Trailblazer A.J. Mleczko ’90 discusses her journey from Country School's skating program to becoming an Olympic gold-medal winning athlete and ESPN and MSG ice hockey analyst inBedford New Canaan Magazine'sJan-Feb '22 issue. A.J. will be presented with the school's Alumni Award and share highlights of her career with students, alumni and guests in May.
The New Canaan Country School community celebrated the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. on Jan. 14 in a variety of ways including student assemblies and an alumni panel.
As is school tradition, members of the Lower School community (Grades 1-4) participated in a group recitation of a portion of Dr. King's “I Have a Dream” speech followed by words of reflection on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusivity from Head of Lower School Meaghan Mallin. Fourth grade students who participated in the group recitation included Vivian Kanter, Reece Lenhard and Victoria Shaw. Additional assembly readers included second-grade students Amelia Grant, Walter Lapidus, Hope Gale, Finley Richards, Evvie Lasko and Henry Rust.
The full Country School community came together to celebrate gratitude - and each other - during the annual Thanksgiving assembly, held outdoors in compliance with safety protocols, Nov. 23. Ninth-grade student government leaders, Brendan Buda, Eleanor duPont, Tucker Golden and Matt Rivera donned inflatable turkey outfits to make welcoming remarks and introduce participants which included 5th grade arts students who made a paper mache replica of a Thanksgiving feast, musical performances by Kindergarten and first grade students, the MS Band and LS student speakers who offered acknowledgement for the land upon which the school sits and its past inhabitants.
As part of a longstanding Country School community-building tradition, all students across campus participated in “Buddies” time, which pairs younger students with older students. The first Buddies get-together of the year – and the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – was held outdoors Nov. 15, with “getting to know you” games which included an iPad photo scavenger hunt, and “things we have in common” interviews.
New Canaan Country School is pleased to announce that Olympic gold-medal winning athlete and an ESPN and MSG ice hockey analyst A.J. Mleczko ’90 will be presented with the 2021 Alumni Award. A.J. will accept the honor and share highlights of her career with students, alumni and guests during the 2021-2022 school year.
In many ways, Dave Stoller is the ultimate renaissance man. Dave has taught science, math, woodshop, technology, maple sugaring, and even word processing classes here. He has coached basketball, football and lacrosse and chaperoned trips on the Appalachian Trail and to Nantucket. Moreso, he was the school’s Sustainability Coordinator and created the Green Cup Challenge. He was also the school’s first technology coordinator, oversaw the maker space and is currently the Director of Technology.
Our young alumni continue to transition beyond Country School with ease, pursuing a wide variety of academic, athletic and artistic passions with the courage and confidence that we have come to expect from our graduates. Here is a round-up of some of their recent adventures and achievements.
New Canaan Country School 2012 Alumni Award recipient, Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman ’98 directed, produced, shot and edited The First Wave, a feature documentary film with exclusive access inside one of New York City’s hardest-hit hospital systems during the harrowing first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A celebration of literacy, Country School’s Festival of Books provided many opportunities to build community, expand libraries and instill a love of reading in students. Perennially one of the Parents' Association's biggest fundraisers, the festival once again brought together storytellers and book lovers of all ages.
The Country School community gathered in-person and virtually at the 2021 Annual Meeting on Oct. 13 to launch the school’s Strategic Plan, “Redefining Childhood Education for the Future.” In addition, the night was dedicated to honoring faculty and staff, celebrating recent accomplishments and looking toward the school’s future.
Mr. Cooper spoke about how the school has been an institution focused on bringing the best of forward-thinking educational pedagogy and philosophy to children for over 100 years.
As part of their study of ecology, Grade 4 science students spent time in the school’s woodlands Nov. 2, lifting rocks and poking underneath fallen logs, looking for food. Not just any food, the plant or prey for the specific animal they had each been assigned to impersonate. Laminated animal descriptions worn by each student on lanyards provided some clues as to where to look, but it was the responsibility of the “bird” to find an earthworm or the “bear” to find a salamander.
A much-beloved annual tradition, New Canaan Country School’s Lower School community (Grade 1- 4 students and faculty) gathered Oct. 28 to celebrate the season by marching in a Halloween Parade around the school’s campus. Led by Head of School Mr. Cooper, adorned for the day in a giraffe costume, and Head of Lower School Mrs. Mallin, as a rainbow bright unicorn, the parade also included the fifth and sixth grade members of the school's marching band.
Inspired by their reading of Roxaboxen, an award-winning children’s book written by Alice McLerran and illustrated by Barbara Cooney, Country School second graders headed to the woods to exercise their imagination on Oct. 20.
Working in small groups or individually, children whisked around the school’s 35-acre woodlands for several hours, collecting fallen branches, stacking logs, piling stones, sweeping leaves aside to make roadways and paths, and creating an imaginary town of their own. View more photos.
In honor of Hispanic heritage and it’s cultural traditions, 4th grade art students learned about Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which celebrates the life and memory of deceased friends and family members. The students made caretas - fanciful masks, often designed with deeply personal or symbolic meanings - in the style traditionally worn by revelers on Nov. 1 and 2. View video.
Wisdom so often comes from the young. And such strength in our foundational values and structures is due most directly to those who educate our students, especially those who best know our community. So, it is natural that I will now recognize several of our educators who are reaching service anniversaries this year. Paraphrasing Plato, ‘whatever is honored by a [school] will be cultivated there.’
Eighth- and ninth-grade New Canaan Country School music students learned a challenging marimba composition called The Mitty Matty Rag, which they performed on soprano, alto, bass and contrabass xylophones, Oct.12. Click HERE to listen to our talented students!
Sixth grade two-dimensional visual arts students created “get the word out” posters to inform local citizens about the efforts of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to stop the proliferation of the invasive Spotted Lantern Fly, Oct. 5. The project was inspired by the recent increase in local public service announcements and graphic signage, warning the general public of the oncoming scourge of the invasive species.
More than 230 members of the New Canaan Country School community participated in the 5th annual Cougar 5K Run, held Oct. 2 on the school’s 85-acre campus. The friend-raising event was sponsored by the school’s Parents’ Association and involved students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents. The event also hosted a Cougar Junior Fun Run which included a 100-meter dash and obstacle course for children ages 3 through Grade 2. Members of the school’s cross-country teams (Grades 5-9) led participants in group stretches in preparation of the race. The school’s Cougar mascot and non-runners of all ages lined the course to offer encouragement, support and congratulations.
Maker culture and curriculum are thriving at Country School this fall. Students in Grades 1 through 9 are diving into increasingly more complex and authentically challenging lessons with enthusiasm, all while practicing skills of collaboration, creativity and higher-order thinking. -
Four New Canaan Country School young alumni – Audrey Magnusen ’18, Jack Johnson ’18, Maggie Ruvinsky ’19 and Amitav Nott ’19 – have been named 2021 “ Teens To Watch” by Moffly Media as featured in the New Canaan, Darien & Rowayton Magazine September issue.
The Horizons at New Canaan Country School Board, Board of Governors and leadership donors gathered together on Wednesday, September 8, to dedicate the new and improved McNaught Pool and celebrate another successful year. The new pool will serve as a springboard for student success for years to come as our students master swimming skills and build confidence that spills over into all aspects of their lives.
The new school year is upon us, and understandably, for some it can be an exciting but anxious time. New Canaan Country School psychologists Rebecca Comizio and Jackie Britt-Friedman offer the following tips to help reduce stress around the transition.
At New Canaan Country School’s Celebration of Eighth Graders, Tuesday, June 15, Head of Upper School Karl Palmgren recognized the 62 members of the Class of 2022 as “independent, self-motivated, confident, good communicators, hard workers, resilient, empathetic, joyful and collaborative.”
At New Canaan Country School’s Closing Exercises Wednesday, June 16, Head of School Aaron Cooper encouraged the 35 members of the Class of 2021 to draw upon the many strengths they developed during their tenure at the Pre-K through Grade 9 school. The graduates, their families, faculty and staff gathered on the front lawn of the school’s campus for the outdoor ceremony.
To honor and celebrate the 22 graduating seniors in the Horizons at New Canaan Country School Class of 2021, staff, academic coaches, and families attended an outdoor graduation and Alumni Association induction ceremony at Country School on Saturday, June 12.
Among the graduates were NCCS alumni Jennifer Llamas and Brian Villalta, each of whom were presented with an award. Brian Villalta, a 2021 graduate of Rye Country Day School and 2018 graduate of New Canaan Country School was presented the Leah Kimmet Spirit Award by Nehemie Moïse, Horizons Family and Program Director, and Family Council representative, Luisa Osorio.
New Canaan Country School rocked on Saturday, June 5! Parents, faculty and staff came out to support the school’s “Country School Rocks” community celebration and fundraiser. Attendees were treated to a picnic-style gathering on the school’s campus with musical performances by three bands composed of faculty and parent performers along with other musicians. Click HEREfor event photos. Click HERE for video.
Second grade Social Studies students held a “States Exposition” in which they presented individual research projects and their knowledge of the five regions of the United States, including land and water forms, to parents and faculty assembled, by class, in the Welles Lower School Building, June 10. The multimedia event included video, poster board and recitations and was a culmination of their semester-long study of the United States.
New Canaan Country School ninth graders offered words of gratitude and touching reminiscences in their 2021 yearbook dedication to two teachers: Grade 9 Teacher, Coach and Advisor Tom Giggi and Physical Education Teacher and Coach Meegan Horn. The tributes were read aloud before the Upper School community, June 10. Mrs. Horn, who participated via Zoom, was home with her newborn child.
Working in small teams, New Canaan Country School sixth grade social studies students navigated their way around campus to points labelled Spain, England, Portugal, France, England and the Netherlands as participants of a “Trade Routes” game, June 6. The culminating experience follows their year-long study of major explorers who journeyed to expand Western ideals, following trade routes that originated during the Renaissance time-period.
Fifth grade Earth and physical science students and their parents participated in a STEM design challenge in which they were given an engineering problem to solve with limited materials, June 10. Working in small groups, they designed and then created 3D plant models each with a unique adaptation in reaction to a real world issue, such as limited rain, an abundance of sunlight or leaf eating predators.
Fourth grade students performed oral recitals by class and participated in a grade-wide video production of a traditional Greek play for parents, June 1-3. These culminating activities were part of a year-end celebration following their multidisciplinary study of ancient Greece, early democracy, myths and "The Odyssey." Dressed in costume, students also shared their final written thesis projects, along with a gallery of handmade replicas of characters and sailing vessels found in the myths and text of "The Odyssey. " View video.
On May 25th the NCCS Upper School Cross Country team participated in the 2021 Run For It 5k, an event that coincided with Mental Health Awareness Month in raising money for To Write Love on Her Arms, a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.
I’ve heard the question millions of times. It's the kind of question I've grown used to hearing and it took a while for me to realize that most people don’t want to hear that I am from Connecticut.
“No, where are you really from?”
It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized the truth behind the question of where I was from. Being an Asian American, I often struggled with understanding my identity and that I was different from others. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand that my identity as an Asian is an important facet of who I am and I hope to further share that heritage with my students.
When I’m asked what makes Country School special, I often point first to our deeply held value of community.
At the heart of the NCCS mission is a belief that children learn and grow best when they are rooted in an unshakeable sense of belonging. Country School students are fully seen and known, valued for all they are and can become, and surrounded by adults who inspire them to reach their highest potential.
I have a vivid memory of when I learned about the Student Diversity Leadership Conference for the first time. I was in seventh grade and six ninth graders gave a presentation on the eight identifiers - religion, age, ethnicity, socio-economic-status, race, sexual orientation, ability, and gender. As much information as they shared in that presentation, I still had so many questions:
For the last few months, 6th graders have been working hard to research, write, and rehearse argumentative and informational speeches. Each student selected a topic about which they are passionate, including topics related to their families, communities and the world.
Third grade social studies students performed a "Wax Museum" for parents, faculty, staff and peers in the Lower School Commons, May 26. The live performance, featuring individual oral presentations, was a culmination of a yearlong cultural identity study of how different groups came to America and contributed to the fabric of our nation. Each student selected a person of significance to research and then crafted a speech highlighting that character's lifetime achievements. Many dressed as their character or carried props to help the audience identify them. For a photo gallery of the event.
Country School eighth-grade students Lila Gizzie, Ifeanyi Ndokwu, Ambika Nott and Matt Rivera recently participated in the oral tradition of memorizing and reenacting a culturally significant story. The four were selected as the featured storytellers at a grade-wide assembly held in the school’s Athletics & Wellness Center and online, April 30.
Congressman Jim Himes joined New Canaan Country School 8th grade World Cultures students today during a Zoom in which the students spoke with a family living in Myanmar (formerly Burma).
Congressman Himes provided an overview of how the U.S. government is responding to the unfolding political situation in the Southeast Asian country and the family (whose identities must remain confidential for their safety) detailed the ways in which daily life has changed and what it feels like to live in the middle of a military coup.
New Canaan Country School parents Cathy and Brett Jefferson have made one of the largest gifts in NCCS history, recently pledging $2.5 million to support diversity and financial accessibility for students.
“Our vision is to identify and support outstanding students who do not have the economic means to attend NCCS and afford them the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. We hope that there will be many outstanding Chao Scholars that will benefit from our gift and we are also hopeful that NCCS will benefit from the diversity this program will offer,” said Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson in a letter to Head of School Aaron Cooper.
The gift will create the Chien and Taina Chao Scholarship Fund, named in honor of Mrs. Jefferson’s parents who came to the U.S. to pursue their advanced education, both earning PhDs in chemistry and building successful careers in science. The gift is being made through The Catherine Jefferson Foundation, which Brett and Cathy founded, and, in part, by Hildene Capital Management.
In 2020, Country School grandparent and parent of alumni Bob Mancini reached out to NCCS to express his family’s interest in supporting the school’s commitment to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI).
The family has a deep legacy of support here at Country School. They established a separate endowed fund to support the school’s sports program several years ago. In conversations with Head of School Aaron Cooper, Bob shared the family’s intent to shift the scope and focus of the fund - and add additional funds - to directly support Country School’s dedication to being a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community, with the goal of becoming a leader among independent schools.
At the end of March, 692 solar panels were installed on the roof of the new Athletics and Wellness Center to complete the construction of a 280km solar system. This effort furthers Country School’s commitment to environmental sustainability and will increase the school’s solar energy use from about 10% to about 50%, while saving the school nearly $27k in utility costs each year. The school has already been using solar power generated by a solar array atop the Stevens Upper School Building.
Country School volunteers picked up 30 pounds of trash and 47 bottle caps, which will be counted toward the Sound Waters "One Million Bottle Cap" Challenge.” We were so pleased to see students from ALL NCCS divisions! Special thanks to Jen Corcoran and Ryan Pauta for representing the Upper School. Together we made the LI Sound a little cleaner for those who depend on it - us included!
"If not now, then when? If not us, then who?" implored sixth grader Madelyn Kinsley of her peers and teachers as she delivered a persuasive speech on the topic of “The Problems with Recycling” to members of the Middle School community. “We cannot push the problem of single-use plastic into the future. It has to be dealt with now.”
A group of 15 NCCS administrators, trustees, parents, faculty, students and alumni participated as a “pod” in the inaugural Pollyanna Conference in Connecticut on April 10. The conference, which was entitled, “Climate of Belonging: Challenging Our Past to Reimagine Our Future,” was hosted virtually by Westover School with the intent to “allow us to think about and examine the current structures, biases, and privileges in place at our schools as well as how we might adapt our schools and policies to be more inclusive.”
Fourth graders prepared and shared multi-genre research projects on people who have made an impact on the world.
“Jackie Robinson was an amazing baseball player and became the first African American to play in the Major League,” explained fourth grade student Topher Kern of New Canaan, at a publishing party for the grade’s multi-genre research projects held in the Lower School, March 30.
As a token of appreciation, the Parents' Association delivered meals to all of the faculty and staff on Thursday, April 9. Meals were prepared by Simply Delicious and included the choice of chicken piccata, salmon, short rib lasagna and vegan risotto.
"The PA is so grateful to the faculty and staff of NCCS for the extraordinary efforts they've put forth in the past year to keep our school community healthy and strong!" said PA President Liz Keogh. "The flexibility and resilience shown by them will resonate throughout our community for years to come. Giving them all a healthy dinner was the least we could do to show our deep appreciation!"
Country School ninth graders delivered “Dove Bags” of food for 46 local families in need, Dec. 19. Working in teams led by Upper School teacher Elizabeth Carroll, and captained by students Annika Mannix of Wilton, Darla Moody of Pound Ridge, Ryland Strine of New Canaan and Jamie Staniar of Darien, the 36 students gathered, packed, recorded and transported the collected items to the Food Bank.
Students in Beginners and Kindergarten practiced their scientific observation skills this week, using chicken eggs for a hands-on exploration. What does the thick albumin feel like? What happens if you mix it with a stick? What does the inner shell membrane feel like? What does it smell like? How does the chalaza feel different from the yolk? Driven by their natural curiosity, the students discovered the answers to these, and many other questions.
The initial experience for Beginners 3/4 is the foundation on which additional layers are added in Beginners 4/5 and Kindergarten. All of the students learn about eggs each spring in preparation for the incubation of chicken eggs and the welcoming of fluffy baby chicks.
The arrival of March meant only one thing for New Canaan Country School’s Lower School (Grades 1-4) families: March Math-ness! Designed to engage family and friends of all ages in a celebration of math fundamentals, the daily activities were held at-home with video tutorials and a packet containing necessary materials provided in advance.
New Canaan Country School is furthering its commitment to environmental sustainability with a new partnership that will increase the school’s solar energy use from about 10% to about 50%, while saving the school nearly $27k in utility costs each year. The school has already been using solar power generated by a solar array atop the Stevens Upper School Building.
Nearly one full year into the pandemic, the fourth grade watercolor study has transcended the boundaries of regular art instruction and taken on a documentary quality, with each student painting a self-portrait wearing a protective mask.
On Wednesday night, NCCS parents enjoyed a virtual, hands-on exploration of Mixed Media Collage guided by Visual Arts Teacher Mark Macrides and sponsored by the PA. Participants received a bag of materials and many added some of their own meaningful additions to create a custom piece of artwork. The experience was interactive, inspiring and relaxing for many who enjoyed learning a new skill and creating something outside of their familiar comfort zones. Many thanks to Mark for sharing his visual arts expertise and love of Collage with our parents!
“It’s really surprising how much sap is in these buckets. I totally didn’t expect this.”
Fourth grade student Henry Macon of Norwalk is peering underneath the silver lid of an aluminum bucket. He and his classmates are partaking in the long-standing New Canaan Country School tradition of collecting sap from the tapped maple trees which line the school’s front driveway and dot the landscape of its 85-acre campus. (view video)
For the second year, NCCS Middle and Upper School students supported Blankets of Hope, a non-profit organization that promotes kindness by donating blankets to the homeless with handmade cards. In total, $700 was collected by families and 72 blankets with student-made cards were delivered to Inspirica, a Stamford-based organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of homelessness.
“I am trying to find the mouth and am also studying the design of the shell,” explains first grade science student Dylan Shah of Stamford, carefully examining the grove snail in front of him. “I also want to find the respiratory pore.”
“The snail has different colors on its shell. It is so slimy!” exclaims classmate Lily Burnes of Darien, holding her specimen in hands dampened with water, making it easier for the snail to move across her outstretched palms.
Students in Mr. Randolph’s sixth grade class delivered their speeches Thursday, Jan 28. The speeches, an annual rite of passage at Country School, are part of an emphasis on developing the skills to be confident and competent public speakers and advocates.
Thank you to the 30+ participants in our most recent DEI Community Meeting, where we discussed a follow-up to the virtual visit from Daryl Davis, musician and race relations expert, and the first half of Ibram X. Kendi’s “How To Be An Antiracist”. Here are some notes from the conversation, and some resources to explore:
NCCS Librarians Mary Ann Lansdale and Robin Lundquist
There are many ways of connecting to each other, and your Country School librarians asked our school community to tell us their favorite books when they were our students' ages. The Favorite Childhood Books of NCCS Faculty and Staff Libguide offers books from Early Childhood to Upper School that brought back fond memories to our school community. It also includes a section on children's author's favorite books and banned books that every child should read. We hope this brings you as much joy as it did for us. Happy reading and talking about your favorite childhood book.
In music class, second grade has been learning about form in music. Form refers to the different sections within a piece of music. Using the piece Galop from "The Comedians" by Dmitry Kabalevsky, the students demonstrated the different sections in the piece, as well as the melodic and rhythmic movement, with a ribbon routine. We hope you enjoy it! View video.
The Bulletin: Published twice a year for the larger school community, including alumni and parents of alumni and grandparents. To submit class notes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. View past issues of the Bulletin.
The Ridge: The Literary Magazine of the Upper School
New Canaan Country School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin and are afforded all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, age, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or ancestry, or disability in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid policies or any other school-administered programs.