A Week in the Life — Vol. 5

This edition of A Week in the Life presents memorable moments of the young new year. Highlights include the Forensics class delving into the messy world of (fake) blood spatter; the Cougarbots Yellow team taking third place in the Robot Ruckus First LEGO scrimmage, eighth-graders reimagining fairy tales for the stage, and the unparalleled joy of recess.

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A Week in the Life — Vol. 4

In addition to the usual day-in-the-life series of photos, this edition features Middle School overnight trips, as well as the Montreal and Quebec City voyage. Meanwhile back here at home, the head of school played a little impromptu squash on our newly opened courts. Finally, we present the striking photographs of German international student Max K. ’19. They are images of the school as you’ve never seen it.

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‘Why Not Give it a Go?’

In early November, Country Day hosted Fiona Kennedy, the first teacher to visit LCDS as part of our new faculty exchange with Kelvinside Academy in Scotland. “Fiona was the perfect first teacher for the faculty exchange,” said Director of Global Programs Heather Woodbridge. “She’s so instantly warm and open and the kids just loved her. By the end of the week her classes were ending with hugs and group photos. That’s just her.”

Most of Kennedy’s time was spent introducing variations of handball to students of all ages. “Fiona would have fit it well regardless, but being a PE teacher really allowed her to reach all three divisions and experience as broad a classroom experience as you can get,” Woodbridge said.

The PE teacher and handball coach spoke to Cougar News with a thick Scottish brogue, and told a story you’d never believe if it weren’t true:

When Fiona Kennedy couldn’t get two tickets to the 2012 London Olympics, she was disappointed, but had another idea.

The Olympics set aside a certain number of tickets for schools, so while she couldn’t score two for herself, she was able to get 40 for her and a group of students. The only events that hadn’t sold out were basketball and handball, so that’s what they saw.

“I thought the kids would be excited about basketball and not care much about handball because it wasn’t something they were familiar with. But it was the other way around. They loved handball. Loved it.”

The entire trip back from London to Glasgow, her kids were relentless in asking her if the school could start a handball team. Somewhere in the middle of England, she said sure.

“I just thought why not give it a go,” Kennedy told the BBC in 2014.

“And within six weeks we’d entered the Scottish championships, where we came third.”

In the five years since launching the program, Kelvinside’s handball team has won 15 national titles and its players make up a third of the roster for the Scottish national handball squad.

With the team’s ascendency, Kennedy traded her coaching position for a managerial one where she oversees the program as a whole. Finding a new head coach for a team BBC Sport dubbed “a talent factory” was as effortless as it was auspicious. Kennedy’s replacement is Sarah Carrick, whose other gig is playing handball for the British national team.

All of this takes some of the sting out of Kennedy not being able to get those two Olympics tickets for herself back in 2012.

Kennedy’s visit was part of larger faculty exchange program. Last Spring, Learning Specialist Jill Englert kicked off the exchange when she spent a week teaching at Kelvinside and staying as a guest in Kennedy’s home. Englert returned the favor when Kennedy arrived stateside, setting aside time for a full Pennsylvania Dutch experience.

Spending Summer in the South African Winter

By Lauren M. ’18
Photos and video by Hayden F. ’20

On July 18 this past summer, three students and two teachers met before dawn at Lancaster Country Day to begin a 21-hour journey to Cape Town, South Africa. Every year, LCDS sends three students to study at the Herschel School for Girls and Bishops College for boys for a month-long exchange.

We would be staying with host families, but before we met them, we spent four days taking in Cape Town. We rode a cable car to the top of the magnificent Table Mountain, which overlooks the city, petted cheetahs, and explored Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for almost two decades.

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After these packed days, we met our host families. The students we stayed with will later come to stay with us and study at Country Day for eight weeks. For me, this was the best part about the trip because I was able to take in much more of the culture and experience more things authentically South African than I otherwise could have.

For the next four weeks of our time in Cape Town, my fellow students and I attended classes either at Bishops or Herschel, as well as participating in many activities with other exchange students and our host families. With my host family, I was able to attend a rugby match, go on a boat ride to observe wild flamingos, and visit the University of Cape Town.

The last week of the exchange we went on a tour of the Garden Route with all of the exchange students from places such as India, Spain and the U.K. that were currently attending Bishops or Herschel as well. The tour included a visit to an ostrich farm where the challenge was feeding the giant birds without getting bitten by one (not all of us succeeded at that).

The next day, we visited the Cango Wildlife Cheetah Ranch where we were able to observe various large cats as well as animals such as meerkats, alligators and pygmy hippos. The following day, we went ziplining in the morning and as if that weren’t enough of an adrenaline rush, students were given the option to go bungy jumping off of the Bloukrans Bridge, the highest commercial bungee jump bridge in the world. Finally, we visited an elephant sanctuary where we were able to walk around with and feed the elephants while learning about conservation.

The week — and the exchange as a whole — was full of friendship-making, adventures and experiences that I would have been unable to have anywhere else. Leaving was bittersweet because although we had to say goodbye to all the friends we had made and our host families, we knew we’d be able to see our host siblings again soon when they attend LCDS later this in the fall.

World Civilizations: Triumph Over the Traditional

On one side of the Upper School hallway in Brenna Stuart’s room, Lexi J. ’19 recognized a phrase from Voltaire’s “Candide” in a 1751 commentary supporting sumptuary laws as a bulwark against “the dregs of the people.”

“That’s so mean,” Lexi said in smiling astonishment.

On the other side of the hallway in Genevieve Munson’s room, freshman Jonah R. handed his teacher the outline he’d made using the critical techniques from the previous day’s class.

“This is going to be a bomb essay,” Jonah said.

Munson scanned the page and nodded approvingly. “I don’t doubt it, young Jonah. I do not doubt it at all,” she said.

Other than being impressive displays of scholarly aptitude, these two scenes would appear to be discrete, disconnected events with no relation to one another.

That appearance would be deceiving.

There’s a common thread that runs across the hall, connecting Munson’s class to Stuart’s, Jonah’s experience to Lexi’s, history to English and freshman year to sophomore year. That thread is World Civilizations.

The two-year, interdisciplinary course serves as an immersive introduction to the humanities in Upper School. While grounding students in the fundamentals, World Civ aims to provide a richer experience than individual English or history classes would by exposing students to texts that span millennia and cultures, but speak to a common human essence.

“Dividing history from literature is a false dichotomy,” said Stuart, who teaches World Civ II along with Emma Miller.

“We’re trying to combine big ideas with the nuts-and-bolts of grammar and effective, engaging writing. The trick is figuring out that balance.

“It’s definitely ambitious, but it works because they’re not just high schoolers,” Stuart continued. “There’s this idea that students that age we should just spoon-feed facts, but facts without context become facts without meaning and just bore these kids.”

Munson, along with Sarah Parker, teaches World Civ I and echoed Stuart’s sentiments.

“Any idea is not an idea in isolation,” Munson said. “Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech isn’t some frozen moment in time.

“I want my students to understand that the paths of English and history are not journeys that take place in isolation. And on the best, most fulfilling days of class, I’m learning shoulder-to-shoulder with my students. Challenging fixed perspectives is always an aim of whatever we’re doing in class,” she said.

The World Civ I curriculum includes The Bible, The Koran, The Dhammapada, “The Odyssey,” “The Republic” and “The Divine Comedy.” World Civ II focuses on the development of modern Europe and the causes and consequences of western dominance. The material that helps illuminate that journey includes works by Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Tolstoy, Camus, Kafka and Garcia Marquez.

“The struggle,” said Munson, “is that there are fun, interesting, applicable elements within great texts, lurking in the background. The challenge is to tease those out and bring them forward so students can engage with them as preparation for thinking and speaking and communicating critically.

“What’s always on the forefront is how to craft good writing, and probably the most fundamental aspect of that is that you have to be a good reader if you ever want to be a good writer,” she said.

The Upper School faculty are hardly alone in cultivating critical thinkers.

“The Middle School sets us up for success,” Munson explained. “The collaboration among and between teachers helps ensure that kids arrive in World Civ I with a strong scaffolding of what they need to know, and that allows me to just build on. We’re trying to foster a critical eye and look at the human experience and develop in students an empathy and understanding.

“There are certain universal themes throughout the great works — One might even say that’s what makes them great,” Munson continued. “But it is a profound experience for students to interact with the Koran and the Tao and ‘The Odyssey’ and books separated by cultures and continents and hundreds or thousands of years and to find, universal, unifying human elements and truths.

Stuart and Munson’s belief in the superiority of the interdisciplinary World Civ model is clear. Munson made equally clear, however, that the point of the class was not to upset the pedagogical apple cart.

“World Civ is not some sort of insurrection against the traditional teaching of English and history. But it is, we think, a natural way of eliminating the more arbitrary barriers between the two disciplines in a way that makes learning the material a uniquely good fit for freshman- and sophomore-age students.”

Stuart said that even within World Civ itself, the aim is to get rid of boundaries and present students with a unified curriculum and more complete learning experience.

“We bring in art history, we bring in various kinds of philosophy, we bring in dangling modifiers and lots of other things. But it never feels like, ‘Now we’re going to do history,’ Stuart said.

“We’re always doing all of it.”