PDS Online Summer Sessions Draw Major Interest

Following Princeton Day School's transition to virtual learning from March through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, Princeton Day School leadership and faculty launched a new signature program of online summer sessions to engage PDS students of all ages.

Dubbed Panthers Summer Session, the slate of online courses has been offered in three two-week segments—the first from June 22-July 2, the second from July 10-23, and the third from July 27-August 6.

The genesis of this year's program was a cross-team collaboration, explains Director of Advancement Kathy Schulte. "A group of seven from across the school came together to partner with our faculty colleagues to create an online summer experience for our Princeton Day School students and the children of our colleagues. Through the generosity of the teachers and staff who donated their time, we were able to offer free of charge this program to bring the community together during the summer. So far it's been a smashing success with over 500 students participating in unique and fun online educational experiences. This is Princeton Day School at its very best."

The planning team included Ms. Schulte, along with Director of Annual Giving Jill Goldman, US English teacher Seraphine Hamilton, Assistant Director of Admission Linda Lippman, Administrative Director of Summer Programs Rose Price, Acting Head of Upper School Chris Rhodes and Associate Head of School Lisa Surace. The energy, creativity and expertise of the 76 participating Princeton Day School faculty members and affiliated insrtuctors, who developed and taught a diverse menu of 113 session courses, fueled the program. 

To provide a flavor for the impressive scope of subjects and array of approaches the faculty took in delivering summer session experiences, here are a few highlights for each School division: 

Lower School

"Pages from a Panther's Extraordinary Expedition" (taught by PDS LS faculty Emilie Miller to 3rd-5th graders)

This course met four times a week and took a dive into the wonderful world of writing through "Flat Stanley-style" storytelling. Class participants began the writing adventure by creating a Bitmoji/Flat Stanley character who would take a fantastic summer vacation. Using simile, personification, alliteration, hyperbole, onomatopoeia and metaphor, students wrote creative journal entries about their character's ultimate summer adventure. Describing the destination using figurative language and descriptive details, writers took their audience on an unforgettable journey without leaving the comforts of home.

"Animalium: Exploring Animals from Various Biomes" (taught by PDS LS faculty Christina Lee to 2nd and 3rd graders)

This course met twice a week to explore animals from various biomes using books, websites, activities and videos. Each class session began with a Google Meet focusing on instruction and setting up the day's student activity, which students completed on their own after the instruction. The student activities were creative, artistically-inspired and scientifically grounded exercises designed to help students investigate the unique characteristics of diverse species of animals.

"Kids' Boot Camp" (taught by Advancement Office staff and Figure Skating Coach Courtney Hodock to Pre-K-4th graders)

This course consisted of a series of interval workouts designed to keep kids active while still largely in a social-distancing world. The workouts were designed specifically for Pre-K through fourth graders and focused on harnessing their seemingly endless supply of energy and using it in a fun way. The course also sought to introduce and reinforce healthy habits and exercise at a younger age.

"Plexers, Puzzles and Polygons" (taught by PDS LS faculty Susan Ferguson and Stacey Walker to 3rd and 4th graders)

The primary goal of this virtual course was to provide a fun and visual math experience for rising third and fourth graders. The only requirements for the course were a pencil, paper and a positive attitude. Because of this straight-forward approach, students and faculty were able to focus on enjoying spending time with one another while working on math. "Students came together to share some math fun and connect over the summer. It was fun to connect with former students over the summer too! The kids stayed engaged throughout and persevered," Susan Ferguson shared.

"Stellato Story Time" (Hosted by the Head of School Paul Stellato and Maureen Stellato for Pre-K and Kindergarten)

Head of School Paul Stellato and his wife, Maureen Stellato, who is the School's Special Events Manager, brought Pre-K and Kindergarten students virtually into their home by sharing some of the favorite stories they enjoyed reading to their daughters years ago, along with many more great children's books. During each session, students were encouraged to draw their own illustrations to the stories while listening.

Middle School

"Space Math" (taught by PDS MS faculty Neetika Bhalla for 7th graders)

This course examined math applications used in space science using a curriculum that was designed by NASA. Students were able to explore their interest in space while learning how to apply math and problem solving to authentic issues in the scientific and engineering realms of astronautics.

"NASA is getting ready to send the Perseverance rover along with Ingenuity helicopter later this month to find if life ever existed on Mars. In our two week summer session, we learned more about this exciting expedition along with mathematical applications using data and images taken by NASA spacecrafts," Ms. Bhalla explained.

"Get Your Game On!" (taught by PDS LS faculty Karen Pike and Admission staff member Amy Sharpless to 1st-5th graders)

Each week, this class completed a fun challenge  which was introduced in the weekly kickoff Google meeting. Then, the mission was to "get your game on" by completing the challenge in one week and sending a very short video of the successfully completed challenge. Challenges included everything from flipping a bottle so it lands right side up, getting from one part of a house to another when the floor is "covered in lava", and other feats of daring and hilarious fun. Student videos were compiled for each challenge and posted to the School Youtube page. Please enjoy an example below of the "Face the Cookie!" challenge:

"French in PJs" (taught by PDS MS faculty Marjorie Barlet to 5th-7th graders)

Students started their mornings with French four days per week, engaging in fun activities all in basic French with Madame Barlet. Activities included singing, dancing, making crafts and playing online games in French at a beginner level so anyone could take part and enjoy.

Madame Barlet exclaimed "Thank you to all my PJ friends! We had so much fun singing, dancing and playing in French every morning for two weeks. I have to say there are great singers in this group. We might open a French choir one day!"

"I've Heard that Before!" (taught by PDS Music faculty and Band Director Channing McCullough to 6th-11th graders)

This course provided a brief exploration into classical and jazz sampling in pop music. Students joined Ms. McCullough in examining the foundations of many of the songs the kids love today.

"Making an Illustrated Map of a Place You Love" (taught by PDS MS faculty Katy Terry to 7th-9th graders)

Inspired by an article in this spring's New York Times, students in this course created an illustrated map of a place that they know well or that has special meaning for them. Using steps outlined in the New York Times article as a guide, students worked their way through the project while sharing their process and progress with one another.

Upper School

"Pandemics, Money and Earthquakes" (taught by PDS US faculty Chip Cash to 9th-12th graders)

This course sought to answer the following questions: "What does 'flattening the curve' mean in the mathematical sense? How does mathematics help visualize, conceptualize, and predict actual outcomes? How does mathematical modeling impact financial decision-making?" Students used data modeling to gain a better understanding of what you read and hear in today's news as the world continues to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Cash provided feedback from some of the 15 student participants who thoughtfully answered the prompt "what surprised you the most?" as well as offered suggestions for future offerings. 

"Something that surprised me was the amount of cases that pop out in such a short period of time. I also thought that the pandemic modeling website where we can put in the number of days, people, infection rate, etc to see the amount of cases was really cool." 

"I was surprised [to see the math play out when comparing total savings invested and saving for different amounts of time], because I thought that saving for a longer time was better than starting to save early."

"[On understanding exponential math:] At first I thought that a 4.2 was twice as powerful as a 2.1, so the results kind of surprised me. When I thought about it though, it made sense since the scale is exponential, not linear."

"I would love to increase the number of classes per course within a session. I enjoyed every session and found the variety of subjects and topics fascinating." 

"Women and Leadership" (taught by PDS Associate Director of Admission Jeanne Crowell to 9th-12th graders)

This course met four times per week to give young women the opportunity to learn about leadership by hearing from a number of successful women in a variety of fields, offering an intensive look at what it means to be a leader and what it takes to succeed. Participants researched and practiced interviewing techniques, had opportunities to practice public speaking, honed their presentation skills, completed a class on 'soft skills' and interacted directly with powerful women via Google Meet, Instagram Live and podcasts. Guests who visited students during this year's course included Beth Coyle, President at The British School of Etiquette; Liv Schrieber, Influencer and Digital Creator, NYC; Allie Hiller, Healthy Alibi, Holistic Wellness and Fitness Coach and Ali Kaminetsky, Founder and CEO of Modern Picnic.

"JavaScript/Python Coding Via Gaming" (taught by PDS MS faculty Toni Dunlap to 7th-12th graders)

This course provided both practical and fun coding experience in the form of playing a video game. Using the "CodeCombat" platform, students embarked on a virtual video game adventure that exposed them to essential coding skills. Students battled it out with the ogres while learning either the coding language Python, JavaScript, or both. Plus, students had an option to practice game development and build skills to design their own video game.

"The Times They Are A-Changin" (taught by PDS US faculty David Freedholm to 9th-12th graders)

Students examined major events, movements, and trends of the 1960s through the lens of popular music. Students listened to and studied songs of the '60s that touched on the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the rise of feminism, and the Counterculture-- including music that came to reflect the so-called Summer of Love as well as key performances at the Woodstock music festival. They related these songs to the history of one of the most transformative decades of American history. Students were required to do some background reading on the history of the 1960s and to make a short presentation.

"Small pathogens, BIG effects" (taught by PDS US faculty Kelley Bethoney and Carlos Cara to 10th-12th graders)

"This survey course provided students with an opportunity to take a deep dive into a topic that is not offered in traditional PDS science curriculum. In a time when we are experiencing a pandemic, this course allowed students to explore virus structure, infection, zoonotic spillover, and vaccination to name just a few of the topics covered. Students participated in class discussions, created Canva InfoGraphics or Google Jamboards on a virus of interest, played the role of epidemiologists as they explored CDC virtual games on viral outbreaks, and read articles from scientific journals on current topics in virology. The students and the teachers enjoyed the journey into this microscopic world, " Dr. Bethoney explained.

This example of a student-created Canva Infographic from the "Small pathogens, BIG effects" course was provided by US faculty member Kelley Bethoney with permission from the student.

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