Our Learning Environment
No matter the age of your children, they will feel welcomed into a safe, nurturing environment at CDS. Each and every one of our students will experience the caring, professional support of our staff, and the values at the core of our school identity (as represented on our three critical documents: Mission, Beliefs, and Profile of Our Graduates) are deliberately developed in all students so that they learn to value diversity and gain a global, inclusive perspective of humanity. This contributes greatly to the strong sense of community for which CDS is renowned.
For children to be open to and focused on learning and absorbing what is going on around them, they must feel warm and safe in, and attracted to, their learning environment. No matter which part of the school they are in, we design our environments to provide these qualities. This is reflected in the smaller size school furniture in the EC, the rugs for relaxing on to read a book in the EC and ES, and the niches outside of the classroom and in the beautiful gardens across all divisions.
Within the classroom, teachers promote both individual and collaborative learning through designing particular arrangements of desks – sometimes in small groups, sometimes in circles, etc. Also, the very design of the building itself is utilized to promote a sense of community. For example, the circular arrangement of the central forum in the high school is utilized for whole school assemblies and other events shared by the entire high school community.
In all our school divisions, the learning environment is designed and adapted to optimize the atmosphere for learning, for developing community, and for enjoyment.
Our early childhood environment is a safe and nurturing place where children are easily supervised and have all the essential materials to learn at hand. Our classrooms are appropriately equipped with low furniture, bathrooms, rich learning centers which include a plethora of manipulatives, a rug to meet on during circle time, cozy reading areas, and an outdoor playground. Much attention is given to making materials accessible by the children as they learn how to use them respectfully and clean them up. The teachers work to create an environment where children practice and are supported in problem solving, social interactions with peers, emotional growth, gross, fine motor and cognitive skills. The environment is structured to support the whole child.
CDS aims for an environment that meets children’s basic needs and supports and encourages children to engage in activities that implement the program's curriculum and philosophy. Teachers enable the optimum learning for their students and make families feel welcome and involved. We believe that parents play a crucial role in the education of their children. Therefore, parents are invited into the classroom to share their knowledge, skills and make a partnership between school and home.
Our elementary school is a community with a diverse culture. Its environment is, safe, inclusive, warm, and supportive. Our students are children and enjoy school. We offer a variety of activities each year to promote a sense of community spirit, including Field Day, UN Day Assembly, and monthly life skill assemblies. Students have a voice and decision-making power through our student council and service club. Students and teachers are involved in a variety of service projects in school as well as in the community.
The elementary school includes 20 self–contained classes with a maximum of 18 students in each class as well as classrooms for art, music, band, computer, and Spanish. In addition, our facility includes an adequate playground with a soccer field and basketball court, a large gymnasium, and spacious library. Students enjoy having snack and lunch in our full service cafeteria. We also have a stage in our cafeteria to be used for assemblies, concerts, and presentations.
Teachers have organized spaces to suit the learning styles of our students. Desks are arranged in groups or circles so students can work collaboratively. Classrooms have small rugs and pillows which are used for morning meetings or so that students can sprawl comfortably on the floor while they read. Students take advantage of the outdoor hallways and gardens to work independently or in small groups. A number of our teachers take advantage of the beautiful gardens as an extension of their classes.
Our middle school is a community with a distinctive culture. Its environment is inviting, safe, inclusive, and supportive. It balances hard work with fun. Our students are children and should enjoy school. That is one reason we have spirit days, sports days, dress down days, and our now infamous Olympic Festival every year. Through our 15 advisories and Middle School Student Council, students have a voice and decision-making power. Students regularly work on service and environmental projects that extend our community beyond the gates of the school.
The building that now houses the middle school office used to be the home of a British ambassador. Over the years, different parts of the original house have become key components of the school. The original living room, complete with fireplace, is now our assembly hall. The outdoor barbeque area is our art studio. The backyard is the site of a covered recreation area where students play basketball and volleyball. A three-story wing of classrooms extends from this building.
Teachers have organized spaces to suit the needs of our students. Desks are arranged in groups or circles or U shapes so students can work collaboratively and discuss. Literature classes have small rugs and pillows so students can sprawl comfortably on the floor while they read. Students take advantage of the wide outdoor hallways to work independently or in small groups. They frequently work on projects, study, or read outside sitting at picnic tables or on the ground under trees.
Our learning environment in the high school builds community by design and provides opportunities for learning both in and outside of the classroom. The circular forum on the first floor is the center for whole school meetings as well as for study during break times and before and after the formal school day. Teachers use all available spaces on the three floors of the school for working in pairs or small collaborative groups.
The students also use these spaces for relaxation, with ping pong in the forum proving very popular. Most of the students chose to eat their snacks and lunch in these spaces, and each grade level feels particular ownership for the floor where their lockers are. In addition, the seniors enjoy their designated space, where they can socialize and study with one another, and talk about their college and future aspirations with each other.
The classrooms themselves provide a variety of environments for learning. Some are specialized for purpose, most particularly the science labs. Teachers employ a variety of instructional approaches in recognition of students’ different learning styles. In preparation for college, skills are developed for independent study and for note-taking while listening to a lecture, and in preparation for many life situations, skills are developed for collaborative group work. Throughout, higher-order thinking skills are emphasized together with persisting with intellectual challenge.
Perhaps most importantly of all, teachers share their passion for their subjects and model a lifelong love of learning.