October 2016

8-9s Study Seed Dispersal on Their Fall Farm Trip

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Wednesday, October 12, 2016 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

8-9s Studying Seed Dispersal at the Farm

On their Fall Farm trip, the 8-9s explored the world of seed dispersal. During their nature studies classes with Annie, the students not only discovered seeds being released by a plant, they also discussed various ways the seeds are spread. The kids were quick to recognize the role that wind plays in spreading lighter seeds or seeds with their own built-in parachutes. But what about heavier seeds or those found inside a pod?

When thinking of the word pod, students made the link to a space pod that transports beings from place to place, or an iPod that enables the transport of music. So what will transport the seeds in an apple? “People can plant the seeds,” was offered by some students.  “Animals will eat them and then poop them out!” suggested others. This was not only the correct answer, but also the most fun for the students to shout out.

8-9s Studying Seed Dispersal at the Farm

While examining the seeds on a Goldenrod plant, the class tried their best to blow the seeds away. Most of the seeds stubbornly hung on. However, when the plant was dragged across a person’s sleeve, the seeds were quick to grab on and hitch a ride. One of the more interesting discoveries was the Burdock seed. These seeds are encased in a round pod with spines sticking out, giving the appearance of a porcupine egg, if such a hing existed. Upon a closer look, the kids saw that each spine had a little hook that enabled the pods to stick to one another or to an animal walking past. The class listened to the sound of two burdock seed pods being pulled apart. All were quick to recognize the Velcro-like sound it created. This, they learned, made perfect sense, as the invention of Velcro can be directly attributed to the Burdock plant. The class then continued their hike through field and forest, examining through the lens of seed dispersal how plants insure that there are more plants.

8-9s Studying Seed Dispersal at the Farm

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Farm Festival Unites MCS Community on the Upper West Side

Blog Type:  From the Directors Date Posted:  Tuesday, October 18, 2016 Byline:  By Michèle Solá, Director

On Saturday, a jubilant Farm Festival united the MCS community—alumni and their families, current families now more numerous as our growth plan is underway, trustees who worked tirelessly to secure and renovate our new location, and families from the Upper West Side neighborhood. While 6-7s parents have primary responsibility for organizing the Farm Festival, there were obvious signs that it takes the whole parent body to pull off such a joyous celebration. Thank you to the inspired leadership and the committed community that made it all work.


West 85th Street Ribbon Cutting

(View more photos from the ribbon cutting ceremony.)

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal came to celebrate MCS’ new home at our ribbon cutting ceremony. In her remarks she credited our mission, our longstanding commitment to diversity, and the collaborative spirit obvious in the Farm Festival’s fundraising intent. She contrasted what she has witnessed at hearings, where some Upper West Side residents are objecting to a redistricting plan to increase diversity in New York City public schools. Supporting diversity can live side-by-side with fierce resistance to plans that address entrenched school segregation. MCS students who learn the history of Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine, Boston and Brownsville know from MCS history there can be another way. MCS alumni say their experiences are a lens through which they will see the world forever. At Farm Festival, parents pushing strollers recognized this, too, as they flocked to the table with the Admissions sign.

2016 Farm Festival

(View more photos from Farm Festival.)

The compliments are flooding in. The following is just one example:
“I just wanted to commend you all for a terrific ribbon cutting and Farm Festival! It was a great event and my family had a wonderful time.… BRAVO!!“
Some members of First Take, the New York Association of Black Journalists training program for high school students, covered Farm Festival. You can read the article and watch the video package at the following link:
Farm Festival Raises Funds for School That Promotes Educational and Economic Equality

While there are a few factual errors in the reporting, it’s interesting to see how these aspiring journalists captured the way our community talks about Farm Festival, our school and our mission.
Final fundraising results won’t be known until after the Farm Festival Online Auction closes on October 25. But there’s no reason to delay a heartfelt community thank you to everyone who played a role in making our first Farm Festival on 85th Street a memorable one.

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Impact of Farm Program Reaches Beyond MCS

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Friday, October 21, 2016

Cow at the MCS FarmThis week and next the MCS Farm will be hosting third-grade students from Little Red Elizabeth Irwin School (LREI). This long-standing relationship with LREI began more than 25 years ago and enables MCS to continue its commitment to educational outreach. The farm-based educational program that the LREI students will be involved in is very similar to what MCS students experience when at the Farm. The key difference is MCS students spend 17 weeks at the Farm while LREI students spend only one.

As a private school with a public mission, the MCS Farm also hosts a number of other independent and public schools throughout the school year. Among them are Children’s Workshop School, The Town School, Bronx Community Charter School and Collegiate School. Local Catskill Mountain students from Margaretville Central and Roxbury Central schools make day trips to the Farm. In the past, the Farm has also provided farm-based educational programs for Bronxville Elementary School, Friends Seminary, The Earth School and Community Roots Charter.

The rental of the Farm program is a source of revenue for the Farm. The money charged to visiting schools is used to meet the Farm’s operating budget.

MCS students, who spend many weeks at the Farm, graduate as informed citizens with experience in farm work, textile work and cooking; an understanding of nature; and knowledge of sustainability issues. Similarly, future decisions of students from other schools who spend only a week at the MCS Farm are informed by a very special time spent at a very special place.

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Sixth-Graders Travel to Philadelphia to Walk Through History

Blog Type:  Curriculum Spotlight Date Posted:  Friday, October 21, 2016 Byline:  By Karen Zaidberg, Sixth Grade Teacher

Sixth grade trip to PhiladelphiaOn the occasion of the signing of the United States Constitution in September 1787, Benjamin Franklin is said to have remarked on the half sun painted on the back of the President’s chair: “I have often looked at that behind the President without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting, but now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.”  It was with this optimism that Franklin and a few dozen others forged a new nation that day in Philadelphia—imperfect but enduring, and the subject of the sixth grade’s introduction to U.S. history. 

For the first few weeks, students have charted the evolution of America from a cluster of colonies to an independent nation through an intensive study of the events and documents that shaped our early history. On Friday, October 14, the class traveled to Philadelphia to visit the sites where this history happened. Excited and sleepy, students met the bus at 7:00 a.m. at MCS to head out for the day. Accompanying the group were Maiya Jackson, Upper School director, and parent chaperones Sarah Beck, Akilah Bixler, Maria Castillo, Antonella Pelizzari and Janet Peterson Finkelstein.

The first stop was Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were drafted and ratified. Students walked the same cobblestone paths as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, and heard the history of the building, which was originally the Philadelphia State House when Pennsylvania was still a colony. From there, the class walked along Independence Mall to visit the Liberty Bell and learn the history of its famous crack.  Rung for presidents and abolitionists as well as to commemorate important national events, the Liberty Bell (along with the archeological remains of the first President’s House, which occupy the same site) is always a favorite stop on the trip.

Sixth grade trip to PhiladelphiaStudents and chaperones alike got their cheesesteaks on at Reading Terminal Market, a vibrant food market in the heart of Chinatown. Afterwards, the class headed to National Constitution Center (NCC), a museum dedicated to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Created under the Constitution Heritage Act of 1988 and dedicated under the Clinton administration, the NCC expands students’ understanding of how our government affects everyday lives of American citizens and helps them to draw connections between the principles of the Constitution and myriad historical episodes our country has endured in its long history.

The last part of the day was spent in small groups touring the Old City. Students and chaperones explored Ben Franklin’s printing press, Elfreth’s Alley (America’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street), Christ Church Burial Ground, the Arch Street Meeting House and the Betsy Ross House, where the first national flag was sewn. The trip wrapped up with a special treat at Franklin Fountain, a sweet way to end a wonderful day in Philadelphia.

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Seventh- and Eighth-Graders Call White House to Protest DAPL

Blog Type:  Curriculum Spotlight Date Posted:  Wednesday, October 26, 2016 Byline:  By Nassim Zerriffi, 7th & 8th Grade History Teacher

MCS student call the White House regarding Dakota Access PipelineStudents have been learning about the Transcontinental Railroad and how instrumental it was to "settling the west." They have learned about how devastating this was to Native Americans. In fact, they have learned about the genocide of Native Americans and read quotes from military leaders who wanted to exterminate them from these lands. We have been looking at contemporary issues facing Native Americans as well, especially the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a pipeline meant to

transport crude oil across their land and under a river they rely on for water. This pipeline was originally slated to be built elsewhere but the wealthier, non-Native American people who lived there rejected it because they believed it was unsafe. The pipeline was moved to Sioux lands.

Native Americans have been at the front lines protesting the pipeline and this issue has brought together more than 200 tribes. Recently, reporters and protestors have been attacked with dogs and pepper spray and arrested. Many women were unnecessarily strip searched. MCS students were rightfully outraged. On Tuesday, they called the White House and the Justice Department to register their protest against the DAPL, and to ask that the Justice Department look into the actions of the police in arresting peaceful protestors and journalists. This issue also intersects with climate change, something our students care about a lot. 

The students were a little nervous to call the White House, but they were also very excited. Several students got through and conveyed their message clearly. Others were on hold until class ended. However, they asked that the numbers be put on Haiku so that they could call another time. In fact, several now have the White House in their contacts, which they are pretty excited about. 

I did not make them call; I provided them with an opportunity to take action. A guest speaker from last year, Daniel Jose Older, told us that the terrible things in the world are not traumatic when we take action, only when we look on helplessly. Because learning about genocide and the current realities of Native Americans can be very upsetting, I thought giving them this opportunity to take action was important. 

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