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Best in the Region: Maumee Valley Country Day School's Intensive Program

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Gracie Stough ’24 said she has always been interested in learning about medieval history, and now she’s been able to get a taste of what life was like during that time period as a part of Dan Mumford’s intensive. 

Students were at the Wood County Museum as part of the intensive working in the forge to experience what life was like in the Middle Ages. 

“We were making hooks and it was a lot of fun, but it was definitely a lot more complicated than I expected it to be. It took some more muscle than I actually have, so it was a difficult process,” Stough said. 

The Maumee Valley Intensive Program is like no other in the region. Upper School students engage in three intensive periods of study per year, each lasting three weeks. Each year of a student’s Upper School career rotates between a three-week Intensive and a twelve-week rotation.

Stough and her classmates in the intensive also learned archery, started fires and prepared meals on them, participated in a mock crusade. 

“You can’t really understand a culture until you look at what people’s lives were really like,” Mumford said. “What did they do for entertainment? What did they eat? How did they work? England was not the same as France and France was not the same as Germany. It’s not all Game of Thrones.”

Heating the forge, hammering the metal into a shape over an anvil, and learning the intricacies of being a blacksmith wasn’t something that Stough could grasp by reading about in a book or through watching on video. 

“I’ve always been a big fan of hands-on learning. It helps me learn better,” she said. “Like making the hook — I watched a video for homework on how to blacksmith and I really didn’t understand. But coming here and actually being able to do it really helped me learn and figure it out.”

Upper School students select from course offerings that include on-campus experiences, local and international educational trips, independent study, and networking opportunities. 

By the end of their fourth year, Maumee Valley graduates have a broad range of experiential knowledge that better prepares them to pursue an education at a more competitive level. Intensives enhance the Upper School students’ learning by providing an in-depth study of a topic and allowing further opportunity to explore personal academic pathways while earning academic credit.

Students often use this total immersion experience to explore future careers. Intensives have proven to be highly influential in helping students decide the path they want to travel moving forward. 

Intensives promote connected learning, independence, commitment to personal goals, and professional networking, as students develop a unique portfolio of experiences that make them more competitive in the college admission process.

“The intensive program is a great opportunity for kids to learn the way that we know that kids learn best. It’s eliminating any barriers to a school day. Most schools have set hours, set class structures and our intensives completely blow that up,” said Dr. Paula Apostolou, Director of Teaching and Learning at Maumee Valley. “Kids have an opportunity to do that deep learning that we want them to do. It completely supports our mission and vision especially being completely experiential — learning by doing. We’re able to take our classroom outside into the world and bring the world into our classroom. We’re doing field trips, we’re bringing experts in so it really is education outside Maumee Valley’s doors.”

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While intensives in the Upper School get a lot of attention, our youngest students also benefit from the intensive model. 

This could be Forest School Fridays, field trips, or looking at the social studies curriculum to see how to implement that differently, Apostolou said, adding that the length of the intensives gets extended over time as is developmentally appropriate. 

“For our little ones we call that passion projects, and starting in the Middle School we call that independent study and that really is giving students complete choice in what they want to study, learn about for the amount of time designated for their age groups,” Apostolou said. “For our youngest, it’s sometimes only three minutes for our 3-year-olds and they’re building up to maybe an hour of learning as they move into third and fourth grade. Fifth and sixth graders are able to do it for a little longer in the day and by the time they’re in the Upper School they’re spending a full intensive period which is three weeks Monday through Friday all day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. learning what they want to learn.”

The intensive model goes back to 1978 and was previously called Winterim that occurred once per year. It was renamed intensives and expanded to the current model seven years ago. 

No other school in the region offers anything like it. 

“One of the reasons I’m most proud to work at Maumee Valley is because of our intensive program and our Upper School schedule,” Apostolou said. “It is nationally known. We have schools reach out to us asking us about our schedule and how we’ve implemented intensives. Our students have the opportunity —  just in high school — to do that 12 times. What better experience of learning than to be able to leave campus, to do independent studies, to travel the world, or just to study a subject that they’re passionate about.”
Maumee Valley Country Day School is the only age 3 - 12th grade accredited, co-educational, independent school in Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.