With enthusiasm, Lower School students returned to school on Monday, August 22 for the highly anticipated second “First Day”. Their adventuresome spirit was fed as they saw their new learning environments in the VPAC for the first time. Over the previous week, after the waters receded, scores of Upper School students invaded campus ready to assist. Small groups of students were assigned to homeroom teachers from the Lower School building and wagon by wagon, load by load, the VPAC was transformed to Lower School. Almost everything was moved from the classrooms to the VPAC. “I want all of my books” was a phrase that resonated with some. Before our very eyes, teachers recreated classrooms.
This week, students and teachers are embracing their spaces. First grade students work harmoniously in the expanse of the band room with three separate teaching zones. The choir room houses a second grade duo. Our third grade trio shares the Black Box Theatre. Starring on stage is fourth grade. By opening up space in VPAC and rerouting a few of the visual and performing arts classes, we are able to serve Lower School students, allowing them to follow their regular schedule including daily PE, World Language, and enrichment. Students at every grade level showed their parents around during the Mini Open Houses on Wednesday.
The innovative classroom design of shared spaces has its advantages. First of all, this arrangement enhances collaboration among teachers, and it encourages team teaching. One teacher can present a lesson while another teacher serves to monitor, remediate, enrich, and challenge individuals and small groups. Another advantage is being able to observe colleagues as they instruct; modeling “best practice” for one another is a highly effective method of professional development. Too, our current arrangement has allowed for greater flexibility with planning and scheduling. Finally, our students have had the opportunity to established bonds with their grade level peers beyond just those in their homeroom.
Relocating classrooms in Lower School was a challenge, but there was never a doubt that our faculty would willingly accept that challenge, successfully transform their space, and provide the quality school experience to which this community is accustomed. Our students continue to joyfully engage in learning here every day.
And if I am allowed to editorialize:
I have never been so proud to be a part of the Episcopal School community.
Head of Lower School