composed by AC alumnus Carson Cooman ’00! A professional composer now, he is a graduate of Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University and currently serves as the Composer in Residence at the Memorial Church at Harvard.

Students also conducted a pajama drive, collecting 100 pairs of PJs that will be delivered to the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN)!

Click here for a Google Photos album with song videos and more pictures.

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Posted in: Alumni News, Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Kindergarten, Lower School, LS Birches, MS Birches, Second Grade, The Birches, Third Grade

“Sleepy” Students Start Pajama Drive

Posted on February 8th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Lower School students in grades one through five are bringing community service into their annual musical, which will take place on Thursday, February 15th, at 7:00 p.m. This year’s show, I’m Not Sleepy…Yet, tells the story of a large sleepover party in the Lower School, where the teachers try desperately to get the students to fall asleep. Needless to say, they are not terribly successful.

Students start pajama driveWe always look for opportunities for our students to develop a sense of responsibility to self and others and to engage globally and in the community around us to make a positive impact, key elements of our mission and vision statements. So, fitting with the sleepover theme, the cast and production team are excited to host a pajama drive in conjunction with the show to support the Rochester Area Interfaith Hospitality Network (RAIHN).  

The Lower School will be collecting new pajamas of any type and for any age. All pajama donations can be placed in collection boxes throughout the Lower School, in the dining commons, near the front desk, and by the Allendale entrance. Pajamas will be collected February 8th through February 15th. We will then take all the PJs collected to the RAIHN Day Center, which is the central location for the organization and for homeless families.

RAIHN serves homeless families in Rochester by organizing temporary shelters and meals all across the region and by assisting families in finding permanent homes in the Rochester area. In 2017, RAIHN served over 100 individuals including 57 children. Since all families entering the RAIHN program receive a free pair of pajamas upon their arrival, we thought Allendale Columbia students and their families could help make a positive impact on this incredibly important organization serving youth and their families. 

If you have questions, please contact Rachael Sanguinetti at rsanguinetti@allendalecolumbia.org.

Kristin Cocquyt

Rachael Sanguinetti

Rachael is in her second year teaching music at AC. A recent graduate of the Eastman School of Music with majors in Music Education and Musical Arts with a minor in Psychology and an Arts Leadership Certificate, she's working toward a masters degree at Ithaca College. She brings experience teaching kindergarten-8th grade music in Rochester, 6th-8th grade general music and choir at Burger Middle School, and 2-3 year olds as part of the Eastman Community School Early Childhood Music Program.
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Posted in: Fifth Grade, First Grade, Fourth Grade, Highlights, Lower School, LS Birches, MS Birches, Second Grade, The Birches, Third Grade, US Birches

Middle Schoolers B.R.I.C.K. for KINDness

Posted on January 24th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

by Tina Duver

Adolescence is a time where teenagers can struggle with the navigation through the rough waters of social interactions, academics, independence, and self-doubt. Here at Allendale Columbia, we are a responsive community who constantly engages our students in dialogue around topics of community and inclusivity. That dialogue in middle school has led to our participation in the KIND Schools Challenge.

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert defines happiness as “frequent positive feelings accompanied by an overall sense that one’s life has meaning.” In the Leadership and Experience Lab elective, students clued into this and spent some time discussing what it meant to be happy while being a middle school student at Allendale Columbia. They learned that psychology research has shown a very strong connection between happiness and success in the workplace for adults. Why couldn’t this apply to life as a student, and what would that look like? For our students, words such as belonging, inclusivity, connection, respect, understanding, and relationships came up repeatedly.

When the students in the Leadership and Experience Lab elective came across the KIND Schools Challenge, they sensed an opportunity to create dialogue to continue discussion and for students to truly think about inclusivity and happiness within the middle school and actually put it into action. Knowing that kindness has the power to unite school communities and undermine common issues such as bullying and harassment, Making Caring Common was created. It’s a joint project from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and The KIND Foundation who have partnered to launch the KIND Schools Challenge. Students across the country were invited to envision a project which brought kindness and inclusivity into their schools, budget for it, and have a plan to put it into action.

The Leadership elective went to work and submitted three separate projects. In the end, one project, entitled, B.R.I.C.K., caught the attention of the KIND Schools Challenge organizers and was selected as a top 10 finalist from over 200 approved applications. The concept behind B.R.I.C.K. was the fact that walls are often symbols or barriers or exclusion. For the students in the B.R.I.C.K. group (Josh Nozik, Joelle Blankenship, Sean Li, Keria Donnelly, and Chris Smoker), it meant something much more. Walls can be built to protect and to keep things in, such as along a river or to protect wildlife. B.R.I.C.K. stands for Building Respect, Inclusivity, Community, and Kindness), and their idea was for every student in our community to paint a brick that represents them. The bricks would be discussed in advisory, and students would learn more about each other and encourage a feeling of inclusivity. Then, the bricks would be assembled together in the middle school hallway to represent that every brick of a wall is important, and if one of the students were not part of a community, an empty place would be left behind, making the wall weaker.

Through the generosity of the KIND Foundation and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the project is being funded and supported to be considered for completion to be considered for the grand prize. The students have been engaged in check-in calls with Harvard and The KIND Foundation to make sure they feel supported and to answer any questions. Students are currently working on painting bricks with not only the middle school community, but staff, faculty, and Upper and Lower School students as well. In April, they will submit their impact report to the Foundation.

Kristin Cocquyt

Tina Duver

At Allendale Columbia, Tina serves as the Head of Middle School. She has taught Science and Leadership at AC for over 15 years. Tina earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Sciences with a concentration in Environmental Science from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She brings her natural curiosity, energy, and excitement to education. Tina is also a die-hard Red Sox fan.
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Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, LS Birches, Middle School, MS Birches, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, The Birches, US Birches

AC Middle Schoolers Help Nicaraguans With Bikes for School

Posted on January 4th, 2018 by Allendale Columbia School

Allendale Columbia has deepened its global impact in Nicaragua by initiating a relationship with the 2 Wheels Bike Project. The project’s founder, Alejandro Solano, believes that every child should have the chance for an education to help them break out of the cycle of poverty. Therefore, he provides bikes to children in need to help them get to school and assist their families with daily life.

AC middle schooler Keira Donnelly led the initiative to sell hand-made Nicaraguan bracelets to students in order to support the project. Due to her efforts and the generosity of the Middle School students, AC raised and donated $100 to the project. This means that two young children in El Sauce, Nicaragua, won’t have to walk over an hour to school any more. They will be able to use their new bikes to arrive safely and quickly to school.

This partnership will come full circle in May when a group of AC students will go to El Sauce to build two homes for families in need and visit a rural school. While experiencing this, our students will see how much of an impact they have made with their humble donation of two bikes.

We hope to make this an annual tradition. If you would like to support this initiative, please visit www.2wheelsproject.org.

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Posted in: Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Global Engagement, Highlights, Kid Kudos, Middle School, MS Birches, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, The Birches

Madagascar: An Island filled with Biodiversity and Wonder

Posted on July 14th, 2015 by bguzzetta

Most people think of lemurs when they think about Madagascar. After all, who doesn’t love those cute little furry primates? It is true that lemurs are a huge part of Madagascar’s past and present, and hopefully they will remain around to be part of its future as well. However, lemurs are only a small part of the amazing flora and fauna that is endemic to Madagascar and in danger of becoming extinct without intervention.

When I first met Professor Patricia Wright while presenting at the 2014 National Science Teacher’s Association National Conference in Boston, I became more intrigued by Madagascar’s culture and history. We spoke about the struggles that the Malagasy people have to provide for themselves with their limited resources and how this impacts the many animals and plants that share this marvelous country with them. Pat’s work has been key in preserving the rainforests, educating the people about conservation and hygiene, providing them with medical support, and helping them financially by providing them with jobs. She brings college students to her facility in Ranomafana National Park during exchange programs each year, but not younger students. Being globally-minded educators, our heads started to spin with possibilities and my plans for a visit took shape.

On June 8th, I departed Toronto for a journey halfway across the globe to a world that one usually only dreams about. My plane landed in the dark the evening of June 9th at Ivato International Airport, which is just outside the capital city of Antananarivo. I was instantly reminded of the slash and burn technique that is all too common in Madagascar as the smell of smoke was stronger than the lights on the runway. The crowd of people present at the only counter inside the international airport also reinforced the fact that I was in a third world country. The drive to the hotel was filled with new sites: narrow winding roads running up and down the city’s mountainous terrain being shared with carts piled high with goods and being pulled and/or pushed by either the owners or cattle. There were buildings upon buildings but few lights, except those lighting up the large USA Embassy building. When we reached the door to the hotel, I was a bit intrigued as it looked nothing like the photographs on their website. However, once you pass by the security guard and through the door, it is apparent that this is a hidden oasis filled with modern amenities and safety.

As I rode through town and up to the Queen’s Palace the following morning, I noticed an abundance of national flags hung on the buildings and being sold throughout the city. Madagascar’s Independence Day was quickly approaching so everyone was decorating with flags to show their support. The Queen’s Palace sat at the highest point in Antananarivo, so the view was amazing. The palace holds so much history: political struggles, death and imprisonment, and cultural transitions. It was here that I truly began to understand the complex history of this island country.

A bright and early start to the day was essential as I began the drive south from Antananarivo to Ranomafana. As I reached the outskirts of the capital, I noticed rice paddies popping up all over. Rice is an important staple to the people of Madagascar and is served with every meal. The densely populated city gave way to narrow roads between small roadside villages and larger towns interspersed with rice paddies, carts, brick structures, children, chicken, zebu, roadside stands, and an occasional market filled with goods and people from nearby towns. It was amazing to see the difference in towns and houses. Some villages consisted of small one or two room houses while others contained multistory houses and buildings. Occasionally a fire could be seen in the distant forest, usually a burning eucalyptus tree being turned into coal to fuel the stoves so meals could be prepared. Rivers were often filled with people washing their clothes that they would then spread along the banks to dry. The children were abundant: smiling and waving to the foreigners as we drove by.

As the clay banks gave way to more greenery, the rainforest appeared. It was beautiful! The mountains were once again filled with many species of huge trees along with plants and animals that are only seen in Madagascar. On the edge of Ranomafana National Park stands the research facility named Centre ValBio (CVB). It is a huge state of the art facility whose mission is to protect the unique biodiversity in Madagascar through projects and education of the local people. The facility is constantly teaming with researchers from around the world working alongside Malagasy people who know about their land but are also learning about the importance that it holds in the world. Centre ValBio employs many local people who act as educators, liaisons, cooks, administrators, and in other roles to make the facility a destination for scientists and students from around the globe. CVB contains labs, dorm rooms, research areas, conference rooms, work areas, a dining hall, and modern facilities with clean filtered and purified water, hot showers, and three warm meals a day.

Centre ValBio Dorm

Centre ValBio Dorm

While at CVB, I met many scientists conducting research. Herman Nambinintsoa Parfait Rafalinirina, a researcher from the University of Antananarivo, has been studying mouse lemurs in Ranomafana. One night I was able to watch as he took measurements and data from a newly trapped juvenile male mouse lemur that I named Michael before inserting a microchip and releasing him. Peter Houlihan, an assistant professor from the University of Florida in Gainesville, had a very large lab station on the roof where he was collecting moths to research the important role moth pollination has to the survival of wild orchids in Madagascar. Katie Guzzetta, a researcher from Hamilton College, is in Ranomafana studying Milne Edward’s Sifaka Lemur social interactions between males and females as well as colleting RNA samples to look at genetics between groups. Many other student researchers were using CVB as a home base while they went out and gathered data and samples with topics ranging from infectious diseases to the production of children’s conservation movies by a leading Madagascar movie producer and illustrator. Needless to say, there was a lot going on and everyone was eager to share their research with me.

I spent many days in the rainforest with various Malagasy guides. Dina was always with me along with either Theo or Stefan. It was great learning from the local guides as they could speak about the history of the park and the changes that have occurred in their lifetimes. They spoke about the beliefs of the Tanala people and taught me some of the useful phrases, which differ between the eighteen tribes in Madagascar. I was always amazed at how they could find the smallest or most camouflaged animals hiding in the forest. There are about 100 species of lemurs in Madagascar, and I saw six of the twelve species of lemurs that exist in Ranomafana including Milne-Edward’s Sifaka, Greater Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, Mouse, Dwarf, and Brown Bellied lemurs. In addition to these unique primates, I saw some amazing geckos, chameleons, moths, insects, frogs, eucalyptus trees, giant fern, and other flora and fauna. I was able to follow some of the researchers and learn about the ways that they collect data during their observation times and about the research that they are conducting. One of the fun facts that I learned from Professor John Cradle during one of my education lectures is that there are around 300 reptile species in Madagascar with 90% endemic to Madagascar.

Ranomafana was teeming with so many different animals with all different behavior patterns. One night I was able to take a night hike with a couple of my guides. We found tiny chameleons hanging in the trees, stick insects walking along a plant, moth larvae eating leaves, really large chameleons hanging out, and mouse lemurs enjoying bananas. One day I woke up as the sun was rising to go on an early morning bird hike with Dr. Jean Claude Razafimahaimodison, a professor from Fainarantsoa who received his doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and some of his colleagues. We saw many species of birds unique to Madagascar as well as the brown bellied lemur.

CVB is on the top of a long winding road that leads downwards past a few small villages, a school, and enters the village of Ranomafana. The village has a couple of hotels, local goods produced by women in the village, an educational center sponsored by CVB, shops and houses, a small hospital, a soccer field, and a thermal spa. Like many of the villages, one day a week is set aside for the market. People travel from many surrounding villages to set up their stands or purchase goods being sold. You can buy a wide array of goods: clothing, handmade crafts, produce, live animals, and much more. It is a great place to mingle with the locals and buy some great souvenirs. Dr. Jean Claude Razafimahaimodison was kind enough to bring me to the market to explore the excitement of the day’s activities.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Primary Ambat Olahy School, which is just down the road from CVB, with Florant, a CVB education liaison who teaches hygiene and conservation, and Laza, another CVB school liaison with a degree in marine biology. This five-room school educates about 180 students from two local villages. The rooms are very basic with wooden floors, tables, openings for windows, a chalkboard, and a dirt courtyard for recess. Some students travel up or down the hills by foot for over an hour each day to get to school. The students are very proud of the garden that they planted and maintain behind their school. This is part of their reforestation project, which teaches the students about conservation and preservation. Every student was curious about America and wanted to know what it was like. I wish I had pictures to share with them as they were very inquisitive. Later in the week I was able to visit the children’s seedling area in the village of Ambatolahy, just up the road from the school. The excitement of the children was overwhelming as they teamed up to receive their saplings. Together about 100 children and I walked up to the edge of the rainforest, climbed the hill, and planted 38 trees.

In the middle of my visit, I took a road trip west to Anja Reserve to see the ring tailed lemurs. My journey reminded me of the diversity of the villages as we once again traveled through a large town and passed many small villages. The children were everywhere, and they were very happy as they waved to me when I went by. We passed the grape vineyards and finally reached Anja. The ring tailed lemurs were a fun bunch, bouncing from tree to tree. There were so many of them that you did not have to venture far before they found you. The landscape of this area was so different from Ranomafana. There were huge rock boulders and mountains cropping up all over. The vegetation was more desert like with cactus style plants all around. Many types of chameleons were out on the branches, making them easily accessible to curious handlers.

After leaving Anja, we headed east towards Ranomafana. We could not resist stopping for lunch at the paper factory. The food was delicious, but the tour of the factory was the best part of the stop. At the small factory, the workers grow everything they need to make beautiful paper by hand. They use primitive tools to grind the wood to pulp, strain it, and inlay petals and bark to make amazing paper and other products, which were sold in their gift shop.

Paper Factory

Paper Factory

Ambodiaviavy was a remote village and I had to walk through rice paddies, over primitive little bridge constructions, and up a very long clay road to reach it. Laza and Santatra, who is the CVB village liaison with a law degree, came with me on this journey. I could tell that we were getting close to the village when I began hearing children yelling from the woods to their friends in the village. Upon entering the village we had to go straight to the king’s house to ask for permission to interact with the village people. We entered the two-room house of the king and sat on small wooden stools as he and the village chief spoke with Santatra. We asked permission and had to drink moonshine to toast the spirits of the ancestors in order to gain access. Once accepted we were made cassava roots and coffee to feast on, which was an interesting experience. They boil sugarcane then use that water to make the sweet coffee. We then had a special show by the local musicians and performers who played songs on their homemade instruments, sang, and danced traditional dances. Everyone in the village came to see us, and every child wanted to have their picture taken. There were a lot of children. It was quite the party! On our way out we met with the village natural healer to learn about his methods of treating the people with the plants that they grow in the garden.

During my final days, I traveled back to Antananarivo then east to Andisabe. It was amazing to see the larger houses and nice countryside. My driver, Dave, explained that it is due to the road being the major way that imports and exports travel to the main port of Toamasina on the east coast. The drive brought us through beautiful parks along meandering creeks to Feon Ny Ala, a small hotel consisting of cute bungalows. Our driver quickly found a guide and arranged for us to go on a night hike after dinner. During the hike we saw many types of chameleons, Wooly Lemurs, Mouse Lemurs, and Brown Lemurs. We woke to the songs of the largest lemur: the Indri. It was an interesting sound that carries for about two kilometers. This is the reason that our hotel is named Feon Ny Ala, as it means songs of the forest in Malagasy. We spent some time getting into the forest to see these amazing animals. We walked for a while in search of the Indri and they were well worth the hike. They sat very close to us and started to call to each other. The forest quickly filled with the songs of the Indri. It was amazing! Once we had heard enough, we made our way to another area of the forest and found the Golden Sifaka Lemurs. They were a beautiful golden color and very curious. They jumped from tree to tree next to us as we watched in awe. We walked back towards the entrance and saw Brown Lemurs, Eastern Bamboo Lemurs, and many other unique animals and plants. On the way back to Antananarivo to catch the flight back, I stopped at the Reserve Peyrieras Madagascar Exotica in Marozevo. This was a great stop as the park contained many species of reptiles, amphibians, insects, lemurs, and plants. The animals were all very friendly and seemed to enjoy being held, which made for nice photo opportunities.

From the unique culture and tribal customs to the many endemic species of plants and animals to the amazing geography, this country has what it takes to attract people of all interests. The people are very friendly and love to share their stories and learn about different countries. The many researchers at CVB are eager to share their research with visitors. My two weeks in Madagascar were amazing, and I can’t wait to share this wonderful country with others.

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Posted in: Highlights

AC Tenth Graders Volunteer at Sojourner House

Posted on December 21st, 2014 by klapa

Recently, several AC tenth graders ran a variety of activities for kids at a holiday party for Sojourner House families.

This activity comes out of the service projects that all tenth graders have been working on during their collaborative blocks on Mondays. One of the groups was interested in working with children, so they made the initial connection with Sojourner House, met with someone from the organization, and planned the party. Throughout, this has been a student-driven project, providing an authentic opportunity for students to demonstrate leadership while helping others.

This group also partnered with the Community Service Group to coordinate a wish list project, through which Upper School students “sponsored” Sojourner House families by purchasing gifts for them.

Great job, students!

Sojourner House

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Posted in: Highlights, Tenth Grade, Upper School