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.”

Roll Playing with Eric Sumpter

Class 2 is completing an adventure ed activity called roll playing. The class must pass the ball around the circle without letting it hit the floor. No hands allowed!

The school year begins...

Students in Class IV are working in groups to construct towers using only straws, paperclips and masking tape. Each material they use must be “purchased” from the teacher. The towers must be able to hold a tennis ball for at least two minutes, and the group may not exceed a “budget” of $50.00 in materials. Points are being awarded for both the tower’s height and for coming in “under budget."

Spring Art Show

Dear Families,

It was a pleasure to see so many of you able to take the time to come to yesterday’s art show—parents, grandparents, siblings and the fabled “auntie”. The artwork is always beautiful. Encouraged to trust their inner talent, students produce work of amazing sophistication, beauty and heart…work that they are genuinely proud of. I find it most rewarding to see the joy and excitement that results from sharing their work with the people in their lives who are most important. So, thank you and happy spring.


Picnic, Art Show and Drum Performance:


LDFDS recently hosted a family picnic, which included an amazing drumming performances by each of the classes, and a collaborative piece performed with the whole school.  Families also had an opportunity to browse an art show of paintings, collages, drawings, and pottery created by the students throughout the year.


Field Day 2013:


Field day was especially fun this year!  Students displayed great sportsmanship and had a blast competing in several activities.  The day was a great opportunity to spend time with classmates while having fun and ending the year on a positive note!


pH Testing:


After studying properties of acids and bases, students participated in pH testing of several everyday household items. They also tested the pH of water and soil samples from around the school and community.




Class II is studying Life Science and preparing the garden to plant sunflowers and morning glories. 

Career Speakers:


Lieutenant Junior Grade Laura Annetta of the U.S. Public Health Service visited students in Class IV as a career speaker. She spoke about what motivated her to become a member of the service, described the requirements of the position and talked about how the environment affects public health.



In art, students created abstract paintings using Wassily Kandinsky's work as inspiration.