Ross Lower School Receives NWF Wildlife Habitat Certification

ec-science The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has recognized Ross School’s Bridgehampton campus as Certified Wildlife Habitat through its Garden for Wildlife program. The certification recognizes Ross School’s efforts to create spaces that improve habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs, and other wildlife by providing essential elements: natural food sources, clean water, cover, and places to raise young. The certification also identifies the Lower School campus as part of NWF’s Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators.

 The certification aligns well with the Ross School’s sustainability mission. Among the Lower School green efforts are an organic food garden, in which students grow local, seasonal vegetables; a Peace Garden that students use for meditation exercises; a working farm that houses donkeys, sheep, pigs, and fowl; and a red maple tree donated by last year’s sixth grade class, which was blessed by members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

“We all know that we have a significant impact on our planet. The more students interact with their natural environment, the more they will come to appreciate and care about making their impact a positive one,” said Bryan Smith, the Lower School science teacher who led the NWF certification process. “Placing our students in nature has made them more aware of what is around them, which makes them better, more concerned global citizens.” In the 40-year history of NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program, nearly 200,000 habitats have been created, making yards, schools, businesses, places of worship, campuses, parks, farms, and other community-based landscapes across the country into vitally important wildlife sanctuaries.

Native American Garden Blessed By Members of Shinnecock Nation

DSC_6253 There’s a beautiful new tradition in the making at Ross Lower School. Earlier this week, fourth graders “broke ground” to create a Native American garden in the field outside the Green Building. Members of the Shinnecock Nation, including Ross students Chelsea and Kendall Coard, as well as alumni Andrina Smith and Cholena Smith, and Cholena's father Gerrod, performed a traditional Native American ceremony to bless the Earth and give thanks for the coming harvest.


After a blessing from Gerrod, the Shinnecock each held a handful of ceremonial tobacco up to the sky, giving thanks as they turned to face the four corners of the Earth before sprinkling the tobacco in the new garden. Cholena then led the students in a traditional dance and song of thanks as they made their way in a circle around the garden.


Andrina also took the opportunity to express thanks for the special relationship between the School and the Shinnecock Nation. To celebrate this collaboration, a Green Corn Festival will be held at the Lower School on June 17. The event, open to all in the community, will feature Native American dancers and drummers, traditional games, beading, food, and storytelling.


As the students mingled around the garden, they explained that they first planted the “three sisters” (corn, beans, and squash), and plan to add indigenous healing herbs and culinary plants. “This garden represents the symbiotic relationship Native American peoples have with the Earth, and will eventually lead to a garden exchange program between the School and the Shinnecock Museum,” fourth grade teacher Alicia Schordine said.


The garden holds important meaning to the fourth graders. This past year, they studied pre-Columbian Native American history, discussing local indigenous tribes, specifically Shinnecock, and the Iroquois confederacy. They learned about communities, rituals, shelters, and customs, as well as sustainability in Native American culture.

Leading up to the planting and blessing, Gerrod and Cholena visited with the students to share their own stories of the Shinnecock Indians, including rites of passage, ceremonial dances, and the evolution of crops for food and medicine. Gerrod discussed the spiritual connection the tribes maintain with nature and the circle of life, noting the respect the tribes showed to the animals they hunted as sources of food and shelter.


Clearly a gifted historian and storyteller, Gerrod asked the students to think about their ancestors sitting around a campsite. With no stores, schools, or electricity, everything had to be made from natural resources gathered in the wild. They gave offerings, such as tobacco, for plants and animals as a sign of their reverence so the harvest and wildlife would continue to return to them.

“Eventually we saved seeds, and the three sisters were the first types of crops to be cultivated,” he said. From them, different habits and plants emerged. “That’s where you all are at with your new garden. You’re helping to tell the story of life and rebirth.”


He also discussed medicinal plants such as wintergreen, which is used to ease toothaches, and certain tree bark that is boiled to make a tea to soothe a sore throat.

Cholena talked about life on the reservation and particular dances that she herself performs for ceremonies and festivals. For example, this month, the Shinnecock will celebrate the strawberry harvest with a day of dancing and sharing of foods such as strawberry pie and pastries. “There are so many things that happen because of this little piece of red fruit,” she said with a smile.

“We’ve all enjoyed the recent events that have strengthened our ties to the Shinnecock Nation,” Alicia said, “and we’re looking forward to celebrating at Ross School’s first annual Green Corn Festival next week!”

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

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 Community Participates in People’s Climate March

ClimateChange3 On Sunday, September 21, Ross students, teachers, and families headed to New York City to participate in the People’s Climate March, and to add their voices to the call to world leaders to acknowledge the serious impact of climate change and the demand for action.


Cultural History Teacher Mark Tompkins, who attended with his own family and many of his eighth grade students, said the decision to participate began with a discussion at the Ross Institute Summer Academy about sustainability and the need to take action to benefit the global community.


The event gathered more than 400,000 people, who marched through the streets of Manhattan, many wearing or shouting messages about the cause. “This is what democracy is all about, standing up and demanding positive change. It was a huge and powerful experience for everyone, and one we are all proud to have been part of,” Mr. Tompkins said.


One of the most moving moments for the Ross attendees came at 12:58pm when the march stopped, and thousands of participants fell quiet in a moment of silence for those who have already been impacted by climate change. Equally emotional was the roar of the crowd’s unified rally cry at 1:00pm.


“It was such a wonderful and unique experience to be involved in something so large and meaningful,” said Ross junior Mark Cheng. “When more than 400,000 people had their hands in the air in silence for a few moments, and then broke into celebratory cheers all together, it was surreal.”

Tesla Motors Gives Students a Look Under the Hood of New Model S

DSC_4793 On May 5, Tesla Motors specialists brought the Model S P85+ electric car to Ross Upper School to visit with Dr. Dave Morgan and the Innovation Lab @Ross students, provide an overview of the vehicle’s engineering and technology, and let everyone get hands-on with the machine’s features and functions. Some lucky faculty and staff even took it for a test drive (and eventually returned, if reluctantly).


“It’s great that the Innovation Lab kids get to see technology that is just ready to hit the streets,” Dave said. “It’s like our work with 3D printers. The electric car is in its infancy and about to go mainstream, and it’s exciting for the students to get a peek at these trailblazing technologies.”


The Model S is a silent, electric, luxury sports car designed for performance, environmentally friendly, and equipped with an 85-kWh lithium-ion battery and a 17-inch video display that is basically the driver’s “mission control.” It also goes from 0–60mph in less than four seconds.


After a quick run-through from the specialists, the students jumped in for a closer look and were surprised to find lots of empty space under the hood. They noted the level of detail, from the door handles that slide outward with a simple touch, to the available music, to the advanced navigation features.


Dave said he was impressed by his student’s reactions. “It was nice for me to hear them ask really good, insightful questions about the technology itself, and particularly about the long-term impact of the used batteries. They obviously realize the important fact that no energy technology is without some impact on the environment.”


Austin Handler, whose son is in the fourth grade at Ross Lower School and also a Junior Innovation Lab student, brought his own Model S to campus to join the discussion.

“The Model S is truly disruptive technology. While the automotive industry has seen improvements over the years, they pale in comparison to the level of innovation that Tesla has shown in the Model S, which can receive performance upgrades via software updates over the cellular network, just like a smart phone does,” Austin said. “It’s great that the Ross students have the opportunity to get a look inside the car that is the wave of the future.”


At the end of the day, eleventh graders Harrison Rowen and Jeong Ho Ha wheeled out their life-size replica of a Ford Model T, which they created for their Modernity project. Looking at the two game-changing vehicles, Dave summed up the experience by noting, “It’s interesting to realize how much our expectations about what a car can do and what it will look like are constrained by this 100-year-old technology of internal combustion engines. It’s exciting to see a company questioning those assumptions."

Lower School Celebrates Earth Day

IMG_9787 On May 2, in honor of the recent Earth Day, students and faculty donned their gloves and picked up their tools to clean up the grounds and gardens at Ross Lower School. Students in pre-nursery through sixth grades enjoyed the beautiful day in the sun with their schoolmates, buddies, furry friends on the farm, and of course, worms.


Lower School science teachers Michele Passarella and Bryan Smith organized the Earth-friendly event. Starting on the grounds next to the farm, students were assigned to sections of the gardens and park where they enthusiastically weeded, cleared, and turned the soil. “The classes all worked diligently and as teams. Some of the students seemed to gain an almost therapeutic effect simply from being outside, having their hands in the earth, and interacting with nature,” Michele said. For her part, Michele used hedge clippers as the designated dogwood, azalea, and rhododendron pruner.


“Third graders loved working with their Nursery buddies to help in the Early Childhood garden. They enjoyed the sunshine, teaching the little guys a skill, and making the campus more beautiful,” said Lower School teacher Meghan Hillen.


First and sixth grade buddies worked hard cleaning up the garden behind the Green Building. With minor distractions (the younger students often stopped to examine the worms or stomp on dirt piles), the buddies did a great job raking, digging, and edging to create a clean look.


“Most students had some previous experience working in gardens, and it was fun to see them share their knowledge while working toward a common goal,” Bryan said.


The students said they are looking forward to planting flowers in the newly turned earth. “Our activities underscored the unbridled joy that children derive from being outdoors and their affinity for exploring the natural world,” said Jeanette Tyndall, head of Ross Lower School. “All those dirt-covered hands and squeals of delight whenever an earthworm was uncovered made for, in the words of one young student, ‘the best day of my life!’ We are also extremely grateful to Lower School parent Austin Handler for donating 1,000 flower bulbs that we will enjoy planting over the next two weeks.”


2014 Senior Projects Celebrate Ross Journey

DSC_1407 The 2014 Ross School Senior Projects are a source of pride and education for the school community. Each senior presents a project that embodies his or her passions in a process and product that integrate multiple intelligences, cultural history, personal reflection, application of technology, and pursuit of excellence.


“This is a special time with a unique energy, because our students are expressing the knowledge, talent, and self-awareness they have learned during their journey through Ross,” said Dale Scott, Senior Project coordinator.


This year’s 58 projects, which are described in the 2014 Senior Project Catalog, include investigations into psychology and music, water purification, bone marrow donation, feminism, gaming, natural cosmetics, global politics and governments, oral histories, neurology, music production, filmmaking, fashion, and rock operas. A sampling of a few of the projects undertaken by Ross seniors shows the diversity in subject matter and mode of presentation shown by the class of 2014.


For his project “Accessing Clean Water,” senior Joe Ando-Hirsh built a wind-powered UV LED water purification system to clean water of sediment and kill off harmful bacteria and protozoa. Joe hopes to deliver his system to a self-sustaining farming commune he visited in South America that produces its own food sources, but is still reliant on bottled water from the main village to avoid contamination. Joe’s project can produce about three gallons of clean water per minute, and his prototype is on display in the lobby of the Senior Building on campus.


Other seniors focused on the visual arts. Yawen Jiang shaped glass vases and candle covers as part of her exploration into minimalism, contemporary design, and the beauty in a simple curve. Lily Kamata built intricate chandeliers designed to enhance a person’s experience of their surroundings for her project, titles “Power of Light.”


Seniors who focused on performing arts included Jekaterina (Kate) Mandrukevia, who composed three songs with lyrics, and Adin Doyle, who created a rock opera called “Special Eddie” and the Naming Game. “Music expresses feelings and emotions, which can sometimes tell more than a book,” Kate said, comparing singing a song to storytelling.


Senior Caitlin Cummings found inspiration for her project “Long Island Myths and Legends” on our own East End. She investigated local Long Island folklore, including tales of Captain Kidd, to capture the history in a book and photo essay.


Ross seniors Jiahe Liu, Julian Alvarez, and Caleb Ryan turned to filmmaking to create powerful, moving, and sometimes humorous videos. Jiahe produced 2027—Emptiness, based on a Buddhist scripture; Julian presented Cobalt, a tale of a 17-year-old who wants to become a superhero; and Caleb documented his personal journey in Achieving Perfection: Mind, Body and Soul.


“It’s truly wonderful to experience the creativity, knowledge, and passion that our students have demonstrated in their Senior Projects,” Dale says.

Click here for a video summary of Senior Projects Click here for video of Senior Project Performance Night Click here for video of Senior Project Reading Night

Exploring the Local Marine Ecology

On November 14, Ross Upper School students taking the fall elective titled “Introduction to Marine Ecology and Global Conservation Issues” embarked on a field trip to a salt marsh near Accabonac Harbor, accompanied by science teacher Rachel Gruzen and Paul Flagg, marine science instructor and program coordinator. The class visited the home and property of local environmentalist Edwina Von Gal, where they were able to hike through the marsh to the water’s edge. 

Students engaged in a variety of field activities, including observing animal tracks, spotting wild birds, and working with shellfish harvested from the harbor. Students also used artifacts in the landscape to piece together the history of the salt marsh from both an ecological and cultural perspective. Afterward, Ms. Von Gal spoke with the class about her restorative, nontoxic landscaping practices, expounding on the importance of biodiversity over monoculture lawns and the value of “celebrating life in our landscapes.”

The excursion was a culminating activity for the elective course, which focuses on biological productivity in marine systems; the diversity of life; the ecological, cultural, and economic value of natural resources; and the interconnectivity of marine system health and human quality of life. This course is the first in a series of three that connects with the new Marine Science program being initiated this year by Innovation Lab @Ross. In the winter and spring trimesters, students will acquire in-depth training in marine biology, oceanography, and scientific data collection, and will begin work on independent marine science research projects.

Blessing of the Animals

On October 18, Ross Lower School welcomed a few new “students” to their campus—only some of these students have four legs! Once again, the LS campus is playing host to a number of farm animals, and the children love visiting them and getting to know more about their feathered, furry, and fleecy friends. 

A ceremony to bless the new arrivals was led by Buddhist nun Gen Norden, with the entire school participating in chanting a peaceful mantra and naming the animals. She talked with the students about compassion, discussing what it means and why it is important to be compassionate to both animals and humans.

Students wrote their suggestions for names for each animal on slips of paper and put them in envelopes; names were drawn a short while later and bestowed upon the three goats (African pygmy, Nubian, and Boer), two sheep (one black and one white), a pair of Sebastopol geese, a pair of peacocks, eight chickens, and a pair of Indian runner ducks.

Grade 3 Gets Up Close with Old Organisms

Third graders have started a new curricular unit about life on Earth, which focuses on some of Earth’s oldest living organisms: moss, lichen, fungi, and ferns. To jump-start the unit, the third grade class, along with their teachers, Meghan Hillen and Chris Warren; the LS science specialist, Stacy Myers; and the LS media teacher, Cortney Propper, went on a hike on the Long Pond Greenbelt trail in Sag Harbor to observe examples of these pioneering organisms. Back at school, they’ll continue to keep their eye on the species in their moss and lichen tank garden. 

Students also took time during their trip to notice and reflect upon what we humans are doing to hurt the local environment after finding garbage and destruction caused by ATVs being ridden along the trails.

Marine Science Studies Making a Splash on the East End

Students from Innovation Lab @Ross were invited to attend the grand opening of the new Stony Brook Marine Sciences Center at Southampton on September 27. Accompanied by Innovation Lab Director Dr. David Morgan, a small group of students toured the facility, which features a computerized, state-of-the-art, 2,500-square-foot indoor seawater lab; 2,400 square feet of outdoor wet lab space, teaching labs, classrooms, and lecture halls. The building will serve as a hub for educational, research, and outreach facilities for Stony Brook Southampton’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS). 

Dr. Morgan also met with Christopher Paparo, the manager of the Marine Sciences Center, to discuss Innovation Lab’s new marine science program, set to debut in January 2014, and to brainstorm ideas for collaborations between Ross School and SoMAS. “We're really lucky to have such an advanced facility and robust university research community just a few minutes away,” he commented. “I'm looking forward to getting our students directly involved in the research going on at SoMAS and to cultivating partnerships that offer exciting new experiences for Ross students.”

For more information about the marine science program at Innovation Lab @Ross, which will provide students with unique opportunities to conduct hands-on, self-selected research and data collection; travel to research stations in French Polynesia and elsewhere; and collaborate with top professionals in the field, come to the Open House at Ross Upper School on Thursday, October 24, 6:30–8:00pm.

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.

Grades 6–8 Science Fair

Students in grades 6, 7, and 8 exhibited their science fair projects in the Great Hall on May 22. Nearly 70 students filled the room with their innovative and exciting displays focusing on a variety of topics, from the science of biodegradation to the psychology of eating. The event commenced with an introduction by Patty Lein, Director of Upper School, and Dave Morgan, Director of Innovation Lab @Ross.

Eighth grader Lucia Robinson tested the impact that physical plate arrangements—number of side dishes or shape of plates—have on how appetizing foods appear. She learned that most people gravitate to circular-shaped plates and prefer two garnishes to one. Seventh grader Caroline Breitweiser measured how quickly different brands of biodegradable garbage bags actually biodegrade. She measured the compostability of bags made by Bag to Nature, Glad, BioBag, and EcoSafe. “It was really interesting that Bag to Nature and EcoSafe didn’t compost quickly,” said Caroline. “They shouldn’t say they’re compostable, because they don’t break down easily.”

Seventh grader Peter Kim explored the effect highlighters have on comprehension and memorizing. He asked his test subjects to read two articles, using a highlighter for one of them. Afterward, he asked them to recite the key points of each article. Peter learned that using a yellow highlighter results in better retention of information. Seventh grader Carley Wootton analyzed whether or not the people’s age can be determined based on the scent of their clothing. And classmate Gideon Yektai looked to see if a person's age affects his or her perception of time. “What I found interesting was how inaccurate people can be about time,” he said.

Seventh grader Tristan Griffin studied the art of picking locks, testing an ancient Chinese lock, a pin tumbler lock, and a combination lock. “I thought you could listen to the clicks of a combination lock and pick it, but it turns out that’s only in Hollywood,” said Tristan, who learned that of the three, the combination lock is actually the hardest one to pick.

Throughout the fair, judges circulated around the room and spoke with the young, enthusiastic scientists about their projects, ultimately tallying a score. In seventh grade, first place went to Marco Marsans, who wanted to know if people who play video games have better hand/eye coordination than those who don’t; it turns out that there was no difference between the two groups. Second and third place went to Gideon and Carley, respectively. In eighth grade, Lucia took first, with second place going to Sunny Gou, who tested the rate at which people blink during various activities; third place went to Amanda Mintz, who tested how changing the ratio of vinegar to baking soda would affect the chemical reaction to lift a golf ball, coin, and ping pong ball. Lastly, Gregory Gropper won Honorable Mention for his experiment on whether greater amounts of liquid are needed to dilute different kinds of pollutants in aquifers that have more clay than sand; indeed, more liquid is needed.

The Science of Nature Observation

Junior Innovation Lab @Ross teacher Kim Borsack, her students, and their families gathered at Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor on May 18 to participate in a fundraiser and information-gathering event in support of a local nature conservationist organization. The Group for the East End invited people from all over the South and North Forks of Long Island to join in its 18th Annual Fauna-thon Fundraiser. Each group explored a different site in Southold, Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, and Shelter Island, recording every instance of wildlife they encountered, and then sent their location and species list to Steve Biasetti, the Group’s Director of Environmental Education.

Ross students chose to join a handful of other local nature enthusiasts at Morton, and with Steve as their guide, they hiked the trail through the wooded area close to the bay beach. A generous participant shared seed with the young birders, and they each experienced the thrill of nuthatches and chickadees perching on their hands to select choice morsels before flying off to nearby branches.

The species the group encountered during the 90-minute hike also included black-capped chickadees, catbirds, white-tailed deer, yellow warblers, blue jays, chipmunks, red-winged blackbirds, ospreys, red-eared sliders (turtles), a bullfrog, and even a red-tailed hawk.

Steve will compile the results and release a report of the wildlife varieties found during this annual snapshot in the next few weeks. Last year, 12 teams in 27 search areas recorded 208 species; the students eagerly await the results of this year’s hunt.

Lower School Celebrates Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, Ross Lower School held special activities promoting environmental protection and awareness all week long. The earth-friendly festivities included a special assembly, beach cleanups, recycling projects, and the first campus plantings of the season.

Pre-K has been immersed in their "Earth Month" unit for the last few weeks. They studied the three Rs (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle), created art out of "garbage," and learned the importance of thinking about how to reuse waste in order to reduce the amount of garbage in local landfills. As a culminating piece to this unit, they hosted an assembly in the Multi-Purpose Room on April 19, where they sang “What a Wonderful World,” by Louis Armstrong, and even signed the lyrics while they were singing. In addition, they drew pictures that were displayed during the performance.

This week, students in K–5 took field trips to Long Beach in Sag Harbor and Sagg Main Beach in East Hampton, where they discussed water quality and the impacts from the coastal storms this past year. Students picked up any storm surge debris that could be harmful to marine life or other organisms in the beach area, including tables, an irrigation system, and nets. They cleaned a half-mile of the bay coastline and a quarter mile of ocean coastline. Back on campus, the students studied animals from the Peconic Estuary in the science lab and planted bulbs, seeds, and plants outdoors. Pre-nursery also got their hands dirty planting string beans in class. Eventually, the seedlings will be transferred to the outdoor garden.

Meanwhile, first grade is in the midst of their unit on Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling. They have been discovering all the places their trash can end up after it goes in the garbage and have been learning how to turn trash into treasures: in class, they are making a large robot out of items rescued from the landfill. Science support Stacy Myers also had them design clothes out of recyclables, and language teacher Tiffany Best helped her class make new paper by recycling old paper. Third graders up-cycled erstwhile garbage by recycling newspapers into beads. First, they shredded the paper and placed it into boiling water. Once it became pulp, they shaped it into beads; eventually, these beads will be turned into jewelry. In June, the class will host a jewelry sale and donate the funds to an organization of the students’ choice.

Globetrotting on M-Term

The gift of travel is seeing the world from a new perspective, as intrepid explorers are exposed to unfamiliar surroundings and experiences. At Ross, students can step outside of their comfort zones and embark on a life-changing journey during Midwinter Term, or M-Term.

This year’s off-campus M-Terms are spread across the globe. Each offers students and teachers an opportunity to connect with people of vastly different cultures and traditions. The impact of these experiences is profound. On An Intensive Documentary Experience: Ethiopia, students have become acutely aware of the wealth and abundance in America as they explore impoverished towns and share personal exchanges with locals, such as showing an Ethiopian priest how to use an iPad. In addition to documenting their travels by creating photo essays and short films, the students are performing community service in the form of educational exchange.

On the west coast of South America, students on Expedition Galapagos: A Program of Service Learning and Exploration have been working with local communities, visiting ecologically important sites, and teaching children about the environment and ecological issues specific to that region. They even learned how to milk a cow and roast coffee beans. From painting playground equipment at a school to removing invasive species of plants harmful to the delicate Galapagos ecosystem, Ross students have been learning about the power of community service and sustainable development.

In Southeast Asia, the students studying Ethnomusicology in Bali have been learning and practicing Balinese songs and dances, including a monkey chant, an elaborate and rhythmic song that requires many participants. They will give a final performance before returning home next week. Aside from immersing themselves in native music, the students have been exploring the country, from jungles to beaches. They even witnessed a traditional cremation procession and ceremony, which they captured on video.

In neighboring Thailand, students in Community Service and Cultural Immersion on Thailand’s Coast engaged in community service at a Burmese refugee school. There they painted a map of the world to help students learn about geography, built bookshelves, repaired the school garden, and spent quality time with local children. They also learned how to thatch roofs or structures using palm leaves. In addition to their service projects, the students got a lay of the land by visiting shrines at local temples, exploring beaches and mangrove swamps, trekking through forests and swimming under waterfalls, and learning about Thai culture, including the importance of monkhood as a rite of passage for young men.

The winding city streets and rolling hills of Italy are the setting for students in Walking/Seeing/Understanding: Hiking the Hill Towns of Tuscany, as they traverse extensive landscapes by foot. Ross students have visited the Etruscan ruins, the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican, to name a few historical landmarks. Traveling by foot has allowed them to peel back the many layers of Italian culture and better understand the impact its rich history has had on modern-day society.

Finally, in Independent Study in Brazil: International Tennis Matches and Training, students from the Ross School Tennis Academy have been perfecting their games, meeting top Brazilian tennis players, and experiencing Brazilian culture. In between sets on the court, they have hiked the countryside, visited small towns, and enjoyed traditional foods.

Keep up with all of Ross School’s M-Term adventures at

Eelgrass as Art

On November 17, the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s (CCE) Marine Meadows program held their first fundraiser at the South Fork Natural History Museum in Bridgehampton, and the event featured beautiful artwork by Ross third graders. CCE and Ross School often work together, as students learn how to protect the environment through activities such as eelgrass restoration, wherein sea grass is replanted in local waters to provide shelter and food for various forms of sea life.

A few weeks ago, Kimberly Barbour, Habitat Restoration Outreach Specialist at Cornell, visited the third graders and asked them to create works of art inspired by eelgrass. With the help of Lower School art teacher Soraya Brooks, the students designed underwater eelgrass scenes. “I really like this project,” said third grader Jane Boyland. “It’s cool because we’re the only grade and school doing it, so it’s special.” Judges were asked to select some works of art to be displayed during the fundraiser.

The students whose work was shown at the fundraiser were Celina Ludes, Jane Boyland, Maya Teixeira, Marielle Lomont, Gabe Verde, Bianca Lorich, Carson Tompkins, Everett Rattray, Elyse Beavers, Isabella Hosey, Isabel Richards, and Josh Verde. One student was then selected to have his artwork on view at the museum throughout the year; Gabe Verde won with his “Eelgrass Habitat.” Gabe received a gift bag of various items from the museum and the Marine Meadows program, which included two tickets to the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. His work will be displayed for all of 2013.