To say we hit the ground running in the new decade when we returned to school last Thursday would be an epic understatement!
Kids were eager to share their vacation stories with their teachers, everyone seemed ready to get back to work, and long-planned strategic efforts were in important phases of coming to fruition--all within the space of a few days. Our school is in a time of positive momentum, and it is all good!
This week, we’re excited about rolling up our sleeves and muscling through some big projects that go to the heart of how education happens here at Community Day School. Both have to do with how we organize for learning. Both reflect changes that we believe will more closely align with our pedagogy and our values.
A new look at our daily schedule: Independent School Management (ISM) Schedule Consultation - deep dive
It is finally happening! As we’ve reported to you in the past, we’ve been granted funds from a prominent national foundation to take a comprehensive look at how we organize for learning--our daily schedule. A school schedule is indeed a statement of the school’s values and priorities, and we want to make sure that ours align.
Roxanne Higgins, ISM president and the company’s senior scheduling consultant, is here on site this week. Tomorrow, while our students have a day off, our educators will be meeting with Roxanne. She will share best practice research, her takeaways from months of surveying of students, staff, and parents, and her off-site and on-site analysis of our daily schedule. This complex analysis includes how we organize time, space, staff, and resources. She will also make recommendations that we will be able to digest, evaluate, and implement in our own ways to achieve our goals.
We are grateful to Jordan Hoover for being the point person for this consultation and for doing all the preparatory work and management leading up to and including this week’s site visit. We’re excited by the possibilities that this work will present and are ready for the work that will be required to implement our desired changes.
A new look at our Learning Innovation Lab and Library - soft launch:
Our beautiful building was constructed in 1922 and has all the enduring quality and architectural beauty of a stone building from that era, but our two labs and library areas weren't configured for collaboration, project work, and real-world problem-solving. Our students and our teachers were using the space in ways that showed us that our pedagogy had outgrown our space, and it was time for a change.
Over the past several years, we researched how best to renovate our computer labs and library to meet the functions that our pedagogy increasingly demanded. Our research included working with parents, community members, students, and teachers to understand how the spaces work for them as configured, and what desired functions could be supported if we reimagine the space and its contents.
After more than two years of planning, designing, researching, and fundraising, TODAY we celebrated the soft launch of our new space and brought students in for a sneak peek (before and after photos are here).
What have we accomplished?
Big picture, we designed, equipped, and furnished that combined lab and library space so that it serves as the hub of learning innovation for all CDS students and educators. We envision this space as the hub of innovative learning for the school, with equipment to share and professional coaching offered to teachers within their classrooms to empower them to enact their vision of what learning can look like when amplified with 21st-century tools and students who are digital natives.
What’s new in the space right now?
- We opened up and combined two smaller labs into one large space.
- In the library, we eliminated two small offices and created a space specifically designed for young readers.
- We reconfigured the wall between the labs and the library, closing one doorway to add functional wall space, while adding a glass panel above the main doorway. We achieved better soundproofing while keeping an open floor plan.
- We created more open floor space for activities such as our robotics program, demarcating spaces so they are conducive to multiple activities happening simultaneously, and allowing for flexibility and adaptability in our furniture.
- We chose shorter shelving to open up the entire space and enable visibility of little heads between the bookshelves.
- Modern computer science involves a lot more than sitting at a desktop computer, and so we have moveable tables and open floor space to allow for student work on multiple projects and machines.
- The lab will have work tables and a couch area, in addition to the computer tables. In these spaces, for example, the yearbook staff can discuss ideas, design, and collaborate on projects.
- In the library, the furniture design separates the quiet reading corner from the work tables, the Young Adult reading nook, and a teacher work space.
- Furniture choices reflect our goals of portability and adaptability. The shaped work desks and benches for the library and lab will fit together, and can be mixed and matched for larger school-wide or evening events.
As we think about exciting technologies to purchase for the school, we are aiming for mobility, so that the technology is not tied to the Innovation Lab itself, but can be used in any classroom. For example, our new podcasting cart and green screen are lightweight enough to move within the lab or into a classroom, and take minutes to assemble, making them more practical for learning than a permanent installation.
We are grateful to Jackie Barnes, Vanessa Pfendler, Emily Cappello, and Whitney Philipps for their tremendous input and effort with all aspects of this project, as well as to Josh Albright and Bari Weinberger for overseeing it. Thanks to all of them, we celebrated the soft launch today because we’ve done the work needed to be able to jump in and use the space right now. We’re not quite finished with all the furniture and design elements, but functionally we are raring to go!
In the spring, we will invite parents and the greater community to a Grand Opening that will allow us to recognize our funders, thank everyone who worked so hard to make this happen, showcase the changed space, and highlight the innovative pedagogic opportunities that both propelled this transformation and will now be powered by it.
Just another week at CDS ...
These two significant endeavors are signs of a thriving school community that is dedicated to continual reflection and improvement and is ready to work hard to do what’s best for our students, our staff, and our community. Our students, our staff, and our community deserve nothing less than a world-class school, and I am humbled and proud (at the same time!) to be leading a staff that says “yes” to progress and “yes” to the challenges of tomorrow.
We are building this school for this cohort of families and for the ones who will be enrolling their children 20 years from now.
May we continue to go and grow from strength to strength!