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News about Burgundy's faculty and staff.

Barnyard Update: New Turkeys and Chickens

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Turkey #1

Turkey #2

Recently caretaker Ali Shepard ’04 brought some new animals to join the herd in Burgundy’s barnyard. There are three turkeys—two females, one male, all Narragansett turkeys, a heritage breed. One of the females hatched with deformed toes and slight head bob; the other female has been a companion for her. Ali also added two new hens; they are Golden Laced Wyandotte and Black Sex Link varieties. Ali reports everyone is settling in fine and she expects visitors to the barnyard will enjoy the beautiful new look these fowl bring as well as the new sounds from the turkeys. For a short time last fall, Burgundy hosted a rescue turkey named Blossom, but she was unable to live outdoors and returned to a previous owner.

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2018 Auction Fun Continues

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Officially, Burgundy's very successful auction was just one night in March, but the experiences offered as auction items have kept the fun going during the spring and summer! Several students and families have recently benefited from auction parties and events.

There were pool parties where students splashed into summer, a fairy wand-making party to bring a little magic to the end of the year, and handprint parties where JK students left their mark on the Norton House wall. Children and parents dove into the world of Minecraft with a lesson and lunch in the makerspace in The Logan Loft in two sessions in June, and in May a group of adults enjoyed a Jeffersonian-style dinner party with fine dining and meaningful discussion around the table.

We know there’s lots more fun to come from the auction — coordinator Allison Niedbala welcomes photos at allisonn@burgundyfarm.org.

July Alumni Visits

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Once you’re connected to Burgundy, you’re always a part of our family! We encourage alumni, their families, and former faculty and staff to stay connected. In addition to sharing news back and forth, we’re also happy to host visitors.

Recently we enjoyed two visits in one day! Alumnus Mike Bianco, who attended Burgundy for two years of elementary school in 1946-1948, and his friend Pat stopped by to see the many changes to our Alexandria campus since his student days. Former teacher and alumna Meegan Scott ’88 also visited Norton House with her young son. Meegan taught at Burgundy until 2009.

Mike Bianco


Meegan Scott



A Busy Summer with Refreshing Travel

Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Jeff in Bali
Jeff shares a vacation photo from Bali

We hope your family is enjoying summer! Now in its week four, Burgundy Summer Day Camp is having a fantastic summer under Director Hugh Squire, and the campers, their families, and the staff are enjoying the campus improvements (and no construction!). The Burgundy Center for Wildlife Studies camp also is in full swing under longtime director Vini Schoene ’73 and her staff.

It’s been a busy but productive month since school ended for administrators and staff. For year-round administrators and staff at school, June is a busy month of transition from one school year to the next, closing out one academic and business year in order to open the next, including a long list of tasks. Burgundy admin and staff are busy collecting all tuitions owed and pledges to annual giving and campaigns, paying bills, and sending out report cards and transcripts to high schools. The school’s annual audit is prepared while financial planning — now based on firmer numbers — continues for the following school year, databases are updated, and administrators complete hiring and meet as a team to plan everything from orientation of new faculty, staff, administrators, and families to strategic planning updates that guide our goal-setting as a institution for the following year.

While trying to both catch up and prepare for another school year, our family is trying to make the most of summer, and this is a very unusual year, indeed, because I am taking a substantially longer vacation than normal. First, Tee and I are taking a dream week in Bali (a trip that came about through our support of the Emerging Scholars auction — another story, another time!). After this, which would on its own be the  trip of a lifetime, we are thrilled to have our daughters, Tonasia, 25, and Tatum (Viceroys) meet us in Viet Nam for a family-friendly 10-day tour of that fascinating country, with whom ours has such a poignant relationship, in what should be a phenomenal learning experience for all of us. We all feel incredibly lucky for these experiences, and I hope to return refreshed and ready for the rest of the busy summer at Burgundy!

Happy Graduation, Happy Summer!

Friday, June 8, 2018

Thursday evening we held our 8th Grade Graduation in the Gym. As always, it was incredible!

Burgundy's graduations feature the graduating 8th graders; a very small portion of the ceremonies are adults speaking! The program for the graduation each year is designed by the graduating 8th graders themselves, with a minimum of facilitative help from their teachers and the ‘bones’ of the traditions carried forward from previous graduations. The graduation typically consists of speeches and musical and artistic performances by the students, along with an opening video, with a skit or song from advisors, comments from the Middle School Head and short remarks from the Head. As a result, each year's graduation manifests the particular character and talents of that class. They typically run, including a lengthy but poignant processional and video, less than 80 minutes and are superbly entertaining and most of all, beautifully reflective of the Burgundy mission and spirit!

Last night, the students expressed their strong connections to Burgundy and sense of Burgundy as a second home, their respect and affection for one another, and their appreciation for their teachers and parents who have helped them become the people they are today. Very moving, and sprinkled among a set of dazzling musical performances.

In my own brief remarks, I spoke about the ‘gift of time’ children receive at Burgundy. It is a gift that is patient and respectful of children’s developmental variety and needs. It is the crux of the student-teacher relationships. And it makes all the difference!

We wish the best to the Class of 2018! We will miss them. But we know they're going to continue to be amazing people in high school and beyond!

This morning, with the now graduated 8th graders on a class outing to King's Dominion, we gathered the rising K-8 students and faculty in the Gym to celebrate the close of another school year. With thunderous cheers we 'installed' the rising 8th graders as the new student leaders of the school, and we honored each class's 'graduation' to the next class. We also offered heartfelt farewells to departing teachers and staff before Assistant Head of School Elizabeth Lener and Cathy Manley led us in song.

Thank you for all of your support this year! And thank you today and always to the Burgundy teachers and staff for the incredible amount of work they have put in and for the love they've afforded our students.

It has been a great last week of school, capping off a great year. Next week, while teachers and administrators wrap up with faculty work week, there will be an exciting Gap Camp. The following week, Elizabeth and many teachers will continue work to plan improvements to our curriculum. Many of our staff will be on campus working much of the summer, please say hello if you're around!

We hope to see many familiar faces at Gap Camp, Summer Day Camp, or BCWS Camp! Regardless of your summer plans, have a wonderful summer!

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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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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 michelem@burgundyfarm.org.

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Balancing Online Safety and Self-Regulation

Friday, May 4, 2018

For the most part there probably are only two types of parents right now: those who already are worrying about their kids’ online lives and those who will be. Technology is creating positive innovation, intellectual collaboration, and personal connectivity, too, and adults are as captivated as kids. Yet much of what is engaging our children can be opaque to us, even as we see technology becoming a hub for an increasing number of our kids’ lives. And how we’re going to manage this intense engagement is not totally clear!

For adolescents the apps and games often are how they socialize and relate to peers and the world. We observe and wonder about the balance of ‘direct vs. device’ social interaction they experience, and we fear the impact of exposure to the worst of humanity within a click, not to mention the reckless courage and perceived immunity of anonymous and indirect communication, and the vulnerabilities of developing brains. There is a lot that can and should raise concern. And it’s no wonder that fear, loss of focus, depression, anxiety, exclusion, fear of exclusion or fitting in are becoming prominent ailments among children. Meantime, students seemingly can not breathe without thinking about their phones — and they fully realize that neither can most adults!

So who’s going to be responsible for children’s safety, and how?

Led by parents Dori Acevedo-Gonzales, Jane Hanson, and BPA Chair Amy Heist, Burgundy parents this year have provided themselves a forum for exchanging ideas and knowledge on parenting in a digital age. This parent-to-parent connecting, many of us are realizing, must be a vital piece of the collaboration needed to establish effective parenting around technology. The final meeting of this school year, where attendees will plan next steps, is coming up next week.

For its part, the school recognizes that we not only will have to provide ongoing education for digital citizenship for students but also share lessons and intelligence with parents. To be clear, that education and sharing both must be mutual: school to children and school to parents but also parents to school, and students to school. A valuable part of what the school also can provide is "no judgment zone" opportunities for parents (and sometimes students) to rapport with the school on the latest trends and worries and, perhaps more important, to consider what sorts of shared values and limits (for lack of a better work) we may consider between home, school, or community. I hope that two parent coffees we offered in the past two weeks for 5th-8th grade parents provided some of that “no judgment” sharing.

The key operating goals of any parent-school collaboration around technology, in my estimation, are three: one, teach students how to use technology to support their learning; two, help them learn to use technology safely, both academically and socially, and as good citizens (not merely digital); and three, keep one another informed. That’s the sharing piece.

Why is sharing so important? Because children are learning and growing and testing all kinds of boundaries, and they will not always make good decisions about how they use technology. We must supervise tech use at school.  Although we care deeply about our students’ lives away from school, we can’t officiate there. Parents will need the schools’ and (most of all) one another’s help. And kids will find ways to refuse or dodge schools’ and parents’ efforts to keep them safe, because ... well, that is what kids are wired to do.

We must balance the concerns we share and the desire to control our children’s phone and online lives with their needs to develop autonomy. The growing sense among colleges and employers is that one of the most valuable but underdeveloped skills, and indeed a best predictor of success, is self-regulation. Independence, practice making decisions, and evaluating risk all are important parts of learning self-regulation and developing competence and confidence. Over-sheltered children struggle to make their own decisions and manage themselves when they’re sent off to college. Our school policy of ‘away during the day’ is the most common phone policy among peer schools (and we are ramping up enforcement). But we must maintain an environment where children can make mistakes and grow from them, including mistakes with technology. If we educate our students and ourselves in a timely way, sharing information and trying to keep mutually engaged and alert to the latest ‘stuff,’ we can support one another.

The other morning as I began to speak to Middle School students, I explained we are in uncharted waters and learning how to navigate them as we go. What I did not say is that the waters are changing all the time! Because that is so true, we adults better be in this together, communicating openly, bravely, directly among ourselves, as well as with our kids.

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A Special All School Meeting

Friday, May 4, 2018

Announcement video

Some of the Deep Creek Middle School students on stage.

This morning at a special All School Meeting in the amphitheater, second grader Anna M. announced the name caretaker Ali Shepard ’04 has chosen for Poppy’s foal, born in the barn last week. We’ll call the filly Topaz! The Burgundy community offered a lot of suggestions, and the idea of “Topaz” came from Melissa Koval, parent of 8th grader Rowan Smith. In the announcement, Anna explained “Topaz is a gemstone and she’s our little gem!” The opportunity to announce the foal’s name was an auction item this year.

Earlier at the meeting, visiting students from Deep Creek Middle School shared a musical presentation with a poem, a song, and a rap celebrating the connection and friendship between the school and Burgundy. Deep Creek is an independent school on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera, also home to the Island School. Every other spring, 7th and 8th graders from Burgundy visit the Island School for a week and in turn host Deep Creek students.

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Thinking About Tinkering: Donations Requested for Makerspace(s)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Art teachers Mary Iannone and Annie Rocha recently attended a STEAM conference (focused on the integration of science, technology, engineering, art, and math) at the National Cathedral School to help gain knowledge for our Makerspace program for the coming school year. Gifts to Annual Giving help make professional development opportunities like this possible. At the conference, Mary and Annie networked with a variety of teachers from many different grade levels and subject areas, and even met a few teachers that pioneered the program for the Makerspaces in their own schools. They came away with some interesting ways to integrate math, science, and technology in the art room, including learning aspects of simulated interior design, watching kids working in a "tinkerlab" taking apart old electronics, creating miniature robots with computer programming tools, and observing a project made with a laser cutter for a collaborative history project focused on civil rights.

Although we will be integrating technology and tools into our makerspace, Mary and Annie learned that it is also important to have access to a variety of hand tools, recycled materials, and old unneeded electronics. We will begin collecting these materials now as well as over the summer to help supply the room for the new school year. Here is a list of what we need:

  • Tools: hammers, screwdrivers, drills, scrap wood, hand saws, sanders/sandpaper, pliers, tweezers
  • Recycled materials: baby food jars, toilet paper/paper towel rolls, cardboard boxes, styrofoam (pretty much anything that can be recycled and is usable — similar materials as needed for junk art)
  • Any and all electronics that can be taken apart to observe and learn from.

These donated materials can be brought to the Makerspace room downstairs in The Logan Loft. Thank you in advance!

We also are still eager for donors who can help us staff The Logan Loft Makerspace as well as the Wonderlab for JK-1st grade students. For more information, please contact Michele McCabe at michelem@burgundyfarm.org.

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