This year’s the activism committee, made up of seventh and eighth grade students, decided after several debates and a voting process to focus on habitat destruction. After initial investigations into ways our fossil fuel-based economy destroys habitats, including plastics and pipelines, discussions turned to the term “Green New Deal." The students saw this proposal as being inclusive enough to contain many sub-topics, as a solution that addresses the needs of diverse people, and being pushed to the forefront of the nation’s attention by young activists.
The Green New Deal is a proposed economic stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. The plan seeks to take the transformation of our energy sector as an opportunity to create a society that is more just, equal, free, and democratic. The students looked at different aspects of the Green New Deal proposal and broke it down into three main parts: decarbonizing the economy, guaranteeing good jobs, and insuring a just transition. Throughout the year, students in the activism committee have sought out ways to have their voices heard in support of the Green New Deal. Earlier in the year, guest speakers from the Sunrise Movement, a group of young people who make climate change a priority, spoke with students about the Green New Deal and the year-long plan for the organization. Students also attended the Climate Strike and Sunrise Movement Rally in NYC this spring and have written letters to local papers to voice their concerns on climate change.
Recently students in the activism committee have begun to encourage the MCS community to get involved in the cause. They presented on the Green New Deal at an Upper School assembly last month and shared ways to take action. They also shared their campaign with MCS’ younger students this week. They prepared lessons, led conversations about different types of activism, and helped children write letters to their elected representatives. Students from the 7th and 8th grades also presented their activism project to parents at the End-of-Year Parent Thank You Reception earlier this week and invited them to write letters to their representatives to make their voices heard as well.
Manhattan Country School’s 2019 Spring Concert, titled “Exploring Yesterday,” celebrated music that has warmed our hearts, got us dancing and inspired us throughout time. The program featured an impressive collection of songs dating as far back as the 16th century with several popular songs from the 70s and 80s. The students dressed in retro attire befitting the theme.
The MCS Rock Band, featuring Ana (percussion), Anika (guitar), Antonio (guitar), Ayo (percussion/voice), Brickelle (bass/voice), Carlo (percussion), Dia (percussion/voice), Gabriella M. (guitar/voice), Madeline (piano), Mary Ella (piano) and Tady (piano), opened the show performing three songs: “Yesterday," by Paul McCartney, "Stay" by Rihanna and "Salam Alaikum" by Harris J.
The 8-9s and 9-10s followed the rock band with two recorder pieces, "Singing Goose" and "Cantilena."
The entire MCS Chorus then came together for the remainder of the show singing a variety of songs from from Spanish folk songs to a mash-up of hits by Queen. They closed the concert with "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. Their collective voices had the audience dancing and singing along from start to finish.
Photos from the 2019 Spring Concert
At the ninth annual Social Justice Data Fair, on Thursday, May 30, 2019, Manhattan Country School sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders showcased the work they have done using math to explore social justice issues. Some seventh graders projects included an investigation of the disproportional body sizes of action figures and dolls and comparative mapping projects comparing social indicators.
For MCS eighth-graders, the data fair is a capstone project. Students research an issue of their choosing and hone their visual storytelling skills, preparing a compelling collection of graphs, infographics and maps to draw attention to the key concerns they want to raise awareness about.
Topics for these projects included:
- Standardized Testing
- Racial Inequality in Schools and Textbooks
- Interracial Marriage and Multiracial Families
- Social Media and Teen Body Image
- Maternal Mortality and Abortion Rates
- The Gender Pay Gap
- Environmental Racism in NYC
- The US Prison System
- Automation of the Workforce
- The Menstrual Movement
- Gender and Sexuality Representation in Politics
The Social Justice Data Fair also included a keynote address by surrent parent Vladimira Kantorova (8-9s and 8th grade). Vladimira spoke about how current and future population size, growth rates and age distribution shape policies for the economy, environment, and society such as public pensions, education and health care. Some highlights included the causes of population growth, how population projections are made, and how certain we can be about future population trends.
Photos from the 2019 Social Justice Data Fair
The students in the 7th and 8th grade spent the beginning of the year exploring and discussing possible activism topics. The Activism Elective narrowed the options down to four and created presentations for the rest of the group. Those four options were: habitat destruction, the immigration crisis, police brutality, and sexual harassment. Students voted first for two topics to explore further which were habitat destruction and the immigration crisis. They then went home and discussed with their families and had several conversations as a whole group and, in an exciting run-off election, chose habitat destruction.
Students seem to be primarily concerned with a sense, supported by evidence, that the life support systems of our planet are being stretched beyond capacity and while they are all moved by, and outraged by the mistreatment and scapegoating of immigrants by our current administration, they chose to face what they perceive as a more existential threat.
I am working to explore intersections between those two topics and connections with our history curriculum as we continue to learn about this issue and plan our campaign. For example, many of the people in the "caravan" of migrants currently hoping to apply for asylum in the United States, as is their right by international law, are fleeing Honduras because of violence, government corruption, and economic hopelessness. Honduras is also a country that has seen the murder of many environmental activists, most infamously Bertha Caceres, carried out allegedly by corporations in cooperation with governmental security forces. These companies, and the political elites, are seeking to exploit natural resources to the detriment of communities. The combination of exploitation and destruction of natural resources, the loss of agricultural land to climate change, and the prevalence of violence and impunity constitute "push factors" forcing people to leave their countries and seek refuge in our own.
Meanwhile, our current events updates in morning meeting have included plans by the current administration to open the Arctic refuge and millions of acres of public lands to oil exploration and mining.
The students will decide in the coming month or two on a more specific focus for our topic and find organizations working on these issues to partner with. As always, our campaign will advocate for policy changes and seek to engage the MCS community in student-led activism for a more just future. Perhaps our New York City representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's call for a Green New Deal will interest the students. As a history teacher, it certainly helps make historical connections clear and reminds students that a nation with a shared sense of purpose can face catastrophic challenges with courage and transform society for the better.
Stay tuned to see what direction the students will choose and feel free to reach out with any resources, connections, or ideas that might help them in their process.
Seventh and eighth graders recently joined Rocking the Boat, a Bronx-based “on-water classroom,” for a hands-on examination of the Bronx River while rowing wooden Whitehall 14s. Along the way, students spied schools of fish, colonies of mussels and barnacles, a snapping turtle, and great blue herons.
They examined several oyster colonies that are part of an environmental restoration project. Students and teachers also donned waders to seine for fish and crabs before identifying their catch using a dichotomous key. This field study allowed students to examine the complex interactions between members of this estuarine environment in their natural habitat as well as discuss how species’ diversity promotes resilient ecosystems. Students also explored the influence of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including the dredging of the river and the draining of the marshes, as well as the variety of restoration work currently underway.
Rocking the Boat was founded by MCS alumnus Adam Green ‘87. In addition to hosting school groups and offering apprenticeships for high school students in boat building, environmental education and sailing, the non-profit hosts free community rowing and sailing days on the Bronx River between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The MCS Seed Bank is an eighth grade project at the Farm. It will be a year-long study on seed saving. During the students' recent fall farm trip, we discussed what a seed is and the importance of seeds in the history of human civilization and agriculture.
By saving seeds from plants in our garden, we will have seeds to plant next year at the farm and to share with our community.
We are saving seeds from our gardens as an act of resistance to the increasingly commercial seed businesses, which are working to privatize a natural resource that should be inherently common, that all should have access to collect and share.
The eighth graders walked through the garden and chose specific crops from which to save the seeds. These included tomatoes, zucchinis, delicata squash, green beans, echinachea and cucumbers. Each crop calls for different seed saving techniques, whether it is fermenting or drying the seeds before storing. We worked together to clean the seeds and leave them to dry. During their winter farm trip, the eighth graders will design packets for the seeds they saved!
In addition to collecting seeds from crops in the garden, we collected the seeds from Pigweed, a species or the genus, Amaranthus, a common weed that grows in the garden beds. This is for a study being done at Columbia University by an MCS alumnus. The study is examining the changing genetic traits of the plants, which are allowing it to resist herbicides and pesticides. The students collected seeds from different Pigweed plants in our garden and around the farm and labeled them accordingly so that they can be used for this research.
Manhattan Country School Curriculum Night will take place on Thursday, October 4 from 6:00-8:00 p.m.. The evening provides an opportunity for families to become acquainted with their children’s classrooms and learn about teachers’ plans for the year.
A reception and community meeting will take place in the gym beginning at 6:00 p.m. Tours of the new sixth floor Upper School classrooms will also take place during this time.
Class presentations will begin at 7:00 p.m. in your child’s classroom. Prior to this meeting, parents will receive curriculum letters via email that will provide an overview of programs planned for the year. Teachers will discuss curriculum in more detail at the event and parents will have the opportunity to ask questions.
Other Important Curriculum Dates
Curriculum Night is the first of three opportunities in the early part of the school year to learn more about progressive education, how children learn and grow at MCS, and the ways it prepares children for ongoing intellectual and social development and shapes engaged citizens. Parents’ Visiting Day (November 6) allows parents to participate in children’s morning routines and classes. Fall Parent-Teacher Conferences (November 16 and 19) provide one-on-one meetings with teachers. More details to come.
On Saturday, May 19, 2018, 12 student delegates from Manhattan Country School attended the Middle School Model Congress at Packer Collegiate Institute in downtown Brooklyn.
This year’s MCS delegates were Madeleine L., Gabriela M., Stella A., Oscar U., Dominic O., Lev L., Luca C., Eli S., Arlo C., Josephine A., Charles G., and Joe R.
After three months of hard work in weekly after-school meetings, the MCS delegates were prepared and excited to defend their six bills. During the event, delegates broke off into separate committees based upon the content of their bill. These committees are meant to resemble actual congressional committees and include judiciary; education; health; housing & urban affairs; and science, space and technology. Bills that were passed in the Morning Committee Sessions were then reviewed in one of four Full Sessions: House I, House II, Senate I and Senate II.
Our student delegates presented bills that address a variety of domestic issues that have global impacts. The titles of our students’ bills were:
- Equal Access to Healthy Food
- An Act to Prevent Partisan Gerrymandering
- An Act to Have Kids Be More Healthy and Perform Better in School
- An Act to Encourage Companies to Reconsider Their Influence in Foreign Governments to Participate in Unethical Practices
- The Factory Farm Animal Welfare Act
- An Act to Increase Immigration to the United States from The Northern Triangle
At the end of the day, three of our six bills received passing votes, and one delegate received an honorable mention for best legislator in her committee.
Manhattan Country School’s 2018 Spring Concert, titled “Beautiful Dreamers,” was dedicated to MCS Founder Gus Trowbridge and all the dreamers striving to make a change in the world. The program featured an impressive collection of inspiring songs.
The 8-9s opened the concert with “Deux Oiseaux (Two Birds),” a piece featuring vocals and recorder. The 9-10s followed with a recorder piece of their own titled “The Music Box.”
This year’s MCS Rock Band featured Brickelle (ukulele), Gabi M. (ukulele), Anika (guitar), Jonas (electric guitar), Tady (piano), Leo (piano), Aaron W. (percussion), Arlo (percussion), and Maceo (percussion). They performed two songs: “Obstacles” and “So Much More Than This.”
The 8-9s through eighth-grade chorus performed a selection of contemporary numbers, including “Cantamos,” “Beautiful,” “Seasons of Love,” “Don’t You Worry ’Bout a Thing,” and “Love in Any Language.”
To follow are video excerpts from the concert.
At the eighth annual Social Justice Data Fair, on Thursday, May 31, 2018, Manhattan Country School sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders showcased the work they’ve done using math to explore social justice issues.
For MCS eighth-graders, the data fair is a capstone project. Students research an issue of their choosing and hone their visual storytelling skills, preparing a compelling collection of graphs, infographics and maps to draw attention to the key concerns they want to raise awareness about. This year’s topics included:
- The disproportional impact of police-perpetrated gun violence by race, gender, age and neighborhood income
- The pay gap
- Street harassment
- The experience of black youth in U.S. education
- Comparative access to health care, wealth and education in Israel and Palestine
- The role of renewable energy in meeting our current energy demands
- The intersectional experience of race and gender
- The impact of climate change on agriculture
- Representation of people of color and those in the LGBTQ community in the media
- Whether technology and economic investments can shift our impact on the climate
- Global access to clean water
- Access to sports
The seventh-graders shared their investigation into the disproportionality of action figures and dolls. They also presented mapping projects comparing social indicators. Sixth graders’ presentations addressed what they have learned about the disproportionate representations in web search results.
The Social Justice Data Fair also included a keynote address by Chris Emdin, associate professor in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education. (Chris is also the parent of a child who will be starting in the 5-6s at MCS in the fall.) In an energetic and engaging presentation, Chris detailed how he uses data to improve outcomes of students of color.