Churchville-Chili Central School District

Students working together to make things grow

Aided by volunteer sixth-grade gardeners from the Churchville-Chili Middle School, first-graders at Chestnut Ridge Elementary prepared themselves for a big role in the future of the district’s community garden. They learned about the importance of bees and pollination, and the older students taught them about vertical gardening and seed starting. Visiting community experts shared their knowledge about composting and the busy red worms that make the rich fertilizer to help plants grow. Then the elementary school students got started, setting up a vermicomposting system that will deliver much-needed nutrients to the district garden.

The Garden of the Saints began with an idea from Middle School students and has since become a district-wide opportunity for learning involving all ages. Lessons have included chemistry and soil testing, geometry and carpentry, seeds and genetics, watering systems and nutrition.


Related Churchville-Chili Central School District News Stories

  • Bringing the world to the classroom Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Bringing the world to the classroom

    Chicago-based composer James Stephenson was excited about working with members of the Churchville-Chili Senior High School band as they rehearsed his piece “Deep Dish.” Thanks to several cameras and a live Skype connection, he was able to see and listen to the performance, and offer a creator’s critique and guidance. Afterwards, he met students and opened the floor to questions: about the piece, about being a professional musician and composer, and about finding career opportunities in the music field. 

    The district’s Fine Arts Department invites several visiting musical artists and composers to the school every year, said Director Jeff Smith. “We’ve hosted people like clarinet soloist Julian Bliss, flutist Christopher Chaffee, Garth Fagan dancers, conductor Charles Van Buren and musicians from the Count Basie Orchestra. This is our first virtual visit by a composer, however. Experiences like these help students understand the creative process and can shape their own ability to find meaning and joy in the arts.” 

  • Student-directed learning Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Student-directed learning

    The fourth-grade teachers at Fairbanks Road Elementary School (FRS) stood aside and welcomed a group of special guest instructors—sixth-grade composting experts from the Middle School. Their classrooms quickly became buzzing centers of learning. FRS students broke up into small groups, each led by a team of older student educators who shared research and facts about how we can all reduce waste and improve soil by making compost.

    Each collaborative middle school team chose a different approach to explaining what composting is and the benefits of doing it. They created skits, videos, posters or digital presentations that demonstrated different aspects of composting.

    The project was the brainchild of middle school science teachers Julie Irvine and Maria Straight. “Our kiddos are extremely proud of the work they’ve done in this unit,” said Irvine. “It’s been structured as a Project Based Learning (PBL) experience, giving students an end educational goal, but letting  them set out on their own and choose their own creative ways to get there.”  

    “To come here today and share what they learned with younger students was the ultimate reward for all their hard work. They were really honored to be role models for the FRS kids.”

  • Helping others Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Helping others

    Students at Churchville Elementary School (CES) celebrated their community’s generosity and their own hard work as they ended the 2017-18 Hoops for Heart fund drive with a record-setting total raised of well over $21,000. This pushes the school’s 17-year contributions to the American Heart Association to more than $100,000.

    “Last year, the Churchville community supported our kids by giving the largest amount we’d ever raised,” said program coordinator and physical education teacher Brooke Elnicky. “Students were determined to surpass that record. They did an amazing job.”

    Principal Dave Johnson said, “While all of our students get involved in the heart-healthy activities and learn about citizenship and caring for others, it’s astounding that kids from all grade levels were active fundraisers, many raising $300 or more each. One of our classes had an 86% participation rate. These are kids who care.”

  • Excellence in robotics Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Excellence in robotics

    After an exciting first place showing at the Central New York FIRST Robotics competition at SUNY Polytechnic, Churchville-Chili’s Team 340 topped the field again at the 2018 Finger Lakes Regional at RIT. The 25-member team are headed to the world championship in Detroit.

    The team’s director, teacher Jason Rees, said, “Our team members plan ahead. They analyze the game, build on what they know and emphasize their strengths. We also owe a lot to our mentors: engineering students from RIT, and family members with and without engineering backgrounds. Together, we’ve made it to the world championships in all but two of the last 19 years.”

  • Art rules! Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Art rules!

    For the first time in recent years, each elementary school – Fairbanks Road, Chestnut Ridge and Churchville Elementary – hosted their own spectacular art opening celebrations, and featured student work from grades K-4 throughout the school.

    Work ranged from hand-made ceramics and paper sculpture to printmaking, with students exploring themes like repetition and movement; light, space and perspective. At Chestnut Ridge Elementary, kindergarteners created self-portraits in the style of Paul Klee, and third-graders borrowed from Paul Cézanne to craft still life paintings of fruit.

    “We are privileged to have exceptional art teachers who can open children’s eyes to the power of art,” said Fine Arts Director Jeffrey Smith. “They are not only fostering artistic talent, they are encouraging patterns of creative thinking that will help our students throughout their lives, regardless of where their talents may lie.”

  • Follow your dreams Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Follow your dreams

    Students at Churchville-Chili Elementary School had a once in a lifetime opportunity to get personally involved in the Alaskan Iditarod. CES Principal Dave Johnson, literacy teacher Betsy Pereira, and a committee of teachers and staff members planned the ultimate school-wide educational adventure. Pereira’s son, Brockport native Noah Pereira, ran his second Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 2018, and the school got a taste of the excitement.

    Many of the school’s teachers adjusted their lessons to make connections. From math and science, to language arts, technology and social studies, required curriculum tied into the real-life competition.

    “This really engages kids and shows them how the concepts they are learning in school relate to what Noah is doing in Alaska,” said Johnson. “They can write him letters, or explore things like GPS, mileage and area covered, weather or environmental issues and Alaskan wildlife. We have an Idita-READ program where kids can wear special headlamps to read in the dark.”

    Betsy Pereira said her son is happy to share his passion with students who are so much like he was when he first began. “He is following his dream,” she said. “It’s important that all our kids know they can do that.”

  • Escape from the ordinary Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Escape from the ordinary

    The determined Churchville Elementary School second-graders weren’t going to let any sneaky leprechaun get the better of them. They wanted the hidden treasure in the magical box. In order to open the locked box, they had to decipher a series of clues in the form of tricky math problems. They couldn’t wait to get started.

    A fun math class? Filled with young learners excited about working together to solve math problems? What’s going on here?

    “We’re using the concept of escape rooms to make learning more dynamic,” said Churchville-Chili Instructional Coach Andrea Lynch. “Our district teachers are adapting the model to be used at all grade levels and for all subjects.”

    “Students learn how to collaborate,” said Lynch. “They have to, in order to accomplish the objective within the time limit. It’s fascinating to see them become a cohesive team, focused on a goal. They take responsibility for their own learning. They use each other’s strengths, respect their differences, and help each other along.”

    As the math problems were solved, one after the other, team members grew in confidence. The experience was giving them much more than a mastery of math.

    “That’s the point,” said Lynch. “Yes, we’re teaching required math skills in a way that is fun, meaningful, memorable and student-driven. But we’re also helping students build critical life skills: problem solving, creative thinking, collaboration and teamwork.”

  • Exploring solar and renewable energy Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Exploring solar and renewable energy

    Fifth- and sixth-graders at Churchville-Chili Middle School welcomed professionals from a number of local businesses and organizations that are deeply involved in increasing sustainability in our energy sources. Volunteer experts on hand included Rachael Larson, a community solar catalyst from SunCommon, Kaeti Stoess of Delta Environmental Products, RGE’s Justin Rowley, Susan Clarke from the University of Buffalo, and their own energy expert, technology teacher Brian Young. They offered hands-on experiments, demonstrations and discussion of sustainability, solar energy, hydroelectricity, water testing and saving energy with different kinds of lightbulbs.

    The popular Career Connections program gives students the opportunity to meet and learn from experts in a variety of fields, including advanced manufacturing, robotics and the arts. The program would not be possible without the help of community volunteer experts, who support the future of their industries and of our children with their time and expertise.

  • Together and committed to celebrating life Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Together and committed to celebrating life

    Students at Churchville-Chili High School take Red Ribbon Week seriously, but they still know how to have fun. School sports teams, student groups, health classes, teachers and hundreds of students wore red in support of the national Red Ribbon Campaign that promotes a drug-free life. Hundreds of students joined together for what is now a traditional group photo to demonstrate their commitment to the goal.

  • Critical thinkers and problem solvers lead Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Critical thinkers and problem solvers lead

    For almost 20 years, students at Churchville-Chili High School have had the opportunity to participate in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a unique technology program that empowers them with life skills necessary for success in any career. Targeted towards young people with an interest in math and science, the program offers college-level course work in Design for Production, Principles of Engineering, Digital Electronics, Civil Engineering and Architecture, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, and Engineering Design and Development. Students can choose single interest courses or commit to the five-course program, working towards earning transferable college credit at Monroe Community College or the Rochester Institute of Technology.

    Beginning in ninth-grade, students are tasked with exploring and solving real engineering challenges and developing skills in research, creative problem solving, analysis, evaluation, and hands-on construction. Almost 90 freshmen a year take at least one course; about 30 seniors annually graduate having completed all five. Over the years, the school has seen increased participation among young women—now averaging 25-33 percent of PLTW students.

    The school’s support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-related activities extends far beyond school hours. Its extracurricular FIRST Robotics Team was started in 2000, and has qualified for international competition in all but two years since then. The majority of the 35 or so team members are also involved in PLTW. FIRST Robotics allows students to delve deeply into the design process and use equipment and technology tools most students would not encounter until well into their college careers.

  • The power of wishes and hope Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - The power of wishes and hope

    If you had walked into Churchville-Chili Middle School library earlier this year, you would have seen a symbol of the power we have to make a difference: a student “wishtree.” A wishtree is a special tree that watches over a neighborhood. It cares for its people, who tie their wishes to its branches. At least that is what happens in a new book by author Katherine Applegate.

    To celebrate the release of “Wishtree,” and in anticipation of a great new reading experience, students wrote their own wishes on paper leaves and added them to their special tree. In the spirit of helping to transform their community, they added a food drive to benefit Foodlink NY. School Media Specialist Becky Leathersich said, “The kids were adding wishes the minute the tree went up,” she said. “Some of the wishes are sweet and serious, others funny. But all were full of hope.”

    “The library really belongs to the students,” said Leathersich. “They’re continuing to make it their space with an Adopt-a-Shelf program: Volunteers straighten up and care for a specific shelf. Their shelf will be labeled with their name to honor them for taking ownership.” 

  • Together with the community Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Together with the community

    Hundreds of students, families and community members come out to Celebrate Churchville-Chili in September. The annual event brings everyone together for family-friendly activities and giveaways. School principals and representatives from school programs and volunteer groups share information and enjoy meeting parents and neighbors in a casual atmosphere. Many local businesses and services, along with the fire department, also participate in the evening of fun. The 2017-18 Celebrate featured, for the first time, a variety of great food trucks, which raised money for the high school’s Robotics Team 3

  • Link Crew welcomes freshmen Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Link Crew welcomes freshmen

    More than 320 anxious freshmen entered the high school gym, but by the end of a morning of breaking-the-ice games and getting-to-know-you exercises, a united, confident Churchville-Chili Class of 2021 exited.

    Actually, class members might be forgiven if they were still just a little nervous—after all, entering high school is a really big transition. But, thanks to the Link Crew, a group of volunteer juniors and seniors, these students all began their entry into high school life with new friends and a positive attitude.

    Link Crew members volunteered for the job last spring, trained together over the summer and directed the orientation event. They even planned special break-out activities for their individual groups of newbies to help them get comfortable. They will stay involved as mentors through the year. Their goal is to encourage younger students to find their passions and connect with others who share their interests. They hope that 75 percent or more of these freshmen will truly become Saints, taking part in the high school’s vibrant sports, music or art scenes, or the many groups and clubs. 

  • Helping kids think like scientists Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Helping kids think like scientists

    There is great power in being able to figure things out for yourself. Sparked by natural curiosity and fueled by the spirit of inquiry, young people grow in confidence when they realize they are capable of finding their own answers. The educators at Churchville-Chili schools are determined to give students the skills they need to be successful problem solvers throughout their lives and careers.

    The district has begun implementation of the New York State Science Learning Standards, which emphasize scientific methods and practices; world concepts that cross into other disciplines, like social studies or math; and disciplinary core ideas, like physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering.

    “The core science content hasn’t changed much,” said middle school science teacher Diane Sudz. “We’re teaching the same concepts. The difference is HOW the approach is being reframed. Kids will learn to think and communicate like scientists. They will have the power to explore science and form evidence-based conclusions— independently.” 

  • Saints are kind, caring and responsible Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Saints are kind, caring and responsible

    Fifth-graders ease into their first year at Churchville-Chili Middle School with a full day of orientation designed to prepare them for a successful transition. Every House plans unique events throughout the day, culminating in an Ice Cream Social for the entire class. Almost 300 students get the chance to meet each other and enjoy a cool treat.

    Each student also receives their own Saints Pride t-shirt, with the hope that they will wear the orange proudly and become true Saints.

    “The kids are off to a great start,” said Executive Principal Carl Christensen. “Many came in before school started to set up their lockers and take a tour of their classes. These first day activities give them confidence and make them feel like they are part of something bigger—important members of their separate Houses, and together, as the Class of 2025.” 

  • Musical opportunity, accolades and tradition Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Musical opportunity, accolades and tradition

    Opportunity abounds for vocalists at Churchville-Chili High School, where three curricular ensembles and three afterschool groups are offered. Nearly 150 students take part in the vocal ensembles annually. It’s about more than the music: Students challenge themselves individually, learning life skills and working collaboratively towards a singular purpose.

    Dozens of vocalists participate in solos for honors ensembles at the county, regional, state and national levels each year. “We’ve competed in the majors of The New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) for many years,” said Director Erik Reinhart, “winning the highest honor—Gold with Distinction—four times since 2010.”  

    The district has a long tradition of support for the vocal program. Concert Choir recently received formal concert attire for performances, and they will soon release a CD of live performances. All vocal department members can travel together on an annual trip: In 2016-17, the group sang at the Statue of Liberty in New York City. The school hosts an invitational Choral Honors concert that brings adult and community groups together with local high school groups at the school’s performing arts center, the C-C PAC. This chance to make connections and perform professionally with accomplished vocalists in a world-class venue gives students a unique and memorable experience.

  • Creating welcoming habitat in the hallways Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Creating welcoming habitat in the hallways

    Studying animal adaptations and life cycles has never been as challenging, or as fun, as it was for second-graders at Fairbanks Road Elementary School.

    Students were visited by an expert from the Department of Environmental Conservation, took a virtual fieldtrip to Yellowstone National Park and spoke with a park ranger. They asked questions, researched, created natural environments in the halls, and presented their findings and conclusions on several regional animal species, including black bears, foxes, beavers and caribou.

    The immersive educational experience is part of the district’s Project Based Learning (PBL) philosophy. Students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate an authentic, engaging and complex question. Projects combine a variety of educational disciplines, from math and science to reading, writing and art. 

  • Student-led recognition of Black History Month Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Student-led recognition of Black History Month

    The school’s annual Black History Month was very different this year. The 13 student members of the district’s Dignity for All Students Act (DASA) committee were empowered to plan and coordinate the many daily events. They decided to focus on the people, music and events, from the 1950s through today, which changed American culture. They researched influential African Americans from the Rochester area and shared their stories, along with important musical selections, with the student body every week. They also tabulated results from an earlier DASA Survey on Race and Culture, which were presented during a final school-wide assembly. 

    The assembly’s guest speaker was Rochester Police Department Officer Moses Robinson. Committee members invited him to talk about becoming “the change you want to see.” Following Robinson’s presentation, a fashion show highlighting the influence black culture has had on fashion since the 1950s took the stage. Local designer Sheila Vaughn coordinated the show and selected the outfits for each decade.

  • Supporting unity through sport Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Supporting unity through sport

    This is the third year Churchville-Chili has fielded a Unified Basketball team, and enthusiasm continues to grow. More than 30 C-C students participated in last year’s program: a mix of athletes with disabilities, supportive partners and student advocates.

    “All barriers come down on the court. You can no longer tell who has disabilities and who doesn’t. It just destroys any stereotype of ‘being disabled,’” said supportive partner Rebecca Czolgosz.

    “No matter how stressful the day, it’s impossible to be in a bad mood when you are involved with Unified,” said partner Dana Damiani. “We’re all just as happy, no matter who wins. The athletes have such great attitudes. I’ve learned so much from them.”

    Partner Kate Wilson said, “Other sports can be intense and stressful. Students and athletes sometimes focus on getting playing time or making the other team feel bad about losing. Here fans cheer for everyone, everyone is a winner.” Wilson has been so inspired by her experience with Unified that she plans to become a special education teacher. 

  • Together and committed to celebrating life Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Together and committed to celebrating life

    Students at Churchville-Chili High School take Red Ribbon Week seriously, but they still know how to have fun. School sports teams, student groups, health classes, teachers and hundreds of students decorated the halls with posters and wore red in support of the national Red Ribbon Campaign that promotes a drug-free life. 

    More than 440 students joined together for this photo to demonstrate their commitment to the goal by forming the letters YOLO: you only live once. 

  • Exceptional teaching recognized Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Exceptional teaching recognized

    Fairbanks Road Elementary School student Domenic Longwell kept seeing other area teachers honored on television with News 8 WROC’s Golden Apple Award, said his mother Jen Longwell. “He thought his second-grade teacher was the best and deserved recognition, too. He didn’t let it go—he was absolutely determined to nominate her for the award.” Last November, Domenic joined his mom and the crew from WROC in a surprise visit to Kelly Bellamy’s classroom to present her with the Golden Apple Award.

    When asked what makes his favorite teacher so special, Domenic said, “Everything.” He explained that Bellamy likes to sing and helps lighten the mood around test times with jokes and funny songs. “She would just be the best teacher probably ever in the world.”

    “I love what I do every day,” said Bellamy. “I love kids, I love people, I love making a difference. Every single kid needs a cheerleader in their life, and if that’s me and they can take that with them, it makes it worth it to me.” [Caption: Golden Apple Award recipient Kelly Bellamy thanks student Domenic Longwell.]

  • On the air at the Middle School Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - On the air at the Middle School

    Every morning around 7 a.m., a small group of seventh-and-eighth-graders gets to work producing Churchville-Chili Middle School’s video announcements. These early birds are members of the Video Club. Group members are learning all aspects of television broadcasting; acting in turn as journalist, director, camera operator, lighting and sound techs, video switcher, video editor or teleprompter operator.

    Students are creating dynamic digital graphics, planning and presenting the content, controlling the shoot and editing the video, with minimal guidance from an instructor. They have even produced short public service announcements written and performed by other classes. Students at the school are encouraged to try new things, and the Video Club has been a great success, allowing kids to explore their interests and investigate exciting career paths. 

  • Never too early to explore and question Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Never too early to explore and question

    Scientific method might seem a little advanced for first grade, but students at Churchville-Chili’s Chestnut Ridge School are up to the challenge. They proved it last fall when these young scientists carefully observed, explored and gathered information from dozens of brave little pumpkins that were offered up to the great cause of learning.

    Classes broke up into small groups, each guided by a volunteer parent or community member. Each group asked questions about their pumpkin—would it sink or float in water; what could they observe about it with their five senses; how many seeds were inside it. They each made initial hypotheses and then went through the process of experimentation to find answers. 

  • Exceling in sports, academics and character Continue Reading »

    Churchville-Chili Central School District - Exceling in sports, academics and character

    The latest in a long line of outstanding Churchville-Chili athletes received athletic scholarships this year to their chosen colleges. Cross Country/Track champion Anna Kostarellis is headed to Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Katie Cosgrove will join the lacrosse team at North Carolina’s Duke University. Nina Orlowski will play lacrosse for Le Moyne University in Syracuse, New York.

    They are great representatives for the balanced, supportive sports program at Churchville-Chili, where character is valued as highly as athletic ability. All are exceptional students and strong role models for their peers. Kostarellis has been a member of the Saints Varsity Cross Country, Indoor Track and Outdoor Track and Field teams throughout high school. She currently holds or has broken 21 school records. A member of the school’s National Honor Society, she excels in academics as well as sports. Cosgrove is a four-time all-Monroe County first-team pick and repeat AGR selection for lacrosse, and is an outstanding soccer player. With 170 career goals and 229 career points, Cosgrove has an excellent chance to become the school’s all-time leader in both categories this spring. Lacrosse midfield defender Orlowski’s flexibility as a player has been key to the Saints’ success. Last year, Orlowski played multiple positions and exceled at all while doing whatever was best for her team. 


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