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Welcome from the Head
of Lower School

Dear Lower School Families,

If your Lower School child were to come home and share with you a story he or she had written about St. Patrick’s, what would it tell? Regardless of whether your child was a Kindergarten student just beginning his Lower School journey or a Grade 5 student completing hers, our goal in the Lower School is that you would hear a story that reflected three themes:

Our Lower School in Washington D.C. is a place that fosters growth. We know that our students grow as learners over the course of their time in elementary school. Assessing what students know and can do at the start of each year allows us to tailor instruction to ensure that each and every child has the opportunity to stretch his academic wings. We know that, at times, even when children feel initially daunted by a task, they can often accomplish more than they think. Perhaps the story you hear would be about a child struggling, at first, to create a presentation on a state, but then eventually needing to add more and more slides to capture all of the new information she or he is excited to discover and to share—perhaps even finding your child taking that research and using it to help you plan a family vacation, as one student and her family did a couple of years ago.

Our Lower School is a place that challenges. So much learning happens when young people take appropriate risks. Risks central to a story written by your Lower School child might range from trying to get to the next rung on the Kindergarten Playground monkey bars, to extending a conversation in Spanish by one more line, to willingly retesting a bridge design to make it even stronger, knowing that the next weight might just break it. We seek to hit that sweet spot in elementary school where learning is challenging enough to be engaging without being overwhelming or frustrating. This place, where a child’s reach just exceeds her grasp, is where young people find the most success.

Our Lower School is a place of community. You might hear a story about the Lower School as a place where elementary school students can stand up during share time and say to the class, “My mom is getting on a plane soon. I’m going to miss her.” And, the teacher can respond, “So, if we see you feeling sad today, we’ll know why.” You might hear a story about the Lower School being a place where, on the first day of school, a student can print out a picture and take it to all of the adults who have been in her life during her three years in the Lower School and share it proudly, saying, “Look! Isn’t she beautiful! I have a sister!” We value the social and emotional development of our students enough to make room for it during our day, knowing that without that support and sense of belonging, it is difficult for learning to take root.

Each child who enters the Lower School finds it to be a place that fosters learning and growth, a place that challenges appropriately, and a place that deeply values community. We look forward to sharing it with you!

Jenifer Congdon
Head of Lower School