Fifth grade students explore and engage their best selves
“It’s impossible to be a good, effective leader without being a good friend.” Shanterra McBride of Marvelous University, whose mission is to “mend, motivate and empower young people,” lent her voice to this year’s 5th grade Leadership Day.
“Kids were really engaging in the conversation,” said Dale Stenberg ’26. “They were raising their hands and sharing their ideas. It really inspired me, and others too, I think, to become a better friend. If you try to lead people but you aren’t kind, people won’t look up to you or trust you. They won’t follow your lead either.”
Across the hallway, students joined 5th grade humanities teachers Judy Brown or Reed Thompson to discuss character strengths and draw virtue caricatures of themselves. “What really stood out for me about the day,” said Esmé Mazo ’26, “was the group conversation we had before we drew virtue caricatures of ourselves. Judy invited us to share what we really value about someone else. Georgia from the other class said, ‘Esme always looks on the positive side’ and it made me feel really good. It reminded me that I have friends and I’m not alone. The conversations during the leadership day made me feel more confident.”
Now in its third year, the leadership day invites students to consider their individual social and emotional capacities. “Students will be making progress around these skills through the year,” said 5th grade math and homeroom teacher Bryan Williams. “As we return to these skills again and again, this leadership day gives us all something to refer back to. ‘How can you use one of your leadership skills in this situation?’”
Lower School counselor Meryl Heylinger explained how the focus has been on students putting their skills to use. “We begin with the notion that we want all the 5th graders to think specifically about who they are now, who they want to be, and begin to see themselves as leaders––as advocates for themselves and others. Rather than being defined as something distant, leadership is about being their best selves.”
Outside, students participated in a team-building exercise with Lower School science teacher Kathleen Dawson.
“In the culminating activity for the day,” she explained, “the 5th graders were given a whole-grade team challenge to complete. The challenge, known as ‘The Gate,’ required every student to dash beneath a rotating jump rope––one child on each single rotation––without touching it.” As they had practiced throughout the day, students listened to each others’ ideas, shared their own, and helped one another through “The Gate.” “Though it took many attempts, the students used the tools they learned earlier about how to be a friend and a leader to achieve success at the end of the day.”
Staff writer Danny Stock tells the stories of teaching, learning, competing, creating, and performing at Georgetown Day School. He is a former GDS second grade teacher and current parent.
Georgetown Day School is a coed, preK-12, non-sectarian private school in Washington, DC with small class sizes and a diverse school community. Our comprehensive, innovative curriculum includes hands-on learning, honors and AP classes, as well as advanced-level math and STEM courses. An education is not just college prep and SAT scores. GDS teachers focus on providing the best education for each child, from elementary grades through high school. The school performing arts program includes theater, dance, and music. The athletics program offers competitive sports for student athletes, including cross-country, track, soccer, lacrosse, and crew/rowing. With our strong commitment to financial aid, an independent school tuition is affordable.