As simple as it is singular: better the world.

If a school is to be greater than the sum of its test scores, if students are truly to excel both in the classroom and beyond, then there must be more at the core of that education than the hum of day-to-day life. There must be rigor and curiosity without limit, purpose and passion.

There must be a mission.

Students at York Country Day School are taught their school’s mission from an early age, one that’s focused on inspiring young minds and creating bold citizens. They’re shown the importance of creativity and diversity, and each one is known and valued for their individual contributions.

What’s more, though – perhaps most unique of all – students at YCDS from Pre-K to Upper School learn those lessons together, as a community. We grow as a family.

“It’s easy for everyone sometimes to get lost in the details, just going day to day through life,” said Eric Fleming, Upper School Spanish teacher. “But, here, we strive to see the entire puzzle, and to make everyone feel a part of that puzzle.

“We look at the big picture together.”

‘Why we love YCDS’

Danielle Kardisco’s instinct was to lead the group, but instead she took a deep breath and scanned the room. Around her, York Country Day School students of all ages were already deep in discussion about their school.

It was Mission Monday, and a community had gathered to engage.

The event, held earlier this year, grouped students from across all three divisions and tasked them with examining and deliberating on YCDS’ mission. Upper Schoolers helped young children with hard words; Lower Schoolers grabbed supplies to make posters before an all-school presentation later in the day. And a third-grade teacher smiled.

“We’re not only teaching them to be smart ,” Kardisco said. “We’re teaching them to be part of a community, and to just be better human beings.”

Afterward, young students in the third grade spoke about their day.

“My favorite part was making the poster because it says why we love YCDS,” Jensen said. “The mission is important because it represents our school,” Addie added.

“My favorite part was making the banner,” Sara said, “because everyone in my group could help.”

‘You can make a difference’

The Mission Monday contributions of YCDS’s youngest students impressed their older peers. From mission key-word crosswords to insightful drawings to a volcano erupting with school pride, often it was Lower Schoolers whose creativity drove progress.

“The little ones actually contributed most,” said junior Jagr. “They always had fantastic answers.”

The 16-year-old plans to study computer science in college, after a recent course at York College through YCDS’s community partnership. That class was an epiphany, he said, enough to sway him from the mechanical engineering career he’d long planned.

But that’s the beauty and wonder of York Country Day School: the opportunities are as wide as your curiosity, as deep as your drive to learn.

Jagr can remember looking at the mission in the school handbook as a young boy. Some of the words were a little long, he recalled, the ideas just too big. Early in high school, though, those sentences suddenly spoke to him. Something clicked.

“It’s almost as if I finally realized that everything I do affects everybody else,” he said. “You can make a difference; we all can make a difference. Once you understand that, it’s pretty powerful and transformative.”

Pursuing our promise

York Country Day School “inspires and nurtures the innovative and creative spirit of students as they pursue their intellectual promise,” the mission begins. From there, it highlights compassion and the pursuit of learning, community, the common good and more.

And it ends with a call to students, as simple as it is singular: better the world.

YCDS students and faculty spend their time together searching for such answers, working, learning and following knowledge down whatever paths their passion leads them. In the end our setbacks are set aside, and our successes are shared. We win together.

“Each student has a luminous presence.  Collectively, the sum of their efforts, their spirit, and their desire to contribute to the greater good radiates brilliantly within our community every day,” states Head of School, Dr. Christine Heine.

With the mission in mind, we stretch out toward our promise, each day, as one.

Grade Three Students Apply Math Lessons to Real World Situations

By Mrs. Danielle Kardisco

As a student, math was my least favorite subject.  It was abstract, difficult, and somewhat meaningless to me.  I didn’t understand why I needed to know how to find the area of an irregular shape or understand how to compare fractions.  I found myself feeling more frustrated than anything.

Fast forward a few decades, and I am on the other side of the equation (pun intended).  As a teacher, I have made it a goal to engage students in math practices that are meaningful.  Yes, we must memorize multiplication facts and learn formulas to find perimeter.  However, math is so much more than that.

Integrating real-life situations into learning raises the stakes for students and increases engagement.  For example, prior to Thanksgiving, students were given the task to plan a Thanksgiving meal for 12 people with a certain budget.  This task engaged students in using addition, subtraction, and multiplication.  It required students to calculate money and practice adding with decimals.  It also stretched their logical reasoning skills to make decisions on what products were necessary for their Thanksgiving dinner. When adding money with decimals a few weeks ago, a student said, “Oh yeah!  Like when we shopped for Thanksgiving dinner.”  This project is a mile marker that helps create a reference point for their learning.

Another way math is brought to life in third grade is through art.  When students were learning about grouping in multiplication around Halloween, they made Multiplication Monsters, which required them to group body parts.  In December, students made array buildings and created multiplication word problems for each array.  As a class, we discussed where in the world we see other arrays, such as elevator buttons, keyboards, and checkerboards.

In January, students were learning how to calculate perimeter and area.  We talked about where people use the formulas in real life, such as architects, construction workers, and parents painting or laying floors in their homes.  Students used pixels to create different pieces of art.  They needed to calculate the area each part of their picture.

Area Artists

Most recently, students planned a Valentine’s Party using a budget.  They used similar skills as the Thanksgiving dinner exercise .  It was neat to hear them refer back to their experience in November as they crunched numbers and determined what would fit into their budgets.  These types of projects also encourage cooperative learning, as they must work with a partner.  Again, teaching skills that are meaningful in life outside of the classroom, such as compromise, communication, and teamwork.  

DSC_2616

It is amazing how each project creates a memory for students to hook onto when using the math they have learned in the classroom. Ways to make math meaningful are all around us.  Imagine if this type of learning went beyond the school building.  Seeing how math is in everyday life can make learning math exciting and accessible.  

Check out a few of these websites for ideas for how to make math come to life in your home:

https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/real-life-math-activities/

https://www.imaginelearning.com/blog/2017/04/math-real-life-examples

Collaborative Efforts to Ensure School Safety

By Christine Heine, Head of School

Wednesday’s horrific mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida impacts us all.  The ongoing violence is so deeply painful to read about and immeasurably worse for the communities and families it touches so personally. We grieve for the victims and their families and remain committed to taking action to strengthen the safety and well-being of our community.   

Several recent and ongoing measures have strengthened and expanded our preparation and response to possible incidents.  Below are several YCDS initiatives in current operation:

  • Active Shooter Response Training (ALICE) training sessions.  YCDS faculty has completed two of three sessions to train faculty using this process.  Our next training session scheduled for March 13 and includes the participation of York College Campus Safety and Spring Garden Township Police Department.  We plan to include students in this process after the completion of this training.
  • A Risk and Vulnerability Assessment Team from the Pennsylvania State Police is scheduled to visit YCDS for a two-day assessment in March.  This on-site visit, analysis, and report will help to inform and improve all safety measures at our school.
  • YCDS Safety Plan. We have developed and coordinated a school safety plan with York College of Pennsylvania to provide instructions and protocols for possible incidents that may occur at school.
  • Ongoing practice drills for fire, weather-related emergencies, building evacuation, school lockdown, and more.

Our emergency response protocols are as important as our work to nurture and improve the social and emotional wellness of our students.   York Country Day School is a community with great empathy, kindness, and compassion. Collectively, we care about and for one another.  Our social and emotional curriculum and initiatives continue to grow and expand to meet the needs of our students.  We are delighted to announce that we will add a school counselor to our faculty next year.  This role is much needed and will serve our community in nurturing the emotional wellness of our students.  

As parents, it can be challenging to determine how to discuss tragedies with your child. I have included a few helpful resources help you navigate discussions at home:

York Country Day School will continue to keep our community safe and healthy.  I welcome your feedback, insights, and partnership in this most important work.

YCDS_517

 

PLAY: Learning Through Exploration

By Mrs. Patricia Snyder

Children learn best by doing, by manipulating objects when building and creating, by imitating family roles in dramatic play, and by exploring the world around them. Fred Rogers, a children’s entertainer and educator, said, “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” The Pre-K classroom at York Country Day is designed to promote free exploration and learning for young children. The furniture fits. The materials are at the children’s eye level. Toys are chosen that can be used in a variety of ways, allowing for creativity.

While in the dramatic play area, our students discuss what to feed their baby, write a grocery list using pretend writing, and say goodbye when one child heads off to school or work. Engineering and math skills are practiced in the block corner when children construct a bridge for the toy cars or build a house big enough for four or more friends. Letters and words are explored when children make a card for a friend, create their own book about a family pet, or paint letters into their art work at the easel. Patience and perseverance grow when children put together a challenging puzzle or try to make a Lego piece fit into their building.

YCDS_145

Play also helps children build social and emotional skills. With the guidance of teachers, children learn how to negotiate, resolve conflicts, solve problems, get along with others, express their feelings, understand the feeling of others, take turns, be patient, share, and to make friends. As the year progresses, teachers stand back, lending a hand only when needed.

Exploration and discovery continues on the playground. The preschool playground is filled with natural materials and climbing equipment. Large logs and tree stumps line the building area. Last spring we watched as ants made their home in one of our logs. This fall, some children discovered that this log was starting to decompose. By poking and hitting it with other sticks, the children were able to completely break it apart and turn it into mulch. It turned into a great lesson about the cycle of plants. Each year, on warm fall days, we find hundreds of ladybugs flying around our white pine tree. We think that they are hibernating in our tree and that the warm sun wakes them up. Delighted children dance and laugh as they find one, then another, and then another little red bug landing on their clothes as they play.

Many other things happen during the Pre-K day. I believe, however, that what happens spontaneously and through discovery is what stimulates thinking, the sense of wonder, and learning more than anything else. Even adults should find time to play. It can add joy to life and relieve stress. Happy playing!

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm

https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-things-every-parent-play

YCDS Summer Programs Keep Students Engaged Over the Summer

Ms. Jamie McKim

It might be cold outside now, but it is never too early to look ahead to the summer.  Right now, school is in full swing and our children’s minds are engaged and geared for learning. Parents often ask: How do I keep my child’s desire to learn active during the summer months to prevent a summer slide? Research shows that keeping students active in a variety of learning opportunities throughout the summer helps to foster their curiosity for learning, cultivate their desire for seeking new knowledge, and maintain their stamina for reading and writing.

This summer, York Country Day School is proud to offer a wide range of camps to help your child stay engaged while having fun. Our camps welcome students age 3 to grade 12. Students in grades 9-12 can join Mr. Trump for an adventure camp. In this dynamic camp, participants build leadership skills through group activities that promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while at the same time provide ample physical fitness. From kayaking to hiking and rock climbing, each participant in this camp wants this camp to last all year long.

Students in all divisions have numerous ways to participate in summer activities. Students ages 3 to 5 can explore the ocean while learning about animals and environments through hands-on activities in our Little Learners Camp.  Do you have a middle-schooler who enjoys animation?  Our Animation Camp takes students behind the scenes in animation creation as they design their own digital animation. There are other options for our lower school students, such as baseball, basketball, and lacrosse camps. Students can also create videos and design their our ceramic pieces in our digital media and arts camps.

Additionally, we offer Camp Greyhound, which is a full-time day camp, where children can create crafts, play outside, and go swimming. Each week is thematic and concludes with a field trip that ties into the theme. Camp Greyhound is carefully planned to accommodate students entering grades K-6.

Copy of Star Onboarding Title Page (1)
A complete list of offerings is available on our website. This will be a summer of lasting memories and a springboard for the next school year. If you have further questions about any of our summer camps, please contact me at jmckim@ycds.org.  

Greyhounds get into “Physics Fights” in Lynchburg

by Kevin Wells

Sitting in a meeting room with the other team advisors at the Holiday Inn in Lynchburg, Virginia, Greg Jacobs told us that this tournament was like no other science competition. He was the president of the USAYPT: United States Association for Young Physicists Tournaments. I met Greg back in 2012 when I took his summer AP Physics workshop for new teachers. Back then, he expounded on physics being “the search for the truth,” and it was refreshing to see his convictions had not changed as he explained that was the aim of the competition.

IMG_8975

In 2015 I attended the tournament as a juror. That year it was hosted at Greg’s school, Woodberry Forest. Jurors are typically college professors, research scientists, active or retired engineers, and high school teachers—pretty much anyone with a solid understanding of physics. I had seen firsthand the impressive nature of what was about to take place: high school students debating each other on theory and the merits of a given experimental approach based on undergraduate level research they conducted themselves. Ever since I had seen the live “Physics Fights”, I had been itching to take a team of my own to the tournament. (I convinced Michelle Odell, the Head of Middle and Upper School, to let me teach the Advanced Physics: Research & Development course this school year.) Greg reminded us that the point of the tournament was not about winning but instead about having a conversation on the physics of the problems. Being friendly, professional, and collegial was essential. When one of the advisors asked about cheating, as far as he knew, “That doesn’t happen here.” He explained that in his time, the few incidents they did have were based on a misunderstanding. “We trust each other.”

Being a new, first year team, I advised the students not to get their hopes up in terms of placement. We would be facing some stiff competition from seasoned teams from around the country and world. We did as well as we could with the time that we had and our level of experience. Our goal was to represent our school as well as we could and learn from the experience.

On Saturday morning, the teams convened at Randolph College. In the first round, we went against Rye Country Day School, the defending champions. Our students were nervous, but they held their own. At the end of the match, I introduced myself to Rye’s coach, Mary Krasovec, who had been coaching since the tournament began in 2007. She immediately complimented me on our team’s design of the apparatus for the electromagnetically coupled mechanical oscillators problem. Even though we had not finished our quantitative data analysis or fully propagated our error, receiving some genuine praise from a veteran advisor in the first round of competition felt like a good omen.

IMG_0028

Our lunchtime conversation was a flurry of energetic chatter about physics interspersed with a half-time pep talk. Some schools may have had the resources to use a wind tunnel on the projectile motion problem or a $3,000 theodolite on the moon problem, but did they understand the theory and could they explain the underlying physics? This is what the judges were looking for. “If you get asked a question you do not know the answer to, say you do not know. Do not make up an answer. The judges will know.” Even if the the other team has more sophisticated equipment, they still have to explain how it works and how they got their answer. “Ask them how they measured things and what the error bars on their graphs mean.” Ultimately, I reminded our students “to be confident and do your best.”

We ran into some issues with our presentation in round four, and our opponent from Cary Country Day School was polite, gracious … and kind. In the spirit of the competition, he was empathetic to our dilemma and led the conversation with compassion. I thanked that student and his advisor afterward. Greg’s words about collegiality were not just lip service.

As we headed back to the car on Saturday after the keynote speech, we debriefed about the fifth round. Harrison Zumbrun said, “We did really well.” Joe DePasquale remarked that the question he wrote down on the post-it to hand to Harrison right before the time was called was the first question the juror asked. We had come together as a team. I was happy to hear about our students’ progress. We had a tough schedule. We competed against the Harker School, Cary, Rye, RDFZ (the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China), and Yorba Linda, five of the teams that made it to the top six. I was very proud of our students.

The after party on Sunday night was a chance to mingle, talk physics, and chat about the events of the weekend. The collegial atmosphere persisted, but with the competition over, it was a better opportunity to socialize and ask the other teams physics and non-physics related questions. To quote one of our students, I went “full-on fanboy” while I was chatting with the team from Philips Exeter Academy on their approach to the moon problem. (They spent 11 months taking positional data on the moon. They were also this year’s winner.) I spent 20 minutes discussing the merits of various experimental approaches to the light and oscillator problems with a student from RDFZ. After complimenting another student on her poster presentation and letting her know I gave her performance my top score, I was able to give her some advice on what she could do to get accepted into an American college when she was applying to schools next year.

Team Captain Joe DePasquale receives 6th place certificate from Greg Jacobs
Team Captain Joe DePasquale receives a certificate from Greg Jacobs

The drive to and from Lynchburg on Friday and Monday—with a lot of intense physics sandwiched in the middle—made for an exhausting but good weekend. I was pleased that our students were able to present the research they had been working on for months. I was proud of the performance we gave as a first year team. It was a wonderful and memorable experience.

The problems for 2019 have been posted, and I am already recruiting students for the R&D course and tournament next year. Going through the process as an advisor has taught me a lot, and I am eager to implement improvements to the course and our research process. It has changed the way I have been thinking about my classes, too. Even in 8th grade Earth Science, I am looking for more and better ways to get the students thinking and doing and arguing about science at a higher level.

Teaching the research class and competing at the tournament made me realize the strength of our YCDS STEAM program. Jessica Babcock 3D printed holders for the oscillator magnets. Addison Wand configured an Arduino as the controller for the projectile launcher he built. Jacob Azriel used video capture software on one of our new iPads to gather data on the oscillator. Yuki Xu borrowed a school camera to take high resolution pictures of the moon. In preparing for the competition, we had a YCDS faculty panel judge a mock physics fight during exam week. Matthew Davis and Amy Harmon Krtanjek from our robotics department gave our students excellent feedback on experimental design and measurement uncertainty concerns. Thaddeus Abbott and David Tuten from our mathematics department questioned the students about their mathematical approach and the use of statistics. In the science department, Matt Trump, Liz Charleston, and myself have begun conversations about how we can introduce more higher level scientific thinking into our science program by doing more research in our advanced classes.

I am very excited about the state of STEAM education at YCDS. The fact we were able to compete at a national physics competition (with invitations to selected international schools) speaks to the strength of our students and our program. We have grown rapidly in the last few years. Our STEAM initiative is working, and we are poised for further growth in the coming years as well. Our YCDS STEAM program is truly “Extraordinary by Design.”

Additional links for further investigation:

Official USAYPT website:
http://www.usaypt.org/

2018 and 2019 official problems:
https://jkeohane.wordpress.com/usiypt-2018-problems/

Woodberry Forest USAYPT promo video (6 min):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tooWUk5FFV4

What is a “Physics Fight”?:
http://physics.randolphcollege.edu/usaypt/whatsaphysicsfight%20PUBLIC/whatsafightPUBLIC.html

USAYPT: Who We Are:
http://physics.randolphcollege.edu/usaypt/whoweare/whoweare.html

How Technology is Used to Enhance Instruction in My Classroom

By Mr. Thaddeus Abbott

Technology– it can be fun, it can be frustrating, and most importantly, it can be useful. Being technologically literate is vital to our students’ futures as we help them develop the 21st century skills they will need to be successful. This doesn’t just mean keeping up with the latest gadget, but teaching our students the how, when, what, and why of using technology. This is modeled when teachers choose to integrate technology in their classrooms. When choosing to use technology, I ask myself three questions: Will the students find it engaging? Will it add another layer of understanding? Will it provide feedback to help individualize and guide instruction?

IMG_0331Whether preparing a PowerPoint or Prezi to introduce new concepts, researching, choosing, or making a video to connect concepts being learned to their application in real world situations, or selecting a catchy song to inspire students to remember vocabulary and relationships, our MacBook Pro easily connects through AirPlay to our classroom projector to open up new worlds. In my 6th grade, Pre-algebra, Geometry, and Pre-calculus classes technology is being explored and used purposefully to not only enhance learning, but also to gather valuable data and feedback to help individualize instruction. Through an interactive online educational program, IXL (pronounced I excel), students have unlimited access to practice the skills and concepts being learned in class. The program provides immediate feedback, explanations of solutions, and on-going diagnostics. It has been an effective resource to assist in diagnosing students’ strengths and weaknesses, while recommending concepts to help fill learning gaps or introduce new challenges. Not only that, when using the program, our iPads allow each student to be connected and work at their own individual pace. The program allows the teacher to monitor each student, step off the stage, and join the students in exploring the world of mathematics while scaffolding their journey.

IXL 3
Example problem in the IXL application used by students in middle and upper school mathematics.

While mathematics promotes self-discipline, academic endurance, and growth through prosperous struggle, these are profitable side effects of our program’s main goal, the ability to think mathematically. As our students journey through our math program, they arrive at the heart of mathematics– the ability to observe, think, converse, collaborate, take risks, question, and prove. Technology is a wonderful tool to enhance our abilities to ignite each learner’s curiosity!