Conservatory Lab Charter School named a School of Recognition by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Linked here; The Boston Globe reported that Conservatory Lab was one of sixty six Schools of Recognition “for demonstrating high achievement or strong growth under the state’s accountability system, which takes into account MCAS scores and other measures including chronic absenteeism and graduation rates.” (Boston Globe, September 19, 2023)

New Program, New Connections: Clubs After School

This fall, Conservatory Lab is excited to launch a robust arts and academic enrichment program thanks to a change in our schedule. We are building capacity over the next 24 months for the program with Conservatory Lab staff as well as external partners. We have called the program “Make, Move, and Jam,” because families have shown interest in opportunities for students to make with things like visual arts and technology, move with things like dance, intramural sports, and karate, and jam with things like poetry, music, and games.  You can find out more about the program and future plans on the school’s Clubs Page which will have up to date listings for every program cycle. This year we had a Fall cycle starting in October and plan to run clubs in Winter (January to March) and Spring (April to early June).    

Our first Upper School Club is called “Media Arts: Where are you going?” Students are producing photos, short slideshows, and visual art based on fieldwork in our neighborhood.  Walks have included a trip to the Lower School, the Dorchester North Burying Ground, some murals by local artists, and the future site of the Uphams Corner Library.  

Colgan Johnson, Conservatory Lab’s Building Substitute for the Upper School is always learning new things about photography even after several years behind the camera. He is also passionate about our students’ voices as artists.  On the first day of the club he said, “I know you all are one day going to be better than me at photography, or whatever art you choose. It’s going to take work and intention. That’s my goal.” José Santiago, our Art Teacher and Mr. Johnson shared their own media arts work with students the first week, before a walking trip over to the Lower School and Downer Avenue Playground. Both literally and figuratively students asked, “Where are we going?” as they captured interesting pictures of each other and our neighborhood.

On day two, back in the Art Room each student got their own sketchbook to record ideas with words and pictures, and make drawings during fieldwork. Mr. Santiago shared his passion for drawing, and explained to students how he uses a sketchbook as an artist to record ideas. Everyone focused on decorating the covers of their books.  The club is structured with one fieldwork day alternated by studio time to allow students to learn the technology behind creating images.  On our studio day, Thursday, students sort their photos on computers, write about what they learned and what they are still curious about in their journals, and create maps, short “stories” for Instagram, and movies which we will be sharing over the coming weeks.   

During the second week of Media Arts Club,  students captured bright sun and fall leaves during our fieldwork at the Dorchester North Burying Ground and met special guests Biplaw Rai and Kwase Kwaa. With their third partner, Nyacko Pearl Perry, they are starting a restaurant in the adjacent Comfort Station. “It used to be a place for people to stop when there was a street car that ran down Columbia Road. Kwase and I were looking for a location and after one site fell through, Historic Boston contacted us and asked if we would be interested,” said Rai. Historic Boston collaborates with the City of Boston to preserve important sites and create cultural programming. 

During the second week of Media Arts Club,  students captured bright sun and fall leaves during our fieldwork at the Dorchester North Burying Ground and met special guests Biplaw Rai and Kwase Kwaa. With their third partner, Nyacko Pearl Perry, they are starting a restaurant in the adjacent Comfort Station. “It used to be a place for people to stop when there was a street car that ran down Columbia Road. Kwase and I were looking for a location and after one site fell through, Historic Boston contacted us and asked if we would be interested,” said Rai. Historic Boston collaborates with the City of Boston to preserve important sites and create cultural programming. 

To help students understand the vision for their restaurant, Kwaa and Rai asked students to share their favorite foods, cooked by their families: Haitian Rice and Beans; Sofrito with rice from the DR; and Mofongo, also with rice, were some of the answers. “I noticed that a lot of your choices had rice in them,” said Rai, “That’s sort of what brought Kwase and I together. We are from different places, but rice is central to what we eat, and how we share in our communities.” 

Kwaa went on, “I’m from Ghana, and our dishes are very different from Biplaw’s family’s rice dishes in Nepal, but it inspired us to think about how many people from all over the world live right here, and what other kinds of connections we might find through food.” 

For the next fieldwork students took a walk from the School into Grove Hall to see murals by Marka 27 and Problak. Students took close up and far away photographs of the “Breathe Life” and used the “See, Think, Wonder” thinking routine from Project Zero to find meaning and highlight their curiosity. 

According to Mr. Johnson, after just a few weeks in the Media Arts Club “Students accepted challenges and critiques to improve their images, and practiced composing stories in the frame.”  He’s focused on giving them a sense of purpose and said, “They are still working on their intentions as they go through the creative process, but they are growing.”  We can’t wait to see where they are going, how about you? 

Republished from Conservatory Lab Charter School


From CLCS: Welcoming Students to our New Home

As students return in tiers to learn in our building, we are pausing to reflect on how welcoming the first group of students back into our new building during the pandemic raised spirits in January at Conservatory Lab Charter School. On the first day, students came in from their buses a few at a time, struck a pose for a celebratory photo to share with their family, and learned how to get to their classrooms accompanied by learning specialists, teachers, and staff.  

The first school bus pulls up, bringing a spark of yellow back to campus

Speaking to Assistant Principal Alvin Cooper as he waited for the food service to bring the meals, he reflected, “There are a lot of moving parts that had to happen at the same time, so we are excited. Once the food gets here, we’ll bring breakfast to students in their classrooms.”

Principal Nicole Mack pitches in by delivering breakfast to every classroom on the first day of Hybrid learning.

Teaching Assistant Sean Sullivan moved tables around in the Art Room, where middle school students will be participating in their class zooms while he supports them. Mr. Sullivan has been at Conservatory Lab for a few years, so he already has relationships with all of them.

He set expectations for each student as they arrived, “I’m happy to have you back in the classroom, and I want you to have your computers set up by 9:25 so you can join Crew on time this morning.” Being in a classroom with their peers and a dedicated TA like Mr. Sullivan, students will be able to socialize during breaks and get support throughout the day, making online engagement even better.  

A group of students walks up the Learning Stairs from lunch to class. 

While the routine remained the same for the first group of students who logged into their remote classes, Conservatory Lab has offered synchronous learning all day, except for independent reading and math work from the beginning.  Many schools have a substantial asynchronous complement, but school leaders and staff decided to make as much classroom time interactive as possible when we transitioned from Hybrid Orientation to Full Remote in October. 

Some students will also hop out of the classroom to work with specialists in person, as they would throughout a regular school day.  This will make many services like occupational therapy or counseling easier for students to take advantage of.  They will have more privacy and access to tools, manipulatives, and extra space as needed. 

Republished from Conservatory Lab Charter School

Learning Kits: How CLCS Responds to Remote Instruction

Remote instruction at Conservatory Lab is grounded in the understanding that positive learning experiences begin with strong relationships. The contents of our third round of learning kits reflect the evolution of our strategy from the rapid translation of existing content last spring to innovative ideas that keep students motivated as they learn from home. From hands-on science experiments to books that introduce powerful role models, these learning kits promise to inspire. 

Throughout December, students at the Upper School in grades 3-8 will have the opportunity to come to school to pick up their learning materials and exchange independent reading books after following health protocols including a temperature check and a quick survey. 

Families in grades 7 and 8 were also invited to check in with their homeroom teacher for abbreviated student-led conferences. All students at Conservatory Lab demonstrate leadership skills through this process. Every student establishes standards-aligned learning goals with their teacher using a rubric, and then celebrates progress and makes plans for improvement with their family. We prioritized holding this process in person for middle school students so that they have additional practice for their capstone projects this spring.  

Teachers and specialists arranged kits on tables in the four corners of the gymnasium into math, humanities, science, and music for an easy pick-up. “Although we always use technology to support what students learn in science, the labor of putting together lab kits with all the physical materials to do experiments at home was worth it,” said science specialist Elizabeth Schibuk who went on to emphasize, “A big goal embedded in the Next Generation Science Standards is learning about scientific processes. Getting hands-on experience helps students visualize themselves as scientists and engineers, making it easier for them to connect to new ideas.” 

Every school year, Humanities specialist Melissa Psallidas, who facilitated the professional development session earlier this fall on independent reading during remote learning creates bulletin boards and posters that build students’ relationship with reading. Last year, she started the tradition of a staff reading poster in the main stairwell. To re-create the connection between students and staff, Psallidas added wall-hangings where staff and students can share what they are reading to the pop-up library. 

With so much learning mediated by video conferences right now, time devoted to pages and not to screens is more important than ever. Students have a variety of fiction and non-fiction books to choose from, including a shelf dedicated books about Black and Latinx role models who have shaped science, art, and history. In this way, students build relationships not just with their teachers, but with the protagonists and role models they can meet and learn from within the pages of a book. 

Construction Resumes at Columbia Road

In addition to the direct capital impacts of the construction delays, the uncertainty surrounding facilities is also impacting Conservatory Lab Charter School’s programs, making it necessary for school leaders to plan for extended remote learning or a hybrid program to keep our families safe.

The school has purchased 40 new Chromebooks and is budgeting for at least 60 more, as well as hardware, software, and training for teachers. We also plan to make additional capital investments in broadband and distance learning tools at the new building, so that teachers have all the tools that they need in order to structure virtual learning routines and stay connected and engaged with our students.

To support Conservatory Lab Foundation as we meet these challenges you can contribute to the Capital Campaign or the General Fund. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a complete list of needs and opportunities.

Topping Off Ceremony at Columbia Road

Though an arctic chill came roaring into town on Wednesday, November 13, Principal Nicole Mack, Chief Operating Officer John Chistolini, and Chair of the Facilities Committee Gary Gut braced the cold air to celebrate as the final beam was raised atop Conservatory Lab Charter School’s permanent home on Columbia Road in Dorchester!

Architect Stephen Zuber from Arrowstreet took them on a tour of the site, including a stop where the grand learning stairs are taking shape. This will be one of several areas where students can gather to share music, celebrate accomplishments, and invite community members to join them, making us a true partner in the growing Uphams Corner Arts District.

This moment represents great joy for the school, which has endured the heartbreak and disruption of moving several times since its founding 20 years ago.

With fingers crossed for a season free of major snowstorms, construction should move fairly quickly from here. Occupancy is projected to be on or about July 20!

We continue to fundraise for the last $800,000 leg of the Campaign, funds that will outfit the building with essential features and equipment. The list includes warming ovens in the cafeteria, acoustical paneling in the ensemble rooms, and white boards in the classrooms. A detailed list is available upon request.

Contact Rick Tagliaferri, Director of the Capital Campaign
(617) 254-8904 x 108

Announcing Kitty Pell Day

On September 24, the board of Conservatory Lab raised a glass to toast its founding trustee Kitty Pell. For 20 years, Kitty has inspired friends, found resources, and tirelessly championed Conservatory Lab as a school for the nation.

Kitty Pell sat front and center while Martha Kleinman, Vice Chair of the board of trustees reads aloud the Mayoral Proclamation designating September 24 as &Kitty Pell Day to an audience of school leaders and founding board members hosted by Bob Grinberg and Debbie Lewis. Pictured from the back left: Tony Pell, Debbie Lewis, Deborah Smith, Linda Nathan, John Chistolini, Nicole Mack, Bob Grinberg, Diana Lam. Middle Rows: Pamela Seigle, Anne Snyder, Lynn Cetrulo, Ron Gwiazda, Kim Marshall, Curtis Warner. Front Row, Katherine Sloan, Kitty Pell. Reading: Martha Kleinman

The festivities included a serenade from a trio of eighth-grade students and readings of proclamations in recognition of Kitty’s service from both Governor Baker and Mayor Martin J. Walsh. Mayor Walsh declared September 24 to be Kitty Pell Day.

Kitty will continue to serve on the board of the Conservatory Lab Foundation and was newly elected as a Trustee Emerita by the Charter School

We are incredibly proud to honor Kitty, our visionary leader and beloved founder of Conservatory Lab, and thrilled that there is a day dedicated to celebrate how special she is.