Gray Matters, December 2023

Fostering Deep, Creative, and Critical Thinking 

One of the aspects of my position that I most cherish is the opportunity I have to engage with folks from across the wonderful diversity of our community. Put another way, I greatly value the privilege I am given, in my role as head of school, to work at the intersection of children, educators, families, alumni, and more. I love to talk about Capitol Hill Day School, share stories of our history and the history of our beautiful buildings, and discuss the philosophical underpinnings of our approach to pedagogy and curriculum development. 

In the rhythm of the school year, fall and winter is our peak admissions season. This is an active period when we welcome prospective families to our community through tours and open house events. Again this year we are seeing a steady flow of visitors, folks who are eager to learn about Capitol Hill Day School. While not officially part of our community yet, this is another group with whom I enjoy engaging. 

During visits we make an intentional effort to share authentic experiences with guests. Visitors have an opportunity to observe interactions between adults and children and among students collaborating with peers. They peek in on children engaged in humanities, math, and science. They see learners in moments of quiet reading, active play and creativity. They hear us describe our robust field education program. We trust our guests come away from their visit with a good sense of what children experience and how we structure our days.  

Along with the whats and hows of our commitments as educators, we also make explicit the whys of Capitol Hill Day School. We speak candidly about how we believe that loving learning is an essential life skill and that children develop such a love when they experience the process of learning as: challenging, engaging, creative, and playful. We state clearly that we believe in children, and that we strive to empower their voices and have faith in their ability now, and in the future, to be critical problem solvers and compassionate individuals.

All of this comes together to create a learning environment where children are able to form close personal relationships and develop emotional connections to what they are learning. It is through this synergy that research tells us the deepest learning occurs. As Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang a professor of education, psychology, and neuroscience at the University of Southern California states, “Emotion is essential to learning and should not be underestimated or misunderstood as a trend, or as merely the ‘E’ in ‘SEL,’ or social-emotional learning. Emotion is where learning begins, or, as is often the case, where it ends. Put simply, it is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about.”

Without question, our beliefs in the essential values of teaching children a love of learning and centering children and their developmental needs in the whats and hows of our work, form the foundation of the deep and rigorous learning that is at the heart of Capitol Hill Day School. 

Further reading:

NYT | Students Learn From People They Love, Putting relationship quality at the center of education.
NYT | To Help Students Learn, Engage the Emotions