March 2017

Are Your Hands Really Clean? This Lower School Science Experiment Has the Answer

Blog Type:  Curriculum Spotlight Date Posted:  Friday, March 3, 2017 Byline:  By Angela Johnson Meadows, Communications Director

Handwashing Experiment

In the first couple months of this year, a significant number of Manhattan Country School students and staff members were out sick. A nasty bug was going around. With so many in the community affected, School Nurse Katie Patterson and Lower School Science Teacher Olivia Kurz decided to team up to educate students about effective handwashing to prevent the spread of illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

Handwashing Experiment

Handwashing Experiment

During her science classes with the 7-8s, 8-9s and 9-10s, Olivia asked students to put lotion on their hands and then wash them as they normally would. She didn’t tell them that the lotion was a special ultraviolet light reactive lotion designed to simulate germs. When the students finished washing, she shined a ultraviolet light on their hands. Many of the students saw white spots, which represented germs they had missed when washing. Olivia also shined the light on the soap dispenser and faucet, which illustrated how easily germs and bacteria can be transferred.

Handwashing Experiment

Olivia and Nurse Katie worked with the students to identify the most effective ways to wash one’s hands. Helpful habits include scrubbing one’s hands with soap for at least 20 seconds; making sure to scrub one’s wrists, the back of one’s hands and between one’s fingers; and using a paper towel or elbow to turn off the water to prevent picking up germs.

Handwashing Experiment

The 9-10s students have created illustrated handwashing guides and PSAs that are on display in bathrooms throughout MCS. The students hope that sharing this knowledge will help reduce the spread of germs throughout the school community.

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5-6s Celebrate 100th Day of School

Blog Type:  Curriculum Spotlight Date Posted:  Thursday, March 16, 2017

100th Day of School

On Thursday, March 9, Manhattan Country School’s two 5-6s classes celebrated the 100th Day of School. This annual observance highlighted the students’ creativity and developing math skills.

5-6s Norte

100th Day of School

In preparation for the big day, students in 5-6s Norte worked on family projects that involved creating something using 100 items. Some examples included a tree made of 100 dental floss sticks, a student's name spelled with 100 guitar picks, a display of 100 balloons, a picture of a shark complete with 100 shark teeth and a display of 100 velcroed batteries.

100th Day of School

Families were invited to visit the classroom Thursday morning to join the students in a 100th Day of School celebration. The room was decorated with chains made of 100 paper links. Guests were treated to a special trail mix made with 100 of each of the following ingredients: Cheerios, chocolate chips, raisins and marshmallows. There were numerous books about the 100th Day of School available for reading and students and guests engaged in math activities, including skip counting to 100. Assistant teacher Lesly led the kids in doing 10 different exercises 10 times. Visitors were challenged to guess which of four jars contained 100 beans. In the afternoon, 5-6s Norte hosted 4-5s Este, the 8-9s and many MCS faculty and staff members.

100th Day of School


5-6s Sur

100th Day of School

5-6s Sur also welcomed their families and MCS students, faculty and staff to their classroom to witness the many ways they celebrated 100. Exhibits included artwork made with 100 dots, structures made with 100 Legos and designs made with 100 blocks of different shapes. The students also built objects using smaller groups of materials (e.g. 10 Mobilos, 25 Flexiblocks). These creations were displayed together to make collective groups of 100.

100th Day of School

100th Day of School Reader

Continuing a tradition from MCS’ time on 96th Street, 5-6s Sur hosted 10 (actually 11) special guest readers, who each read for ten minutes (one pair read together). The read-a-thon began with Karen, our sixth-grade teacher and co-director of City Camp, who read A Giraffe and a Half. Amanda and Joe, who work in the MCS kitchen, read The Unbeatable Bread. Maiya, our Upper School director, read Who’s A Pest?, a childhood favorite of hers (and Laleña’s!). Anisah, who worked with the 5-6s last year and is currently with the 6-7s, read The Dark. Angela, our communications director, came to read A Pocket for Corduroy, before returning to the 100s Museum with her camera that afternoon. Nicole, who is teaching the 8-9s, got to meet the class and read The Whisperer. Mary, our Lower School director, read No Roses for Harry and Nancy H., our parent fundraising and special events coordinator, came to introduce herself and read Ada Twist, Scientist. Alaina, the Upper School science teacher, read And Tango Makes Three, an exciting book for all the children who are familiar with the Central Park Zoo, and their day was rounded out by a fairly new face to MCS, Matilde, our database associate, who read a Madeline book. The children were thrilled to get to meet so many new faces and see some folks they recognize, and it was so lovely to have so many members of the MCS community join us in our celebration.

What Happens When the MCS Farm Gets Three Feet of Snow in One Day?

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Thursday, March 16, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

Making Sheperd's Pie at the MCS Farm

In a week when Manhattan Country School’s seventh-grade students returned to the MCS Farm, there are several projects and activities to be highlighted. A new recipe for Shepard’s Pie stuffed baked potatoes was created and devoured by the class. Students worked on fiber arts projects to fulfill their textiles class graduation requirements. A class discussion on meat production was held to learn about that piece of our food system. In Garth’s woodworking class, students built trellises for the gardens and a garden bench to be used at West 85th Street.

MCS Farm Woodworking

However, the true highlight was Winter Storm Stella. The storm moved in after midnight on Monday to provide six inches of snow by daybreak. At about 11 a.m. the storm ramped up to an average snowfall rate of three to four inches per hour. The students took measurements throughout the storm. At 12:30 p.m. the Farm had 19 inches and at 5:30 p.m. 34 inches. The task of shoveling out would wait until the next day.

MCS Farm

During this historic storm the Farm still kept operating. Animals were fed and cared for, meals were prepared and eaten and firewood was moved by sled instead of a wheeled cart. The snow itself provided countless activities. Kids jumped off the farmhouse front porch into its depths and massive snow caves, some large enough to fit several people, were dug out of the piles.

MCS Farm Snowstorm

The following day everyone grabbed shovels to clear paths to the barn, chicken coop, textiles studio and rec room. Moving snow that now measured close to 40 inches was an arduous task, but as the saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Once the hard work of snow removal was complete it was back to playing. Snow caves multiplied, snow shoes were donned to hike through the woods and snow angels were everywhere.

MCS Farm Snowshoes

MCS Farm

MCS Eighth Graders Gain First-Hand Career Experience During Annual Mentoring Day

Blog Type:  Curriculum Spotlight Date Posted:  Thursday, March 23, 2017

On Friday, March 17, Manhattan Country School eighth-graders visited professionals from a wide range of careers for our annual Eighth Grade Mentoring Day. Each year, these trips allow students from the graduating class to learn about careers of interest by visiting people in the MCS community working in those fields. The mentors spend several hours showing their guests around, explaining what a typical day entails, describing how they got where they are professionally, answering questions and more. 

These mentors are alumni, parents, parents of alumni and friends of the MCS community. When students observe a work environment in person and oftentimes get hands-on experience, it can spark a fascination and help shape their careers goals.

The following mentors participated in this year's event:

  • Animal Medicine: Dr. Erika Gibson '86
  • Anthropology: Dr. Pamela Calla
  • Art: Andrew Page
  • Computer Science: Marcin Sawicki
  • Education: Sasha Wilson '84
  • Film: Damon Gambuto '87
  • Food: Aaron Kirtz
  • Law: Caitlin (Naidoff) Glass '00 and Andrew Weinstein
  • Music: Ezra Gale '85

Following their visits, the students offered a recap of their experiences. Here are a few of their responses:

Aaron, Carolina and Layla visited Caitlin (Naidoff) Glass ('00), a law clerk to a United States District Court Judge, and former alumni representative to the MCS Board of Trustees. Carolina said: “We were guests at a naturalization and watched an arraignment…. My favorite part was when the judge shouted us out before they handed out the certificates.”

Adam, Malik, Myles and Sherman traveled to Ezra Gale’s (’85) studio in Brooklyn. Ezra is a professional musician, writer and composer. Myles said: “We went and recorded two songs and learned a lot about the equipment and how it works…. The match was perfect and the experience was great.”

Ama, Brandon and Jessica (pictured above) visited MCS parent Andrew Page at Urban Glass, his glassblowing studio in Brooklyn. Jessica said: “We observed artists create beautiful glass pieces. We saw how glass beads and neon signs are made and learned how expensive but awesome glassblowing is.”

Eighth Grade Mentoring Day

Jenna, Malia and Tai took a train all the way to New Jersey to get a tour of Forever Cheese with Aaron Kirtz, cheese monger and long-time favorite of Eighth-Grade Mentoring Day. Tai said: “I learned how cheese is stored, how it is transported, how to know if its good or bad cheese, compliance and FDA[-related matters].”

Jan headed uptown to spend time with Sasha Wilson '84, founding director of Bronx Community Charter School (BxC). As a school founded on MCS' principles, BxC's mission statement declares, "All members of our school community will be committed to making thoughtful choices, advancing democratic values, and effecting change in the broader community." Jan said: “I learned that schools all have different operations and different styles of learning….  I hoped that I would learn more about how a charter school operates, and that’s exactly what I got.”

Pearl and Sophie met with Andrew Weinstein, an MCS parent and trustee who is a criminal justice attorney and founder of The Weinstein Law Firm. Sophie said: “[We] went to [Andrew’s] office as well as the Manhattan Court… We went to two different court cases, and learned about criminal defense law, and how it’s related to social justice, race and class… Before this I never really thought about going into law, but I’m now considering it.”

Eighth Grade Mentoring Day

Anais and Izzy got to see Garden State Veterinary Specialists with veterinary neurosurgeon and MCS trustee Dr. Erika Gibson '86. Anais said: “We went into consultations and saw the beginning of a surgery. We learned different types of treatments for dogs with neuro issues.”

Damon Gambuto '87, co-executive producer at Leopard Films, invited Jonah and Monte to Leopard Studios. Monte said: “[We] learned about all of the pre- and post-production process…. I really enjoyed seeing a side of film I would not regularly see. I thought it was a perfect fit.”

Jack, who expressed interest in software design, animation and other technology-related careers, went downtown to visit MCS parent Marcin Sawicki. Marcin is a programmer/developer at Jane Street Holding. Jack said: “When I arrived at the office, Marcin gave me a tour of the trading/developing floor and the common areas. Then, he and I sat in a private office and he showed me some of the things he has coded or is coding.”

Osiris was seeking a mentor in anthropology and was connected with Dr. Pamela Calla, a cultural anthropologist and professor at New York University’s Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies. Osiris said: “I talked with Dr. Calla about her studies in cultural anthropology. I learned a lot about ‘engaged’ anthropology and how Dr. Calla links this study to activism. I also talked with her about the biological/physical side of anthropology.” His advice to future eighth-graders: “Don’t be nervous about meeting new people.”

A very special thanks to Flannery, Maiya, Akemi, Matilde, all the mentors and everyone who helped make Eighth Grade Mentoring Day a success. Those in the MCS community interested in hosting students for the 2018 Eighth Grade Mentoring Day should contact Matilde Gonzalez at

8-9s Use Snowshoes for Fun and Necessity

Blog Type:  Dispatches From the Farm Date Posted:  Thursday, March 23, 2017 Byline:  By John McDaniel, Farm Director

8-9s Snowshoeing

The calendar indicated the first day of spring as Monday, March 20, however the deep snow on the ground at the MCS Farm painted a different picture. During nature classes, the 8-9s needed to don snowshoes in order to negotiate the two feet of snow left from last week’s winter storm. The students learned the history of the snowshoe and discussed what inspired early peoples to create them. Originating in Central Asia thousands of years ago, the concept spread fairly quickly to other native peoples in cold climates.

8-9s Snowshoeing

The kids were quick to identify snowshoe hares, bobcats and cottontail rabbits—animals with large paws that were successful at staying on top of the snow—as the snowshoe inventors’ inspiration. During their exploration, they discovered tracks of white-tailed deer, whose heavy bodies and narrow hooves cause them to sink deep in the snow.

8-9s Snowshoeing

Some students wore modified bear paw snowshoes while others had beaver tails. Modern snowshoes are made of lightweight aluminum and neoprene, but the Farm still keeps some wooden and rawhide shoes on hand. While snowshoes don’t prevent you from sinking, they do help spread your body weight over a larger area.

8-9s Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing is currently the fastest growing winter sport. This trend enables many people to hike through deep snow in beautiful places while enjoying the winter, or in our case spring, season.

8-9s Snowshoeing