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15 09, 2016

Curriculum Connection: The Outdoor Learning Space

By | September 15th, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Experiential Learning, Families, Parent News|0 Comments

It takes a lot of people to build a garden. In fact, it will require the help of every man, woman, and child in the Ancona community for our new garden to bloom to life.

We called the first event in the garden’s life, held on Saturday, August 27, a “farm raising,” borrowing the iconic rural image of neighbors coming together to build a barn. It’s fitting we borrowed a metaphor, because we are literally borrowing everything else, too–including the time, talents, and tools of many generous people.

Over 30 parents and children came out in the rain and mud to lift, build, fence, and plant.

More than a few parents have since approached me and apologized for missing that event. “We’re so sad we couldn’t attend the farm raising,” they say.

“No worries,” I reassure them. “The farm raising isn’t over. The farm raising is now. The farm raising is always.”

There will never be a time when something isn’t being planned, built, or retrofitted for the garden. That’s the way it is with gardens and with agriculture in general. They are chronically improvised ventures requiring constant improvement.

Many community members have found other ways–other days–to share their time, talents, and tools. Parent Sarah Dunn, an architect by trade, has shepherded the garden from sketches toward reality. Kids in the summer eco camp built prototypes of raised beds. Haun Saussy, a new parent, donated a nifty, almost-new wheelbarrow. Radiah and Ben Smith-Donald donated stumps to serve as seats.

The next installment of the ongoing farm-raising is a harvest fete, set for Wednesday, October 19, 3:30-6:30 pm. All are welcome. We won’t have as many crops this year as in future ones. Still, we should celebrate the garden’s first harvest while continuing its construction.

As before, this event will be a collaborative effort. Faculty and families are loaning cider presses. The pre-primary students will pick apples for pressing. Ari is bringing a guitar (and expects you to bring instruments, too). Kathy Yates has offered daffodil bulbs. We need folks to put in next year’s garlic and spread mulch.

These kinds of pay-it-forward zeitgeist suggests how the garden will and should work, that is, as a joint venture of many hands. E pluribus unum hortum.

Students often ask me about the possibilities of raising live animals in the garden. When are the chickens coming? What about the pigs? They are eager, understandably so, for the garden to arrive, shiny and complete as a holiday package.

Yes, I explain, there will be animals, (though not pigs), but first there must be plants, more beds, tables and benches. Before they raise chickens, they must, like Thoreau, raise beans–and carrots, and tomatoes, and squash, and  . . . And before they raise beans, they have to help build a bean bed. The garden isn’t just a place; it’s a process.

So the building continues. Do you have benches or an old picnic table? A stack of old bricks or pavers? A trellis? Hand tools? Stumps? We can use them. We can use you. Whatever your skill or resource, it can find a place here in a former parking lot on South Kenwood Avenue.

Out of many, one garden.

Chris Weber

Outdoor Learning Specialist

1 09, 2016

Welcome Back Ancona!

By | September 1st, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Diversity and Social Justice, Experiential Learning, Genius Of Children, Love of Learning, Parent News|0 Comments

On August 27th I had the pleasure of participating in Ancona’s Farm Raising. From hauling lumber with a three year old, to shoveling soil into garden beds with grown-ups, I had the opportunity to speak with the entire spectrum of the Ancona community. While talking with a new parent at Ancona, I was struck by his enthusiasm and joy for our school. Even when the conversation led into other areas of our lives, he always brought the conversation back to Ancona and what an amazing connection his family felt with our community.

With so much stress in our lives, I am always happy to hear that Ancona brings joy into parent’s lives by providing an excellent education to our students. This education goes beyond the academic and brings the whole world to the classroom. An Ancona education intentionally fosters community, tackles issues of social justice head on, and brings student voice to the forefront of any discussion.  From day one, our teachers are educating our students to bridge the gaps that society has made. Where society separates, Ancona unites. As we start this school year,  I would like to take this opportunity to share how community, social justice and student voice are present at Ancona and why these hallmarks make us shine so brightly in Chicago.

This is a learning environment for children to learn who they are as individuals, who they are as a member of a group, and who we all are as a community. Children call their teachers and administrators by first names. They begin each day with a handshake as they enter the school and over the course of the year this tradition allows them to get to know all of our faculty. Advisors start each morning with a group conversation that establishes a sense of camaraderie that feeds into the learning for the rest of the day. This commitment to the joy and fellowship in learning is seen across the school. A long-time teacher once chided me for wearing a tie because the teachers here must always look ready to get on the floor and play with children on their level. While I’ve come to learn how to incorporate my tie into play, the sentiment from that conversation has stuck with me: educators at Ancona are fully present.

It is through this lens of community that our students understand social justice. Ancona educates children who will defend human rights in the face of a society that seems to revel in dismantling of them. Throughout my time here I have seen students march for equal access to healthy water, participate in reenactment scenes from the civil rights era, and research gun violence statistics. Last year, after researching water access for the Social Justice Data Fair, one of our eighth grade students became passionate about helping with the crisis in Flint, Michigan. With the help of family and friends, he created a campaign to help bring water to families in Flint. Classmates collaborated to design posters, family member drove the water out, and donations were secured from every quarter.  Parents at Ancona marvel at how their children’s learning is so often tied to illuminating greater problems in our society. Our student’s assign their imaginations to contemporary problems and their solutions fill us with admiration and hope.

Both community and social justice at Ancona are grounded in the elevation of student voice. When children choose their own work, they enact their best learning. The dignity of work is a Montessori principle: Children choose their work in a classroom according to what fulfills them. As they grow, they choose a balance of things that help them mature as learners. From engineering sound amplifiers, to building model bridges, to forming government policy recommendations, teachers provide complex sophisticated problems with multiple outcomes and students extend themselves to apply what they know to design solutions. Ancona students are innovators, collaborators, researchers, designers — they are problem solvers, they are “workers,” creating and fulfilling their own vision, then sharing that work and fulfillment with everyone around them.

What we want for our children is what we want for society – to feel supported by a community, to share in the work of equity and engage with life’s puzzles by leading solutions. Ancona is proud to be a space that fosters this hard work and acts as a “third place” — a place between home and work where your family learns and grows together. Thank you for becoming, being or remaining a member of the Ancona School! We are powered by the genius of children. We are powered by you. We can’t wait for this great year ahead!

Ari Frede 

Head of School

9 06, 2016

Preprimary Caribbean Island Festival

By | June 9th, 2016|Global Learning, Parent News|0 Comments


Each year, the Preprimary holds an annual end-of-year Caribbean Island Festival! The morning includes authentic Caribbean staples and dishes inspired by the Islands of the Caribbean and Central America. Enjoy music, dance and fun. If there is Caribbean-inspired dish you enjoy preparing or eating, please do not hesitate to share it with our community.

Friday, June 10 10:30 a.m. /  Outdoor Learning Space

6 05, 2016

Inside Social Justice at Ancona

By | May 6th, 2016|Curriculum Connection|0 Comments

SJFD_1On March 4th, parents and students gathered at Ancona’s third biannual Social Justice Data Fair where they discussed middle school students’ projects on topics from implicit bias to environmental racism to social cleansing. The following Sunday, in an Ancona family’s home, the conversation continued in the parents’ Honest Conversations group as we discussed police violence in Chicago. “It’s like one of the students’ projects,” said one parent. “She was talking about societies with more diversity having more gun violence.” Several parents cited points their children or other students had made, discussing the specific implications for Chicago. In fact, the fair has sparked ongoing sharing among and between families.

One pair of students took the Harvard Implicit Bias Test and were shocked to discover that news media and other cultural forces shape their own subconscious thoughts. Other groups investigated how gender and racial bias can lead to severe wage gaps and tied this in with their budget simulation in math class–79% of a White Man’s salary means that you can no longer afford any extras, 54% sends your credit card debt spiraling out of control. How did social media boost the Black Lives Matter movement? Why is the Syrian refugee crisis a big deal? Why does America lead wealthy countries in gun violence? Our students can tell you.

From their very first years at Ancona, students are taught the stories of leaders and ordinary people who have fought to make the world more just. By middle school, students are able to pinpoint injustice and work to develop their voices within their own communities. In the Social Justice Data Fair, students select justice issues that are particularly meaningful to them, conduct research, analyze data, and select and present evidence to support a thesis. The academic work of developing an argument is rigorous, and students produce excellent projects because the subject material is so relevant to them. How should we move forward to correct injustice? Many students noted that the first step is to “Make a project and get the word out!” Others are already taking further steps such as writing a petition for fairer media coverage and organizing a water drive for Flint, MI. Parent experts are visiting the middle school to help students contact their elected representatives about the issues of police brutality that their projects raised. One parent is even looking at implementing a diversity survey at her university based on her daughter’s project on microaggressions!


At some schools, teachers fear they will get in trouble for teaching about injustice or encouraging students to argue and fight for change. At Ancona, our social justice learning flows freely between home, classroom, and the wider community. Be a part of the conversation! Join other parents and educators to learn about the student conversations that make the Social Justice Data Fair meaningful at Ancona’s Diversity Symposium on May 14th.


7 04, 2016

Recuerdo de Oaxaca: 8th Grade Mexico Trip, 2016

By | April 7th, 2016|Curriculum Connection, Public News|0 Comments

From Spanish class to salsa, from socio-economics to soccer, Ancona 8th graders experienced Mexico in many authentic ways on their week-long Spanish-language immersion trip to Oaxaca. IMGP4542By staying with host families and by engaging with local business owners and students, our 8th graders had many opportunities to experience the culture of Oaxaca and to practice their Spanish language skills in real-world

The students began each morning with a two-hour Spanish language class at the Instituto Cultural de Oaxaca. In the afternoons, they went on various excursions to museums such as the Museo Rufino Tamayo, where the director himself gave them a detailed and impassioned tour of the incredible collection of pre-Columbian artifacts artistically displayed, and the The Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, housed in the beautiful cloister adjoining the Templo de Santo Domingo and surrounded by a botanic garden, which includes a huge hoard of gold and jade Mixtec treasures unearthed at nearby Monte Albán.

monte Monte Albán itself was one of the destinations to which we traveled on longer excursions away from the city. This ancient ruin was the seat of Zapotec culture for nearly 1000 years and is one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica. After a guided tour, students tested their stamina by climbing the 42 steep steps of the south temple mound as many as twenty times (a new Ancona record!). 20160319_105241We also visited the second most important Zapotec ruin in Oaxaca at Mitla (originally Mictlán), which is unique for its elaborate and intricate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover the tombs in this site dedicated to the underworld, to which our 8th graders excitedly descended to see the small tombs for themselves.


The Cypress at Tule, el Gordo

We also visited the largest tree in the world–largest in circumference, that is. The 2,000-year-old cypress in Tule is 52 meters in girth. It supposedly takes 23 adults to reach all the way around this tree trunk–though we did not try it ourselves.

20160319_124928Another natural element students got to immerse themselves in (literally) is the hot springs at Hierve el Agua in the Sierra Madre del Oaxaca mountain range. These springs have created waterfall-like formations over the many centuries they have been depositing minerals where they bubble (“boil”) out of the mountainside.
IMG_8641One of the most engaging experiences of the trip to Mexico was the opportunity to visit and learn about a number of Oaxacan women who had started businesses with microloans from the organization Fundación En Via.dyes
Students learned about the businesses, such as cheese- and tortilla-making and even a beauty salon, that these women started up with the interest-free loans. In the village of Teotitlán del Valle, they got to observe and even try their hands at carding and spinning wool and preparing dyes for beautiful, hand-made textiles. The guides from the organization were very impressed with the sophisticated questions our 8th graders asked and the degree of interest they showed in the cultural and economic aspects of the program. “You can always tell an Ancona student . . .”

When we asked the students what their most meaningful experience was on this trip, many of them talked about the extraordinary exchanges they had with the school children they met. Twice they sat together to talk and learn about each other, the “intercambio,”
griffinand then they all played a game of soccer together–with mixed teams that they self-selected. IMGP4673Everyone was a winner that day! This, and the other opportunities to interact with the people of Oaxaca, at home with the families, with the school children, and with the local business owners–and just the people they met on the Zócalo (the town square), are what make this stay in Mexico so different from a tourist trip; it allows our kids to be truly open to another culture and other perspectives. This trip is a true culmination of all the work in speaking, reading, and writing Spanish, the creative problem-solving and critical thinking, and the commitment to social justice our 8th grade students have been engaged in at Ancona for over a decade. It is truly a transformational experience.

zocaloTo see more pictures and videos of our 8th grade students in Mexico, please visit My Classrooms.

3 03, 2016

Inquiry Based Learning at Ancona

By | March 3rd, 2016|Curriculum Connection|0 Comments

When parents hear that Ancona students have a lot of choice, I wonder what they think of. One seventh grader explained to me what she liked about her artwork of Arabic calligraphy on marbleized paper. She said it was beautiful because of what it symbolized, and she loved both the making of it and what she’d learned to appreciate about the language and the ink’s flow. Two third graders working on correcting a math problem gradually came to terms about how they could reconcile their ideas for a solution. The teacher led the entire class in a discussion about the multiple strategies for solving the problems, and through this dialogue, the students adopted new strategies for next time. Do parents think of these?

Low levels of student choice exist everywhere. Kids are exposed early on to forced choices (“do you want to eat your carrots before your bath or after?”). Then they graduate to preference-based choices (“which color do you want?”). Eventually, we grown-ups afford them the luxury of choices in their learning in extremely limited ways (“choose a president to write a report about.”).

data fair_2

But at Ancona, choice is genuine, legitimate, and linked to learning opportunities. Consider the third and fourth grade class studying writing. After comparing their characters’ internal and external obstacles, they sat down for some focused writing time to apply what they were learning to their developing stories. In an earlier class, one student I was observing had retreated into a cliche sports story requiring little thought. But this time he concentrated harder, pressing the pencil more deliberately, taking time with difficult strokes. I let him concentrate; he was exhibiting determination and care for ideas he was coaxing out. I asked him to tell me about the story, and his eyes lit up as he explained what choices he was making. His eyes brightened with pride, and he held my gaze until he was sure he was done telling me all about it. The only way for the conversation to continue was for them to take a stab at creating the next step in their original pieces. Genuine choice means that progress depends on making the choice.

Also, Ancona students have legitimate choices. By legitimate, I mean they have real consequences. Teachers are always reminding kids that how they treat each other changes their relationships. One young student was having a hard time learning this, and was sorrowful that his friends were avoiding him because of his dominating behavior. I talked to him for a while, but his emotions were too strong to see what was at the root of his problem. But I explained to him that I’d seen kids just like him in similar situations, and they figured out that if they courageously reached out to those same friends and asked for a chance to redeem themselves, things started to turn around. As we mature, we start to learn that legitimate choices have very real consequences. Happily, these struggles at early ages don’t plague us the same as we mature and get more practiced at linking the consequences to the earlier choices.

Almost a century ago, John Dewey, my favorite education philosopher, told his critics that experience bears along learning. This old idea that teachers ought to design learning experiences — and further, recognize what kinds of experiences their students are already learning from, down to the seats bolted to the floor — is well in practice at Ancona. Their environment demands that students make choices. Where will you go? What will you experiment with? What materials do you want? Teachers persistently follow students’ thinking to help them develop their own questions. Then, having refined their ideas, guide them to pursue answering those same questions. It’s a very short distance from learning to answer your own question to related concepts like motivation, self-governance, and ownership. But in terms of learning, Dewey explained, “the most important attitude that can be formed is that of desire to go on learning.” I have met more teachers familiar with this one quotation than any other in their studies and training.

At Ancona, these choices are genuine: they truly depend on the child making a choice for things to progress. And they are legitimate: they have real consequences for the child. And lastly, they are linked to real learning. Choice, ultimately, is about learning. The lesser the choice, the lesser the fair4

After this Friday’s assembly, 5th-6th grade will premiere their Social Justice Data Fair. I first visited Ancona when the last of these presentations were posted, and I could not believe my eyes. One student had chased down their own questions about disciplinary rates in Chicago Public Schools by race and ethnicity. Another was looking at juvenile detention rates in Illinois. Each poster charted its data and was accompanied by a narrative explaining what the author would like us to see in it, and what policy recommendations they would make. I didn’t get to touch material like that until college! This was the brilliant intersection of math, writing, and social justice. Just as much, though, it was the exercise of freedom of choice, entrusted to children, to guide them to greater thinking about how to make things better for people everywhere. When parents hear that Ancona students have choice, I hope they imagine democracy.

28 01, 2016

The Social World of Children

By | January 28th, 2016|Curriculum Connection|0 Comments


by Tony Gleason, MA LCPC
School Counselor
The Ancona School


As the school counselor I have the opportunity to visit and work with all of the classrooms here at Ancona. Recently, when walking through a primary school classroom, I saw this script written at the top of one of the chalkboards:  


We all know that both children and adults will experience the ups and downs of learning and life.  Through my relationships with teachers and students I get to be involved in the social realm of our children across the board.  The successes are often easy to recognize and encouraged, but conversely it’s harder to see mistakes as an opportunity for change.   It is the opportunity to safely navigate these mistakes that allow us to truly grow.

One of the many awesome aspects of an Ancona education is the freedom our students have to take risks and challenge themselves during the school day.  Now this may seem easier to understand when talking about how students engage with curriculum, as we commonly celebrate making mistakes in the academic world.  Teachers encourage students to find creative, challenging outlets for their ideas, and students sometimes fail. Here at Ancona, this same idea is applied to the development of social skills and the building of friendships and relationships. We teach children that there is a general understanding that all people make mistakes and that they don’t have to define you.

We have all had the joy of watching our children experience their first social interactions.  Watching them navigate the world as 5 year olds, hogging all the toys in the sand box, cutting in line at the slide, and occasionally shoving to express displeasure.  As parents we might look on in horror, apologize on behalf of our children, and in some cases we pack all of our things and call it day.  We worry about our children, we find people to confide in, spouses, friends, family, or sometime we just keep it  to ourselves. Some people feel that we experience this reaction because we are concerned that our child’s behavior is somehow the reflection of us as parents.  However, it is safe to say that all parents experience these feelings often throughout our lives.  So how does this relate to what is happening at Ancona?

The social and emotional deIMG_1655velopment of our students is the primary focus of my work.  This varies for students at different grade levels and ages.  Ancona classrooms and structure respond directly to what is developmentally appropriate.  For example,  3rd grade students are expected to share classroom materials, stand in line appropriately, and not respond with physical aggression when expressing displeasure.  However, it is expected that 3rd and 4th grade students would be working on the skills of navigating multiple close friendships and group play.  Students have a reasonable expectation of exploring peer groups of more than just 1 or 2 close friends.  When students begin engaging in these more complex group situations mistakes and struggles will be expected.  Students will disagree about the rules of the game, sometimes students will quit the activity, and almost definitely feelings will get hurt, and that’s okay. It isn’t assumed that students will have these skills fully developed or figured out, the adults are nearby and know when to intervene. Many life skills, like the example above, are part of a long process of learning and development.

From a social standpoint, it’s expected that 3rd and 4th graders are developing their skills of self-advocation. Students are encouraged to seek the assistance of a teacher, adult, or school counselor when conflict arises, however situations may come up when the appropriate response may be for the teacher or counselor to talk over the issue with the student separately and practice how they can safely navigate the conflict without the teacher being directly involved or directly mediating.  This is an example of an invisible intervention, where the teacher or staff member is interacting in manner that is not impinging directly on the situation and it may not appear obvious to everyone that the teacher is involved. Other ways that this happens is proactively in group practice.


Currently, I run a number of pro-social groups for students in every grade level.  Some groups are by sign-up only about specific topics, such as friendships, families, or coping with stress, and other groups are put together with teacher input with the purpose of cultivating social interactions.  These teacher input pro-social groups are designed for students to complete a project  that will be for the betterment of their entire grade, such as a playground safety video. The process of this group is equally as important as the final product, as during the creation the students are able to explore a variety of social skills, like leading, following, creating, all within the structure of rigid deadline, with the final product ultimately being up to them to present and not guaranteed to be flawless. 

“Ancona is a safe place.” I’ve heard this quoted many times, I’ve taken to adding a bit, as “Ancona is a safe place to fall”.  Cultivating an environment where our children feel that they can take risks and grow in all areas of their life is vital. It is both my belief and the belief of Ancona that all children deserve to be a part of such a place. As we observe and support our children through the ups and downs of life find comfort in the fact that your child has a safe place to fall and to rise.

14 01, 2016

Ancona Students Speak Up

By | January 14th, 2016|Curriculum Connection|0 Comments

IMG_2416Ancona students have many opportunities to engage with issues of social justice. They explore recognize, discuss, and even propose and present solutions to topics ranging from discrimination (preprimary), water rights and civil rights (primary), and a broad range of self-selected topics in their own communities in the Social Justice Data Fair (middle school). But social justice is not taught as a separate subject at Ancona; it is integrated into every subject area and throughout our students’ school experience until it becomes part of who they are, part of how they think about and relate to the world around them.

IMG_2414As part of this year’s cultural unit on South America, Ancona middle school students are exploring the life and work of Brazilian Paolo Freire, as well as that of Brazilian director and social justice activist Augusto Boal, whose Theatre of the Oppressed worked to empower and inspire others to improve their living conditions. On a recent FLEX Day, our 7th and 8th graders participated in a workshop offered by Northlight Theater. Inspired by Boal’s work, Northlight Theater uses theater for social change to address contemporary social justice issues. The theater’s education program, Speak Up! “is a theatre for social change residency and asks students to address issues impacting their community. Speak Up! is a long-term active personal, artistic, and academic investigation that brings current events into the classroom and fosters social responsibility. Through the process of creating an original performance addressing topical issues, students use their voices to engage their peers in building positive change in their community.”

Guided by three professIMG_2417ional actors from the organization, Ancona students addressed the topic of “microaggressions.” Students first reviewed the tools of the actor: voice, mind, and imagination and built community through games designed by Augusto Boal, after which they moved on to an examination of the labels we give ourselves and that others give us–in the different communities we belong to–through a poetry writing exercise. In groups, they then came up with a shared list of types and traits of communities and shared physical statues about what they wanted to celebrate about community and problems that exist in our communities. These groups then received an article about microaggressions from The New York Times with which they created blackout poetry to highlight the words, phrases and points in the article that they felt expressed their own points of view. Finally, they created culminating performances to share with the whole level. They could use all the material generated throughout the day as inspiration for the text and images they incorporated into their performances.

20160108_113628The team from Northlight Theater was very impressed with our 7th and 8th graders. They found the Ancona students “to be very open, intelligent, vulnerable and mindful.” They felt the students really learned a great deal by “creating performances about bullying, acts of microaggression that they previously felt were normal behaviors but thought more deeply about the consequences of, and gave examples of how to be upstanders when they would hear or see a microaggression happening.” And this transformative experience was just an introduction to theater as a tool for social activism for our students, as one of the teaching artists from Northlight is sticking around to offer an elective for 7th and 8th graders for the next six weeks, and we will certainly have them back again to collaborate with Ancona teachers in offering more opportunities for our students to engage with issues of social justice through the performing arts.

9 12, 2015

Collaboration Power

By | December 9th, 2015|Curriculum Connection|0 Comments

by Ari Frede, Head of School

Ancona students are better equipped for the future because they learn how to make a group really effective. After reviewing dozens of progress reports and observing classrooms to get a “slice of life” perspective of the school, I understand why students here are motivated to make important social change by working together.

MATH1Recently, I watched a 3rd grade lesson in mathematics. Students who hadn’t memorized the multiplication table (as I had in school) worked in pairs to try to solve unfamiliar multiplication problems, and then apply them to a ratio table. Students had different strategies to accomplish this. Faced with having to solve a multiplication problem, one pair of students doubled and added one more. Another used a number line. When they returned to the groups, they explained their thinking using a poster presentation. As a result of those discussions, the kids didn’t often change their strategies, but they did find the strategy that worked for them at their level of understanding, and they could see the strategies they might grow into as they developed deeper understanding. Had they been in my childhood classroom, that conversation would have been shut down so we could just move on to the correct answer.




MATH 2Why does collaboration work? Students share their own perspectives and then resolve differences together through productive argument, like 5th/6th graders. They represented different groups competing for voting rights in a simulation of the Constitutional Convention caucus. Students also learn to explain phenomena, be critics, learn from others’ strategies, and listen to each other.

What begins at the preprimary level as learning how to get each other up the dome or around the ropes course through sharing ideas and teamwork develops into the passion to help each other make change and find the “we” that is more powerful than “I.” I’ve had groups of students lobby me to make changes or host special events at the school, and they do it by banding together, and then – taking it a step further – considering the school’s perspective.

This is true grassroots organizing. We aren’t teaching kids to compete with each other for the best idea or the right answer. We don’t say that one side wins and the other must lose. We only solve difficult things with teamwork. Ancona prepares kids for the real world by showing them the strength of learning from others, of asking questions and pursuing the deeper meaning. This is one way that process is at least as important as product: A high school student who can think of several ways to solve something is better equipped than the one who knows only the way she was taught in class.

And a citizen who can engage others in collectively contributing to solutions will lead us all to better neighborhoods and better futures.

19 11, 2015

Curriculum Night: An Experiential Dive into What Differentiates Ancona

By | November 19th, 2015|Curriculum Connection, Parent News|0 Comments

by Head of School, Ari Frede

On Wednesday, November 11, Ancona hosted a curriculum night to answer parents’ question, “What do my children do all day?” Faculty reached back with a fireworks-worthy teach-in. Teachers wanted parents to feel the Ancona education experientially, not simply by reading an email or listening to a presentation.

They wanted parents to learn the same way the children do: through experience.

CN_6More than at Ancona’s previous Math and Literacy Nights, teachers carved out spaces in classrooms and hallways to show off student artifacts, put parents in the learner’s seat, and discussed how curriculum builds on itself from preprimary to 8th grade. Parents went on a self-guided tour with each station deserving of its own documentary. Math, language arts, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, Spanish, student support, auxiliary programs, library and technology each had their own lively experience planned for passersby.

Visitors to student support took a quiz to assess their different learning styles. Spanish had a massive stepping-stone gallery of student publications. In the math room, parents learned what an internalized number sense means to becoming a mathematician. Parents said they were very appreciative of the way teachers were combined across grade levels.

It’s not the topics; it’s how we teach them. Ancona gives immersive, multidisciplinary experiences. That’s not going to fit in an email; that only comes from a visit. After a family’s first visit, it is our culture that wins people over. The education takes years to build, and we only had a night to unpack it.

Parents walked away with printouts of Ancona curricula, philosophy and individual lessons. In science, a parent-child team conducting an experiment to isolate strands of strawberry DNA, while another parent expressed her surprise (“I get it!”) at how the Next Generation Science Standards are shaping her three year-old’s growth in science. She became very excited about her son’s academic journey.

In the math room, another parent was shocked at what she thought was “new math,” but was CN_2015_2actually a rich exploration of the concepts undergirding a rigorous math curriculum. Researchers have been clamoring for this shift in education for decades, so yesterday’s math learners, who are today’s parents, are learning along with their children what multiplication means beyond a table of memorized numbers.

The adventures continued everywhere. Loads of parents stopped by the art gallery to see how children learn art technique and the processing of ideas; a child was teaching table tennis and 3D virtual human organs popped up on tablets in the library.

The night was so engaging that the people shared that an hour and a half was too short to get through all the rich conversations. Fear not, we will bring back Curriculum Night next year. You will be there, and you will be amazed. In fact, you will probably get jealous of your child. Sorry; Ancona only goes up to grade 8.