The New School Year

It has been a wonderful return to school. The elementary division was fortunate to have almost all of the 1150 students on-campus last year, but now the ability for our students to move from the rows of desks we had in 2020-2021, to our flexible learning environments, has been a very welcome shift. We were purposeful in our return to school in the last two weeks in that we focused on community building in the classrooms. After the past 18 months, connecting with one another and creating learning spaces where students feel valued and known were key imperatives.

This year our school is excited to begin the journey into our new K-12 strategic plan that we created in partnership with Future Design School. The commitment to be a school that is Inspired, Individualized and Interconnected are absolutely intertwined to the i3 of elementary; where we have invested and focused our work as a school community over the past four years on the pillars of Inquiry, Innovation, Integrity and Interconnectedness.

As with every year, our commitment is that each student engages in a well-rounded educational experience where they are supported and challenged to achieve their own personal excellence throughout all areas of learning.

So what do we believe about learning?


For us, literacy is about the ability to understand, analyze and synthesize information. It is about teaching our students to be strong communicators who are empowered to share their ideas and impact the world around them.

We continue to teach through the Reader and Writer Workshop model, based on the Reading and Writing Workshop Project at Columbia University. Through this model our teachers lead curricular specific mini-lessons, that then shift into small group and individual instruction. It is a highly personalized approach to literacy learning and has been a strong focus of professional development with Erin Kent Consulting and Tonya Gilchrist for our teachers. The impact has been improved reading and writing skills across our grades.


Numeracy is about logical thinking, reasoning, problem solving and the recognition of patterns. For us, our goal is to ensure students are aware of the applicability and relevance of math in their lives. Through meaning making our students understand the importance of math and strive to excel in their learning.

We have a fully aligned numeracy curriculum that focuses on both conceptual understandings and concrete knowledge of math facts. This year a number of our new elementary teachers have expressed how impressed they have been with our students’ ability to communicate their understanding of math concepts. We continue to follow the Common Core state standards, strategically use Eureka Math as a resource, embed the practices of Mindset Mathemetics by Dr. Boaler at Stanford University and collaboratively spiral numeracy learning and strategies across our grades.

Inquiries into Socials and Science

Inquiring into concepts such as power, change, systems, survival and more are opportunities for our students to gain transferable knowledge they will apply throughout their lives. We provide our students with the opportunity to become critical, creative and process driven thinkers who have the tools to shape the world around them.

Our scope and sequence is based on the Connecticut Common Core curriculum use of Next Generation Science Standards and College Career and Civic Life Framework. Our teachers bring these standards to life through inquiries into broad essential questions where learning is driven through our Solution Fluency Inquiry Model. Inquiry learning is curated by our teachers so that students have the scaffolded skills and abilities to ask good questions, develop effective research skills and demonstrate high level understanding through the synthesis of the information learned throughout the unit. Our work continues to be informed by experts such as Lee Crockett, Kath Murdoch, Trevor Mackenzie and more.

A Quick Overview of our Specialist Learning

The Fine Arts

At DAA the Arts are about creativity and exploring the various ways to express yourself through music and visual arts. Artists and musicians shape what we value when their creative expression connects with the masses or an individual. Art and music are created to be shared and our students will be doing just that throughout the year.

Physical Education

As we just saw with the Olympic and Para-Oympic games, athletics instills good character and the value of healthy living. It teaches students how to navigate competition and cooperation, perseverance and drive that can transfer to all aspects of life. The year we will return to the pool and ensure our students have the swimming skills to safely live in an area of the world blessed with many beaches and a plethora of pools.

Arabic and Islamic

Finally, as a school within the Middle East we are very proud of our commitment to Arabic for all and Islamic for our Muslim students. Our children are growing up within the global community and having the opportunity to be multi-lingual and understanding of different cultures will set them above the rest.

How we achieve all of this is through a common language and framework, scaffolded curriculum and expectations, and resources that spiral learning for all our children from KG1 to Grade 5, and will certainly benefit them into Middle and High school. Through cross-grade collaboration and whole school consistency, we are clearly seeing the synergy of learning happening across elementary, and this year it will only get stronger as we take the lessons from the past 18 months, apply them to the work of the past 4 years and drive learning forward into the future.

Follow our journey as a learning community @DAAElementary and @GEMS_DAA or on my Twitter @CraigCantlie

The photo on this post connects to a blog written many years ago, and the metaphor for how I see my role in education.

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