Books, bricks and beyond: How Detroit Country Day School’s VIVID Capital Campaign is re-imagining both campus and community to meet the needs of 21st century learners.
By Jonathan Boos
Sponsored by Detroit Country Day School
In the early 2000s, my wife Sheri and I began to look at schools for our two young children that we hoped would carry them from preschool through high school. We knew it would be a difficult decision. We wanted a school that had strong academics and great extracurricular programs. We wanted a place that cared about character and citizenship in addition to math and science. It was important to us to meet faculty with passion and friends that cared about the community.
What we found at Detroit Country Day School was all of that and more. Right away, we felt welcomed into the community. When we walked into the Hamlet — a vibrant wing of the Lower School designed like an enchanting neighborhood with bright skies above and cobblestone streets below devoted to nurturing the youngest students — we knew we had found someplace special. It was the remarkable facilities that first attracted us, particularly because of the learning and engagement philosophy that was woven into the spaces. Our children thrived in those places. and our entire family felt at home.
For many of us, a school is more than a place to learn to read and write; it is a place that sparks curiosity, that nurtures, motivates and challenges us. It’s a second home, with a community that quite literally grows up with us. Now our children are grown, yet my wife and I are as involved and committed to the DCDS vision and community as ever.
For this reason, we are excited to see the school on the cusp of its next big change. Through the VIVID Capital Campaign, we will elevate our teaching spaces and bring a powerful new energy to the way students are engaged. This special fundraising effort will transform DCDS’s educational experience for current and future generations with three state-of-the-art campus communities that will enhance not only what is being taught, but more importantly, how it is being taught.
Beyond Bricks and Mortar
It’s the most aspirational project in the school’s more than 100-year history: a capital campaign that is built to look beyond today’s needs to reimagine what learning will be like — and what spaces it will require — for students over the next five, 10, 20, 30 years.
DCDS has always delivered world-class facilities with remarkable spaces dedicated to academics, athletics and the arts, alongside social and emotional learning initiatives — spaces designed to support and cultivate well-rounded students from preschool through graduation.
The $33 million VIVID project will take these facilities to an entirely new level. The dramatic renovations and expansions include investments of $14 million for the Middle School, $18 million for the Lower School and $1 million for a film studio at the Upper School. This investment will not only reach students at every campus, but it has also taken an analytical look at which ages and grades should be housed in each location. Our three new campuses will eliminate a transition for younger students by keeping preschool through fourth grade together in one building and incorporating the fifth grade into a special wing of the Middle School.
Classes are already in session at the completed Middle School, and construction on the new Lower School is currently underway. By the end of next year, our vision will be a reality.
A Place to Feel at Home
The recently completed Middle School expansion features enhanced spaces and technology, dedicated classrooms for every teacher, specialty grade-level learning centers for grades 5 & 6 and grades 7 & 8. It delves into project-based learning for STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) curriculum, along with an instrumental music room, secure outdoor play areas, newly renovated science labs and collaboration spaces for interactive programs, such as LEGO League, robotics and Science Olympiad.
Now under construction, the Lower School will include expanded academic classrooms, specially designed art and music spaces, dedicated gym space, enhanced secured entry areas and a vibrant Makerspace for project-based learning.
The Upper School Film Studio will unleash student creativity with professional grade tools in a state-of-the-art space.
And yet, with all of the wonderful and progressive facilities that will soon be at our disposal, the significance of the VIVID Campaign is far greater than construction projects. It signals an innovative and forward-thinking approach to our community and, most importantly, our students.
Hearing DCDS faculty members talk about the evolving needs for teaching and learning spaces makes the impetus for the project clear: Today’s students are interacting, engaging and collaborating in new ways. Today we are developing creative spaces and environments to deliver a curriculum that helps prepare students for college and helps develop the complex, collaborative and creative skills needed for future careers.
Passing It On
A place is only as powerful as its people, and the faculty, staff, students and parents at DCDS are incredible. There is an understanding across the community that we each need to contribute as best we can so that tomorrow’s generation can do great things. Philanthropy is a true community effort, and it is only by committing to the future of our programs and people that we will achieve our goals.
I think back to the people who invested their time and resources to create the beautiful and inspirational places where our children loved to learn. We are so grateful to those who planned ahead, who committed to projects and places that their children may not have experienced. And we want to do that for someone else. We want the next young family who walks through the doors to catch their breath — to feel the care, energy and excitement that went into making this community what it is and providing support for it to grow. To understand that building a school and community is about more than what we can do today, and not lose sight of tomorrow.
For our family, being part of a visionary philanthropic effort like the VIVID Capital Campaign is about leaving a legacy. It is a way for us to actively give back for what we have received, to pass on the joy, connection and remarkable educational experience that has been such a profound part of our lives. Together, we are creating a future that is vivid.
Jonathan Boos is a Detroit Country Day School Board of Trustees member and co-chair of the VIVID Capital Campaign.