Dear MCS Community,
More than 400 guests gathered at Big Night Out! this past Saturday to celebrate Manhattan Country School’s 50th anniversary and to raise funds critical for supporting sliding-scale tuition. The room was filled with current parents, faculty and staff, alumni families and friends who came out for MCS, for honoree Ta-Nehisi Coates, and for what many agree is “a meaningful acknowledgment of a truly diverse and important institution.” Through the generosity of our community, we surpassed our $50,000 Fund-A-Need goal and raised more than $230,000 overall—the most for a Big Night Out! event yet.
As I recalled in my opening remarks, conferring the Living the Dream Mentor Award has been a part of MCS fundraisers for a long time. Previous honorees include John Lewis, Ruby Bridges, Harry Belafonte, Majora Carter, Robert Reich and Cecile Richards. In recent years, they’ve been paired with MCS alumni who prove the value of profound engagement with democracy through their ability to fully embrace new contexts and make them more reflective of values they know first-hand. This year, alumni were present throughout the program.
Musical highlights included a cocktail-hour performance by Nick Colt ’82, and a Billy Taylor composition, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” by Alicia Hall Moran (Jonas ’22 and Malcolm ’22) and Marika Hughes ’85. The evening concluded with a lively dance set with DJ Stretch Armstrong (Adrian Bartos ’83).
Daniel Altschuler ’96, director of civic engagement and research at Make the Road New York and managing director of Make the Road Action, served as emcee. Lee Gelernt ’75, deputy director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project and director of the Immigrants’ Rights Project’s Program on Access to the Courts at the American Civil Liberties Union, presented the Living the Dream Mentor Award. He received a standing ovation when introduced by Daniel.
Earlier this year, both played a significant role in challenging the new administration’s travel ban. Daniel remarked: “Working for one of the organizations that led the charge in the streets both at JFK and at Battery Park…it was a moment of alumni pride to know that a fellow MCS alum was tackling racism and intolerance in the courthouse while we were out in the streets.”
Ta-Nehisi’s remarks addressing sliding-scale tuition as the foundation of diversity and racial equity resonated with those in attendance. In a 2012 New York Times column, “School as Wonder, or Way Out” he wrote, “Last month, my 11-year-old son completed his first year at Manhattan Country School without cataclysmic incident. My wife and I…were attracted to the school’s diversity of race and income, and even more attracted to the sliding scale for tuition, for reasons both societally broad and personally austere…. For him education has been not just the shield, but the sword.”
Five years later, Ta-Nehisi reflected that there were other attractions, too: teachers that so obviously encourage a child’s imagination and a community where his son would be safe. His closing remarks brought the experience full circle. “It don’t get no better than this,” he declared. “I often thought when I was at MCS how different my life would have been, how enriched my life would have been, if I had gone to a school where my imagination was rewarded and where I was protected…. MCS is an original thing and it must be supported. It’s up to us.”
Board Chair Michael Patterson’s announcement of the public launch of Expanding Purpose: The Campaign for the Future of Manhattan Country School was met with thunderous applause. With this five-year comprehensive capital campaign, the board aims to raise $15 million. Even more impressive to some of our major supporters of sliding-scale tuition was seeing the Campaign Council that is leading the effort, and the news that we have already raised $5 million.
The following are among many notes of congratulations I’ve received following Big Night Out!:
- “What an amazing night! I went to a birthday party today and all the parents could do was rave about how perfect and perfectly meaningful everything was last night!”
- “A common theme from many of the attendees new to our community was disbelief that they had never heard about such an amazing school. Events like last night are phenomenal for introducing people to the magic of our school.”
- “I feel so fortunate to MCS and everyone involved with the school for giving us a life-long place to call home and a school full of parents, teachers, staff and students we look forward to seeing and catching up with years down the line.”
Thank you to all of Big Night Out!’s generous underwriters and donors, and those who contributed auction items and experiences. The dedicated efforts of MCS’ Advancement Team, the leadership of the Big Night Out! committee and the hard work of a host of volunteers came together to make the event a success. It is a stellar example of what can be accomplished when we come together as a community.
This spring, the MCS Kitchen team has been leading a seventh- and eighth-grade elective called “Food for Thought.” The students have completed several food-related activities, such as helping to prepare muffins for the whole school’s Friday morning snack, making scones for Grandparents and Special Friends Day and watching a documentary about our country’s food system.
A few weeks ago, I had the group help me write a week’s worth of lunch menus. We began by brainstorming our favorite lunches and a few new ideas for future lunches. Then we examined all the factors that go into planning the MCS lunch menu. We talked about only serving beef once a week so that we can use the MCS Farm supply over the course of the whole school year. Although, we don’t follow a strict Meatless Monday program, typically one lunch per week is meat free. We also try to buy as much local and seasonal produce as possible. The students looked at availability lists from our vendors who source from farms in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania to get an idea of what vegetables are available in early spring. We also discussed the various considerations necessary to meet the different needs of our community. One example is making sure that people who are vegetarian will have plenty to eat on days when meat is served. After much debate and consideration, this is the menu we came up with, that will be served the week of May 8. Good work seventh- and eighth-graders! Bon appétit!
Monday, May 8
Celery and Carrot Sticks with Ranch Dressing
Tuesday, May 9
Pulled Pork Tacos
Rice and Beans
Wednesday, May 10
Creamy Macaroni and Cheese
Sautéed Green Beans
Thursday, May 11
Hamburgers and Veggie Burgers
Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions, Cheese
Roasted Sweet Potatoes
The final farm trip for Manhattan Country School eighth-graders provides a time for reflection, reconnections, visits to cherished places and new experiences. A couple of birthdays were celebrated with singing and cake, baked by classmates. The class worked throughout the week on their mural, which had the theme from the movie “Up.”
In nature studies they continued their investigation and discussion of the yearlong topic of honey bee hive collapse. Their action plan, to support the Farm’s own honey bee colony, was to plant a pollinator garden. They planted a variety of self-seeding wildflowers, perennial flowers and herbs in the lower garden.
On Tuesday, our long-time sheep shearer Nancy was here to shear the flock. Everyone watched the process that supplies fiber for our textiles program and a few even tried their hands at shearing. In a woodworking class with Garth, the class built several benches that can be installed on the hay wagon for seating during rides.
Thursday was a day full of events that serve as a rite of passage for a final Farm trip. The entire class walked the three miles to the Village of Roxbury for lunch at a local café and a stroll around the historic town. They returned from their walk to watch a slide show of their time spent at the Farm since, for many, the 7-8s. Thursday evening after dinner the kids circled around the bonfire to say their good-byes. The crackling fire under the stars provided the ideal backdrop for some emotional and poignant thoughts to be shared among friends.
The MCS Farm’s Belted Galloway cow, Oreo, gave birth to a bull calf on Sunday, May 7. A Belted Galloway is considered a heritage breed of cattle, as it has stayed true to its genetics, has been raised in the United States since before 1925 and is or has been endangered, according to The Livestock Conservancy. Belted Galloways, with their distinct broad white belt that encircles the body, originated in southwest Scotland and are known to be efficient foragers, producers of high quality beef and exhibitors of strong maternal instincts. Oreo has been quite protective of her son, Carpaccio, who the 9-10s had the honor of naming during their spring farm trip this week.
Mom Oreo spends her day out in the green pasture while Carpaccio, during his early weeks of life, will stay in the barn to be showered with affection from our kids, who are helping him acclimate to humans. He’ll soon join mom and the other cows in the pasture to forage.
The 4-5s through 7-8s shared songs and dances from around the world with their families at the annual SingAlong Wednesday, May 17. The theme, "Celebrating Diverse Cultures," brought together songs and dances from 15 musical traditions.
Drummers accompanied selections from Nigeria, Colombia, South Africa and Puerto Rico. The main event, of course, was the children, who threw themselves into singing and dancing by taking ownership of the music and blowing us all away.
Tuesday night, Manhattan Country School's seventh- and eighth-graders hosted a community event to share their activism campaign: Divest from corporate greed, invest in the future we need. Students shared details about guest speakers, trips, protests, and curriculum on climate change, environmental justice and other related issues.
Students in the activism elective then led a workshop on the divestment movement, which began by highlighting why we should divest from fossil fuels and the success of the campaign. It turns out that this global movement has influenced the divestment of more than $5 trillion in just over five years.
Students and parents were divided into groups and went to separate rooms to learn about how fossil fuels impact governance and democracy, war and conflict, health, and, of course, climate change. They then wrote letters to Mayor de Blasio urging him to divest New York City pension funds from fossil fuels and to their State Assembly members urging them to vote on a bill that would divest state pension funds from fossil fuels. We looked up everyone's state assembly member in advance so they would know who to write to. We are currently working on setting up a meeting with the mayor's office to deliver the letters by hand.
The seventh- and eighth-graders invite you to join their letter writing campaign by using the following templates:
Before and after the meeting, students were stationed outside the gym with flyers and information for parents on how to divest their own money from banks that support the Dakota Access Pipeline, switch their electric utility to renewable energy, and order t-shirts with our activism logo.
On Friday, May 5, Manhattan Country School held its annual Lower School Tertulia. A tertulia is a gathering of people united by a common interest. Our tertulia brought together students, faculty and staff, and families around a common focus on the Spanish language. Through songs, poetry, art, games and examples of activism, the students highlighted some of what they have learned this year working with Lower School Spanish Teacher MariaTere Tapias Avery.
Los 4-5s Se Visitan
The 4-5s sang “Los 4-5s Se Visitan,” inspired by their home visits curriculum.
Movimiento en el Yunque
The 7-8s sang “Movimiento en el Yunque.”
(The week following the Lower School Tertulia, a trio of 7-8s could be heard singing this song while they worked on their wood shop projects. This is just one example of how students incorporate what they’ve learned in Spanish into their everyday work and play.)
Cuida el Agua
The 6-7s sang “Cuida el Agua,” an adaptation of a song written by musician and educator Bernardo Palombo.
As part of this curriculum, the students created a book of illustrations to accompany the lyrics.
The 9-10s shared the arpilleras they created, and offered the following explanation of this curriculum in English and in Spanish.
Arpilleras in Chile and MCS | Las Arpilleras en Chile y MCS
In the 9-10s we learned about the history of arpilleras in Chile.
En los 9-10s aprendimos la historia de las arpilleras en Chile.
Arpilleras are newspapers on cloth.
Las arpilleras son periódicos en tela.
In Chile, women created arpilleras to show the world what was happening in their country.
Mujeres cocieron arpilleras para mostrar lo que pasaba en su país.
They also protested and marched at night.
Tambien habían protestas y marchas por la noche.
At MCS, we are all activists.
En MCS, todos somos activistas.
Our arpilleras show how we create a better world!
¡Como creamos un mundo mejor!
On Monday, May 15, fifth-grade students from Manhattan Country School, Central Park East II and Children’s Workshop School presented the 2017 MLK Living the Dream Book Award to the author and illustrator of I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, in a ceremony at Manhattan Country School. The Living the Dream Book Award culminates a yearlong private/public school partnership, initiated by MCS in 1990. The award is presented to a children’s picture book that embodies the values of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This year’s winning book, written by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, is based on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In the 1940s, Ruth grew up a Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn alongside many other immigrant cultures. Her life was different in one crucial way. Ruth’s mother believed that girls should have the same opportunities that boys had at that time. Through several family trips, Ruth got to see how others lived and thrived, but she was also witness to racial and religious biases as well. This had a powerful impact on Ruth’s belief system as she went on to pursue and earn a law degree, which was a rare thing for women at the time. She then made it her mission to fight for the rights of women and people of color. In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court. She continues to fight for the rights of many people from varied backgrounds and provides inspiration for young girls, as well as so many others.
During the award ceremony, Levy and Baddeley talked about their creative process and answered students’ questions. Levy, in her remarks, quoted King: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Ginsburg used these words from King in her dissent from the 2013 Supreme Court opinion that gutted an important part of the Voting Rights Act, adding, “…if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.” There are no better words to describe the yearlong commitment of work by the young students involved in the MLK Living the Dream Book Award.