Field Trip to Outer Island September 2015

As a part of a study of Connecticut ecology, students in Class IV took a trip to Outer Island, a marine research and education center. They had an opportunity to study tide pools and the Branford Harbor, using a variety of meters to measure the water’s salinity, dissolved oxygen, pH and temperature. They compared these results to one another and observed the changes over time as the tide came in. They also got an opportunity to do some birdwatching, as the island is home to a bird sanctuary.

Amy (Class IV)

Collaborative gardening project

Students in Classes II and IV are working together to plant and maintain vegetable gardens at the school. So far, students researched various plants that thrive in Connecticut’s climate, tilled the soil and weeded the beds, purchased supplies from a local Home Depot and planted seeds and small plants.

Students in Class IV study earth cycles

Students in Class IV completed research on chemical cycles that occur in nature, such as the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles. After researching topics like the environmental impact of humans, they created posters and presented their information to the class.

High School students partner with younger class for science lab

Students in Classes II and IV worked together on a science lab, testing various “mystery powders” for their chemical and physical properties. They utilized the information they gathered to determine the identities of the powders, which were common household items like cornstarch and gelatin. The collaboration was enjoyed by both the classes!

LDFDS Mentoring Group

Supervised by Eric Sumpter, our Physical Education & Health instructor, the mentoring group provides one of many opportunities for students to spend time with students in other classes. The group discusses topics of shared interests and themes common to their ages–and spend time together just having fun. The group is pictured playing a card game together.

When life gives you snow...

make snow ice cream! Storm Colbie/Juno left a nice blanket of fluffy snow, so the students in Class I, made snow ice cream that was shared with all.

Recipe: 1 cup milk, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, 8 cups clean snow (a bit more if it’s really fluffy), optional but recommended: sprinkles, chocolate sauce/hot fudge, &/or marachino cherries. In a large bowl, whisk milk, sugar & vanilla until combined. Put this in the refrigerator. Go out and scoop up some fresh, clean snow (about 8 cups). Then mix the snow and milk mixture until combined. Top with your choice of toppings & enjoy!

Students attend a performance of Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Long Wharf Theater

Students in Classes I and IV attended a performance of Steve Martin’s play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile at Long Wharf Theater. The play centers around a meeting between Picasso and Einstein at a Paris cafe, as the two discuss the value of art and science and the true meaning of genius. Before and after attending the play, students participated in workshops led by Long Wharf’s teaching staff, which discussed these themes in greater detail.

Spizzwinks Perform as LDFDS

Students and parents were treated to a special performance by one of Yale’s acapella groups, “The Spizzwinks (?)." They have a limited number of community concerts throughout the year, and LDFDS was lucky to be able to host one. Their unique blend of talent and humor was appreciated by all.

Student-led charity projects

Students in Class II recently began collecting monetary donations for two charities, The ASPCA and Save the Children. The students researched the charities and created small crafts to sell in their free time. Their dedication and excitement for the causes has been contagious!

Students engage residents of "Tower One" in discussion of themes from Thorton Wilder's play Our Town

As a part of the ongoing collaboration between Long Wharf Theater and LDFDS, students were invited to participate in an intergenerational discussion with residents of Tower One, an assisted living community in New Haven. The residents of the home were given writing prompts, which the students helped them to complete, that linked the themes of the play Our Town to memories in their lives. After writing, the residents and students joined together for a discussion of the residents’ responses. They discovered many commonalities, including the importance of family and how everyday routines become meaningful when done with the ones we love. The residents of Tower One and the staff at Long Wharf Theater were thrilled to be able to share this experience with the students, and look forward to discussions in the future!

Class 1 Visits Lakeside Farm in North Guilford

The students in Class 1 visited Lakeside Farm. We went for a ride in a wagon to see the property and gardens, spent time with the animals (llamas, chickens, rabbits, goats, an ostrich, peacocks & pheasants) and made pizza. The hand-made pizza was enjoyed by all, as were all the animals.


Ms. Stasko's class hosts parent potluck breakfast

... Just a random beautiful song to accompany a wonderful shared little moment...Dominique

"Class 2 students were excited to host their parents at the first potluck breakfast. We shared delicious food and conversation, and played a fun guessing game. Thanks for attending everyone!"

Leslie Stasko

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Amy's class studies Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" in preparation for attending Long Wharf Theatre's upcoming performance of the classic play.

Students in Class IV are reading “Our Town,” the classic play by Thornton Wilder. Each student was assigned one or several parts to read. In October, they will have the opportunity to see a production of the play at Long Wharf Theatre, as a part of a partnership program between the theatre and the school. In addition to attending the play, students will have an opportunity to participate in the P.A.I.R. (Partnering Artist In Residence) program. Once a month, a teaching artist from the theatre collaborates with the classroom teachers to develop an interactive lesson that relates to the content being covered in one of the subject areas. The lessons frequently feature theatre and improvisation techniques that are taught in Saturday workshops attended by LDFDS staff.

Chess at LDFDS

Vincent Gulisano, retired teacher of science, mathematics and physics began teaching chess to all of our students as part of their mathematics curriculum. We couldn’t be more pleased to have an individual with Mr. Gulisano’s rich background teach our students. Let us know if you would like to join a chess class. It would be a pleasure to have family members join us.


Why Offer Chess in Schools?

By Chessmaster Jerry Meyers


Chess is a classic game of strategy, invented more than 1500 years ago in India. Legend
has it that the ruler of India asked his wise men to devise a way to teach the children of the royal family to become better thinkers and better generals on the battlefield. Chess was the result. In the centuries since its invention, chess has spread to every country in the world. While countless other games have died out, chess lives on. In the United States, it has received endorsements by many educators, ranging from Benjamin Franklin to former U.S. Secretary of Education, Terrell Bell. In Western Pennsylvania, more than 70 schools and a dozen libraries offer chess programs, reaching several thousand students each year.

Academic Benefits

We have brought chess to the schools because we believe it directly contributes to academic performance. Chess makes kids smarter. It does so by teaching the following skills:

Focusing - Children are taught the benefits of observing carefully and concentrating. If they don’t watch what is happening, they can’t respond to it, no matter how smart they are.

Visualizing - Children are prompted to imagine a sequence of actions before it happens. We actually strengthen the ability to visualize by training them to shift the pieces in their mind, first one, then several moves ahead.

Thinking Ahead - Children are taught to think first, then act. We teach them to ask themselves “If I do this, what might happen then, and how can I respond?” Over time, chess helps develop patience and thoughtfulness.

Weighing Options - Children are taught that they don’t have to do the first thing that pops into their mind. They learn to identify alternatives and consider the pros and cons of various actions.

Analyzing Concretely - Children learn to evaluate the results of specific actions and sequences. Does this sequence help me or hurt me? Decisions are better when guided by logic, rather than impulse.

Thinking Abstractly - Children are taught to step back periodically from details and consider the bigger picture. They also learn to take patterns used in one context and apply them to different, but related situations.

Planning - Children are taught to develop longer range goals and take steps toward bringing them about. They are also taught of the need to reevaluate their plans as new developments change the situation.

Juggling Multiple Considerations Simultaneously -Children are encouraged not to become overly absorbed in any one consideration, but to try to weigh various factors all at once.

None of these skills are specific to chess, but they are all part of the game. The beauty of chess as a teaching tool is that it stimulates children’s minds and helps them to build these skills while enjoying themselves. As a result, children become more critical thinkers, better problem solvers, and more independent decision makers.

Educational Research

These conclusions have been backed up by educational research. Studies have been done in various locations around the United States and Canada, showing that chess results
in increased scores on standardized tests for both reading and math. A study on a large scale chess program in New York City, which involved more than 100 schools and 3,000 children, showed higher classroom grades in both English and Math for children involved in chess. Studies in Houston, Texas and Bradford, Pennsylvania showed chess leads to higher scores on the Watson Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal and the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking.

Social Benefits

In the schools, chess often serves as a bridge, bringing together children of different ages, races and genders in an activity they can all enjoy. Chess helps build individual friendships and also school spirit when children compete together as teams against other schools. Chess also teaches children about sportsmanship - how to win graciously and not give up when encountering defeat. For children with adjustment issues, there are many examples where chess has led to increased motivation, improved behavior, better self-image, and even improved attendance. Chess provides a positive social outlet, a wholesome recreational activity that can be easily learned and enjoyed at any age.

Why does chess have this impact?

Why did chess players score higher on the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking as well as the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal? Briefly, there appear to be at least seven significant factors:

1. Chess accommodates all modality strengths.

2. Chess provides a far greater quantity of problems for practice.

3. Chess offers immediate punishments and rewards for problem solving.

4. Chess creates a pattern or thinking system that, when used faithfully, breeds success. The chess-playing students had become accustomed to looking for more and different alternatives, which resulted in higher scores in fluency and originality.

5. Competition. Competition fosters interest, promotes mental alertness, challenges all students, and elicits the highest levels of achievement (Stephan, 1988).

6. A learning environment organized around games has a positive affect on students’ attitudes toward learning. This affective dimension acts as a facilitator of cognitive achievement (Allen & Main, 1976). Instructional gaming is one of the most motivational tools in the good teacher’s repertoire. Children love games. Chess motivates them to become willing problem solvers and spend hours quietly immersed in logical thinking. These same young people often cannot sit still for fifteen minutes in the traditional classroom.

7. Chess supplies a variety and quality of problems. As Langen (1992) states: “The problems that arise in the 70-90 positions of the average chess game are, moreover, new. Contexts are familiar, themes repeat, but game positions never do. This makes chess good grist for the problem-solving mill.”