On a crisp fall morning that quickly gave way to a warm, sunny afternoon in Charleston, as I meandered the beautifully landscaped archways and paths of Charleston Day School, a common theme presented itself to me.
There was a positivity inherent in each student I encountered on campus. From the 7th grader on his way back from the adjacent Moore Learning House where students can meet in small groups, to the precocious Kindergartner pointing out her Halloween writing assignment on display, an amicable eagerness was present in all of them.
Palpable, is the word that Head of School, Judith Foley Arnstein, uses to describe the campus energy, and I have to agree. The positive energy of Charleston Day School was contagious. I was sad to leave after my visit.
Tucked behind the stately wrought-iron gates, which if anyone has been around Charleston for any length of time, will recognize immediately as the work of the late artisan and blacksmith Philip Simmons, Charleston Day School on Archdale Street, established in 1937, is a hidden gem.
A co-educational, private, independent K-8 school whose mission is to foster scholarship, integrity, respect, and responsibility in students, Charleston Day School boasts small classes with an average class size of sixteen students.
Some students ride their bikes to the Charleston Day campus while others, wave goodbye eagerly to their parents as they’re dropped off for the day. Students come from several zip codes throughout the Lowcountry and Head of School, Judith Foley Arnstein greets each of them every morning as they arrive on campus.
Arnstein is committed to the growth and success of each student and that of the faculty and administration. Her enthusiasm for Charleston Day School shines through when she speaks of the students and their accomplishments.
We discussed the unique qualities and benefits of the K-8 educational model at Charleston Day School (CDS). In the upper grades, as students mature and begin to discover who they are, what their goals may be, and what avenues they want to pursue in the future, the CDS high school secondary school counseling program offers support and guidance.
In seventh and eighth grade, students meet one on one with an advisor for mock interviews, entrance exam practice, and discussions on secondary education paths, plans, and applications. CDS eighth graders have been accepted to schools like Academic Magnet, Ashley Hall, Porter-Gaud, Bishop England, Episcopal High School and Woodberry Forest School, and graduates have gone on to top-ranked colleges and universities across the country (98% of eighth graders are accepted to their first choice secondary school!)
Public Speaking Skills are a Priority
Beginning in kindergarten, students are introduced to public speaking in a safe and supportive classroom environment and they continue to hone their skills until graduation in eighth grade.
Public Speaking is woven into the CDS curriculum daily with several formal and traditional speaking opportunities throughout the year.. First graders may put on a show about community helpers, fifth grade students participate in a yearly judged speech contest, and eighth graders spend time working on writing and delivering speeches to the entire school during a weekly assembly. The ability to articulate thoughts, ideas, and needs, as well as being a self-advocate, coupled with the emphasis on public speaking is what, according to CDS parents, sets the school apart.
The City of Charleston is the Campus
Because Charleston Day School is centrally located, classes are able to venture out into the community to take advantage of all the city has to offer. Partnerships between CDS and facilities like the South Carolina Aquarium and Gibbes Museum of Art make the city, the school’s campus.
On my recent visit to the school, the seventh grade had begun a poetry unit the day prior and went across the street to the Unitarian Church Graveyard where Annabel Lee (the subject of an Edgar Allan Poe poem) is said to haunt the graveyard in search of her true love. Meanwhile, sixth graders were preparing to perform an Aesop Fables production, and first graders were gearing up for their community helper’s production.
S.T.E.M. Opportunities Abound
S.T.E.M. is also fully integrated into the curriculum and evident in the two science labs on campus. From kindergarten through the eighth grade; all students are taught robotics and coding and students in grades 6-8 partner with MUSC in science-based education around drug education.
Students also explore physics in a field experience at Boeing and fourth graders compete in Invention Convention which includes the brainstorming, researching, planning, and testing phases of creating a prototype product of their own design.
A Warm Comforting Environment That Feels Like Home
In the cozy lunchroom, teachers and students sit and chat at round tables and get to know one another over a delicious meal. Classrooms feature a mix of tables, chairs, comfy mats, and yoga balls for students who need a little more stimulation in order to focus. Children are encouraged to determine which learning style works best for them, whether that’s seated in a traditional chair and desk or expending energy as they wiggle and wobble on stools that allow focus and concentration.
This ability to acknowledge their particular needs, learning styles, and preferences at a young age is imperative to future success. At Charleston Day School, students are encouraged and empowered to self-advocate when necessary which, much like public speaking, is another integral life skill.
Rounding out the offerings at Charleston Day School, are fine arts and athletics. CDS offers rich and engaging fine arts courses for all students that include the visual arts, music, and performing arts. The school also fosters a sense of sportsmanship, respect, teamwork, skill development, and leadership through sports like basketball, volleyball, sailing, tennis, golf, and a running club.
Parents are welcomed to visit and experience a day in the life at Charleston Day, meet new Head of School, Judith Arnstein, take a tour of campus, see classes in session, and hear from students on November 6 at 9 a.m. Visit the Charleston Day School Admission Events Calendar to learn more.