Griffins Got Talent

By Marilyn Burtnett
School Nurse, Talent Show Coordinator

Twenty years ago we decided to try producing a talent show at Spartanburg Day School. With sidekicks Fran Davis, who taught music and band classes at that time, and Middle School Latin teacher Chris Harrelson, who taught dance in a former life, I began “shaking the bushes” in Lower, Middle and Upper schools to see what performers may land in our laps to form our first-ever show of this nature. Now you have to consider that this was way before reality TV became the rage, and no one had ever heard of Ryan Seacrest.

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The result was a wonderful conglomeration of acts, highlighting gifted singers, musicians and dancers. Mrs. Davis created a rock band out of my sixth grade homeroom students to make their debut in the show – and from that little group spawned an extremely talented drummer who went on to major in music in college and perform with his own successful group touring across the globe.

After that first show, we decided to make it a tradition to produce a similar production every other year – giving students a chance to think about their gifts and talents and look forward to participating in the next one. It also gave the production crew a rest.

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Since that first show, we’ve seen just about everything. We’ve showcased verging magicians, closet dancers (as well as very well-trained ones), want-to-be Taylor Swifts and Mrs. Harb’s best warblers. We’ve had dog tricks and novelty acts (balancing a quarter on a stick which was stuck in one’s belly button comes to mind!), pianists and banjo pickers. The participants have ranged from 4 years old to… adults. We’ve had alums to come back to perform, and had students who went on to make performance their goal. So we see this as an opportunity to give children inspiration – to spark a new talent, to muster courage, to receive applause.

The one thing we can always promise our performers and their parents is that this is the most loving and forgiving audience you’ll ever have. From technical difficulties to “oops and start-overs,” our audiences have always been a most important participant in the production: laughing when appropriate, cheering when deserved, supporting when needed and encouraging when required.

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So come be our audience. Enjoy our 4-year-old comedians and 3-year-old singer. Encourage our Chinese dancers and Middle School Elton Johns. Be amazed by every young student who steps up to a microphone or puts on tap shoes to walk into a spotlight, as that’s the joy of a school-wide talent show. Give yourself that gift.

We’ll begin our show at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, in the Seth Milliken Gymnasium. There will be a 30-minute intermission when dinner will be served. The second half should be finished by about 8:30 p.m.

Welcome back.

By Donlyn Aiken
Parent, Upper School Assistant

Welcome back! Welcome back to Homecoming! As someone who has not gone back to any (of my own high school’s) homecoming events – does my high school even do homecoming? ­– it is so cool to see graduates come back to Spartanburg Day School.

As a parent, it’s reassuring to see that students you once watched play in the band or sing in the chorus, play on a field or on a court are doing OK. College was challenging, fun, a success, but they were prepared. You breathe a sigh of relief that, hopefully, your child will do the same.

I have watched – for two-and-a-half years – one of my children do that. She has gone away from home to Europe and the Big City and has been OK. There have definitely been text messages late at night, IN ALL CAPS, about problems with roommates, stress about too many things due at the same time, etc. But she knows she has a home in me; I’ll listen and text back in the morning.

She also has another home, her Spartanburg Day School home. Her classmates are there for her during break, on trips to see each other, and of course Facebook Messenger. Her teachers are still a resource for her, and she is now a resource for them. As an environmental science major, she spoke with Mrs. Webster’s class about waste management, internships and what she studies in her major. Zero waste!

When I asked her how she thinks the Day School prepared her for University, this is what she texted:

“Leadership Opportunities – captain of sports team, working service chair and ASTRA 5K committee, editor-in-chief of the yearbook. Rallying people, reaching out to the communities, student power on a small scale = confidence to make change and understand that it is possible at a much larger school.”

These Day School positives have helped her get involved and be involved at a large campus. The design skills Mrs. Mitchell and the yearbook taught her helped her get part time jobs for spending cash and a paid summer internship. Other time she has told me that Dr. Fisher’s class prepared her for the type of writing required in this or that college course, and she continues to study math because of the love of numbers Ms. Tobey encouraged in her. (Thank you!)


Aryn ’14 at a holiday alumni social

Now for my Day School senior. When I pause and look carefully at all he has done at Spartanburg Day School, I am amazed. He has stuck with band for all seven years. I am sure that his double bass instructor in elementary school would be surprised. He not only has stuck with it, he has gotten up two or three mornings a week and gone to school at 7 a.m. to be part of Jazz Band. He has joined Pep Band and played for the basketball games, been part of ensembles at mentorship breakfasts and other events around town. I see how strong the band home is as graduates come back to visit Mr. Barnes, play for graduation and join in on one of the many game nights. Thanks, Mr. Barnes!

Sports have been a great experience for him just like his sister – leadership opportunity, learning to work as and with a team, learning discipline and responsibility. Thanks for “coaching everything,” Coach Wilson.

Looking at one of his college essays he wrote:

“This pride and value I place on my well-roundedness…”

I love this. I love that he feels well-rounded. Spartanburg Day School has been a great home for him to develop into a well-rounded young man – an artist, an athlete and a scholar (well, smart kid).


Lee ’17 on a Special Studies trip to Tanzania with Global Bike

It takes a village to raise a child, it’s true. Within that village are many homes where my children can come home. I am so gratefully that one of them is Spartanburg Day School.

True red & true blue Griffins

By Rachel Deems
Head of School

One of my favorite weeks of the year is about to begin. Homecoming week at the Day School has a spirit that is infectious and includes everyone – all ages of students, faculty, parents and alumni.  It is a week-long nod to the essence of who we are – true red and true blue Griffins!

All week long we will enjoy the connections of being Griffins. There will be the Red and White Game that captures the shared experience of our athletic stars and our younger children. The Griffinettes will give us their best performances and create adorable memories and photos sure to be used in their future Griffin years. Class competitions will be fierce and friendly. Halls will be decorated, banners made, and skits spoofing much-loved faculty and staff will remind us of how well we know and appreciate each other and how we do love to have fun. There will be good music thanks to the Day School Jazz Band, cheers lead by our Griffin cheerleaders and a traditional performance by the male cheerleaders and lots of basketball to be enjoyed as we watch all the of the girls’ and boys’ teams compete. A queen, elected by her classmates, will take her place in the history of the school. A revered former teacher, coach and administrator, the late Bill Ross, will be inducted into the SDS Sports Hall of Fame. 

Homecoming is our way of expressing our love and loyalty to our school and to each other and our way of remembering and welcoming back those who came before us, those who walked these halls, performed in plays, studied hard, earned awards, expressed themselves creatively, played on fields and courts and who reveled in their days as Griffins while students here. So to all of our Griffins present and to Griffins past, welcome to Homecoming week at the Day School!  Welcome to a place we all feel right at home.   Happy Homecoming!

What about Wednesday?

By: Farrar Richardson, head of Middle School

It is difficult for me to remember exactly when and how this idea about doing something differently in the Middle School with Wednesdays emerged, but I know the reasons why. I know this because asking ourselves ‘why’ or ‘what if’ is how we make most decisions in the Middle School. Last spring, the following questions kept finding their way to our faculty meetings and into my head.

What would happen if we gave students a bit more choice?

Why do we always separate students by age and not consider grouping by interest?

What would happen if families had one predictable night a week to be together without homework as part of the equation?

Why couldn’t we consider giving students a break in their week where the schedule and flow of the day were not the usual?

What would happen if we gave students time to try yoga or learn to knit or code during the school day?

Why wouldn’t we model and make time for creativity, choice and balance if we all agree that it is so vital to our own happiness as adults?

Well, the answers to the whys and the what ifs made it clear to us that we had the desire to create a place and time for a different and weekly experience.

Wellness Wednesdays were born.

In a nutshell, Wednesdays offer a modified schedule in the morning where students rotate through their academics minus ten minutes per class. We have lunch, recess and then a bit of time on the halls to transition into what we call Workshops. We spend the afternoon in workshops and end the day in our Advisory groups. There isn’t homework on Wednesdays and SDS t-shirts (untucked for sure) fit the dress code. Wednesdays are different this year.

14441010_10154674759955649_3011760463474952582_nWhen you walk through our school on Wednesday afternoons, you may see Middle School students of all ages playing Ultimate Frisbee, Japanese or American chess, a variety of card games, mat ball, or other games in the gym.



You may see a jiu jitsu club in action, a group practicing yoga, or students learning to code or knit.


You will see students paired with three and four year olds in our Extended Day program playing outside and helping with snack or naptime. You might catch a glimpse of students working on a middle school publication, working in the SDS garden, making a variety of crafts, constructing dog toys to donate to the Humane Society, learning origami, or making art for our Reading Room.


The list keeps growing, and one of the coolest things that happened last Wednesday were three new workshops organized and lead by students themselves. I should have asked the question: What would happen if we gave students opportunities to be experts and teach others?

21sep-32-copyAs with any new endeavor, there are things to work out and logistics to manage, but with one semester of our new weekly addition behind us, we think Wellness Wednesdays will stay.

Alfie Kohn, a personal favorite, writes about the need for schools and educators to take children seriously.

thumb_img_8795_1024“Progressive educators take their cue from the children- and are particularly attentive to the differences among them. The curriculum isn’t just based upon interest, but on ‘these children’s interests…they design it with them, and they welcome unexpected detours.”

I remain consistently in awe of our students and what they can do. Teaching them to take time for creativity, fun, a new skill, and caring for others is well worth the time away from what one might consider more traditional schooling, and dare I say essential to being well.

Being thankful…the large and small of it all

By: Bethany Cobb, director of marketing

What are you thankful for? That is the question I posed to various members of the SDS community throughout the past week. I enjoyed stopping them in the hallway and gathering their impromptu but thoughtful responses.


“I am thankful for my Mommy and Daddy.” – Jennings, 3K


“I am thankful for my Dad. I can get nervous sometimes and he really helps me see the bright side of things.” – Caleb, 6th grade


“I am thankful for the health and well being of my friends and family.”
– Alexis, 10th grade


“I am thankful for the love and joy of family, memories that warm our hearts and good health that allows us to experience every day to the fullest.”

– Page Birney, 3K teacher


“I am thankful for my family. I know everyone says that but I have been reminded recently of how great, fun, crazy, loving, make me crazy my extended family can be.  This Thanksgiving I hope we all remember to reach to out to family we are not with and hug the ones we are with.”

– Donlyn Aiken, Upper School assistant

These students and faculty members are thankful for things that matter most in their lives…family, friends and their health and well-being. Large things. Important things. They didn’t take but a moment to deliver their responses. It was heartfelt and touching.


“Being grateful is an action, a positive step that includes being kind-hearted and helpful, showing compassion and being generous of spirit. The act of gratitude surrounds us at the Day School, lived out daily by students, faculty, staff and families. This is just another one of those “something quite special” values of our school community. This time of year it is ever so evident in the random acts of kindness that are within our halls and beyond our walls. So this Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks for Griffins, small and large, as they go about their quiet acts of selflessness and kindness.”

– Rachel Deems, Head of School


“When thinking of the upcoming season of thankfulness, I immediately think of my children’s haven, Spartanburg Day School.  It is such a supportive, nurturing and caring environment. I am also thankful for the Parents’ Club. I have enjoyed becoming involved with this organization, which plays such a significant role in fostering this unique environment that our children enjoy each day.”

– Sherri Daniels, SDS parent, Parents’ Club bake sale chair


I am lucky to have married an SDS alumnus, and to have had my alum son flourish at SDS. I am thankful to be working in a school where I can watch the progress of the student from 3K through high school, how students and teachers develop supportive relationships, for making living in the middle the best place to be at SDS, for my students who tell me Latin is easy, for opportunities to learn every day.”

– Chris Harrelson, Middle School Latin teacher

I too am thankful for this Spartanburg Day School community. Over the past several weeks, I have had the opportunity to see many aspects of the school as I popped in and out of various events, programs and classrooms. While these programmatic elements were amazing, it was the small things that made me smile. Why? Could it be that I had previously missed them somehow?

It was witnessing the act of getting children INTO the costumes for the annual Turkey Trot… these 4K teachers and parents worked feverishly to get our students to actually WEAR trash bags filled with newspaper for this beloved event. Lots of work, lots of time…but worth every minute to see those extremely precious gobbling, wobbling turkeys.


It was reviewing photos of the Quiddich match, which solidified my belief that our Upper School faculty will do just about anything for our students…I mean they ran around with broomsticks on a Friday night for goodness sakes.


And then there was the Middle School teacher who literally could not contain her excitement about taking part in her first Middle School awards assembly. I have always known that our teachers were passionate…but I loved this touching reminder.


And last but certainly not least…it was the many small acts of kindness that I had the pleasure of witnessing daily from our students. Whether it was drawing a picture for a friend during extended day, baking cookies for a buddy after the loss of a cherished pet, or cheering on a teammate during a tough game, these moments were sheer joy to watch.

All of these moments are small. If I had blinked, I would have missed them. But they had large meaning for me. These moments reaffirmed all that I believe about Spartanburg Day School; that our teachers and parents really do go the extra mile, as do our students.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for both large and small of it all. For the big important parts of my life – and the small moments that are worth looking for.

Happy Thanksgiving!










Why a garden…and why me?

By: Marilyn Burtnett, school nurse

Though many of the answers to the question of why would a garden have a place on a school campus are obvious, they may warrant reiterating. The best answer I can give is that a garden is different from any other classroom on campus. It offers fresh air, exercise, room to stretch, very little sitting, and is an unpredictable space for problem-causing and problem-solving. Though it is typically used by science classes to study soil, water, botany, nutrition and life cycles – I’ve always imagined English classes trekking out to be inspired to write poetry or pieces about nature. It is a dream of mine to have garden plots dedicated to history: a colonial garden, a Paleo garden, or a George Washington Carver peanut bed. The ideas are endless.


Our garden came to fruition thanks to an article left in my school mailbox by our former headmaster, Chris Dorrance. He had only recently arrived and didn’t know me well enough to be hesitant about giving me an idea. The article touted school gardens as a way of teaching young children to eat nutritiously. Within weeks he was forced to find a spot on campus I could dig into. With the help of former teacher, Allyn Steele, current teacher, Celia Cooksey and my husband John, plans were drawn up, land was plotted and some extremely hard soil was tilled.

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My favorite “why” for the garden comes in the form of a story. Our first year we were struggling along with that tiller. Every afternoon for days several adults (faculty and parents), along with a few eager students, dug, tilled, and sweated our way through extremely tough grass only to find some pretty pitiful soil underneath. On one of these toilsome afternoons a scrappy fifth grader spent his after school hours being bandied about by the tiller and loosening clods of dirt with a hoe – really hard work. His father rounded the corner at 5:30, looking to take him home, and Robbie looked up distressed and pleading, “Just 30 more minutes – please!” My heart took an extra leap and in that moment…I knew that this garden thing just had to work. Children like to feel productive. They want to tackle the hard stuff and feel useful. And they truly enjoy working alongside adults who are struggling along with them.


Through the years the garden has been both bountiful and sparse. We’ve had years when Mobile Meals benefitted from our over-productive garden, and those when the only bounty we had was eggplant and grass! Every age student has had their hands in dirt at some time. This year I have more opportunities to work with students in the garden than ever before. Wellness Wednesdays, upcoming projects with Lower School students and two classes a week with eighth graders next semester, will enable a wide range of students to experience the garden. In addition to out-right gardening, our eighth grade class will learn some old world skills that relate loosely to gardening: pickling cucumbers, canning tomatoes and making jelly. We may even have some of these items available for sale.

There is always a sense of expectation when planting a garden. Those first tiny sprouts that pop up through the earth are a reason to rejoice. Picking the early spinach and handing Chef Dana a mound of freshly-picked kale can promote a feeling of accomplishment. We always expect success. And success, by the way, in our garden will never be measured in bushel baskets but in small lessons learned – lessons about making bad soil good, how much water is too much, how close you plant corn kernels and just how hard it is to grow a cucumber. Along the way, I expect myself to amass new viewpoints and strategies for working with students.

garden5-1I have learned a lot about growing vegetables in 15 years. But I have learned much more about children through my work with those rakes and tillers. A school garden is not just worthwhile when it is producing well. The lean years teach you too – and stretch your imagination and fortitude. It is the same when it comes to working with young people. Their value and contribution is not dependent on an A on a paper, or easily mastering formulas or being the best speech-writer. If we measure the small things such as taking note of the little ways they show their appreciation, acknowledging the tiny improvements and growth, and watching closely for hints they give us that the possibilities are right there before us – the reward is great.

So then, why me? You’d have to ask Mr. Dorrance that question. I only know that I am glad it was.

Being Connected

By: Tim Fisher, Upper School history teacher

The twentieth century British philosopher, Gilbert Ryle, tells a story in his seminal work, The Concept of Mind (1949), in which a visitor to a university is shown the libraries and classrooms and other buildings.

“But where is the university?” the visitor asks at the end of the tour.

The mistake the visitor makes, Ryle explains, is what he terms a category mistake. It is a mistake of looking at something through completely the wrong lense, of trying to find something in completely the wrong place. Clearly, you cannot ‘see the university’ by merely pointing to the buildings on campus.

This always reminds me of the times people visit our campus to “see the school.” We have incredible facilities, no doubt. Top-notch. But the idea of showing someone our school always seems strange to me. Of course we can point to the beautiful gymnasium, or the spacious dining commons, or the airy classrooms. We can happily and proudly introduce people to teachers and administrators and students. We can always point out plaques and display cases that demonstrate amazing awards and achievements. But this is not the school.

But then, what is?

For me, Spartanburg Day School is about connections; about being connected.


Today, being “connected” has a certain connotation. It conjures images of iphones and laptops, of the internet and tablets. There are countless articles decrying the dangers of social media for our young people. We want our classrooms to be connected, but we want our kids to “unplug”. Being “connected,” it seems, is dangerous.

But at SDS we have a different view of what being connected really means. For an SDS student being connected is about finding things to care about. It is about passions. It is about finding common ground with people who you might not immediately have reason to work with. It is about connecting to that teacher or coach in a way that makes you come back years after graduation. It is about connecting to ideas – big ideas, new ideas, risky ideas. It is about connecting to local, national or even international causes, and acting to affect change.
It is about being connected to an 9sep-6-copyinstitution that has a rich tradition, supports you everyday and which, itself, values connections.

And, it is not just students who are connected. The School is a web of connections; links between a community of parents, teachers, administrators, coaches and alumni. More than buildings the school is the sum of these connections.


So, should someone ask to see the school, by all means show them around. But tell them they won’t truly “see the school” until they witness first hand the connections that take place on many different levels each and every day.

A Halloween of ‘pure imagination’

By: Rachel S. Deems (aka Willy Wonka)

There should be more days in the year when we adults find and celebrate our inner child. That is what happened today as members of the administrative team transformed the carpool line into a semblance of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.


Yes, it is Halloween at Spartanburg Day School and for an hour or so we reveled in the opportunity to celebrate “pure imagination” with our students and families. We followed the band in the annual parade and marveled at creative costumes, made some new memories and had fun!




In planning the Willy Wonka theme, the Roald Dahl book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the Gene Wilder movie version crossed generational lines from our oldest to youngest Griffins. We have had conversations about favorite characters in the book, scenes in the movie and we have laughed quite a bit about the technological advances in movie making since 1971. The story and its nod to curiosity and imagination struck a chord with this year’s school theme of “be more.”


Our values were lived out this morning as curiosity and passion were unleashed, individuality reigned and students modeled leadership and excellence with an outstanding new “trunk and treat” activity planned and provided by the Upper School for the students in the other two divisions. #waytogoupperschoolstudentsandfaculty! Community spirit was high during our hour homage to a favorite holiday and school tradition.




As another year of Halloween festivities comes to an end, it is not the end of individuality, curiosity, passion, excellence, leadership and community for us. We have an abundance of those values every single day.

Happy Halloween!



Why ‘knot’: Learning in unexpected ways

By: Chelsea Snyder
Upper School Math Teacher

Sheer frustration. Do you know that feeling?

Back hunched, eyes squinting and straining to see what my inept fingers fumbled to do. Teeth clenched. I closed my eyes briefly for a short break. Without sight, I became aware that the muscles in my legs were contracting. Inwardly, I waffled between belittling myself and giving myself a pep talk.
img_2696This is how I felt last year during Special Studies week while trying to learn how to knit. That is, before I found inspiratio
n and confidence from an unexpected source.

That week, I was part of the group that tackled various life skills, from learning how to check the oil in a car to making a basic dessert. We also took an American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED class and a self-defense class at Spartanburg Martial Arts. One of our life skills was giving a homemade gift, so we learned how to knit.

Two SDS teachers who are enthusiastic knitters agreed to help us on our quest. As these teachers instructed our group, I admired their patience. It is no small feat to teach 14 people a completely new skill! At moments, it felt that every person had made a unique mistake and needed specific assistance to his/her own project. I felt obligated to help our struggling students with their projects but also very unqualified to do so. My frustration was rising, but I – an adult in the room – tried to mask it.


And then there was Sarah, one of the girls in our group. She came over and patiently walked me through each part of a basic knitting knot. Sarah did several knots for me, showing me how her hands moved and clearly explaining what to do. Then she gave the project back to me. It was my turn again. Slowly but surely, I completed stitch after stitch.

I imagine that, in the few minutes it took for Sarah to explain the steps to me, we made a beautiful picture. We were the image of student teaching teacher – the exact opposite of what one would expect to find in a school. The teacher who was helpless and impatiently requesting assistance learned from the student who was knowledgeable and graciously sharing her skill.

In reality, teachers learn from students every day at Spartanburg Day School. The process, however, is not always so tangible as learning how to knit. Often, we learn resilience from tutoring students one-on-one. We learn courage while watching students compete in athletic events, or stepping up to give a speech. We learn to see the world with optimism and a healthy dose of reality when discussing students’ future plans. If we, as teachers, expect our students to learn from us, then why shouldn’t we learn from them? Why should we shy away from situations where we know we will be challenged and grow – intellectually, personally, musically, athletically or otherwise?

knittingAs for my knitting, it didn’t take long for me to get the hang of it and find myself enjoying the project. Knitting was something that required my focus, but I recognized that with a lot of practice, it would become mindless. Recently, I completed my first project and started my second. I currently look forward to knitting as I can in the evenings, and eventually to learning more about the possible projects that I can complete – with a much lower stress level than when I started.

Here’s to another year of learning from and with students.

Why we play

By Ashley Stokes
Head of Lower School

Bob Dylan is known for his music and not for his philosophy of childhood development, but the lyrics from Forever Young speak to how play is the foundation for a life well-lived.

May you always do for others and let others do for you. May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung…may you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true, may you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you. May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong, may your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift, may you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift. May your heart always be joyful, may your song always be sung. May you stay forever young.


When you hear the word play, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Perhaps it is a childhood memory of your parents locking you out of the house and forcing you to use your imagination to keep you from being bored. Or maybe you thought of building a fort, riding bikes all day, or my personal favorite, spending hours upon hours creating a wedding for Barbie. I bet when you reflect on those experiences, they bring a smile to your face. Play is happy. Play is fun. Play is learning.

We know, because research tells us, that there has been a drastic shift over the past 10-20 years in the amount of time children spend playing versus the amount of time they spend on academics and structured activities such as extracurricular activities, sports and after-school tutoring – even for our youngest students. In general, educators are seeing an increase in the level of anxiety in these children as well as an increase in students’ lack of executive functioning skills such as impulse control, emotional control and flexible thinking. These skills are developed through unstructured play, through opportunities to acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to express their emotions, take turns, become independent, interact with peers, engage in meaningful relationships with others, control their emotions and develop a positive self-image. These skills are crucial for children’s success in school, at home and for their overall growth.


This week I was in our three-year-old classrooms. Each child’s parent was asked to write a story explaining how they chose their child’s name. As the teacher read each child’s story, they gleamed with pride. Their classmates were so interested to hear about them. They were attentive, they were supportive, they even took turns asking really great questions. I was amazed. I stayed for a while and observed the children in centers. In the housekeeping center, one little girl was holding her baby and on her cell phone calling the babysitter so she could go to the grocery store. Another little girl came to her side to help calm the “crying” baby. They communicated about the baby’s needs, they problem solved about what to do next, they took turns holding the baby. These skills that they are developing are the reason why they are able to sit in a circle at three years old and act as if they have been in school for years. They are interested, they are motivated, they are learning through play.


Our philosophy about play, unstructured learning and balance follows students year after year. It doesn’t stop in 3K, it continues on throughout the child’s school experience here. We don’t look at kindergarten as the new first grade. We don’t look at fourth grade as just a year to prepare for middle school. We focus on the year at hand and the development that needs to take place.

We continuously see evidence of the benefits of unstructured play throughout students’ years in the Lower School. Last year a few of our third grade students saw a need in the community to raise money for the Humane Society. They worked together as a team and devised a plan for collecting money all on their own. They created buckets and placed them in each division in the school.


The students raised over $100 in donations. These students showed service orientation, creativity, problem solving and the ability to coordinate with others which according to the World Economic Forum, are four of the top skills/behaviors employers are currently seeking. These skills can all be attributed to the numerous opportunities that these students have had since 4K to learn through play.  

So while you will find a challenging independent school curriculum here, you will also find play. And as our preschoolers grow and eventually leave halls of the Lower School, it is my hope that they will take some advice from Bob Dylan…and stay forever young at heart.