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Fiona Farrahi and I started on the same day in July six years ago, and we will be leaving on the same day in July this year. That makes us coeval (with an a!). It is only fitting that I should be the one to sing her praises as we prepare to send her off.
Yes, it is sad but true: Fiona has her ticket in hand and will soon be packing her bags, but before I tell you her destination, I want to reflect on all the great things Fiona has done for Ancona over the past six years.
We have to go back to our pre-Aviator days to start this tale, back to Fiona’s key role in rolling out the school’s award-winning rebranding (her hand was in the butterfly idea). Fiona was instrumental in making sure our image aligned with our mission, and that it enhanced our 50th anniversary celebration. Then she took that brand and painted the town red (and yellow). Besides utilizing traditional print media, Fiona expanded Ancona’s reach in the market by exponentially leveraging digital media and even created Ancona’s first social media program and public social profile. We are the Aviators today because Fiona coordinated a poll of our students to choose a mascot for the school. True to the spirit of Ancona, she put the controls in their hands, and watched them take off. (more…)
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. By 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 settings.
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 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!). We 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.
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.
Another 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.
One 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.
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,”
and then they all played a game of soccer together–with mixed teams that they self-selected. Everyone 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.
To see more pictures and videos of our 8th grade students in Mexico, please visit My Classrooms.
Tips to Help Your Student Succeed: Introduction to Executive Function Skills with Marydee Sklar
Please join us for an enlightening evening with educator, author and national speaker, Marydee Sklar. She is looking forward to sharing how the brain is behind a student’s struggles with time management and organization. Learn how her simple tips can help you to set up success for your student and your entire family.
Educators, parents, community members and students in seventh grade or higher are welcome to attend this free education event.
Please Register for Tips to Help Your Student Succeed with Marydee Sklar
Our community of parents, supporters and friends (including so many of you) have made this grand vision come to life, including Ancona parents Sarah Dunn and Martin Felsen of UrbanLab (and this year’s recipients of the Harelik Award), project managers Kathleen Golomb and Denise Davis of the University of Chicago, and Bonnie Wishne, our stalwart Head of SchoolEmerita. Ancona staff and board members continue their excellent support and investment in this project, too: Trustees Chip Bamberger and Lara Moynihan; Director of Finance and Operations, Reggie Walker; Facilities Manager, Fred Rozenich; and Assistant Director of Institutional Advancement, Angie Martinez.
Ancona welcomes Keya Graves to the External Affairs office as the new Enrollment and Outreach Manager. Keya is no stranger to independent schools as she spent the last six years working in Admissions and Information Management at Sacred Heart. Keya will be joining the staff in July and is excited to work with the committed families who support everything Ancona!
Outside of Admissions, Keya loves spending time with her two daughters, cross-fit training, baking, reading and watching really scary movies. She enjoys photography and is committed to empowering women and girls. She is a lifelong member of Girl Scouts and has been an active member for 30 years. She maintains that she is excited to a part of a school that is committed to all children.
An Illinois native, Amy returned to Chicago in 2012 after serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and managing outdoor-based youth development programs in Steamboat Springs, Colorado for six years. Amy discovered her love of farming and community ecology in the mountains of Colorado and the rolling hills of the east coast where she spent two seasons working on family owned farms. Amy has a bachelors degree in Sociology and Art from Valparaiso University in Indiana, and a masters degree in Nonprofit Management from Regis University in Colorado.
P R E S S R E L E A S E
Groundbreaking Propels State-of-the-Art Outdoor Learning Space at Ancona School.
CHICAGO, May 26, 2015 – The Ancona School’s iconic butterfly has become a symbol of the transformative education that students experience from the moment they enter as 3-year-old’s to the time they graduate from eighth grade. The transformation the school is undergoing this year is proof that Ancona is resilient and, after 53 years, is ready to soar. In addition to existing Head of School, Bonnie L. Wishne’s retirement announcement, plans were solidified in October 2014 that Wishne would oversee along with her successor, Ari Frede, the next generation of child-centered and experiential learning for Ancona; a 15,000 square foot Outdoor Learning Space (OLS).
The OLS will transform Ancona’s entire outdoor campus and provide a spectacular new environment for child-led play, growth, agriculture and learning. Bonnie maintains, “this will be a true extension of Ancona’s mission.” The groundbreaking for the OLS takes place this Sunday, May 31 at Ancona’s field from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. This event is an all-community picnic culminating Bonnie’s weekend of festivities celebrating her 37 years of service to Ancona.
The OLS is the result of two years of incredible design and planning work volunteered by Ancona parents and Urbanlab’s architects, Martin Felsen and Sarah Dunn. Working behind the scenes with a committee including Ancona alum parent and civil engineer Kelsey Taylor, project managers from the University of Chicago, trustees Chip Bamberger, Lara Moynihan and Dontrey Hart, Sarah and Martin will begin construction as soon as the school year concludes. Phases 1 and 2 are expected to be complete for the start of school in September, 2015.
It was 1962 when The Ancona School’s founders embarked upon a vision for a school where old rules no longer applied. They believed school should be a transformative experience where students discover their own possibilities and develop a profound understanding of how to be contributing citizens of a democratic society. Fifty-three years later, Ancona is a leader in diversity, a champion of child-centered and experiential learning and maintains its commitment to social justice.
For a complete list of this weekend’s festivities, visit https://anconaschool.org/leadership/bonnies-legacy-weekend/.
For additional information, please contact Fiona Farrahi, external affairs office at 773.322.1724 or 773.924.2356 Ext. 224. *protected email*. Explore Ancona at www.anconaschool.org.