Signature Programs

Peer Leadership

On a typical winter morning, carpools of parents and children pull into the circular driveway just in front of CDS.  There to greet them everyday - and to welcome them to another day of school - are our second and third graders, layered in hats and mittens and scarves as they line up in the front hall to walk the three and four-year olds to the first class of the day.  At CDS, we don’t just talk about leadership; our students live it on a daily basis.

Leadership is often mistaken for the loudest voice in a room, the highest goal-scorer on a team, the first-string musician in an ensemble.  Yet, we know that leaders must also listen, reflect, collaborate, and inspire.  Chatham Day School students learn, from the first day they are enrolled here, that leaders must lead by example, demonstrating for others kindness and generosity of spirit not just in words, but in everyday actions.

Leadership Council

While most schools continue to follow the “student government” model in which only a few students are elected by peers to lead, CDS has created the innovative and inclusive model of a Leadership Council.  Seventh and eighth graders participate on the Leadership Council for one semester during each school year, meeting weekly as a group with their faculty advisor.  Council members choose one of three committees on which to serve: the Student Voice Committee (inviting students from all divisions to share ideas on schoolwide programs), the Service Committee (creating opportunities for schoolwide or grade-level community service outings or projects), and the Community Committee (designing events and assemblies to celebrate the CDS school community).  Through their participation on Leadership Council, students develop self-confidence,  active listening skills, collaboration strategies, self-advocacy, public speaking, and responsibility.  


Students in our Middle and Upper Schools are assigned by grade-level to work with a variety of student groups in the Early Childhood and Lower School Divisions.  Eighth graders, for example, pair with fifth graders in a yearly spring workshop to share words of advice for navigating the middle school years.  Similarly, seventh grade accompanies fourth grade on a wall-climbing expedition each winter as they “climb” ahead to their respective years of leadership in the Middle & Upper School divisions.  Sixth graders, in their study of Earth Science, take a field trip along with the third grade science class during the latter’s study of weather to tour the Rutgers University weather station.  Whenever possible, we capitalize on opportunities for our oldest students to mentor our youngest children on campus - for academic as well as social-emotional growth.