Over the Easter Vacation, three groups of students and faculty chaperones went on exciting adventures abroad.
Our traditional European trip for Juniors explored Italy, one Exchange group visited our Ursuline sisters" at St. Ursula's College in Toowoomba, Australia while another Exchange group went on a service trip to Colegio Santa Ursula in Lima, Peru.
The European itinerary focused on Italy. In Brescia and Desenzano, our students learned more about St. Angela Merici, foundress of the Order of St. Ursula. They visited her childhood home known as the farmhouse, and the Church of St. Angela. In Venice, the group enjoyed a gondola ride. Florence featured a stop at the Duomo, the square and the Ponte Vecchio. Assisi included a visit to St Francis Basilica. The students also went to Nice, the unofficial capital of the French Riviera, and Monaco.
The Australian Exchange group first enjoyed the sites in Sydney, such as the Opera House, climbing the Sydney Bridge and the famous Bonzi Beach. Then they spent time with students at our Ursuline sister school. The girls attended classes together and stayed with their host families.
The Peru Exchange group devoted two days to service in the remote countryside of Jicamarca where they helped with the construction of a building. Then the group visited Qorikancha, the most important site in the Inca Empire and also home to the Temple of the Sun. Another cultural highlight was the Natural History Museum (Museo de Historia Natural) in Lima, Peru's most important museum of natural history. This group also connected with an Ursuline sister school and visited with Ursuline Sisters.
Easter Sunday was very special for each of these traveling groups. The Juniors on the European trip spent the day touring Assisi. The Australian Exchange group spent Easter with their host families. The Peru Exchange group flew back to Lima and attended Mass celebrated by Cardinal Cipriani at the Cathedral Basilica in Lima.
The Drama Department ushered in the Spring Season with the always vibrant and comical musical "Bye Bye Birdie" on March 16-18, 2017. Ms. Edie Ann Reidy craftily directed the musical at The Ursuline School. Mr. Michael Ficocelli and his seasoned musicians on woodwinds, bass and drums brilliantly accompanied our actors. Ms. Reidy is very thoughtful in her casting each year, and this production was no exception.
Emma Harvey '17 (Kim MacAfee) swept the audience off their feet with her warm, sweet soprano voice and exquisite feminine charm. Ciara McAloon '17 (Rose) was convincing and strong in her portrayal as the English teacher stuck in a role she doesn't want. Amanda Moss '19 (Ursula) brought energy and joy to the stage. Equally skillful was Meghan Hartson '18 (Mae Peterson) in her overbearing and accurate portrayal of the jealous mother.
The ensemble only enhanced the memorable tunes with technically impressive tap dancing and choreographed phone chords in "The Telephone Hour." The set, lighting and costumes contributed to the upbeat 1950s Middle America feel. Ursuline Drama is also grateful to the several young men from Iona Prep and Fordham Prep who contributed enthusiastically to these outstanding performances. The audience was clearly eager to "Put on a happy face!"
The exciting topic at our 4th annual Global Education & Serviam Symposium on March 22, 2017 was "Fashioning Global Change."
The globalization and sheer scale of the fashion industry has created the new consumer norm of disposable, "fast fashion." It has resulted in a number of ethical issues which we explored as a school community.
We heard from women who are global change-makers in the industry. Our first keynote speaker was Elizabeth L. Cline, journalist and author of "Overdressed – The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion." (Pictured below, center.) Ms Cline described the incredibly labor intensive nature of the fashion industry. Every single seam is sewn by a person sitting at a sewing machine. And the manufacture of clothing has moved to low wage countries where 80% of garment workers are females, often working long hours under pressure to meet production deadlines.
Americans buy $20 billion of garments each year, and the same amount goes to waste. When we shop, do we think, "Is this something I really love and will keep?" Ms. Cline invited us to accept the Unshopping Challenge. This means not buying clothes for 30 days. It involves a shift away from consumerism and waste to a more sustainable, less expensive lifestyle.
Ms. Cline also invited us to join the Fashion Revolution. The week of April 24 is Fashion Revolution Week, in commemoration of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 when 1,138 garment workers were killed. The associated social media campaign encourages people to ask fashion brands #whomademyclothes and under what conditions?
Our second keynote speaker, pictured above at left, presented a different perspective. Ms. Rebecca Magee, Manager of Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Eileen Fisher, Inc. shared some of the company's social consciousness and manufacturing improvement initiatives. These include the Green Eileen initiative. Under this program, customers can bring their Eileen Fisher garments back to the store for a $5 credit. Approximately half of those clothes are then cleaned and put back on the shelves of two special Green Eileen stores. In the Question & Answer session, Ms. Magee talked with students about the human rights question of what is the fair wage to pay garment workers.
Our third keynote speaker, pictured above at right, was Ms. Jane Mosbacher Morris, CEO & Founder of TO THE MARKET, an online marketplace of fashionable, artisan goods. The goal of this social enterprise is to help women survivors of abuse, conflict and disaster in 20 countries around the world to find sustainable economic empowerment and financial independence.
Ms. Morris enlightened us about the importance of economic independence and changing lives through the dignity of work. She encouraged the students to discover how they can make a difference by first considering their own talents, then deciding on their focus, and keeping in mind the needs of others. She reminded the girls that no positive action is too small.
During the break-out sessions, our students gathered in small groups and pursued a variety of projects.
The middle school students repurposed cloth, yarn, and other materials into art objects. The 9th and 10th grades watched the video "True Cost" and then conducted team discussions on various human rights issues from the perspective of different constituencies in the clothing manufacturing industry.
Juniors worked in teams with Eileen Fisher Leadership Institute on a creative Marketing project. Our girls were joined by a group of students from our sister school, Academy of Mt. Saint Ursula. Seniors spent time with Ms. Morris and then, in teams, created a "go-to-market" strategy for the country they were assigned.
By the end of this Symposium, we had all learned about fair trade wages in the fashion industry, poor working conditions, and human rights in the supply chain as well as the environmental impact of excess consumption. Our thanks to Chris Pope, of Pope Photography, for capturing the day in wonderful photos.
On March 4, 2017 seven 12th graders in our Science Research program competed in the prestigious Regeneron Westchester/Putnam Science and Engineering Fair (WESEF). Our girls were among 570 students from 38 high schools whose work was judged and we are very proud of each of their original research projects. They are pictured below with faculty members Ms. Paulette D'Alessio, far left, and Ms. Hannah Gousse, far right.
We congratulate Theresa Cho for winning the Excellence in Medical Research Award presented by Westchester Academy of Medicine. This award was given to top medicine, health, biochemistry, cell biology, and microbiology research projects. Not only did she receive an award but Theresa also received $25 and a dinner with medical professionals. Her study (pictured below) was on "Effects of High Fasting Glucose and High Cholesterol Levels on White Matter Integrity in Schizophrenia."
In Ursuline's Science Research program, students are taught how to conduct electronic searches of literature; collect, organize, and analyze data; give classroom presentations of research; and eventually, under a scientist mentor, do original research. This original research must be presented in a formal research paper, meeting the format requirements of national science competitions. The student's interest can be in engineering, physics, biology, medicine, health, chemistry or behavioral science/psychology.
This is a 3-year independent research program. It is a unique research opportunity for the student and requires a time commitment above and beyond the ordinary school schedule. Sophomores review research conducted by others and practice presenting an analysis of a specific article of interest. Juniors design individual experiments. Seniors conduct experiments and enter competitions. At graduation, each student has a virtual research portfolio documenting 3 years of work.
The Science Research program has a significant history at Ursuline. A number of students have continued their science studies in college or medical school. We are grateful to the scientist mentors who have guided our student researchers over the years.
For the 2016-17 school year, Ursuline students in the Global Concern Classroom (GCC) club have been exploring the challenge of how the international community addresses the needs of people most impacted by "Complex Emergencies" throughout the world.
Global Concerns Classroom is a year-long program run by Concern Worldwide US, open to all high school students (grades 9-12) in the NYC, Chicago, and Boston metro areas. On March 3, 2017, our GCC students went to New York City to participate in the 3rd annual Youth Summit held at the Mutual of America corporate office on Park Avenue. They are pictured below with Mrs. Spiridon, Mrs. Barton and Mr. Bratt. Our 20 students collaborated in teams with high school students from eight metro-NY schools including Bronxville High School, Trevor Day School, St. Vincent Ferrer, Queens High School, and Friends Seminary.
Together, the students researched problems in countries such as South Sudan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. They worked on project design, short-term and long-term strategies, developed $1 million budgets and delivered creative presentations including websites and social media vehicles, news reports and poetry. They were also able to consult with global field experts from Concern Worldwide.
We are so proud of our Ursuline students who displayed confident, strong voices as they presented smart, empathetic plans to two different panels of judges. We are very grateful to our continued partner, Global Concerns Classroom, for helping to educate our students on important global issues and humanitarian relief planning.
During the long weekend following the end of midterms, January 19-22, 2017, Ursuline's High School Model United Nations went to their first overnight conference of the year in New Haven, Connecticut. The conference was organized by Yale Model United Nations. Here is the report by Payton Bartz '18:
For four days, the 12 delegates debated world issues such as rural poverty, the Panama papers and women's rights through the perspective of their assigned country, Panama. Five of the girls found themselves in the General Assembly, with committees of between 60 to 100 other students from around the world.
Franchesca Tan represented Panama in DISEC (Disarmament and International Security Committee), Cathleen Hughes in ECOFIN (Economic and Finance committee), Lucy Losada in SOCHUM (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee), Winnifred Ryan in SPECPOL (Special Political and Decolonization Committee) and Nwanneka Okolo in UNSCD (UN Special Conference on Drugs).
Six delegates were in the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Committees), with Akhila Konuru in the UNEP (UN Environmental Program), Payton Bartz in the UNDP (UN Development Program), Kaleena Perez in WHO (World Health Organization), Izzy Olsen in UN Women, Megan Malave in UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) and Jessica Argento in UNESCO (UN Economic, Social and Cultural Organization). Finally, one delegate found herself alone in the Regional Bodies committee, freshman Stella Banino, who represented Panama in the OAS (Organization of American States).
Despite the long committee sessions and the early starts to their mornings, the girls had a lot of fun throughout the four-day trip. On Friday, Yale hosted a "Yale Day" that provided services from both Yale and the NGO Charity: Water. Yale professors gave lectures open to all delegates with topics ranging from neuroscience to philosophy. Perhaps one of the most interesting additions was the Virtual Reality Room by Charity: Water, which equipped students with a virtual reality device and allowed them to see through the eyes of an impoverished Ethiopian girl. The day ended with a showcase by Yale students, with comedy skits and performances by dance groups and acapella groups. Even though the Ursuline students came back exhausted, they all thought the day rewarding and learned something new.
The Awards Ceremony on Sunday afternoon brought some wonderful surprises. Junior Payton Bartz won the Outstanding Delegate Award in her committee of more than 60 people, and Stella Banino received a Verbal Commendation for her efforts in the OAS. On the bus ride home, there wasn't a single person who said that they wouldn't do the whole conference all over again!
Ms. Rosemary Kennedy's 9th grade Introduction to Music class went to Manhattan on February 15, 2017 to see the opera Carmen, by Bizet. Seeing a live opera performance at Lincoln Center is part of the curriculum to broaden their perspective on genres of music performed world-wide. They study the opera first as an historical work of literature along with the time period and the language. The girls had a marvelous time! They were amazed by the opulence of Lincoln Center, and how packed the Opera House was on a cold Wednesday evening in February. They loved the music and all in all, had a truly positive experience! Pictured here are some of the students with Ms. Kennedy, center.
Our 10th grade Algebra 2 Honors classes completed a 10-day project-based unit called Predict the Future. Guided by Mrs. Cochrane and Ms. Barnett, students first learned math concepts of exponential growth and decay. At home, students journaled online in MOODLE about the differences between the equations of growth and decay. Next, they applied this knowledge to a subject of interest.
In teams, they took on real-life roles such as demographers or scientists. Their topics ranged from the cost of college tuition and the decline in the birth rate in China to the daily use of Snapchat and the effects of shark attacks. The girls used the Internet to collect data, analyzed it, created "XY Scatter" graphs, and found equations that best fit the data curve.
Next, the groups brainstormed potential ramifications of their data. Would the data trends continue? What would be the quality of life given this data? Finally, they created PowerPoint presentations in class and presented them. Students critiqued each other and made suggestions.
Throughout this project, the girls wrote in online reflective learning journals. Here are a few excerpts of those writings.
Sophia : "I enjoyed the ability to research and learn about the Mexican immigrant population in the United States. This project taught me many valuable lessons in algebra, public speaking and presentations, and applying algebra to real life. Overall, this project was very interesting and informational."
Jane: "I would have never thought that I would be able to learn an entire topic without an official lesson. This unit was taught to my class through one group project and many small activities in class, and I feel like it helped me gain a better understanding of the topic of exponential growth and decay."
Megan: "Throughout this Predict the Future project, I learned about many new things. I learned about exponential growth, the line of best fit, and correlation coefficients. I was able to discover more about China and its decaying birth rate."
Deanna: "To me, the most important aspect of this project was analyzing trends and the past, and understanding how these things can affect the future. We were also able to reflect on how we might alter our lifestyles to make a more positive impact on the world and others."
Gabriela: "After formulating the notion that data analysis can help predict the future, our class made connections to what we have learned in math this year. ... I found these connections interesting because it reminded me of math's importance in our daily lives."
Project-based units are one way that Ursuline teachers engage students to develop critical thinking skills and collaborative learning.
The week of January 30 – February 3, 2017, Ursuline celebrated "National Catholic Schools Week."
The teachings of Jesus and the writings of St Angela infuse our curriculum and activities throughout the year. However, in this week, we bring attention to Catholic topics in special ways.
Ms. Kennedy taught her 9th Grade Music Class the origins of the Mass as first and foremost, a musical work in its five parts: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. The students also listened to the works of Hildegaard of Bingen, the first and oldest Catholic woman composer in her work, "O Successores."
Biology students read the papal Encyclical on the Environment and researched the fresh water crisis. Middle school students in earth science classes also researched environmental issues and solutions related to Pope Francis's Encyclical.
Other highlights of our celebration included Latin students exploring the Magnificat, the Religious Studies Department sponsoring an essay contest "What My Catholic Education Means to Me", and modern language classes saying prayers in their language of study. #CSW17
On January 30, 2017, Physics teacher Mr. Dalby and 12 students attended the "Engineering Tomorrow" conference held at Maria Regina HS. The event was sponsored by the Engineering Tomorrow Foundation and organized by the Archdiocese of New York. The goal was to increase student interest in pursuing careers in engineering.
The girls worked on two activities during the day, one dealing with water purification and the other with controlling the motion of a robotic vehicle through coding. This hands-on learning provided the girls with an opportunity to work on "real-life" engineering problems. In the water filtration exercise aiming to maximize water purity while minimizing cost, one of our Ursuline groups placed 2nd out of 20 teams.
We are pleased that Ursuline offers a course in Engineering along with AP Physics, providing girls with a solid background as they advance into Engineering programs in college.
January 27, 2017 was a very special day at Ursuline as we proudly celebrated the Feast of St. Angela, joining Ursuline schools around the world in honoring the foundress of the Ursuline order.
Msgr. Keane concelebrated our beautiful Mass with our board member, Rev. Jose-Luis S. Salazar, SJ, (also known as Fr. Lito). Fr. Lito's thoughtful and humorous homily helped us to better connect with St. Angela. Our Ursuline Sisters renewed their vows, reaffirming their commitment to the order and the teachings of Angela. We so very much value the Sisters at our school.
We were delighted when the Middle School Chorus sang for us "Serviam" - our new school song. The song is one we learned from our sister school St. Ursula's College in Toowoomba, Australia. Two members of the Sixth Grade shared their personal reflections on St. Angela based on the lessons they had with Sr. Pat Schifini, OSU. We also announced that five students have been recognized by the Ursuline Educational Network for their community service. They are Alicia McMillan, Keren Deneny, Althea Chowke, Meghan Hartson and Sarah Hillesheim.
Members of our Board of Trustees joined us for Mass and spent time visiting classrooms and sharing lunch with some students. Our trustees are clearly dedicated to the school and invested in ensuring the best educational experience possible.
The Ursuline School announced on January 26, 2017 that it has earned accreditation by the New York State Association of Independent Schools, known as NYSAIS.
This accreditation comes after a year of self-study which included all members of our school community – teachers and staff, board of trustees, students and parents.
Unlike other accreditations, the NYSAIS process asked us to evaluate ourselves through the lens of our mission. We evaluated our approach to teaching and learning, our operations and finances, our community and all aspects of school life. The examination also included a visit by the NYSAIS committee. It was a rewarding exercise which strengthened us. The NYSAIS analysis will guide us in our strategic initiatives and add an important validation as we apply for additional grants from foundations. We are proud of our school community for demonstrating how we work each day, to fulfill our mission and educate young women!