ACS Doha Life
It may not exactly be the start of the school year that any of us were expecting, but we're thrilled to be here and to see our wonderful community once...
Looking forward to a fantastic year ahead in our new home
Welcome to the first #ACSDohaLife from our fantastic new campus!
It may not exactly be the start of the school year that any of us were expecting, but we're thrilled to be here and to see our wonderful community once again. A special welcome to those families who are new to ACS Doha.
#ACSDohaLife celebrates the wonderful, vibrant community that really makes the school. Even with the current restrictions in place that we're all facing, hear about how we're perfectly placed to deliver a COVID-secure education, through blended learning, the collective expertise of our four ACS schools and the strength of our world-class facilities.
It also promises to be a big year ahead for sport - from the launch of our new mascot to a fabulous community hub. Read about it here!
Embracing a new era of blended learning
The vision for sport
Changing the way we live, work and play
Spaces that change the way we live
At the heart of the school is a place for ACS Doha’s vibrant community to gather: the Maidan.
Deriving from an Arabic and Persian term, Majālis, or Majles, a Maidan refers to a council, and is used to describe various types of special gatherings. These may be administrative, social or religious gatherings in countries with linguistic or cultural connections to Islamic countries.
“Spaces change the way we live. One reason music has changed over time is that music has been written for the space it would be performed. Birds of the city will sing a different song than birds of the same type in the country,” explains Head of School, Robert Cody.
“The Maidan will be one of the spaces that will change the way we spend our days at school. A place to come together, to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves, to be able to speak and hear with dignity and equality. It is one of many spaces in our new campus that will not only value our core belief of community but will enhance it.”
Back to our roots
Bringing the outside in is one of the design themes of our new campus and what better way to bring our communal areas to life than with nature?
Trees play a central role in this. Symbolising growth, an impressive wooden installation breathes life into our central Avenue. Acting as a focal point, students can meet and sit under its canopy; it acts as a beacon for visitors to orient their way around the spacious layout and ultimately, after some reflection, the branches of the tree can be adorned, with artworks, projects or other elements. Ideas from the community on how the unique structure could be used are welcome.
ACS Doha also commissioned a regional artist and calligraphy specialist to create a special piece of art in the form of a painted tree. The impactful artwork (overleaf) features on the wall along the Avenue, and is unique to the school. It celebrates the beauty of the Arabic language, the beauty of nature reflecting the theme of the outside and many of the 'Ready to' phrases that are synonymous with the ethos of an ACS education. Other 'Ready' lines can also be seen around the campus, contributing to making the campus a unique space with an inspiring environment and a special place within which to learn and work.
Feedback from our community so far has been encouraging with many students and teachers alike making a beeline to be photographed under the popular wooden tree.
Embracing a new era of blended learning
Caroline Rennie, Deputy Head of School
Embracing a new era of blended learning
Caroline Rennie, Deputy Head of School
In a post-COVID 19 era, returning to school this term looks much different from anything we have known. Mindful of the need for the safety for students, yet also addressing the need to continue education, we enter a new era of blended learning where we can address both together.
Under a new model of ‘blended learning’, we divide class time between face-to-face learning and online learning, working within the guidelines provided by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE), in an attempt to deliver the best experience to our students.
Channelling the strengths of blended learning
Blended learning addresses many of the challenges presented by COVID-19, introducing a new model of education which balances between academic continuity and student safety. It combines the strengths of studying at school and at home. One of the greatest takeaways for our students has been the chance to work independently. They are very positive when it comes to taking ownership of their learning and focusing on their individual pathways.
We can create more opportunities for learning in new ways. We have found students who are shy now speak up more during class. In this kind of collaboration, everyone has a voice. Also, we focused on health and wellness, and exchanging time for electives like computer club or robotics for social time with teachers to develop healthy social connections.
Most importantly, we have found parents to be more involved with at-home learning for their child. From reading a book, to learning numbers, parents can note where their children are most engaged and be involved in the skill-building first-hand.
Working closely with parents
Creating a back-to-school timetable that also honours the 30% capacity rule means preparing a considered plan which accommodates the varying needs of families, whether they have one child or five children at our school.
In some families, both parents work outside home and need to drop their child at school. Catering to different needs, we need consistency in our timetable to allow parents to plan.
At the end of the last school year, we scheduled virtual communication sessions over the summer holidays with parents, students and staff on a bi-weekly basis to consolidate what is happening and our plans moving forward.
Consistency is key
Making the most of the 30% capacity rule, we manage our educators between online classes and in-person classes. While our teachers are amazing and dedicate extra time, we want to ensure they are not overworked to maintain the quality of education.
We have ensured consistency so that parents know what time their child needs to be at school, being allowed up to three days. That way, parents can organise their day around a set schedule.
Enforcing a safe environment is at the core of bringing our community back to school. We follow health and safety procedures in line with our UK schools’ risk assessment, which helps reassure students and their families.
The first days of returning to campus, our staff will be dedicated to teach students how to use their mask, particularly the younger ones. We teach them that this is a practice they must do for their own safety and for the safety of others.
We are very lucky to have moved into our fantastic new landmark campus, which also helps facilitate our precautionary measures and safety standards. Spanning 60,000 square metres, with self-contained buildings for Early Childhood, Lower, Middle and High School, we avoid cross-contamination issues with different group ‘bubbles’. Our campus lends itself perfectly to implementing effective social distancing.
The vision for sport
Chris Quinn, Athletic Director
In what promises to be an exciting – and different – year ahead for sport at ACS Doha, Athletic Director, Chris Quinn, shares his vision for a new school year…and new school.
For students returning to ACS Doha in September 2020, there will be a few changes to how sport will look, from a retired dolphin to landmark facilities.
At the beginning of the academic year, the ACS Doha Dolphins – the mascot familiar to the many students who have represented the school in sports over the years – has undergone something of a metamorphosis. Step forward the ACS Doha Wolves!
What prompted that change?
"The decision to move to a new mascot was born out of listening to the community of parents, staff and students" Chris says, conscious that middle school and senior students in particular want a mascot that evokes competitive spirit, teamwork and conviction. "Another factor was that the dolphin was chosen over eight years ago, when the school population was made up vastly of EC and LS students,” explains Chris.
‘In the wolf, we have found something that is so much more than a mascot that applies very widely, across many aspects of school life": Said Chris. "The Wolf was the outstanding choice ".
The need for a mascot with more ‘bite’ became clear, and with exciting changes happening at ACS Doha, with the new ACS brand introduced last year and a new campus on the horizon, the timing was right, and Chris feels they have found something that all divisions of the school can identify with on some level.
“I think it was truly serendipitous that the community decided to get behind the wolf. There’s quite a lot you can do with it, the characteristics and dynamics of wolf packs are fascinating and I would encourage even a little light research into this, by everyone. Even face masks we’ve ordered have the wolf mascot on them with the slogan ‘safety in the pack’!
“We wanted something creative and inspiring that came from the community, and it came from the kids more than anything,” Chris adds.
We recently launched our Wolves mascot on social media. If you missed it, click here.
Creating a hub
As for the vision for sport in the year ahead, it’s a case of what we want to do balanced against what we safely can do at the moment, given the current COVID-19 restrictions. Looking ahead to life beyond the pandemic, Chris is keen to create what he refers to as ‘a hub’.
We really want to create a community hub, not just for students but for parents or anybody else that wants to be a part of it. The students are the key focal point, but when we talk about our vision, we want something that people are drawn into and has influence that permeates beyond our walls.
“The big problem that we had prior to the move to Al Kheesa, was that our facilities on campus were limited, so a big part of my job was going out and securing agreements with external facilities providers that cost us a lot of money and there were implications for transporting students too. The programme was therefore not a seamless experience for students and their families. We’re excited that our new campus will allow us to offer a programme that is far more accommodating for families and centric to our community.”
Chris’ vision flips the existing model on its head and, at the same time, seeks to provide a COVID-secure environment for the school community, with enviable facilities on campus that are maintained and cleaned by the school, with no more need for students to go further afield.
“Our intention is that the new campus is a magnet for people to come to. We envision the school day as something that commences even before drop off for classes and continues well after the last After School Activity (ASA) session is done. Our plan is to have early bird sessions, parent sessions after drop off, ASAs, big game nights and extended community provision and use of the facilities into the evening. The key thing is creating a nucleus, a focal point within our community, for everyone involved at ACS and where everyone feels a welcome part of something bigger than themselves.”
On the edge of a big opportunity
ACS Doha is in the planning stages with external providers to help build capacity in sports such as basketball and grassroots soccer, which will be announced in due course as and when COVID restrictions start to ease. Until then, Chris remains optimistic about the future of sport at ACS.
“We stand at the edge of a really big opportunity and our programme has punched above its weight despite the facilities up till now. We’ve won soccer and basketball championships. Our basketball programme last year swept the floor. We won championships across every age bracket – our seniors winning the Doha 6 was a bit special. Our swimming programme has also been great, but again we were using external facilities.
“The great thing is that we’re at that point where we can do all of this on our own doorstep and I think we can quietly look forward to being able to properly compete with schools who have longer histories in Doha than ourselves – we have now started to create our own history of success. We have enviable facilities which quite literally, drop your jaw.”
Community is all
With all this in mind, Chris’ role will be expanding this year, to encompass co-curricular activities such as drama and Model United Nations that sit outside learning and teaching.
The key priority and reality, before any of these plans can be realised is, of course, keeping everybody safe, and the school continues to work with its sister schools in the UK and Qatari authorities to ensure the highest standards in being COVID-secure.
“Community is the thing that we have built ourselves and our reputation on in Doha. We talk about it all the time and the main thing I’m conscious of as we move our programmes forward is that our community has a say and we meet its needs. We try very hard to keep our finger on the community pulse and be as responsive as we can – that’s something that is critical right now, more than ever. Community has to be something that we live and our success so far, has been built upon community values – others before self – much like a wolf pack, he concludes.
Members of community tell us what they're most looking forward to at our new campus. Over to you!
My favourite part of the new building has been welcoming the kids into the school, during temperature taking.
Assistant Principal, Middle High School
"I close my eyes and I can see, a world that's waiting there for me..." This little quiet corner of the playground will be the new Lower School garden. As the children's curious little minds in Grade 2 focus on their unit of 'sharing the planet' and as the Grade 4 'stem cells' unit on animals and plants is introduced, this area of the school is filled with imagination and possibilities of what could be. Just as the school was born out of the desert, what new life can we grow here that inspires the minds of even our youngest children?
Lower School Principal
I love how all the Early Childhood classrooms open up to an outdoor play area. Everything is so bright and open, such a warming atmosphere.
Omi Al Sharida
Mum of PK3, Kindergarten and Grade 3 children
Seeing the Maidan for the first time from the top of the stairs, I got so emotional, that I had tears in my eyes. It hit me that we finally got our new campus... how far we have come! Another favourite spot is the terrace above the Sports Hall, overlooking the green football field, where parents can wait for their kids while they’re at their After-school activities. I cannot wait to be on that terrace with other moms or a good book. The playgrounds, green football field, volleyball and basketball court, the outdoor space and the potential of what it can be become. The theatre, with all wooden walls and floor! Looking forward to wonderful performances there! The open perimeter of the campus: no cement walls around the campus. It’s so welcoming!
Mother of Rasha (Grade 4) and Zoya (Grade 2)
My favourite moment on our new campus so far was bringing my son (above) to school for the first time since March. He was so excited to finally see the new building, as well as his friends and the teachers. I can't wait to see the great opportunities that he, and all the other students, are going to experience this year.
It was a touching moment when I entered the prayer rooms after a tour in the new school campus. I was moving from one facility to another exploring the place. The building is able to accommodate large numbers of people and host a variety of events. This includes members of the ACS community with all its multiple and rich cultures, shaping a beautiful piece of mosaic that reflects solidarity and unity. These elegantly furnished prayer rooms reflect the ACS community's respect for the country and the host culture and signifies the spirit of tolerance and brotherhood among the members of this community. I look forward to the day when we can enjoy the amazing spaces after Covid.
Hani Al Refo
Head of Arabic
Upon arriving through the Middle High School entrance into the huge triple volume Avenue, eyes are drawn toward the impressive Maidan and the adjacent walkways flanked by contemporary glass balustrades. Light permeates every nook and alcove. This intensifies the sense of space, which resonates powerfully through the entire facility. The new campus exemplifies how modern design elevates a learning environment.
Middle High School Principal
The wait is finally over, from the day we shovelled the dirt on this ground which marked the start of building, to actually being on this landmark campus has been such a great journey. Now working on this campus there are so many favourites already. The artwork on the wall, tree installation and the huge open spaces along with the stairs makes the Avenue my favourite place. The fresh air, light, and high ceilings gives this space a unique edge over the other areas of the schools. I look forward to the café opening soon to working from here while enjoying my coffee.
Dean of Admissions and Marketing
My favourite moment is seeing the children explore the new materials and furniture. Their new spaces are full of carefully designed furniture that intrigues and delights – role play, water play, construction, expression! Seeing our returning families and children has also been so memorable. We have all noticed how ‘big’ the children are. Even though some have masks on, we can see that they are overjoyed to be back with their teachers, teaching assistants and friends.
Early Childhood Principal
After long seeking the best school with a positive environment for our children, all research led us to one result: ACS. The diverse new campus combined with professional and heart-warming staff and an excellent school programme won us over at our first visit.
Mr Suljic Vahid
CEO, Students Qatar, and new parent to ACS Doha