School News

dsc07815Students, faculty, and parents enjoyed the annual Spring Band Concert in the Hill House this afternoon. This collaborative concert brings together middle school musicians from across Aquidneck Island. In addition to our own “A Band”, students from Portsmouth Middle School and the Pennfield School also performed.

dsc07752Onne Van der Wal visited the eighth grade today to share his fascinating experience living in a divided South Africa during Apartheid. Loaded with images to help him tell the story of a country that had lost its way, he wove into the tale of a government gone bad, tales of his own youth, when the sense that something had gone terribly wrong was reinforced by the increasingly difficult situation that South Africans found themselves as they tried to participate in world events.  He explained the many ways in which separation was forced on people, while explaining the fear of losing power that motivated the country’s racist government. Drawing attention to his prized original campaign poster of Nelson Mandela, he also described how Mandela’s amazing speaking skills, emphasis on reconciliation, and rejection of vengeance underscored his drive for “one man, one vote.” Onne’s story was wonderfully told and surely hit home with the students as they prepare for their Apartheid puppet shows, which will take place next week.

sms_fakesandforgeriesphotoResearch, planning, and creativity came together at St. Michael’s annual fifth grade “Fakes & Forgeries” exhibition May 6-8. Thirty entries were on display in the Rose Canepari Library for students, faculty, parents, and guests from the local art community. This cross-curricular project, which involves math, art, technology, language arts, and history, began in February in Claire Stieff and Lauren Hutchinson’s classrooms. After learning about a number of different painters and genres, each student chose an artist to research further, and selected one of their works to “forge” for the exhibition. In addition, each wrote a paper and created an informative brochure on their artist to accompany their painting. Lisa Goddard, Executive Director of the Newport Art Museum, local artist Peter Hussey, and local photographer Eric Hovermale attended the show and spoke with each young artist to learn about his/her creative process, as well as shared their professional opinions on the students’ work.

dsc07699Goddard commended the fifth graders for their efforts. “You learned how to take a large project and break it into smaller parts to make it easier to accomplish. Your creativity and innovative thinking allowed you to conquer the use of a difficult medium – cray pas. “ She noted that all three judges have attempted use cray pas in their own work and weren’t nearly as successful as the young artists. The guest judges selected Ethan
Leviss’s rendition of a Wassily Kandinsky painting as best in show. They were impressed with his skill in duplicating the difficult abstract piece. Tate Michelson’s Paul Cezanne forgery and Zoe Petrovas’s copy of another Kandinsky piece earned them second and third place, while Hayden Weinreb’s and Roan Iribarren received Honorable Mentions for their interpretations of works by Keith Haring and Edgar Hunt. In the People’s Choice category, determined by the votes of students and faculty, Hayden Weinreb and Roan Iribarren tied for first place. Griffin Spinney and Trinity DiNunzio placed second and third respectively for their take on works by Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe.

View the Fakes & Forgeries photo gallery here

20130501_salerno_uri_ghandiessayawards_frame0064-editEighth grade student Alex Supron was crowned the State Champ in the Ghandi Essay Contest sponsored by the Nonviolence and Peace Center at URI. Second place was a tie between Alex’s classmates, Victoria Boatwright and Mary Ann Rompf.

There were 88 entries from 17 schools across Rhode Island. Contest participants were tasked with explaining what they thought Mahatma Gandhi meant by his quote “Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love and ahimsa. The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” They also had to discuss how they thought this saying has meaning for our world today. Finally, they were required to share examples of what they have done, or could do, to make the world a better place by practicing Gandhi’s philosophy of service through love and nonviolence.

Eighth graders Andrew LoPresti, D.D. Irvine, Lydia Beal, and Aubrianna Majewski were also named finalists in the annual contest.

Here is a copy of Alex’s winning essay!

“Service is not possible unless it is rooted in love and ahimsa.  The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”  This was a tenet of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest leaders in history.  Gandhi believed that by living a life focused beyond your own personal needs you are able to better serve humanity and make the world a better place.

He was not alone in these beliefs.  Many great leaders throughout history have touted the importance of serving others.  Confucius said:  “He who wishes to secure the good of others, has already secured his own”.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was greatly inspired by Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence and belief in the importance and satisfaction of serving.  He felt that if the world were to change it would take the efforts of many:  “Everybody can be great because anybody can serve.”

Never has this philosophy been more relevant than today.  With the weakening of the global economy, the need for help is greater than ever.  There are many people without jobs, children who are hungry, and people without medical services or the basic things needed to get by in life.  In order for the world to be in better balance these needs have to be met.  It is our duty as a society to help others.  As individuals we can each do this in our own way, and hope that our actions ripple out and encourage others to do the same.

Serving others can start at the smallest level.  An action as simple as donating your outgrown clothes or unused toys demonstrates an act of compassion. That action becomes even more powerful when people work together.  At St. Michael’s, we often hold food drives and fundraisers, and collect donations benefiting local charities.  Gandhi believed that as you serve others, not only do you serve yourself, but you come to learn more about yourself and how your deeds can change a life.  When asked by a friend if his objective to serve was purely humanitarian, Gandhi replied:  “I am here to serve no one else but myself, to find my own self-realization through the service of these village folk.”  He realized that helping others doesn’t always start altruistically.  I experienced this personally. Our school requires us to put in 20 hours of community service during the summer after seventh grade. I chose to perform my service at the Community Farm in Jamestown. At first, I wasn’t enamored with the idea of digging in the dirt, planting seeds or weeding the long beds. But as I spent time there, I realized how much I was helping others through my efforts.  I began to look forward to the days I was working there alongside people from my community, and I continued working at the farm long after my community service hours had been met.  It was very rewarding to see that by working together we were able to grow 16,000 pounds of vegetables, which fed hundreds of people.  What started out as something I resisted became something that gave me great internal satisfaction.  I learned that through my little efforts I could help make others’ lives easier.

The idea of serving can work on a grander scale as well.  Gandhi encouraged people to “recall the face of the poorest and weakest man whom you have seen and ask yourself if the next step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him.”  We must understand the real needs of others and put our efforts into things that really help them. A friend of our family went to Ghana on a small project to help children learn to read.  Her mother was so moved by her daughter’s stories that she put together a plan to build the area’s first library. She secured book donations and free freight on book shipments to make this happen. More family members got involved.  One of them has started an organization in Ghana to help women make and sell their own jewelry, so that they can achieve financial independence.  The grandfather, a professor at Providence College, learned of the sanitation crisis in Ghana and developed an inexpensive stand-alone toilet stall that uses very little water and can be purchased by individuals or shared by a village.  The project won a grant from the Gates Foundation, which will enable him to produce more toilets for Ghana.  This one family has improved the lives of many through their efforts.

A good deed can ripple out in many ways; not only through its effect on those being served, but by encouraging others to serve.  I believe that if people were to live by Gandhi’s ideals the world would be a better place.

Join our panel of experts on Wednesday, May 15th as they discuss the role arts education plays in the future success of children entering a 21st century workplace. The panel will include:

Babette Allina – Director of Government Relations, STEM to STEAM advocacy, RISD

David Beauchesne – Executive Director of the RI Philharmonic

Tony Estrella – Artistic Director of the Gamm Theatre

Lisa Goddard – Executive Director of the Newport Art Museum

The presentation will begin at 6pm. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. Please call 401-849-5970 ext. 300.

dsc07542Victoria Leonard, a member of the St. Michael’s class of 2007, will be traveling to Ghana this summer to assist a village in creating a clean water system. On Friday, she took time to share her story with the fourth grade, who recently wrapped up a unit of study on Africa. After her presentation, the students announced that a portion of the money collected from their recent fundraising efforts would be donated towards Victoria’s cause, Community Water Solutions. To learn more about her work, or to donate, please visit

dsc07391Alice Eichenbaum wasn’t much older than her eighth grade audience when her world was turned upside down. A survivor of the Holocaust, Mrs. Eichenbaum was on hand to share her experiences as well as those of her late husband, Ray. Her family lost their home, business, and much of their personal belongings when they were relocated from their town in Bulgaria. They spent many nights going to bed hungry, not knowing what the next day would bring. Mrs. Eichenbaum was quick to say that they were the lucky ones, however. Her husband was separated from his family and sent to the children’s prison camp at Auschwitz.

dsc07377At the conclusion of her presentation, one student asked how difficult it was for her to relive the memories. She responded, “It’s tough, but important. It’s important that you met me. When someone says the Holocaust is a myth, you know that’s not true. You met somebody who survived it.”

dsc07359St. Michael’s, along with the Rhode Island Geography Alliance, brought a unique educational opportunity to students last week. A giant (26′x35′) traveling map of South America, on loan from the National Geographic Society, made a stop at the Hill House where children in kindergarten through grade 8 spent time engaging in a wide variety of activities. Scavenger hunts, relay races, and a particularly entertaining game of “Simon Says” conducted in French and Spanish, were all a part of the fun and learning.