Parent Resource

Learning How to Think, Not What to Think

A Blogad by Jason Gray, Head of School, Capitol Hill Day School

It has long been my belief that one of the true strengths of Capitol Hill Day School is that we live our mission and philosophy extremely well. As I move throughout the building and in and out of classrooms, evidence of this is abundant and the byproduct is clear. Children are engaged and enthusiastic learners. Subjects are integrated and field trips provide opportunities for experiential, hands on learning. Projects and topics of study are authentic, relevant, and designed to foster critical thinking. A rich sense of community and a genuine commitment to others permeates the environment.


Research from educational experts and the work of peer schools locally and across the country also provide supporting evidence for our approach to teaching and learning. In a recent reading of the National Association of Independent Schools quarterly publication, Independent School, I ran across the following quote. I trust you too will see the clear resonance with the Capitol Hill Day School mission and philosophy.

In a great school you learn not what to think but how to think –
as well as how to collaborate effectively; how to engage well with
others who aren’t like yourself; how to know and care for yourself;
how to take on meaningful challenges; how to be a friend; how to
build community. The measure of the school is not how much you
learn, but how well you learn, and how well you learn how to learn.
                                           – Jonathan Howland, The Urban School of San Francisco

We repeatedly receive positive feedback from our graduates and the high schools they attend that attests to the value of a Capitol Hill Day School education and our commitment to our mission and philosophy. In a March survey, recent alumni ranked how well Capitol Hill Day School prepared them for high school in several academic skill areas. Our alumni felt “highly prepared” for high school in the following areas: critical thinking, critical writing, critical interpretation of text, self-advocacy, collaborative work, and working with faculty to identify learning style and apply learning strategies. Our alumni say it best:


  • “I will say that my middle school years at CHDS were fun, challenging, and rewarding in that I was incredibly well prepared for high school.”
  • “CHDS is a great place for anyone, teaching students creatively and with hands-on learning.”
  • “I wouldn’t change my CHDS middle school experience for the world. I loved growing up and expanding my learning opportunities and horizons at CHDS.”