You Never Know What Seeds are Planted During May Term

Posted on June 6th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Judy Van Alstyne ’88, Head Librarian

You never know what kinds of seeds are planted during May Term. Four years ago, Tony Tepedino and I offered a Middle School May Term called Getting Schooled the Minecraft Way. At that time, Mojang still owned Minecraft; MinecraftEDU was a separate installable modification (mod) which allowed teachers to host servers specifically for their students to engage in Minecraft activities designed for learning all kinds of concepts.

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

We had high expectations for the ten Middle School boys who signed up. They weren’t going to be students in a Minecraft activity designed by us grown-ups; they were going to have Lower School teachers as clients, designing educational activities for students in grades two, four, and five. For the second grade class, four boys (Dylan Reece, Ben Smoker, Jack Wheeler, and Garrett Wilson) designed “U.S. Landmarks” to teach about symbols of the United States. For the fourth graders, three boys (Marlin Bassett, Henry Grasman, and Cameron Perry) designed “Bomber Math” for practice in calculating area. For the fifth graders, three boys (Caden Kacprzynski, Peter Klem, and Kasi Natarajan) created “Island Adventure” to teach geometry, measurement, and economy. The boys worked hard and had fun, and when we concluded by inviting the Lower School students in, everyone had fun playing and learning. It was a success that we were sad to end.

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

But this past week, the Rumsey Library was alive again with students (this time in Upper School) busily playing and creating with Minecraft thanks to two of those former Middle School students, Caden Kacprzynski ‘20 and Cameron Perry ‘20, running a student-led May Term titled Experimenting with Architecture and Code in Minecraft: Education Edition. Now computer experts, they explained to me much that has changed in the Minecraft education world. Mojang was bought by Microsoft, which created a new product for teachers called Minecraft: Education Edition. Caden and Cameron explained how much easier it is (no need to create a local server, for example) and it has a coding curriculum already built in (in conjunction with Code.org). Learning how to code has the immediate benefit of allowing users to create more efficiently and with enhanced functions, for example, building a wall with one command rather than placing each block individually. There are also more possibilities for saving work to be shared with others in the future.

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

Caden and Cameron decided that for their May Term, they would keep the parameters somewhat loose, requiring only that students work solo or in groups to create worlds for others to play and explore, so long as they incorporated coding into each world’s creation. Each world provides challenges for players such as finding secret levers, parkour, and escape rooms. They reflected on how much noisier those ten Middle School boys were compared to this group of fifteen Upper School girls and boys. Also of note is how much more skilled older students are with group problem-solving. Although they were initially concerned that their peers might not follow their instructions or be engaged in the work, they were pleased to see everyone working very hard on their projects, even skipping breaks or parts of lunch in order to make more progress. Similar to what Mr. Tepedino and I discovered long ago, giving students autonomy to play and create keeps them very engaged!

In preparing for May Term Exhibition Night, I discovered the laminated Minecraft instructions from four years ago. While the Lower School players from the past are now in Middle School and probably don’t need them, we suspect some parents will find them very helpful! I also found the signs we had put up for each of the projects the Middle Schoolers had created. Cameron and Caden each took one as a souvenir; Caden remarked, “This is more meaningful to me than any certificate I could have gotten from a summer camp.” We are so proud that Caden and Cameron decided to share Minecraft with new learners, and we hope they are proud of themselves! And we hope you found a chance to play a little Minecraft on Exhibition Night, June 6th!

Judith Van Alstyne

Judith Van Alstyne

Judy worked as a reference librarian and children’s librarian in several public libraries in the Rochester area before coming to Allendale Columbia in 1997. At AC, she serves as Head Librarian and teaches Digital Literacy, Information Literacy, and library classes for students in nursery through first grade. Judy holds a bachelor's degree from Tufts University, a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and a Master of Library Sciences Degree from Simmons College. Judy is leaving AC after the 2018-2019 school year to complete her PhD in Education (Teaching & Curriculum) with a focus on digital literacies and online learning.
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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Eighth Grade, Eleventh Grade, Highlights, Invent, Lower School, Middle School, Ninth Grade, Seventh Grade, Sixth Grade, Tenth Grade, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

Lower School Curriculum Unveiled for 2019-2020

Posted on May 23rd, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Michelle Feiss, Head of Lower School

View the Lower School Curriculum Night slideshowThis past Tuesday evening, we unveiled Allendale Columbia’s new Lower School curriculum for the 2019-20 school year. Over the past 10 months, teachers have met in various teams to research the best programs globally in order to develop new standards for mathematics, literacy, and our project-based learning units for next year at AC. (more…)

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

Capstone Exhibition Shows Grade 8 Interdisciplinary Learning

Posted on May 17th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

8th-grade students showcased their learning at the 2019 8th Grade Exhibition Day. This was the fourth year that 8th-graders have spent their second semester immersed in an interdisciplinary capstone experience related to World War II that combined concepts from their history, English, and science courses.

The capstone experience began after reading Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, furthering the emphasis on 21st century skills such as research, collaboration, and communication versus traditional classroom learning as students prepare to transition to Upper School and the world beyond. (more…)

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Posted in: Eighth Grade, Highlights, Middle School

Seeking Scientists to Review Student Researchers at Symposium

Posted on March 29th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

By Travis Godkin, Upper School Science Teacher

If you have experience or expertise in any field that is conducting ongoing research, you can help develop Allendale Columbia’s young scientists as they present their original research.

Anjana Seshadri ’18 presents at the 2018 science symposium at St. John Fisher College.

AC offers a course in the Upper School called Science Writing and Research. In this course, some of our most experienced and talented students are asked to take their learning and apply it to original research. This opportunity of doing original research is often relegated to later years in college or graduate school, so it gives our students an early opportunity to contribute to the body of scientific knowledge in an area in which they are curious or have a passion. (more…)

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Posted in: Eleventh Grade, Highlights, PACK, Twelfth Grade, Upper School

AC Tops McQuaid (Again) in Collaborative TEAM+S Competition

Posted on March 29th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

by Elizabeth Cotter ’20

On March 9th, I was a member of a team of six Allendale Columbia students, with Riley Leibeck ’20, Mary Cotter ’22, Sasha Furdey ’19, Nate Pifer ’19, and Cassidy Draper ’19, who competed in the Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics and Science (TEAM+S) competition, claiming victory over McQuaid.

The TEAM+S competition encourages students to explore the field of engineering through problem solving and collaboration with their teammates. The theme for the competition this year was The Engineering Brain. We had to learn about cognitive neuroscience, artificial neural networks, the intersection of artificial intelligence and biology, and more. (more…)

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

AC School, Students Win Awards at Terra Regional Science Fair

Posted on March 21st, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

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…)

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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

3 Years in a Row: AC Qualifies for VEX World Championships

Posted on March 11th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

For the third year in a row, an Allendale Columbia School team of fifth-graders earned an invitation to the VEX IQ Robotics World Championships.

On Saturday, March 9th, three fifth-grade teams from AC went to the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse to compete in the VEX IQ Northern New York State Robotics Competition.  A total of 24 teams of students in 5th to 8th grade won awards at local qualifiers to get there.

The MAGMAS, (composed of Morgan Wilson, Achanti Thongjang, Gia Pellegrino, Marc Voloshin, Amora Thongjang, and Sammy Davis) won the Excellence Award, which earned them the invitation to Worlds April 28th-30th, 2019. They will be one of 400 Middle School teams collaborating and competing from such countries as the U.S., China, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Puerto Rico, Colombia, South Korea, Egypt, Mexico, United Kingdom, Philippines, Finland, Myanmar, Estonia, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, and India. (more…)

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Posted in: Authentic Learning, Centers for Impact, Fifth Grade, Highlights, Invent, Lower School

Learning in a New Light Showcased at Innovation Day

Posted on March 8th, 2019 by Allendale Columbia School

Innovation Day on March 15th is dedicated to all the new and unconventional ways students, teachers, and the AC community teach and learn, shaking things up from how it’s always been done. Anchored by a pitch competition for prospective young entrepreneurs and a science fair, the event will include interactive workshops, speakers, a gallery walk, and performances. (more…)

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Posted in: Entrepreneurship, Highlights, Invent