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Sad news from the Burgundy barnyard

Thursday, June 21, 2018

TopazWe regret that we have sad and surprising news for our community. Early the evening of June 21, Topaz, Burgundy's young filly, passed away after a brief illness.

Topaz began showing signs of digestive discomfort on Wednesday evening. The vet visited and began treatment but recommended taking Topaz to a veterinary hospital. Caretaker Ali Shepard '04 took Topaz and her mom Poppy to the the Marion DuPont Scott Equine Medical Center in Leesburg. Poppy was there to be a comforting presence for Topaz. Unfortunately, from last night through the day today, Topaz exhibited several rounds of painful digestive distress. Despite excellent care from a team of doctors, nurses, and veterinary students, her health worsened, and she had to be put down.

The vet confirms that Topaz was suffering from colic, which refers to any form of digestive distress in a horse. Colic in a horse can be very serious and sometimes fatal. Surgery is sometimes a good option but was not in this situation. 

Topaz brought many members of our Burgundy community a lot of joy in only a few months of life. Students or families may be interested in writing sympathy or thank you notes for Ali and/or the wonderful veterinary team who worked to save Topaz's life. These notes can be dropped off at Burgundy's Alexandria campus or sent to Burgundy, c/o Caretaker Ali, 3700 Burgundy Road, Alexandria VA 22303.

Mayapples Growing on Campus

Friday, June 1, 2018
Updated photo: Mayapples of years past!

In various places around campus, mayapples are growing. World languages teacher Carrie Ustun has explained that these are rare and protected wildflowers in Virginia. (Please note that mayapples are not edible.)

They have many other names, including podophyllum, mandrake, and hog apple. The number of mayapples growing around Burgundy varies, and sometimes dwindles due to playing children and animal foragers.

Please pay careful attention in areas where you see these plants growing, so that they can blossom and grow fruit during the summer.

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Parking Reminders

Friday, May 18, 2018


With many on-campus events in the next few weeks, we wanted to share some reminders about parking. Please always be careful and aware of your surroundings when driving on campus.

On campus, parking spaces are delineated to maximize parking efficiency — please respect these lines.

Carpool Lane Parking

  • Outside of morning and afternoon carpool times, briefly parking in the carpool lane is generally allowed (e.g., when picking up a student early or dropping off late).
  • All cars should be moved out of the carpool lane by 2:45 p.m. ahead of afternoon carpool.
  • During special events, please park along the curb at a diagonal angle to allow more cars to park along the carpool lane.

Neighborhood Parking

  • Please be considerate of our neighbors and others in our community when parking along the streets near campus. Do not block or turn around in driveways, and do not compromise safe and clear lines of sight near intersections.
  • During afternoon pick-up our carpool line often extends down the hill (north) on Norton Road, so please do not park on the campus side of the street (west side; to the left, as you exit campus) to facilitate the carpool line staying out of the lane of traffic. As you enter campus, please be aware of the cars trying to enter or exit the driveway at the Norton house Advancement office.
  • Fairfax County ordinance prohibits parking within 10 feet of a driveway. Police can ticket cars parked in these areas if a homeowner calls to complain; we know Burgundy families have received warning tickets in the past.
  • Be aware that Burgundy and Norton Roads are bus routes for county mass transit. Cars that interfere with those routes may draw attention from Fairfax County police.

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Annual Giving Supports Cove Trips

Friday, May 18, 2018
Cove bridge
Buckeyes working together on an assignment at the Cove. Photo by Joanne Petty.

This is the time of the year when classes make their spring journey to the Cove. This experience is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the natural world — in our own outdoor laboratory!

Annual Giving helps to support the wealth of opportunities our curriculum offers students at the Cove. Funding helps to maintain Cove facilities and more. The bus that gets students and chaperones to and from Burgundy is an important part of the experience and it too is funded by donations to Annual Giving.

If you've already made an Annual Giving donation, thank you! If you have not made a gift or would like to make an additional gift, please consider doing so today to support Cove trips,  professional development, classroom budgets, and so much more! All gifts, no matter the size, help us to reach our goal and are greatly appreciated.

Give Now!

Questions about giving? Please contact Michele McCabe, Advancement and Annual Giving Coordinator, at

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Nearing the End of This Year's Journey

Friday, May 18, 2018

This afternoon, I’m returning from the Cove, having spent some quality time at our incredible Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies campus with the Viceroys. Rain is not the weather we hope for when we set out to the Cove, but I can tell you that seeing so many shades of green, even in the rain, is somehow grounding and delightful, and seeing our kids so engaged, with little care about the weather, is always inspiring!

Cove trips also are the surest signal that the school year is racing to completion! Hold on!

Ready or not, final everythings begin in earnest in mid-May: the musical (8th graders’ last production, aside from graduation), the 4th-5th grade Medieval festival, the 8th grade rocket launch, and various other classes’ culminating expositions, as well as, this year, the 6th-7th grade Shakespeare elective performance, and finally — much-anticipated by the classes — the final swims and class parties! The last day of school also includes a Moving Up celebration. More soon on that! It feels sudden, even to me, to refer to the last day of school, but it’s only three weeks away!

Viceroys Cove ball
Rain during the Viceroys trip didn't stop a game of Coveball.

It’s the time of year when I have to remind myself that it’s less important (to some degree) to get each thing on a list done and more important to experience some of the moments and really ‘be in the moment.’ One way I’m accomplishing that is by being at the Cove, however briefly, with my child’s class. Many other years I have spent a night or two with the 8th graders at Wilderness Adventure. This year I’ll try to visit many of the different classes’ final activities. I’ll also enjoy the annual reception for 8th grade parents, the final board meeting and celebration of retiring trustees, and each of the last days of school.

One of the things that keeps us educators coming back each year is that there’s a phenomenal renewing energy in life cycles and rituals, the transitions and the traditions, of a school year. There can be some anxiety and stress for everyone in the crush to wrap up everything, and in anticipating change, which everyone handles differently; but there is also the opportunity to celebrate the journey.

Every year is a different journey. Whether it’s been the most magical or harder-than-average (sometimes we learn and grow even more in those years), it’s been our year together, in each one of our classes and peer groups, and this is true for the adults as well as the students. Savor all for which we have to be grateful! Thanks for all the support for me, our staff, and for Burgundy.

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Barnyard Rules: Getting To Know Topaz

Friday, May 11, 2018

Families — as adults and children are around the barnyard, please keep these rules and guidelines in mind so all may be safe and sound. Poppy and Topaz are integrating into the herd and will be seen outside in the pasture! Topaz is very social and loves attention, so it is important that we all remember a few rules when visiting her, so that she feels safe and we can start training her well!

  • Pet on Topaz on her front end. She likes to be pet on her neck and shoulders where she can see hands.
  • No nibbling! Although her teeth are just starting to come in, we want to teach her good manners by gently pushing her nose away if she puts her mouth on our clothes or body.
  • No food! Topaz cannot eat solid food yet. Please recall that none of our Burgundy animals should be fed unless previously discussed with Ali. Food donations can be left on the Caretaker's porch or in the donation bucket outside the barn.

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Supporting Our Barnyard Friends through Annual Giving

Friday, May 4, 2018

LuluSpringtime is a time for new growth, and that’s been even more apparent in the Burgundy barnyard recently with the birth of Poppy’s foal! A few weeks ago, we didn’t know when the foal would be born or what color she would be. But a year ago, we didn’t know we would have the opportunity to rescue a pregnant Poppy and bring her to Burgundy. Annual Giving helps to support the wealth of opportunities our curriculum offers all our students, including the care of animals and the maintenance of the barnyard. And even more importantly, Annual Giving helps Burgundy cover unexpected costs that might be outside our planned budget, like a foal birthing kit and an extra visit from the vet. Donations to Annual Giving help us take advantage of timely opportunities and cover urgent needs that arise during the year.

If you've already made an Annual Giving donation, thank you! If you have not made a gift or would like to make an additional gift, please consider doing so today to support classroom budgets and so much more! This year’s budgeted goal is $250,000. Currently we have raised $163,000 with 47% of current families participating. All gifts, no matter the size, help us to reach our goal and are greatly appreciated.

Give Now!

Questions about giving? Please contact Michele McCabe, Advancement and Annual Giving Coordinator, at

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A Newborn Filly in the Burgundy Barn!

Friday, April 27, 2018
Filly Video
On Thursday evening, the day-old filly practices running near the pond and science cottage.

Early Wednesday morning, miniature horse Poppy gave birth to a filly. Caretaker Ali Shepard ’04 reported that the delivery was very quick, after she had spent several days on foal watch with help from friends including Austin Fodrie, Burgundy’s technology support and integration specialist. Poppy, also known by her full name Poppyseed and her registered name Baby Be Mine, came to Burgundy last October and turned 19 on Tuesday. She birthed several foals with previous owners and has already demonstrated how her experience as a mother will be beneficial to this new baby: Ali shared that the filly took longer than expected to begin nursing, and Poppy helped by lying down to nurse, which is uncommon for horses.

Poppy and the baby are staying by themselves in a stall in the barn for a few more days, and will be introduced to and integrated with the rest of the Burgundy herd of animals gradually. Most classes have come by in the last two days to meet the baby and learn the rules — primarily, using quiet voices in and around the barn and looking only, not touching, at this point.

Ali will supervise visiting hours for Poppy and her foal Saturday and Sunday, 2-4 p.m. Please note: if the barn doors are closed, the barn is closed to visitors. If you see Ali working with Poppy and the foal outside the barn, please ask from a distance if it is okay to approach.

Ali is getting to know the filly’s personality for a few more days before choosing a name for her, and students are sharing name suggestions.

More foal photos coming soon to Burgundy's Facebook page.

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2018 Earth Week Projects

Friday, April 27, 2018
Book swap
Kindergarteners compare their books from the Book Swap.
Jacob helping prepare dinner at the Ronald McDonald House.
8th graders on their way to clean up Burgundy Road and adjacent roads.
6th graders planting around the Middle School.

With Earth Day last Sunday, Burgundy has been participating in related activities last week and this week.

In the spirit of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” we asked our community to donate gently used children’s books that were ready to be passed on to others who might enjoy and learn from them. Middle School students sorted the collected books and last Friday, April 20, we held a book “swap” where all students were welcome to choose a new book to take home. The remaining books were donated to Alexandria organization Wright to Read for distribution in public schools.

On Sunday morning, April 22, a group of Middle School students, parents, and humanities teacher and chef Levita Mondie went to the Ronald McDonald House at Fairfax Inova Hospital and prepared a complete vegan dinner for guests staying there. The Ronald McDonald House provides housing, food, and other services for families whose children are receiving medical care at the hospital.

As part of our commitment to the VDOT Adopt a Highway program, this week Burgundy’s 8th grade class cleaned Burgundy Road from Norton Road to East Street, Norton Road to Telegraph, and Norton Road to the Burgundy Community Center. They also cleaned parts of Elmwood and Tremont Streets near Burgundy Road. The students separated trash and recyclables, collecting about 3 full bags in total.

Traditionally, each class at Burgundy chooses a different project in which to participate to celebrate Earth Week. At the Wednesday All School Meeting, students shared skits about what they had done — many of them silent, charade-style skits that allowed peers to guess the activity. There was lots of picking up trash and planting across campus this week! To close the meeting, everyone sang two Burgundy favorites, “The Garden Song (Inch by Inch)” and “This Pretty Planet.”

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Planning for Poppy's Foal

Friday, April 20, 2018

PoppyThe vet visited Burgundy recently and caretaker Ali Shepard ’04 confirms that everything seems to be on track with our miniature horse Poppy and the delivery of her foal, which we’re expecting in the next few weeks. Signs like milk production and a change in Poppy’s belly shape will let Ali know that the delivery date is approaching.

Ali has set up the stall in the barn as a birthing stall, and plans to be in the barn with Poppy during the birth. The vet will come shortly after for a check of mother and foal. Poppy and her foal will likely stay in the stall for a short while before integrating back into the herd.

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