Ross Lower School Receives NWF Wildlife Habitat Certification

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

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

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

LS Welcomes Fuzzy, Scaly, Slithery Friends

DSC_4397 Representatives from the Quogue Wildlife Refuge visited Ross Lower School to introduce Early Childhood students and their second grade buddies to a few cuddly, feathered, and slithering critters, and to educate them on how animals survive in the wild and contribute to the environment.DSC_4382

Renee Allen, an environmental educator, first shared a bit about what goes on at the Refuge, a nonprofit, 300-acre nature preserve founded in 1934 that is home to diverse wildlife species. The complex houses abandoned and permanently injured animals that require human care to survive, including reptiles, foxes, bobcats, owls, and raptors.


Renee explained that humans have a responsibility to protect our environment and discussed how our actions can have a positive or negative impact on creatures. For example, Buddy, the fox at the Refuge, was rescued from a local beach, where he was found tangled up in fishing line. Buddy’s friend, a bald eagle, has lived at the Refuge for 30 years; he was shot and has only one wing. The students agreed that it was important to have a role in caring for the environment, and, indeed, Ross has a history of engaging in tasks such as picking up trash and litter from our beaches and parks.


Other interesting animal tales highlighted the importance of researching animal behavior and care before taking them in as pets. One of the first visitors introduced was Spike, a desert tortoise from Africa, who was left on the doorstep of the Refuge six years ago. She can grow up to 250 pounds and live for more than 100 years. One can only surmise that she was too much to handle for previous owners. She is now quite happy living in the complex’s greenhouse with other hard-shelled friends. Students were delighted to hear that she eats cacti, hay, grass, strawberries, and watermelon (her favorite).


Students also had an opportunity to meet, touch, and learn about a bearded dragon (his neck turns color when he is excited), a corn snake (he can swallow the equivalent of a student’s entire dinner in one bite), a screech owl (a tree-cavity nester), a Madagascar hissing cockroach (she feeds on decomposing organisms), and Princess the opossum (a cute but messy eater who loves fruit but spits out the skins).


The visit was a fun and informative learning experience that left students with a deeper understanding of caring for their environment and its creatures.

Courtney Sale Ross Honored with UCLA Global Citizen Award

DSC_0312 Ross School Founder Courtney Sale Ross was honored with the inaugural UCLA Global Citizen Award, which recognizes individuals making transformational change for the children of the world through visionary leadership in education in the global era. Mrs. Ross was presented with the award at the West Coast Celebration marking the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles on February 8.

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, who was introduced by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, discussed the importance of properly preparing today’s youth for the future. “The agenda around climate change and the agenda around sustainable development should be one and the same agenda, if we want to achieve peace—if we want to teach our children to think differently,” said Bokova. “In this, I think education and learning are playing an extremely important role.”

DSC_0176 left to right: Gene Block, Irina Bokova, Mrs. Ross, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

UCLA Wasserman Dean of Education and Information Studies Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, who nominated Mrs. Ross for the award, touted her as an education visionary, saying, “Courtney Sale Ross is a true pioneer championing transformational change. Ahead of her peers, she has recognized that preparing all students to meet the challenges of the 21st century requires an entirely new education model. We greatly admire her leadership in global learning and are honored to recognize her groundbreaking efforts.”

The Global Citizen Award was presented to Mrs. Ross by Dean Suárez-Orozco and UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, who remarked, “Ross School is an inspiring example of a 21st century education.”


left to right: Gene Block, Mrs. Ross, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco

Mrs. Ross has been an innovative leader and visionary in the field of global education for more than 25 years. She recognized that preparing students to meet the challenges of the 21st century requires developing models to transform education. Most recently, she initiated the historic gathering at the Vatican for Pope Francis’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences Workshop titled “Children and Sustainable Development: A Challenge for Education.”

“I am honored to receive this award and to have the opportunity to help lead the effort to develop solutions to the difficult challenges we face,” Mrs. Ross said. “I look forward to a continued collaboration and cooperation with today’s education leaders. It is the only way we will be able to expedite global consciousness.”


left to right: Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, Irina Bokova, Mrs. Ross, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Gene Block

The evening also celebrated the establishment of the new UNESCO Chair of Global Learning and Global Citizenship Education, a position that will be filled by UCLA Professor Dr. Alberto Torres.



Ross Introduces Online Access to Ross Spiral Interactive Tool

RossSpiral_ScreenCaptureRoss recently unveiled the new Ross Spiral Interactive tool, an online visualization that enables students and educators worldwide to explore the Ross Spiral Curriculum. The model offers an interconnected look at the content studied in grades kindergarten through 12. The Spiral Interactive was developed over a period of two years with celebrated information architect Santiago Ortiz and user interface (UI) designer Daniel Aguilar, who helped Ross to conceptualize a technical framework broad enough to cover the richness of the Ross Spiral Curriculum.

“Ross continues to innovate and to advance the Ross Learning System, and the Spiral Interactive provides access to the unique learning experience at Ross School. We are delighted to share this tool,” said Jennifer Chidsey, president of Ross Institute and chief academic officer of Ross Institute and Ross School.

The Ross Spiral Curriculum is composed of over 500 interdisciplinary and discipline-specific units—defined themes of study within a course whose duration varies from several weeks to a trimester. These units are in turn made up of learning experiences and integrated projects that function as nodes in a vast network. The connections that students make between these experiences are as important as the knowledge gained in them.

The model offers a holistic view of the K–12 curriculum, allowing for exploration along multiple pathways and displaying its interdisciplinary nature. The Ross Spiral Interactive is presented with supplementary navigational and informational components, including a linear interface and a timeline, that respond in sync with the Spiral.

Other accessible online innovations connected to the Ross Learning System include the RLS Sustainability Thread, which targets key lessons across the Ross Spiral Curriculum that help prepare students to understand and address prevalent social and environmental issues and realities, and RLS Project Circles, an interactive tool that enables students to assess the sustainability of a specific location or environment.

Students Discuss Presenting at Vatican, Sustainability

DSC_9134 At recent assemblies at Ross Upper and Lower Schools, six Ross students who traveled to Rome in November to present at a conference titled “Children and Sustainable Development: A Challenge for Education” shared their experiences with their schoolmates. The conference was the result of efforts led in part by the school’s founder, Courtney Sale Ross, to include the voices of youth in international conversations about sustainability and climate change, and students from around the world contributed to the gathering.

The assemblies allowed the Ross delegation to take turns sharing what they thought were the most impactful parts of their trip to Rome. All agreed it was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Postgraduate student Kwazi Nkomo, from South Africa, noted the number of languages she heard spoken at the conference, and marked it as a testament to the international commitment to sustainability. Other students, including Kely A. ’23, talked fondly of the opportunity to work with peers from France, Italy, and the Middle East to develop a list of principles and guidelines that was submitted to the conference committee to review for inclusion in a list of global recommendations that will be released in the coming weeks.

Ross students Malik Basnight ’16, Shanshan He ’16, and Isabelle Rowe ’17 said it was great to be involved in such an important discussion, and they are proud that their work may ultimately help shape a global sustainability curriculum. They talked about the necessity of educating young people about sustainability from an early age and introduced the concept of “eco-literacy,” the idea that everyone should know where their food and water come from if they hope to protect these valuable resources. Diego Vanegas ’20 agreed, saying that preparing students to embrace their social and environmental responsibilities should be as important as learning science or math.

While in Rome, the group also toured famous historical sites, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum. For most, it was their first time in Rome, and they were blown away to see in person some of the objects and sites they’ve studied at Ross. Malik said the Sistine Chapel was magnificent, and it was incredible to imagine that such a creation was possible.

During the Q&A periods at the assemblies, Lower School students mentioned their latest sustainability project in support of the Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery and expressed an interest in one day participating in a trip similar to the one to the Vatican. At the Upper School, students learned that Ross is establishing a sustainability club to gather people interested in sustainability, social entrepreneurship, activism, and scientific and technological innovations.

The students who attended the conference were gratified to have the chance to discuss their experiences and keep their schoolmates informed about how Ross is providing important opportunities for their voices to be heard, inspiring a schoolwide commitment to sustainability.

Senior Project: Shanshan He Studies Sustainability in Mozambique


For her Senior Project, Shanshan He ’16 is exploring four interconnected areas of sustainability—ecology, culture, economics, and politics—in Zavora, Mozambique. This past summer, she spent time in the African nation to experience the rich culture and customs of its people and to study the fragile ecosystems of the nudibranch, a soft-bodied marine mollusk. She will communicate what she learned by creating an interactive website that integrates visual arts and scientific and cultural research. She is also completing a series of oil paintings of the nudibranch.

Shanshan said she was inspired by the beauty and “grand diversity” of the nudibranch, which she first encountered on a Field Academy trip to the Solomon Islands last year. The mollusks are known for their vibrant colors, and one of the species Shanshan is taking a close look at is named the Spanish Dancer. Her paintings will capture the flowing movements and rich coloring of the Spanish Dancer and 11 other chosen species.


To get to Mozambique, Shanshan applied to and was selected for a summer internship at a marine laboratory in Zavora, an area relatively unexplored in terms of nudibranch research. It’s the location of the “jewel of the ocean,” a pool where 33 new species of nudibranch were recently discovered.

“Due to civil wars and British and Portuguese colonialism over the years, marine research in Mozambique was basically nonexistent. The country is currently recovering, and this makes current studies critical,” Shanshan explained.

Shanshan described the experience in Mozambique as life-changing. “One of the lead marine scientists at the lab is a pioneer in nudibranch studies, and working side by side with her was an amazing opportunity. On my first day there, she identified a new nudibranch species, and it was special to be part of the discovery,” Shansan said.

To prepare for her trip, she earned an advanced SCUBA diving certification. Shanshan said exploring the fragile marine ecosystems was both magical and bittersweet. On one of her many research dives, she was even able to swim with a humpback whale. However, due to extreme poverty in Mozambique, the people turn to the sea for their livelihood, and they are harvesting the marine life, such as sharks and rays, at an alarming rate. Shanshan worries about the sustainability of the communities and environment.


Shanshan’s website will present the interconnection between macro and micro aspects of sustainability. Her goal is to ensure that her audience learns about the nudibranch as well as how dramatic, beautiful, and fragile marine life is. “This species is so sensitive to the environment, and my project will highlight the health and condition of the ecosystem. I’ll lead people from a macro lens describing the sustainability of Zavora, to a visual experience of the nudibranch, then to the molecular world of the Spanish Dancer,” she explained. Shanshan is currently working with Innovation Lab Director Dr. Dave Morgan to abstract DNA from samples she collected in Mozambique, which will then be sent to a lab for sequencing. She said it’s possible that this her samples will identify a new species of nudibranch.

Shanshan said the people, culture, and ecosystems in Mozambique are fascinating, and she hopes to return one day for further explorations. “I named my project ‘And Still, They Dance,’ because it speaks to the resilience and sense of hope among the people as well as the fluid beauty of the nudibranch,” she said.

Courtney Sale Ross and Students Present at Vatican Conference on Sustainability and Education

Students at Vatican On November 14, Ross School Founder Courtney Sale Ross and a group of Ross students were proud to present at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences workshop at the Vatican titled “Children and Sustainable Development: A Challenge for Education.” Mrs. Ross was the impetus for the workshop being created and was named its Honorary President.

The Vatican workshop was a follow-up to a previous conference titled “Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility,” held in May 2014. Mrs. Ross was invited as an official observer to that event, and worked with academicians to propose a follow-up meeting that focused on children and education. This latest workshop was the result of that proposal.


The students presented at a session designed to contribute the voices of youth to discussions about sustainability and climate change. They were joined by peers from Italy, France, and Germany, as they spoke in front of some of the most notable minds in education, sustainability thinking, and research.

A main point the students discussed is the need for a shift in mentality about how we think about sustainability. “Everything is interconnected, and one person’s careless action will eventually have a harmful effect on the world around him or her,” said Diego Vanegas ’20, who presented at the conference. A way to bring about change is to educate young people about critical issues at a very early age. “When you are learning 2 + 2, you should also be educated about climate change and global sustainability,” Diego explained.

Mrs. Ross remarked, “I have long advocated that sustainability should be a foundational principle in the way that we teach our children, and in fact it is our ethical and moral obligation to make sure they receive this education. Pope Francis has become a champion of this very important issue, and I am honored to have had the opportunity to contribute. Ensuring our children are prepared to face this new environment is essential, and we must instill in them the desire to create solutions to contribute to this global crisis.”

Students at Vatican 6

The students’ participation in the conference aligns with Ross School’s long- held commitment to activism and global citizenship. Malik Basnight ’16, another presenter, said. “We were honored to represent Ross students and to add our voice to this critical dialogue.”

Other key discussion topics included the fate of future generations, altering the ecosystem, clean energy, animal extinction, decrease in hospitable land, loss of finite resources, and quality of life for the poor and vulnerable.

The students received a standing ovation in recognition of their work and for helping to move the discussion about sustainability and education forward.

“This crisis demands that we actively engage and do better than our individual best. A collective response is necessary,” said Kwazi Nkomo, a postgraduate student at Ross.

Ross Students Isabelle Rowe, Kely Archambault, Kwazi Nkomo, Diego Vanegas, Shanshan He, Malik Basnight at St. Peter's Square, Vatican City.

Prior to the workshop, the students had an opportunity to tour Rome’s historical sites, including the Colosseum, Pantheon, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Shanshan He ’16 said it was incredible to visit the subjects of their studies at Ross, adding, “Overall, the entire experience in Rome was powerful and meaningful, and it’s wonderful to play a role in helping to bring about positive change in our global and local communities.”

Students Committed to Helping Restore Local Shellfish Population

Hatch6 The Ross Lower School sustainability goal this year is to help promote action-oriented stewardship of our local waters and the restoration of our shellfish populations. They are currently planning a project to support the Conscience Point Shellfish Hatchery. On November 6, the group’s Executive Director, Josh Belury, visited the school to share information about the important role oysters play in reducing nitrate levels in the water and what we can do to help the cause.


The Hatchery is an ideal partner for the school’s sustainability efforts. It was established in 2013 as a community-wide project to expand the East End’s network of local shellfish restoration initiatives. Each month, from March to July, the Hatchery will spawn a million spat (baby oysters) for distribution within Southampton Town waters. It also will have algal growing systems in its facility. Students from local schools have been volunteering at the Hatchery to help with key programs and collect specimens for spawning.


The assembly in the MPR was entertaining, informative and interactive. Josh brought along dozens of oysters that were passed around to the students as well as a fish tank with a few oysters so the students could see firsthand how quickly they clean the water. Each adult oyster filters and cleans up to 50 gallons of water per day, so they are a critical to the health and ecology of our bays and estuaries.


Josh began by asking if the students recalled the fish die-off in the Peconic River last May (the current third grade was actually on a class trip and witnessed the troubling scene firsthand). He then explained that the cause was the high levels of nitrates in the waters that deplete the oxygen. To show how this situation develops, Josh asked the students to assist with a demonstration. They sprinkled a smelly fertilizer over a large farm diorama, and then poured clean water over it to simulate rain. The run-off water, now murky and dirty, was drained into a fish tank. It was a powerful moment that helped bring home to the students how we are harming our groundwater.


One student asked how they could help prevent this situation. Josh said one of the most important things is to help raise awareness. He also encouraged everyone to continue to visit with groups like his who are heading up the restoration projects. “It’s important that they understand that their efforts are appreciated and making a difference.”


Students also learned interesting facts about oyster behavior. For example, they can change their sex to maintain a balance of males and females in their community, another feature that makes them valuable to the water restoration process.

The Lower School students are currently creating beautiful watercolor paintings of oysters that will be available to purchase at the Thanksgiving lunch on November 19. The proceeds will benefit the Conscience Point Hatchery.

Geothermal Heating/Cooling at Ross Helps Reduce Carbon Footprint

DSC_5703_2 Instead of relying on electricity or fossil fuels to heat and cool two of the largest Ross Upper School buildings, the Center for Well-Being (CWB) and the Media and Humanities Pavilion (Building 2), the school has been borrowing energy from the Earth to harness geothermal power. The main benefit of this method of heating is that it reduces the use of fossil fuels and, ultimately, the school’s carbon footprint.

Both buildings are served by separate open loop geothermal well systems. Building 2 uses a 250 gallon per minute system with a single supply well and two return wells. The CWB has a 500 gallon per minute system with a single supply well and three return wells. Both supply groundwater through the use of submersible well pumps that are installed in each of the wells. The pumps are electrically operated and are controlled via building management systems. The groundwater from the wells heats and cools both buildings in a once-through, non-contact, non-consumptive manner. Groundwater is removed from the supply wells, pumped into each building, passed through a plate and frame heat exchanger, and then returned to the subsurface shallow aquifer through the return wells.

“The process is highly efficient,” explained Tom Szajkowski, director of Facilities at Ross School. “This is an entirely environmentally friendly system and well aligned with our commitment to sustainability. The continuation of our geothermal use on campus to heat and cool our buildings reduces dependency on fossil fuels and the global warming and public health risks that result from their use.”

Tom also said the new and updated building management systems used to monitor the temperature in more than half of the buildings at the Upper School allow the programming of temperature variations for off-peak hours, thus reducing the use of energy and resources.

Geothermal power is gaining in popularity as institutions look to renewable, clean energy sources to help address urgent issues related to sustainability and the environment. Ross School remains committed to taking action in this area and others to bring about positive change in our global and local communities.



Treat for a Tiger Bake Sale to Benefit Endangered Tigers

Logo-High_res-small Bronte Zunis ’19 says she has always felt a strong bond with animals, especially tigers, and when she found out they were close to extinction, she knew she had to help. Through research, she discovered Panthera, a wildlife conservation group helping to save big cats, and on Friday, October 30, she will hold a “Treat for a Tiger Bake Sale” in the Center for Well-Being to benefit the organization.

Bronte enjoys taking action to support Panthera. “I visited their main offices in New York City and was amazed at what they were accomplishing,” she reports. Their efforts are dedicated to ensuring a future for wild cats and the vast landscapes on which they depend.

This will be her fourth fundraiser at Ross to help the tigers and abused animals. So far, she’s raised about $2,000, and while she does not have a specific target in mind for the ongoing effort, she thinks reaching $10,000 would be “fantastic.” Some of the money will be used to equip law enforcement agents with the proper knowledge and training to deal with poachers and local conflicts, ensure proper security in tiger hotspots, and provide tracking devices for the animals.

“Tigers play a critical role in the balance of the ecosystem. They are a main predator, and without them, many animals will overpopulate areas and eat other animals’ food sources,” Bronte explains. “Eventually, this will affect trees and seed germination.”

Part of the problem is that some countries rely on money from tourism and offer visits to tiger habitats, where the cats are often abused behind the scenes. After the bake sale, Bronte hopes to set up donation jars in restaurants and stores to raise money and awareness of these situations.

“Earth is already in trouble, and losing one of its most important species will add immensely to the burden we already feel. I hope to change the almost delusional perception that wild animals have very little positive effect on our lives,” she said.

The bake sale starts at 3:30pm. Stop by for a treat and to learn more about the cause.

Students Study Earth’s Evolution on Nature Hike

DSC_4661 Ross School third graders hit the trails at Long Pond Greenbelt Preserve on Tuesday to observe and collect plant life specimens as part of their studies of Earth’s evolution. Lower School Science teacher Bryan Smith kicked off the hike with helpful information about what to keep an eye out for, such as moss and lichen. Wellness teacher John Germano passed around several compasses, reminding the students about their recent lesson in navigation, and then the group was off on an adventurous trek to Long Pond.DSC_4599

The class immediately observed several different types of lichen, moss, and mushrooms and gathered samples in plastic bags. Their teachers explained the significance of their finds and also offered a few lessons in conservation, including a warning not to pick mushrooms because it would kill the fungi. Instead, they were invited to photograph them and other species they encountered.


Along the path, students also gathered information about how these organisms grow, such as moss thriving on the north side of a tree, and are structurally adapted for their environment—information that they will verify through reference research back at school and record in their Cultural History journals. They will then try to mimic the conditions in a classroom terrarium created with their collections.

DSC_4602 (1)

As they hiked, the students’ creativity and imagination was inspired by interesting finds such as a dead tree that was oddly split, prompting some to speculate that it had been struck by lightning or an animal. Further up the path, they came across a “cool” large rock with black spots. One student saw a pattern resembling and elephant, and another insisted it was created with spray paint.


At the pond, the class collected additional specimens from the water and soil and paused for a quick lesson from Bryan. Asking students how the day’s discoveries related to their studies of early life, he invited them to observe the colonies of green bacteria that were likely related to one of the first plants on Earth.


Third grade teacher Meghan Hillen said the students are looking forward to creating the terrarium. The plan is to use cellophane to cover the tank, allowing for water to be recycled through the system. On a class chart, they’ll compare mosses and lichens in the wild to the ones in their terrarium and use the chart to monitor and track changes in the system. They will also investigate the role of these organisms as pioneering species and examine their relationship to two of Earth’s first green organisms: algae and ferns.

Students Ratify Ross Declaration of Principles on Sustainability and the Environment

Ros students sign sustainability declaration Ross School held a schoolwide teach-in last week for all students and faculty to learn more about urgent issues of global sustainability, and to empower students to effect positive change in our local and global communities.

Ross School Founder Courtney Sale Ross initiated this discussion three years ago, calling for K–12 education to address the issues affecting global climate challenges and the sustainability of our planet. She noted, “It is our moral and ethical duty to enhance curricular design in areas related to sustainability and climate change. Our goal is to promote a platform for action that results in the best quality of life possible for our students, and the global community.”

The day culminated in all students signing the Ross Declaration of Principles on Sustainability and the Environment.


Ross School and Ross Institute Declaration of Principles on Sustainability and the Environment

Preamble Guided by the Core Values of the Ross School, we, the members of the Ross School educational community—administrators, staff, teachers, students, and parents—are compelled to address the urgent issues of global environmental change and sustainability that face our planet and our species in the coming century and beyond.

In the context of sustainability—both environmental and cultural—these seven values demand that we face these issues with a sense of respect for all life and gratitude for the natural systems that sustain us; an attitude of mindfulness of our special place in the world and our special responsibility to care for the Earth; and with commitments to international cooperation, institutional integrity, and individual courage to guide our actions.

In accordance with these values, and with our mission to change the way education meets the future; to foster interdisciplinary, integrated thinking and innovative leadership; to engage fully in the global community; and to facilitate lifelong learning, we affirm and declare the following principles concerning the sustainability of our global environment.


  • Every living organism has inherent value, and the stability of our planetary biosphere depends on maintaining Earth’s biodiversity and the viability of its diverse ecological systems.
  • Every individual has the right to access and use natural resources to meet their basic needs, and to live in an environment that supports their physical and spiritual well-being.
  • Every human culture has value, and because of the interdependence of cultural and ecological systems, the long-term sustainability of human cultures depends upon the stability of the global environment and the preservation of natural resources.
  • Human beings are causing environmental changes that have the long-term capacity to significantly alter the climate of our planet as a whole, damage the integrity of important ecosystems, and threaten the health and security of human societies globally.
  • Conditions of poverty exacerbate issues of environmental and cultural instability and make impoverished communities even more more vulnerable to these changes.
  • Individuals, institutions, and governments all have a responsibility to safeguard the global environment, to protect the diversity of the biosphere and the diversity of human culture, and to preserve the Earth’s natural and cultural resources for future generations.
  • The pursuit of robust and collaborative solutions to global problems of sustainability necessitates a recognition of and respect for the perspectives of multiple individuals, cultures, and disciplines.
  • Solving these problems and transitioning our global society in the direction of a more sustainable relationship with the natural environment demands changes not only in education and policy but also in our values, as well as the ability to communicate and cooperate across disciplinary, cultural, and political boundaries.


In accordance with the above values and principles, we agree and commit to do the following:

Project and promote a sense of responsibility for the global environment, and cultivate an attitude of respect and care for all living things.

Recognize and celebrate the cultural contributions, values, spiritual beliefs, and traditions of all human societies both past and present, and maintain respect for indigenous knowledge and experience.

Pursue an educational mission that explicitly prepares students to recognize, understand, and address issues of sustainability, climate change, and environmental degradation.

Cultivate intercultural understanding and respect for different points of view through education, service, cultural exchange, and international cooperation and dialogue around issues of sustainability and the environment.

Advocate for individual, corporate, and government policies that promote sustainable practices and which place concern for the local and global environment ahead of considerations of expediency, convenience, or personal or financial gain.

Minimize our own dependence on nonrenewable resources and, as much as possible, encourage practices that rely on conservation, reuse, recycling, and the adoption of energy-efficient technologies in order to reduce our ecological footprint.

Promote individual wellness and the responsible use of global resources by encouraging a diet consisting of regional, organic, sustainable, and seasonal foods.

Seek out opportunities as individuals and institutions to engage in meaningful service that promotes sustainability both locally and globally, and advances knowledge about environmental and ecological issues.

Support causes and policies that promote universal human rights, social justice, equality, prosperity, and peace worldwide.





Ross School Hosts Sustainability Teach-In

LL_2131 On October 13, Ross School students in grades 1–12 gathered together on the Upper School campus to spend the day focused on how they can help make the world a better place by engaging in sustainability practices in a variety of areas. The Sustainability Teach-In was designed by the Ross Sustainability Committee, with the support of Founder Courtney Sale Ross, to foster active dialogue among students of all grade levels about not only the definition of sustainability and how we practice sustainability in our daily routines, but also how Ross students, as global community members, can promote lifelong sustainable practices to others.


The schoolwide teach-in was a truly unifying experience between the two campuses. Senior “buddies” greeted Lower School students upon their arrival and ushered them into a rousing reception in the Great Hall. “It was a really rewarding experience making someone feel welcome and at the same time sharing in a common learning experience,” said senior Julia R. After an opening ceremony that included music, a welcome from Heads of School Chris Angell and Jeanette Tyndall, and a reading of the preamble to the Ross Declaration of Principles on Sustainability and the Environment, students and teachers broke into groups for the morning’s workshops.

The workshops were divided into five topics: water, earth, air, fire/energy, and culture. Each grouping addressed a central thematic question on the need for immediate implementation of sustainable practices. Students conducted investigations illustrating the damaging effects of our everyday output of pollution, played games to understand the tragedy of the commons (the concept that individuals acting in their own self-interest can behave contrary to the best interests of a whole group by depleting a common resource), and watched startling videos about the exponential rate of damage occurring with regard to Earth’s fragile resources. Reflecting on the crisis, one student said, “It's so urgent, because if we don't fix it now, we don't know what it will become. We need to find a way to fix it, to redeem ourselves."


Upon reconvening in the Great Hall, school leaders summed up the day with final remarks. Brett Smith, who was recently named Ross School’s Sustainability Coordinator, spoke about proposed next steps in the process of examining the school’s commitment to sustainability, including an after-school action club for students, on-campus screenings of documentaries focused on environmental issues, and solar-powered charging stations for phones and computers. Then each group ceremoniously presented scrolls of the Declaration of Principles on Sustainability and the Environment, signed by each group member, to the administrators, and recited in unison the document’s preamble: “We affirm and declare the Ross Declaration of Principles concerning the sustainability of our global environment.” They then proceeded en masse to the athletic fields for the ceremonial release of milkweed seeds.


Lower School Science teacher Bryan Smith orchestrated planting the milkweed, which is vital to sustaining Long Island’s monarch populations. In an attempt to increase the local monarch butterfly population, Bryan has been working with his students to plant milkweed for a while, and he hopes that the seeds released on the Upper School campus find a place to grow. “It was nice to share this with the older students,” Bryan said. “Visually, it was also impressive to see the giant clouds of milkweed seeds we were releasing.”


The sustainability teach-in pushed students and teachers to understand the issues more deeply, apply their understanding of systems thinking and sustainability—both threads throughout the Ross curriculum—and, think about the things humans can do to make a long-term difference in the preservation of precious resources, emphasizing the idea that we can no longer afford to disregard the global implications of our everyday decisions.


Mark Foard and Junellen Tiska, co-directors of curriculum and professional development at Ross, were instrumental in facilitating the teach-in, which Mark Foard described as “a demonstrative step in making sustainability important for the school.” Reflecting further, he added, “I think the other aspects, including having the Lower School and Upper School together—not just students but also teachers working together—brought a level of community that I haven’t experienced before. We have a lot to learn from each other and a lot to celebrate with each other.” The communal energy exhibited throughout the day is sure to propel Ross School’s commitment to a sustainable future, starting here at home and spreading throughout the globe.

What’s Cooking in the Ross Café

141029_Ross If you ever feel pressured to pull together a satisfying, nutritious meal for your family, imagine yourself in the role of Ross School’s Executive Chef Liz Dobbs, who estimates that she and her staff of 26 prepare and serve 24,000 meals to the Ross community every month. The number includes three meals a day for students and staff at the Upper School campus, breakfast and lunch at the Lower School, and weekend meals for the boarding program. In keeping things fresh, Liz certainly has her creative culinary work cut out for her.

The guiding principle of the Ross Café is the importance of regional, organic, seasonal, and sustainable (R.O.S.S) methods of food production and consumption. The Café purchases from a number of local farms and businesses, including Balsam Farms, Early Girl Farm, The Milk Pail, Hampton Bagels, Cromer’s Market, Stuart’s Seafood Market, and Hampton Coffee Company. September through early October is a particularly great time to create menus based around local and seasonal foods, says Liz: “This is high season for the Hamptons—the height of the growing season is one of the best times to eat here.” However, with storms and colder temperatures, crops will soon be shifting, and the diners at Ross Café can anticipate recipes that integrate foods like autumn squash and local cauliflower.


Liz explains, “We try to have something for everyone” as she adopts what she calls a “no meal left behind” maxim. While adhering to an emphasis on local ingredients, Liz and her team work to ensure that each week’s menu represents a variety of dietary options that acknowledge the multiculturalism of the school’s demographic. “Brazilians like a hunk of cheese and bread for breakfast, Germans like meat, and Russians want kasha,” she says. “In some cultures—it’s funny—a cold sandwich is just the worst.”

When considering the issue of sustainability, food waste is a primary concern. The Café works to cut waste while avoiding undue pressure on teenagers for what they are eating or not, especially in the first weeks of school, when new students are unfamiliar with many of the food options. Leftovers either get repurposed into soups or the salad bar in creative ways, frozen for later use, or donated to nonprofit community centers in East Hampton, including Whalebone Village and the Phoenix House in Wainscott. As a final step, food waste is collected and delivered to Rogers Farm in Water Mill for compost.


In the coming weeks, the Café will integrate curricular themes into meal preparation. In a few weeks, seventh graders will contribute to Maya Day, preparing tamales and other Maya dishes for everyone to enjoy. And in November, the Parents Association will serve up a community Thanksgiving before students go on break. With much to look forward to in the coming weeks, the Ross Community feels grateful on a daily basis for the nutritious and delicious fare served up by the Café.

Lower School Students Study Butterfly Life Cycle

IMG_4942 As part of their Science studies, students in Early Childhood through second grade followed the metamorphosis of monarch butterflies. Children first collected caterpillars from around the Lower School campus and brought them back to their classrooms (where they received such distinguished names as Nibbles). They fed them milkweed, which grows in abundance around the school, thanks to plantings by the students last year, and were able to watch their beautiful transformation to adulthood firsthand.


The students were excited when their butterflies hatched. They had a great time releasing them in the Peace Garden, where, according to Lower School Science teacher Bryan Smith, “they will feed on wildflowers to get ready for their big trip south.”

Ross to Host Sustainability Dialogue

Layout 1 As faculty and staff prepare to welcome students to a new year at Ross School, they are renewing their focus on global and local sustainability. To address these important issues, Ross Institute will host an evening with Dr. Steven Cohen, executive director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which is one of the world’s largest and most distinguished organizations dedicated to the study of Earth science and climate change. The event will be held in the Ross Senior Building on August 27 at 6pm and is free and open to the community.

In his role at the Institute, Dr. Cohen oversees over a dozen research units and key partnerships with renowned international collaborators, and is an expert on complex issues facing our planet and its inhabitants.

Dr. Cohen’s talk, titled “A Positive Vision of the Transition to Sustainability: The Role of Research, Education, Communities, and Institutions,” will address current trends in sustainability and the need to devote resources to Earth observation, research and development of sustainability technology, and environmental education programs. He will also discuss the impact of climate change on New York’s coastal ecosystems and the need to build resilience in communities, such as those affected locally by Hurricane Sandy.

“I know that many projections of our environmental future seem bleak, but these projections do not account for the brainpower, creativity, and ingenuity of the next generation of sustainability professionals. They are the future, and, in my view, the best guarantee of a sustainable global economy,” Dr. Cohen said.

Dr. Cohen will also share the latest initiatives under way in the Earth Institute’s many research units, including the Center for Environmental Sustainability, the Center in Globalization and Sustainable Development, the Center for Sustainable Urban Development, and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

Jennifer Chidsey, chief education officer at Ross Institute, noted how well Dr. Cohen’s work fits with sustainability education initiatives being undertaken by Ross Institute and Ross School. “We share Dr. Cohen’s commitment to educating and inspiring students and members of our communities to take action to support global sustainability.”

Summer Term @Ross: Marine Science with Jack Szczepanski

DSC_8971 Summer Term @Ross Marine Science students have been busy researching the East End’s coastal ecosystems and marine life with instructor Dr. Jack Szczepanski. During the first week, Jack introduced them to the inhabitants in the lab at Ross, including cuttlefish and red-eared slider turtles (rescues from local waters), and discussed the wild sea life found in Long Island’s oceans and bays.

Jack, who brings extensive experience leading oceanography and ecological studies, says the class is heavily focused on getting “hands on” with marine science, both in the lab and in the field. For example, students dissected a dogfish last week to get a closer look at a shark’s anatomy.

They also keep informed about current happenings in the waters, near and far. The students recently watched Jaws as well as news footage of a great white shark attack on pro surfer Mick Fanning, and then discussed shark behavior and being safe in the water.

Jack is also introducing the class to topics of especially local interest, including efforts to restore Long Island’s bays and fisheries. He is currently working with Stony Brook University scientists on the Shinnecock Bay Restoration Project, and recently helped plant eelgrass and start up an oyster bay.

Out in the field, the class has explored Fresh Pond in the nearby town of Amagansett, and gone “behind the scenes” at the Long Island Aquarium with the aquarium’s cofounder, Joe Yaiullo. “It was great to have this kind of access to see the many different species of marine life, as well as how the experts care for and cultivate the habitats,” Jack said.

The trips are an opportunity for the class to observe diverse marine environments and communities and learn how weather can impact them. “After our recent rains, we may see different life-forms when we return to Fresh Pond,” Jack said.

The students are also relating the experiences to their own lives. One student realized that he had been swimming with cuttlefish on a vacation in Croatia. Others are talking with Jack about how to start their own marine tanks at home.

Next up, the class will tag along with the surfers at Sagg Main ocean beach to spot stingrays. They’ll also visit Clam Island, where they are likely to see the huge ospreys (fish-eating raptors) that often nest in nearby sanctuaries; and the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery.

Applause! Applause!

Ally_4531 Ross faculty, staff, students, and alumni achieve many accomplishments throughout the year, both on and off campus. This month, we’re recognizing the successes of seniors Wen-To Chan, Inga Cordts-Gorcoff, Daisy Gallaher, Will Greenberg, and Miguel Monori; juniors Cole Colby, Kendall Scala, Yinggi Zhao, and Jin Zhang; freshman Emily Austopchuk; seventh grader Ally Friedman; Ross second graders; alumna Chelsea Tierney ‘02; teachers Heather D’Agostino, Alicia Schordine, and Shannon Timoney; and staff members Hleb Maslau, Jennifer Morgan, and Simona Weymar.


At the 2015 Ross School graduation ceremony, the Courtney Sale Ross Awards in recognition of faculty members most exemplary of the Ross School vision of leadership, academic excellence, and personal integrity, were awarded to Upper School Dean of Mathematics Heather D’Agostino and Lower School fourth grade teacher Alicia Schordine. Will Greenberg received the Ross School Board Award for demonstration of outstanding leadership qualities; the Anders G. Holst Award for a senior who demonstrates courage in creativity went to Daisy Gallaher; Wen-To Chan received the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award in recognition of his pursuit of excellence, magnanimity of intention, and personal integrity; and the first Richard M. Dunn Award went to Inga Cordts-Gorcoff for her achievements in the study of literature and journalism.


At a dinner ceremony on June 18, the editor of The East Hampton Star presented 2015 All-Star awards to Cole Colby, Kendall Scala, Yinggi Zhao, and Jin Zhang in acknowledgement of their academic excellence, leadership, and community involvement.


2015 Teeny Awards for Outstanding Female and Male in One-Act Plays went to Emily Austopchuk, for her performance in Tassie Suffers, and to Miguel Monori, for his role in Misfortune.

One of Ross School Tennis Academy’s youngest competitors, Ally Friedman captured her first title at the USTA L1B Lynbrook June Challenger (Girls 14s).

Ross alum Chelsea Tierney was sworn in as the East Hampton Police Department’s first female sergeant at a ceremony on May 21. Sergeant Tierney holds a degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in criminal/forensic psychology from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.


In late May, the second grade and their teacher Shannon Timoney took a class trip up the Peconic River and saw firsthand thousands of bunker fish that died as a result of nitrogen pollution in local waters. They were inspired to make a positive difference, and organized a school assembly featuring guest speaker Kevin McAllister from Defend H2O as well as a popsicle sale to raise money for the cause. They also produced a powerful documentary about their experience and plan to continue their important efforts in the new school year.


Earlier this month, Ross Tennis coaches Hleb Maslau and Simona Weymar teamed up to win the mixed doubles title at the US Open National Playoffs New England sectional qualifier, held at the Yale University Tennis Center. Hleb completed an “unprecedented hat trick,” winning the men’s singles and doubles events as well.

Jennifer Morgan, editorial project manager, was recently selected to compete on the TV game show Jeopardy! The show will air in the U.S. on July 29.

Congratulations to all!

Q&A with Alicia Schordine

DSC_7444 (1) As a fourth grade teacher and Cultural History coordinator for Ross Lower School, Alicia Schordine helps bring the studies of early human societies to life for the students and community. School News recently talked with Alicia about the eventful school year and the most recent collaboration with the Shinnecock Nation on a traditional Native American garden.

Tell us about your role at Ross School.

I teach fourth grade and also work closely with the Lower School teachers to enrich the Ross Cultural History curriculum.

The fourth grade curriculum includes the study of early settlements and social systems, and the information about these periods is often the result of experimental research, because there was no recognizable written record for thousands of years. So we approach our studies as archaeologists, and we get “hands on” to bring history to life. For example, we had subject experts in survival skills and Native American flute making work with the students in the classroom to help them fashion their own primitive tools and instruments.

Another fourth grade tradition is the “clan baby” exercise, during which students care for an egg in teams to learn about how a society works together to feed, protect, celebrate, and mourn the precious young that represent the future of their community.

Most recently, we celebrated the Green Corn Festival, which was the beautiful culmination of our studies of the Native American tribes and culture and a collaboration with the Shinnecock Nation on the new Native American garden at Lower School.

These are impactful experiences, and I’m always impressed with the students’ passion for the work.

You recently received the Courtney Sale Ross Award for your achievements. Tell us about your research.

I’m humbled to receive the award, and I’m grateful to Ross School for providing me with wonderful opportunities to advance my knowledge and skills as an educator. This past year, as a result of the Ross Parents Association Faculty Innovation Grant, I participated in National Geographic’s Genographic Project and an online course through Oxford University in England titled “Ritual and Religion in Prehistory.”

Both were opportunities to dive deeper into the Ross School subject matter. The Oxford course was particularly interesting because my classmates approached the materials from the perspective of their own professions, including archaeology, philosophy, and religious ministry. For my part, I discussed methods to take the complex and mature content and boil it down to have meaning for nine- and ten-year-olds. I also gained access to international resources that continue to enhance our classroom experience, such as documents on burial rituals or the history of Stonehenge.

I shared a lot of this new knowledge, including my own database, to enhance the Ross Learning System and teacher resources for both Upper and Lower School.

This past spring, I also travelled to Cahokia, Illinois, and climbed Monk’s Mound, the largest human-made earthen mound in North America. I was able to incorporate this experience as well as the documentary from the site’s museum into classroom discussions of ancient burial mounds.

How have the students responded to the classroom studies?

It’s been a wonderful year, and I am always so thrilled to be part of sharing our important history with the students. My class really took to the spiritual aspect of their studies and surprised me every day with the depth of their understanding and the connections they make to the modern world around them. For example, on the bus ride to the Suffolk County Archaeological Association’s Museum of Archaeology and History for a recent trip, they saw a mound, and it inspired comments about Cahokia.

The concept of community, too, was big. We spent an entire year talking about how difficult it was to just survive, and it gave us appreciation for the amazing legacy left for all of us.

The lessons were also personal. The boys drew connections to the males’ critical position in the clans as providers and defenders. For the girls, the discussion of matristic societies was especially significant. In the end, I think the knowledge will help them grow into confident, self-aware young adults.

Tell us about the collaboration with the Shinnecock Nation.

Ross School has shared a close relationship with the Shinnecock Nation for many years. As a result, we are so fortunate to have members from the Shinnecock Museum, as well as our students and alumni who live on the reservation, contribute to our studies.

Earlier in the year, the students studied the ancient Mississippian tribes, and then progressed to the Iroquois and Algonquin, and finally the related history and culture of the Shinnecock Nation.

To wrap up the year, Shinnecock historians first visited the classroom to talk about the their ancestors, including their reverence for nature, customs, food, shelter, and medicinal herbs. Then elders blessed our garden, and we closed with the Green Corn Festival on June 17. It was a perfect ending to our year of Native American studies. The day was beautiful, and the students and Shinnecock drummers and dancers helped tell the story of their people.

 What’s next for your summer?

Through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, I’ll be studying the Hopewell Indian heritage onsite in Ohio at the Newark Earthworks, Fort Ancient, and the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. I’m really looking forward to bringing the history and adventure home to my class and the Ross community in September.


Green Corn Festival at Ross Lower School

DSC_7454 Members of the Shinnecock Nation joined with students, family, faculty, and friends to celebrate the first annual Green Corn Festival at the Lower School on June 17. The beautiful, new tradition included Native American dancers and drummers, traditional games, beading, food, and storytelling.

The festival kicked off on a sunny morning on the Lower School soccer field. Visitors meandered around the grounds, stopping at exhibits to hear about important pieces of Native American history and culture including ceremonial dress, wampum, weapons, and medicines.

In the afternoon, Ross School alumna and Shinnecock Nation member Andrina Smith welcomed everyone as the group formed a large circle around the field. She explained the significance of the corn festival and the special relationship between Ross and the Shinnecock, and then turned it over to representatives from the Shinnecock Museum who performed male and female dances telling the tales of the hunt, war, courtship, and coming-of-age. Others were performed to bring forth a healing or plentiful harvest.

As a fitting conclusion, the crowd gathered near the new Native American garden, already in early bloom, for a traditional blessing and tobacco offering performed by the members of the Shinnecock.