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School Stories

Collaboration and Innovation: Cornerstones of Graland’s Summer Grant Program

Teachers look forward to summer for the opportunity to spend time with family, reconnect with friends, travel and kick back before returning to the classroom refreshed and energized. Many Graland teachers also opt to spend precious summer hours engaged in curriculum design and development.
Since 2012, Graland’s Summer Grant Program has incentivized teachers to collaborate around ways to innovate classroom practices and student experiences. Educational reformer John Dewey’s words from many years ago still resonate and capture the essence behind the creation of the Summer Grant Program: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Dewey reminds us of the need to be cognizant of the present, while projecting into the future to anticipate skill sets students will need to flourish.

Here’s what teachers said about the impact of summer grants on 
student learning.

Integrating Issues of Social and Economic Justice into 7/8 Mathematics Curriculum (2017)
Collaboration Team: Middle School math instructors Nanette Newman, Jorge Chavez and Camille James
“We were interested in helping students understand why mathematics is important and how math concepts connect to the greater world. We worked to implement curriculum that would provide students with the opportunity to use mathematics in order to guide critical thinking and cultivate compassion. “Resources, including teacher guides and student documents, were created for each lesson. We further focused on designing projects and themes that reflect Graland’s Guiding Principles and discussed how we could reinforce those ideals through our instruction.”

Grades 5/6 Service Council Model (2017)
Collaboration Team: Service Learning Coordinator Christi James and English Teacher Kimm Lucas
“We had the chance to develop an inquiry-based model of service council where students were introduced to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, explored them indepth, and eventually broke into small groups based on common interests. From there, action plans were determined based on the impact they wanted to achieve. Students talked to members of the community, researched organizations and thought about the audience of their projects. The primary focus is learning and raising awareness; we also plan for more hands-on projects that continue to connect to larger goals, while spending less time researching and discussing. By getting to the action steps more quickly, students will be able to have a greater impact. “Overall, this new approach to service council allowed for greater depth and more meaningful conversation than in the past. Students who participated were passionate about their causes and eager to make a difference.”

Mathematical Inquiry Tasks (2017)
Collaboration Team: Lower School teachers Courtney Menk, Sandy Erlach, Carrie VonderHaar, Katie Stratman, Lisa Schreiner and Nikki Spiers
“During the summer of 2017, seven teachers delved into thoughtful discussion about best practices in math instruction guided by Jo Boaler’s book, Mathematical Mindsets. Boaler’s ideas were meshed with concepts being taught through the Math in Focus curriculum. After uncovering problems, puzzles, activities and games that push students’ thinking to a higher level, teachers created an accessible resource that all faculty can access and contribute to with the intention that all Lower School students will benefit from this summer grant project.”

This past summer, numerous teachers were again hard at work on a record number of projects through the Summer Grants Program. These included:
• Development of lessons to support students’ ability to navigate social dynamics
• Integration of science, Spanish, math and service learning curricula in Grade 1
• Partial redesign of the Lower School literacy curriculum (see story on page 9)
• Creation of a cohesive Middle School advisory framework that incorporates service learning tenets, moral development training, current events and social-emotional learning

The long days of summer are now just a memory, but the outcomes of focused, collaborative work will live on in our classrooms for days to come.

With a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Colorado, Gail manages Graland’s professional development and faculty recruitment efforts while assisting the Head of School in day-to-day school affairs. Her twin daughters, Sara and Megan Hill, graduated from Graland in 2012.

Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.