The foundations of a rigorous, college-preparatory education are built in lower school. Children begin to acquire knowledge and skills, but also develop executive functioning and metacognition. As Kindergartners, our youngest students learn what it means to be a part of a community. As fifth graders, they become leaders and role models for their peers. By the time students graduate lower school, they have found their voice and developed the confidence to use it.
The lower school homebase program revolves around the Responsive Classroom model, which is a student centered, holistic methodology that emphasizes social, emotional, and academic growth equally. Every day starts with a morning meeting Du’a, which includes a greeting, a time for sharing, a group activity, and announcements. At the end of the day, classes regroup, recap and reflect on each day’s accomplishments and challenges in a similar closing meeting. Through this deliberate routine, students learn to practice speaking, listening, and responding in a community of caring and respectful learners. The end result is a safe environment for children to take the risks necessary for growth.
Lower school teachers work together as a professional learning community (PLC), a structure designed to help teachers collaborate to develop curriculum and assessments in response to the specific needs of their students. In this context, assessments are not a part of a high-stakes, one-size-fits-all paradigm, but used to identify the instructional needs of each individual learner. This data-driven approach helps our teachers decide when to reteach, when to reinforce, and when to introduce new material to high flying students. Our professional learning community provides both the tools and the support for teachers to translate the deep, caring relationships they’ve built with students into truly individualized instruction and ultimately, the end result of learning more.
Our goal is to create an environment to challenge young minds, foster a commitment to learning, and, concurrently with academics, instill a moral framework so that students understand the concept of “us” as well as “me.” Well prepared for middle school, students leave lower school confident and comfortable in their own skin with the skills they will need to succeed.