Lower School Students Put Service Learning in Action

Lower School Students Put Service Learning in Action

The Ross School motto, “Know Thyself in Order to Serve,” is deeply ingrained into the student experience. Service learning, or the experience of learning through helping others, is one of the ways students cultivate interpersonal skills, a sense of empathy, and an understanding of their ability to make a difference in the world around them.

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Rescued Animals Inspire Service at Lower School

Ross Lower School took a walk on the wild side this week with a visit from the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center. Home to Eastern Long Island’s only wildlife hospital, the nonprofit organization rescues roughly 1,000 injured birds, mammals, and reptiles annually. The visit was orchestrated by longtime organization volunteer Diane Marxe (grandmother to Isabella H. ’22 and Emme H. ’28), who was present to share in the children’s joy at seeing some of the group’s exotic bird rescues.

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Lower School Students Help Fight Food Insecurity with Empty Bowls Project

Lower School Students Help Fight Food Insecurity with Empty Bowls Project

Ross School parents and students gathered before winter break to participate in the Empty Bowls Project, an international, grassroots, crafts-based initiative to fight hunger and raise awareness of poverty. Participants create handmade bowls, then supporters are invited to a simple lunch during which they may purchase bowls. The proceeds from the sale of the bowls are donated to local food charities.

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Making a Difference with Senior Projects

BeFunky Collage a Community service and engagement play a significant role in the Ross School philosophy. The motto “Know Thyself in Order to Serve” reflects the school’s commitment to preparing students for meaningful lives and leadership in the global community. Several members of the Class of 2017 used their Senior Projects as a means to raise awareness and support for societal issues like homelessness, endangered species, and physical disability.

During his 2016 Field Academy trip to Namibia, Aaron Kresberg ’17 fell in love with the country, returning over the summer to spend three weeks volunteering with the Rare and Endangered Species Trust. Combining the domains of Media Studies and Technology and Science, Aaron used his Senior Project to raise awareness and money for the organization’s mission, which is to protect, research, and provide education about the “Forgotten Five plus One”: the Cape griffon vulture, the dwarf python, the African wild/painted dog, the Cape/ground pangolin, the Damara dikdik, and the spotted rubber frog. He worked with local businesses in his hometown, Sag Harbor, to try and raise $5,000 for the Trust.

Aaron convinced Sag Harbor’s Provisions Natural Foods to make the trust a beneficiary of their donation program, in which the company donates $0.20 to a nonprofit each month on behalf of customers who supply reusable bags for their purchases; this agreement yielded $1,400 to benefit the foundation’s work. He also organized a social media–driven crowdfunding campaign to spread awareness of the organization’s mission, which resulted in additional contributions totaling $1,500. He hopes to meet his goal by raising the remainder through selling photos he took in Namibia, which are on exhibition in Sag Harbor’s Sara Nightingale Gallery through the end of February.

Evi Kaasik-Saunders ’17 used her Senior Project to provide solutions for two seemingly disparate issues: homelessness and waste pollution. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, more than a half-million Americans are homeless on any given night in the United States. Meanwhile, Americans produce an estimated 4.4 pounds of waste daily. Although about 75 percent of our waste is recyclable, the vast majority of it will end up in landfills. Using integrated systems thinking, Evi sought to create an environmentally friendly solution that would provide homeless people with the items they need to remain safe and relatively comfortable.

Working within the domains of Cultural History, World Languages and Literature: English, and Mathematics, Evi founded SustainaBox, an organization that assembles sustainably produced care packages for those taking refuge in homeless shelters. Every kit contains a series of donated essentials: a blanket, travel-sized toiletries and personal hygiene products, packaged snacks, gloves, socks, and a portable rain poncho. “We aspire to provide relief to those in need while leaving a minimal carbon footprint on the environment,” Evi wrote.

32273489512_906787e5b9_k (1)For her Senior Project, Isabelle Rowe ’17 paired the Science and Wellness domains to raise and train a puppy that will serve as a service animal on behalf of the Guide Dog Foundation. Isabelle’s inspiration for raising a puppy was her Modernity project, in which she researched Ivan Pavlov and animal conditioning. After months of planning and obtaining permission from both the foundation and Ross School administration, Isabelle was assigned Tucci, a three-month-old golden retriever puppy.

Following her mastery of potty training and basic commands, Tucci and Isabelle began specialized training courses and advanced socialization in environments as diverse as classrooms, beaches, and movie theaters. “As she gets older, more will be expected of her,” Isabelle said. “I bring her to class with me, so that she can learn to be obedient, quiet, and comfortable.”

Tucci will remain with Isabelle until she reaches 12–14 months old, at which point she will be returned to the Guide Dog Foundation for her permanent assignment.

Ross Senior Learns What It Takes to Mend Broken Hearts

ashley_ramos_1421 Not many high school students would volunteer to spend their summer in the halls of a hospital, but for the past three years, Ashley Ramos ’16 has done just that, soaking up every chance she can find to prepare for her future career as a cardiologist.

Ashley’s interest in cardiology began during her freshman year of high school, and every summer since she has attended research programs from leading institutions like Columbia University, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Last summer, she participated in the Weill Cornell Youth Scholars Program, joining current medical students for lectures in anatomy and physiology, working in cadaver labs, and engaging in problem-based learning (PBL). One of Ashley’s favorite experiences was learning to apply the week’s lessons to actual organs, working hands-on with a human brain, a kidney, a liver, small and large intestines, and a heart over the course of the program.

Her summer work was the inspiration for Ashley’s Senior Project, for which she will be interviewing two male patients who successfully survived open-heart surgery and using their stories to craft PBL case studies in multimedia form. These case studies will be designed like those used by students in their first and second years of medical school.


Ashley is motivated by how her Senior Project fits in with her professional goals. “This project not only covers one of my biggest interests, but it is also helping me to build the critical thinking and patient interviewing skills necessary to succeed in medical school and my career,” she said.

“I think much of what makes Ashley an outstanding prospect for entering the medical field is her compassion and kindness,” said Brett Smith, Ashley’s academic advisor. “These qualities led Ashley to examine the experience of being a patient going through open heart surgery rather than merely focus on the science or procedure.”

“I had to conduct a lot of research to understand my patients’ conditions and to determine how to properly interview them about their medical history,” Ashley added, “but it has all been really insightful and a blast. Because of this project, I have a clear idea of what it takes to succeed in medical school, and I am excited.”

Personal Experience Turns Survivor into Activist

amanda_mintz_1055 According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 20 to 30 percent of women experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Nearly two-thirds of assaults go unreported, due in part to the stigma surrounding rape. In light of these unnerving statistics, Ross School senior Amanda Mintz has devoted her Senior Project to raising awareness about sexual assault through education.

Amanda founded In My Shoes, a nonprofit organization that provides education and resources to help people recognize and report assault, as well as aid survivors in healing from their trauma. The idea was born from her own sexual assault at the age of 15.

“Coming out with the part of my life that I’ve kept hidden for so long was difficult,” Amanda said. “I was very scared of the backlash I might receive, but our community has been so welcoming and loving. The positive feedback I’ve gotten has made it empowering for me; it’s made the process of healing that much more meaningful.”

Volunteering at The Retreat, an East Hampton–based organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence, was helpful in her recovery. Being embedded in a community of survivors whose self-empowerment and courage strengthened Amanda’s desire to start In My Shoes.

“It’s been inspiring to see Amanda want to bring awareness to a topic that has historically been glossed over, if not ignored all together,” said Kerrie Tinsley-Stribling, who taught Amanda in a course titled “Empowering Women Through Self-Expression” and serves as Amanda’s Senior Project mentor. “She hasn’t looked at any part of her project as an obstacle in the negative sense; she views each challenge as an opportunity to demonstrate her personal strength.”

Because fear and shame are the two most common reasons victims do not report their attacks, empowering victims and encouraging widespread vigilance are keys to reversing rape culture, as well as integral to the mission of In My Shoes.


In addition to a website that includes a wealth of statistics and resources for helping those affected by sexual violence, Amanda has created an “event-in-a-box,” a tool educators can use to raise awareness of the topic using age-appropriate and easy-to-understand language. The kits are currently available to schools by request, and Amanda’s hope is that someday all schools will be equipped with them.

To tell the stories of rape survivors, Amanda is producing a short documentary focused on the experiences of four rape survivors, which will be screened during Senior Project Exhibition Week. Additionally, In My Shoes supporters can purchase pairs of shoelaces—symbolizing survivors’ work to tie their lives back together following assault—decorated by Amanda and other survivors.

Earlier this month, Amanda hosted two public screenings of the 2015 documentary The Hunting Ground, which covers the prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses. Each event was followed by a panel discussion comprising survivors, parents of survivors, and mental health professionals.

“Rape is such a controversial issue because it’s not really talked about,” Amanda said. “Experiencing and surviving rape is not something that should be feared; survivors should be respected and understood. Education is the only way that will happen.”

Though she started In My Shoes for her Senior Project, Amanda expects that the foundation will survive long beyond exhibition night. “I don't think Amanda realizes the magnitude of incredible work she is doing,” said Kerrie. “Her passion for this subject gives me hope that young women will realize their worth and the incredible amount of strength they have as a united force to instill social change.”

Ross School Students Pay It Forward

IMG_4917 Throughout the school year, Ross School students participate in service initiatives targeted to fill both local and global needs. From raising money for local food pantries and sustainability programs designed to restore shellfish populations to volunteering time to help wounded wildlife, their commitment is making a difference. The most recent example is the fourth grade’s “Generated by Love: Pay It Forward” project.


“The project resulted from our studies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Catherine Ryan Hyde’s novel Pay It Forward,” said fourth grade teacher Alicia Schordine. While listening to Dr. King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, the class was inspired by his call to action: “Everybody can be great, because anybody can serve; all you need is a soul generated by love.”


Classroom discussions about what it might look like for a child to serve led to the reading of Pay It Forward. At the start the novel, teacher Reuben St. Clair asks his class to come up with a plan to change the world. Ross fourth graders were so taken by this assignment that they decided to create businesses with a philanthropic mission. Working in small groups or on their own, students chose a charity with a mission they identified with and came up with a business proposal, plan, and marketing strategy. They designed posters, informational presentations, and charity profiles.


On February 22, students, staff, and members of the community were invited to the Pay It Forward Market, where the fourth graders’ products were available for purchase. They quickly sold out and raised money for six different charities, including Make-a-Wish Foundation, St. Judes Children’s Hospital, Go 4 the Goal, ARF, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and the Buccoo Reef Trust Foundation in Tobago. With a few matching donations and funds raised from selling their goods throughout the month at the school and in their local communities, the class has raised over $2,000.


For the next phase, students are writing letters to their selected charities to introduce themselves and their businesses, tell why they chose the charity, and share how much money they raised. The goal is to present the money to organization representatives when they visit the Lower School.


“This project has been an amazing experience for all of us. Not only has it been an authentic and meaningful service learning project, but it has also taught fourth graders about financial literacy, economics, business management, nonprofit organizations, business writing, and fund-raising,” Alicia said. “I am so proud of the amazing work and dedication my students put into this project, and so grateful for the support of our wonderful Lower School community. I am sure this will be an experience that will remain with them forever.”


Mark Tompkins: Giving Back to Our Community

Mark Eighth grade teacher Mark Tompkins is noted for inspiring others to give back to our extended community. School News recently sat down with Mark to talk about volunteerism at Ross School and about taking an active role in positive change.

Describe your role at Ross School. I’ve enjoyed teaching the eighth grade at Ross for eight years, and it’s personally rewarding to watch the students develop into young men and women with the ability to help make a positive difference in the global community.

I find that young people are often thought to be self-absorbed and egocentric. That’s true to an extent, but the trick is to help them find ways to use their energy and spirit to help others. It’s been my experience that the events we participate in are always well received, and the students like being involved in a good cause.

For example, we volunteer five or six times a year at Maureen’s Haven in Riverhead, and the students are always polite, helpful, and generally eager to pitch in with whatever is needed.

Plus, at that age, they associate service with doing fun stuff with friends. It’s social as much as it is moral.

Tell us about the events you have involved your students in this year. Sure. In addition to volunteering onsite at Maureen’s Haven, I also organize a group to participate in the Polar Plunge at Founder’s Beach in Southold to support the shelter. It’s a really great time, and the students get into it. This year we dressed up as ninjas with swords and props. Even those who were reluctant at first quickly found significance in being involved in supporting such a great cause.

Another great experience for everyone was joining the People’s Climate March in New York City back in September. As one student put it, “being involved in something so large and meaningful was surreal.”

In November, we also had the pleasure of hosting the founder of Malawi’s Jacaranda Foundation and School for Orphans, Marie Da Silva, and 16-year-old student Alinafe Botha, who shared their inspiring stories with the Ross community. We continued the connection, and the class is currently raising money to ship 100 pairs of shoes to Jacaranda students.

The students really seem to enjoy getting involved. What are they currently working on? As part of eighth grade orientation for the past few years, the class has watched a film about the Paper Clips Project, an initiative by middle school students in Tennessee who created a monument for victims of the Holocaust. It inspired our own sculpture to represent the casualties of war with buttons, and each class has influenced the project.

A final design was chosen last year, and the current eighth grade class is helping it take shape. Every button represents a life, and it’s pretty powerful for the students. They are really driving it forward. I may offer some guidance here and there, but ultimately, I step back and let them own it.

As the school year draws to a close, can you share some final thoughts on your student volunteers? I’m so proud of how the students have developed as individuals, and I know they will continue to build on their talents and strengths. It will be interesting to watch their progress at Ross, and I look forward to their continued involvement in the efforts to make this world a better place.

Ross School Service Learning Project Supports Island Harvest

VDay7 On February 13, students, families, and friends gathered in the Field House to celebrate the Lower School’s service learning project in support of Island Harvest, Long Island’s largest hunger relief organization. Inspired by the Ross motto, “Know Thyself in Order to Serve,” all Lower School students created jewelry pieces that reflect their cultural history studies. Proceeds from the sale of the items were donated to help fight hunger.

View photos of the Service Learning Project


After extending a warm welcome, Head of Lower School Jeanette Tyndall turned the podium over to special guest Stacey Parsell, vice president of Development at Island Harvest. Stacey explained the wide-reaching hunger crisis impacting thousands of children and families on Long Island. She expressed her gratitude and shared information about her organization’s programs that are helping to ease their situations. One initiative provides healthy meals to children to eat over the weekends. Many of those impacted are embarrassed by their situation, so Island Harvest delivers the packages in discreet locations. She then showed an inspiring video that was testament to the good that comes from the community pulling together to care for their neighbors in need.


Next, Shannon Timoney, who organized the schoolwide effort, explained the importance of the service learning project and invited student ambassadors from each grade level to briefly describe the inspiration for their jewelry pieces. Nursery students made clay medallions of the sun, moon and stars; kindergarten’s and first graders’ works focused on creation and cycles; the second grade chose to work with sand, a natural material of the Earth; third graders fashioned fossil imprint necklaces; the fourth graders made beaded necklaces out of clay mixed with dried herbs and pastel pigments inspired by ones found at Neolithic settlement sites in Europe and Asia; the fifth grade created amulet necklaces to go along with their current study of Ancient Egypt; and sixth graders’ pieces incorporated glass beads in the style of the Ancient Phoenicians and golden bracelets recalling Ancient Greece.


Before everyone dispersed to browse and purchase the jewelry on display, they were treated to a moving performance of “That’s What Friends Are For” (written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager) by a chorus of students in grades 3, 4, and 5. The song was even more touching because the schoolmates had devoted their recess periods to prepare for the event.


The final tally of funds raised has not been calculated, but at last count, the Ross Lower School was on track to deliver a check for more than $1,200 to Island Harvest.


Thank you to the Lower School for living the Ross Core Values and lending a much needed helping hand to Long Islanders in need.

Ross School’s Empty Bowls Fundraiser Helps Island Harvest Fight Hunger

Bowls3 On November 21, an inspiring Empty Bowls event during the annual Thanksgiving lunch at the Lower School raised money for Island Harvest, Long Island’s largest organization helping to feed the hungry. Students, faculty, parents and members of the extended community participated in the charitable event that for many showcased the spirit of the giving season, the importance of helping others in a time a need, and of course, the Ross School’s dedication to taking action to make a difference in our local and global communities. Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger.


Preparations for the fundraiser were led by Visual Arts Teacher Soraya Brooks and the Lower School Parents Association. In recent weeks, each student in Early Childhood through grade 6, as well as faculty, staff and parents, made ceramic bowls to sell at Friday’s Thanksgiving lunch. Bowls made by local potters were also donated by The Clay Art Guild of the Hamptons in Water Mill. The final result was a beautiful display of creativity and compassion.

View pics of the students making clay bowls

Bowls 2

“This was a great opportunity for everyone in the Ross community to be creative together and learn about making art which can make a difference in your community,"  Soraya said. The School sold over 200 bowls and raised more than $3,000 for Island Harvest, a portion of which they will use to purchase turkeys to give the gift of a Thanksgiving feast to a family in need.


The afternoon began in the Field House with an uplifting and party-like atmosphere. As guests arrived, they exchanged laughter and well-wishes and browsed the collection of ceramic bowls. Adding to the warm feelings was the Lower School students’ Friendship Tree, designed by parents Bill and Ann Stewart, displaying “leaves” upon which the students wrote what they are grateful for in their lives.


Stacy Parsell, vice president of Development at Island Harvest, greeted everyone with a message of sincere thanks and showed a moving video to share how her organization is helping to feed so many people. She said with the Ross School’s help, many in our community would not go hungry this holiday season.


“It’s really wonderful to be part of this and know that the School’s efforts will make an immediate difference,” said Genie Egerton-Warburton, LS PA president. “It’s also a valuable lesson for the children to see firsthand that when we work together, we can make amazing things possible. I’m so proud of all of them.”


The assembly also included a concert by Lower School students who volunteered to practice after school and sing at the event. They performed a beautiful rendition of “We are the World” and several moving solo songs. Local professional musicians Dan Koontz and Bruce Beyer accompanied the student singers and played the keyboard and drums.


For lunch, attendees enjoyed a simple meal of bread and soup as a humble reminder to be grateful for the many gifts we often take for granted.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Students Attend Screening of Human Rights Film We Are the Giant

Arab Upr studs w Maryam On May 7, students of the Arab Uprisings elective and their teachers, Debra McCall and Carrie Clark attended a screening of We Are the Giant in Manhattan. They were invited to the event by Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders program at Human Rights First (HRF), who spoke at Ross School’s graduation ceremony in 2013.

The film profiles activists on the ground in Libya, Syria, and Bahrain during the 2011 Arab Spring and beyond. The movie introduces the al-Khawaja sisters, Zainab and Maryam, daughters of human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). He is currently serving a life sentence in a Bahrain prison for his non-violent resistance against an oppressive monarchy that has ruled Bahrain since 1783. The film portrays each of the sisters’ efforts on behalf of their family and country to advocate for peaceful regime change in Bahrain.

“We discussed the film in class after the screening, and many were particularly moved by a scene showing a young girl singing an innocent song when she suddenly disappears in an explosion (the girl lived). It was a memorable and humbling experience for them to meet Maryam and be inspired by her indomitable spirit and her commitment to human rights, non-violent resistance, and the people of Bahrain,” Debra said.

One student has followed Maryam’s suggestion to contact her in order to write young dissenters of her own age in Bahrain.

Students Host Girl Rising Screening to Support Education for Women

DSC_2623 To honor Women’s History Month in March, students taking the Global Women’s Movement elective hosted screenings of Girl Rising for schoolmates and the Ross School community to raise awareness of the importance of educating girls around the world. The film follows nine girls who overcame formidable challenges to become agents of change and inspiration for girls and women everywhere.


“Investing in the education of girls is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse of women around the world,” said Debra McCall, director of curriculum and professional development and dean of Cultural History at the Upper School.

The main goals of the elective were to raise consciousness about global gender inequality and discrimination of girls and women, and to engage in activism to bring awareness of programs and movements addressing these issues. Students were also challenged to “find their own voice” to advocate for change on behalf of a cause about which they are passionate, such as child marriage, domestic slavery, gay rights, or simply self-confidence in their own daily lives.

“I don't know where to start to express how meaningful and powerful this class is to me. I have been finding my voice and am so much stronger and more confident. I acquired a knowledge that I never expected and developed a sense of activism that will help me so much in the long term,” said sophomore Big Kitty.

Students looked at a range of topics, from the state of girls’ education worldwide and the positive difference even a year of schooling can make, to violence against women, to the “glass ceiling,” to women’s peace movements, to the statistics about the realities facing women today. “The students were blown away to learn the United States is one of only three nations in the world to not mandate maternity leave and one of the few to not offer a paid maternity leave,” Debra said.


Back in January, the class held a "1950s bake sale" to raise money to bring the educator’s edition of Girl Rising to campus. Proceeds from the screenings will be donated to the Girl Rising 10x10 educational fund. The class hopes to break $1,000, and is still accepting donations. Please contact Debra McCall at dmccall@ross.org if you wish to contribute.

Sixth Grade Organizes Spring Closet Clean-Out to Help Head Start

HHH Ross sixth graders have organized the Spring Closet Clean-Out drive to benefit local Head Start classrooms in Bridgehampton. Ross School families are encouraged to donate clothing and household items at the Lower School from March 25 to 31.

There are currently 52 students enrolled in the Head Start preschool class who receive daily meals and early learning instruction, and there are dozens on a waiting list. Head Start hopes to provide the children with a healthy foundation so they can begin kindergarten prepared for a great start to their education.

The participants in the program are from local families whose income is below the national poverty level. Families are in need of many everyday items, including clothing in all sizes from infant to adult, pajamas, shoes, boots, and linens. Art supplies, classroom supplies, books, and puzzles are also needed for classrooms.

Sixth graders will be available at morning drop-off and afternoon pickup to help unload your donations. “The students are always looking for ways to make the lives and learning experience a bit better for their extended community. It’s wonderful to see their enthusiasm, and we look forward to delivering the donations to Head Start in April,” said sixth grade teacher Deborah Minutello-Bartlett.

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.

photo 2

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

Students Brave Polar Plunge to Help the Homeless

DSC_2037 On March 1, Ross School students, faculty, and staff participated in the annual Peconic Polar Plunge at Founders Beach in Southold in support of Maureen’s Haven, a local community organization providing shelter and compassionate services to the homeless on the East End of Long Island. Led by eighth grade cultural history teacher Mark Tompkins, the group charged into the icy bay dressed as pirates.


A warm sense of community helped the swimmers prepare for the plunge. “We often hear talk of the importance of giving back to the community, but the Ross students are always ready to take action to make a difference,” Mark said.


Back in February, Mark and his students set up a table outside the East Hampton post office to raise awareness and funds for the charity, and they handed over the check as part of the pre-plunge festivities.


One eighth grade pirate summed it up with a big smile: “It was so cold, but it was so worth it!”


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

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

Ross Students Inspired to Make a Difference in Honor of Gandhi, Mandela, and MLK

DSC_0129 As part of their studies about Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., students at Ross Lower School discovered that the actions of one person make a difference. Grade six wrote and performed a play detailing the remarkable life of Mandela, and the fourth grade encouraged acts of service for others by organizing a school supply drive for students in North Carolina.

View photos


The play, put on for grades K–5 on January 14, depicted the life of Mandela—from his powerful protests against apartheid, to his 27-year incarceration, to his term as president of South Africa, where he oversaw the dismantling of apartheid and its system of institutionalized racism. A large mural of Mandela created with LS student handprints kept his presence strong throughout the performance.


“The play celebrated Mandela’s teachings that education is the most powerful weapon and that the actions of one person can change the world,” said Chris Engel, director of community programs at Ross. “The students’ theatrical demonstration communicated these powerful messages to their fellow classmates.”


A question-and-answer period following the performance offered an opportunity for younger students to ask the actors what it was like to experience Mandela’s life while in character. “It was difficult to play the part of Mandela’s prison guard, because I knew I was representing something ugly that actually happened,” said sixth grader Ella Griffiths.


Though the subject was difficult to tackle at times, the students felt the play ultimately brought a better understanding of the enormous positive change one man was able to bring to a nation, and that understanding translated into action.


“These great men who urged education and peaceful actions in the fight for equality and civil rights also inspired the fourth graders to organize a supply drive to support a school in need of learning tools,” said Lower School teacher Alicia Schordine, referring to Mandela, Gandhi, and King. All LS grades participated in donating materials for the drive, which will benefit Alicia’s former students at the North Carolina Prep School in Tarboro. The support is especially timely, because burst pipes recently flooded their classroom and destroyed their small amount of books and supplies. To raise money for the shipping costs to North Carolina, fourth graders sold white ribbon pins symbolizing hope for peace.