Today, Friday, June 4, 2010 is Stoneleigh-Burnham School’s 141st commencement exercises. And what a fine day it is. The usual weather watching all week has preceded the occasion, as we all watched, hopeful as predictions of rain and thunderstorms migrated through the 5-day forecast. It seems appropriate that this class that began it’s year with the threat of the H1N1 virus and came into the final week of school with no power due to a mighty spring storm, would get a perfect day to graduate.

The week leading up to Stoneleigh-Burnham’s graduation exercises is full of traditions, new and old, that usher not only the seniors, but the rising 8th grade and junior classes into the next phase of their lives as college students, high schoolers and seniors. Festivities begin with the senior class banquet followed by Vespers and the Courtyard Ceremony (Lantern Ceremony). The banquet is an opportunity for the senior class to have its final formal dinner with the faculty. Vespers is a Stoneleigh-Burnham tradition that has morphed and changed through the years, but as it’s celebrated today is an opportunity for each senior to stand before her entire school and share parting thoughts, revelations, thank yous and goodbyes… and more than a few tears. The Lantern Ceremony is one that traces back several decades and is not unique to Stoneleigh-Burnham. Other girls’ schools and womens’ colleges have similar traditions in which lanterns, representing the lamp of knowledge, are carried in a procession and then passed on to the rising senior class. At SBS, we celebrate this tradition over the reflecting pool in the courtyard and each year the senior class chooses a song to sing around the pool.

The Middle School had its Moving Up ceremony on Thursday morning. Parents, teachers and upper school students were in attendance to say goodbye to those who would not be returning and welcome to the upper school for those who would. Incoming StuCo President Theresa ’11 spoke to the class and reminisced about having gone through the same ceremony herself three years ago. Theresa will be the second StuCo President to have graduated from the middle school in the last two years (the first years where this would be possible in the middle school’s 6-year history). Advisors spoke to each student individually, sharing their thoughts on each girl’s talents, growth and presence at SBMS. And as tradition dictates, the ceremony is followed every year by an all-middle school trip to Six Flags Amusement Park for the afternoon.

That same day, the upper school holds the end-of-year Awards Ceremony at which such prizes as the Junior Leadership Prize (Sweater Girl Award), college book awards and the National Honor Society members are announced. Awards are followed by graduation rehearsal, followed by an afternoon of packing, cleaning and preparing for graduation day. Thursday is also host to the much anticipated, legendary, awe-inspiring laugh riot that is… Farewell to Seniors. This year’s festivities were no disappointment. Nothing can be said publicly about what happens at Farewell, a super top secret tradition that only faculty, current students and alumnae can witness, but let’s just say that the faculty let it be known just how well they have gotten to know the seniors.

Finally, we all muster the strength to pull ourselves together in formal outfit #3 for one last day—the day—graduation. As I mentioned before, this year’s graduation day is a PERFECT day. Sun shining, breeze blowing, birds chirping, roses and smiles abounding. There is time for reflection, parting words, thank you’s and “I’ll miss you’s.” Young alumnae and parents of undergraduates fill in the seats along with the proud senior parents, friends, faculty, administration, staff members and trustees. And in one and a half short hours, the class of 2010 is graduated. For more on the commencement exercises and excerpts of the valedictory and commencement speeches click here.


A Fine Day to Graduate

As I mentioned in my post TRADITION, the weather cooperated for this the 141st Commencement at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. But the weather was nowhere near close to the whole story as to why this was such a fine day. This year’s graduating class was the first in the school’s history to have in its ranks three six-year seniors and a five-year senior along with a sizable group of four-year seniors. The five- and six-year seniors were the first students to graduate from Stoneleigh-Burnham having come through the Middle School, founded six years ago. Our new Board Chair, alumna Kathy Opdycke officiated at her first commencement as chair. Another alumna, astrophysicist Georgia de Nolfo, delivered the commencement address, and senior class president Kim Balk took the stage for a brief welcome address.

The Class of 2010

Valedictorian Bryna Cofrin-Shaw was a middle school founder and in her valedictory spoke to those things that change and those things that stay the same over the course of the six years between age 12 and age 18. She began with the poem “The Purpose of Time” by X.J. Kennedy, and followed by saying, “Graduation is often a time to reflect on the past, the present and the future. But personally I feel wholly unqualified to reflect deeply on the past right now, or to offer inspiration for the future. It’s true—time prevents things from happening all at once, and all I want to talk about right now is this moment.” She went on to explain that moments like this, momentous moments, are meant to be experienced as they are happening and that it’s those moments you take with you forward and never forget. For Bryna’s full valedictory address, check back next week and we’ll have it posted to our YouTube channel for your streaming pleasure.

Commencement speaker Georgia de Nolfo spoke of her experiences as a female scientist, reflecting on the challenges that still exist for women as well as noting the undeniable progress in the fields of science and finance. She also spoke of the inevitable balance that has to be sought after as a professional and the mother of two young children. She shared stories about her professional triumphs and disappointments, and urged the senior class to go out into the world prepared to make it a better place. She urged them to do something to better the earth, be it as simple as planting a garden or as great as pursuing a career in science and sustainability.

Our next post will include video clips from both speeches.

Neither wind, nor rain, nor dark of night

“The Stoneleigh-Burnham campus is a different kind of place today,” according to Regina Mooney, Director of Development. If you stepped foot on Stoneleigh-Burnham for the first time ever today, you might notice a few freshly cut stumps around campus and perhaps the overabundance of leaves and twigs lying around. But if you know the campus well, if you drive or walk or ride up the driveway every day, or even just often, those fresh cut stumps represent a loss; the loss of once beloved trees, taken from us in the night during what will be remembered as the great spring storm of 2010.

All told the storm itself was a quick one, no more than a half hour of wind, rain, thunder and lightening. But the intensity of this storm left Greenfield in a state of emergency; and left Stoneleigh-Burnham without power and with a few less trees than before. Yet in the midst of chaos and downed trees, what Dr. Mooney was commenting on was less the visible state of the campus and more about the spirit of the community that emerged in the wake of the storm. Stoneleigh-Burnham has always been about community; it is at the heart of who we are; it is what we are. But it is in times of crisis when any community is tested, and Stoneleigh-Burnham passed this test with flying colors. The campus awoke to no power and resident faculty gathered students together in the Capen Room to brief everyone as to what had happened overnight.

Mr. Larson, Dean of Students, runs a morning meeting in the Capen Room to discuss the plans for the day in the aftermath of the storm.

Lucky for us their was only minimal damage done structurally; a few glass panes were broken and a golf cart was totaled. But the trees left a mess for our maintenance crew and faculty, staff and students were quick to volunteer to help with the cleanup.

Our once super cool golf cart is now crunched.

Faculty and students help with the cleanup at Fallon House.

Mark Pelis tackles a downed tree at Fallon House.

Another downed pine by the shed near the athletic fields.

Everyone was hard at work  throughout the day; picking up debris, bringing generators to a hum, planning the next few days and, of course, studying for exams. The community was forced to work within the confines of daylight, and evening brought the challenge of rushing to get everything done before the sun went down. Students and residents alike were forced to find something to do with themselves without the comforts of electricity, and more importantly, the ability to text and call their friends. While holding her cell phone and looking at it longingly, one student commented that not having reception was like, “leaving my house without shoes or money.”

But all told, we’re doing quite well, and some of us feel as if it’s business as usual (I’m writing this post from the comfort of my generator-driven office!). Classes are in session today as we head into next week with exams and graduation on Friday. Stoneleigh-Burnham showed its true colors and those colors are bright and brilliant. Nice work team!

Spearth Day

Today is Spearth Day at Stoneleigh-Burnham. A hybrid tradition that combines elements of Earth Day and older school traditions celebrating May Day and the spring season, Spearth Day is a highly anticipated highlight of the year. Students participate in spring spruce up activities in the morning that take them into the school’s archives, equestrian facilities, flower beds and gardens. This year one group is planting a new garden for the Dining Hall staff to utilize in everyday meal preparation… the chocolate mint was a source of excitement, as was the feeling of the soil on their hands!

Smile!!! This group is cleaning up the beds outside of the Dining Hall.

Working in Coleman House Gardens... they found a snake!

The day begins with little sisters taking their big sisters to breakfast. A fleet of school vehicles driven by teachers and administrators buzz around Greenfield dropping off and picking up students at a host of locations: students houses, Dunkin’ Donuts, The Shady Glenn and of course, Friendly’s.

Little sisters treat their big sisters to breakfast!

Happy girls in the sun...

The WAV (White Athletic Vehicle) pulls up with a load of sisters.

Then the whole school comes together for an all-school meeting where activity assignments are announced and most importantly where the yearbook dedication is revealed (see video below). The afternoon consists of a series of events including an all-school photo, club booths, a talent show, an all-school game and the presentation of this year’s yearbook. The day ends with an all-school barbecue before students end their day with study hall.

Every year students submit their original designs for a contest to determine the Spearth Day t-shirt design. This year’s design features the proclamation, “The earth can’t fight this battle alone.”

The winning Spearth Day t-shirt design by Monika'10.

More to come later today… be sure to check out Around the Oval for the latest photos, videos and tweets from Spearth Day! And Happy Spearth Day from SBS!

Welcome SBS Families!

It’s Spring Family Weekend and campus is abuzz. The sun is struggling to make a showing and I think we’re all optimistic that it might not be the wash out the weather stations have been predicting. It’s always fun to have families on campus at this time of year. The stress of the college process is mostly behind us for seniors and their families, the end of the year is nigh and the excitement of spring can be felt everywhere. Another year of hard work is fast coming to an end as students plan for summer learning opportunities, travel and the holy grail – a summer job!

We are so grateful to have so many wonderful Stoneleigh-Burnham families as part of this community. We welcome you all to campus this weekend and hope that you enjoy your time with us and your daughters for what is sure to be a lot of fun! Check back for more coverage of family weekend in the days to come!

Sharon (Assistant to the Deans, SBS Welcome Wagon and parent of Brandi '13) at reception (not looking at me because she insists her eyes are always closed in photographs).

The Blue Room full of families and students (and you can't see it but also the goodies!)

Parents hang decorations to prepare for this weekend's Annual Fund Auction event - Up, Up and Away Around the World Auction!

Up, Up and Away

I was sitting in my office today when I heard the sound of girls singing floating through my window. Today was a beautiful day and I had been wanting to get out and shoot some photos since this morning when I drove up the long SBS driveway to a vision of fog lifting off the fields as the sun was just starting to shine through the morning clouds. So, I was hearing this singing and the weather was calling so I did what any good communications person would do and grabbed my flip video camera and went outside (even though I had a meeting in less than ten minutes!).

Here’s what I found:

That voice you hear at the end yelling, “I’m late… oughhhhh!” was Nafisatou on her way to class, it was so funny I just had to leave it in. The girls were outside practicing “Up, Up and Away” the 1967 smash hit by The 5th Dimension (watch the YouTube clip below – it’s a hoot), that they’re planning to perform at the live auction event during Family Weekend April 17th.

Of course, they sang it beautifully before and after I went out there and then totally giggled their way through it as I was taping. C’est la vie! A little while later one of the 7th graders came running in my office to tell me they wanted me to come back outside to take their picture. So this time grabbing my Nikon D70 I ran outside after her to find them all up in a tree! Here’s what that looked like:

This is what I love about Stoneleigh-Burnham middle schoolers... spontaneous, creative, fun and fearless!

Does this look idyllic or what? Who said kids don't climb trees any more?

Up, up in a tree.

Middle schoolers working together (and being very photogenic).

On my way back to my office (I was already late for my meeting at this point) I came across Ms. Nuno again (see my last post “You can see the world…”). This time her class was doing some reading and with a 70 degree Friday afternoon calling through the big science center windows, they decided to take the learning outside.

Ms. Nuno's class working on the patio outside the Bindloss Reading Room of the library.

Hannah was totally engrossed in whatever she was reading.

You can see the world here (even little tiny ones)!

So we have established that it is officially spring here on the Stoneleigh-Burnham campus. All the traditional vernal indicators have been noted; crocuses have sprung from the once frozen earth, the swing is back in its rightful position, there are buds popping on trees, robins are dotting the fields and as of yesterday students and their teachers can be spotted taking the learning and the classroom outside.

Ms. Nuno conducting her AP Biology class outside this week.

Ms. Nuno took her AP Biology class outside on Thursday for a “nature walk.” According to Ms. Nuno, “the class was making qualitative and quantitative observations of several microenvironments that exist on campus.” How cool is that?! Here they are doing more observing:

Ms. Nuno points out a tiny little world living on a very big rock while students look on.

Sephora takes the temperature of the macroenvironment.

Theresa takes fast and furious notes on Ms. Nuno's lecture.

More microenvironments!

Kat and Kristina contemplate a tree while making qualitative and quantitative observations.

So welcome, welcome spring (I can’t say it enough!!)! But let’s remember that spring is fleeting, as quick as it comes it disappears again into the long, hot, hazy and humid days of summer – so enjoy it while it lasts.

In honor of spring, science and poetry month (which is less than a week away!) I want to share one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson. Interestingly, Dickinson is known for having incorporated scientific concepts into her work both purposefully and effectively. She was an enthusiastic pupil of science at Mount Holyoke Seminary and is said to have written extensively about her love for the subject in letters to her brother Austin.

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

– Emily Dickinson