Monthly Archives: April 2015

23 04, 2015

Authentic Science Learning

By |2018-12-17T11:35:13-06:00April 23rd, 2015|Curriculum Connection|2 Comments

Authenticity and Beetles

Children engage deeply when learning is authentic — when the context is real, immediate and connected to their lives.  And children strive for quality when there is an authentic audience for their work.

Room 103 Kindergartners teach 3rd/4th graders to identify evidence of ash borer infestation.

Room 103 Kindergartners teach 3rd/4th graders to identify evidence of ash borer infestation.

The imminent construction of Ancona’s Outdoor Learning Space offered a very real and immediate context for the Kindergartners in Room 103 to learn about the emerald ash borer beetle and why we will be removing many large trees from the playground.  With their teacher Jane Paha, the children talked about how people depend on plants for life, and using the Internet, the children found some simple videos that taught them about the life cycle of the beetles and how to look for infestations. Outside, they were able to identify ash trees and to find evidence of ash borer infestation.  Montessori tells us to follow the child, so when the kids really wanted to talk to a scientist, Jane asked parent and arborist Daniella Pereira to visit. From Daniella, the children learned more about how the trees grow and how the beetles starve the trees.

As all good scientists do, the children wanted share their findings. They put together a video about the beetles, presented it to children in other classrooms and answered their questions.

“I love that they were largely able to discover the facts themselves,” said Jane.  “Now the kids are very curious about the playground and how it will change this summer.”  Since these All Year Montessori students will be in school all summer, they will have another authentic opportunity — documenting the playground changes as they occur.



And Solar Panels, too

Another dimension of an authentic context — and life — is that it is dynamic, so teachers working with real problems must be nimble enough to exploit changing circumstances.  Balazs Dibuzs wrote in depth about the 5th/6th grade Climate Change unit for Curriculum Connections earlier this fall.  The unit included a visit from Ancona grandparent Julian Dawson, an architect with an earth-friendly house here in Chicago that includes solar panels and passive solar heating. Sylvia Glassco designed the interdisciplinary unit to teach both about the human effect on climate change and to present opportunities for student action and advocacy.  One group of students decided that they wanted to advocate for solar panels.

When parent Jonathan Pereira (yes, related to Daniella, above) read the Curriculum Connection article, he contacted me about the possibility of applying for a school grant to fund 1 KW of solar panels (this is fully explained in the slide presentation below).  So when the same students were studying energy in March, Sylvia invited Jonathan to speak with the class about what they would need to consider before deciding that Ancona could install solar panels.  “The students found him very helpful,” said Sylvia, “and also, respectful of their knowledge.”

In their science class, the students learned about different types of energy and how energy can be transferred.  They completed an engineering design challenge to develop solar ovens that would hold heat for at least 3 hours, and then they split into two groups.  While one group worked in the garden to harvest solar thermal energy in a hoop house,  the students interested in solar panels researched Ancona’s roof, electricity usage and solar panels more generally to develop their argument for panels at Ancona.

Last week, Ari Frede and I were invited to a presentation.  The solar panel group made an impressive plea for solar power at Ancona and did a very thoughtful job of answering our questions (an authentic audience!).  With Jonathan’s assistance, they’ve applied for the grant.  Because of their advocacy, a teacher’s flexibility and a parent’s initiative, we’ll hopefully be seeing Ancona’s first solar panel in the coming months.  This is authentic curriculum at it’s best.  Ancona students move the world!

Watch the presentation and see if you are convinced!

22 04, 2015

Grandparents’ Day 2015 – Updates

By |2018-12-17T11:35:14-06:00April 22nd, 2015|Parent News|0 Comments

gp day_std_rev2015

Who’s Coming?
We’ve already received over 100 registrations! It’s shaping up to be another highly attended heart warming event! If you have not yet done so, please register your grandparent or special friend at the link provided below.

Time Change
A slight adjustment to the program has been made. Please take note that registration table will open at 8:30 a.m. and the program will now follow at 9:00 a.m.

Raffle Anyone?
Ancona will hold a Grandparents’ Day Raffle to raise funds for the annual fund, which supports the school’s operating costs. Prizes in our raffle include:

Four tickets to Goodman Theatre’s A Christmas Carol and a private backstage tour by director and Ancona parent Henry Wishcamper, Principal for a Day and a Portrait Session (for grandparent or special friend and child) including prints. 

We ask for your support to make this project a success. Tickets will be sent this Friday with your child(ren). It is NOT mandatory for students or families to participate! If you have any questions, please contact Angie Martinez in the advancement office at (773) 322-1723.

Volunteers Needed
Get insiders access into this exclusive special event by volunteering! We’ve got a volunteer opportunity with your name on it! View our volunteer positions here or sign-up!

If you have not yet registered your grandparent for Grandparents day, please do so below!

22 04, 2015

Bonnie’s Legacy Weekend

By |2018-12-17T11:35:16-06:00April 22nd, 2015|Parent News|0 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 2.51.23 PMBonnie’s personal example and committed leadership has propelled Ancona into a living, breathing educational organism, powered by the genius of all children. Under Bonnie’s leadership, Ancona has grown from modest beginnings as a small parent cooperative to a thriving presence on Chicago’s education scene. Please join the entire Ancona community for a three-day Weekend of activities honoring and celebrating Bonnie’s achievements and Ancona’s bright future! View the full list of festivities here > 

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14 04, 2015

New Parent Reception

By |2018-12-17T11:35:16-06:00April 14th, 2015|Visible only with link|0 Comments

npr_webYou did it! You secured a space for your child at the Ancona School. Now it’s time to release a  huge sigh of relief and celebrate with your new school community!

Please join fellow new parents and Ancona’s remarkable parent community for a New Parent Reception. Meet existing families who’ve been in your shoes and bring your questions! New Parent Reception takes place Wednesday, June 3, 2015 from 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at the home of Ancona parents, Brett Hart and Trustee, Dontrey Britt-Hart.

Registration is now closed for this event.


14 04, 2015

New Elementary School Families: Read This!

By |2018-12-17T11:35:17-06:00April 14th, 2015|Visible only with link|0 Comments

moving upAlthough families entering the elementary school don’t officially begin until September, we want to invite you to an insightful and community oriented Ancona tradition. Moving Up Potluck Dinners are hosted by Ancona Room Parents and are for families of students who are “Moving Up” to the next mixed grade classroom. It’s a great opportunity to understand what to expect next year and to get to know your new teaching team. Come one, come all, to a moveable feast of epic importance to everyone moving to a new level at Ancona next year! If one of the dates apply to your child’s grade level, please feel free to join us. New Parents are not required to bring a dish!

Upcoming Dates:

6th grade to 7th grade: Monday, May 4th 

2nd grade to 3rd grade: Tuesday, May 5th

4th grade to 5th grade: Wednesday, May 6th

Kindergarten to 1st grade: Tuesday, May 12th


14 04, 2015

Next Steps: Registration for the 2015-2016 School Year

By |2015-04-23T15:39:07-06:00April 14th, 2015|Visible only with link|0 Comments

Each year, after enrollment contracts are returned, we ask parents to complete the required online registration process. This process allows you to enter and/or update your contact, medical, emergency, pick-up and other key information. This is a friendly reminder that Ancona’s registration process opens Friday, May 1, 2015. More information is forthcoming regarding this process and your login credentials.

9 04, 2015

From Monarch to Social Justice – A Community of Mathematicians

By |2018-12-17T11:35:18-06:00April 9th, 2015|Curriculum Connection|0 Comments

And the winner is…

CrayonsElection results are in (and I don’t mean Rahm), so if you’re looking for a good read, try The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, chosen as the best new book by Illinois’ school children. And for a local winner, you might try the Ancona favorite, If I Built a House, by Chris Van Dusen.

Librarian Marsha Stewart’s Monarch Awards Election is all about turning kids onto literature and thinking critically about what makes a good book, but in a child-centered, inquiry environment, one good question quickly leads to another. In at least one classroom, the Monarch Awards spurred work in counting, grouping, data display and data analysis, too.

Fundamental Understandings

A big, fundamental concept for our young math learners is the 5-structure. Our teachers use many different materials to build automaticity in recognizing and combining the parts of 5. In other words, we want children to visualize any group of 3 and 2 or 4 and 1 and to know in their bones that no matter how they are arranged, they equal 5; that you can take them apart and put them back together again, and you will always have 5.  Establishing  this deep understanding may not be as apparently rewarding to adults as evidence of calculations on paper, but it has a bigger payoff.  As the children’s math facility grows, 5  and its components become very friendly numbers for mental manipulations of all kinds.

So, when the preprimary children in Room 102 wanted to know how their classroom voted in the Monarch book election, teacher Peggy Malone saw an opportunity. As they counted their votes, the children learned to make  tallies using one popsicle stick for each vote and to group their votes by crossing four sticks with a 5th.  They drew their tallies on a summary showing the votes for all of the books.

Monarch Tally 2

This may seem like simple work to an adult, but it is a brain-stretching concept for a preprimary child.  When their own votes were counted, the children wondered how the other preprimary classes voted, so Ms. Marsha gave them the responsibility for tallying ALL of the votes in the five preprimary and 1st/2nd grade classrooms.  With close to 100 new votes to count, the 5-structure was no longer as efficient. What to do? Enter the introduction of a new fundamental concept — the 10-structure. Learning to manipulate the various components of 10 is a critical aspect of Kindergarten and 1st grade mathematics.

Monarch TallyWhat the data show

But there was more.  As he saw the votes adding up, one budding psychologist wondered whether any boys voted for a biography of Helen Keller. They didn’t!  So the children took their data once again and investigated how the vote for each book broke down along gender lines.  Using their own natural curiosity, they became social scientists who can find important information in their data.

Math is Communal

If your vision of math work is a solitary child working on some paper-and-pencil problems, think again.  Math at Ancona is a community activity where explaining how you solved a problem is every bit as important as finding the answer. Waverly was so excited about Room 102’s investigation into how girls and boys voted, that she took pairs of children from the classroom to the display and carefully explained the charts to each pair.  Out in the Foyer, she found herself unexpectedly explaining to Ms. Marsha and some other adults, as well. When children can explain their understandings to others, we know that deep and lasting learning is in place.Ayanna Tally


Other classrooms came to view and discuss the tallies, too.  The Monarch work is down now, but the conversation continues. 5th/6th grade  I-Math (Independent Math) Data Projects are now displayed in the first floor corridor.  Once again, science and social studies research were integrated with mathematics and data analysis.  Each project researches a question of interest to the student and displays the results in graphs. Jenny Hempel’s 1st/2nd graders were delighted to find interesting projects about topics such as the decline of large cat populations and the relationship between age and birthday party locations hung right at their eye level for easy reading. Even Jenny was surprised when the children spent over 40 minutes reading the projects and understanding the various graphs. They had a lot of new questions, too, so they’re planning to post their questions on sticky notes for the 5th/6th graders to answer. The conversation continues.

Soc Justice Data JH

8 04, 2015

History Fair at Ancona

By |2018-12-17T11:35:19-06:00April 8th, 2015|Parent News|0 Comments

HISTORYPlease join us for Ancona’s History Fair! The students of the 7th & 8th grade have been hard at work on Chicago History Fair projects since January. History Fair is is an opportunity for them to do the work of an historian rather than solely learn from secondary sources. Students dive deeply into a subject of interest to them and learn how to ask insightful questions, challenge assumptions, find resources, process information, and present their findings to an authentic audience.
Ancona’s History Fair will be held on Friday, April 17 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. in Rooms 202 & 204. The Ancona community is encouraged and welcomed to attend to learn about a myriad of topics including Chess Records, Mother Cabrini, Bugs Moran, Ruth Page, and much, much more! We also want to invite any grandparents who may be in town for Grandparents’ Day to attend the fair.