On the Journey
news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
Special coverage: National History Day triumph & project-based learning at Aspen Country Day School
"A celebration of Aardvark academics" -- that's what Middle School history teacher Zeke Tiernan, a.k.a. Mr. T., called the experience of taking a group of Seventh and Eighth Grade students to Grand Junction this past Saturday for the regional National History Day competition. The contest resulted in a record number of qualifying finishes. Seven of our historians now move up to the statewide competition in Denver May 5.
"Thanks to the hard work of the ACDS teaching community these kids have the critical thinking skills, artistic sense, and the ability to work independently that allow them to create great projects," says Mr. T., who along with teacher Tyler Valtin traveled with students at the competition, held on the campus of Colorado Mesa University.
All Seventh Grade students at ACDS made projects for National History Day. Our own competition was in the gym last Thursday, where students were articulate and poised as they answered questions about their research (above). Guided by a theme -- this year's was "Conflict & Compromise" -- students completed projects in groups or as individuals in one of five categories: documentary, paper, exhibit, performance, or website.
At the regionals, in addition to the seven winners, five more ACDS students made presentations; Alex J. came just one place shy of making it to the next round. This is a remarkable showing for ACDS, where in the past ten years just five students have advanced to states. Colorado's top two finishers in each category will go on to the nationals in College Park, MD in June.
"National History Day is an opportunity for students to compete in a way they're not used to - that is, it's not athletics," says Zeke. "They are competing academically, and I am always surprised and honored to see how much fun it is for them. This is a way to make deep critical learning so enjoyable."
How do Aspen Country Day students become capable of this remarkable level of independent research, in-depth inquiry, and presentation? By starting as early as possible.
Year by year on the ACDS academic journey, students gradually build a solid foundation of skills -- an approach that allows them to tackle even more complex projects and problems in high school, college, and life. Here are just a few of the many examples of project-based research and learning this winter at ACDS.