Graduation: Moving Forward and Looking Back

Next Friday, the Corlears School community celebrates our graduating class of 2018 with commencement! Each year, graduation proves to be both lively and moving as our 10s reflect on their time at Corlears as they transition into young leaders of tomorrow. While graduation marks an important milestone for our 10s, this special event involves the entire school community. Students and parents from every age level join in to send the 10s on their way, and to honor the year they’ve spent together; looking back on the deep learning and growth that has transpired over the course of the school year. With musical performances from all ages, and touching speeches from the 10s, graduation is both a time of reflection and celebration.

 Students gather together before the parade begins

Students gather together before the parade begins

The day of graduation is always one of excitement. The day begins with a parade from the school to the venue. Students line up along the street holding colorful banners that they have created. The 10s emerge last, greeted by cheers and applause. Samba musicians lead the parade as children, their families, teachers, and staff on the walk (and dance) from Corlears over to the Lab School where the ceremony is held. During this time, families and students have time to celebrate the excitement of graduation, as members of the wider Chelsea community join in. Each year, the energy that the Corlears community exudes during the parade proves to be infectious. Passersby take photos, dance along and join in the vibrant celebration along the city streets as the parade makes its way to its final destination.

At the Lab school, families and guests of the graduating class gather with the school community to enjoy a wonderful program. Music teacher César works with each age group, from the 2s to the 10s, to prepare special musical performances to be enjoyed by all. Interspersed with these performances are speeches written and delivered by each graduate. These speeches are a chance for the 10s to thank teachers and administrators who have impacted their time at Corlears, their families and loved ones who have supported them, and to share what they have learned throughout their education journey. Written by the 10s with their teacher Elif, the speeches are practiced and honed over the last weeks of school. Each speech is an opportunity for the graduates to show love and gratitude for their community, and for the audience to see the leaders these young people have grown into during their time at Corlears.

 The Class of 2018

The Class of 2018

As the program comes to a close, the graduating class of 2018 receives their diplomas from head of school, David Egolf. Some students with alumni siblings receive their diplomas from their brothers or sisters, a tradition that extends back throughout Corlears history, and shows the tight-knit community of alumni families. The end of graduation brings with it new beginnings; the start of middle school for our 10s, as well as the beginning of summer for the whole community, as students bid their teachers and friends goodbye, and head into vacation with joyful anticipation and warm memories.

Graduation is the perfect way for the entire school community to celebrate the end of another successful year. As our 10s transition from leaders of the school to proud young alums, we also celebrate the growth of our entire student body as they all move into their next stages of learning. As we say goodbye to one school year, we look forward to the one ahead.

Summer in the City: Strengthening Our Roots at Camp Corlears

At Corlears, school isn’t exactly out for summer. While graduation marks the end of the school year, and an important next step for our 10s, it certainly does not mark the end of the learning that happens within the walls of the school. During the summer months, Corlears hosts a number of students, new and old, for its camp programming. This year, the revitalized Camp Corlears is providing a place for students to continue to express their creativity, and feed their curiosity in a safe, familiar setting.

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This year, camp has been infused with new energy. The newly named Camp Corlears will offer programming for children 3 through 11, with some friendly faces taking on the role of counselors. Our youngest campers (rising 3s and 4s) can enjoy a half day of summer fun as part of our Super Saplings program. Here these young students will enjoy a plethora of art activities and play time in our yard. Rising Ks and 6s will have the classic day camp experience in Budding Branches. These campers will spend their summer days engaging in investigation activities based around exciting weekly themes, and travel to the 14th street Y for swimming lessons. Our oldest campers will take their learning out of the classroom finding inspiration around the city. These Urban Explorers will travel to a variety of parks, exploring the various elements that make up parks and what purposes they serve to the communities in which they are built. Campers will then create their own parks based on what they have investigated; taking into consideration the purpose of each element they choose. These students will also cool off from all of their adventures in the great New York outdoors with twice-a-week swimming! Camp Corlears will also offer After-Camp, which will provide campers with an opportunity for an extended afternoon of games, projects, and play in the Corlears yard. Our goal with after-camp is to provide an engaging continuation of the Camp Corlears day that accommodates parents and makes Camp Corlears accessible for our entire community.

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Camp gives students a chance to grow in a variety of important ways. Their social-emotional growth continues through the summer as they make new friends, practice cooperation and collaboration both inside the classroom and out. With Corlears teachers serving the roles of counselors, they will bring the same expertise and care that is evident every day during the school year, and continue to nurture student development at Camp Corlears. This year counselors include Brian, Nyesha, Dora, Kate, Kelly, Rebecca and Theresa! With thoughtfully planned program and enthusiastic facilitation, these teachers will provide students with a safe space to continue to learn and grow into the new school year. Another friendly face you can expect to see at Camp Corlears is Alex Gelman, Director of Auxiliary Programs and Community Engagement, who is back for his second year as camp director. Camp has a very special place in Alex’s heart. As an alum and former assistant Camp Director of Camp Harlam, Alex spent 18 summers there, starting as a camper at age 9 and working up to a full-time Assistant Director for three years, from 2012-2014. With Camp Corlears, Alex takes his enthusiasm for the camp experience and marries it with the values of the school. Reflecting on the camp experience here, Alex says: "What I love about Camp Corlears is that it takes what is wonderful about Corlears during the school year, and shifts it into the summer environment. While Camp Corlears focuses on play and recreation without the explicit instruction of the school year, we don't sacrifice any of that feeling of community and hospitality that makes Corlears so special. Our counselors -- all Camp Corlears teachers themselves -- still make sure we start each day with a morning meeting, still greet each child with a hug and a smile, and still craft activities that engage and affirm every camper in the group. I also love getting to see children who will be new to Corlears in the coming school year attend Camp Corlears. It gives them an opportunity to make new friends, bond with adults, and see Corlears as their new home, before the school year even begins." Camp Corlears was designed with our community at its core, both in considering our current students’ and families’ needs and expectations, as well as serving as an entry point for new students.

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While current students can stay connected through our summer programming, camp has proven to be a wonderful transition tool for new students. Each year we invite new Corlears families to enroll in order to give their young child(ren) the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the school that will soon become an essential part of their daily lives. Camp provides these young learners with an opportunity to have their first classroom experience where they can start building relationships with friends and teachers, and partake in the routines that they will later enjoy during their days in the classroom. It is a fun and effective way for these new students to get acquainted with the faces and spaces that they can expect to see come September. Corlears parent, Elizabeth Cuccaro, enrolled her son in camp prior to his Kindergarten year. Reflecting on her experience, Elizabeth says “we have been thrilled with the gentle and sweet fun that our son has had...The staff went out of their way to make him feel at home, and fostered a relaxed but well organized and attentive atmosphere… Best of all, summer camp at Corlears provided the perfect runway to full-time Kindergarten. By September, our son was even more at ease in the space and among his new friends and the wonderful staff.”

The summer months serve an opportunity for Corlears community to not only grow bigger, but stronger. Students enrolled in Camp Corlears will stretch their imaginations, make new friends, and help welcome new community members. Between all of the various options available to campers, Camp Corlears serves to facilitate the learning that happens during the school year into the warmer months while allowing for plenty of summer fun.  

 

Community in Action at the Auction 2018

The annual Corlears Auction is an event that the entire community looks forward to. While the students of Corlears remain at the heart of Auction fundraising efforts, the evening itself is a rare adults-only occasion; when parents, faculty, and staff can come together and connect with one another outside of the school walls. The energy and excitement, blended with the spirit of giving, creates the ideal environment for celebrating our unique community, while looking toward shared goals for the future.

 Lobby display created by the auction committee

Lobby display created by the auction committee

The Auction is truly a schoolwide effort. From parents, to staff and students - everyone contributes to the event in their own way. Every detail of the evening, as well as events prior, have been conceptualized and shaped by a dedicated group of parents that come together each year as the Auction Committee. Beginning with a lobby display, parents armed with staplers, glue, scissors, and a vision create a beautiful display which seems to become more unique and ornate with each passing year; serving as a reminder of the excitement to come. Raffle sales take place amidst the hustle and bustle of drop-off; this year, with special props and themes conceptualized enthusiastically by the committee. The live and silent auction itself is even supported by Corlears parents. In collaboration with Director of Development, Mallory King, special auction items and experiences are solicited, organized and donated; ensuring an exciting list of offerings for the evening’s festivities.  Staff and faculty also get in the spirit by participating in the silent auction through their contribution of "staff experiences." This year, some lucky students might have the chance to go to a Mets game with Alex and Patrick, or join Rachel and Catie at the movies! These special experiences allow for students to connect with the familiar faces of Corlears in unexpected ways.  

 The (art)ifacts of play - Created by the 10s

The (art)ifacts of play - Created by the 10s

While the students themselves are not present for the evening, their presence is certainly felt -- and seen -- through their unique contributions. Each year, Corlears students create works of art that are even more meaningful than they are beautiful. Working with Art Specialist, Becky, students explore a range of materials as well as themes through their artistic collaborations. This year, art topics range from friendship, to nature, to elements of play. Made specially for the Auction, each piece is not only infused with aspects of classroom work, but of the students’ unique personalities. The 10s have the special opportunity of working with Head of School, David Egolf, on their particular piece. As the leaders of the school, these students make an effort to represent all age groups, not just their own, in their work. This year’s piece, called the The (Art)ifacts of Play, contains writing utensils from all age groups; representing both the years long journey of a Corlears education, as well as the rich diversity of the school.

Much like the artwork, beneath the surface, the Auction as a whole holds a much deeper meaning for the Corlears community. Though the evening certainly is a wonderful social gathering, it also serves to further enrich the Corlears experience as whole. Every raffle ticket, bid or paddle raise is an opportunity to make a commitment to further support the education of all Corlears students, and equip their teachers with the tools they need to enhance the classroom experience.  It is the generosity of parents that allows the school’s program, both inside and outside of the classroom, to grow with each passing year.

With contributions from every community member, the success of the Auction is representative of the Corlears school spirit.  As March 9th approaches and excitement continues to grow, and it is clear that the Corlears “Community In Action” will come together -- and come to life -- on this night.

Sharing the Wealth: Corlears Educators Reflect on Sharing Their Work at the NYSAIS Diversity Conference

Being an educator is not only about teaching, but being a lifelong learner. Corlears teachers and staff are constantly working to refine their skills as educators, and to gain more knowledge that they can then use in the classroom to inspire students. With this growth, eventually comes the opportunity to share out, and to teach others valuable lessons and effective methods for teaching young students. This past weekend, a group of four Corlears educators did just that. Presenting on a unique lesson they conducted around voting rights, Kate Culligan, Alex Gelman, Dora Rice and Kelly Tieger secured a coveted workshop spot at the sold-out 2018 NYSAIS Diversity Education and Justice in the Curriculum Conference.

During the fall of the 2016-17 school year, the 8/9s teaching team began their election study. Head teachers Kate and Dora, worked alongside assistant teachers Alex and Kelly to create a classroom experience that would bring the issue of voting rights to life for their students. Kelly reflects:

"As we were designing an election study, we were looking for a lens that could help us raise questions around power, race, and identity in the classroom. We decided that exploring the history of voting rights in America would help us do this. As we looked at groups of people who have not historically had equal access to the vote, we wanted to design an experience for students that would help them to feel the urgency of not having a voice or a vote. It’s one thing to read something on a timeline, but another to think 'wait a minute, people are making decisions about me without my input--this feels unfair!'”

 kate and kelly presenting during the NYSAIS conference 

kate and kelly presenting during the NYSAIS conference 

This ultimately took shape in the form of the unique “cube activity.” First, each child in the class was assigned to a particular cube color (red, blue, green, orange or pink). Based on the color assigned, students were given the power to make important decisions throughout the day for themselves and for others. For instance, at the start of the activity, the red cube group was given all the power, and were able to choose snack table seats for themselves as well as all of their classmates. Next red and blue chose independent writing spots, for themselves and the others. As the day progressed, more groups were empowered to make decisions for the whole group, while others were left without a say. Over the course of the day, the number of students with power grew, while the number without shrank. By the end of the lesson, almost every group was given the opportunity to make decisions-- except one group which remained without a say.

So, how does this relate to voting rights? As each cube group gained their “right” to make a decision, it mirrored how different groups in society were given voting rights at different times throughout history. Slowly, more cubes had the opportunity to have their voices heard,  just as more groups of people slowly gained this same power through their right to vote.  The last group, which never had the option to make a choice, represented those who are still disenfranchised to this day. At the conclusion of the activity, students had strong reactions, some even protested making decisions for others as it was deemed unfair. Ultimately, the lesson proved extremely thought provoking for both students and teachers, and served as a catalyst for the social justice work students continue to do over the next semester and into the following year.

 students reflect on the activity with teachers

students reflect on the activity with teachers

The big reactions felt from students at Corlears proved the lesson was not only effective, but something truly worth sharing. As many schools continue to delve deeper into topics of diversity and social justice, it felt important that this lesson, which proved to be so powerful within Corlears classrooms, was shared with a larger community of educators eager to grow their social justice curriculum. Kate says:

"It was clear in reflecting with our students after the activity [that] they seemed to be able to deeply empathize with marginalized groups of people that have not had a voice in our country’s voting system throughout history and even today. Our kids became so impassioned and empowered, they spent all of last year working to lend their voices to groups and causes that they wanted to support. Our hope in sharing this with other educators was that they could adapt our activity for their spaces so that their students had the opportunity to build empathy through a real-life experience and take action moving forward."

The opportunity to share came with a call for workshop submissions by the NYSAIS Diversity Education and Justice in the Curriculum Conference. Attended by educators from the independent school world, the conference hosts a number of workshops aimed to provide teachers and administrators with tools for exploring themes of diversity, social justice, and creating more inclusive classrooms in their schools. The lesson was submitted and chosen for a presentation slot for the 2018 conference. The workshop, aptly named “Justice, Cubed,” was then designed to explain the activity and follow-up reflections, as well as provide educators with the tools necessary to create their own lesson plans inspired by the work. During the hour long session, the four presenters shared their work in-depth; explaining the rationale behind the lesson, the thoughtful implementation, and the continued work with students that came after the conclusion of the lesson. Later, attendees were given time to craft their own lessons inspired by the cube activity as the presenters answered lingering questions, and engaged with their fellow educators.

While the opportunity to share their knowledge and experience was exciting, it was also nerve wracking for these educators. Though taking on issues of social justice with young students is a priority within the Corlears community, it can still feel risky when sharing out, as both educators and schools may be in different places in their journey toward a more robust social justice curriculum. Unsure of the reaction they would receive from the crowd, what transpired was more positive than they could have anticipated. Dora reflects:

"Many people in attendance at our presentation first and foremost shared how envious they were of the diverse student body we have here at Corlears. As we presented our attendees asked specific questions about the activity roll out -- looking to see how they could adapt the work we did here at Corlears and make it successful in their own spaces. They were impressed by our students’ reflections, the support our administration gave us in exploring new ways to build empathy and contextual understanding with our students in the classroom."

Armed with new information and a lesson plan template, many workshop attendees expressed a desire to implement a similar lesson their classroom -- giving the “cube activity” a life and influence far beyond 15th street.

For these educators, the experience of sharing this important work was both powerful and profound. Not only did their presentation serve as an opportunity to connect with the educational community outside of Corlears, but it brought to light what makes Corlears such a unique learning environment. Alex says that “in sharing about this lesson with other independent school educators, they marveled at some facets of Corlears that I sometimes take for granted: the diversity of our community, the support teachers receive from the administration to try something bold and new in their classrooms, and, above all, the empathy and thoughtfulness of our students.”  While workshop attendees may have left feeling inspired, our educators certainly did. As Alex states, his experience at the conference ultimately reminded him “of these facets of Corlears, and what a unique community it is.”

The Community Forum: Growing from Its Roots

Children at Corlears School are encouraged to investigate and question the world around them. Through their learning, difficult topics like gender stereotypes and racial identity are explored with the aid of books, projects and classroom discussions. While Corlears’ mission is the education of children, parents at Corlears are also taking part in their own learning experience. Outside of the classroom, parents are offered opportunities to explore complex issues in a space just for them -- the Community Forum.

Founded in 2008 by Corlears parents, the purpose of the Community Forum at the time of its inception was to create a space where parents could openly discuss issues related to diversity.  Early Forum particpant and alumni parent, Sabrina Coughlin, recalls “the community forum started as a real grassroots efforts...some parents felt that there should be a forum for people to come together to share their thoughts and experiences around diversity. It was very informal in the beginning. Two or three parents organized monthly sessions, where anyone could come and talk about whatever was on their mind.” From there, the Community Forum began to evolve. Agendas were formed and the school counselors were brought into the fold as both a support and resource for families. In the many years of its existence, the Community Forum has continued to grow, and is an important staple of life at Corlears School.  

 The  10s share issues they care about during their Social justice meeting. 

The  10s share issues they care about during their Social justice meeting. 

Historically, the Community Forum has served as a space to explore a variety of complicated, nuanced topics. Since its first began, meetings have focused on a multitude of diverse issues including gender identity, bullying, gun violence and, just last year, a post-election debrief. Staying true to its roots, Community Forum continues to serve as an educational space for parents, and has never shied away from addressing  issues that can be both difficult and emotional. It is because of this that the group continues to be an important part Corlears -- allowing for parents to become learners in their own right as they question, explore and attempt to understand the many societal issues that affect their families. While the Forum has taken different shape over the years, the same guiding principles upon which the Forum was founded remain the same, and parents continue to make these meetings a priority in their own lives, and in the lives of our school community.

This year, the Community Forum has been infused with new energy thanks to School Counselor, Silvia Pacio, and the group dedicated parents at the helm. In its current incarnation, the Forum continues to lend itself to community building -- serving as a place where parents can be vulnerable with one another as they share their concerns and experiences with fellow families.  The first Community Forum of this school year will take place on Wednesday, December 6th. All parents are invited to take part in the first session of an ongoing discussion about race and identity, and ways to discuss these topics with young children. At the youngest ages, children are already noticing difference, and drawing conclusions from what they see and hear -- both in their own real-world interactions and in media they consume. The very purpose of the Community Forum is to create a community space for dialogue that can also provide parents with the resources, language and ultimately, the courage to begin to engage in these topics more explicitly with their children, and work to combat biases that are so prevalent in society. Corlears has always been a place that values difference, and addressing these issues continues to be a priority for this school community.  

The Community Forum began thanks to a group of dedicated parents, and continues to thrive because of current families’ invaluable participation and contributions. It is the hope of the school that the Forum can continue to be both a space of a reflection, and a resource for the parents at Corlears. As Sabrina so eloquently put it, “the Forum gives us a place to learn about the issues, reflect on our own feelings and experiences...listen to and learn from the experiences and stories of others in our community, and with time, develop a comfort around the issues and some skills for speaking to our children about them….I felt it made me a better parent, [and] a better community member.”

In addition to the Community Forum on December 6th, Corlears is also hosting an evening workshop with Raising Race Conscious Children on the evening of December 7th. We suggest taking part in both the Community Forum as well as this evening event for a more in-depth conversation, and additional resources. Click the images below to learn more and register.