Inspired Learning. Masterful Teaching. PreK – 12.

Head of School Letter: CSS Experiential Education Signature Programs Update

September 21, 2020
Greetings CSS Families,
Exploring ecosystems in the campus pond and creek

​When presented with the challenge of COVID-19, schools across the country have had to pivot, hold to their mission, and build community like never before. We are working diligently to provide robust programming in the face of the pandemic. Academic programming has had to shift and through the collective efforts of our community, we are continuing to provide quality experiential learning experiences.

Our outdoor education and seminar programs are an opportunity for students and teachers to come together as a class, grade level, and school. We create experiences that allow students to take risks, develop leadership skills, independence, and teamwork, thus preparing them for a dynamic world. Students and teachers create lasting bonds and foster positive partnerships that make them college-ready.

Fall Adventures take advantage of 28 acres on campus

Due to COVID, we realize that typical programming cannot happen. Sleeping in tents or cabins, large numbers of students commuting or traveling, communal eating, and some team building activities are restricted. Mitigating risk is requiring us to rethink how we best execute our experiential education signature programs. We are choosing to minimize our sphere of exposure in order to prioritize in-person learning. This requires our teachers and students to think outside the box and build new ways to reach the same goals.
Our Director of Student Programs, Ann Petit, has connected with her peers at schools across the state and the country. She has conducted virtual calls and made efforts to understand how programs can best be executed in our new world. As a collaborative group, we are re-writing best practices for experiential programs. While we may all be feeling the effects of change fatigue, there are tremendous upsides to deeply evaluating the essence of experiential learning. We can emerge with stronger programmatic elements and greater intentionality.
Middle School students participate in an Activity Block during the last period o
While still a work in progress, Ann Petit together with faculty have come up with the following modifications to some of our fall programs:
Children’s School: Fall Adventure has been happening for Kindergarten - 5th grade on campus with the help of community partners Catamount Institute and Millbo Art Theater. Catamount Institute is helping our youngest learners become citizen scientists with an exploration of what inhabits our beautiful campus. Students were immersed in on-campus adventures and synthesized themes related to ecosystems, ecology, habitat, birding and geology. A mix of activity-based experiments, thoughtful inquiry, and problem-based challenges coupled with in-classroom content, inspired literature, math skills, and producing oral and written reflections supports immersive learning and personal growth. Much time has been spent exploring life in our campus pond. Fourth grade is learning about Colonial America with guided activities on how to make paper, churn butter, and theater games. Fifth grade had a full day of adventures complete with mountain biking on the new campus trails and through the neighborhood. 
Middle School: To kick off the year each grade level had one, full-day of rock climbing, hiking, communication skill-building, and leadership challenges. Our new activity block has been a big hit with activity choices including chess, frisbee golf, mountain biking, cross-country, girls’ outdoor volleyball, Additionally, Friday afternoon advisory time is being utilized for experiential activities. For example, students will walk the perimeter of campus and calculate feet and miles. Without any electronics – students will have to be creative.
Upper School: Though we weren’t able to experience the mountain-getaway known as Mountain Caravan, we tried to connect with the spirit of creativity and community that happens during that time. Seniors had a day-long retreat and shared mementos of their CSS journey with the entire Upper School community. This set an important tone of reflection and gratitude, which are key tenets of experiential learning. During the e-learning start, all Upper School students took part in an Activity Day. With anticipation, the Experience-Centered Seminars (ECS) rollout is scheduled for September 22 and while locations are closer to home the itineraries are flexible and the content is robust.
Seniors sharing mementos of their CSS journey
As to what to expect for our spring programs – we remain hopeful. We are making reservations for some of our signature programs in the event regional travel is possible. However, we are ready to deliver local or virtual programming as needed. The new world of business and industry must assess risk, be willing to adapt quickly to the needs of the current situation, and foster learning in new and relevant ways.
Thank you all for your patience and flexibility. I am confident that with the support of the community we can create new, wonderful experiences for our students.
Please reach out to Ann Petit if you have additional contacts that are providing COVID-friendly experiential learning opportunities.

Tambi Tyler 
Head of School


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