Ninth Grade Remembers

It is so incredibly hard to say goodbye.

The school is quiet, our 9th graders just experienced such a special graduation, and our teachers are already starting to head off for their summer getaways. I find myself left with a bit of an empty feeling. Watching this video did NOT help my feeling of longing. Rather, it once again made me reach for the tissues.

Our “9th grade remembers” video is longer than our normal Headlines videos, but there was no other way to capture what made this group of 61 special young men and women so unique. We will share their graduation video in the coming days, but whether your child just finished nursery or is a member of this year’s graduating class, we hope you enjoy this reflection on what truly is “the Country Day Experience.”

Best,
Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Poetry in America

"When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."
- John F. Kennedy

I have always loved this quote from JFK, and I find it so perfect when thinking about the power of poetry. GCDS has always understood the power of poetry, whether it is a Middle School "Poem in the Pocket Day" or the Upper School art poetry project or a third grade poetry recitation on Grandparents Day or just a regular language arts class, we know the importance of wrestling with great poetry.

This video is a window into an exciting project that GCDS is piloting with Harvard University and Harlem Success Academy called "Poetry in America." It will be fun to watch this project gain a national audience.

I hope you enjoy watching how we at GCDS continue to innovate, continue to explore new ideas, and continue to be leaders in the education world.
Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Learning Spanish

The great Roman philosopher Cicero once said, “The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter."

When I first saw this week’s Headlines video, I was immediately drawn to the eyes of the children. If you can smile with your eyes, these kindergarten and first grade students had a grin that went ear-to-ear. This video is a short window into our FLES program (Foreign Language in Elementary Schools), and in it you will see children learning vocabulary, gaining understanding of cultures different from their own, and, most importantly, firing those synapses in the brain that allow all different kinds of learning to occur. Tie into that art, technology, and song, and you have the foundation of our amazing world language program.

I hope that after watching this video you too realize both how much these young students are learning, and, of course, how much fun they are having. And as you watch: ¡Miren los ojos de ellos! (Look at their eyes!)

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

 

DNA Lab

I have read about the Human Genome Project. I have watched television specials aboutDNA and forensics. I vaguely remember studying Crick and Watson and their breakthrough discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Yet, despite it all, I am still woefully ignorant compared to what the ninth graders at GCDS know and, more importantly, have experienced in the field of genetics.

Country Day was so lucky last week to have geneticists from Cold Spring Harbor Labscome spend two days helping our biology classes run a mitochondrial DNA sequencinglab. After collecting cell samples from their own cheeks with a saline mouth rinse, the ninth graders carefully followed steps to extract the mtDNA and test their samples using instruments and processes that most students don’t have the opportunity to work with until college.

In the coming days, classes will have a chance to analyze and compare the short segments of sequenced DNA—it should be fun for our set of ninth grade twins to look at their results side by side and find out how truly similar they are!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

What is STEAM?

What is STEAM?

"STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century."

Enjoy the video!
 

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

"A Goodly Comedy"

"That was so much fun!" is a refrain we hear often at GCDS. That said, it is not often heard when coupled with the learning of Shakespeare. I don't know about you, but I do not look back at my introduction to Shakespeare with much fondness.

Our seventh graders, prior to embarking on their reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream, had the chance to engage with the story and explore the language all while laughing and having a great time. It was one of those assemblies that students do not want to end.

As you watch this short video, I think you can get a sense of how much they enjoyed it.

Enjoy!
Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Fiesta Mexicana

I think a lot of people might dread the idea of taking out the sombrero and poncho for the twelfth time; but every year I find myself so excited to see our Dining Hall transformed into a Mexican plaza. I start singing along to "Café, Café" or clapping to the beat of "La Danza de los Viejitos." Besides looking great in a sombrero, I may have more fun than the children!

The Fourth Grade Fiesta is another time-honored GCDS tradition that integrates so many aspects of our curriculum. From social studies and geography to music, art, and language, our students combine all of these studies into a culminating activity that is intellectual, exciting, and super fun. I hope you get a sense of the enthusiasm that was present a few days ago in the GCDS plaza! Enjoy the video.

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Build Something Awesome

What do you get when you combine a “creativity lab” with a library? The answer, of course, is a LABrary! Today’s Headlines highlights what is just the beginning of a powerful movement sweeping through education in general and GCDS specifically. From our youngest to our ninth graders, we are challenging students to “build something awesome.” Working in groups, showing creativity, tapping into their reserves of resilience, and understanding time management, our students are learning to see their world in different ways and master the technology that is so ingrained in their everyday experience. The best part: it’s super fun!

Enjoy this short video, and as you watch it remember that this is just a start. In the words of our library media specialist David Saunders, "I can't wait to see what comes next!"

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Hour of Code

It was Steve Jobs who said, “Everybody should learn to program a computer, because it teaches you how to think.”

While this might not have been the exact impetus behind the worldwide Hour of Code, which is being celebrated this week in more than 180 countries, it does highlight why we have become active participants in this effort to encourage all students to learn how to code. Starting in kindergarten, GCDS students begin learning the basics of programming. They discover that—without realizing it—they've been using computational thinking in many of their subjects and that coding is fun! Throughout the Lower and Middle Schools, students continue to practice coding in a broad range of projects, such as working in Scratch, programming robots, and building their own computer. By the Upper School, our students are developing apps and making their own video games.

This kind of learning highlights the 21st century skills we have been emphasizing across all three divisions. Working in groups, overcoming setbacks, managing time, and thinking creatively are all prerequisites for anyone learning to write code. Enjoy this video of our students fully engaged in “an hour of code” and so much more!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Math Talks

“I am just not a math person.” I grew up with that refrain. I said it whenever anyone would listen, and, as with many things, when you repeat it often enough, it starts to become true. Of course, I did not go to GCDS, and I certainly did not have the immense benefit of working with a teacher like Trish Kepler, our new nursery through fifth grade math coordinator. Trish has hit the ground running, and, whether working with groups of children or groups of faculty, she encourages us to see that the best mathematician isn’t always the child who finishes first or has the best ability to memorize facts, rather success belongs to the child who is the most thoughtful, most methodical, most creative, and most able to see multiple ways to solve a single problem.

Tonight’s video is over four minutes in length! I know that is long (we aim for 2 minutes or less), but I wanted to dive a bit deeper into the teaching of math at Country Day and how we do it so well. If you can spare the extra minutes, I think you will agree with me that this is the type of math class you would enjoy—and one that would ultimately lead you to join so many of our young students when they say, “I love math!”

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Discovery-based Learning

There are so many different ways to teach children. At Country Day, we believe strongly that providing children with hands-on, discovery-based, team-centered opportunities produces the best outcomes. Our students are placed into situations where they must dive deeply into the higher order thinking skills like hypothesis, analysis, and synthesis. Just take a moment and look at the intensity on the faces of third graders as they wrestle with their owl pellet dissection. Their motivation is 100% internal – this is not about grades – it is all about their insatiable desire to understand this unique process and prove their own hypothesis about these beautiful birds of prey.

I love the Headlines series because every day I have the chance to witness these transformational experiences, but I am not always sure they are communicated to parents at home. I hope these next two minutes give you a window to peek in and see just some of what happens here each and every day – enjoy!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Learning in Nursery

I have a self-proclaimed theory that I call the “inverse teacher ratio.” It goes something like this: students in college are the easiest to teach (no offense to college professors), and, as you move backward in age, you need to be more and more skilled in order to be a successful teacher. Spend just an hour in our nursery class, and you will be amazed at the magic that is created in those rooms every day. Our children are instilled with the building blocks that make them ready to become learners in the 21st century. More than anything, the nursery teachers are the very first to instill a love of school and love of learning in our youngest children.

I invite you to enjoy this short video that captures moments of our nursery program. It highlights the truly exceptional experience that our youngest enjoy every day.

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Constitutional Convention

Two years ago the entire Upper School History Department sat down together with a single challenge. How could we take one aspect of Grade 8 United States History and make it more dynamic, more interactive, and more 21st century? How could we not only teach the students the core curricular information but also make sure we heightened their creativity, curiosity, ability to work in teams, resilience, and public speaking. The solution—The Constitutional Convention!

Rather than discuss in a traditional classroom setting the path that the Founding Fathers took in developing our nation’s Constitution, why not let the students try to figure it out for themselves. Broken into groups each representing one of the twelve colonies who attended the real Constitutional Convention, the children had to research their state's position on representation, taxation, slavery, etc. They needed to know the geography and economy of their state, and then when paired with representatives from another state, they had to find common ground on which to build our new nation. They quickly found out how difficult this task was!

The entire Friday we devoted to this activity was fantastic. When we surveyed the students at the end and asked them to share with us how to make the day better next year, dozens of students wrote, “We wish we had more time to debate and discuss the issues!” As an eighth grade history teacher, I am not sure I could have asked for more. Check out this video to get a flavor of the day!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

The Capitol

Maybe it's the U.S. history teacher in me, but every time I join our ninth grade in our nation's Capitol I get goose bumps. This year was no different. The history of the city—the collection of artifacts from our country's past—continue to elicit great conversations and a patriotic feeling that is hard to shake.

This year, my twelfth trip with GCDS, was once again a special one. From visiting the Supreme Court to spending time with Jim Himes on the steps of the House of Representatives to bringing a group of students to listen to speakers rallying for common sense gun laws, I was inspired by our students. They asked great questions, they were complimented by total strangers for their manners and decorum, and they bonded together as a class after a summer away from school. It truly was a special way to start the school year.

Enjoy this short video that highlights the trip. Even if you have a daughter in nursery, I promise you will get a great feeling of what is to come!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Action Teams

“Every student has a voice.”  —Michael McGovern, Upper School English Teacher

I hope you will take a moment to watch this video as I feel it is a perfect microcosm of what makes the Country Day experience so unique. On Fridays, when the students head home, the teachers use their afternoons to enrich, enliven, and grow their practice of teaching. This year, teachers across disciplines and divisions were divided into Action Teams. These teams were tasked with finding ways to increase student learning. While the approaches were very different, the results were universally consistent. Teachers reported that having dedicated time with their colleagues to think deeply about teaching led to significant, tangible results in the classroom

When I was a graduate student at Stanford, I became close with one of my professors. He published a great book during my year in Palo Alto, and the title of the book has never left me. He called the book Tinkering Toward Utopia. I cannot think of a better way to describe what we do every day on Old Church Road. At so many schools, the teachers’ bags are packed by 2:45 p.m., and they are out the door by 3:01 p.m. At Country Day, the dynamic is different. Our teachers are involved in an endless effort to improve the experience for their students. It takes no longer than this short video to see their results. How lucky are we?

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie 
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Paper Tower Challenge

Can you beat our Upper Schoolers?

Kids love a challenge, a bit of friendly competition. So when a group of our Upper School math and science teachers were looking for a fun, celebratory way to complement the types of problem solving our students do every day in class, they thought back to their own attempts at the Paper Tower Challenge.

5 sheets of paper. 1 roll of tape. 2 pairs of scissors. 20 minutes.

Though the ingredients are simple, in the midst of the laughter and high energy, important things happen. Do you dive right in? Do you plan it out? How well do you track the time? What happens if teammates disagree? Is there anything you’ve read or learned in class that would help?

This festive, surprise challenge was a fun way to highlight the skills that are woven into class every day. Enjoy this quick look!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie 
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

5th Grade Civil War Fair

“This is not just a dress-up day!”

Despite the excitement that is created by our Civil War Fair each spring, the hard work, effort, and scholarship that precede the actual day are what make this experience so meaningful for our children. 

Starting in the fall with the fifth grade's trip to West Point, students spend the year looking at pivotal moments in American history. In the spring, they intensively study the causes and events of the Civil War. Midway through the unit, they head to Gettysburg for an overnight trip, a highlight of every fifth grade year.

As part of their Civil War studies, the students each research a historic figure who had a significant impact on that tumultuous time in our nation’s history. Imagine spending time using multiple sources to better understand both the conflict that ripped apart our country as well as your person’s role in that time period. Imagine organizing that new knowledge into a research paper and creatively depicting the key aspects of your historical figure’s life through a diorama, video, or slideshow.

Finally, on the big day, the students actually stand in the shoes of their character and must be prepared to answer a multitude of questions from their teachers, friends, and guests. All in all, this project once again emphasizes the powerhouse skills that we know children must possess in the 21st century. Time management, resiliency, creativity, teamwork, curiosity––all come together in a stunning way. Enjoy this quick peek into the experience of the fifth grade Civil War Fair!


Adam

Adam C. Rohdie 
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

Learning Math

According to research from UCLA, as many as 60% of all college students who intend to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) end up transferring to another major. Richard Rusczyk experienced this firsthand when he arrived at Princeton and began studying math alongside kids from the most prestigious high schools in the country. There he realized that “kids who had never gotten anything but 95s and 100s on their tests were suddenly getting 62s, and then they decided they weren’t any good at math.” Why? “They had been taught that math was a set of destinations, and they were taught to follow a set of rules to get to those places,” he recalls. “They were never taught how to read a map—or even that there is a map.”

At GCDS, our goal in teaching mathematics is to help students go beyond basic memorization. They will certainly become masters of their math facts, but, more importantly, they will learn to understand numbers and to problem solve using multiple strategies. We want to make sure that our students develop the deeper conceptual understanding needed to “read the map,” so that in high school and college they will be among the students who are energized rather than discouraged by the complex problems, applied math, and systems thinking required for more advanced studies in STEM fields.

In this video, you will see one of the many ways our teachers help students build this more rigorous mathematical understanding—as well as the ways that teachers use workshops and professional development to improve their ability to help all our students become strong math learners.

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie 
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

As the World Turns

“The Earth rotates on its axis; the moon revolves around the Earth.” With this simple understanding, the first grade was off and running as they created three-dimensional models that help them cement basic concepts of physics and astronomy. It is easy to look at this project and underestimate the powerful learning experience that is taking place. For when you have the ability to show—to model your understanding—you truly have a grasp of the concept.

What is the structure of the solar system? What is gravity and how do forces act? Why does the moon have phases? These are some of the questions our Lower Schoolers explore as they learn about the solar system.

Much of what happens in the Jamie Rudolph Science House is about allowing our very youngest to actually “do” the work of real scientists. The skills of observation, of hypothesis, and of critical thinking are tested and refined with every trip the children make to this magical place. The snake, turtles, chinchilla, and bearded dragon make the Science House fun to visit; the lessons—the challenges the students face—make it a place where they all grow as learners. Enjoy this short snapshot of our students in action!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie 
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School

GCDS in China

“This is not a vacation” is the warning Jack Jepson gives the ninth graders prior to their signing up for the trip. While not a vacation, it is a transformative experience. For the past 15 years, a group of 40 or so GCDS students, teachers, and parents have traveled all across China during spring break.

International travel has been part of the DNA of the Upper School for over 25 years. Yet it has not been until the past ten years that the number of offerings has become so robust. In June, Upper School students will travel to France, Spain, Italy, and, as you will see in the video, they have just returned from China. 

A lot of schools rightly talk about globalization and inspiring students to have a greater understanding of the world in which they live. At GCDS, we find that all of our classroom programs to this end are outstanding, yet nothing compares with the experience of the actual visit. During this year's China trip, our students spent a full day attending school with students their age at our “sister school” in Chengdu, and plans are underway to host a group of Chinese students this fall. A great way to learn and grow as global citizens! Check out the video for more!

Adam

Adam C. Rohdie 
Headmaster, The Greenwich Country Day School