Fox Chapel Country Day School strives to go above, beyond
Students and staff at the Fox Chapel Country Day School staff are accustomed to learning outdoors, and the school's new leader said she plans to keep that focus while enhancing the program.
The school's setting, surrounded by trees on 17 acres, makes stepping outside for lessons easy.
“For a child to have the freedom and opportunity to explore nature, it gives them a chance to integrate nature into every part of their world,” Head of School Sharon Smith said.
The school enrolls about 100 children ages 3 through fifth grade.
Smith said increased enrollment in recent years probably is due to smaller classes that provide more one-on-one time with students.
Class sizes are capped at 16 students — down from a previous high of 20.
Tuition ranges from $5,000 to $17,000 a year, depending on the grade level, finance Director Kathryn Stanton said.
Even math classes at Fox Chapel Country Day have a place outdoors.
“Think of the shapes, sizes and various things they can identify,” said Smith, who is starting her second year as head of the school. She's worked there for 15 years in several roles.
Other classes, such as art, are a natural fit in outdoor settings, although a good teacher is important to meld art lessons with the environment.
“They get students excited about the visual arts,” Smith said.
Colleen Vecellio is taking on that challenge, in her first year at the school.
“Nature is art,” Vecellio said. “It's beautiful.”
In coming weeks, she plans to show students the artistic side of nature.
“We'll do nature walks,” Vecellio said. “We'll talk about things that we see around us that are often overlooked, such as trees or the bark or the texture bark has or the leaves.”
Scot Stevens, president of the school's board of trustees, said the idea has potential.
“We've talked about gardens or even expanding the outside classroom into something such as a pavilion,” Stevens said.
“All of that is open for suggestion.”
Stevens, who also has a third-grader enrolled, said the outdoor component makes the school stand out. He commends Smith's efforts to expand this concept while maintaining the school's other ideals.
“It teaches them to respect nature,” Stevens said of lessons there.
“They are going to spend a good portion of their day outside, especially with science classes.”
He said it's good for students “not to feel like they're walled inside.”
Smith also wants to increase use of technology. The school recently purchased 16 iPads.
“We envision using them in many ways,” Smith said, “but only as an enhancement, not as a solo tool.”
Fox Chapel Country Day School was founded in 1948 on the premise of educating students while increasing their knowledge of the environment.
Brian Zimmerman, whose children attend first and third grades, said he appreciates the school's strong educational program and small classes.
“If they're having learning disabilities, it's caught real quick,” he said of students there.
David Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.