There is something special about being an Aardvark. (The unlikely mascot was chosen back when the original ACDS high school first fielded a soccer team.) Community spirit grows out of shared experiences in the outdoors, in classrooms, and on stage. But it’s also something we intentionally cultivate, knowing that traditions and connections are what weave a community together. With the experiences they have at Aspen Country Day School, children learn what it feels like to part of something larger than yourself. A feeling of belonging helps create the solid foundation for lives of meaning and purpose.
Blue and Green Teams
Children become part of either the Blue team or Green team when they first start at school. They receive a special t-shirt with our Aardvark mascot, and when Blue Green Day arrives (three times per year), they join a mixed-grade patrol led by an Eighth Grader for an afternoon of games all over campus. School spirit shines on these days of good-natured competition.
Even our parent events sometimes involve the Blue Green spirit, including the annual benefit called Blue Green Night!
In the spirit of our school motto, de amicitia, “of friendship,” children from a younger and an older grade are paired up for events throughout the year. A Buddy Grade afternoon might find Eighth Graders reading story books to PreKindergarteners, Fifth Graders showing the Kindergarteners how they take water samples from Castle Creek for their science projects, or Fourth Graders presenting their Egypt projects to the First Graders. Younger buddies are always excited to see their older friends around campus or on the school bus, and the friendships that result from these connections give Aspen Country Day School its welcoming family feeling.
The school song
At assemblies and other special occasions, Aardvarks can be heard to break out in song. Check out this special rendition from the PreKindergarten.
Blue and Green, as one team, together we will stand.
Memories, friends forever, with our hearts leaving never, Aspen Country Day.
Proud and true, loyalty to you, Aspen Country Day School!
Each winter, as part of the Physical Education curriculum, students ski or snowboard on local mountains with teachers and parents. Ski days are a longtime ACDS tradition. We believe students need opportunities to experience our great location and mountain heritage. In a normal year, ski days start in PreKindergarten, when the youngest students head out to Powder Pandas at Buttermilk ski area, and continue through Eighth Grade, when winter afternoons might find our oldest students carving up Highlands Bowl.
During these outdoor adventures that help develop grit and resilience, we often see students experiencing a new role within their class, whether by being a leader on the hill, helping a friend on a challenging trail, or demonstrating responsibility by carrying all their own ski gear, even in Kindergarten.
All ACDS students should have a ski pass, available to local schoolchildren at a significant discount from the Aspen Skiing Company.
Raising responsible citizens
The core values of our school guide students’ participation in innovative educational opportunities in their classrooms, in the wider community, online, and even overseas. Teachers, children, and parents share enthusiasm for the exposure children get to a broader world beyond the Roaring Fork Valley. With this exposure comes responsibility for representing our community by being your best and always asking, “What can I do for others?”
With a goal of graduating students who are environmentally literate and conscientious, Aspen Country Day School focuses much of its service learning work on the natural world. In partnerships with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and the Independence Pass Foundation, children have planted trees, cleared trails, and cleaned up campsites. A relatively new tradition is to spend Earth Day outside in a schoolwide day of service. In years past, we have had a schoolwide day of service on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as well.
Other service learning projects are specific to particular grades. For instance, the First Grade has a longtime partnership with the Shining Stars Foundation, which brings children with serious illnesses to Aspen for a ski holiday each winter. First Grades raise funds with bake sales and letter-writing campaigns to local businesses for donations of ski gear. Then they all turn out to cheer on the Shining Stars in a fun ski race at Buttermilk each spring.
Middle Schoolers at Aspen Country Day School are offered the opportunity to participate in an exchange program with students in four of Aspen’s Sister Cities: Abetone, Italy; Chamonix, France; Shimukappu, Japan; and Bariloche, Argentina. This is a competitive process, requiring an essay, interview, and recommendations.
Students apply in Seventh Grade, then those selected travel in Eighth Grade with a small group of students and chaperones from local schools. They then welcome their partner from overseas for a homestay in the Roaring Fork Valley.
World Leadership School partnership
To prepare for their role as the leaders of the student community in Eighth Grade, our oldest students participate in an innovative travel program right after they finish Seventh Grade. In years past, students have traveled to the Sacred Valley of Peru with World Leadership School, known for its transformative experiential education around the world. Combining service learning and guided lessons in leadership development, our program shows students how the core values they learn at ACDS can make a difference in the wider world.
Field trips and other travel programs
The Roaring Fork Valley is a wonderful place to grow up, but it’s also important to experience a wider world. Through exposure to other places and ways of life, children gain perspective and build understanding. Field trips may be as simple as a visit to the fire station in PreKindergarten, or as immersive as the class trip to Washington, DC in Eighth Grade. All field trips are intentionally designed for learning and are tied to specific aspects of the curriculum. For instance, when Fifth Graders were learning about nutrition and food production as part of their science studies, they took an overnight trip to Paonia, Colorado to learn about organic farming. They camped out in an orchard, explored a greenhouse, and prepared a meal in a commercial kitchen.
Igniting curiosity, confidence, and critical thinking
What do we mean at Aspen Country Day School when we say our mission is to “ignite critical thinking?” As one graduate recently put it in his speech at commencement, above, “I learned to make up my own mind — to think for myself.” From the earliest grades, children practice the elements of critical thinking: analysis, interpretation, inference, explanation, self-regulation, open-mindedness, and problem-solving. They graduate with a solid foundation in these essential skills for a life of meaning and purpose.
Project-based active learning
It’s one thing to sit in a classroom and listen to a teacher talk or take a quiz on what you read in a textbook. It’s yet another to put that content in a real-world context. For instance, when children study history in Third Grade, they choose a particular character who has helped create positive change in the world. They then research that person, looking at the character traits that contributed to their works, and write a paper with their findings. They then prepare presentations using technology tools and create a soft-sculpture doll of their character (imagine Amelia Earhart, right down to the cockpit goggles). At a final presentation, they portray their figure in character (and in costume) for an audience of classmates, parents, and children from other grades.
Each grade has multiple projects like these, which vary from year to year but include the Economics Fair in Second Grade, animal research projects in First Grade, the Egypt project in Fourth Grade, and National History Day competitions in Seventh Grade, and much more. All along the journey through the grades, students hone their skills in research, presentation, and critical thinking.
Public speaking and performance
Too many children grow up without opportunities for real challenge and growth. And one of the toughest challenges at any age is to stand up in front of classmates, parents, and friends to demonstrate what you have learned. But whether it’s a dancing in the All-School Play, a delivering lines in a Shakespeare drama, narrating a slide deck about a science project, or speaking at graduation, Aspen Country Day School students are prepared. We build essential presentation skills gradually over each year of the journey so that by the time they are ready to graduate, students have plenty of experience. They may still have butterflies, but they know how to persevere for an excellent result.
High school placement program
Families frequently ask whether Aspen Country Day School has a high school. Although the school once did continue through grade 12, it no longer does. Fortunately, our graduates have a wide range of choices for their secondary education, and they report being extremely well prepared, no matter which option they choose.
In a typical year, our Eighth Grade graduates move on as follows:
- one third to independent day or boarding schools in other states
- one third to local public schools
- one third to Colorado independent schools
Secondary school placement counseling is a service that Aspen Country Day School offers to all families – part of our goal of preparing ACDS graduates not just for high school, but for lives of meaning and purpose.
ACDS graduates are ready for the high schools of their dreams — their highest and best next step, whatever it may be.
Country Day has a strong, multi-generational track record in this area. Every year ACDS Eighth Graders venture forth to our local public high schools, Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, other boarding schools, and independent day schools farther afield. Over the years, we have built strong relationships with the representatives of boarding and day schools nationwide, and our annual Boarding School Fair has strengthened awareness of ACDS.