At some schools, it’s too easy to fall through the cracks academically. When schools are bureaucracies and students become a number or a test score, it’s impersonal. Even curious and inspired learners can lose interest. And that’s too big a risk to take when it comes to a child’s future.
That’s why, at Aspen Country Day School, we put students at the heart of all we do. We intentionally empower teachers to meet children where they are and take them as far as they can go.
English & Language Arts
Listening, speaking, reading, and writing: these are the cornerstones of all learning. Aspen Country Day School gives children a solid foundation in language arts. These essential skills make it possible for them to grow into lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and contributors to the greater good.
The language arts program is designed to give children an appreciation of literature and the human experience; deep practice in learning to read, and then in reading to learn; the ability to clearly and succinctly express oneself orally and in writing; the ability to think seriously and critically. The language arts program balances exploration of rich literary content, both fiction and nonfiction, with the need to develop the discrete foundational skills to become an effective reader and writer.
In Lower School, the “Daily 5” organizational framework ensures students engage in meaningful experiences in each domain of language arts: 1) read to self, 2) read to someone, 3) listen to reading, 4) work on writing, and 5) word work. Children learn to read via instruction that incorporates the best elements of a phonics-based program (Orton-Gillingham) as well as a holistic approach. We use elements of the Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop to help children become thoughtful and expressive writers. Students have numerous opportunities to practice both formal and informal speaking and listening.
As children rise through the grades, the reading focus progresses to a more in-depth analysis of both fiction and nonfiction texts. Students develop their ability to read for inference and make purposeful connections beyond the text, either to their own experience or the broader world. Students also cultivate their ability to lead discussions, and by Eighth Grade most literature discussions are facilitated by students in small groups to encourage more independent inquiry, rather than strictly teacher-directed discussions. Students dissect literature by progressing from the literal to the abstract by systematically asking three questions: What happens? Why does it happen? What does it mean?
The mathematics curriculum focuses on developing foundational skills and understanding. The goal is for students to be successful in current and future mathematical experiences inside and outside of the classroom.
In addition to learning mathematical content, children develop effective mathematical practices that they can apply to other academic areas, such as articulating reason and strategy and attending to organized written work.
As students progress from PreKindergarten to Eighth Grade, they are challenged to develop their thinking from concrete to abstract by looking at each concept in a multitude of age-appropriate ways.
In the early grades, students develop numeracy with manipulatives and experiential learning. Our program progresses toward abstract thinking through application problems and mathematical modeling. Students experience mathematics in different ways. Students can be found working on math independently, with a partner or in a small group, and with technology.
We strive to teach and utilize the language of math. We expect our students to use this language to explain their process and strategies either orally, through pictures, or in writing.
Aspen Country Day School students become scientists in the best possible way: through hands-on experimentation, project-based learning, and guidance from skilled teachers. The science program focuses on all three areas of science study — Earth science, life science, and physical science — at different intensities, depending on the grade and age of the students.
The Lower School science program is designed to capture and nurture the natural curiosity of children. The year’s activities may include a trip to the Pitkin County landfill to understand the impact of waste in our valley, an exploration of geologic forms during a hike on Outdoor Ed, or an in-depth research project on the evolution of coronaviruses.
As young scientists move into the Middle School, they focus on one particular aspect each year. In Sixth Grade, students study Earth science, exploring topics such as geology and hydrology. Seventh Graders study life science, covering cells, classification, and evolution. In Eighth Grade, students participate in a class called Environmental Chemistry and Physics, applying their knowledge of atomic structure and physical laws to gain a deeper understanding of global issues. Most units of study are project-based, with students conducting experiments and labs, digging deep into the latest research, and presenting their findings in a variety of media.
History & Social Studies
The social studies curriculum is designed to develop a child’s understanding of the world from the self to society as a whole. Through the study of history, geography, economics and civics, students will see the connections between the individual and society, the past and present, nations and culture, and explore how and why human societies developed as they have.
Children learn to: develop essential questions; interpret data presented in charts, graphs, timelines, tables, and maps; read for comprehension, and take effective notes. As they build upon their writing and presentation skills in social studies classes, they practice outlining, organizing, researching, expository writing, developing and supporting thesis statements, delivering effective oral presentations, increasing precise vocabulary, and collaborating to achieve a shared goal.
In Middle School, history classes build on the foundation established in Lower School. Students develop a deeper understanding of their world through a formal study of the history that has shaped today’s societies. Students use a wide range of sources to increase their knowledge of the topic and develop their skills in acquiring information, such as textbooks, atlases, Internet sources, film, and a variety of print material.
Middle School students gradually build the skills they will need for high school and college-level work in the social sciences: research, note taking, outlining, expository writing, creating timelines and maps, public speaking, and group collaboration. As students develop their understanding of general history and the characteristics of civilizations, they identify differences and similarities between cultures; they then develop and support opinions about those civilizations.
Country Day has long been noted for the strength of its world languages program. The world language department focuses on all four areas of language study: reading, speaking, listening, and writing.
Exposure to both French and Spanish begins in PreKindergarten, and students continue to explore both languages (one per semester) until Fourth Grade, when students choose either French or Spanish to pursue for further study throughout the balance of their Aspen Country Day School journey.
Starting in Sixth Grade, French or Spanish becomes a core academic subject equally weighted and graded along with the other four (English, math, science, history). As the students move up through the grades, there is increasing depth in all four areas of language. The overall goal is for students to enter high school proficient in their chosen language and prepared for advanced studies.
Aspen Country Day School wants our graduates to become responsible global citizens in the world beyond our small valley. In French and Spanish classes, students explore the history, geography and political elements of the various cultures. A World Language class in Middle School may turn into a spirited discussion — in Spanish or French — of current topics such as immigration, elections, or sustainability.
ARTS + OUtdoors
Students perform in class, in the Lower School Shakespeare Festival, and in the All-School Play at the Wheeler Opera House. The study of theatre and the practice of performance build important skills of confidence, imagination, and empathy.
Children learn the language of music through vocal training, instrument practice, music reading, and performance. We believe all students are musicians and we seek to instill performance confidence and life-long love of music.
In all grades, students explore ceramics, sculpture, drawing, and painting. They study the work of famous artists, and they develop their own tools for creative expression, making art not only in the studio but also for projects and presentations in their academic classes.
The PE program builds physical competency, a sense of fair play, and an understanding of the rules and strategies for success. Exposure to a variety of sports gives children foundational skills for lifelong enjoyment of athletics, team sports, fitness, and mountain adventures.
Aspen Country Day School is proud to be a national leader in outdoor education. Children have two expeditions per year starting in Kindergarten. They build deep reservoirs of confidence, resilience, and joy in the outdoors. Read more about this landmark program here.