This November, Grade 3 and Grade 7 students embarked on an exciting project that blended technology, creativity, and Thanksgiving tradition. In the spirit of cultivating a culture of belonging, Graland's Grade 7 buddy program lent the Grade 3 class a helping hand in creating Thanksgiving Parade Floats.
This November, the spirit of curiosity and innovation is alive and well in Graland’s kindergarten classroom. Bella's Fall Coat Lacing Challenge, more affectionately known as tinker time, is a creative endeavor inspired by Lynn Plourde's book, "Bella's Fall Coat."
This October, as part of their year-long service learning focus on disability awareness and allyship, fourth graders completed a workshop with local Denver non-profit, Creating S.P.A.C.E. In line with the organization’s mission, the Creating S.P.A.C.E. workshop seeks
Have you ever heard of the Graland Country Day School Great Pumpkin?! Each year, members of the school’s athletics department visit Kindergarten to share this fun tale and to give the students tips on how to spot the Great Pumpkin on campus during their hunt near Halloween.
Each year, after completing the Chief Mountain Hike at the start of the school year (a Grade 3 tradition), students return to campus to continue learning about life zones. In addition to lessons in their social studies, library, and art classes, third graders also explore life zones in Tinker Time by designing an animal for their culminating diorama project.
Care, connection, balance, and belonging are all aspects of life that Middle School students seek. At a time when students experience significant emotional and social growth, advisory provides them a safe place and a brave space to discuss feelings, challenges, and successes. The advisor can become a trusted adult in a place where students spend more time than they do at home in a typical week. Furthermore, students learn to develop or practice empathy, communication skills, self-awareness, advocating for themselves, study skills, and how to reach the optimal space of balance.
When asked to think of three words that come to mind when he thinks of Graland, Trinidad (Trini) Rodriguez, Class of 1989, said “relationships, experiences, and growth.” Since his time at Graland, Mr. Rodriguez has dedicated his career as a changemaker to these same themes, making him the ideal recipient of the 2023 Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award. Each year, the Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award honors alumni whose extraordinary contributions in their field are reflective of the exemplary qualities of the person, Graland Country Day School, and the global community in which we live.
As we recognize Trini Rodriguez ’89 with the Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award this fall (see previous page), Graland also wishes to acknowledge other alumni who are contributing to the public sphere, modeling what it means to be an engaged citizen and thoughtful leader.
In the late 90s, there was a science fiction comedy film, “Multiplicity,” starring Michael Keaton, about a man who never has enough time for what he wants to do and is offered the opportunity to have himself cloned. As a parent, I thought this was a great idea! One parent can do the after-school pickup, one can organize and drive the Saturday sports carpool, the other can attend the Back-to-School Night, and another parent can make sure your child’s academic and social needs are being met. We have busier schedules than ever before, and you may often ask yourself, how does one manage it all? The good news is you don’t have to.
In David Brooks’s article, “Why Are Americans So Mean?”, he states, “The most important story about why Americans have become sad and alienated and rude, I believe, is also the simplest: We inhabit a society in which people are no longer trained in how to treat others with kindness and consideration.” Over my time as an educator working with children in their most formative years, I have felt an increasing urgency to focus on that same simple objective: developing foundational character traits like kindness.
During any given point in the school year at Graland, one can walk down the hallways and feel the energy and excitement of young learners ready to take on a new day full of adventures and discoveries. While summertime at some schools could leave the grounds feeling quiet, at Graland, summer programs such as Camp Roots keep the vibrancy and magic alive all year long. In line with the school’s mission to cultivate compassion by caring for others in our community, Graland began hosting Camp Roots in 2021 to serve migrant students from a variety of metro public schools enrolled in the Metro Migrant Education Program. Thanks to the dedication and support of several partners, including the Jewish Community Center (JCC), local public school teachers, coordinators from the Metro Migrant Education Program, and Graland faculty and staff, Camp Roots recently finished its second summer of programming at Graland.
Sawubona. It’s an African Zulu greeting that means “I see you.” But it goes much deeper than that. For me, it speaks to the heart of inclusivity. “I see your personality. I see your humanity. I see your dignity.” This is how I introduced myself to the Graland community seven years ago when I began my tenure as head of Middle School. This is what I say to every eighth-grade student as they walk across the stage to collect the diplomas at graduation. Although this is how I choose to move through the world, I can tell you more about what this means to me at Graland.
“What are the arts good for?” This decades-long debate offers no shortage of perspectives from philosophers to community stakeholders alike. Some might argue artistic value is found in the collective belonging, while others might cite increased intellectual capacity. Still yet is the ability to transcend our lived experience into an ethereal world of beauty. Although there are many reasons the arts are valuable to the human experience, for the Graland Visual and Performing Arts Department (VAPA), none is more important than the ability for artistic creativity to communicate ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
As part of their Grade 6 service learning unit, students spend the year learning about food insecurity, poverty, and homelessness. Throughout these lessons, sixth graders not only learn about solutions to these issues, but they also build empathy, understanding, and compassion for others while being inspired to make a positive change.
By Parthenia Williams, Associate Head of Lower School, and Kathy Riley, Lower School Counselor
Have you ever wondered if whales sleep? We hadn’t either, but once the question was posed and we saw how it piqued the interest of our Lower School students, we couldn’t resist searching for an answer. This type of curiosity invites engagement and makes learning more effective and enjoyable. According to cognitive scientist and researcher Elizabeth Bonawitz, “Curiosity acts as a kind of filter you put over the world to help the mind decide what information to attend to."
In Grade 1 math, students have been learning how to use addition to solve real-world problems. During the first part of the lesson, the first graders gathered as a class to discuss the steps of solving a math problem.
This year, the Bike Hike (a Grade 4 Graland tradition!) took place from September 18-21, with each class completing a 13-mile round trip ride from the Four Mile House to Confluence Park in Downtown Denver using the Cherry Creek Trail. Check out this recap featuring Ms. Levy's class!
During their unit on place value this month, second graders got to complete a hands-on and thought-provoking math activity called “What’s In Your 12?” inspired by the book “Mindset Mathematics” by Jo Boaler.
Karin Bisogno-Von Glumer became a Graland parent in 2017 and has not stopped finding new ways to get involved since. Originally from Valencia, Venezuela, Karin came to the United States to go to school in Omaha, Nebraska.
In 2021, Ms. Courtney Menk, Grade 4 teacher, came up with an idea to bring her math lessons to life! Each year, using what they are learning about measurement, area, and perimeter, students get to construct their own life-sized mini golf holes.
Throughout the year, Kindergarten students have been preparing for their “mane” event… the annual Rodeo! To get ready for this special day, students visited Urban Farm to learn about caring for animals and farmer/rancher life. Kindergartners also went to the National Western Stock Show in January to see what a real rodeo is like and to celebrate Colorado's agricultural heritage.
With the help of Graland's talented Visual & Performing Arts Team, Graland's seventh and eighth graders put on a fantastic performance of "Newsies Jr." this month. Whether you saw the musical and want to re-experience it or happened to miss the production, you're not going to want to miss this highlight reel of the show! Encore!
By Katy Cooper, Grade 8 English Teacher, and Ben Simmons, Grade 8 History Teacher
Each year, eighth graders finish their final year at Graland with a culminating Capstone project. The assignment allows them to not only pursue their individual interests but also employ key academic skills acquired throughout their time as a student. Capstone was started several years ago with the intent of imbuing in eighth graders a sense of purpose and social consciousness. Students start the year by choosing a topic for their project that centers around the 17 United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Goals.
Every time one enters the main doors of the Georgia Nelson Building on campus, they are greeted by the Master Teacher wall, which houses the portraits of Graland educators (former and current) who have dedicated 20-plus years of their career to the school, its mission, and its students. This year, the 71st Master Teacher headshot was added to the wall in honor of Drama Teacher Dan O’Neill.
As we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the McCaffrey Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC), Graland would like to recognize and thank the visionary leaders, including former Head of School Ronni McCaffrey, various Board of Trustee members, donors, former and current employees and parents who supported the program’s founding, growth, and positive impact on the teaching profession and beyond. We hope you enjoy this commemorative piece as we reflect on the program’s history and look forward to the next ten years of curiosity, exploration, discovery, and joyful learning in Early Childhood Education.
Every year, Graland’s Alumni Board honors a member (or members) of the alumni community with the Ruth Gorham Award for their extraordinary contributions to the school. Ms. Gorham, the longest-serving teacher in the school’s history (62 years!), will always be remembered as a dedicated educator and mentor who nurtured the joy of learning in her students. For this reason, Graland is pleased to announce that this year’s award recipients are Dr. Adam Barkin ’91 and Dr. Beth Linas ’97.
When our youngest students enter the Gates Invention and Innovation Lab, their eyes light up in wonder as they see tools they will one day use and inventions they may one day create themselves. Our Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten students’ curiosity is sparked as they step into the lab and sit on the rug, ready to learn. Although this is a space to tinker, experiment, and play, Lower School students are also practicing skills that will transfer to learning experiences in the classroom and throughout their lives.
This year, for my wife’s birthday, my son gave two birthday notes. One, without my wife knowing it at first, was written by ChatGPT. It was fine, a little general and superficial, but adequate for a mom who is happy to receive any acknowledgment from her twenty-year-old son. At the end of that note, my son revealed the actual author and asked her to flip the sheet to reveal his own unique letter, much more personal and poignant. It was a moment that has stuck with me as I often consider the question, what will humans need to differentiate themselves in this automated world? It is a crucial question for us all and mostly for educators who are attempting to prepare children to thrive in school and in life.
Last May, Ben Duke, Class of 1968, received the Ruth Gorham Alumni Award, which each year honors an individual “whose dedication and service to Graland exemplify Ruth Gorham’s lifelong commitment to the school.”
While serving as assistant head of school at Graland, Ben notably initiated the Master Teacher Program, in which Master Teachers who have dedicated twenty years of service to Graland are recognized in the spring.
"These trees were designed to demonstrate the power of teaching, the power of learning, and the power of education." - Tony Ball, Artist
During the 2018-19 school year, the Inspire Campaign was launched and led by co-chairs Amy and Peter Corrigan and Andi and John Freyer ’92 to fund a groundbreaking sphere-based compensation model. Rather than rewarding teachers simply for their years of experience and educational achievements, the innovative structure rewards teachers for impacting students in the classroom while going further to recognize those who demonstrate the school's values and advance the overall program.
By Kerstin Rowe, Director of Curriculum and Instruction
At Graland, we want to do more than educate our students. We want to inspire them. This is why “Inspire Students” is one of the four core tenets of our strategic plan. The first objective of this tenet is “to provide dynamic and engaging learning experiences that captivate students and cultivate competencies that reflect our mission and guiding principles.” Learning needs to be dynamic and engaging – it needs to provide a spark. Of course, we want students to be competent but also curious and eager. Head of School Josh Cobb has written about the intellectual attributes we desire in our students, and in this article, I will address this essential question: “How do we provide the right environment to create those dynamic and engaging learning experiences?”
When Lower School teachers are asked why they love to teach elementary students, the answer is often a child’s unquenchable thirst for learning. While this thirst and the persistent “why” questions can be tiring, teachers recognize this is a key phase of intellectual development in young learners.
Health professionals define intellectual development as “a child’s ability to think and reason and make sense of the world they live in.” In a school setting, teachers see intellectual development come to life when students can independently analyze and evaluate events and situations around them and share their thinking with others through well-developed communication skills.
As an independent school that serves students through eighth grade, Graland’s mission and Guiding Principles are paramount in graduating students who are not only engaged citizens but thoughtful leaders. But this journey to becoming a thoughtful leader doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, Graland’s Guiding Principle of “Inspire Leadership” is infused at every level of the Middle School, encouraging students to lead their classmates and inspire the Graland community with their words and actions.
The Week of the Young Child, created by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is an annual event that celebrates early childhood education, kids, teachers, and families. This year, Graland participated in Week of the Young Child festivities from April 14-21.
We hope everyone got a chance to check out the fantastic projects featured at the 2023 Gates Invention and Innovation Expo on Thursday, March 9. Several students who participated in the Expo were excited to share their thoughts on the experience and what they learned.
While you might know that students in Lower School engage in “writer’s workshops” designed by Columbia University’s Teacher College, what you might not know is that inspiring students to become expert readers, writers, and inquirers starts as early as Pre-Kindergarten at Graland. For this reason, ECLC’s Pre-K educators attended a three-day virtual workshop with the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University last winter, where they gained valuable insights and tools to help students launch their literacy journey.
In Lower School science at Graland, students don't have to wait until they are older to complete cool and formative experiments. In fact, students as young as Kindergarten intentionally dive into projects, such as dissections, that might traditionally be reserved for older students. Why? Because at Graland, we believe that dynamic and hands-on learning experiences inspire students to be lifelong learners who are curious, passionate, and resilient, all skills that Lower School Science Teacher Elise de Geus observes in her Kindergarteners daily. "Kindergarteners are inherently scientists," Ms. de Geus said. "They are so curious and make great observations and connections. They are always excited for a challenge, and I love helping them learn how to be okay with failure and to persevere through tough challenges."
Each year, a group of students (Grade 6 and older) have the opportunity to join a club on campus dedicated to helping those experiencing food insecurity and homelessness in Colorado. The first order of business every year is to name the club with a title that best represents what the group is hoping to accomplish. This year’s group chose “Hearts on the Horizon,” which is fitting for the work they have accomplished so far.
This February, as part of their year-long service learning project on intergenerational connections, every seventh grader constructed a memory box to celebrate a senior in their life. For the past few months, students have been prepping for the project and carrying out the Middle School's theme of "Your Story, My Story, Our Story" by researching and interviewing an important senior in their life.
Every year, through various in-class activities and challenges, Grade 5 students discover the fundamentals of structural engineering and design with Mr. Andy Dodge, Middle School science teacher. Using what they learn in class, students get to build wooden towers designed with enough load-bearing capacity to overcome the "Crushing Machine of Doom." Before receiving the materials to create their structures, the fifth graders were required to present a design ticket to Mr. Dodge that followed a few simple rules. Each tower had to be at least 8 inches tall, 4 inches wide at the base, include a 1-inch centerline, and incorporate no more than 18 feet, or 216 inches of wood. In addition, students could only use the wood and glue provided, and the towers had to be constructed in class.
Each year, Grade 3 students study immigration through a lens of compassion, empathy, and valuing other people’s stories. Since January, the students have been studying the “push and pull forces of immigration,” meaning that some individuals are pushed out of their country while others choose to leave and are pulled away (due to both positive and negative circumstances).
If you love colorful art, this project is for you! In line with their studies of the natural world, third graders created portraits of insects and other species using scratch art techniques this month.
As a build-up to their culminating capstone project, eighth graders have been investigating the UN Sustainable Development Goals in their history, science, English, and math classes. With the specific goals they are researching in mind, students have also been busy in the community, partnering with local organizations that carry out the UN Sustainable Development Goals in Colorado and beyond. During this time, the eighth graders collectively completed a service project in support of goal number four, “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”
In Kindergarten, math is anything but boring. In fact, in the words of Kindergarten Teacher Mrs. Helen Valiant, math for some of our youngest Graland learners is "explorational," "hands-on," and "fun!"
In Grade 7 history, students have been learning about how a bill becomes a law. To do this, Grade 7 History Teacher Mr. Jeff Wolkoff split his students into several “subcommittees” to discuss what “laws” they would like to see passed at Graland. Upon agreeing on a topic, the students were asked to create a podcast with their group, explaining their proposed law and their reasoning behind it. In addition, students were tasked with finding experts on the topic around campus and interviewing them as podcast guests.
This month, Grade 1 students and their teachers began a new unit on neighborhoods which explores two essential questions, "what makes a neighborhood?" and "how are people's needs and wants met in their neighborhood?" To answer these questions, students completed a variety of activities to help them reach their learning objectives.
Inspired by the book “Paperwhites,” by Nancy Elizabeth, ECLC students have been bringing “a little bit of spring into winter” this January. After hearing the story of a small bunny who plants paperwhite bulbs with her senior neighborhood, ECLC students learned how to plant their own flowers with Library Coordinator Mrs. Meyers.
After learning new vocabulary words in science class, such as "force," "gravity," "friction," "Newton's Laws," "potential energy," and "kinetic energy," second graders' knowledge was put to the test through a physics design challenge!
Graland has a long and distinguished history. Before settling in as a “country day school” at its present site in the fall of 1928, the school began at three locations near downtown Denver. The earliest years are worth knowing about and appreciating as they tell the story of how a group of determined parents worked with the founding teachers to make Graland a reality.
On October 27, 2022, clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Burgamy ’93 returned to Graland to receive one of the school’s highest alumni honors, The Nancy Nye Priest Alumni Award. Many who knew Mrs. Priest ‘39 (Graland alumna and former educator of 43 years) remember her for her leadership, selflessness, service, courage, creativity, and dedication to the school and the community. Those who have had the pleasure of knowing and working with Dr. Burgamy would agree that she embodies these same qualities as Mrs. Priest.
Despite the fact that the majority of the school day is spent in classes such as math, English, science, and history, the true purpose of education is to help students realize their full potential as human beings. At Graland, we work towards this goal by introducing our students to the character framework, which shows students how to balance
Families and schools have faced several challenges in the last few years. Students might be grappling to understand the events in our country and worldwide while feeling the pandemic’s effects. As educators, these events come into our classroom through our students, who ask questions and look for clarity and understanding. For students to look at these events through the lens of critical thinking, compassion, and empathy, they need to be taught and practice these skills at school and at home.
The power of the new strategic plan lies in its synergy between three elements of the Graland community–educators, students, and families, a collaborative partnership that led to the founding of Graland. Almost a hundred years later, I find this dynamic relationship even more important as our children grow up in a world impacted by divisiveness, uncertainty, and depression, all exacerbated by social media. Now more than ever, the adults who interact with children face-to-face, day in and day out, need to unite as educators. As I stated in my opening remarks this year, we are all educators–administrators, teachers, parents, and guardians. We all have a responsibility to educate children, so they develop the traits to thrive.
From the time a new family sets foot on campus to the day their child graduates and joins the alumni community, Graland makes it a priority to host a variety of ways, both large and small, for parents and caregivers to feel connected and involved at school. Continue reading below to see which activities you have or currently participate in and to find new ones to try in the upcoming year!
Picture this… for the past five years, you have been walking your child into school, likely holding their hand and maybe their backpack, and always getting a hug and kiss goodbye. By the time your kiddo is in fourth grade, they might be telling you to simply drop them off in the carpool line. Your first reaction might be, “This is different. I’m not sure about this. Why don’t you want me to walk in with you?”
Recently I was in the library with a group of prospective students. One child was on the verge of tears as he looked longingly at the door waiting for his parents’ return. The educator in charge was encouraging all students to come to the rug to listen to a delightful book. Another little boy noticed how this sad fellow student was reluctant to join the group, hanging back on the outside of the circle. The boy turned ever so slightly to face the sad student and enthusiastically waved him over, encouraging the boy to sit with him to listen to the story. This was a small gesture but one that positively welcomed the sad boy and left an impact on the whole group. I couldn’t help but think, “I hope this student comes to Graland.” I’m lucky enough to witness small, empathic acts like this all the time and feel they’re the glue that holds our thriving community together.
Oscar Gonzalez, Director of Equity and Inclusivity
Graland recently partnered with Challenge Success, a research-based organization affiliated with the Stanford University Graduate School of Education. Challenge Success partners with middle schools, high schools, and families to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement with learning.
The organization offers a wide variety of programs with workshops and training, and during our January Professional Development Day, educators participated in Challenge Success’s workshop, “The Building Blocks for Belonging.” This workshop encouraged educators to continue activating our strategic goal of Cultivating a Culture of Belonging and, as a result, implement this framework and work on the following building blocks, which are “Interpersonal Relationships, Agency, and Support for those Marginalized.”
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1927, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.