A member of the ACDS faculty since 1989, Jim teaches 7th & 8th grade history, and is an 8th grade advisor, the Director of High School Placement, and the Director of Alumni Relations.


Sherry Ward Innovation Award

Throughout her distinguished career as both a classroom teacher and longtime Director of Technology for ACDS, Sherry Ward demonstrated a passion for innovation that was supported by her positivity, curiosity, perseverance, and commitment to lifelong learning.  The Sherry Ward Innovation Award will be given to the faculty member who has demonstrated a growth mindset by taking risks to innovate in the classroom for the benefit of ACDS students.

In its inaugural year, it is fitting that this award goes to a veteran teacher who has consistently demonstrated an abiding love of learning, professional curiosity, an openness to new ideas, and a willingness to take risks in service to strengthening the experiences of his students.

Jim Girard has long been a quiet and unassuming leader as ACDS has undertaken new initiatives.  In recent years, he has embraced innovative practices such as Understanding by Design, the Developmental Designs advisory program, the early implementation of a one-to-one iPad program, and a renovation of the social studies curriculum that will strengthen inquiry-based learning.  When the Middle School undertook an overhaul of its approach to student assessment, Jim was an early adopter and helped lead the effort to embrace this new methodology that challenged long-held ideas about student assessment.  

With over 30 years of experience in the classroom, Jim has never stopped thinking of ways to renew his approach, make learning engaging and meaningful to students, and adapt to new ideas.   While maintaining a balanced and centered focus on what truly enhances the learning experiences of his students, Jim has never been resistant to change. He was an essential partner in curricular innovations, such as developing an interdisciplinary humanities curriculum, creating a religion-based curriculum for 6th grade history, and bringing technology into the social studies classroom.  Working with Sherry Ward, Jim gamely undertook an experimental mobile interactive video system that was years ahead of its time. More recently, Jim has creatively employed new 360-degree interactive photography to enable students to create relevant, engaging, and dynamic presentations.

Jim can be counted on to generate and receive new ideas with an open mind, a sense of curiosity, and an enthusiasm for finding new ways to engage and inspire students.  In recognition of his years of creative and forward-thinking instruction and the many ways in which he continually models the mindset that leads to and supports innovation, I am pleased to present the 2018 Sherry Ward Innovation Award to Jim Girard.  

Scott Baytosh, Head of School
October 5, 2018

Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg upheld a more than 30 year tradition of swearing-in the student council at Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS) on September 11th. The Mayor also took the time to discuss the importance of service and kindness to others with students. ACDS takes pride in traditions, like this one, that support leadership development, service-learning,  and communication skills – all major components of the school’s curriculum.

As most area students were walking into classrooms for the first day of school, Alexandria Country Day School’s sixth, seventh, and eighth graders headed out of town for overnight trips. At Camp Shoresh and Assateague State Park, and in Lewisburg, West Virginia, students participated in activities tied to the School’s science curriculum including seining to see what critters are in the bay, and going on a marsh walk to explore the different plants and animals that exist and how even a few inches of elevation can make a difference. They also tackled a high ropes course, went white water rafting, and participated in other activities designed to build leadership and interpersonal skills.

Starting the school year with these outdoor, overnight trips allow students time to develop more positive and long lasting relationships. “We find that the shared experience of these trips is a key ingredient in building a positive and supportive classroom community for the year,” said Ryan Woods, Head of Middle School. Students who are new to ACDS also find the trips to be a great way to get to know their classmates and quickly become an integral member of the group.


In many classrooms, approaches such as IEPs and “differentiation” have been employed to support students at either end of the ability range – students who struggle or have exceptional ability.  Increasingly, though, personalization is employed not just to compensate for a student’s learning needs, but also to enhance the learning experience for all students by adapting approaches according to who they are as people and what will maximize their learning potential.  This podcast series explores the benefits of personalization for every student, and the specifics of how we provide a personalized educational experience for our students and their families at Alexandria Country Day School.  


We were fortunate to have civil rights activist, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland visit today. Mrs. Mulholland read “She Stood for Freedom,” a picture book about her life to kindergarten through second grade. She also met with students in grades 3 to 8, sharing her experiences at lunch counter sit-ins, as a Freedom Rider, at the March on Washington, and more. She told our students that it takes all of us to make a difference, you just have to do what you know is right.


This week, first graders completed their first open ended STEM project – designing, building and testing containers with a handle that could carry at least three apples for a distance of ten steps. For the first part of the project, students investigated the size and weight of apples and the various materials they could use to build their containers. Then, each first grader brainstormed four ideas for containers that followed our criteria. The next part of the design process saw the children working in groups of three or four to decide on one plan to use. To do this in the allotted time, each child listened as other group members presented their ideas and decided upon either one plan or a combination of several plans. The children really stepped up to the plate with this and each group came up with a single design to build.  On Thursday, first graders worked together to build their apple containers, and then today we tested them. All of the containers not only met the challenge of carrying three apples successfully, they were able to carry five apples for the distance, and two containers even carried eight apples before the containers broke! It was a very successful endeavor for our first grade engineers!

On Wednesday, November 1st, an intrepid team of Alexandria Country Day School fourth through eighth graders were among approximately 160 students from seven area independent schools to complete for the ABC League Cross Country Championship.  At the conclusion of the grueling two-mile course, the ACDS girls team was victorious.  The top five ACDS runners were Claire Engelhardt, Gabriela Ros, Shiane Heiber, Alban Erdle, and Laura Duffield.  While these five girls certainly ran with incredible grit and determination, the entire girls team ran personal best times. The ACDS boys missed coming in first by only one point.. However, ACDS’s Baden Reynolds came in first overall after a very exciting finish to edge out his closest competitor.

On Thursday, November 9 at 6:30pm, Alexandria Country Day School will host a free screening of the film Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety. The documentary looks at anxiety, its causes and effects, and what we can do about it, and the screening will be followed by a question and answer session moderated by Dr. Catherine McCarthy. The event is open to the public. ACDS is located at 2400 Russell Road, Alexandria VA 22301.  More information about the movie can be found at http://angstmovie.com/


ACDS is the proud recipient of an Alexandria Beautification Award in Commercial Beautification. The Alexandria Beautification Commission recognized ACDS for contributing to the beautification of the City through our recent landscape improvements, which were designed by Rhodeside and Harwell. In the award citation, the Commission noted the wonderful presence and sense of arrival the landscaping creates. 

Alexandria Country Day School student Sebastian Pasanella was awarded first place overall in Division III’s Life Science category at the Fairfax County Science and Engineering Fair in May.  As a seventh grader, Pasanella studied how plant growth is affected by the properties of its water source, and found that water from the Potomac River provided the highest growth and lowest mortality rates for hydroponically grown plants. Pasanella’s classmate, Lily Donaldson, placed third overall in the Physical Science Category for her project studying whether a thermoelectric flashlight with an air-cooled system is more effective and efficient than a thermoelectric flashlight with a liquid-cooled system.  Donaldson and another ACDS student, Gabriela Selmonosky, were also given special awards from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics at the Fair.  At the conclusion of the Fair, six students, including Pasanella and Donaldson, were chosen to represent our region at the Broadcom MASTERS (Math, Applied Science, Technology and Engineering Rising Stars) competition.  “I am exceedingly proud of Sebastian, Lily, and Gabriela.” said Scott Baytosh, Head of School. “Their work is a credit to their dedication and effort, and it is emblematic of the kind of critical thinking and communication skills that distinguish ACDS students.”

This story was also covered by The Washington Post KidsPost. Read the story here.

 Alexandria Country Day School is pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer Street as our next Head of Lower School, beginning on July 1, 2017.  An outstanding educator, Mrs. Street has served as the Talented and Gifted Specialist at MacArthur Elementary School since 2007.  In that capacity, she oversees TAG placement, advocates for the program within the city, serves on school district committees, and leads professional development efforts, while teaching 75 fourth and fifth grade talented and gifted students in language arts and math.  Jennifer has also been a third grade classroom teacher working with students at a wide range of levels.  She earned her B.A. from James Madison University, and her M.A. at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia.  She was named 2016 Teacher of the Year at MacArthur and the 2016 Talented and Gifted Teacher of the Year for ACPS.

Mrs. Street is excited to join the ACDS community and work closely with our students, parents, and faculty.  “I am thrilled to join ACDS as the new Head of Lower School. The energy and passion for learning is palpable, from both the faculty and the students. The community feels like a family, and I am honored to be a part of that,” said Mrs. Street.

“Jennifer’s experience in talented and gifted education at MacArthur has given her an excellent background in working with a population of both parents and students that is very similar to ours,” said Scott Baytosh, Head of School.  “She has a deep understanding of curriculum and instruction, a warm and caring way with students, and a passionate commitment to helping children discover their gifts and develop their love of learning.  I am confident that she will be a dynamic and effective leader for our nurturing and challenging Lower School.”

Welcome to our new podcast series!  In each episode, members of the ACDS administration and faculty will be discussing educational best practices around teaching grit and perseverance and what these practices look like at ACDS.  In our first episode, Scott Bayotsh, Head of School, Ryan Woods, Head of Middle School, Meg Mosier, 7th & 8th grade Language Arts teacher and Head Advisor, and Chris Ros, 7th & 8th grade Science teacher and Director of Student Life, discuss how our middle school learning traits help our students develop grit and perseverance.

ACDS students honored the legacy of Dr. King by examining the character traits of everyday people who participated in the civil rights movement. With their buddies, students watched videos and read stories about school desegregation, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Woolworth Lunch Counter Sit-In, and the Children’s March for Voting Rights. They discussed the traits the participants in these events shared and created a word cloud from those traits.

At an all-school assembly, the teachers read “Seeds of Freedom The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama”, students shared their reflections, and the word cloud was presented. Mr. Baytosh also spoke to students of Dr. King’s legacy and reminded them that it is all of our responsibilities to speak up when we see unjust acts.

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The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, students, faculty and staff spent much of the day actively engaged in a myriad of service learning activities.  ACDS’s robust service learning program spans the entire school year with all students participating in both one-time activities and year-long class projects. On this day, students either participated in a hands-on activity or learned about and prepared for a service project they will be leading later in the year.

Kindergartners and first graders sorted food donations for Blessings in a Backpack and packaged the first 60 bags of food.  They will continue to package 60 bags each month for children at Maury Elementary School.  Second and sixth graders listened to a presentation by the Alexandria Animal Welfare League and made over 200 cat and dog toys for the League.  Third graders began their work with KaBOOM!, hearing from a member of the organization and doing some brainstorming about play spaces.  Having recently installed the new ACDS Little Free Library and taking responsibility for maintaining it, fourth graders went on a walking tour of Little Free Libraries in our area and dropped off books in each one.  In each book, there is a link to an online book review created by one of the students.  Fifth graders prepared to lead ACDS’s participation in UNICEF’s KidPower later this year.  Seventh graders sorted and boxed 1,400 donated shoes for Art for Humanity, and our eighth graders delivered a donation of books to a preschool class at Cora Kelly Elementary School and stayed to play for awhile.

Students, faculty and staff went home at the end of the day tired, but fulfilled.  Seventh grader Kirsten Johnson said, “Doing service projects makes me happy that I can help other people.  I’m proud to be part of a school that allows me to do service.”

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On Friday, September 30th, Scott Baytosh appeared on News Channel 8’s News Talk to talk about how parents and educators can help children respond to what they see and hear about complex political and social issues by building skills of critical thinking, empathy, and respectful dialog.

As seen in the Alexandria Times on September 8, 2016

Play and Learning Go Hand in Hand at Alexandria Country Day School


School teachers across the country have spent the last several weeks preparing for the start of a new school year.  For teachers of grades K-4 at Alexandria Country Day School, this preparation included reading Purposeful Play by Kristi Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler.  During opening faculty meetings the teachers spent time discussing the themes of the book, including how the skills learned during play contribute to and enhance the academic rigor of the classroom.  There were many ideas shared and much excitement about how the book will influence their work with students both in and out of the classroom this year.

Play and learning are intimately intertwined at any age, but especially in Kindergarten through 8th grade.  Children use play for physical development, but also for cognitive and social development.  Negotiating rules, resolving conflict, exerting judgment, testing limits, and solving problems are all exercised when children engage in unstructured play with their peers.  Additionally there is a direct link between physical activity and cognitive function.  The recent and planned campus improvements at ACDS, including expanded play space and furnishings that encourage physical engagement, were designed specifically to enhance opportunities for both play and learning for its students.

While time for play has been cut back in many schools, ACDS has actually increased time for play in the last couple of years.  Play at ACDS is not simply limited to twice-daily recess, however.  The School’s challenging academic curriculum allows its students to engage in playful inquiry, where they have opportunities to be curious, take risks, discover and take pleasure in surprises, acquire new understanding, and feel empowered by this constructive experience. This playful approach to learning encompasses and encourages curiosity, open-ended and flexible thinking, problem solving, creativity, adventurous exploration, and the discovery and development of passion.  Rigorous and challenging academic learning and the pursuit of understanding can happen in joyful inquiry that looks a lot like play.  And, problem-solving requires lots of “playing” around. The value of play has been borne out as it has become synonymous with the innovation and the creativity that fuels research and development in the professional world.  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, for instance, decided that the characteristics of playfulness were so critical to its engineers’ performance that it started asking applicants how much they played in their childhood, and Google’s playful environment is legend.

“I am thrilled that we are finding more ways to incorporate play into our classrooms and look forward to observing our students taking risks, building self-awareness and becoming more flexible thinkers,” said Mimi Worrell, Interim Head of Lower School.

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On April 29, ACDS held its annual Day of Service where students and faculty spent the day serving their local and global communities. Throughout the school year, students dedicate a significant amount of time to community projects as service learning is an integral part of ACDS’ curriculum. The Day of Service is a foundational piece of the broader curriculum and one might argue it’s the most fun too, as students go to various community locations on a mission to serve.

ACDS started the day with its Stop Hunger Now event during which students and faculty worked together in red hairnets assembling, sealing and boxing 20,000 meals for distribution to kids around the world to end child hunger. That afternoon, students tackled additional projects including planting beans for the Capital Area Food Bank, packaging food for Blessings in a Backpack, planting flowers and picking up trash at the Alexandria waterfront, collecting food for and visiting the ALIVE food warehouse, recording books for the Wright to Read tutoring program, and improving the ACDS recycling program.

This year’s Day of Service marks the third since ACDS revitalized its service program. Since then, it has flourished into a program that not only encourages students to participate in the service projects but also nurtures students’ leadership abilities.


ABC7 Story

NBC4 Story

When Zoha Siddiqui began the task of determining her Speeches & Sweets topic as an ACDS 7th grader, she never imagined where it would take her: halfway around the world opening a library at a girls’ school in a village in Pakistan.  Yet that’s where she was on March 25, helping to inaugurate the library her work over the last two years made possible.

Zoha’s passion for girls’ education in Pakistan began while researching her 2014 speech.  A trip to Pakistan in March of 2014 gave her the opportunity to further her understanding of the issue, as she traveled from school to school interviewing girls, their teachers, and politicians about why girls were not receiving an adequate education.  One of Zoha’s observations while visiting the schools was how few books the school libraries contained.  She knew she had to do something to help.

IMG_1128-2Zoha identified a girls’ school in Hair village that had a library with no desks, no chairs, no bookshelves, and only 50-100 books that were shared among 1,600 students, and began what is undoubtedly her first of many library building projects.  Zoha held a book drive at her high school, Sidwell Friends, and ACDS to collect enough books to build a new library at the school in Hair.  With help from her brother, Raza, and his 4th grade classmates, book collection boxes and posters asking for donations were placed around ACDS in the fall.  The ACDS community responded and collected approximately 1,000 books.  In total, Zoha collected around 2,500 books for the new library.

The first step in the process of transforming the library space was to repaint it, clean it out, and build desks, chairs, and bookshelves.  Once these tasks were completed, a group of teachers were trained to be the school’s librarians by a professional librarian from a local college.  During this time, the books were transported to Pakistan with the help of Pakistan’s Embassy here in D.C. and taken to the school.  A few days later, Zoha, Raza, and their parents arrived at the school.  Working alongside members of the school’s community, they organized books on the bookshelves and added an arts-and-crafts table to the space.  “I also had the opportunity to meet seventh-grade students in the school,” said Zoha. “Not only were they extremely kind and welcoming to me, but they were genuinely enthusiastic and excited for their new library. We talked about what they want to be when they grow up, and the importance of education in allowing them to reach their dreams.”IMG_0211

On March 25th, with Zoha and her family present, the library opened.  Due to the overwhelmingly positive response from the students, the school plans to add a library period to the daily schedule.

“To everyone who donated and helped make this a reality, know that the addition of the library is going to give the students more reason to study and more reason to keep pursuing the careers they want to take on,” said Zoha. “An educated woman is the key to the successes of any society. She is able to make better decisions for the welfare of her children and for herself, and she is motivated to become an active leader of her community in order to make a positive change. An educated woman is intelligent, mature, and most importantly, powerful.” Your ACDS family couldn’t agree more, Zoha.


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Kindergarten through fourth grade students at Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS) spent the School’s Festival of Learning week walking in the shoes of others to learn empathy, compassion and more about themselves. They began each day “trying on a different pair of shoes” as they rotated through a variety of workshops. Through simulations and hands-on activities, students gained an understanding of what it might be like to be: someone who cannot see; someone who cannot hear or speak; someone who has been treated unfairly; someone who is sick; someone who is aging; someone who cannot move well; someone who doesn’t have enough food; and someone who immigrates to America.

“I really liked the workshops,” said second grader Claire Marino. “Writing with my feet was my favorite.  I learned that just because someone has a disability doesn’t mean that they can’t do everything that I can.”

In the afternoon, each grade participated in deeper discussion, research and engagement to develop further understanding of their topics. Fourth graders, who focused on what it is like to be someone who is aging, traveled to senior centers to conduct interviews. They then went back later in the week to share multimedia presentations created from the interviews. In first grade, students read stories about people who cannot hear and speak, learned sign language, and spoke with an ACDS alumnus who is deaf.

“At ACDS, one of our focuses has been, and will continue to be, helping our students further develop empathy and the ability to see an experience from another person’s perspective,” said Melissa Davis, Head of Lower School.  “This year’s Festival of Learning workshops gave our students the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the different strategies people employ to persevere in challenging situations.  I was exceedingly impressed with the depth of understanding and empathy our students showed in classroom conversations about the ways (big and small) that we are all able to connect to the experiences of others.”

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Vlad Tenev ’00 is included in this year’s Forbes 30 Under 30.  30 Under 30 honors 600 of the brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents and change agents in 20 different sectors.  Vlad is included for building, Robinhood, a commission-free stock trading app available to anyone with a smartphone.  Congratulations, Vlad!  Click here to read the Forbes article.

Today’s Talent Show ended with a special surprise performance from the faculty & staff.


ACDS students spent the better part of today in service to others. Some grades performed hands-on acts of service, while others learned about and prepared for projects they will undertake later this year. Our kindergartners and first graders assembled 60 bags of food for blessings in a backpack. Second graders and sixth graders have begun learning about micro-lending and have already made some loans. Today, they played a game designed to deepen their understanding of the power of a micro-loan. Third graders made gift bags for children undergoing treatment for cancer in the hospital and their siblings, and created promotional materials for the blood drive they are sponsoring later this year. Fourth graders learned about the work they will be doing with Wright to Read and how to use an app to record the books. Fifth graders learned about UNICEF KidPower a program they will sponsor at ACDS later this year. Students will wear fitbits and earn points based on activity. Activity points translate to packets of food that UNICEF will provide children around the world. Seventh graders sorted and packaged 2,254 pairs of shoes collected for Honduras in our shoe drive. Lastly, eighth graders spent the morning at DC Central Kitchen helping to prepare meals.

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In 2013, ACDS was one of the first schools in the DC area to implement Math in Focus. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, an educational publishing company, recently interviewed Melissa Davis about our experience with the curriculum.  Read the full text of the article below.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Newsletter 2

How Math in Focus is reshaping the classroom at Alexandria Country Day School

A conversation with the Head of Lower School, Melissa Davis

Alexandria Country Day School was one of the first schools in the D.C. area to adopt Math in Focus and recently Melissa Davis sat down with HMH to discuss what led them to this choice and what results they have seen over the last two years.

“Our curriculum review process included a number of different programs and covered the spectrum of approaches. Math in Focus appealed to us for two main reasons. First was the inclusion of pictorial models. Most of the programs we considered either do not have this piece at all or do not develop it to the degree found in Math in Focus.” Melissa explained, “The ability to visualize math problems is an essential skill, just as it is in reading instruction. The explicit instruction and the scaffolding for students to develop pictorial models really stood out. Second was the emphasis on word problems. Word problems start in the earliest grades, and even in first grade, students are working on two step problems. Word problems are presented to students in every lesson, putting math operations and algorithms into a meaningful context for students to help them transfer skills past a rote worksheet.”

Additionally, “Math in Focus in particular appealed to us because of the resources that were available within the program for differentiation and individualization. The variety of manipulatives, hands-on activities, explorations, games, as well as the reteach and enrichment options are a great support for teachers.”

And so far the implementation process has been going well. “We worked diligently to ensure that it would. Parents received a lot of information about the review process so they could feel confident that we had taken the right steps to find the best program for our students. We hosted information sessions to help parents better understand the Math in Focus approach, teachers ran a Math Night that was just for parents, and we communicate tips on a regular basis through our classroom websites.”

Professional development was a priority for the teachers. “Most important to our successful implementation, we provided extensive training for our teachers. In our first year, we had trainers from Math in Focus visit with us four times. They helped us plan, demonstrated lessons, and coached teachers. In our second year, we had the trainers back once more, and our specialists supported teachers on an ongoing basis throughout the year. This summer, before we entered our third year in the program, we sent all new math teachers to the Math in Focus Summer Institute. We hope to bring a trainer back again in late fall.”

According to Melissa, “Professional development has been the single best thing we did for a successful implementation!”

There have been challenges along the way and, “honestly, this program was far more challenging than the program we used before, so it was a heavy lift for some of our upper elementary students to jump into Math in Focus – it assumed they had a lot of prerequisite knowledge that they simply didn’t have. So, we worked really hard to keep them moving forward while making sure they were simultaneously strengthening and solidifying the skills acquired in earlier years.

Alexandria Country Day Schools’ students are now capable of tackling and persevering through far more challenging problems than ever before. “Teachers and students are modeling real-life problem solving skills on a daily basis–sure we are learning lots of math skills, but the problem solving skills and perseverance our students need in math class every day to find success is a huge growth opportunity that extends into all curricular areas.”

For the most part, feedback from parents and educators has been all positive. “We have parents occasionally who will ask us if a problem might be too challenging for their child’s grade level, but that’s a great conversation starter!” This gives Melissa and her team the chance to engage with parents and discuss the Math in Focus curriculum and what the parent’s role should be with regards to homework. Melissa’s advice to school leaders who are considering adopting MIF, “provide ongoing, high-quality professional development and participate in it yourself.”

The kindergarten class has recently been joined by some very special guests, two baby chicks and seven chicken eggs.  On loan from a farm in Maryland, the chicks, named Jack and Sarah, and the eggs have joined the class for four weeks to complete a unit on farms and the life cycle of a chicken.  While waiting for the eggs to hatch, students are providing hands-on care for Jack and Sarah, and observing their growth and development.  Observations are written and drawn in detail in their chick journals. “Because our children are so invested in the growth and development of the chick, the quality of writing is very high,” said teacher Ellie Hall.  “The chick journals provide a great opportunity for the children to showcase what they have learned in Writing Workshop.”

After learning about the scientific method, the kindergartners have set up their own experiment with the chicken eggs.  They asked the question, “Will this egg hatch?” and then candled the egg to look for signs that a chick is developing.  Each student then formed his or her own hypothesis about whether the egg would hatch.  Were their hypotheses correct?  Stop by and ask one of our kindergartners!

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Check out just some of what our newest Bobcats have been up to!


Exciting things are happening at ACDS and the local media is taking notice!  This week’s edition of the Alexandria Times features an article about our standing desks, and one about our new Innovation Lab.  Special thanks to Scott Lieberman, sixth grade science teacher and middle school technology integrationist, for authoring the Innovation Lab article.

Alexandria Times Standing Desks Article

Alexandria Times Innovation Lab Article

ACDS’ Art on the Avenue project was featured in the KidsPost on September 30th.  Click here to read the story.

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Over the summer, our maintenance crew worked overtime getting our classrooms ready for the new furnishings and the school ready for the new school year.  In the classrooms alone, they painted and recarpeted; refinished all of the wood trim; removed, repainted and replaced radiators; hung white boards and forbo; and assembled furniture!  They knocked out a closet in our school lobby and built a beautiful new reception desk and much, much more!  This morning at our all school assembly, Mr. Baytosh acknowledged their incredible efforts and told students that not only did they do all this work, they did it with a positive attitude and exhibited creative problem solving rather than giving up when faced with a difficult task– a good example for us all as we start a new school year.  Mr. Contreras and Mr. Corando were on hand to receive our thanks and gratitude.

Alberto and Carlos Mr. Rodriguez was unable to join us for the assembly, so the students taped a special message for him:

School Debuts Ergotron’s LearnFit™ Student Standing Desks for Active Classrooms

This year Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS), a leading K-8 independent school, greeted middle school students upon their return from summer vacation with a unique addition to their classrooms: standing desks from Ergotron. ACDS’ integration of Ergotron’s LearnFit Adjustable Standing Desk was made in response to numerous studies that have shown the negative effects of sitting and how more movement during the school day encourages healthier behavior long-term and better student focus for improved classroom performance. In addition to limiting the type of teaching and learning that can occur in the classroom, sitting for long periods of time at traditional desks has been linked to adolescent health risks such as childhood obesity. While there has been a growing awareness of the importance of physical activity to both brain development and physical health, the traditional classroom setting has not been conducive to helping children remain active throughout the day – until now.

Along with welcoming a brand-new school year, September also marks National Childhood Obesity Month: an opportunity to spread awareness about this critical issue and excite change. Alexandria Country Day School’s dynamic classroom initiative utilizing LearnFit Adjustable Standing Desks in its Middle School, as well as ergonomically responsive furniture in its Lower School, exemplifies an innovative response to this serious health concern while simultaneously improving student engagement and performance. Research shows that standing more throughout the day increases blood circulation, burns more calories, and helps maintain muscle tone and insulin effectiveness. This increased physical activity throughout the day also leads to greater student engagement, better on-task behavior and attentiveness, and enhanced academic performance. Head of School Scott Baytosh, who led this charge for change at ACDS, and is a standing desk user himself, sees ACDS’ classroom initiative as the opportunity to make a bold statement about improving student health and increasing classroom engagement.

“We are tremendously excited to partner with Ergotron to provide dynamic and flexible classroom environments that get our middle school students physically engaged in their learning and also respond to the active and hands-on style of our teachers.” Baytosh added, “By replacing traditional desks with LearnFit desks in all of our fifth through eighth grade classrooms, we have made a strong commitment to this innovative approach, and we’re eager to lead the way in utilizing classroom designs that respond to both the intellectual and physical needs of kids.”

Continuing to support the school’s five-year strategic plan, including ongoing curriculum and instruction enhancements and interior and exterior improvements, the school purchased 128 LearnFit desks as well as TeachWell® Mobile Digital Workspaces from Ergotron using funds from a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor in 2014, the largest in the school’s 32-year history.

Part of school-wide classroom renovations designed to provide flexible furnishings well-suited to student learning and effective teaching, the LearnFit desks in the middle school and TeachWell podiums in all grades have been well received. Said Jim Girard, a 7th and 8th grade history teacher: “I configure my classroom multiple ways throughout the day to allow for teacher centered instruction, group work, individual work and simulations. With the LearnFit desks, I can easily move set ups from a horseshoe shape, to multiple small groups and even all desks aside for an open floor space. Just one week into the school year, I am already enjoying the benefits of giving the students the option to stand or sit at their desks.”

“We are very excited about Alexandria Country Day School’s pioneering actions,” explained Bob Hill, Ergotron’s education manager. “Their aim is to unleash the collaborative potential of their students, staff, 1:1 devices and personalized learning systems – as well as to provide a learning environment that sets up students for individual health and success.”

For more information about LearnFit or Ergotron’s education portfolio, please visit Education.ergotron.com. To learn more about Ergotron visit the company’s website, ergotron.com, or call 800-888-8458.

For more information about Alexandria Country Day School, please visit staging.acdsnet.org, or call 703-548-4804.

About Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS)
Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS) is a leading K-8 independent school located in the Del Ray community of Alexandria, Virginia. ACDS was founded in 1983 by a group of visionary educators and committed parents who were dedicated to quality education and interested in providing an environment where children could develop their full potential. As an educational community, ACDS values academic excellence, character, independent thinking, citizenship, and respect for others. ACDS seeks to inspire creativity, enthusiasm for learning, and confidence in its students through a stimulating academic program, athletics, the arts, and community service.

About Ergotron
Ergotron, Inc. is a global manufacturer of leading digital display mounting, furniture, and mobility products that have been improving the human interface with digital displays for over 30 years. This history of innovation and passion for differentiation is evidenced in over 70 patents and a growing portfolio of award winning brands—OmniMount®, LearnFit™, StyleView®, TeachWell®, WorkFit™ and Neo-Flex®—for computer monitors, notebooks, tablets, flat panel displays and TVs. Ergotron’s products incorporate patented CF lift and pivot motion technology to achieve less effort and more ergonomic motion for a healthier and more interactive user experience when viewing any digital display. Whether to enhance computing wellness or entertainment excitement, improve workplace productivity or create business process efficiencies, Ergotron’s products are positioning your digital world. Ergotron is headquartered in Saint Paul, Minnesota, with sales efforts in Phoenix, Amersfoort, London, Tokyo, and Singapore. Ergotron is a subsidiary of Nortek, Inc. (Nasdaq: NTK), a global, diversified company whose many market-leading brands deliver broad capabilities and a wide array of innovative, technology-driven products and solutions for lifestyle improvement at home and at work. Please visit www.nortekinc.com for more information.

Our sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students kicked off the year by heading out on exciting overnight adventures. The eighth graders spent two nights at Adventures on the Gorge in West Virgina where they went rafting and participated in other outdoor adventures.

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Seventh graders spent two nights camping on the Assateague National Seashore where they went kayaking and performed research in the waters of the bay.

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Sixth graders spent one night at Hemlock Overlook where they participated in many different team building activities.

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What a great start to the 2015-2016 School Year!

While their students were enjoying summer vacation, the faculty at Alexandria Country Day School engaged in a myriad of professional and curricular development activities designed to elevate their teaching and the School’s curriculum.  Twenty-two of the thirty-two faculty members attended at least one conference to further enrich their teaching, and nearly all spent time reviewing and enhancing curricula in almost every content area. Of the faculty’s work this summer, Head of Lower School, Melissa Davis said “I am continually impressed and inspired by our teachers’ zeal for learning and their commitment to honing their craft in service to what is best for students.”

Highlights from the faculty’s vast array of summer work included eight teachers attending the week-long Summer Institutes run by the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University, where they deepened their understanding of different aspects of Reading and Writing Workshop.  ACDS emphasizes exceptional communication skills, and the Reading and Writing Workshop approach, used to teach Language Arts in all grades at ACDS,ensures that students gain strong skills in literacy and the craft and mechanics of writing.

After traveling to Houston to attend the Math in Focus Summer Institute, five faculty members returned armed with additional skills to effectively teach this curriculum.  In the fall of 2013, ACDS students in Kindergarten through fourth grade began following the Math in Focus program, which is a version of Singapore Math, well known for its challenge and effectiveness; the School is now using Math in Focus in grades five to seven as well.

The teachers returned to ACDS last week abuzz with excitement to put into practice all they have learned over the summer.  Said Ryan Woods, Head of Middle School, “We have a remarkable team of forward-thinking teachers here at ACDS, and I am looking forward to seeing the amazing work they will do with the students this year.”

Please join us on Tuesday, September 28th at Belle Haven Country Club for the annual Bobcat Classic Golf and Tennis Tournament!  Don’t miss this fun event for golfers and tennis players of all skill levels!  For more information, please contact Matt Sahlin at 703-837-1313 or msahlin@acdsnet.org.

Golf Registration Form 2015  Sponsorship Details 2015

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On June 4th, we celebrated the 28 members of the remarkable Class of 2015.  Articulate, playful, highly-intelligent, responsible, and kind, we know that they will each find great success at the 16 different independent, parochial, and public high schools they have chosen.  At the ceremony, Scott Baytosh, Head of School, spoke about each graduate, sharing the unique qualities he or she possess and the mark each has left on the ACDS community.

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Members of the Class also performed an original piece of music composed for the occasion, and shared thoughts and memories, both humorous and poignant, of their time at ACDS. Below, Rachel concludes the ceremony with her thoughts about her closely-knit class.

Congratulations, Class of 2015! You will always have a home at ACDS, and we can’t wait to see what you do next!

Members of the Class of 2015 will be attending: Bishop Ireton High School, Bishop O’Connell High School, Episcopal High School, The Field School, Georgetown Visitation, Lake Braddock High School, Madeira, Mercersburg Academy, National Cathedral School, Sidwell Friends School, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, Stuart Hall, T.C. Williams High School, The Heights, Washington-Lee High School, and West Potomac High School.  Georgetown Preparatory School, Holton-Arms School, The Potomac School, and Woodberry Forest School also offered admission to members of the Class.

Students have been excitedly watching the installation throughout the spring and were thrilled to have a chance to play for the first time this afternoon. Although landscaping and other finishing touches in the surrounding area remain, the turf installation is complete and received rave reviews from students and faculty alike.

New Turf Field from ACDS on Vimeo.

Mr. Lieberman created a time lapse video of the installation. Be sure to check it out!

ACDS Turf Field Time Lapse from ACDS on Vimeo.

Celebration of the ArtsLast night, ACDS students, teachers and parents gathered for the annual Celebration of the Arts.  After checking out all of the new art hanging in the main stairwell, attendees gathered in the Performing Arts Center for a fantastic program of music, theater, and art.

Fresh off a successful performance in Alexandria’s Market Square, the 5th & 6th grade band kicked off the evening with a rousing rendition of the theme from Star Wars.  Several 7th & 8th grade students then reprised a scene from their play, As You Like It, from earlier this month.  The grand finale featured an incredible presentation of wearable sculptures created by our 7th & 8th grade art students.  Each student was accompanied in their presentation by music composed by a 7th & 8th grade band student.

For the third trimester of their eighth grade year, students who applied for an independent study in the arts also shared their final products last evening.  These independent study projects, including making a short film and designing a house using our 3D printer, were an impressive and diverse as the artists who created them.

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ACDS 7th & 8th Grade Play 2015 from ACDS on Vimeo.

On a beautiful spring morning, Alexandria Country Day School students, faculty, and staff hopped on buses and bicycles to begin a day of service.  Eighth graders led the way to Alexandria’s Founders Park on their bicycles where they met up with the third grade to plant over 1,200 flowers.  Picturesque Lake Accotink Park in Springfield was the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh grades’ destination.  There, they walked along the creek and around the lake picking up what amounted to 25 bags of trash while spotting turtles, birds, wild flowers, and even a couple of snakes.  In partnership with the City of Alexandria Parks and Recreation Department, the seventh graders continued work on an assessment and monitoring plot in Monticello Park.  Kindergarteners and first graders remained on campus, but did their part by working in the school’s gardens.  Kindergarteners planted a butterfly garden while first graders planted 400 bean plants that will be donated to the Capital Area Food Bank.  Through these efforts, the students gained a deeper understanding of the importance of service and the positive impact they can have on the world.  As one of the students put it, “This is what humans should be doing every day of their lives!”

Earth Day Service Projects from ACDS on Vimeo.

The talented 7th & 8th grade drama students treated students, faculty, and parents to a fantastic production of Middle School Musical on March 4th and 10th. Written and directed by our drama teacher, Valerie Issembert, the production also featured scenic art designed by the 7th & 8th grade art students and a pit orchestra comprised of the 7th & 8th grade music students.


Middle School Musical from ACDS on Vimeo.

First graders ended their study of dental hygiene by learning about the ingredients in toothpaste and ultimately making their own.  In the first session, students learned about the four ingredients in toothpaste; calcium carbonate, ivory soap flakes, glycerin, and water.  Students then completed a feel test and foam test on each ingredient, and discussed their importance to the consistency of toothpaste.  In the second session, the first graders did a cleaning test, trying to find out which ingredient would clean the best.  They each had a tile with a blueberry stain on the back and used only one ingredient to scrub their stain for a brief period of time.  When the cleaning was done, all groups decided that the soap cleaned the best.  The purpose of the feel, foam, and clean tests was to help first graders make decisions about what they thought was important to have in their own toothpaste concoctions.  The third and final session was all about making toothpaste.  Each first grader mixed his or her own combination of each ingredient and added flavorings; mint, vanilla, and lemon.  The toothpaste results were very interesting with consistencies from very soupy to dry and pasty.   At the end of the session, the students sealed up their toothpaste containers and took them home to use that night.  The first graders had a lot of fun and learned some great lessons about proper measurement and consistency, along with how toothpaste helps to keep our teeth clean.

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At the annual Science Fair, 27 seventh graders demonstrated the scientific method like true scientists, and our 28 eighth graders tested their understanding of some physics concepts by taking on the annual Egg-Car challenge, doing so with aplomb. It was exciting to watch and listen as each and every student proudly presented their work, providing real-time examples of the critical-thinking skills they are rapidly acquiring.

This year’s prizes were awarded to the following students:
7th Grade
Honorable Mentions – Gabi Bruehs, Wyatt Moll, and Morgan Murphy
3rd Place – Camilla Moore
2nd Place – John Bucholz
1st Place – Emma Gilman

8th Grade
Honorable Mentions – Isabela Hubble, Dakota Hunt, Michael Miller, Nora Stanko
3rd Place – Harper Darden
2nd Place – Kieran Donaldson
1st Place – Hayden Katz

Congratulations to all of the 7th and 8th grade students for a job incredibly well done!


Science Fair 2015 from ACDS on Vimeo.

The 5th graders have been considering and analyzing pictures books in the library. The students worked in teams to advocate why their selected book was the best of the year. They used Explain Everything to present their arguments to the full grade. The students voted and the results are in. The winner of the ACDS Mock Caldecott Medal is Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. You can watch the winning video below.  Our runners up were Kid Sheriff and the Terrible Toads by Bob Shea and Lane Smith and Three Bears in a Boat by David Soman.


Sam and Dave from ACDS on Vimeo.

IMG_9640 smallDana Frantz Bentley ’94 is an accomplished educator and author who came back to ACDS  this November to speak about her experience at ACDS and her new book, “Everyday Artists: Inquiry and Creativity in the Early Childhood Classroom.” Dana is currently a preschool teacher and researcher at Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge, MA. Dana has a Masters from Harvard University and Doctorate of Education, Art, and Art Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

When Dana spoke with members of our faculty, we were joined by four of Dana’s beloved former teachers – our founding Head of School Joan Barton, Ann Julian, Jenny Herre, and Jim Girard. Her powerful and eloquent remarks about what ACDS has meant to her and her career are below.


Thank you so much for having me.

So I have to tell you that standing up here today is a bit nerve wracking for me.  A some of you may recall, there was an unfortunate incident during Speeches and Sweets when I forgot my final notecard in the car, thus bringing my speech giving career to a grinding halt.  I’m still working on recovering from the horror of that moment.

But in all seriousness, I can’t tell you what it means to me to be here today.  I graduated from ACDS 20 years ago, and I can honestly say that there is not a day that goes by that I don’t draw on something that I learned as the result of being a student here.  This place, its culture and its way of being made me who I am as a teacher, a learner, a writer, and a mother. Today is particularly special to me, as the great educational icons of my life are all here listening.

What I really want to do today is to tell you a bit about my ACDS story, what it was and what it continues to be in my life today.  For me, ACDS was and is about possibility.  About what we see as possible in ourselves, in others, and in the world.  One of my favorite educational thinkers, Maxine Greene talks about teaching children not about what the world is, but what the world could be.  This is what we were raised on at ACDS, what a school could be, what a curriculum could be, and most importantly, what we could be.  This was a gift that continues to offer itself to us throughout our lives, a gift of possibility, of seeing the world for what it might be.

I want to share with you some stories about my time at ACDS and how they live with me today.  It was really hard to choose only a few- there are so many stories-  I keep running into yet another thing that I just have to tell you about.  But here are a few of the classics


To Be A Part of Making Something

For most children, school is something made.  They walk in on the first day of kindergarten, and step into an already created structure in which they must find their own place in order to be successful.  Success is very much dependent upon fitting into an already present structure, and following specific guidelines already dictated by the identity and culture of that school. This was not my experience.

When I came to ACDS we were renting rooms in a church basement, and in some of its loftier towers, which also housed the Sunday Schools.  I believe there were two people in our eighth grade class, and the entire school population fit into the church’s social hall, with room to spare.  This was not a place that was MADE.  It was a place we were MAKING.  I could feel that, even as a small third grader.  This was a place of becoming, a place where change was happening and was always possible.  This was a place where teachers, parents, and children all labored together for common goals, not because of some committee or outreach push on the part of the PTA, but because they HAD to.  Things would not get done otherwise.  There’s no other way that you would have found my mother bent over a sewing machine, grimly making my costume for The King and I.  I’m surprised I was allowed to return the following year!

That feeling, that perspective of school as something not made, but in the making, has followed me my entire life.  It may sound small, but think for a moment.  School is our first real social experience in life.  This is the foundation upon which we build our understanding of the social world.  And for most children, it is an experience of toeing the line, of obeying a structure.  Not for us.  That was not the ethic or the culture of the school, and so, from a very young age, I perceived the world as a place in the making, a place over which I had power and influence.   Moving through life, I’ve carried this concept with me, always filled with a confidence that my untraditional ideas have a place in the world, that church basements can become school hallways, and that the possibility of a place can be willed into reality.

ACDS embodied that realm of the possible, teaching all of us not to obey the expectation, but always to ask the question.  What might be possible?


Space and Possibility

As I mentioned, when I began going to ACDS, we were renting rooms in the Del Ray Baptist Church, across the street.  For third and fourth grades I climbed an extremely tall set of creaky stairs up to what I thought of as The Tower.  This all seemed normal to me.  Our library inhabited what was essentially a hall space, with vociferous pipes snaking their way above us.  We had outdoor PE in a parking lot, and left notes on our desks for the Sunday School students who would use them on the weekends.

It was less than traditional, but I don’t recall thinking that there was anything out of the ordinary. Then the impossible happened. We actually bought our own school building, right across the street.  I was in fifth grade at the time, and honestly, I couldn’t really see the point.  The school seemed fine as it was to me, but the move was exciting all the same.  I don’t think the momentousness struck me until field day that year.  That was the day that we carried our desks and chairs across the street to our new building.  Now, don’t ask me why we did that then, or where we sat for the rest of the year.  I frankly have no idea.  But I do remember that day.  I do remember the empty halls, getting that half filled feeling as they took on the familiar clutter of our school lives.  I remember playing field day games on a black top that had no cars in it.  I remember the glamour of the science lab that had real gas spigots, which we immediately turned on.  We never did use those (probably for the best considering my tendency for lighting things on fire), but they informed us that this was real.  A real science lab.  A real gym.  Real hallways and lockers and desks that we did not have to share.

As I carried that desk across the street, I didn’t realize that I was being embedded with a belief system.  I thought I was just getting out of class for the day.  But in reality, these memories brought values with them.  We lived the reality that good teaching and education frankly have little to do with school buildings and materials.  Since those days I have lived and taught in a wide range of circumstances.  I have taught with no money, little space, and few materials but I can’t say that it ever mattered to me. Creaky church towers and parking lot play spaces can be more generative than cutting edge, educational temples.  I carried this with me as I guided my own students around Boston and Manhattan, hauling four year olds on and off buses and subways, in search of the (free) adventures that I knew to be just around the corner.

I feel lucky to have this memory, this moment where we as a school, physically lived the experience of change.   From no school, to rented rooms, to hauling desks, to the school as it is today.  These memories become a part of you, a part of the way you see the world, of what you know to be possible.  One day, many years later, my colleagues and I were faced with a similar challenge: we were teachers with young children, and no decent, affordable option for their care.  What was there to do but to make a school for them, just as the ACDS community did for me so long ago.  Our little school also inhabits the basement of a church, and we grow bit by bit, every year.  And it was my experience here that gave weight to the thought, “No schools for our kids?  Well, we could just make one.” Because I knew it was possible.


School as Choice

So, I have a rather unorthodox method of teaching, and I credit that largely to my experience at Alexandria Country Day. In educational lingo I say that I use an “emergent, child-centered, project based curriculum.” What that really means is when I anxiously begin each school year, I do so without a curriculum. I know the skills the children will need to acquire over the course of the year, but I do not know the path we will take in order to acquire them. This means that the curriculum is built and rebuilt each year, born of the many personalities and experiences that classes have as individuals and as communities. This has led to the design and construction of our own museum, the study and creation of cities, deep investigations into social justice around race and gender, as well as the development and mounting of a large scale musical production of Peter Pan in which the children wrote the music and script, built the set, and figured out a “really fair” way to cast the show with “nobody crying at all.” And they are four years old. You have to be brave to do this kind of work. I feel frightened every time I begin a year anew, wondering “will it work this time?” wishing I could depend on a reliable binder full of curriculum to chart our safe course through the year.

The teachers at ACDS gave me the courage and the penchant for unique teaching practices. At age 13 I was learning Shakespeare, but not at a desk. Oh no, I was standing on the stage trying to get Portia’s speech just right under the watchful eye of Dr. Barton. I still love that play. We traveled to Mecca, not in a textbook, but through a history simulation of food, clothes, games, and culture. I deeply regretted that my chosen “fasting meal” fell on pizza day.  As a final project, Mrs. Julian asked not for a book report, but for us to write a new ending to the book. In these subtle moves, the teachers asked us not what is, but what could be. My memories of Mr. Girard center around adventures that no other teacher would want to embark on with a group of adolescents. A ropes course at Hemlock Overlook? Sure! Chaperoning our 8th grade trip to Charlestown? No problem. The amazing part was that, you actually seemed to enjoy us. Even when we were 12 years old and absolutely dreadful. My brother and I were talking about you last night, and I think he really said it best. Chris (ACDS Class of ’98) told me, “Mr. Girard really looked you in the eye and talked to you, even when you were 10 and no one else took you seriously. He did and you know, it taught me how to look people in the eye and talk back.”

These moments defined school for me as a place of innovation and adventure. School was a place where a final history exam could be a giant medieval sandcastle upon which I would be strictly graded. School was a place where rehearsals for an all school production of The Music Man took precedence over a math quiz. These values, these memories sustain me as I walk into my own classroom each year and ask the children, “What will we make? What could school be for us this year?”


To Be Known

At ACDS, anonymity was not a possibility. We were known. We were known by the teachers who had had us, as well as those who hadn’t. Ourselves, our siblings, our parents, our pets, our successes and our failures were known by the community. It’s a small thing, right? Being known?

As teacher I find that the most powerful work with children begins at the moment that they feel recognized and known. We build academic excellence upon those relationships. We say to the children, “I know you. I see you. I know who you are and what you are capable of. And I will care for you no matter what.” From this foundation the children leap, taking on challenges, protected by the safety of the relationship. And it all begins with being known.

This drove me crazy as a young adolescent at ACDS. Everyone knew everything about me. There was none of the mystery that I craved, the possibility of surprising someone. But what I did not realize at the time was that it was just this safety, this sense of being known that made me able to surprise myself.

When I think about my teaching, about my presence at my students’ recitals, soccer games, birthday parties, and musicals, I know that it began here. During these years at ACDS, I found that true learning began not with a book or a subject, but with a relationship. And it works both ways. Yes, I am the teacher that sits on the phone late at night with a worried parent (and yes, I do give out my cell phone number). I am also the teacher who calls a surgeon parent in the middle of the night because my son broke his leg. I see you. I know you. This is where true education begins. I learned that at ACDS, and I carry it with me every day of my life.



Ok, so I know I’ve painted a rather rosy picture here. You’re probably thinking, “it all looks good in hindsight.” And of course you’re right. Let’s face it, I was thirteen here and that’s rarely the best year in anyone’s life. I had glasses, braces, and a deep love of neon green during my years at ACDS. There was an unfortunate incident in which my friends and I discovered and consumed the Costco-sized container of sprinkles meant for ice cream sundaes. Sufficed to say, I no longer care for sprinkles. I even had my very first boyfriend here (He was the only boy who was taller than me and we broke up three hours later). I have attended many schools over the years, but this is the place that shaped me. I’ve had the opportunity to study under many teachers, but the true educational giants in my life are in this room today.

In closing, I just want to say thank you. How privileged I feel to be able to say these words. How often do we get the chance to thank the people who made us? How often do we have the opportunity to look them in the eye and say, “I am who I am because of you?” Well, I am lucky. I have been thinking these things for years, with each milestone, each new experience, I’ve thought, “I’m here because of this school, these teachers. I really hope they know that.” Well, today I get the chance to say it out loud.  Thank you. Thank you to this school, to its creators, and to those that keep it alive today. Thank you for the shape you gave to my life and my learning. Thank you for teaching me to ask the question, “What might be possible?”

Before departing for Thanksgiving Break, students, faculty, and staff spent the afternoon participating in service learning activities.  Our kindergarteners, along with their eighth grade buddies, sorted and assembled 50 packages of food for Blessings in a Backpack.  400 decorated treat bags filled with cookies for So Others Might Eat were made by first and eighth grade buddies.  Second and fifth graders made 38 centerpieces for the Thanksgiving meal at So Others Might Eat.  400 sandwiches were made by the third grade for So Others Might Eat.  Fourth graders assembled 138 tuna noodle casserole kits and delivered them to Christ House and the sixth graders visited the Lee Center to learn about therapeutic recreation.  The seventh grade sorted the 1,337 pairs of shoes that were collected for Art for Humanity and delivered them.  Way to go Bobcats!


Afternoon of Service November 2014 from ACDS on Vimeo.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of “The One and Only Ivan” on two fantastic performances!  The play was performed by the 5th & 6th grade drama class with sets and costumes by the 5th & 6th grade art class.  Missed the show?  Watch it here!


Ivan and Bob  Ivan Katherine  Sarah



Whether volunteering for the Miracle League, collecting food for Blessings in a Backpack, or participating in numerous other activities, Alexandria Country Day School students have once again shown their outstanding commitment to community service.  From their first days of kindergarten through eighth grade graduation, ACDS students learn the importance of being community minded citizens and take action through a robust service learning program.  Since school began in September, ACDS students have led or actively participated in eight service projects:

  • Students in grades 3 to 8 braved the pouring rain one afternoon to unload an 18-wheeler full of pumpkins for the Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill pumpkin sale, which benefits local, national, and global charities;
  • Kindergarten students are collecting and creating food packages to be sent home in the backpacks of elementary school students on Friday afternoons through Blessings in a Backpack;
  • The entire ACDS community is collecting loose change in order to bring a Stop Hunger Now food packaging event to ACDS in the spring.  At this event, students and teachers will package 20,000 meals;
  • Sixth graders learned about recreation for children with special needs and began volunteering with Alexandria’s Miracle League;
  • Fourth graders are collecting ingredients and making tuna noodle casserole kits for Christ House in Old Town;
  • Two teams of middle school students are helping elementary school children with homework through Casa Chirilagua twice-a-week after school;
  • Second graders went trick-or-treating for UNICEF;
  • For the third year in a row, the entire ACDS community is collecting gently used shoes that will be sent to Honduras through Art for Humanity with a goal of collecting 1,500 pairs.

Not to be left out, ACDS faculty, staff and parents have not only supported the students’ efforts, but demonstrated their own commitment to service by organizing and participating in a blood drive for INOVA Blood Donor Services.

“We are so proud of the work our students are doing for people in Alexandria and around the world,” said Scott Baytosh, Head of School.  “They are truly living ACDS’s commitment to community and to preparing young people to have a positive impact on the world.”


In 1983, a group of visionary educators and committed parents who were dedicated to quality education and interested in providing an environment where children could develop their full potential began Alexandria Country Day School.  Today, many of those founders were welcomed back to their school for a luncheon and it was great fun to hear their stories of the early days of ACDS.  After spending time reconnecting with one another, the founders received an update on the School from Head of School, Scott Baytosh and were treated to a wonderful musical performance by the kindergarten class.




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There has been a flurry of excitement and activity in the middle school Science Lab over the past several weeks as the sixth graders built SeaPerch underwater remotely operated vehicles. This morning, they put their work to the test and successfully ran their vehicles through hoops, into crates, and all around a large pool.


The sixth graders had a blast on their overnight to Hemlock Overlook.  Just check out the smiles in this video from day one!


Alexandria Country Day students had a large presence Art on the Avenue, a large street festival in Del Ray.  The 7th and 8th grade band kicked off the festival’s Concert Band Stage with a fantastic performance. Mrs. Tacktill, Mr. Glaize, and middle school art students painted a DASH bus and helped hundreds of children place their handprints on the bus. Middle schoolers expertly ran our Kids Art Korner booth with support from the Advancement Team and Mr. Bayotsh, and we all enjoyed visits from some of our younger Bobcats and alumni. Several ACDS students and alumni also participated in the festival through their outside activities. Two students performed with their bands, and two students and an alumna performed with their Irish Dancing Group. Thank you, Bobcats for an awesome day!!

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The Middle School is dedicated to placing an increased emphasis on the behaviors of a successful learner. To that end, significant thought was put into revising our Learning Traits categories and developing specific descriptors for each behavior. We believe that these behaviors are just as important as academic success. How we behave as a learner can greatly impact the grades we earn. Learning good work habits now, is one of the most important things our students do as a middle school learner to prepare them not only for high school and college, but also for future opportunities.
The Learning Traits include:
  • Organizes Time & Materials
  • Participates Actively & Positively
  • Works Collaboratively
  • Learns Independently
  • Exhibits Effort & Perseverance
Middle school students were introduced to these Learning Traits in a midweek meeting this past Wednesday and reflected on their own personal performance in each category on Friday during Circle of Power and Respect.
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rubic     Charlie rubric

This afternoon, our kindergarten through fourth graders were visited by author and illustrator, Bob Shea. After reading several of his books aloud, Mr. Shea showed the students how to draw a dinosaur, unicorn and more.

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Mr. Shea was introduced by three sixth graders who, as fifth graders, advocated for Mr. Shea’s Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great to win the ACDS Mock Caldecott Award.  Click here to watch the video they created to make their case.

Elayna Calem and Isabelle

Thank you, Mr. Shea for a fantastic afternoon!

Bob Shea


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Our sixth graders were challenged this week by their science teacher, Mr. Lieberman to create the tallest, free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of string, one yard of tape, and one marshmallow, which must be placed on top, in just 18 minutes.

Sixth grade marshmallow challenge from ACDS on Vimeo.

Alexandria Country Day School celebrated the start of the new school year by swearing in its Student Council members on Wednesday, September 10th. Alexandria’s Mayor, William Euille joined Head of School, Scott Baytosh to perform the swearing in ceremony and discuss the importance of education and the responsibility of leadership. Mayor Euille has been performing the ceremony for the last eleven years; Alexandria’s mayor has been participating in this ceremony for most of Alexandria Country Day School’s 32-year history.

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The following students were sworn in as the 2014 -2015 Alexandria Country Day School Student Council:
• President: Hayden Katz
• Vice President: Gabi Bruehs
• Secretary: Ellie Wilkie
• Treasurer: Zoha Siddiqui
• 8th Grade Reps: Haper Darden and Michael Miller
• 7th Grade Reps: Davis Lyon and Camilla Moore
• 6th Grade Reps: Ana Bach and JT Carpenter
• 5th Grade Reps: Georgia Stanko and Tate Whitmer

This morning at our all school gathering, Mr. Baytosh and Mrs. Davis accepted Mr. Woods’ challenge to take the Ice Bucket Challenge. Our 8th graders had the honor of pouring the icy water over Mr. Baytosh while Russell, our Bobcat Mascot, drenched Mrs. Davis.

Mr. Baytosh and Mrs. Davis were congratulated by Alexandria’s Mayor Bill Euille who had sworn in the 2014-2015 Student Council at the beginning of the assembly. Mr. Baytosh concluded the gathering by challenging the President of the ACDS Board of Trustees, Jeff Loveng and the President of the Parent-Teacher League, Lisa Eskew.

Here is Mr. Woods’ challenge to Mr. Baytosh and Mrs. Davis:

Gift is largest ever.  School will use the gift to build on recent successes and support ongoing advancement.

Alexandria, Va., September 2, 2014 – Today, Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS), a leading K-8 independent school, announced a $3 million gift from an anonymous donor, the largest in the school’s 31-year history. The gift will be used to support ACDS’ recently adopted five-year strategic plan, particularly ongoing curriculum and instruction enhancements, professional development for teachers and staff, interior and exterior improvements and building the school’s endowment. The gift was announced on the eve of the first day of the 2014-2015 school year, at an assembly attended by students, parents, teachers, staff and other supporters of ACDS. A webcast of today’s event is available here: ustream.tv/channel/acdspublic

“This tremendously generous gift presents an unparalleled opportunity for our school,” said Scott Baytosh, Head of School at ACDS. “It speaks volumes about the kind of learning institution that we are and is indicative of the kind of passion and commitment our community shares about our school.”

“When I came to ACDS two years ago, I was proud to join one of the premier K-8 educational institutions in the DC metro region. I was encouraged by the unique and vibrant environment among not only our teachers and students, but the entire ACDS extended family, from parents to alumni. Now, with this gift, we have the ability to immediately move forward with a number of strategic advancements and to build on many key improvements already underway. In doing so, we intend to keep top of mind the things that matter most to us here at ACDS – from small class sizes, to encouraging independent learning, to fostering a sense of authenticity.”

The gift comes alongside significant recent momentum at ACDS, including:

  • Rising Enrollment: 50 new enrollments for the 2014-2015 school year compared with 31 new students in 2013, as well as a decrease in attrition.
  • Strong High School Acceptance Rate: Over the past five years, 81% of graduating students who apply to independent high schools have been accepted into their first choice.
  • Enhanced Curriculum:
    • Developmental Designs: introduced into the Middle School in 2012-2013 to help students establish a blend of good relationships, social skills, and engagement with learning.
    • 1:1 iPad program: expanded to all students in grades 3-8 in 2013-2014.
    • Math in Focus, the American version of Singapore Math: introduced in 2013-2014, as well as adding an online learning program through Stanford University for middle school students who are particularly advanced in math.
    • STEM curriculum: first used in 1st and 6th grades in 2013-2014 and will be expanded in 2014.
    • Reading and Writing Workshop: intensive professional development effort launched in spring 2014 as the foundation for ACDS’ Language Arts curriculum.
  • New Leadership Team: Along with the arrival of Scott Baytosh as Head of School in July 2012, several key positions across the school also have found new leadership, and these leaders have been instrumental in continuing to strengthen the ACDS program.
  • Most Successful Fundraising Year: ACDS runs an Annual Fund to raise unrestricted funds for the annual operating costs of the school that are not covered by tuition. The 2013-2014 Annual Fund was the most successful in school history with $207,576 raised and 90% parent participation. This was up from $170,549 raised and 80% parent participation in 2012-2013.
  • New Website, Logo and Marketing Materials: Working with a committee of parents, trustees, and faculty members, ACDS chose a new graphic identity and logo, now being used in and around the school and in published materials.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled about the direction in which ACDS is headed,” said Jeff Loveng, President of the Alexandria Country Day School Board of Trustees. “This gift is a strong vote of confidence in the standout excellence of ACDS and the leadership of Scott Baytosh. The school’s continued success was already assured, but this generous gift will go a long way to writing ACDS’ exciting next chapter.”

The gift will support advancements in three key areas:

  • Enhancements to the Curriculum/Instruction: Building on the success of the past two years, ACDS will continue to strengthen its curriculum and instruction:
    • Curriculum: ACDS will continue to expand its Math In Focus program; Middle School Math program; STEM program; 1:1 iPad program; Language Arts instruction, which uses Reading and Writing Workshop as its core curriculum; and more.
    • Instruction: Teachers will be provided with new professional training opportunities and better resources and materials.
  • Improvements to the Campus Interior/Exterior: ACDS has contracted both a landscape architect and an interior architect who specializes in innovative classrooms and learning spaces for areas of improvements that include:
    • Classrooms: A redesign of classrooms to allow for more effective instruction and space utilization. These redesigns will be guided by input from teachers as well as the latest thinking and best practices on innovative classroom learning.
    • School Entryway: A redesign of the school entryway to create a welcoming and user-friendly environment that is reflective of the school community.
    • Library: Improvements to the library will highlight the inherent beauty of the space and make the facility more useable for the K-8 students.
    • Playfield: Adding synthetic turf to the existing field to create an area less susceptible to inclement weather and allow for more outdoors play.
    • Landscape Master Plan: A comprehensive landscape master plan will enable ACDS to enhance the look and appeal of its campus and further beautify the dramatic location the school occupies on Russell Road.
  • Building the School’s Endowment: A portion of the gift will be dedicated to building the school’s endowment to help the school continue to excel in educating students for years to come.

About Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS)
Alexandria Country Day School (ACDS) is a leading K-8 independent school located in the Del Ray community of Alexandria, Virginia. ACDS was founded in 1983 by a group of visionary educators and committed parents who were dedicated to quality education and interested in providing an environment where children could develop their full potential. In 1991, having grown too large for its original location, ACDS moved into its present facility, the former site of St. Mary’s Academy. As an educational community, ACDS values academic excellence, character, independent thinking, citizenship, and respect for others. ACDS seeks to inspire creativity, enthusiasm for learning, and confidence in its students through a stimulating academic program, athletics, the arts, and community service.

Please join us on Tuesday, September 9th at Belle Haven Country Club for the annual Bobcat Classic Golf and Tennis Tournament!  Don’t miss this fun event for golfers and tennis players of all skill levels!  Click here for more information and to sign up.  Bobcat Classic Registration 2014

Click here to read The Leaflet.

Congratulations Class of 2014! We will miss you next year and wish you all the best in high school at Bishop Ireton, Edmund Burke, Emma Willard, Episcopal, Field, Foxcroft, Georgetown Visitation, Gonzaga, Langley, National Cathedral, Shady Side Academy, St. Anslem’s Abbey, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes, T.C. Williams, and West Potomac.

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Our first graders are authors! This morning, our talented first graders shared their books at the annual Authors’ Tea. The engaging stories, which were either a small moment in the author’s life or realistic fiction, were also illustrated by the first graders and included a dedication page and an author bio. Great job first grade!

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This spring, ACDS 7th and 8th graders took the 2014 National Spanish Examinations along with over 154,000 students across the United States.  Twelve of our students attained national recognition for their performance:

  • Bella Hubble and Zoha Siddiqui, 7th grade, earned silver medals
  • Hayden Katz, Mary Margaret Lehmkuhler, and Rachel Suleymanov, 7th grade, earned bronze medals
  • 7th grader Naomi Yared and 8th graders Grace Breitenbeck, Drew Fisher, Mabry Griffin, Heather Loepere, Alex Mathews, and Zach Morris all earned honorable mentions on the exam

The National Spanish Examinations are standards-based exams that measure both achievement and proficiency at seven different levels.  ACDS seventh and eighth graders took the level 01 and level 1 exams respectively.  Congratulations to all of our students!

From its founding, ACDS has emphasized public speaking in its program.  It begins in Kindergarten where students share in morning meeting, and continues to the Author’s Tea in first grade, a public poetry reading in third grade, and our formal Speeches & Sweets program beginning in fifth grade.  In eighth grade, Speeches & Sweets becomes competitive and an boy and girl are selected to represent our school at the Alexandria Optimist Club’s public speaking competition.

At Wednesday’s Optimist Club competition, our two eighth graders placed first and second.  We are so proud of them!  As the first place winner, Olivia moves on to compete against the winners of other Optimist Club chapters this weekend.

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After assembling 20,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now, each grade participated in another service learning project to complete our Day of Service.  Our Kindergartners planted a butterfly garden on campus.  The first and fourth grades volunteered at Buddie Ford Nature Center.  Second and fifth graders cleaned up three Alexandria playgrounds.  The third and sixth graders planted beans in our garden for the Capital Area Food Bank, planted herbs, and created signs for campus recycling and composting bins.  Our seventh grade, working with Alexandria City Parks and Recreation, created an assessment and monitoring plot in Monticello Park.  And the eighth grade cleaned up Four Mile Run.  Well done Bobcats!  What a fantastic day!  For more photos from our Day of Service, please visit our Facebook page.

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To begin our Day of Service, ACDS students, faculty and staff worked together to package 20,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now.   small DSC_0063

The first step was to combine the ingredients into a bag.  Each package, which provides six meals, contains dehydrated vegetables, a soy protein, rice, and a vitamin packet.

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Filled packets were then taken to be weighed and sealed.

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Lastly, they were packed into boxes to be shipped overseas.

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Earlier this year, ACDS students learned that one of these meals costs just 25 cents.  They spent the last eight weeks collecting quarters and were able to exceed their goal of 10,000.  They ended up collecting 11,160 quarters which paid for 11,160 of the meals we packaged today.

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 To see more photos from the meal packaging event, please visit our Facebook page.

There’s no better time to nurture a child’s natural inquiry and love of learning than during the early years.  At Alexandria Country Day School, our K–2 classrooms burst with the delight of discovery as students actively engage in a challenging curriculum within a joyful and caring environment.  Additionally, a low student/teacher ratio allows the teachers to respond to the needs and interests of the children.

Learn more at our Open House for Grades K–2 on April 29 at 9:00 a.m.

  • Hear about our challenging and engaging curriculum from our Head of School and Head of Lower School
  • Sit in on a class to see our students and teachers in action
  • Learn about the entire community on a school tour

For more information, please contact Julie Lewis, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at jlewis@acdsnet.org.

Three ACDS seventh graders presented their science projects at Fairfax County’s first Engineering and Science Fair on Saturday, April 5th.  Kathryn Fronabarger’s project looked at Hydroponics, Shannon Ayres tested the effectiveness of lie detectors, and Kieran Donaldson examined the optimal angle of a trebuchet.  Among the over 100 students from Northern Virginia schools who participated, Kathryn was awarded second place and Shannon received an honorable mention in the sixth to eighth grade division.  Way to go Kathryn, Shannon, and Kieran!

Every culture has its own mythology and now ACDS does too!  

Every year, the Alexandria Country Day School community comes together for a week-long Festival of Learning focused on a single topic.  This year we explored myths and legends from around the world.  Our students read, discussed, compared and contrasted myths in their classes and arrived at definitions of mythology. We generally agreed that a myth is a story used to teach a moral lesson or explain a natural occurrence. First graders enthusiastically consolidated their definition into three words: “love, magic, violence”!

During the Festival of Learning, we heard fantastic stories.  We listened to Native American storyteller Dovie Thomason tell legends from across North America.


Storyteller Baba Jamal Koram shared compelling stories from the African and African American traditions.


We watched and participated in myths through dances presented by the Nepal Dance School.  


Our art students created inspired mythical art work.



The 5th and 6th grade drama students shared several Greek myths with us.  We joined together as a community (with popcorn and cotton candy!) to watch the 4th graders present the hilarious Circus Olympus (password: “acdsacds”).


Best of all, throughout the week, we wrote, drew, filmed and created our own stories, which we shared on Friday morning.  Here is the collected Mythology of ACDS:



First Grade:

            How Buddies Came to Be at ACDS

Second and Fifth Grade Collaboration:

            Why We Have a Gargoyle

            The Origins of Field Day

Third Grade:

            Why We Play Capture the Pig

Sixth Grade:

            The Misunderstood Monster of ACDS

            Why We are Green and White

Seventh Grade:

            Why Seventh Graders are So Chatty

            The Epic Seventh Grade Overnight

Eighth Grade:



** ACDS Families– email Elizabeth Lockwood for the password.

On Thursday evening and Friday morning, we were treated to a fabulous performance of Honk! by the 7th and 8th graders.  Students in the second trimester drama class did a fantastic job on stage and as members of the show’s running crew.  The music class learned and played some of the score, and the art class created the scenery and costumes. Bravo 7th and 8th grade!

Pop into the first grade classroom on any given afternoon and you are likely to encounter small clusters of children huddled around a collection of foam trays, felt, colored straws, Scotch tape, and all manner of handy supplies.  There will be much negotiating, demonstrating, and a general flurry of activity.  This is what STEM looks like in first grade.


STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.  It’s a hot topic in education circles right now, but the essence of STEM has long been at home in classrooms here at ACDS.  The heart of STEM is problem-based learning–students are given a problem to solve, then they design something that solves the problem.  In STEM, this problem just so happens to require the students to activate their math skills and science knowledge to effectively solve it.  Sounds simple enough, right?


This chart lists the criteria and constraints for their sailboat project.


In first grade, the design process follows a series of steps that are similar to the Scientific Method.  The design process follows this path:
1.  Investigate
2.  Brainstorm
3.  Plan
4.  Build
5.  Test and Present
First graders with their plans for the apple container project.


To be clear, first grade engineers are just like professional engineers in that they don’t always solve problems using this sequential order!  Depending on the project (or the engineer), our students may jump around to different steps, rewind, jump ahead and back a few more times, and even test and present multiple times before settling on a final design.  This kind of experimentation and revision is highly encouraged!

This apple container went through multiple revisions before completing its task!


Just as essential as the STEM concepts our first graders are learning are the collaboration and communication skills they must practice and refine throughout these projects.  You can be sure that a small group of first graders do not all bring similar design ideas to the table, but they manage to come together and execute one group design.  This means you have to understand the different components of your design and their value in order to convince your group.  Luckily, first graders are usually game for anything, and they don’t mind when things don’t go as planned–it’s just back to building for the next round!

Testing out a sailboat!

This year our Kindergarteners have chosen hunger as their service learning topic.  After organizing a food drive for the Backpack Buddies program, the Kindergartners took a trip to visit the Arlington Food Assistance Center to deliver their food.  Thanks to the help of the entire ACDS community, Kindergarten collected 460 pounds of single serving items for homeless children to take home from school on Friday afternoon to last the weekend.  The students toured the food bank and learned about how AFAC helps the hungry people of Arlington.  They also learned that families are encouraged to volunteer and participate in Family Bagging Nights, the second Monday of every month. (http://www.afac.org/volunteer/how-to-volunteer/family-volunteers/).

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Click here to read the fall 2013 edition of The Leaflet.

On a daily basis, schools across the nation attempt to help students understand how their words and actions have a significant impact on the lives of their peers. Many would expect that helping students learn this important lesson would be simple and straightforward. However, the reality is that the developing frontal lobes of children make this learning process long and complicated. The fully developed adult brain can quickly, effortlessly, and accurately predict the consequences associated with every decision and action. Furthermore, adults can use this information to execute a decision that will lead to a positive outcome. For adolescents, the path to making a good decision is not nearly as clear or easy. Without a fully developed frontal lobe, children must train themselves to slow down and think through the intended and unintended consequences associated with their decisions.

With this in mind, today’s Bullying Awareness Week assembly focused on showing students the many possible roles they could play in a bullying situation. More specifically, students from our Peer Advocates leadership group role-played a situation where a student was making repeated mean comments toward another student during recess.


The “Bully Circle” was comprised of the target, bully, side-kick, passive supporter, possible bully, disengaged observer, possible defender, and defender. The role-play helped students better understand that anyone who is around a bullying situation is playing a role in the situation. At the conclusion of the role-play, Ms. Mosier encouraged students who find themselves in similar situation to slow down, identify the role they are playing in the situation, and make the decision to become a defender. By taking the time to walk students through the many decisions they face when confronted with a bullying situation, we hope we are training their brains to make decisions that will positively impact everyone around them.

This week was Bullying Awareness Week at ACDS. All week during Morning Meeting/Circle of Power & Respect, students participated in activities designed to raise their awareness of bullying and teach them how to stand up for themselves and others. Today, the entire school came together for an all school activity. The assembly began with the Kindergarten through 5th grade watching “Three Bully Goats Griff” put on by the 5th & 6th grade drama class, while the 6th through 8th graders participated in role playing and watched a video created by ACDS teachers and students about their experience with bullying. Then everyone came together in the gym to read “Fill Your Bucket.” Working with their buddies, students then decorated their own bucket and wrote kind notes to put in the buckets of others.

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At ACDS, the faculty has spent time discussing and exploring best practices in technology integration, and more specifically, how we can use technology to meet our school-wide goal of challenging all students. Earlier this week, our Middle School Spanish teacher, Mrs. Hernandez Basta, created and delivered a technology-laden lesson that is an excellent example of how technology can be thoughtfully and effectively employed to best meet the needs of a diverse learning population.  Outlined below are the key components of the lesson and brief explanations of how the use of technology enriched the lesson.

The period was designed to provide students with an opportunity to review and practice the concept of direct objects which was taught earlier in the week. When the students entered the class, they used their iPads to log into Haiku our learning management system, and then Mrs. Hernandez Basta gave them a brief introduction to the lesson. For the remainder of the period, the students worked in pairs and small groups to successfully complete the activities found on the Haiku course page Mrs. Hernandez Basta had created.


As you can see from the photos, the students worked through several games, practice quizzes, and videos that Mrs. Hernandez Basta vetted, selected, and embedded on her Haiku course page. Research shows that giving students choice and appropriate control over their learning path significantly increases engagement and success in a class. In this lesson, the students designed their own journey through direct objects.


In the photos you can also see that the students were able to take practice quizzes and play games. All of these activities provided the students with instant feedback. In the past, students would complete a worksheet that might not be graded and returned for several days. Haiku and other websites allow teachers to create quizzes, tests, and activities that give students immediate feedback which improves and expedites the learning process.

Also on the page were two YouTube videos that were created by other Spanish teachers. These videos allowed students who needed more time to learn about direct objects the opportunity to do so while other students moved onto practice quizzes and games.  In short, all students were being appropriately challenged and could move at their own pace.

Finally, it should be noted that while the students worked in pairs and small groups, Mrs. Hernandez Basta met with students individually to assess their level of mastery related to direct objects.

This lesson is just one example of the many thoughtful technology integration projects employed at ACDS. Next time you are on Haiku, look for other ways that teachers are using technology to meet the needs of our students.

Design a container with a handle that will carry at least three apples for at least ten paces using only the materials provided: foam trays, paper plates, aluminum foil, paper, wax paper, yarn, straws, paperclips, scotch tape, index cards, popsicle sticks and sandwich bags. Doesn’t sound easy, does it? But our first grade engineers proved themselves up to the challenge of this STEM activity. The students first worked individually to brainstorm designs to share with their group.

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Then working together, the team took the best of each member’s design to create a blueprint for their container.

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After building their design, the testing began.

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Although the groups had to problem solve and make a few modifications along the way, everyone succeed in carrying three or more apples ten paces. One group was even able to carry six apples! Way to go first grade!


Thank you to everyone who came out to Country Market!  What a great day of games, music, food, and fun!

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With the school year in full swing, our students are settling into the new routines and procedures of Singapore Math.  Every day during the math lesson students are actively engaged–trying out problems on mini whiteboards and building with base-10 blocks or Unifix cubes while the teacher explains the day’s lesson, explaining their answers (and mistakes!) using models and pictures to help them deepen their understanding, and working independently at their own level to practice the new skill they acquired during the day’s lesson.
Fourth graders are using place value chips to help them learn multi-digit multiplication.

Math in Focus is based upon the pedagogy of Singapore Math, which emphasizes a three-step approach to learning new concepts.  This approach takes students from concrete (working with manipulatives) to pictorial (working with visual models) to abstract (working with numbers and symbols) to help students develop a strong foundation in mathematical understanding.  Typical American programs tend to skip the pictorial component, which can compromise a student’s depth of understanding. Our teachers have been likening the importance of the pictorial step to that of the visualizing strategy in reading comprehension; if readers can understand a story better and experience it more deeply by creating mental images (a “mind movie” as we call it), then won’t mathematicians better understand a problem if they can create a mental image (visual model)?  Without this critical step in learning, our learners may miss important details that lead to greater understanding of concepts.
Below you can see more pictures illustrating the concrete step in Singapore Math’s pedagogy.  Stay tuned for part two of this blog post, where the pictorial and abstract steps will be highlighted.
 A fourth grader gets ready to trade in chips as she multiplies a 3-digit number by 4.
A fourth grader shows the class how the place value chips can show the same value as base-10 blocks.
Kindergartners build with Unifix cubes as they learn about more and less.
First graders figure out the answer in a game using Unifix cubes.

Last spring, ACDS went through a marketing and re-branding effort that made some changes to the external look of the school.  A new logo, sign, refreshed letterhead, and even new school uniforms made their debut which has given the school a fresh look.

As this process was underway, it became clear to me that there was a very important part of the school’s image that needed to be addressed – the Bobcat! A school’s mascot is a major part of its identity. Think of your college or high school – when you think of the image that resonates most with you and excites your school spirit, it is probably the image of your beloved mascot.

Through the years at ACDS, the only graphic representation of our Bobcat that has been consistently used is a paw. Now, I happen to like our paw, but it is not very distinctive (see Clemson Tigers), and it doesn’t really conjure a sense of toughness or fortitude (see fluffy kitten pawing at a ball of yarn). We needed another image that had some teeth (and fur) behind it.

So like any industrious millennial I took to the internet to find a solution to our problem. What I found was a website that was the home of sketch artists who would create custom logos at a reasonable price. Brilliant. I contacted the artists that work at this magical place to commission a rendering of our Bobcat which would become our definitive mascot image for years to come.

Having put a lot of pressure on myself to get this right, I took great care in describing exactly what I wanted the Bobcat to look like. I used words like “strong”, “friendly but not too friendly”,  “good with kids”, and “listens to hard rock but appreciates jazz.” The artist was no doubt inspired and confused, so what followed was a month-long collaboration and a few different attempts that eventually brought us to our winner.

1st Attempt – The chauffeur Bobcat that looks more like a lion and has been taking human growth hormone…

2nd Attempt – The Superhero Bobcat that is amused by something he just heard…

3rd Attempt – On the right track – but still spends a little too much time in the gym…

4th and Final Attempt – The ACDS Bobcat, in living color!

I was incredibly excited and also a little nervous to unveil our new Bobcat to our students, as the new mascot is truly for them. When school started and the kids saw him for the first time, I was relieved to see that he was received well. We then had a school-wide contest to name him, and that resulted in him being crowned “Russell Alexander Bobcat” at the end of September.

Look for Russell to make appearances on spirit wear, at athletic contests, and popping up countless other places at school. Russell’s presence will state proudly, to any friend or rival, that when you are here at ACDS, you have entered the Home of the Bobcats.

On Saturday, ACDS provided a kid’s art activity at Art on the Avenue, a large street festival in Del Ray. Many of our fabulous Middle Schoolers came out and helped nearly 400 children decorate cookies.  DSC_0003 webDSC_0027 web DSC_0024 web DSC_0031 web DSC_0030 web DSC_0008 web



Effective communication between parents and teachers is essential to developing a full understanding of a student’s character and ways of learning.  It’s also a two-way street.  Here are three things teachers and parents should each keep in mind when engaging in this all-important endeavor:

For Teachers:

  1. Strive to demonstrate to each parent the depth of your understanding of his or her child.
  2. Communicate with parents frequently and early about rising concerns.  Don’t wait for crises, and don’t be afraid to share good news.
  3. Ask questions of parents that show your desire to understand their children through their eyes.
For Parents:
  1. Trust that your child’s teacher cares about your child and has his or her best interest at heart.
  2. Reach out to your child’s teacher with questions rather than demands.  Seek to learn about your child through the teacher’s experience of him or her.
  3. Actively listen to your child’s teacher with an ear to understanding your child’s strengths and challenges.
Each of these ideas only scratch the surface of the very complex dynamic that exists between parents and teachers.  It is a relationship filled with anxiety, hope, and enormous potential for affecting your child’s growth and development.  Following these guidelines can help to set a productive context for dialog and increases the chance of a successful partnership. Educator, psychologist, and author, Michael Thompson, offers a compelling analysis of this relationship in his article entitled, The Fear Equation, which I highly recommend.  Here’s a closing thought from his article:

Children flourish when the adults in their lives agree on them.  Children do not have strong identities of their own.  They see themselves through the eyes of the adults who love and teach them.  For that reason it is important that the adults in their lives see them in a unified way.  If parents and teachers are on the same page with respect to children, it is much easier for the children to feel whole and understood, and to succeed.  That is why it is essential that parents and teachers move beyond the fears that afflict their relationship and create a sturdy alliance between them.

Today, ACDS students were treated to a reading of the first two chapters of the newest “Ivy + Bean” book, “Ivy + Bean Take the Case”, by author Annie Barrows. She also took the time to answer students’ questions about the series and what it is like to be a writer.

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Strong relationships between students and teachers are one of the hallmarks of the ACDS community, and they allow our teachers to push students to excel in and out of the classroom. With this in mind, the Middle School uses Developmental Designs to help forge these strong bonds between students and teachers. A key component of the program is the Circle of Power and Respect (CPR). The daily 25-minute sessions provide advisory groups an opportunity to explore interesting and important character building topics.

CPR sessions have three parts:
The Daily News — Advisory groups start each session by sitting in a circle and reading The Daily News which outlines the activity for the day. The Daily News often poses a question that students will need to answer during the activity portion of CPR.
Mrs. Mosier’s Advisory reads The Daily News.


Greeting — Once the group has read The Daily News there is time for members of the advisory to greet one another.  Greetings range from straight-forward handshakes to elaborately choreographed high-fives.  It is a great opportunity for students to practice using courteous, warm, and welcoming greetings.

Ms. Ball’s Advisory participates in a ball toss greeting.


Activity — During the activity portion of CPR, students have fun participating in lively discussions, playing cooperative games, and engaging in team-building challenges.

The 6th grade prepares for a grade-level cooperative jump rope activity that incorporates some Spanish rhymes.


If you have a Middle Schooler, we hope that you will occasionally check-in with your son or daughter to learn about the conversations taking place in CPR.


Strong relationships between students and teachers are one of the hallmarks of the ACDS community, and they allow our teachers to push students to excel in and out of the classroom. With this in mind, the Middle School uses Developmental Designs to help forge these strong bonds between students and teachers. A key component of the program is the Circle of Power and Respect (CPR). The daily 25-minute sessions provide advisory groups an opportunity to explore interesting and important character building topics.
CPR sessions have three parts:
The Daily News — Advisory groups start each session by sitting in a circle and reading The Daily News which outlines the activity for the day. The Daily News often poses a question that students will need to answer during the activity portion of CPR.
Mrs. Mosier’s Advisory reads The Daily News.

Greeting — Once the group has read The Daily News there is time for members of the advisory to greet one another.  Greetings range from straight-forward handshakes to elaborately choreographed high-fives.  It is a great opportunity for students to practice using courteous, warm, and welcoming greetings.

Ms. Ball’s Advisory participates in a ball toss greeting.

Activity — During the activity portion of CPR, students have fun participating in lively discussions, playing cooperative games, and engaging in team-building challenges.

The 6th grade prepares for a grade-level cooperative jump rope activity that incorporates some Spanish rhymes.

If you have a Middle Schooler, we hope that you will occasionally check-in with your son or daughter to learn about the conversations taking place in CPR.


Each fall, ACDS Middle Schoolers embark on an outdoor, overnight adventure with their classmates and teachers.  A highlight of the year for many, the trips are designed to take students out of their comfort zone, broaden horizons, deepen sense of self, and build community. 
Our seventh graders recently returned from their two-night stay at Environmental Studies on the Piedmont in Warrenton, Virginia.  As an extension of their Science curriculum, they participated in activities such as owling, bird banding, and mammal tracking.  They also learned how to set camera traps to capture images of wildlife. 
The Camera Trap is Set
Mammal Tracking
Whitewater rafting and ziplining through tree top canopies were the highlights of the eighth grade’s recent trip to Adventure on the Gorge in Lansing, West Virginia.  “It was great to see students really step outside their comfort zone and conquer the challenges put before them” said Mr. Ros, one of the trip’s chaperones. 
Getting ready to go whitewater rafting

Ready to soar through the tree tops

Each fall, ACDS Middle Schoolers embark on an outdoor, overnight adventure with their classmates and teachers.  A highlight of the year for many, the trips are designed to take students out of their comfort zone, broaden horizons, deepen sense of self, and build community. 
Our seventh graders recently returned from their two-night stay at Environmental Studies on the Piedmont in Warrenton, Virginia.  As an extension of their Science curriculum, they participated in activities such as owling, bird banding, and mammal tracking.  They also learned how to set camera traps to capture images of wildlife. 
The Camera Trap is Set
Mammal Tracking
Whitewater rafting and ziplining through tree top canopies were the highlights of the eighth grade’s recent trip to Adventure on the Gorge in Lansing, West Virginia.  “It was great to see students really step outside their comfort zone and conquer the challenges put before them” said Mr. Ros, one of the trip’s chaperones. 
Getting ready to go whitewater rafting

Ready to soar through the tree tops

Lower School at ACDS uses Responsive Classroom to help teach the children to take care of themselves, each other, and the school environment so that everyone can do his/her best learning.  You can read more about the guiding principles of Responsive Classroom in my September letter to parents.  Today’s post delves more deeply into one of the daily teaching practices–Morning Meeting.

Each Lower School classroom begins the day with Morning Meeting, a 15-20 minute gathering during which they practice academic skills, as well as important social skills, such as listening, speaking, problem solving, and participation.

Morning Meeting has four parts:
  • Greeting–Each child is greeted by name and welcomed. Greetings can be as simple as a handshake or high-five or as exciting as a ball toss or match-the-shoe-to-the-owner greeting.
Peyton gets ready to toss the ball during the Ball Toss Greeting.

  • Sharing–A few children share news and interests, which helps them get to know each other.
Alexandra shares about a family event.

  • Group Activity–The class might play a cooperative game, recite a poem together, sing a song, or do a math or language arts activity together.
    Mrs. Sutton’s class plays Double Double.

    First grade sings Mother Gooney Bird.

    Mrs. Stein’s class practices multiplication and division facts using a volleyball.

  • Message–The children read a message the teacher has written that helps them look forward to the day ahead. They also review the daily schedule.
    Aiden reads the Morning Message to his class.

    James shares the kindergarten schedule.

As you wander our halls in the morning, you may want to linger a bit to see Morning Meeting in action.

The beginning of a new school year is always an opportunity to share some big ideas about how we can work together in service to our students.  This year I have focused on three ideas: Partnership, Trust, and Communication, which I have highlighted in remarks to our families at various events.

This new ACDS blog is intended to aid in all three of those domains.  First, the blog will support our partnership with families by offering insight on educational topics, reflection on our practices, and supportive parenting materials for our families.  Second, it will help to build trust as we showcase the good work that we are doing with children and demonstrate our active approach to continuous improvement.  Third, it will enhance communication as we both share information and invite commentary.

You should expect a new blog entry at least once each week.  Lower School Head, Melissa Davis; Middle School Head, Ryan Woods; and I will each make regular entries, and we will encourage faculty and others to share thoughts and information as well.  Our goal is that the blog is practical, insightful, and engaging.  We know you have limited time, so we will also try to be brief!  Please add us to your newsreader and make it a habit to read what we have to share.  I also encourage you to follow us on Twitter where we will post links to new blog entries among other resources.  You can follow school Tweets @ACDSBobcats, and you can follow me @sbaytosh.  We will also provide our blog entries on the news feed of our website as well as on our Facebook page.

We hope you enjoy our blog offerings and welcome any feedback you may have.  Here’s to an exciting year!

Alexandria Country Day School Student Council Sworn in by Mayor Euille

ACDS celebrated the start of the new school year by swearing in its Student Council members on Monday, September 9th. Alexandria’s Mayor, William Euille joined Head of School, Scott Baytosh to perform the swearing in ceremony and discuss the importance of education and the responsibility of leadership. Mayor Euille shared that he got his start in elementary school student government and answered students’ questions about what it is like to be mayor. Mayor Euille has been performing the ceremony for the last ten years; Alexandria’s mayor has been participating in this ceremony for most of Alexandria Country Day School’s 31-year history.

The 5th Annual Bobcat Classic is one month away! This year, for the first time, we will be holding the event at Belle Haven Country Club so that we can add the option of tennis to our already outstanding program of lunch, 18 holes of golf, and an evening reception.

Put together your golf foursome or tennis pairing today for a wonderful day with ACDS and its community of supporters. Spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and colleagues, as they are welcome to participate as players or sponsors. Spots for this September 23rd event are filling up so act soon!

If you would like more information, or you are interested in a sponsorship for you or your business, please contact Matt Sahlin, Director of Development, at 703-837-1313 or msahlin@acdsnet.org.

We are thrilled to share the new ACDS website with you! Take a look around- we’ve added many exciting new features including a searchable faculty and staff directory and an online application. If you have any feedback on the new site, please send it to Meredith Kirchner, Director of Advancement, at mkirchner@acdsnet.org.