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.
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!
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.
"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!"
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.
“This is such a specific moment in time,” explains New Canaan Country School Visual Arts Teacher Liz Ferran whose students are finishing up a portraiture unit. “And because of this, and the potentially history-making, life-defining nature of the [COVID-19] pandemic, more than how they looked, I wanted the students to capture how they felt. Art is a tool of expression. I want them to get comfortable with using this tool.”
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!
New Canaan Country School is pleased to announce that Olympic gold-medal winning athlete and NBC Sports 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 sometime in 2021.
“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 75-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.
Country School’s Lower School (Grades 1-4) celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with curricular activities, reflections and gatherings culminating in an assembly, Jan.15, held using online platforms.
Academy Award nominee, Emmy-winning filmmaker and New Canaan Country School graduate, Matthew Heineman ’98 (Cartel Land, A Private War) and co-director, Emmy nominee Matthew Hamachek (Amanda Knox) have released Tiger, a revealing look at the rise, fall, and epic comeback of global icon Tiger Woods, now streaming on HBO.
This year in the Upper School we had the exciting opportunity to design a new 8th grade art course. We designed the course to meet the changing world of digital arts with a focus on balancing traditional art techniques with digital to design and create numerous pieces of art. For their first project, students had the opportunity to explore the combination of digital photography while adding an inorganic object to a natural environment. Students focused on design elements, composition, color manipulation and photo cropping to make a four photo collage. View a video to see a representation of the 8th graders work.
Six Country School ninth graders attended the national Student Diversity Leadership (SDLC) conference held Nov. 30-Dec. 4, which allowed them to connect with students from across the country virtually.
The NCCS Parents' Association handed out fresh-baked pies to all faculty and staff today as a gesture of thanks for all they've done to make this school year so successful! Special thanks to our generous NCCS parents for underwriting the cost of the pies and to the students who created heartfelt messages of thanks that decorated the pie boxes! All excess funds collected will be used to fund future Faculty and Staff Appreciation events during the 2020-2021 school year.
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, Nov. 3. View video.
New Canaan Country School’s 2020 Alumni Award winner Eric Woolworth ’80 spoke to Middle and Upper School students (Grades 5 - 9) about his path to the executive office of the Miami HEAT Group and discussed the importance of creating diverse, equitable and inclusive environments, professional organizations and communities during a virtual event on Oct. 30. (View the recording.)
A week-long 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 Parents' Association's biggest fundraisers, the festival once again brought together storytellers and book lovers of all ages.
A book talk launched the event on Monday, Oct. 26 via Zoom. Head of School Aaron Cooper discussed Range, a book by best-selling author David Epstein, about why generalists triumph in a specialized world. Mr. Cooper shared his reflections and noted points of connection to Country School’s values and mission.
The NCCS community collected 1,175 pounds of canned and dry food last Sat., Oct. 24 at Person-to-Person, a local social services organization. The Parents’ Association thanks the entire community for their show of support for Person-to-Person and its mission to feed local families! Special thanks to the 22 Middle and Upper School students and parents, who advertised the food drive, unloaded trunks, checked expiration dates and sorted food.
Thank you to the twenty Early Childhood and Lower School families who got their hands (and knees) dirty planting 500 bulbs around campus. We cannot wait to see the results of your hard work bloom in the spring!
Although Hispanic Heritage Month is officially behind us, we had one more reflection to share, this time from a student on his Hispanic identity and its importance to him and his family. We will continue to periodically publish pieces that invite you all to “see” our community fully. Please enjoy this piece from Daniel Marin in 8th grade. - Kojo Clarke, Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
New Canaan Country School is pleased to announce that Eric Woolworth ’80 will be presented with the 2020 Alumni Award. Eric is scheduled to accept the honor and share with students, alumni and guests highlights of his career in professional basketball and as a leader in diversity and inclusion initiatives Friday, Oct. 30, live via an online platform.
“We look forward to welcoming Eric back to campus, albeit virtually, and to have him share his experience and wisdom with our students,” said Head of School Aaron Cooper. The Alumni Award is presented each year to honor an alumna or alumnus who has had “the courage and confidence to make a positive contribution to the world.”
New Canaan Country School eighth grade history and English teacher Will McDonough has been named a recipient of this year’s Top 100 Visionaries in Education by the Global Forum for Education and Learning (GFEL).
After nominations, interviews, and extensive research, the GFEL awards committee rated each finalist on the following parameters to reach the final list of awardees: overall reach; industry impact; spirit of innovation; future readiness; and market demand.
Isadora Machado, a staff member, reflects on the significance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Isadora Machado is a very familiar face to Country School, having worked at Country School from 2003-2010 in many roles including Kindergarten Apprentice and Art Teacher, and Lower and Middle School Spanish Teacher. She also continues to be an integral member of the Horizons teaching team since 2003. This year, Isadora joins us as a Plus Program Assistant primarily working with Beginners 4/5. -------
The following remarks by Head of School Aaron Cooper were delivered the night of the Annual Meeting & Dinner on Oct. 1:
Country School values people – our students and their childhood and our educators and the ways that they inspire our children. And it values education – learning and growing and enlightenment. I firmly believe that anyone who chooses to work in a school, whether in a classroom with students all day or in an office somewhere, is an educator. After all, everything our students feel and experience impacts their future. And to recognize our educators furthers those core principles, so please join me in congratulating those entering their 10th year at Country School:
New Canaan Country School’s first Co-Principals, Edith Dudley and Effie Dunton, and the mission upon which they founded the school in 1916, were honored by the school’s community at its virtual Annual Meeting held Thursday, Oct. 1. View video.
Longtime educator Tom Giggi was honored for his exemplary 40-year service at New Canaan Country School’s 2020 Annual Meeting held via online platform, Oct.1.
Mr. Giggi has been an English and History Teacher in the Upper School since 1981. During his time at NCCS, he has also chaired each of the History and English Departments for many years, and has served as an advisor, faculty representative to the Board of Trustees, coach of baseball, soccer, football and basketball, member of the faculty chorus and he was even acting Head of the Upper School from 2000-2001.
Nearly 300 members of the New Canaan Country School community participated in the annual Cougar Run 5k race, held virtually this year, Sept. 27 and 28. The friend-raising event was sponsored by the school’s Parents’ Association and involved students, faculty, staff, alumni and parents.
Congratulations to Sydney Coffield ’18, Arjun Dayal ’18 and Olivia Sheridan ’17 for being named "Teens to Watch" by Stamford Magazine, Greenwich Magazine and New Canaan, Darien & Rowayton Magazine, respectively.
Music teacher Ellen Baer has tackled the challenges of teaching during coronavirus with the kind of creative problem-solving that New Canaan Country School students are encouraged to practice. The Lower School music curriculum is typically based around singing which involves a high level of aerosol emission. So, this year our Lower Schoolers will instead focus on improving their rhythm and listening skills in their general music classes.
Early Childhood students settled into the rhythms and rituals of the Thacher Building on their first week at school. Children in Beginners received their symbols - a longstanding Country School tradition - and explored their indoor and outdoor classrooms, while Kindergarteners got to know one another, checked out their academic spaces and tested out the playground.
New Canaan Country School offered a rich and diverse array of online summer programming during the month of July. More than 200 students and 35 faculty members participated in 40 opportunities for academic development and creative expression, from the arts and math to writing and wellness, and so much in between. The SummerPlus enrichment classes were offered at no charge to the families.
New Canaan Country School welcomes several new faculty and staff members this year, including nine new apprentice teachers. “We have attracted a very talented group of educators with an impressive array of professional experiences who are passionate about children’s growth and development,” said Head of School Aaron Cooper.
Victor Catano joined New Canaan Country School as Chief Financial Officer, July 1. “I am excited to be here and have appreciated the warm welcome to the community,” said Mr. Catano who most recently served as Director of Finance at The IDEAL School of Manhattan.
At New Canaan Country School’s Closing Exercises Wednesday, June 17, Head of School Aaron Cooper encouraged the 37 ninth grade graduates of the Class of 2020 to be courageous – especially in uncertain circumstances such as those we face today. They gathered on the school’s football field for a tailgate-style socially-distanced graduation ceremony. View photos.
The Grade 1 Community Helpers video is the culmination of the students’ social studies unit. This year, the scripts particularly focused on essential workers on the front lines of the pandemic. These community helpers include delivery workers, grocery and food service workers, healthcare workers, firefighters, facilities staff, educators and police officers. We are proud of our students for recognizing the good and vital work of these important community helpers.
New Canaan Country School ninth graders offered words of gratitude and touching reminiscences in their 2020 yearbook dedication to two teachers: Grade 4 Teacher John Hastings and Upper School Math Department Chair, Math Teacher, Coach and Advisor Matthew McDonald.
New Canaan Country School fourth graders kept a long-standing tradition alive, performing the annual Greek play, The Odyssey, June 4, using a variety of creative solutions. A much beloved rite of passage, the play culminates their grade-wide study of ancient Greece, Greek mythology and The Odyssey.
William Shakespeare, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Leif Erickson and Amelia Earhart were among the famous people brought back to life by Country School third graders for a “wax museum” research and writing project, part of a biography unit that culminated June 4.
Each student chose a famous figure, researched him/her and then wrote a speech summarizing the figure’s life and accomplishments.
New Canaan Country School sixth grade students delivered their speeches through the winter and spring. An annual rite of passage at Country School, the speeches are part of an emphasis on developing the skills to be confident and competent public speakers and advocates.
Upper School Science Teacher Sanj Maliakal took his seventh grade life sciences classes on a virtual field trip with the assistance of Zoom and an underwater GoPro camera to the vernal pond located in the school’s 35-acres of campus woodlands. Throughout the year, they had studied ecology and environmental science; this field trip allowed students to explore the unique habitat of a vernal pond and how it compares to other ecosystems and food webs they have already studied. Mr. Maliakal collected tadpole specimens, sharing his finds in real-time with his students, answering questions and even naming the birds they could hear calling in the woods around him. View video.
In the Upper School, teachers continue to deliver on their content and skill-building while at the same time looking for ways to leverage online learning and reimagine both everyday lessons and signature course or grade-level events. Mr. Fredo's 8th grade English class had the opportunity to Zoom with Greenwich Academy alumna, Morgan Hearne, to discuss a book they had recently finished reading.
Distance learning is not stopping the sense of Lower School community, or the joy they share together. Check out the first virtual assembly, complete with special guest Announcers, student shares, tips from Scout, an announcement from Mrs. Stevens, and more!
Eighth graders designed and built small vehicles as a culminating activity of their force and motion unit. Using a variety of tech tools and overcoming the obstacles of social distancing, the students shared ideas, documented their work, recorded videos, and had a final group Zoom call to determine whose car went the farthest.
New Canaan Country School faculty, students and their families joined together in song, jokes, poetry, speeches, drawing, planting, recycling and cooking as part of the 50th Annual Earth Day celebrations, held April 22. The pre-K through Grade 9 school utilized its distance learning resources to engage community members in a wide variety of individual, family and virtual activities.
When Distance Learning began in Lower School, I gave my students an assignment: Have you ever heard the expression every cloud has a silver lining? It means that even during challenging situations, good things can come. The fact that we cannot be at school together is certainly a cloud! Your job is to think about what the silver linings are of our school buildings being closed.
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