Saddle River Day School Continues to Expand Learning Opportunities for Students

Gretchen Lee

After a seamless pivot to 100% remote learning nearly a year ago, Saddle River Day School committed to ensuring that the all-important components of a holistic SRDS experience would be reinstated as robustly as possible for the 2020-2021 academic year, both in person when allowed and virtually. We continually provided our students with opportunities for academic engagement and expression outside of the classroom. In addition, we saw this as an opportunity to launch new programs and grow our curriculum. As was the case in the spring, we see a challenge as an opportunity for growth.

SRDS has expanded academic programming by launching a visionary new program for Upper School students. Spanning their four year experience, Gateway Diplomas is a program that gives students the opportunity for greater depth of study and experience through rigorous coursework, independent research, and fieldwork experience with a mentor. The one-of-a-kind program in our area culminates in the senior year with a portfolio presentation of a student’s cumulative work and will increase the opportunities for SRDS students to stand out in the college application process. Also, launching in the Fall of 2021 will be an in-depth Freshman Research and Writing Course that will be mandatory for all 9th graders. This course will build the skills necessary for writing a long-form research paper, as students will be guided through the entire process from initial topic to final draft. In all, every student will complete three full-length research papers by the end of the year.

Similarly, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which was successfully launched prior to COVID, has continued to thrive, offering both in-person and virtual opportunities for student participation. CIE programming challenges students to think deeply about the ways they can use the principles of innovation, design and entrepreneurship to examine and then hopefully solve issues in the community and the world. Students are encouraged to be intellectual risk takers and passionate out-of-the-box thinkers in boot camps, internships, and an 8th grade mini business incubator. Through the CIE, design thinking and technology have been integrated into the existing curriculum in cross-divisional classroom collaborations. This has enabled additional safe, in-person connections between students both during and after the school day.

Upper School students have also resumed their participation in theatre, interscholastic athletics, academic clubs and competitions. Students are encouraged to supplement their learning through the hybrid SRDS Spring Break Academy this March or through summer academic course work. Students in the Innovation Club are hard at work designing a product that may eliminate or diminish an everyday problem encountered by disabled individuals. They will present this product at the national SourceAmerica competition. Now in its seventh year, the TEDxYouth@SRDS program will be presented again virtually this spring. Students will write, rehearse and deliver TED-style, thought-provoking talks, where they share their ideas based on this year’s theme “tesTED.” In addition, students who participate in the performing arts have also been busy this year. While many schools in the area have canceled performances, SRDS students performed outdoors an innovative interpretation of Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” that will be followed by the musical “Big Fish” this May.

The past year has presented challenges to almost every facet of every life. At Saddle River Day School, a dedicated, energetic, untiring faculty and administration have faced every obstacle and in most cases, have found creative ways to surmount or solve each of them. As we move into a world that has been forever changed by COVID-19, we look forward to applying the knowledge we have gained to continue to provide a forward-thinking, academically superior experience for each of our students.