At the heart of the Congressional Lower School student experience is relationship. Relationship between peers, with teachers and staff, and with program are intentionally cultivated and nurtured in grades 1-4. Faculty and staff do so by shaping a learning environment that engages curious minds while allowing for safe, and respectful peer collaboration.
Relationship Between Peers
Research shows that children who feel emotionally safe at school perform better academically. More importantly, they are just happier children! By implementing the Responsive Classroom approach, teachers use common language and develop consistent structures to help children successfully navigate peer relationships in lower school. All children begin each day actively building their classroom community in the Morning Meeting Circle. Small but meaningful routines like Morning Meetings nurture the relationships children develop with classmates and set a tone for inclusivity and respect.
Relationships with Teachers and Staff
The most important resources in any school are the educators who interface daily with children. Teachers at Congressional understand the importance of knowing their students and creating real and meaningful connections with them. With small class sizes and weekly discussions on student progress, teachers learn the uniqueness of each and every student in their care. Perhaps most important are the day to day interactions that cannot be quantified but happen routinely at Congressional: middle school students stopping by a lower school teacher’s classroom for a quick “hello”, teachers and students laughing and playing a game on a classroom carpet, the plethora of hugs and smiles students receive daily from teachers who love what they do because they care so much about the children.
Relationship with Program
Across the disciplines, children are given opportunities to be active participants in the learning process. Coupled with high expectations, students are stretched to meet their fullest potential. We do so by designing a challenging program that inspires children to want to learn. For example, in Lower School we use Singapore Math to help children think like mathematicians. We also incorporate methods from The Reading & Writing Project based at Columbia University’s Teachers College which teaches our children to be metacognitive as they read; our students make connections with the text and identify relevance with the content which nurtures a love of reading. In the visual arts, students routinely create projects that directly connect to their own life experiences. The overall experience in the Lower School program is rooted in engagement; we cultivate a joy of learning by creating curricula that resonates with students and impacts the way they think about the world around them.