Science Fair Features Student Research

Science Fair 4 At the grades 7 and 8 Science Fair on June 2, students showcased the results of experiments in a variety of subjects such as sensory perception, memory, dreams, and mindfulness practices in sports. The exhibition is the culmination of work that started in September, which includes an initial project proposal and research question; hypothesis and experiment; recording of data and results; and the final conclusion. 

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First, second, and third place projects in each grade were chosen from a group of finalists. Projects were distinguished based on the student’s commitment to the research throughout the process and interviews with Science Fair judges, who scored the projects based on the quality of work, depth of students’ knowledge, and oral and visual presentation of the results. Judges included Ross Upper School Science faculty, three senior Ross students who were selected based on their Science, and Dr. Gidela Jia, a psychology professor from Lehman College.

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Eighth grader Sophie Griffin placed first in her grade. She explored how different typefaces affect memory, and concluded that words in the sans serif font were best remembered. Second place went to classmate Jenna Kestan, who took an interesting approach to determine if the name of a product would impact its desirability: “I took the ice cream flavor peppermint, and for three days turned it into ‘Pink Panther Peppermint.’” She proved her hypothesis that people would purchase the latter product more because of the clever label.

Third place went to eighth grader Sarah Levine, who tested the blood pressures of children and adults to determine if the younger people had lower readings.

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First place in grade 7 went to Ella Griffiths. “I wanted to determine if waxing skis would affect speed,” she said. “My research considered multiple variables, including temperature of the snow and type of wax.” She hit the slopes to personally conduct the experiments and test her theories.

India Galesi-Grant took second place for her experiment comparing the performance levels of males and females in overstimulated environments. Quentin Bazar rounded out the winners’ circle, placing third for using a 3D printer to create miniature wind turbine blades of various dimensions, and then testing their electrical output.

Eighth grade finalists also included Jade Diskin, Dualta Gallaher, Dede Rattray, Chelsea Han, Alex Saunders, and Zoe Mintz. Grade 7 finalists included Ally Friedman, Chandler Littleford, Laina Lomont, Diego Vanegas, Ava Seccuro, and Josie Smith.

“The hard work by all students was really impressive, and the competition among the finalists was very strong,” said Anna Strong, Science teacher and Science Fair leader. “They should all be proud of themselves.”


Senior Project: Autonomous Water Chemistry Drone

DSC_5837 (1) Senior Liam Cummings has a keen interest in marine science and chemistry, so it’s no surprise that he chose to build a device that can collect important information about the waters surrounding the East of End of Long Island. For his Senior Project, the capstone experience at Ross School, Liam programmed and “hacked together” a small autonomous watercraft that navigates via GPS and logs data about conditions that impact life underwater.


An initial motivation for Liam’s project was curiosity about the water quality of a creek near his home on Shelter Island. “I’m told there used to be life in the creek,” he said, “and I was hoping to find out if there was a cause for the decline.”

To get started, he purchased a small remote-controlled boat, stripped out its transmitter and receiver, and installed an Arduino microcontroller board, which ultimately functioned as the “brain” of the device. As an Innovation Lab @Ross student, Liam had some experience with programming controllers, but the project helped him to become more proficient at coding, with guidance and advice from Urban Reininger, director of Instructional Technology, and Marine Sciences teacher Dr. Jack Szczepanski.


Next, Liam installed and programmed a digital compass and GPS, specific sensors to measure water temperature and pH levels, and an SD card to store the data. One obstacle he encountered was deciphering the GPS data string. “The computer interprets the string as one long word,” he explained, “and it cannot do math with words. I thought I had to find a way to turn the words into numbers, but that was not the case.”

Eventually, he found a solution. He could recall specific data by typing in “GPS.time” or “” “It was pretty much smooth sailing after that,” Liam said.

As a test run, he launched the boat in a body of water just outside the inlet to the creek he was concerned about. The boat collected data as it navigated to preprogrammed waypoints. DSC_5828

Initial findings indicated that the water was slightly alkaline, so Liam plans to conduct additional research to compare these against ideal pH conditions for local sea life. “I have a big interest in ocean acidification,” Liam said. “It may seem minor, but pH level has a huge impact on reefs.”

Liam is looking into ways to improve the boat’s mobility, battery life, and overall productivity. In the near term, he plans to program the waypoints so that the boat collects data in a grid. Adding additional sensors to test for other factors, such as dissolved oxygen and turbidity, is also an option. “Turbidity is particularly important to the health of coral reefs, because they are heavily reliant on photosynthetic organisms,” he said. What he learns could be applied to reefs like the one he explored as part of a Ross School Field Academy trip to Mo’orea last year.


On final reflection, Liam says he believes his Senior Project could potentially be an important research tool for marine scientists. In the meantime, he hopes future Innovation Lab @Ross students will have an opportunity to experiment with the product.

Liam will continue his chemistry studies at Drexel University in the fall, and we wish him success.

Ross Students Explore Marine Science Using Eco Labs

EcoLab4 The start of the spring season has been busy for the Innovation Lab @Ross Marine Science class and their teacher, Dr. Jack Szczepanski. In the eco labs, specialized labs for studying biology and ecology located in Building 1 on Ross’s Upper School campus, exciting undertakings abound—from raising cuttlefish and turtles to embarking on the first phase of resurrecting the large saltwater aquarium.


Most of the current contents of the eco labs are projects that students developed with Jack’s help. Ninth grader Tali Friedman is spearheading the rehab of the large display tank. She is currently making an algae scrubber, a device that uses light to grow algae, and will eventually add some dogfish and other species of marine life to the tank.


Small red-eared slider turtles are being nurtured by sophomore Ray Schefferine, who aspires to be a digital designer for a video game company. He’s studying the turtles and using design software to reconstruct a digital version of the head of a large snapping turtle.


Junior Shanshan He has constructed an Autonomous Reef Monitoring Structure (ARMS) and used it to analyze local communities of small marine species in Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton. She is working on producing a field guide to South Pacific reef communities, a venture stemming from a Field Academy trip to the Solomon Islands. Evi Saunders, a sophomore, will use the facilities to study the cognitive abilities of cuttlefish once they have hatched.


Senior Liam Cummings built an autonomous data-collecting vessel for his Senior Project, and is now using it to test the concentration of iodine in our local waters and seaweed.

Jack says the year has been an adventure: “Most of our work is hands-on learning, and when you are dealing with live creatures, the results are unpredictable and rewarding.” After mentoring a Field Academy trip to study the coastal ecology of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands, he was eager to return to Ross to see how his own ecosystems were getting along. He discovered that many of the specimens in and around the lab had “been getting a bit frisky,” a sure sign that spring was in the air (especially for the corn snakes and snails in the reef aquarium). Jack hopes to post an update on the cuttlefish project on his blog next week, as well as share other news as the trimester plays out.


The class is wrapping up the school year with some field trips, including a recent visit the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. Jack says they also plan to “get into the water” with experts from the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (based on Shinnecock Bay in Southampton) to learn about field collection methods and our local Long Island waters.

Second Grade Creates Weather Station to Study Local Systems

weather station 1 Ross School second graders recently showed off their technical expertise by installing a weather station outside of their classroom at the Lower School. The station will help them analyze local weather patterns as part of their studies of meteorology and systems. Data captured by the station can be viewed online at Weather Underground. Students are now in the next phase of the project—building their our own weather station and tools, including a barometer, thermometer, anemometer, and rain gauge. The goal is to compare the readings from each station to help determine how weather affects their daily lives. 


Students are applying knowledge from multiple disciplines as they describe the daily weather in their Cultural History journals, research and design the instruments, and use mathematical and scientific skills to analyze data. “As they study the elements of weather, students become more sophisticated in their observations and their use of specific vocabulary to describe their findings,” said Shannon Timoney, second grade teacher.

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In keeping with Ross School’s commitment to sustainability, the students will use recycled materials to create their weather instruments and station. Shannon added that the class plans to invite the community to visit, try the tools, and learn more about the students’ important research.

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Senior Project: Gabriel Lebow Explores Motorcycle Thermodynamics

Gabe1 Gabe Lebow has always had an interest in the working of engines and electrical systems, and he would often take items such as PCs apart to get a look at the components. So, it’s no surprise that for his Senior Project, he chose to restore a motorcycle to showroom condition and then test thermoelectric generation (generating electricity from waste heat) on the exhaust system.

Over the summer, he hunted for a motorcycle in need of repair, and finally purchased a Suzuki GSX-R600—the first model of Suzuki’s famous “K” series, high performance sport bikes. When in top condition, the bike can go from 0mph to 60mph in nearly three seconds.


Gabe first did an assessment of the damage, and he noted that while the bike was capable of shifting through all gears properly, the shifter mechanism itself was broken, the key was broken in the ignition, and the bike would need new fairings, as the current ones were cracked and scratched as a result of the previous owner “laying the bike down” in several minor accidents. The Suzuki also had not been maintained; and Gabe would need to change the oil, filters, spark plugs, and valves. He would also encounter dozens of other issues such as problems with the headlights and battery.


The restoration began with swapping the fairings, and he quickly discovered that the front fairing would not come off without disconnecting the dashboard. This in turn led to several DIY (do it yourself) electrical connections, and he had to consult a wiring diagram to make sure the connections to the terminals were in the correct positions. Eventually, Gabe completed the cosmetic and maintenance work, replacing the front brake lever and shifter rod along the way, as well as the leather on the seats. He also sanded and polished the metal and painted parts of the bike jet black. The painting involved removing the gas tank as well as the fuel pump and fuel rail.

Gabe said one of the best things about rebuilding the bike was he was able to apply his knowledge to a real-world situation. Back in October, he met a rider outside the supermarket with the same model Suzuki who was having trouble starting his bike. It turns out, someone had knocked the bike over, and it caused an electrical disconnection. Gabe helped him with removing the rear seat and gas tank to check the wiring harnesses and the fuse box. They were able to locate and fix the problem. “It was great to see the owner’s huge smile as he rode past, grateful that his bike was running.”


Moving on to the thermoelectronics tests, Gabe first purchased thermoelectric generator parts and then began testing the electrical output at different heat ranges. He determined he would need a current sensor, air speed sensor, and a temperature sensor. He also configured a LabQuest data collection device to take two samples per second in three-minute intervals. He mounted the pieces to the exhaust pipe; and then hit the road to get some results.

The results concluded that the generator worked, and produced about 5 watts of power. This is not enough to totally replace the alternator and power the electrical system of the bike, but with more thermolelctric generators mounted in more specialized ways it would be more than enough.


Overall, Gabe is really pleased with the results of his Project. Though challenging, he said if he had to do it over again he would tackle an even more complex engine restoration project. Those who had the pleasure of viewing the motorcycle at the recent Senior Project exhibition certainly agree that his level of skill and workmanship were very impressive.


Gabe said he plans to pursue an engineering degree in college, and there’s no doubt he will excel in his chosen field.

Ross Celebrates Computer Science Week with the Hour of Code

IMG_Code2 Computer Science Education Week took place this year from December 8 to 12. In recognition of the event, Ross students in grades 1–6 participated in the Hour of Code, an annual, global, grassroots movement to introduce young children to the basics of computer programming. The idea is to let them work with coding directly to take the mystery out of computer science and to help them build critical-thinking skills. Over 70 million students in more than 180 countries joined the effort this past week.


“Systems thinking is an integral part of the Ross curriculum, and the students will continue to learn to code as part of their technology studies throughout the school year,” said Cortney Propper, Media Studies and Instructional Technology teacher at the Ross Lower School.


This is the second year that Ross Lower School students participated in the Hour of Code event. During the week, the students worked in pairs to help Frozen characters Elsa and Anna carve snowflakes and other patterns while ice skating, learn basic “drag and drop” programming for smartphones and tablets, and even discover how to create basic gaming apps for the iPad.


Each student received a certificate for completing their hour of code, and those who wrote the most lines of code in each grade were awarded prizes.


“Computer science is part of students’ daily lives, at school and at home. It’s so empowering for them to take a look at how things work, and realize that they, too, can use technology to create something unique,” Cortney said.

Second Grade Students Create “Big Bang” Painting

big bang In the second grade Cultural History class, students are learning about the big bang theory in their Solar System unit. The class was asked how they could create the illusion of an immense explosion to visually represent their studies. After many discussions, students decided to use water balloons filled with paint to make a colorful piece of art on canvas.

On a recent sunny day at the Lower School, families, teachers, and staff gathered to watch the creative process, as the students went to work smashing paint bombs in sync to “Also sprach Zarathustra,” the opening music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. “We had so much fun, and the result was a beautiful painting that helped the students visualize the significance of the big bang theory,” said second grade Teacher Shannon Timoney.

Innovation Lab @Ross Is “Best in Class” at World Maker Faire 2014

Maker Faire booth 1 Innovation Lab @Ross students and teachers exhibited at the World Maker Faire 2014 in Queens on September 20 and 21 as Young Makers. Their booth in the educational section of the fair showcased projects including robots, electronics, and photo and video presentations, as well as one of their 3D printers, which printed out student creations in real time for fair attendees. Ross received a “Best in Class” ribbon from the Maker Faire organizers for their projects and presentations.

Maker Faire draws more than 50,000 visitors each year, including tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors. All of these “makers” come to the event to show what they have made and to share what they have learned.

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Innovation Lab Director Dr. David Morgan and Director of Academic Technology Urban Reininger took some time away from exhibitor duties to connect with representatives from companies presenting new technology products, as well as directors and founders of “maker spaces” across New York and New Jersey. Their fellow attendees expressed a great deal of interest in Innovation Lab @Ross and the experiences of building the academy over the past couple of years. Innovation Lab students and instructors anticipate mutually beneficial collaborations and partnerships will result from these discussions.

When not at their booth sharing their own work with visitors, Innovation Lab students had a chance to explore Maker Faire themselves. Highlights of the event this year included the latest 3D printers, a variety of home-brewed electronic musical instruments, a 50-foot pedal-powered mechanical alligator, DIY (do-it-yourself) brain wave readers, and “Game of Drones,” a series of head-to-head aerial dogfights between remote-controlled quadcopters.

Grades 7 and 8 Science Fair

DSC_4329 At the grades 7 and 8 Science Fair on May 28, students exhibited their projects in the Great Hall and discussed their findings with teachers, staff. and members of the community. The seventh and eighth graders focused on a wide range of topics—from testing the effects of Wi-Fi connectivity on plant life to detecting the sincerity of a smile to researching the best shampoo.


The students began working on their experiments in September. The project was broken down into several stages, with the young scientists determining a research question, writing a project proposal, conducting background research, formulating a detailed procedure and hypothesis, running the experiment, graphing their data, and, finally, drawing a conclusion.


Students who maintained a distinguished average through all stages of the project were selected as finalists. They were then interviewed by a judge who scored them based on the quality of their experiment, the depth of their knowledge, and the quality of their oral and visual presentation.


After the first round of scoring by the faculty and two Upper School student judges, the four students with the highest scores were then interviewed by second round judges Patty Lein, head of Upper School, and Dr. Dave Morgan, dean of Science.


“My project was about fairness, and if our sense of fairness is controlled in certain situations of sharing. I found that there are discernible differences in selfishness with children and adults, and with boys and girls,” said Tristan Griffin, who won first place in the fair for grade 8. (See below a complete list of prize winners and finalists.)


Marco Marsans, who came in second in grade 8, tested whether hand dominance could affect one's ability to learn languages. He became interested in his topic when he learned that the language center is located in the left hemisphere of the brain. “By the end of my trials, I concluded that lefties were more in touch with their language center than righties,” he said. “I also found data suggesting that girls might be better at this as well. Older people scored slightly higher than other participants, and students from European countries usually received the highest scores. Overall, this was a very fun and interesting experiment, and I would love to keep expanding the project in the future,” he said.


Throughout the fair, judges circulated around the room and spoke with the junior scientists. “It was an impressive event in terms of the research topics, the depth of the findings, and the students’ professional approach to organizing and presenting the data. All seventh and eighth graders should be proud of their significant accomplishments,” said Anna Strong, science teacher and Science Fair leader.


Grade 8 1st place—Tristan Griffin: “Is fairness governed?” 2nd place—Marco Marsans: “Is there a correlation between handedness and the ability to learn new languages?” 3rd place—Carley Wootton: “Is there a correlation between intellectual habits and use of the word ‘like’?”

Grade 7 1st place—Sophie Griffin: “How different are only children?” 2nd place—Dualta Gallaher: “Can exercise make our brains work better?” 3rd place—Alex Saunders: “Does weather affect our moods?”

Grade 8 Finalists Falon Attias: “When a dancer does a pirouette, does the leg position/angle in posse affect the speed and amount someone does?” India Attias: “Does your name affect how people perceive you?” Caroline Breitweiser: “Do video games improve reaction time?” Rosa Carmichael: “Do peppermints improve one’s ability to concentrate?” Sophie Cassou: “Does label color affect how healthy we perceive a food to be?” Emily Costello: “Which notes make the strongest vibration with ‘C’?” Nina Damiecki: “Do kids have a better sense of rhythm than adults?” Victoria Hu: “Is it possible to distinguish fake and genuine smiles?” Peter Kim: “Do fruit flies prefer organic or conventional fruits?” Ted Morency: “Is it possible to make a homemade toothpaste that’s as effective as a leading brand?” Gideon Yektai: “Does Wi-Fi affect plant growth?”

Grade 7 FInalists Lily Attias: “Which energy drinks affect your energy levels the most?” Dualta Gallaher: “Does aerobic exercise make our brains work better?” Sarah Levine: “Which shampoo is the best?” Larry Li: “Can the color of paper affect the speed of doing homework?” Carter Marcelle: “Do family members have similar fingerprints?” Valentina Monsalve: “Are dancers better at recovering from dizziness than non-dancers?” Audrey Niu: “Does the color of your plate affect how appetizing food appears?”

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."

M-Term Adventures Shared at Lower School, Ross Gallery

DSC_3419 At the opening of the 2014 Midwinter Term exhibit at the Ross Gallery on April 9, members of the Ross community gathered to view artwork by the Art and Community class and photography, videos, and journals from student trips to Belize; Cuba; French Polynesia; Greece; Panama; Myanmar; St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands; England; and Long Island.


Highlights of the exhibit included a human rights mural dedicated to the memory of Nelson Mandela and portraits of the students in traditional Tahitian dress, along with images of coral reefs and marine life, exotic wildlife and fauna, ancient landmarks, Buddhist temples, and traditional instruments. The students also captured memories of their adventures into new worlds and cultures in writing. The M-Term exhibit will be on display through mid-May.


M-Term sharing continued at the Lower School on April 11. Teacher Mark Foard and several high school students who hiked the Ridgeway Trail in southern England with him summarized their experiences for the fourth grade class, which is currently studying Neolithic communities and sustainable environments. The Ridgeway passes near many Neolithic, Iron Age, and Bronze Age sites, including Stonehenge, Wayland’s Smithy, and White Horse Hill, site of the Uffington White Horse chalk monument. Mark and the students brought the adventure to life with a video documentary of their trip, humorous tales of hopping fences and slogging through mud, and their delight in finding bits of ancient civilizations along the way. Many fourth graders said it was great to see some of the places and architectures they learned about in class and to realize they too could visit them one day.


At the end of the day, kindergarten through sixth grades gathered in the Multi-Purpose Room for a special assembly, attended by Mrs. Ross, to learn about the M-Term Founder’s Expedition to French Polynesia. Dressed in ceremonial Tahitian headdresses and skirts, the older students opened with performances of the Maeva, a long, quick, rhythmic dance of welcome; the Haka, a traditional men’s dance to display warrior skills; and the Ti’are, a lyrical women’s dance. They also discussed their biodiversity studies at the University of California Berkeley Gump South Pacific Research Station and displayed the biocube they used during their research. At the conclusion of the presentation, the younger students were invited to the front of the room to learn the dances and were offered the opportunity to conduct their own future biodiversity studies with their classmates.


Second Graders Study Meteorology at LI Science Center

LISC05 Ross School second graders visited the Long Island Science Center in Riverhead on March 31 to further their studies of meteorology. Students explored more than 30 interactive exhibits to gain a better understanding of weather systems.


In recent weeks, the second grade learned about the various elements that help meteorologists predict the weather. Their studies also made connections back to what they learned in first grade about the water cycle and in kindergarten about fire, air, and water and their relationship to temperature, wind, and air pressure.


On this trip, students handled weather instruments, discussed cloud formations, watched a tornado spin, and made an anemometer to take home. There were shrieks of excitement as students took turns in the “Hurricane Simulator.” “The class was able to experience the intricacies of our weather systems with a look behind the scenes at what creates weather patterns, from a springtime shower to a destructive tornado,” said Lower School teacher Shannon Timoney.


The students also explored the center as a whole, taking in insect habitats, a Galapagos Islands photo exhibit, and the Long Island Wireless Historical Society exhibit capturing the East End’s technological history.


Seventh Grade Studies History and Math in New York City

20140321_115631 On March 21, Ross School seventh graders visited museums in Manhattan to further their studies of ancient Rome, dine with their classmates to celebrate their studies of the Silk Road, and explore mathematics in an interactive environment.

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At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, students completed a scavenger hunt for Greek and Roman artifacts with classmates acting as "docents" for individual pieces.

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“We studied pivotal aspects of ancient Roman society, including the art, architecture, and political structure, and the museum exhibits offer an opportunity for students to see this dynamic history firsthand,” said Carol Crane, World Languages and Literature teacher and seventh grade team leader.

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Next, they visited the Museum of Mathematics (MoMath) to interact with exhibits designed to reveal patterns and structures in the world around us and encourage mathematical experiments. Mathematics teacher Jennifer Biscardi said, “When students were greeted by the tour guide at MoMath, they were shocked when she said they could touch anything and were encouraged to touch everything!”

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In preparation for constructing a semi-regular Escher tessellation, the seventh graders collected information on 2D, 3D, and 4D tessellations, fractals, and transformations such as reflections, rotations, translations and dilations. They also took a cryptography lesson that taught them about Caesar shift encryption technique. “It’s a perfect integration with their studies of Rome and Euclidean Geometry,” Jennifer said.

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Between museum explorations, the students enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Oriental Café. “The students had a great time experiencing their studies away from the classroom as well as a little downtime and laughter with their friends,” Carol said.

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M-Term Week 3: Students Wrap Up and Reflect on Experiences

The 2014 Midwinter Term will end on March 14, and students are wrapping up their studies. Classes will present their experiences at an M-Term sharing night on April 9.


In the South Pacific, students on the Mo’orea trip spent a few nights on Teti’aroa, an atoll that was the former home of the Pomare, or Tahitian royal family. The class continued their exploration and biocube studies and rehearsed the Haka (men’s dance) and Ti’are (women’s dance), which they will perform at a dinner celebration. They’re also reflecting on what they have learned, agreeing they will take home a greater sensitivity to both their own and society’s impact on the environment.


Similarly, students studying Ethnomusicology in Cuba have been moved by their experiences and say the Cuban culture is beautiful in its sentimentality and affection. They, too, prepared a final performance, learning four new drum routines and five dances, including the rumba, son, and conga.


Students on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John spent their last days of the trip hiking the coastlines and forests to observe petroglyphs left by the Taino Indians, sugar plantation ruins, and wildlife, including the golden orb-weaver spider and Antilles pinktoe tarantula.


In Bocas del Toro on the Panama trip, students toured the Oreba cacao plantation, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and Isla Colón, and continued to discover colorful marine life.


On the final day of the Belize trip, seventh and eighth graders visited the Smithsonian Marine Research Station to learn about different species of coral and conches, beach erosion, and spawning of several marine animals.


On their last leg of the Ridgeway Trail, students crossed the North Wessex Downs from Avebury to Streatley, the rain-swollen Thames River, and the Chiltern Hills, visiting Wayland’s Smithy and White Horse Hill, site of the Uffington White Horse chalk monument.


Back in New York, classes are completing trips, rehearsing for performances, and perfecting their cuisine. The Making Life a Little Greener students visited Quail Hill Farm, where they met Seedtime author Scott Chaskey, and the Arts and Culture class was featured on German TV discussing the human hamster trail performance "In Orbit". On March 14, the Musical Theater Workshop class will perform a musical review with excerpts from Chess, Frozen, Greece, Pippin and Tommy, and students exploring Long Island will share their M-Term experiences with the Lower School.


Congratulations to all students on the completion of a successful Midwinter Term.

OFF-CAMPUS COURSE BLOGS Adventure on the South Pacific: Founder’s Trip to French Polynesia  Read blog The Coastal Ecology of St. John, U.S. Virgin Island  Read blog Ethnomusicology in Cuba  Read blog An Exploration of the Culture, History, and the Environment of Panama  Read blog Hiking the Ridgeway: Sustainable Travel on the Oldest Road in Europe  Read blog Isolated Like an Island in the Planetary Sea: Myanmar  Read blog RSTA Travels to Greece: The Olympics and the Meaning of Sport  Read blog Grades 7/8: Ethnology and Sustainable Ecology in Belize  Read blog

M-Term Week 2: Marine Studies, Rain Forests, Art, Music, Theater, and Cuisine

The 2014 Midwinter Term, or M-Term, began on February 24 and runs through March 14. Students are currently traveling overseas, studying on campus, and working on approved independent projects.


In Mo’orea, students are working with marine science experts at the Gump South Pacific Research Station conducting on-site biodiversity research and fieldwork to collect, identify, and document marine life using biocubes, frames that measure 1 cubic foot of space in the ocean. This week, students accompanied distinguished Smithsonian scientists Dr. Chris Meyer and Dr. Seabird McKeon to the edge of Cook’s Bay to retrieve the ARMS (artificial reef monitoring system), which has been submerged and collecting data for two years.


In the Caribbean, Ethnomusicology in Cuba students continued their daily drumming classes and explored the beauty of old Havana, while students studying the coastal ecology of the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John are learning about the island’s flora and fauna and the challenges facing the local coral reefs. Recently, they went on a medicinal plant walk with an indigenous local expert and visited Princess Bay and Haulover Bay.


Over in Central America, on the Panama trip, students are studying the lush rain forests and wildlife and interacting with indigenous groups. On March 3, they journeyed three hours outside of Panama City to Tusipono village to meet the Embera Tribe. One student said of the experience, “We are true outsiders, but the people are more welcoming than some of our neighbors at home.”


Not too far away, in Belize, students are exploring tropical rain forests, observing marine animals and other wildlife (including howler monkeys and coatis), and learning the customs of the local people. On March 6, the class got to snorkel near the Belize Great Barrier Reef, the second largest coral reef in the world, diving in with sea creatures of all kinds.


On March 6 in England, students traversing the Ridgeway Trail walked 17 miles from Avebury to Ogbourne St. George. Despite the long walk, the group seems to be maintaining good spirits, and they are posting reflections on their visits to such British landmarks as Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey. Further east in Europe, Ross School Tennis Academy students in Greece are keeping up with a rigorous training schedule but taking time to experience the culture, cuisine, and history—and of course, the grass courts!


In Myanmar, students are experiencing the sometimes shocking diversity between the country’s ancient beauty and its modernity. “The cultural difference between what I am used to and what I see here is vast, and I’m not even sure I have begun to properly comprehend it,” one student said of her first experiences with this new world. They are currently in Mandalay.


Back in New York, the Art and Culture class is completing a mural with students’ paintings of human rights violations; Innovation Lab engineers are turning a large ride-on Barbie ATV into an autonomous robotic rover; and the Mangiamo class is learning Italian cooking, language, and culture.


Students exploring Long Island visited the Morton National Wildlife Refuge in Sag Harbor and went on a shark dive at the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead, where the students were lowered in a cage to observe the sharks. The class has also been learning about coastal ecology from the experts at the aquarium.

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The Life Behind the Lyrics class has been busy. So far, they have studied Beyoncé, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Kelly Rowland, Destiny's Child, Bob Dylan, "American Pie," Nas, J. Cole, Buena Vista Social Club, Amel Larrieux, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Little Walter and other artists from Chess Records. They also visited The Beatles exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Cullman Center, attended the Motown Musical, and tried their hand at drumming, songwriting, musical-writing and story-writing.

Musical Theater Workshop teacher Gerard Doyle says his students are making great strides in their understanding of telling a story through dialogue and song. On March 14, the class will perform the opening number from the musical Pippin.

The J.R.R. Tolkien Middle-Earth class is reading the Hobbit and using their experience as a basis for discussions of sustainability as it relates to cultural heritage, environment, and technology.

Students in the Making Life a Little Greener class have visited area farms and greenhouses, where they have learned about composting, hydroponics, and planting seeds. As a final project, students will formalize a proposal for a greenhouse at Ross School.


In addition to travel and on-campus courses M-Term students have the opportunity to partake in independent study during the term. One student doing independent study is Livia Azevedo, who is interning for an architectural firm and studying Art Deco architecture in South Miami Beach, Florida. Another student, Jordyn Moncur, is spending the time as an intern in the fashion industry in New York City.

OFF-CAMPUS COURSE BLOGS Adventure on the South Pacific: Founder’s Trip to French Polynesia  Read blog The Coastal Ecology of St. John, U.S. Virgin Island  Read blog Ethnomusicology in Cuba  Read blog An Exploration of the Culture, History, and the Environment of Panama  Read blog Hiking the Ridgeway: Sustainable Travel on the Oldest Road in Europe  Read blog Isolated Like an Island in the Planetary Sea: Myanmar  Read blog RSTA Travels to Greece: The Olympics and the Meaning of Sport  Read blog Grades 7/8: Ethnology and Sustainable Ecology in Belize  Read blog

Innovation Lab Tackles Advanced Robotics and Engineering Challenges

DSC_2250 In recent weeks, the Innovation Lab @Ross has been building robots, evaluating National Geographic engineering challenges, and experimenting with Google Glass. Dr. Dave Morgan, Innovation Lab director and dean of science at Ross School, talked with Ross School News about cool things in the works for this specialized academy.

Innovation Lab @Ross is described as an academy for advanced students who are passionate about science, mathematics, engineering, media, and technology. Tell us about what students experience in the program. There are three main areas of focus. First, we offer specialized electives—from programming courses to marine science to welding. All provide hands-on opportunities to invent, engineer, and test designs. Second, students take a Systems course, where they learn about chaos theory and programming models, and how this knowledge can be applied to real-world scenarios. Third, along with Urban Reininger, our director of instructional technology, I offer direction, knowledge, and tools throughout the school year to help students complete independent projects. They’re currently working on some pretty amazing projects, including a liquid nitrogen–cooled computer and hydrogen fuel cells, and studying medical applications of 3D printing.

What's new at Innovation Lab @Ross? In February, National Geographic asked us to evaluate its new Engineering Exploration Challenge. The students investigated real-life challenges explorers face such as designing a camera to withstand an animal attack, creating a wearable power system that can generate electricity to charge devices, and constructing a camera that can be raised and lowered into a forest canopy.

We also recently got our hands on some new technology, including Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets and developer kits and two pairs of Google Glass. The M-Term students in Mo’orea are currently using Google Glass to document the marine life specimens they collect and to take photos and video of their adventures.

What’s coming up for the Innovation Lab @Ross? We’ll of course continue with our robotics projects, building advanced robots with more complex navigation functions such as ultrasonic and infrared sensors and “behavioral” skills. Urban will explore the ethics of robotic design with the students. For example, robots of the future may be capable of providing medical assistance or cars will drive themselves. It’s a question of, “Just because I can build this, should I?”

The program has grown substantially in the first year and a half, and Urban and I have noted a significant increase in the complexity of the independent projects. The expertise, passion and confidence with which the students are inventing and programming is impressive.

As the program gets more sophisticated, we’ll do more engineering challenges, hackathons, and competitions. We’re thrilled that renovations are under way on the lab’s new site at 26 Goodfriend Drive, which will house workshops and electronic labs and give Innovation Lab @Ross room to grow.

M-Term Students Explore, Observe, Create, and Study with Masters

IMG_8461 The 2014 Midwinter Term, or M-Term, began on February 24 and runs through March 14. M-Term is a time when Ross Upper School students and teachers are able to work intensively in classes or on individual projects. The courses provide in-depth studies of subjects that may lead to possible college and career paths, volunteer opportunities, or recreational pursuits.


The students are currently immersed in their studies both overseas and in our local communities. Students who traveled to in Mo’orea, French Polynesia, spent their first days getting acquainted with the Tahitian culture, customs, and people, including the mayor of Faa’a, who introduced the class to what some consider the most beautiful church in French Polynesia. The class also toured U.C. Berkeley’s Gump Research Station, where they will assist with marine science studies during their stay.


The Ethnomusicology in Cuba course is exposing students to opportunities to learn about the history of Cuba’s music and arts, including early Cuban dance and Afro-Cuban culture. In London, England, students have already packed their first days with activity, exploring Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, and Covent Garden. They also walked down the Thames Embankment and Fleet Street to hear Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Next, they will begin their 87-mile (140-km) hike along The Ridgeway Trail.


The Ross School Tennis Academy students arrived in Athens, Greece, and are excited to learn more about the history of the Olympics and sports. In Belize, seventh and eighth graders kicked off their M-Term with studies of various cultures, languages, and ethnic groups in Central America.


Students taking on-campus courses or who have not yet embarked on their M-Term travels cleaned East Hampton beaches, observed local birds and wildlife, and conducted engineering experiments in the Innovation Lab. Arts and Community class students made box art with local artist David Slater.

Emma Engel

Several students are pursuing independent study courses, including sophomore Emma Engel who was accepted to the prestigious Martha Graham Company's All-City Panorama Project. During her Independent “Dance Immersion” course she will be rehearsing and taking ballet and modern dance classes. The program will culminate with four performances, which will be filmed and submitted as her M-Term project.

OFF-CAMPUS COURSE BLOGS Adventure on the South Pacific: Founder’s Trip to French Polynesia  Read blog The Coastal Ecology of St. John, U.S. Virgin Island  Read blog Ethnomusicology in Cuba  Read blog An Exploration of the Culture, History, and the Environment of Panama  Read blog Hiking the Ridgeway: Sustainable Travel on the Oldest Road in Europe  Read blog Isolated Like an Island in the Planetary Sea: Myanmar  Read blog RSTA Travels to Greece: The Olympics and the Meaning of Sport  Read blog Grades 7/8: Ethnology and Sustainable Ecology in Belize  Read blog

Lower School Learns About Senior Projects

23 Members of the Ross School class of 2014 shared their Senior Projects at the Lower School on February 21. Students in pre-nursery through sixth grades were invited to experience three projects firsthand and learn about the journey they will undertake in their senior year.


“Lower School students are always very excited to see the older kids and the amazing projects they complete. It’s impressive to see the joy and wonder on the faces of my students and think about what they will choose for their own future Senior Projects,” said teacher Shannon Timoney.


The projects were drawn from a variety of disciplines. Joe Ando-Hirsh shared his wind-powered water purification system; Olivia Meihofer performed original songs she composed, recorded, and mixed; and Sunny Wang read from her book, Lady One, about her experiences moving from China to Ross School in 2012.


Their audience loved the presentations. "They give me ideas of what I will do when I grow up,” a second grader said. "I like the seniors because they do really good things, like making clean water, and that’s great for the environment,” another student said. A two-year-old in the crowd simply liked the performances, exclaiming “I really love the way that girl sings!”


“I am very proud of our seniors, and, as always, am impressed with the focus and enthusiasm of the younger Ross School students,” said Dale Scott, Senior Project coordinator and director of libraries at Ross School.


Modernity Projects Highlight Advancements of the Modern Era

DSC_1411 During the final week of the 2014 winter trimester, Ross School eleventh graders presented their Modernity Projects to peers, faculty, and the community. The projects are the culmination of their studies of the climax of the Modern Era, in which modernization gained momentum and led to the upheaval of established perceptions and beliefs.

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Throughout the trimester, the students engaged in a series of learning experiences exploring the modern period, including a visit to New York City to see the exhibits “Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary” at the Museum of Modern Art and “The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution” at the New York Historical Society. They were then tasked with developing a product that expressed an aspect of modern consciousness.


Working in a medium of their choice, students created films, models of architecture and inventions, fashion designs, recreations of War World I battlefields and weaponry, and examples of modern technology and publications exploring women’s rights, prohibition, Zionism, and Symbolist art and poetry.


“The Modernity Project is an opportunity for students to dig deep into the subject matter, and the significance of the time period really hits home with the hands-on experience,” said Jen Cross, dean of Visual Arts. “It’s a great learning process and one unique to Ross School.”


Presentations included Nicole Betuel’s film about modernist artist Man Ray, Lily Pahud de Mortanges’s performance of a monologue from Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Amber Kuo’s dance performance in front of her fluorescent-painted rendition of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Jacqui Shi’s Surrealist artworks, Anderson Lin’s pointillist painting, fashion inspired by the 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis by Brenna Leaver, and a life-size replica of a Ford T-Model by Harrison Rowen and Jeong Ho Ha.


Other highlights included Ava Andrea’s scale model of Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House; replicas of the Eiffel Tower by Kris Zhao and Ping Cheng; woodcut prints and paintings inspired by German expressionism by Teague Costello, Evelyn Liang, and Griffin Kim; and a recreation of the Statue of Liberty by Amelie Huerbe. At the conclusion of the presentations, the projects were displayed in the “Modernity Salon” outside the Upper School Café.


Eleventh grader Will Greenberg built a vacuum siphon coffee maker exemplifying Staatliches Bauhaus’s design philosophies of simplicity, standardization, and practicality. “I didn’t think that the presentations would vary all that much, but they definitely did,” Will said. “I learned something different from every one, which was an awesome surprise.”


Pre-K Class Studies Cows at Mecox Bay Dairy

IMG_6059 Ross School Pre-Kindergarten students visited Mecox Bay Dairy on February 19 to continue their studies of the relationship between humans and animals. “The children are learning about the resources animals provide for people, and this trip was an opportunity to specfically observe dairy cows,” said Pre-K teacher Valerie Gatz.

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Mecox Bay Dairy, operated by Art and Stacy Ludlow, produces artisanal cheeses from a small herd of Jersey cows. “Many people have no idea how food gets to their table. Pre-K is a young age to start learning about the process, and the importance of farm animals will likely stick with the children,” Mr. Ludlow said.


A highlight for many students was meeting a baby calf born the morning of their visit. The farmer also showed the class how cows are milked and where the milk is stored. Then they toured the cheese-making rooms and tasted the products produced on the farm.


When the class returned to the Lower School, the students drew pictures showing what they learned about cows and life on a dairy farm.