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Keeping Traditions in the Lower School

Anne Wooleyhand
The Lower School faculty and staff were thrilled to welcome all students back to school in the fall. Families selected a learning platform that would suit them best. During the first trimester, close to 65 of the 316 students ranging in age from two to 10 years old chose to learn virtually through the Digital Dragons program, while the other students decided to learn in live classrooms on campus. The Lower School took many steps to provide a safe on-campus experience and a meaningful virtual learning experience.

While students from both platforms are thriving with the academic program, keeping the community’s connectedness has been the most challenging piece for the Lower School. Pre-kindergarten through Grade 2 students have separate on-campus teachers and Digital Dragon teachers, so children do not connect in classes. Students in Grades 3–5 do connect during math and language arts, as teachers instruct with both in-person and digital groups at the same time. Our very own David Berg and Karen Mendoza offer lunch bunches throughout the week to promote a sense of community within our Digital Dragon population. All students join the Monday morning and Friday afternoon assemblies with Deborah Wooleyhand. It is great fun to hear the students logging into the assembly and greeting each other regardless of their location. The assemblies are one small way to keep all the teachers and students connected.

Maintaining important GCS traditions and events is a significant way to support the Lower School Community’s connectedness. Halloween has always been a big event on the campus, but with social distancing and class cohorts, we could not gather as an entire community as usual. The Upper School Business class offered Lower School students the opportunity to purchase special Halloween packs delivered to homes. The Lower School had traditional games and activities on campus, such as a socially distanced pumpkin roll and a scavenger hunt. Little Dragons and first-grade students took part in a socially distanced parade, while the second- through fifth-grade students enjoyed snacks and a costume fashion show where digital and on-campus students could interact and show off their costumes. 

The next big tradition was the arrival of the first-grade turkeys. This tradition has been around for years. With COVID-19 protocols, first-grade teachers decided on pandemic-friendly costumes with large black trash bags and paper feathers made by each student. Sterling Gray, music teacher, recorded the turkeys so families and other students could enjoy a fantastic show. The Winter Holiday Concert is another long-standing tradition at GCS. This year, family cultures and celebrations were the themes of the winter concert. Showcasing how students, families, and the school celebrate throughout the holiday season was indeed a highlight and a great way to keep everyone connected.

In November, the Lower School was closed for a week, and all students learned virtually. It was the first opportunity for all students to attend synchronous Specials classes, which allowed students and faculty to connect. It’s difficult to say who enjoyed it more, the students or the teachers! 

Some of us are Glens, and some of us are Elgs. Some are digital students, and some are in-person. At the end of the day, WE ARE ALL DRAGONS!
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An independent school serving students from age 2 through grade 12 in Howard County, Maryland.