Archive: On the Journey 2013-14
News and views from Aspen Country Day School
Midsummer's Day Dream: time to play, innovate, imagine
Wednesday, July 9, 2014: In a midsummer update for families, Assistant Head of School Andy Davies writes: "I have been reading Tony Wagner's latest book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, and I am reminded of the value of genuine free time. We have so many wonderful opportunities for our children to participate in myriad activities that it is sometimes too easy to forget the need for children to grow their imaginations through play and innovation... Read more
How one teacher's grad school experience fostered students' growth
Monday, May 31, 2014: This summer, Second Grade teacher Alexandra Hughes completes her master's degree at Bank Street College of Education. One of her courses, Action Research, required that she explore her own practice of teaching a certain topic. Alexandra chose that tricky area of elementary math that trips up many students: place value. Here, she shares her paper and reflects on how her own professional development fostered the growth of her students... read more
Bestselling author & alum Maria Semple talks shop with Middle Schoolers
Thursday, April 3, 2014: Enthusiastic young writers and readers welcomed a special guest: Maria Semple, screenwriter and award-winning author of the bestselling Where'd You Go, Bernadette. At an assembly arranged with the Aspen Writers' Foundation, Maria spoke about her years at Country Day in the 70s, her approach to writing and editing, and the importance of time and quiet to observe the world. It was a fascinating talk, and our Middle Schoolers asked many great questions. Click on the links for:
- Vimeo: Maria's main talk and reading from her novel
- Vimeo: the Q&A with students
- A story we published about Maria when her spoof on private school life appeared in The New Yorker
Second Grade on the move with ACES
March 2014: the Second Grade class explored the top of Aspen Mountain with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. They strapped on snowshoes and trekked out on Richmond Ridge to learn about avalanches and animal tracks in the snow. Stewart's favorite part of the trip was "getting to meet the ski patrollers and their dog." Duncan really enjoyed watching the avalanche dog dig out Bode and Shelby. Jared's favorite part was snowshoeing and identifying the footprints of a snow bunny. Click here for pictures.
Fourth Grade Project-Based Learning: Egypt Presentations
Thursday, March 6th, 2014: On Thursday, students and families gathered for an immersion in all things Egypt. Over the course of the last couple months, Fourth Grade students have been researching and learning about Ancient Egyptian culture. Each student chose a god, goddess, or pharaoh that was an integral part of the culture, and then gathered facts about their chosen figure. On Thursday, each student became his/her god, goddess, or pharaoh and gave a speech about his/her importance in Egyptian culture. Another part of the project included group collaboration on a topic of Egyptian life including Mummies, Daily Life, the Nile, Pyramids, and more. The Lower School Commons became a colorful exposition with posters about Egyptian life. Click here for pictures.
Tackling the big questions: Eighth Graders quiz a witness to history on the bombing of Hiroshima
Thursday, February 27th, 2014: The topic: the dropping of the atomic bomb in Japan, 1945. The questioners: Aspen Country Day Eighth Graders. The expert: a scholar of American history, one who heard President Harry S. Truman speak, and who just happens to be the father of Assistant Head Andy Davies. Matthew Freeman came to school Thursday to speak to the Humanities class about the controversial 1945 decision. The students had recently studied World War II, and their questions were informed and thoughtful. Tatum asked, "If another president had been in office at the time, do you think he would have made the same decision?" Aidan wanted to know, "What was it like to live in America in 1945?" Devon simply asked, "What was your opinion of the decision to drop the bomb?" This kind of exchange, which exemplifies the resourceful approach ACDS brings to curriculum, gives our soon-to-be graduates valuable skills they will use in seminar-style discussions in high school and beyond.
El Circo Espagnol Comes to ACDS
Tuesday, February 18, 2014: The Spanish Circus came to Aspen Country Day led by Eighth Grade Spanish students and supported by other Middle School Spanish students. The circus is a platform for the students to flex their talents and speaking skills as performers and facilitators of games at the carnival. Middle School Spanish students interacted with all the children in Spanish to explain rules, choose face painting images, and congratulate players.Conducted entirely in Spanish, the Middle School particpants presented engaged students in Spanish and flexed their many talents during a stage performance. Performers included acrobats, the strongest men in the world, elephants, lion tamers and more. Click here for pictures.
Way to build grit: annual winter Outdoor Education hut trips
Monday, February 24, 2014: Seventh and Fifth Graders have completed their winter hut trips, and Fourth Grade will be skinning to Jay's Cabin in March. Throughout the ACDS journey, students build their outdoor winter survival and safety knowledge. They learn skills and responsibilities related to hut etiquette including: doing dishes for breakfast and dinner, collecting snow for water, keeping the hut clean, chopping firewood kindling, and stoking the fire. All students carry their own pack to the huts on skis, often during snow storms! Daytime activities range from skinning up peaks, digging emergency snow shelters and learning about avalanche safety. In the evening the young mountaineers play cards, sing, put on skits, and write in their journals. Click here for photos.
Factoid of the day: which school district?
Thursday, February 13, 2014: Stats update for the data-driven among us: Aspen Country Day School currently has 151 households (including those where parents live separately). How many of them are located within the boundaries of the Aspen School District? Answer: 95. The remaining 56 households are located in the RE1 district, which serves the area from Watson Divide and down the Roaring Fork River valley. RE1 schools include those in Basalt and Carbondale.
Kindergarten Science: A Real Heart Dissection
Monday, February 10, 2014: As part of the Kindergarten Science curriculum, students study the human heart and how it works. Pig hearts bear a striking resemblance to human hearts. Today, the Kindergarten class was able to see and touch a pig's heart. Students observed the dissection of the pig's heart and participated in hands-on activities with Science teacher Lise Sansom and Middle School Science teacher Mark Sumera. An exciting and eye-opening learning activity for the students, the heart dissection was a fantastic way to bring this unit to life. Click here for pictures.
Eighth Graders (Not) Losing their Marbles in Math
Monday, February 3, 2014: As any Eighth Grader in Mark Sumera's math class can tell you, when an object with horizontal velocity is launched into the air, the path it travels is a parabola. Students recently brought their study of parabloas to life in a classic example of ACDS project-based learning. Using a ramp to keep horizontal velocity consistent and repeatable, they launched marbles into the air. Based on where the marbles landed, the Eighth Graders created an equation representing the path through the air. Then they measured the distance between the ground and the ramp, doubled it, and, using the equations generated from the first part of the experiment, calculated where the marble should land. The results? Eventually, spot on. Click here for pictures.
Lower School Music Students Play African Marimbas
Friday, January 24, 2014: Students in Second - Fifth Grade performed Zimbabwean marimba music on African Marimbas in front of their peers and parents. The performance was a culmination of a three-week study of the instruments led by guest musician Eric Baumhaier from Carbondale. In addition to learning about these wonderful instruments, students also learned to play together. Music teacher Bill Capps quoted Yo-Yo Ma at the beginning of the performance, speaking to the power of the arts as an integral part of our curriculum: "For me the most proficient way to teach the values of collaboration, flexibility, imagination and innovation -- all skill sets needed in today's world -- is through the performing arts. If you have these tools, you can do well in any field from software engineering to the biosciences." Click here for pictures.
Evening Series: Social Media
Friday, January 17,2014: What are Snapchat and ask.fm, how are your kids using them, and why should you care? Parents enjoyed a wide-ranging and provocative discussion at the most recent Evening Series, which focused on social media. Click here to watch the video.
National press coverage for ACDS curriculum innovation
January 10, 2014: In the new issue of Independent School Magazine, published by the National Association of Independent Schools, Assistant Head Andy Davies explores the importance of the Common Core while carefully considering the role, if any, it should take in directing independent school curriculum. Andy’s article was informed by the innovative curriculum analysis that has been happening at our school over the past few years. She writes, “The hallmark of an independent school is the development of the critical thinking, creativity, and compassion essential for students to become positive members of both local and global communities — and that should never change. Considering the Common Core standards is not about trying to look like a good public school. It's about gaining deeper understanding about what we do and how we do it.” Click here to read the full article
What a year! a look back at 2013
January 2014: The new year is a time of fresh beginnings and also of looking back. The year 2013 was an enormous one for ACDS -- in residence at the Aspen Meadows for our "school year abroad," then returning to Castle Creek where, while we were out, crews had built nine new buildings in nine months. Add to that the start of our search for a new head of school, many major fundraising milestones, a prom night, and -- of course -- lots of student learning, and you'll see why 2013 is worth celebrating. Check out this year-in-review video here.
ACDS's Approach & Philosophy: Differentiation
Tuesday, December 17, 2013: Differentiation is a philosophical approach to teaching which considers the variability in developmental, cognitive, and learning style ranges seen in every classroom. Last week, Assistant Head Andy Davies and Second Grade teacher Alexandra Hughes explained the approach of designing units, lessons, and learning environments to support each student's progress while maintaining rigorous standards. Watch the video of the Evening Series here.
Hour of Code, Entire School Participates
Friday, December 13, 2013: Throughout the week, all students participated in the nationwide movement "Hour of Code." The Hour of Code was an idea generated by Code.org to get millions of students to try one hour of computer science. Last week, 5 million students -- in 34,000 classrooms, across 167 countries -- were the first to experience the Hour of Code. Each class completed the hour to activities tailored to their grade level. They controlled robots, wrote code, and completed tasks with computer coding. Overall, the students had a great time learning about code through the simple tutorials. The Aspen Times covered our day of code. Click here to read the article.
Shakespeare Festival Wraps Up with Romeo and Juliet
Friday, December 13, 2013: Today marked the final curtain for the Shakespeare Festival, concluding with the Fourth Grade Performance of Romeo and Juliet. Over the course of the last week, students have performed Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night's Dream, or The Tempest. Every year, the plays are different based on the interpretation of the students. Drama teacher Marci Sketch dissects each play with the students to help them understand the plot, the characters, and context of the play in history. Next, the students work with Marci to craft an abridged play highlighting some of the major themes and famous lines. Lastly, each grade spends a month rehearsing while learning about stage presence, projection, and the process of memorizing lines. Parents and students enjoyed another great season of Shakespeare! Click here for pictures.
From Sheep to Sweaters in First Grade Science
Friday, December 6, 2013: First Grade Science students have been studying animals in winter. As part of this unit, they are learning about about how a sheep becomes the sweater on their back. Students learned about the shearing, carting, spinning, dyeing, and weaving of wool through hands-on activities. In addition, each student made a book covering one of the topics covered such as How to Make Wool and How to Make Clothes. Click here for photos.
Identity Portfolio in Sixth Grade English
Thursday, December 5, 2013: The Sixth Grade English class has spent the semester analyzing the identity of characters in a text. These discussions spilled over to a new project where students created an identity portfolio of their own. Students had a choice of how they wanted to represent themselves, but many chose to implement such options as a 3-word message to the world, a soundtrack of their life, or a bucket list. While creatively depicting who they see themselves as, they also were learning web design skills to create a website that presented their portfolio.
Evening Series: Technology is Evolving
Friday, November 22, 2013: Last Thursday, parents joined Brian Davies for the Evening Series: Technology is Evolving. Brian, Technology Director, focused on Education Technology as it relates to our school. Just nine years ago, ACDS had only 18 lab computers. Today, ACDS still has a lab but has expanded the resources to include iPad programs, iReady assessments, school email addresses, interactive white boards, GAFE (Google Apps in Education) and a 1:1 program for Middle School students. These are just a handful of examples, and we are constantly adding more to enhance the learning environment. Click here to view the evening series discussion on Technology.
Creating Parks Out of Geometric Shapes in Third Grade
Monday, November 11, 2013: Math students in Third Grade have been studying geometry and were recently introduced to new shapes such as the trapezoid, parallelogram, and the rhombus. Students studied the attributes that make these shapes unique such as angles, number of sides, and parallel lines. For example, what makes a parallelogram different from a trapezoid? Answer: Only one of these shapes has two pairs of parallel sides. Students brought shapes to life by creating a park, whether it be a snowboarding or skiing terrain park, BMX park, or an equestrian course. Each park had to include ten different shapes which could be items such as a jump, tabletop, rail, or structure. The students saw first-hand how their everyday world is filled with many geometric shapes. Click here for pictures.
Conversions Brought to Life
Friday, November 15, 2013: Recently, Sixth Grade Math students took to the ACDS parking lot for a lesson in conversion. The exercise? Students ran 50 meters and recorded their times. They took the times back to the classroom and, using unit conversions, calculated how fast they ran in miles per hour. Click here to view the sprinters.
Actors Perform: Audience Admires
Thursday, November 14, 2013: Middle School students in the Acting elective performed in front of their peers during the weekly Middle School assembly. Over the course of the last two months, the students have been learning the skills for scene work including partner scenes, monologues, and one-line scenes. Each student chose the format for the performance on Thursday, and the audience enjoyed the variety of vignettes. Marci Sketch, the Drama teacher, noted, "I was amazed how well this group stayed in character and how sincere they were in the delivery of their performances." For the final month of the elective, students will work on scripted scenes from On the River (a story about Mark Twain), Diary of Anne Frank, and other playwrights such as Henrik Ibsen.
Introducing our new head of school, Josh Wolman
Friday, October 11, 2013: Please join us in welcoming our new head of school, Josh Wolman, who comes to us from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., where he is currently Associate Head of School for Admissions and Financial Aid. Josh and his family, left, will move to Aspen in the summer, and the new headmaster begins on July 1, 2013. Between now and then, there will be many "transition" events to honor and celebrate our retiring headmaster, John Suitor, and to welcome the Wolmans to our town and our school. Click here for more info.
Parent Night: Different Format, Huge Success
Friday, September 13, 2013: On Wednesday night, parents experienced a different type of back-to-school evening. New this year, parents enjoyed mini-lessons from their children's teachers. Some of the highlights included watching Mark Sumera, Eighth Grade science teacher, demostrate the exothermic reaction of zinc and sulfur; Maria Carbonetti, Spanish teacher, giving parents a geography quiz on South America; and Clark Addington, Fourth and Fifth Grade math teacher, teaching Fourth Grade parents about place value with a rounding game. "I have been going to Parent Night for almost 11 years, and this was by far the best one," said parent Liz Howie. "It was great to see how the teachers are so energetic, and to really experience their different teaching styles." Click here to view photos.
Teachers prep for GAFE (Google Apps for Education) rollout
Friday, September 13, 2013: In August, Brian Davies, Technology teacher, and Megan Talarico, Middle School Math and Science teacher, attended a conference in Boulder to learn more about the suite of products that Google offers for education and how they work in the classroom. To learn more about this conference, click here
Sixth Grade Spanish students share their summer projects
Friday, September 13, 2013: Over the summer, Sixth Grade Spanish students were assigned to build a house either as a 3-D construction or by using the program Mindcraft. The students had to build houses with at least eleven rooms as well as including furniture. Each house was different as it was built from the imaginative minds of each of the students. Some features including gardens, farm animals, and rooftop terraces overlooking the ocean.
Sixth Grade Spanish students presented their houses to smaller groups. Solely in Spanish, each student explained the various features of the rooms as well as the identified the furniture. This is the first of many oral presentations throughout the year used to demonstrate proficiency in the language and knowledge of vocabulary. Click here for pictures.
August 2013: From Assistant Head of School Andy Davies, a look at a few changes in the program, staff, and plans for a meeting to review assessments and ERB testing. Click here for more.