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Lower School

Lower School Philosophy

The Lower School formative years are a time for students to build their foundational skills and understand themselves as learners and individuals.

We believe this happens through exploration and opportunities for intellectual curiosity. Our program helps students to make connections to their ideas, then connect those ideas to the real world, and finally gain a deeper understanding through inquiry and personal experience.

As students construct their own knowledge through discourse and critical thinking, they build their foundation for problem solving. High academic expectations coupled with student-teacher interpersonal relationships gives students opportunities to thrive in a supported, caring, and positive classroom environment. Students are engaged in developmental, meaningful, and challenging work with an emphasis on process rather than product.

As students matriculate through the Lower School, they will experience some discomfort as they learn new academic and social skills. We believe this discomfort leads to growth and can be transformative in helping students build resilience as we prepare them for the path ahead. Ultimately, we want them to continue to pursue their questions, grapple with and unpack misunderstandings and mistakes, and find joy in discovery as they journey from five to eleven year olds.

Kristin Douthitt
Director of Lower School

My children love the small class sizes and low student-teacher ratio which allows more personal attention. 
They also emphasize the student role in the learning process so kids are actively engaged and learn by doing.  Lower School Parent

Our Teachers

  • Warm, rapport-driven, and talented scholarly practitioners
  • Develop a deep understanding of the curriculum they are teaching and best pedagogical practices pursuant to their varied methods of delivery needed to meet students’ needs

  • Understand students’ developmental levels and design their classrooms, lessons, activities, and assessments to meet the needs of their students

  • Act as guides, mentors, and facilitators ensuring that students are doing the thinking, creating, and problem solving

  • Address students' needs through differentiation, voice, choice, accommodations, and flexible assignments

  • Foster a sense of belonging, significance, and fun through Responsive Classrooms techniques such as Morning and Closing Meetings, energizers, and goal setting

  • Establish classroom routines and develop norms with their students to build classroom community

  • Lifelong learners that continue to engage in professional development to enhance their skills, improve their craft, and understand research-based practices

  • Create an environment of willing and motivated learners that take risks through abundant feedback, encouragement, support, and investment in their students

Our Community

  • Town Meetings are a leadership opportunity for fifth grade students to manage a school event, gives classes a chance to share with their lower school peers, and parents get a glimpse into the daily life of their children
  • Students are active citizens in their school community and enjoy many cross-age opportunities to develop their communication, empathy, and social awareness skills

Our Curriculum

Our curriculum selection leads to deeper learning and fosters the development of the following skills:

Effective communication
Working collaboratively in teams
Solving complex problems
Persisting in the face of challenges
Monitoring and directing their own learning
Command of academic skills and content
Building on schema and constructing ideas
Reflection and engagement 

VMS Lower School Curriculums

  • Reveal Mathematics
  • Lucy Calkins
  • Fundations
  • TCI Science and Social Studies
  • Handwriting and Keyboarding Without Tears
  • Fly Five Social Emotional Learning—The social emotional curriculum, Fly Five, focuses on the competencies of cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self control, spelling out the word CARES. 

Lower School Classrooms Include 

  • Flexible programming with both 40 and 80 minute block scheduling
  • Student Inquiry, Social Emotional Advisory, and Student Enrichment are included in the weekly schedule to provide time for students to explore their passions, combine interests in project work, and develop their social-emotional skills
  • Service Learning and Community Engagement
  • Outdoor Education 
  • Physical education, music, world languages, and art

Opportunities for field-based learning in Lower School are designed as an intentional progression, gradually venturing further from school and home, to take advantage of nearby resources

Read More about Class Trips