With the first semester of Chelsea Academy well under way, we had an opportunity to witness an exciting new feature to Chelsea: the addition of grades K-3. They, along with the fourth and fifth graders, make up Chelsea's Lower School. The Lower School has taken up residence in the new building on Progress Drive, formerly Virginia International Academy.
Curious to see what the new lower-school students thought of their school, the journalism team took some time to ask them about their favorite parts of going to Chelsea.
Immersed in a new curriculum that ranges from Music with Mrs. Schuttloffel, to French with Mrs. Lagarde, the lower-school pupils found it hard to decide on their favorite classes. Some of their top choices included Art and English, as well as Geography with the legendary Mr. Selner. In Math, Mrs. Thomas helps all the younger grades, tutoring them in their weaker spots, and never forgetting to reward their hard work with candy prizes.
The Lower School students encounter the Catholic faith in Atrium class. Here, they have the opportunity to actively pray and learn about sacred traditions, exploring the parts of the Mass, liturgical seasons, parables, and much more through hands-on activities involving an array of materials and resources. Many of the lower-schoolers enjoy spending time in the atrium and have said it is “hands-down one of the best parts of the day.”
The variety of classes in the Lower School provided a solid foundation for these students as they prepare for Chelsea’s rigorous curriculum in the middle and upper school.
Outside of the classroom, the students enjoy participating in the school-wide House competitions and activities. These competitions not only boost school morale, but also give students a healthy competitive spirit and a sense of pride in their house and school. Most importantly, participating in the House System gives the lower-school students an opportunity to be with their Upper School peers and build new friendships.
Because of the smaller class sizes, students have an easier time getting to know everyone well. To quote third grader Felicity Shuttloffel, “My favorite part of Chelsea is making friends.” This unity is harder to replicate at a larger school and is at the core of the Chelsea experience.
Overall the Chelsea Lower School is off to a wonderful start! With dedicated teachers, a solid curriculum, and roots in faith, the Lower School, like the rest of Chelsea, guides students in becoming confident, well-rounded people.
This year Chelsea families hosted four exchange students, two hailing from France and two from China. The exchange program at Chelsea is not new; many students native to France, China, Germany, Spain, Mexico, and Brazil have traveled to study at Chelsea over the past decade. To highlight the benefits of this special Chelsea program, members of the journalism club interviewed Benoit, Jean, Dave, and Ryan to shed light on their respective experiences of the exchange program, and explain how they grew as persons intellectually and spiritually. Immersing themselves in the faith, academics, and friendships which Chelsea offers has allowed the foreign students to learn about America and themselves, making for an unforgettable experience that they recommend highly to all students considering the trip.
Benoit and Jean agree that they decided to apply for the program to practice their English, discover new things, and experience living in another country. Benoit said it is very important to him to learn and improve his English for future job opportunities, and to expand his understanding of world languages. Jean was hosted by the Lee family and Benoit by the Lagardes.
At school, the French students enjoy learning during shorter classes compared to those back home, only around 45 minutes instead of several hours. They have found that the classes are easy if you work hard and try your best. The boys love their classmates, the sophomores, and appreciate how welcomed speaking to the teachers and speaking in class is. Benoit says, “[the sophomores] have a very good atmosphere. There are few people as the classes are small, so everybody knows everybody.” They both enjoy history class the most, so much so that they take two history classes with Dr. Wheeler (well, mostly the reason)!
As for extracurriculars, the boys both participate in Chelsea’s Upper School Schola directed by Mrs. DeJak and take art from Mr. Wingate. Benoit and Jean are competing in a schoolwide chess tournament as well, pitting their chess skills against their American friends. The two play on Chelsea’s Varsity Rugby team, valiantly assisting the team through the addition of their top-notch French rugby skills, inspiring leadership and hardworking, competitive spirit. Benoit was even awarded the honor of Most Valuable Player at the Sports Banquet ending the spring rugby season. The aspect of having sports competitions with other schools is something that Jean and Benoit both enjoy immensely, but do not have in their school back home.
Hosted by the Lagarde family, Benoit has been able to visit Washington, DC, New Orleans, and Florida, which he says are not like French cities, but still very beautiful. Jean has spent his free time skiing with the Lees, a favorite of both boys. The annual Chelsea ski trip was an event to remember for them, one which they say should occur in France as well. The two love to do various activities with their host families, including pick-up sports and touring DC. Benoit says that the Lagardes’ cooking is excellent, as is New Zealand food that Jean has occasionally tried with the Lees. Chick-Fil-A, hamburgers, and Chinese food are also among the more interesting, but very tasty foods the French boys have eaten.
Our Chinese students, Dave and Ryan, have spent the past school year with Dr. Helen Wu and her husband, Mr. Lee Gung. They said they left China to improve their English, experience life outside of China, and take part in more athletics. With Dr. Wu, the boys enjoy gardening and fishing in the outdoors, and Mr. Lee’s delicious cooking- the boys’ favorite being barbeque. Other American foods Dave and Ryan like include Costco pepperoni pizza, Popeyes (over KFC!), and lobsters. The boys have also traveled to Orlando Disney World with their host family, and agree that roller coasters are both fun and scary.
At Chelsea, Dave and Ryan like their teachers, their 8th grade classmates, PE class, and math club with Dr. Wu. Ryan said the teamwork at Chelsea, whether in class, on a sports team, or in physical education, is one of his favorite aspects of the school. Dave said, with a smile, “[the 8th graders] are full of energy, and are a loud class.” The boys enjoy having lockers too, which they did not have back in China. The two had roles in the Middle School Play, “The Taming of the Shrew,” as well. Ryan has played on Chelsea’s soccer, basketball, and rugby teams, and Dave has played on the basketball and rugby teams. Though at first he was hesitant about playing sports, Dave now loves them. In fact, both Ryan and Dave have realized the importance and health benefits of participating in sports, and are so grateful for the opportunity to be more active in America. The boys think the education system at Chelsea is better than what they received back in China, and plan to continue at Chelsea through their senior year.
When asked what advice they would give to a student considering applying to the program, Benoit said, “It is a very good opportunity. Take what people give you and don’t compare it with France. Always say ‘Yes!’ if people ask you to do or try something.” Jean said, “Just try it even if you don’t know it!” Ryan encouraged students in China to come to Chelsea and play sports and participate in clubs, and Dave said, “Tell them to live with Mrs. Wu and Mr. Lee, and have barbeque all the time.” Spending a semester in America has enabled these students to experience life alongside Chelsea students, broaden their knowledge of culture, language, and customs, dive into Chelsea Academy’s liberal arts curriculum, and create life-long friendships. The foreign exchange program, according to Jean, Benoit, Ryan, and Dave, is worth it!
We are delighted to highlight Mr. Wingate, Chelsea Academy's renowned upper school art teacher. Mr.Wingate has been teaching at Chelsea since its founding in 2008. His class is beloved by all, and he is known for the time he spends working individually with his students. He encourages them to try new styles and find the beauty in expressing their nature through time, patience, and a few art supplies.
Growing up in Charlottesville, VA, Mr. Wingate had the opportunity to pursue his interest in art with extracurricular classes throughout his childhood. However, he abandoned his artistic career temporarily to attend the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD. While majoring in history, Mr. Wingate also managed to find time to play varsity football as quarterback. After graduating in 1988, he piloted F-14s on aircraft carriers throughout Europe and the Mediterranean for six years. On leaving the Navy, Wingate decided to follow his passion for art. In 1994 he moved to Boston to study with Paul Ingbretson. He spent five years with Ingbretson and then added two short stints with Charles Cecil in Florence, Italy. Both Ingbretson and Cecil studied under Ives Gammell, the teacher, writer, and painter who kept the traditional atelier method of painting instruction alive.
True natural realism was seemingly falling away into modernism, and to find it alive still in those teachers was a relief. Mr. Wingate studied under Ingbretson in Boston and went to Florence to work under Cecil. His first commission in 1999-2000 was to paint two little boys, the starting point of his prestigious career. Since then, he has painted many still-lifes, landscapes, and portraits, making for an impressive portfolio. His commissions have taken him around the world. He often paints for churches, including Saint John the Baptist in Front Royal, but he also paints portraits, landscapes, and still-lifes, as well as larger figurative works. Many distinguished awards came with his hard work, such as First Prize in the American Society of Portrait Artists (2000), Best Painting from Life Award of the National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society (2003), and various others.
As implied earlier, Mr. Wingate favors the traditional atelier method. This practice appeals to him because of the care put into the work and what comes of attentive training. The years of training required to become a master of realistic painting are well worth it. An example of opposition to the atelier method would be the majority of modern art, as Mr. Wingate says that “modern artists skip the training and focus on the expression.” The theory behind this statement is that the best way to express yourself is to express human nature as a whole. The arts are a way for mankind to illustrate its purpose, replicating God's image in his creation.
Mr. Wingate hopes that, through his art, he can create something beautiful that will last. He furthers this goal through his work for churches, as he has said that he hopes to improve the prayer life of others through the beautification of churches, creating for them a heavenly experience. Since it is human nature to express creation, he shows his perspective by saying, “painting is like a prayer.” In its beauty, art is in itself a praising of God. Thank you to Mr. Henry Wingate for educating our students to carry on that beauty through their own lives.
Welcome to a day in the life of a 4th & 5th-grade student at Chelsea Academy. They may be the youngest among our students, but they can be just as busy as some of the older kids! Having schedules jammed packed with learning, adventure, and fun, there is never a dull moment in their day. The following is a first-hand account of what it’s like to be a lower school student here at Chelsea.
Their day kicks off at 8:15, with everyone arriving and heading off to Convocation. Every morning, they assemble with the entirety of Chelsea Academy for prayer and the daily announcements. Following the pledge of allegiance, classes begin. The fourth grade is predominantly taught by the lovely Mrs. McShurley and the fifth grade by the wonderful Mrs. Zepeda. However, both grades congregate into Mrs. Zepeda's classroom for their combined classes; science, art, music, PE, and history.
Lower Schooler literature has included Carry On Mr. Bowditch, Jungle Book, Wind in the Willows, and many other classics. The 5th grade is loving their current reading, Snow Treasure, and will be making hand-made booklets to present this story to their class. In handwriting, the 4th grade has been enhancing their manuscript with cursive writing. Both grades learn grammar as well and have regular spelling and vocabulary bees.
Math, a difficult subject, is met with careful direction to make sure everyone thoroughly understands the material effectively and efficiently. Fractions and long division have already been conquered along with the memorization of the times tables. Of course, our future mathematicians take weekly quizzes but have encouragement through obtaining certificates for their knowledge of math facts. Mrs. Thomas gives rewards of candy to support those who might need a little extra time to grasp the challenging material.
During History class, both 4th and 5th graders have been studying American history, most recently through an assignment on the French and Indian War. Throughout last semester, students were able to present historical projects such as a model of Jamestown, presentations on the Mayflower, and periodically make posters and booklets to highlight key figures and events.
After History, the kids change their clothes and rush out to PE, which occurs almost every day. Going outside for forty-five minutes and playing dodgeball is unarguably the most popular part of the day for all students, but definitely more so from the Lower School perspective.
Students delve into the arts at least once a week, with art and music class. They are currently learning to draw faces from 1 and 2 point perspectives with Ms. Dugas, and are beginning to grasp the appreciation for artistic beauty at a young age. In music, under Mrs. Stockton’s direction, students have learned parts of the orchestra and how to use recorders. They plan to perform some time throughout the school year.
Every Friday, Ms. Libasci comes to the Lower School class to teach an introduction to Spanish. They have already learned the basic greetings, essential prayers, and how to count up to thirty. This weekly class is always looked forward to, as the beloved Ms. Libasci makes sure to keep it fun with games such as jeopardy to test their knowledge.
Jumping into Science class, they have studied many aspects of the weather such as wind speed/direction, temperature, different types of clouds, and their coverage, and even learned how to record contrast in air pressure with a homemade barometer. They have also gained some expertise in leaves and plant life, emphasizing this when going on nature walks. When they moved forward learning about planets, each student selected a planet and made a model to bring to school and present, though first fully researching all aspects of their choice.
Students finish off their day studying The Catholic Faith in Religion class. During this period, they have projects such as making 3D models of the Ten Commandments or the Ark of the Covenant, acting out bible skits such as the Fall of Jericho, and from time to time creating saint projects to present to their classmates.
Over time, rewards are merited for hard work and academic caliber, and so the elementary grades accordingly use bonus point systems. They earn points by either answering challenging math questions at the beginning of the day or winning vocab or spelling bees. Points add up, and when a student reaches one hundred points, he or she can “spend” them on a class party, or donuts for the whole class during the enrichment period. Ergo, Charity Scheuckler and Beatrice Lyons recently both reached enough to organize a conjoined donut party.
Field Trips have always been an essential part of the Chelsea adventure for all the grades, but the Lower School especially takes advantage of leaving the premises to explore the outdoors as often as they can. In the past year, they have gone on adventures to nursing homes with Santa Claus, Fantasy Land, Blandy Experimental Farm for a scavenger hunt, and historical plantation sites. On the Fall Hike, they climbed the Whiteoak Falls trail to meet a welcoming cascade, where they were able to jump in to cool off.
The average lower school student’s day is filled with school subjects, the arts, field trips, and various entertaining physical activities. They are a lovable group of characters and are especially looking forward to no longer being the youngest at Chelsea, as the school is happily adding grades K-3 in the fall.
We are proud to say that we are welcoming them with an appreciative attitude of joy, curiosity, and laughter among the fourth and fifth graders, which truly embodies the Chelsea spirit.
St. Thomas More, pray for us!
Special thanks to the following students for their cooperation!
From the 4th grade:
From the 5th grade:
On Wednesday, February 2nd, Chelsea hosted its annual Science Fair, welcoming twenty-six accomplished judges based locally and fifty-one creative student project presentations.
As always, many long hours went into not only making the event a success but also cutting and gluing construction paper on poster boards to perfection. Topics this year included, but were not limited to: gun ranges, bunnies, caffeine and pulse oxidation, implosion, micro-bacteria, fruit and its various properties, video games’ effect on memory, and many more.
Special thanks to the generosity of the judges with their time, and most of all, to our own Dr. Alka Shanahan, who planned the event for months and oversaw all of the students’ projects with patience and wisdom. Members of the senior class also assisted in directing schedules, and refreshments were served to the judges.
Parents and family members had a wonderful time looking at all of the projects the night of, and students and teachers were able to catch a glimpse during the first period on Thursday.
The results are thus:
1st Place: Henry Wingate with “Vitamin C in Fruit”
2nd Place: Patrick Philbin with “When Things Get Heated: When does the Temperature Rise the Fastest?”
3rd Place: Bea Stanford with “DIY Teeth Whiteners: ‘You Can’t Handle the Tooth!’”
And the following received honorable mention:
Barbara Butz, Jude Lagarde, Gabe Bettendorf, Elizabeth Fernandez, John Bodoh, CJ Fernandez, Cici Wingate, Luke Schuttloffel, Kiera Thomas, and Abby Virag.
Most of these students, along with Matthew Nolan, are off to the Shenandoah Valley Regional Science and Engineering Fair to be held virtually on March 26th and 27th. The best of luck to them as they represent Chelsea science!