January 2017

MCS Abuzz About Addition to MCS Farm

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Friday, January 6, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Honey Bee Hive at MCS Farm The MCS Farm has acquired a second beehive, thanks to Cathy Cammer, farming teacher, program coordinator, and resident beekeeper. She entered a contest and won a new beehive kit from Hudson Valley Bee Supply valued at $280.

Cathy introduced honey bees to the lower garden of the MCS Farm in the Spring of 2016. We purchased our supplies from Hudson Valley Bee Supply and have benefitted from their vast experience and knowledge.

Honey Bee Hive at MCS Farm Our honey bee colony thrived over the summer and fall, pollinating the flowering plants, building winter stores of honey and providing students with an introduction to the workings of a bee hive. Installing a second hive will benefit our growing colony, which in the spring will be looking to split its population and move into a second hive. Without a second hive in place, the swarming group could be lost to the wilds.


To learn more about the honey bees at the MCS Farm, read "Introducing New Initiatives at the MCS Farm."


Newsletters Referencing this Item

Message From Michèle: Welcome to 2017!

Blog Type:  From the Directors Date Posted:  Friday, January 6, 2017 Byline:  By Michèle Solá, Director

Michele Sola, MCS DirectorWelcome to 2017! Thank you for such generosity of spirit and appreciation as we said goodbye to 2016. It is impressive to take stock of the many contributions to MCS in the first few months of the school year—innumerable volunteer hours, donations to the MCS Fund, gifts for faculty and staff. After a two-week hiatus, students are settled back into routines at school, and January traditions fill our thoughts, our ears and our hearts.

The Farm bus took seventh- and eighth-graders off for a week of winter work and fun in the Catskills. The 4-5s practiced singing “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind Set on Freedom,” and the sixth grade announced the title of the play they will share at the MLK assemblies: "Black Rights Matter: The Journey to Freedom." The eighth grade continued to develop speeches supporting the theme of the 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March: “We Will Not Be Silenced: A Call to Action.”

There couldn’t be a more energizing way to welcome in a new year, and feel excited about the kind of community we’re busy building every minute, every hour and every day. I look forward to our gatherings at this time of year. At the same time I gain even greater appreciation for a place that doesn’t wait for the MLK holiday to teach lessons about the long and ongoing struggles for justice. Alumni stop by with stories about the ways they’ve found their education at MCS useful after graduation.

Families, faculty and staff, and students building our growing community on 85th Street are adapting familiar routines and suggesting new ones.

  • The addition of an MLK March chorus, a sign-making committee and crossing guards offer opportunities for broad community engagement.
  • MCS administrators and faculty have taken leadership roles in an Equity and Social Justice in Our Schools Roundtable, PENNY (Progressive Education Network – New York) and various initiatives of NYCORE (New York Collaborative of Radical Educators).
  • Parents, faculty, administrators, students, and alumni will join the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, as well as local rallies. 

What better way to show, by example, that 50 years after our founding there were many good reasons to create a place called Manhattan Country School. Happy Anniversary MCS, and welcome to 2017!


Newsletters Referencing this Item

Winter Farm Trip Features a Day on the Slopes for Seventh- and Eighth-Graders

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Friday, January 13, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

MCS Farm Ski Trip

Sliding on snow, be it on skis, sleds, a snowboard or your belly is a cultural tradition in northern climates. Manhattan County School  seventh- and eighth-grade students had the opportunity to learn the sports of skiing and snowboarding at Belleayre Mountain during their winter Farm trips. Some students had never experienced this sport, while others had.

The day started with lessons based on previous experience and skill level. The quality instruction by Belleayre Snowsports helped students progress from the beginner hill to the “magic carpet lift,” essentially a conveyor belt that transports people to the top of the trail. Kids were taught the basics of turning and stopping and they continued working on these skills after the lesson ended.

The more experienced skiers and riders spent their morning riding the chairlift, which took them further up the mountain to the green (easier) trails. After a break for lunch, several students who had never been skiing or boarding were confident enough to join the others on the chairlift. For many students this experience took them a little outside of their comfort zone, while for others it was a chance to demonstrate a skill and hobby to their classmates and teachers.

MCS Farm Ski Trip

Newsletters Referencing this Item

Through Weaving, Fifth-Graders Explore Math, Physics and History

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Friday, January 20, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Backstrap weaving

Backstrap weaving is an ancient fiber art practiced for centuries in Central and South America and China. Weaving has historically been a way for artists to communicate feelings and tell stories with the use of patterns and symbols. It’s also a time-honored tradition for fifth-grade students at the Manhattan Country School Farm.

The students take a multi-step approach to creating their cloth. They choose their yarn colors and sley the strands through a reed or heddle during the fall Farm trip. They create the pattern they will follow to make a woven piece during their winter and spring trips. While sitting on the floor with their backstrap loom or telar de cinteron tied off in front of them, they slide the shuttle back and forth. The shuttle holds their yarn and acts as a vehicle to transport the thread through the warp and weft.

Backstrap weavingBackstrap weaving

This project connects the students directly to several academic disciplines. Working in grids and determining latitudinal and longitudinal lines relates to math. History is easily explored, as backstrap weaving is the oldest known weaving technique. Physics is at play as the weaver uses the frame, his or her body, and even gravity to provide the needed tension. Once this process is set in motion, our fifth-grade fiber artists are free to explore various topics of conversation as they weave in front of the roaring fire of the wood stove in the textile studio.

Backstrap weavingBackstrap weaving

Newsletters Referencing this Item

Message From Michèle: Thoughts On This Inauguration Day

Blog Type:  From the Directors Date Posted:  Friday, January 20, 2017 Byline:  By Michèle Solá, Director

Manhattan Country School kids are super aware under any circumstances. One teacher described them as super saturated with the news today. There is palpable empathy for the targets of bias attacks, and renewed understanding of complex emotional, intellectual and activist responses in our homes, neighborhoods and across the world.

Yesterday, our Student Council members discussed whether MCS classes should watch the inauguration. The group was split 50/50. Curiosity and some compelling arguments were made about our responsibility to be informed. These were matched by indignance over the John Lewis Twitter war and a clear intent to go on record in support of leaders who define the long struggle of the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the sixth grade and most of the seventh and eighth grade did watch the inauguration.

This Inauguration Day, MCS faculty is participating in a call to action by the Progressive Education Network of New York (PENNY) “to take positive action…to affirm our belief in the power and promise of progressive education.” Twitter and Instagram posts from our school and others shared today using the hashtag #PENNYaction provide examples of learners engaged in experiences that are grounded in progressive pedagogy and connected to the election and education for democracy.

MCS’ activist tradition is not to be suppressed. Students, faculty, parents, alumni and friends have already begun going to rallies and marches, writing emails, sending letters, posting on social media, calling representatives—in so many ways standing up for the values our school stands for. In that activism lies the well from which our collective optimism springs. The Parents’ Association and I will provide suggestions of ways we can share our experiences in the weeks, months and years to come. 

The significance of MCS’ 50th anniversary is weighing heavily today and at the same time inspiring conversations, activism and hope. Our 35th anniversary was held at Riverside Church, the same location at which we gathered this Monday to hear our eighth-graders launch the Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative March. Memories of that day in 2002 re-emerge when our ideals and some piece of reality are not in perfect alignment. Harry Belafonte was an honoree that year. He began his acceptance remarks with this accolade:

There are moments when places like Manhattan Country School wend their way into my thoughts. I feel some sense of comfort and relief that there is a place where young people are being instructed, guided and permitted to live in an environment where all that the human race and the human family should be about is being lived by example.

A few minutes later, he concluded with these words:

I know that the children of Manhattan Country School have a huge task before them. The question is, “Will they accept it and will they be able to live up to the measure of humanity that will command their attention when they become adults? Or not even waiting that long—maybe tomorrow. Because the one thing that is to serve us and to save us is the extent to which our young people see each other in ways that are very different from the preceding generations saw each other. It is in them that the hope lies eternal that we may come to the place where there is no more war, no more disease, no more pestilence, no more hate—all of it.

I am given a great sense of privilege and a great sense of satisfaction to know that Manhattan Country School exists, that its philosophy is what it is and is helping to turn out the kind of thinkers and the kind of young people who will lead us on the very complicated journey of making the world a happier and a nobler place in which to live in the future.

In times of change, it is reassuring to see the many ways in which our students are taking on the challenge of becoming change agents in our complex world.


Newsletters Referencing this Item

Sixth-Graders Leverage Human-Powered Crane to Increase Work Efficiency

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Thursday, January 26, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Moving hay at the MCS Farm Moving bales of hay from the hay mow to the winter steer pen at the Manhattan Country School Farm can be an arduous, but fun task for students. This week, as part of farming class, MCS sixth-grade students worked together to move wagon-loads of 15 to 20 hay bales. Each bale weighs approximately 35 pounds; the beef cattle will consume 6 to 8 bales per day. This student-led task is necessary several times per week.

One hurdle that we’ve always struggled with is moving bales when the hay level drops in the barn. When the bales can no longer be hoisted onto the wagon, students must haul them, one at a time, through the downstairs stable area. This not only makes more work, it is an inefficient way of completing the task. To solve this dilemma, Garth, one of the MCS farming teachers, created what is essentially a human-powered crane. Moving hay at the MCS Farm Using a hand-cranked winch, students can lift several bales at a time from the mow up to the wagon. A cable, which is threaded through a pulley system, is connected to a platform, which is actually a repurposed ping pong table flipped upside down. While some students are down in the mow loading bales, others power the winch. Once the wagon is loaded, the hay is transported by tractor to the steer pen and stacked. Through this exercise, the sixth-graders made connections back to their study of simple machines when they were younger. By employing a lever and pulleys, wheel, and axle to offset a load with force, those earlier lessons become a practical way of completing a job.

Newsletters Referencing this Item

The First 100 Days: MCS Alumni at Forefront of Fight for Immigrants and Refugees

Blog Type:  From the Directors Date Posted:  Monday, January 30, 2017 Byline:  By Michèle Solá, Director

Dear MCS Community,

This weekend, protests erupted online and in cities across the country in response to the discriminatory executive order signed on Friday barring refugees from entering the United States and suspending immigration from seven countries. As director of civic engagement and research at Make the Road New York, Manhattan Country School alumnus Daniel Altschuler ’96 was at the forefront of organizing protests in New York City— including the one at John F. Kennedy International Airport—against the order and in support of refugees and immigrants’ rights.

On Saturday, another MCS graduate, Lee Gelernt ’75, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), argued for an emergency stay in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Just before 9 p.m., Judge Ann M. Donnelly issued a favorable ruling, granting a temporary halt to the implementation of the executive order and requiring the release of the names of detained refugees to ACLU attorneys.

Video: Remarks from Lee Gelernt '75, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project,
and ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero.

These actions in response to the executive order are stellar examples of the meaningful work MCS graduates are doing to make the world a better place. From pre-K to eighth grade, students at MCS experience an environment with no racial majority and broad socioeconomic diversity, where they learn to value people from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of experiences. In addition, daily lessons from our curriculum, which is steeped in social justice and activism, reinforce the importance of equity and compassion and speaking out to create a society that reflects these values.

Daniel says of his time at MCS: “Whether studying the Civil Rights Movement in the sixth grade, celebrating South Africa’s first democratic elections in Central Park, or marching every year to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday and call attention to present-day injustices, MCS taught me from an early age that we are all capable of shaping history.” Daniel and Lee are indeed shaping history, but they aren’t the only ones in the MCS community focused on issues facing immigrants and refugees. Our current students are taking action as well. Last year, through a "Build Bridges, Not Borders" activism campaign focused on Syrian refugees and Islamophobia, our seventh- and eighth-graders worked to educate themselves and their peers about the issue, traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with elected officials and created media messages against Muslim bias and in favor of welcoming refugees. The banner from that campaign, which reads “Refugees Welcome Here,” hangs in our building today to illustrate our community’s ongoing support of refugees and immigrants.

Refugees Welcome Here

On Sunday, Make the Road New York held a demonstration at Battery Park, against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Local politicians joined an estimated 20,000 people to reflect on the inscription on the statue’s base: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free....” I am proud and comforted to know that MCS students, both past and present, are among those fighting to ensure that this invitation endures.