Childhood is an experience to be cherished, not rushed. Laughter and play, curiosity and discovery, permeate every lesson, grade level, and experience that makes PCDS engaging and exciting for all students.

“I love being able to go into any classroom and ask for a teacher's opinion on what constitutes a grilled cheese.” – Senior, Class of 2018


student-led clubs and activities available in the Upper School
Learning Through Play

Learning through play is fun, engaging, and creates connections and bonds.  Children develop cognitively, social-emotionally and physically through play.  Neuroscience even points to the positive impact of play on the developing brain, not to mention language development. Play is multi-dimensional at PCDS, and examples are everywhere.  Students have opportunities for solitary play and social play, both indoor and outdoor. They engage in dramatic play, construction-based play, representational play, raw material play, studio play, academic play, and discovery-based play.  On the playground, they have Big Body play, sand play, equipment play, and construction play.  Opportunities for play are structured and unstructured.

Play has always been important in the early childhood years, and in the past, it just happened at school and in the neighborhood.  Nowadays, since children are not playing outside in the neighborhood as often, play needs to happen at school.  Having a playful mindset is invaluable – it lends itself to having fun while teaching and learning, and guarantees joyful connections among Lower School students and teachers alike.

Linguistics Games in Language Learning

For Mr. Otalora, every day spent with his students brings a new joy and opportunity for learning. He enjoys children’s curiosity, energy, and thirst for learning anything that attracts their interest. Mr. Otalora’s child-centered instructional philosophy is that the foreign language should be comprehensible, repetitive, and interesting. He uses a myriad of linguistics games as teaching tools because games make the learning for the children a very interesting process, enable students to acquire basic structures using very few words, and help them practice the most basic structures of the language. Through games, common words are used over and over, and students hear those common verbs and nouns so often that they begin to understand them immediately. After they begin understanding with confidence, they become able to speak the different tenses and conjugations.

All of Mr. Otalora’s students in pre-kindergarten through fourth grades meet with him twice a week, and are exposed to language through storytelling, imperatives, and games to all the tenses and a rich vocabulary. As students advance though grade levels, the degree of complexity and the amount of common words and verbs used in class increases, and third and fourth graders even start reading and writing Spanish. Through games and lots of fun, Mr. Otalora’s students are inspired to develop a joyful love for Spanish language learning.

A Balanced Student Schedule

“The block schedule means everything,” says a Middle School student.  “It takes me time to get settled in to class, and we can ask questions, work on homework, and really dig into whatever we’re learning.”  

Middle and Upper School students experience a student-centered schedule to their classes each day:  four periods, 75-minutes each, and extended breaks in between allow for students and teachers to mine the depths of the material, to explore and work together, and teach to a variety of learning styles.  “I never feel like I’m in a rush, in or out of the classroom,” adds another Upper School student.  

Classes in the morning are divided by a 50-minute Community Block for advisory, grade-level meetings, or all-division morning meetings.  Lunchtime in the Upper School is an hour long, for relaxation, meetings with a teacher, or clubs to get together.  And, the afternoon classes are broken up with a 20-minute break to grab a snack or touch base with friends and teachers.  One senior captures the essence of the schedule:  “It just makes everything feel relaxed.  We work hard in our classes, but then have the time to decompress and be kids.”