Slow Food Names Sylvia Channing Master Farmer

Sylvia The Slow Food organization’s Education Committee has named Ross alum Sylvia Channing ’10 as the Master Farmer for Suffolk County schools. In this new role, Sylvia will help local schools, including Ross, Springs School, East Hampton High School, John Marshall Elementary School, Child Development Center of the Hamptons, and Montauk High School, grow their edible gardens.

Sylvia, a graduate of Oberlin College, was instrumental in getting the Spiral garden at the Upper School off the ground when she was a student at Ross, raising funds with a group of students to secure the resources necessary to establish the first student-run garden on the East End. She has remained key to the Spiral Garden’s success, currently serving as head gardener and working with students four days per week in an after-school program where they handle the planting, cultivation, and maintenance of the garden. Sylvia also manages the Summer Camp @Ross garden program.

Currently, the fruits of the garden are served in the Ross Café; recently, the harvest has included Swiss chard and cherry tomatoes. Sylvia has big plans to expand the edible garden, and she expects to establish a greenhouse later this fall. Students will raise the money for materials through a dress-down day.

Sylvia says working with the students has been personally rewarding. “It’s very important for every young person to be exposed to growing things to gain a firsthand experience with issues of sustainability,” she said. “We’re very lucky to live in a in a place with amazing resources.”

Part of the focus of the after-school program is to make the garden more accessible to staff and students, and to transform it into a place of meditation and relaxation. “The garden is such a beautiful and peaceful place,” explained Sylvia, “and we hope to continue to develop it into a tranquil destination by adding benches and eventually a stage for student performances.”

Other ideas that Sylvia is discussing with the students and fellow alumni is planting a native garden to grow traditional medicines. She is currently gathering resources and would appreciate support in gathering the items on her wish list, found below. Those who are willing to donate can contact her at sylviachanning@gmail.com.

Spiral Garden Wish List

1. Wood chips for the Spiral Path and seating area by the picnic tables. 2. Compost, potting soil. 3. Planters, pots, trays, harvesting buckets, bins. 4. Hand trowels, watering cans, garden gloves, a small manual lawn mower. 5. Trellises, plant climbing hoops, bird feeder, bird baths, sculptures. 6. Plants: perennials, herbs, fruit bushes and trees, butterfly bush, ferns, concord grapes, roses, wisteria. 7. Art supplies: pens, pencils, paintbrushes, watercolors, paper, easels. 8. Funding for a spigot in the garden. 9. Deer fencing. 10. Rain barrel.

Ross School Café Grand Reopening

0246_080914_dh The Café is once again serving up delicious meals and smiles at Ross School, after a weeklong closure for repairs and upgrades. On March 1, the kitchen at the Upper School sustained water damage after a malfunction in the heating system caused a sprinkler to burst. Thanks to Liz Dobbs, Ross’s chef de cuisine, and her team, students and staff did not go hungry.

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From March 3–7, 300 daily lunches at both the Upper and Lower Schools were catered by local restaurants and markets including American Pie, Cromer’s, Chen’s Garden, Fierro’s and Luigi’s. Student residences were stocked with breakfast supplies, and dinner was provided on campus and out on the town in East Hampton.

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Liz said it was a challenge to secure such a large number of healthy meals by 11am each day, but she was satisfied with the outcome. “The most important thing was to maintain the stellar quality of the food that is expected at Ross.” Asked if it was as tasty as the Café cuisine, she replied with a smile, “It was close.”

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Tom Szajkowski, director of Facilities at Ross School, managed the repairs within the tight time frame. Work included a new ceiling, heating and cooling system, fire safety sprinklers, lighting, and replacement of a small section of the hardwood floor. Tom’s team also used the opportunity to install a new pastry oven, paint, and move equipment around for a better use of floor space.

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“We considered environmental and safety issues and worked closely with the East Hampton fire marshal and representatives from the Department of Health to ensure the repairs were up to code and Ross School standards. We are all satisfied with the results,” Tom said.

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During the closure, the Café team spent time at the Lower School with the students and staff and gathered some good ideas for improving the meal service on the LS campus.

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With M-Term coming to a close, the Café is heading into their busy season and will once again provide 1,100 daily meals, as well as prepare for major spring events including the Live @Club Starlight benefit and graduation.

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Liz summed up the Café and Facilities staff’s attitude through the closure: “Resilience. We managed through it, and the Café experience for everyone will be better than ever.”

Ross School Celebrates Valentine’s Day

DSC_2500 Ross School celebrated Valentine’s Day on February 14 with acts of kindness and sharing, community service, arts and crafts projects, and delicious treats.

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At the Lower School, in-class celebrations took place in every grade. Pre-Nursery and Nursery students enjoyed the sweets and balloon decorations supplied by class parents while they made giant Valentines and cards for their friends and family. “We are especially grateful to Genie Egerton-Warburton, Catherine Lignelli and Victoria Stokes for helping us with the Pre-N and Nursery celebration,” said Pre-N teacher Laura Engel.

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Nicole Magro’s first graders celebrated Valentine's Day with a book exchange. Each child chose a book from their book shelf at home for another student in class. They wrote a note telling their friend why they chose to give them a particular book. “They loved it! Their faces lit up with excitement as they opened their books,” Nicole said. Shannon Timoney's second graders made salt dough heart necklaces for a special someone in their class. Each student made a necklace for another friend and wrote them a kind note.

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Third graders made valentines for the Southampton Town Senior Center, and the fourth grade completed their moon journals with special poems.

The fifth grade prepped for a service learning project by watching a video about the Yaowawit School, a home founded for children orphaned by the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, and the sixth grade made cards to send to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

At the Upper School, students, faculty, and staff exchanged candy, cards and fun. Teacher Carrie Clark’s Entrepreneurship class organized special flower deliveries to spread feelings of love and friendship, as well as to raise money for future school projects.

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“Collecting, tagging and prepping the flowers during our recent snowstorm was a fun challenge, but with Cupid’s help, we provided an uplifting service to the community,” Carrie said.

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The Café staff also served up holiday fun with inspirational quotes and heart-shaped cookies.

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Sixth Grade Preps for Next Year at Upper School

DSC_1154 The class of 2020 visited the Upper School on February 7 to get a firsthand look at the classroom and campus life they will experience next year as Ross School seventh graders.

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At the Center for Well-Being, the students were greeted by Kathy Lattari, associate director of Admissions, where they picked up their photo ID badges as a few curious upper classmen looked on. Then it was off to meet World Languages and Literature teacher Carol Crane, who teamed each student with a seventh grade buddy and encouraged all students to participate during a Cultural History lesson about the Etruscans. “It was great to see the sixth grade make connections to their own curriculum,” Carol said.

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The sixth graders shadowed their buddies throughout the morning and also attended an eighth grade art lesson with Visual Arts professor Jon Mulhern. “Their initial anxiety was easily replaced with excitement once they met their buddies and became part of Upper School community,” said sixth grade teacher Deborah Minutello-Bartlett.

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While the buddy teams shared stories over lunch in the Café, Patty Lein, head of Upper School and director of Academics, hosted and Information Reception for sixth grade parents and presented an overview of the seventh grade curriculum. “It was wonderful to see all the rising grade seven students and their parents and share the details of the Upper School program with the families,” Patty said.

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After the sixth graders returned to Lower School, the parents had an opportunity to take a tour of the campus and facilities and talk to several seniors about their experiences at Ross and plans for the future.

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“Overall, the sixth grade students were thrilled with the idea of spending time on the Upper Campus and felt welcomed by everyone they came into contact with throughout their visit,” Deborah said.

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Sixth grader Ian Morgan and his classmates are looking forward to the move to Upper School because of the access to additional programs, a larger student community, and, of course, the Café. “Many of us attend events such as the Senior Project performance nights, but we’ll actually be part of the community as upperclassmen,” he said.

Ross Lower School Gives Thanks

DSC_1112 On November 22, the Ross Lower School community gathered to feast and give thanks in anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday. The Parents Association (PA) sponsored the annual event, decorating the Field House and serving the delicious food prepared by the Ross Café. Students also contributed to the festive atmosphere, as each child had written the things they were grateful for on construction paper leaves that adorned a tree standing among the dining tables.

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Following a video montage of expressions of gratitude, filmed by Media Studies teacher Cortney Propper, students and their family members were treated to a visit from the Shinnecock Nation Dancers, guests of honor invited to participate in the feast. The group of dancers, which included Ross students Autumn Coard, Kendall Coard, and SaNaya Morris, performed several traditional dances accompanied by a ceremonial drum, before inviting all of the students to join in a Friendship Dance.

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After the performance, students sat with friends and family to share their meal before being dismissed for Thanksgiving break. Special thanks go out to all who helped bring the community together for this impressive event, including Lower School PA President Genie Egerton-Warburton, parents Bill and Ann Stewart, and Elizabeth Yektai, who was instrumental in arranging for the performance by the Shinnecock.

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Celebrating the Maya

Maya culture is alive and well at Ross School. 

Anyone lucky enough to stop by the Café last Friday was treated to a taste of Mesoamerican home cooking, as well as a glimpse into the seventh graders' annual Maya Day celebrations.

The festivities got off to an early start Thursday afternoon in the Café kitchen, where 7th graders joined Chef de Cuisine Liz Dobbs in preparing a school's worth of authentic tamales, wrapped, tied, and cooked in corn husks, along with mole, fresh salsas, and other Maya-inspired eats.

While the rest of us enjoyed the fruits of their labor, the 7th graders spent the day hard at work—and at play—with a busy schedule of Mayan math games; presentations on culture, art, and history; and several high-octane rounds of Maya Jeopardy! It was a fitting end to a favorite unit, and next year's eighth graders will know to get to the Café early when Maya Day rolls around again.

Grade 1 Table to Farm Field Trip

As part of their unit on Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (the three Rs), Ross first graders visited the Upper School Café on June 4 to learn about the School’s sustainable practices with food. They started off by enjoying a healthy lunch made from regional, organic, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. When they were finished eating, Chef Lisa Smith showed them the compost bins in the Café—which were, apparently, on the stinky side, according to the students. They scraped off leftover foods from their plates into the bins, put their napkins in the paper bin, and poured leftover juice or water into the liquid bin. Lisa spoke to them about the three Rs and showed them different egg cartons—cardboard, plastic, and Styrofoam—explaining which of them can be recycled.

Then, Chef de Cuisine Liz Dobbs brought the first graders down to the Spiral Garden, where herbs and vegetables are growing for use by the Ross community. Eventually, the students hopped back onto their bus and drove to Rogers Farm, where Ross School takes all of its compost. Farmer Paul Rogers showed the students a large pile of compost destined for crop fertilization and gave them a tour of the farm. The tractor and the chickens were a huge hit. Ultimately, the students learned about the cyclical pattern of recycling as they physically traced the journey their leftover food took, from the table to the farm.

Students Host International Food Festival

The High School Student Council hosted its first International Food Festival on May 5 outside the Ross Café. Boarding and day students prepared dishes that represented their country of origin and spent the evening sampling cuisines from around the world with their peers.

Food from Austria, Russia, China, Brazil, Japan, Vietnam, and Korea covered the tables. There was even gumbo, a Cajun dish prepared by Visual Arts teacher Ned Smyth. Students dined on a smorgasbord of food including hand-rolled sushi, schnitzel, potato salad, seafood congee, Chinese rice with shrimp, and bulgogi, a Korean dish that consists of grilled, marinated beef. Desserts were also in abundance, from crepes and crème brulee, to chocolate chip cookies and chocolate-covered strawberries.

Live music was provided by Cultural History teacher Ken Sacks, who played several songs on the African instrument Mbira DzaVadzimu, which consists of a wooden board to which staggered metal keys have been attached. “It was a wonderful event,” said English teacher Shelby Raebeck, who oversees the Student Council and helped organize the event.

Lower School Thanksgiving Lunch

The annual Ross Lower School Thanksgiving Community Lunch was held on November 16, as school was set to close for a week for the holidays. Beautifully decorated, the Lower School Field House was transformed into a festive hall.

According to parent and Lunch Chair Elizabeth Yektai, this year’s event was inspired by the first Thanksgiving shared between the pilgrims and Native Americans. With this in mind, a group of parents and students made traditional Native American cornhusk dolls, which served as part of the centerpieces on the lunch tables.

In addition, community members were treated to a special performance by members of the Shinnecock Nation, who performed songs about gratitude and peace on a ceremonial drum as well as traditional Native American dances. They also invited the students to join them in a circle dance, where participants hold hands and dance clockwise or counterclockwise. To thank them for their performance, first and second graders sang a song to the Shinnecock.

Head of School Gregg Maloberti offered words of thanks, and when students took their seats, parents served lunch prepared by the Café. They feasted on edamame and Early Girl greens with miso dressing, turkey meatloaf with gravy, mashed Balsam Farm potatoes, steamed green beans, roasted delicata squash, aged tofu, local corn muffins, local pumpkin tarts, and clementines.

“Community Lunches are the few times a year when the entire Lower School and parent volunteers get together, serve, and share a meal,” said Lower School PA president Judy Rall. “This Thanksgiving Lunch is especially timely because it serves to remind us of how much we all have to be grateful for in light of our very privileged place on this planet.”

Grade 7 Celebrates Maya Culture

The seventh grade finished their unit on Maya culture on October 24 with a celebration featuring presentations, games, and delicious food inspired by this Mesoamerican civilization. The students have been learning about empire building and universalizing religions from 350 BCE to 800 CE.

Dubbed Maya Day, the festivities began with presentations on such aspects of the ancient culture as art, fashion, astronomy, architecture, cuisine, games, and weaponry. Carley Wootton studied Maya clothing and crafted attire inspired by Maya designs to fit a doll. Jade was a coveted stone and was used for jewelry, she explained, while tattoos and body print representing social position were prolific during those times.

Marco Marsans studied astronomy and assigned his classmates a project deciphering Maya glyphs to identify constellations. Meanwhile, Nina Damieki wrote a play that offered a modern twist to the Maya Myth of Popol Vuh, where the “hero twins” end up in the underworld fighting the lords of death. In Nina’s version, the twins introduce the iPhone and iPad to the lords, who challenged the brothers to a deadly game where the winner keeps this newfangled technology. The four battle it out but ultimately make peace and become friends.

Moving from myths to cuisine, Tristan Griffin studied what the Maya ate and served his classmates pumpkin soup and French toast, inspired by bread the Maya used to dip into syrup and eat. “I think this project was a creative way to learn about the Maya and to be imaginative and put your knowledge to use in a fun way,” said Tristan.

In addition to presentations, the seventh graders played games, testing their knowledge of this ancient people’s number system and culture. They played Maya Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Maya Millionaire. They also played the Maya Ball Game, where originally the winners were treated as heroes and the losers were subject to human sacrifice.

The interdisciplinary project also involved a culinary component, as students learned how to make tamales with the help of Ross School chefs. The tamales were served to the School the next day, along with a special menu the Café staff created to reflect the Maya diet that included squash soup, black bean salad with quinoa and avocado, pumpkin seed dip with roasted poblanos, tortilla chips, salsa fresca, roast chicken with tomatillo sauce, veggie and cheese enchiladas, tofu with mole sauce, pinto beans, and roasted sweet potatoes.