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September 11, 2019

By Julia Sonenshein, Assistant Director of Communications, Marketing

Both of ECFS’ campuses are once again buzzing with life: Pre-K students take their first confident — or not so confident — steps at their new schools, Fieldston Middle Schoolers embrace after a long summer, and seniors make themselves at home on the Senior Grass. But before ECFS fully moves into fall, we spoke to families, faculty, and administrators to get a glimpse of what our community was up to over the break.

For Fieldston Middle School Principal Chia-Chee Chiu, summer break included a dream experience: a visit to Acadia National Park in Maine. Chiu loves the outdoors, especially the “rejuvenating energy that comes from being fully immersed in nature,” she says.

How you start and end the day can make all the difference: sometimes what’s in the middle gets forgotten while the bookends leave a mark in your memory. For Chiu, a day spent outside at sunrise and sunset gave her new perspective. Chiu watched the sun rise from the top of Cadillac Mountain — the highest point on the North Atlantic seaboard, which, for parts of the year, is the first point on the North Atlantic coast to see the sun.

The sunset over Acadia National Park in Maine.
The sunset over Acadia National Park in Maine.

At the end of the day, Chiu joined a sunset kayak tour, where she saw seals and even an eaglet taking its first flight. “To see the sun rise and set on the same day provided me with a wonderful space to reflect on the last school year, and also gave me a new perspective of the larger purpose of the work I do as an educator,” she says. “It was a deeply relaxing trip and a great reminder of what is important in life.”

Meanwhile, across an ocean, an Ethical Culture family’s summer vacation became a perfect opportunity to strengthen a longstanding relationship between Ethical Culture and Lerata Primary School in Kenya. The partnership allows each group of students to expand their worldviews, finding key differences and commonalities with their peers halfway around the world. Ethical Culture teachers also visit Lerata, and the School hosts a walkathon to benefit Lerata’s needs.

Matthew and Kimberly Cantor took their family on what Kimberly calls a “bucket list trip” to Kenya this summer, and it was Charlotte ’28 who requested that they visit Lerata. Thinking about what would make a meaningful gift, the Cantors brought books about United States national parks; Washington, D.C.; and New York City — much to the delight of the Lerata students.

And then there were the quilts. Dormitories at Lareta get cold at night, and as part of the two schools’ partnership, Ethical Culture 1st Graders handcraft quilts for Lerata students. The Cantors packed up 34 quilts, weighing in at 80 pounds and stretching their airline’s baggage limit.

Students at the Lerata School pose with their quilts made by Ethical Culture students.
Students at the Lerata School pose with their quilts made by Ethical Culture students.

The community around Lerata welcomed the Cantors with dance performances, both from the students and from a group of Samburu mothers. The children also gifted the Cantors handmade bracelets and necklaces. The relationship between Ethical Culture and Lerata was on full display — in the exchange of gifts; in new facilities built in partnership; and in the posters, made by Ethical Culture students, that were hung on the walls. “You walk in and you see Ethical Culture’s presence there, and it’s clearly a loving presence,” Kimberly says.

A continent away, Rome — baking in the mid-July heat — played host to two ECFS athletes: Carl Anhalt, Form V Dean and Fieldston Upper School Math Teacher, and Shelley Keeling, Cross Country, Indoor Track, and Outdoor Track Coach. The pair ventured to Italy to take part in the 2019 Eurogames, a multisport festival for the LGBTQ+ community and allies. 

Anhalt and Keeling both saw success at the Games — Keeling competed in multiple track events, picking up medals along the way, while Anhalt joined a water polo team from Copenhagen that finished 4th overall. “Considering much of the team is new to the sport and had a great time playing, I would say we did exceptionally well,” Anhalt says.

Shelley Keeling and Carl Anhalt carry the American flag at the opening of the Eurogames 2019.
Shelley Keeling and Carl Anhalt carry the American flag at the opening of the Eurogames 2019.

Along with others representing the US, Keeling and Anhalt carried the American flag at the opening celebration. “It was an honor to represent Team USA in the Opening Ceremonies alongside Shelley and athletes from Hawaii and San Francisco,” Anhalt says, “and I made a lot of new friends from all over the world.”