Every week beginning in January 2021, Country Day second grade students – the “ACORNs” – and middle school students – the “OAKs” – met to read books together.
“The books cover everything from self-awareness to awareness of others and awareness of our environment,” said Tresonne Peters, second-grade teacher. “We select books that focus is on how our character virtues are related to ourselves and others.”
Recently, ACORN and OAK published a book of their own – “Black History is Our History.” The book incorporates the second graders’ research projects and perspectives from the middle school students. The older students explored themes and the younger student provided the biographies.
ACORN (“All Children’s Out and Reach Network”) and OAK (“Outreach and Knowledge”) are not new concepts at Country Day. “Years and years ago, parents would come to school toward the end of the school day and we would have a collection of diversity-related books for the parents to select to read with the children,” said Peters. “Because of Covid, this year was different but the goal is to incorporate the parents’ involvement again.”
For now, the students seem happy to simply enjoy reading books together, giving the older students a chance to lean into natural leadership roles and the younger students the chance to interact with their older peers.
“One thing we're noticing as a positive result of this program is the students’ growing ability to open up and share their stories while also staying open to new concepts and perspectives,” said Dan Wood, seventh-grade teacher.
Peters and Wood created the ACORN and OAK program after the school reinstated SEED last summer. SEED (“Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity”) is a national program through the National Association of Independent Schools.