An Independent School • Grades 5-12

by Bernie Noe, head of school, and Hans de Grys, 5-12 academic dean

The start of fall sports, the return of more of our staff to campus, and the new faculty retreat are giving us a taste of what it will be like when we are all together on campus — it’s just great. We are so looking forward to having all the students on campus every day! At the end of last year, we surveyed all students in grades seven through 12 about their experience with remote and hybrid learning, and while most students told us they had learned a lot, they very much missed their friends and acquaintances, spontaneous social experiences, and getting to see their teachers in person. Many also commented on missing having all the grades on campus every day. None of this is surprising, but the pandemic confirmed for all of us just how great it is to live and share life in community with others.

As most of you are aware, this year we are officially making a significant shift in the curriculum, grades five through 12. We are moving from a curriculum that was substantially focused on information and content delivery to a curriculum that balances learning content with developing critical competencies and mindsets, enabling students to apply their knowledge in a variety of settings. Content isn’t going away: To understand the world around them, students will still have to know things, such as the parts of the digestive system, the quadratic formula, and the details of American history. But focusing on competencies and mindsets will provide students with the key context, skills, and perspectives they will need to thrive personally, academically, and professionally in the decades to come.

Academic excellence is one of the central tenets of our mission, and Lakeside educators work purposefully to make sure that what they teach is relevant to the world our students will find when they graduate from high school and college. This has been true for the past 100 years, and it is true today. Given the advent of artificial intelligence and the dramatic increase of information available online, we understood it was increasingly important that our students know how to quickly find quality information and then, critically, make sense of and utilize that information in ways that benefit themselves and others.

There are so many examples of how this new focus on competencies and mindsets will positively impact students in both Middle and Upper schools. In math, where courses are increasingly focused on cognitive flexibility and unstructured problem-solving, students are learning to grapple with real world mathematical relationships that don’t always have a tidy, numerical solution. In history, students are using their equity and inclusion mindsets to understand their own biases and seeking to understand historical systems of power and privilege by reading and discussing content in primary and secondary sources. In science, students learn resilience through inquiry-based laboratory experiences, which reward persistence and deep thinking over speed and superficiality. In our English and languages programs, students develop their global mindset while honing their communication and listening skills through guided conversation, deep reading, and innovative writing exercises. Our arts classes are embracing a growth and learning mindset, reinforcing the idea that success in making music and art arises not just through talent, but from sustained effort, thoughtful reflection, deliberate feedback, and continued growth. Students will find a renewed emphasis on a healthy mindset and collaboration and leadership in all of their classes and activities, but especially in their athletic programs and wellness and PE courses. 

Our transition to competencies and mindsets will develop over the next five years. Teachers are working hard and smart to make this transition. They recognize that doing this well will take time, careful experimentation, and constant review.

We are excited about the direction we are taking, as we believe it will best prepare our students to thrive in the world of the future!

We wish all of you a great school year. Please reach out, connect, and come over and say hello when you can!

Bernie Noe is Lakeside’s head of school. You can reach him at Head'sOffice@lakesideschool.org and 206-440-2714.

Hans de Grys is Lakeside's 5-12 academic dean and assistant Upper School director. He can be reached at 206-440-2704 and  USacademics@lakesideschool.org.