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Report from 2018 Spring Curriculum Night

Friday, April 20, 2018

Thank you to all the parents who joined us last Thursday night for Curriculum Night. The event gave attendees a chance to learn more about our drama program from grades 1-8, our science program from JK-8 and our Middle School math program. It is impressive to see how the curriculum builds from year to year and integrates with our subject areas. We learned about the 2nd and 3rd grade study, the Shakespeare play in 4th and 5th that connects with the Medieval unit in social studies, and the herbivory project in 6th grade math that combines science study at the Cove with statistical work in math class, to name just a few. We participated in a drama activity, tried to solve a tricky math problem, and reviewed student materials from each subject.

It’s hard to recreate the entire experience, but the faculty teams have shared their presentations, available via the links below, for those who were not able to attend. Please note that the links lead to PDFs and some elements of the presentations (e.g., videos) may not be available in this format.

We hope to see you at next year’s event!

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Off-Campus Learning Made Possible Through Annual Giving

Friday, April 20, 2018
Huntley Meadows
First graders exploring Huntley Meadows on a previous trip.

Annual Giving supports memorable learning opportunities for all our students, on campus and off! For virtually all field trips during the year, the cost of transportation and admission is already covered, not an add-on fee for families. Annual Giving helps make this possible.

First grade authors write and share books
about local wildlife, often inspired by what
they've seen at Huntley Meadows.

The Huntley Meadows field trips that the first grade classes go on each year are a great example of the importance of field trips in the curriculum. The spring visit is coming up on April 24. Huntley Meadows Park, located just four miles from Burgundy, is a nearby resource ideal for younger students. The series of field trips — one each in fall, winter, and spring — offer first graders the opportunity to study wetland plants and animals and to learn about the importance of wetlands in the ecosystem. They observe how the wetlands change with the seasons, noting the differences in the plants and types of wildlife encountered on each trip. The field trips gives students an excellent opportunity to hone their observational skills, a key component of science education.

The Huntley Meadows trips also correspond to a central tenet in Burgundy’s mission, which is to instill respect for the natural world. After each trip, first graders share their experiences with the class verbally and in written form. They also draw a picture that reflects what they saw. The spring field trip is paired with research about local wildlife. Many choose to focus on wildlife they saw on their trips. As a culmination of the project, students create a book that allows them to write about scientific concepts in an age-appropriate way.

There are many more great field trips coming up this spring! These are just a sampling of the opportunities offered to Burgundy students throughout the year:

  • Buckeyes and Viceroys will enhance their knowledge of astronomy today with a visit to the planetarium at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria.
  • As part of their study of Asia, which the classes are beginning now, the Buckeyes and Viceroys will also visit the Japan Information & Culture Center (part of the Japanese embassy) in the next few weeks.
  • Coopers and Redtails students will head to the Kennedy Center April 26.

If you've already made a gift to support Annual Giving, thank you! If you have not made a gift or would like to make an additional gift, please consider doing so today to support field trips and so much more!

Give Now!

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

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Musician Visit: François Clemmons on April 25

Friday, April 20, 2018

Burgundy will host singer and actor François Clemmons for a lunchtime concert, noon-12:45 p.m. Wednesday, April 25. The concert will be either on the outdoor stage on the Campus Commons, or inside in the theater/community room.

François may be best known as the policeman Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but he enjoyed a career as a singer specializing in both opera and spirituals. He founded the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, and before his retirement he was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College in Vermont. At Burgundy, François will present an interactive concert of spirituals and talk about his career and experiences. Families are welcome to attend.

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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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Update on Campus Spaces

Friday, April 20, 2018
West Barn Conference Room
The recreated conference room in West Barn.

The Logan Loft has officially opened and arts classes have moved in, so you might be wondering what’s going on with the spaces where they were. Burgundy’s maintenance team has already renovated part of the space to be used as a conference room for meetings. Over the summer, they’ll help move language classrooms. Next school year, the playground-side classroom will become home to Chris Hughes’s French classroom. Maria Espinoza’s Spanish class will move into the current French classroom space from the computer lab.

The Advancement office — Michele McCabe, Allison Niedbala, and Meghan Williams — remain in the Norton House at the entrance to campus.

Cathy Guertin ( manages the calendar for campus spaces.

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Thank You, Volunteers!

Friday, April 20, 2018

It’s National Volunteer Week! We want to give a hearty thank you to all our many volunteers!

At each admission open house I try to be honest with parents looking at Burgundy about who we are, and one of the things I say is, “We are not a ‘drop ’em off at JK and pick ’em up at 8th grade graduation’ kind of place.”

At Burgundy it’s a shared journey, one to which parents, guardians, and families contribute substantially and help facilitate with their various kinds of volunteering: from classroom and library volunteering to leading garden days or working at Cove opening and closing, from hosting potlucks to bringing family culture (and food) to school curricula to organizing (and sometimes making) refreshments for special events, to staffing the fall fair and auction, and chairing annual giving, from chaperoning Cove trips to helping us design and bid and build the new Logan Loft, parent volunteers have been involved in almost everything at Burgundy over the years! The simple truth is that we would not be the school that we are without our parents and guardians, and parent volunteering is in our DNA, from the very founding of the school and building of the original campus by parents who’d purchased the old dairy farm.

To all of our volunteers, including those who are working parents whose volunteering is after-hours, via email and phone calls, and sometimes less visible — we love you!

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Thank You! Dedicating and Enjoying Our New Spaces

Friday, April 13, 2018
Cutting the Ribbon
Cutting the ribbon to officially open The Logan Loft! See more photos from the dedication.

On Wednesday our school community and many guests gathered to celebrate the dedication of The Logan Loft, named for alumni parent donors who inspired hundreds more donors in our community to fund construction, and the Campus Commons, which will honor longtime librarian Ann Van Deusen. The program opened with singing from the 7th grade “Burgundy Bellas” chorus; included remarks from Head of School Jeff Sindler, Board of Trustees President Joanne Petty, and Campaign Chair Charlie Rawls; and concluded with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

The true celebration started Tuesday night, however, during the first Arts Festival in the new space. The gallery is full of artwork from Burgundy students, completed throughout the year in classes and groups, focusing on various art media and techniques. Several students also offered musical performances during the event. If you missed it, the art remains on display.

Burgundy once again extends thanks to all the donors to this Campus Renewal project, who have made it possible to transform our Alexandria campus by building The Logan Loft and Campus Commons. Soon, look for an opportunity to suggest an official name for the Campus Commons, recognizing Ann Van Deusen’s legacy at Burgundy.

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Teaching through Sadness

Friday, April 13, 2018

Ali ShepardThis past weekend Burgundy lost one of our beloved goats, Ruby. She would have been 9 in August and lived a wonderful and full life at Burgundy. In Ruby’s passing, I have been reminded of exactly what makes Burgundy the best place for me and so special for all our students. The value of truth, as well as the belief that social and emotional intelligence belong at the heart of education, are exactly why I will be a Burgundian for life.

On Monday, I was invited to meet with the Kindergarten and First Grade classes to share the sad news about Ruby and to answer questions from the students. I’ve also met with JK and 2/3 students this week. I was prepared for thoughtful questions, like those I had seen previously when discussing the death of a Burgundy animal, but I was simply blown away by the sensitivity and understanding shown by the students and my colleagues in assisting in teaching the difficult lesson of coping with a loss.

I love that we, as educators, respect and trust our students enough to be appropriately honest with them about sad events. After explaining the story of Ruby’s natural passing, the students asked questions such as “Where did she die?” “Where and how was she buried?” and “How do the other animals feel about Ruby being gone?” I was pleased to tell them about Ruby’s happy life, relatively easy death, and the way the other animals reacted. Much like our students, the herd mates of a deceased animal have questions and need an opportunity to grieve. After Ruby died, I allowed the other animals back into the barn to see her body. They each took turns smelling her body to gather information about what happened to their friend, processed it to understand, and then went about their normal routines. Just like humans who are given the opportunity to gather information and process a loss, the animals have more peaceful reactions when allowed that time to grieve.


A note for Ruby

I was also glad to both hear and share the varied feelings about the news of Ruby’s death. I explained to the students that it is okay to feel sad that she’s gone, happy that we got to know her, a mix of emotions, or feel nothing at all. The teachers and I asked the students to share some ideas of what they can do if they feel sad, encouraging them to think of their own coping mechanisms. Talking to a friend, recalling fond memories, drawing or writing feelings, and crying all your tears out were all suggested by the students. They are so wise.

As part of the mutual respect seen so frequently between students and teachers at Burgundy, I was also thankful to be able to share some of my own emotions about Ruby’s passing. Several of the teachers also shed tears and shared feelings. It is so valuable to our students that we can be open about our challenges and hard moments to model appropriate processing and expression of feelings. In addition to leading the Kindergarten classes in a small meditation, Elizabeth Nibley explained the importance of being mindful of others’ feelings and how to offer sympathy to those in need. She reminded them that Ruby dying was particularly difficult for me, as her caretaker, and the teachers agreed that the students could practice expressing sympathy by sharing a kind word with me as they left the meeting. I was personally touched by the sweet words and hugs, but also so impressed at the students’ ability to offer compassion. Even as adults, it can be hard to find the right words to say in times of sadness and we can all benefit from practicing mindfulness and understanding how to appropriately express sympathy.

In the spirit of engaging the whole child, I am so thankful that Burgundy believes in the ability to make any moment a teachable moment, including the hard lessons that become opportunities to teach critical social skills that will be used throughout our students’ lives. Our students, and we, are better for it.

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Students' Agency and Activism

Friday, March 30, 2018

On Tuesday evening, immediately following spring break, we had a good portion of our 8th grade parents in the community room of the new arts and community center for a reception and discussion of their Class of 2018 Legacy Gift. Parents spoke with a great deal of gratitude for the various gifts their children had accumulated over their Burgundy years. In various ways these gifts often add up to the sense, when one speaks to an 8th grader or graduate, of a sort of 'renaissance person' — someone with many interests, talents, and passions. Burgundy kids are able speakers and advocates for causes, as well as scholars, actors, singers, artists, and athletes! The diversity and richness of the program here contributes to both a receptivity to many domains of study, including all the arts, as well as to a genuine interest in the welfare and rights of others.

Nothing better epitomizes the kind of people we are helping to shape than seeing students in action. Before spring break, students, led by a group of 8th graders, organized a walkout in support of the victims of the Parkland, Florida school shootings. One of the leaders, Eleanor Radke, offers her perspective on the event below. I congratulate and thank Eleanor and her classmates. The walkout here was on a cold and breezy morning, but it was a solemn and moving experience, part of a greater, growing recognition that not only are our Burgundy children rightfully roused by events that impact their world, but they are prepared to exercise their agency and to be part of necessary activism and change where they see the need. All the better for them, us, and our future generations! Kudos to them.

Walkout speeches
Eleanor and other student organizers explain the background of the walkout to participants.

From Eleanor Radke, Class of 2018:

When a group of 8th graders heard about the Parkland shooting we felt that something needed to be said; we could not just leave this topic untouched. Since the shooting was so tragic, we wanted to do something to honor the kids who lost their lives. We heard about the National School Walkout on March 14 and we thought that we should do one at Burgundy. To make the idea of the walkout a reality, we had several small meetings with people who wanted to help. At first we really didn’t have a solid idea of what we were going to do, and the walkout was still a work in progress even on the morning it happened.

We wanted to make sure people were informed about the purpose of the walkout. I felt it was very important that we have follow-up information with many links and sources to learn more about the March for Our Lives, gun control, and National School Walkout on April 20. It was really a group effort and we needed support not just from the students, but from our teachers and administration. The 5th-8th grade students who chose to participate were allowed to meet at the Campus Commons at 10 a.m.  No students were required to join the walkout but we were impressed by the turnout of people.

The students who coordinated the walkout felt it was an important event for us as a community; having students, teachers, administrators, and even some parents made it very special. A really powerful moment for me personally was when some 1st graders saw what we were doing from where they were playing; they stopped and watched respectfully until we were done.

The feedback from students and teachers since the walkout has been very positive which makes me really happy because we put a lot of effort and heart into the event. We hope that we inspired the community to keep this conversation going in the future.

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Burgundy in the News: Dogs on Campus

Friday, March 2, 2018

KQED Burgundy is featured in a recent story from MindShift, an educational reporting project from public radio station KQED. The story highlights the shift toward dog-friendly school campuses and employing both official and unofficial “comfort dogs.” For the story, a reporter spoke with Head of School Jeff Sindler, 8th grader Max S., and 1st grade Goats student Maggie H. about Jeff’s dog Cameron and their experience with dogs on campus.

Read the Story

Dogs on Campus at Burgundy

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