Lower School

Your child's educational experience starts in the Lower School where we emphasize successful beginnings. Students who feel good about their earliest experiences in school more easily establish a pattern of lifelong learning. Our Pre-K through Grade 5 classrooms are colorful, comfortable, and alive with activities, a setting that is at once both flexible and structured. Teachers strive to know not just what but how each student learns - intellectually, emotionally and behaviorally. You will find that the Country Day Lower School is unlike any other program in New Orleans.
Our Lower School is a dynamic place for individualized instruction and creative exploration. Our thoughtful, intentional approach to social-emotional learning fused within a balanced curriculum means our students build a foundation of joyful learning that serves them as they progress through grade levels, divisions, and life.

--Lower School Principal, Mimi Odem
This standard is the cornerstone of our Pre-K program. Housed in Bart’s Cottage, students are provided with academic experiences that will help them get ready to read, write, count, and problem solve by providing them with rich exposure and practice with functional living, physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and communicative skills. While also preparing students for Kindergarten, our curriculum is guided by the belief that children learn best through play in a hands-on, stimulating, and nurturing environment.

Beginning in Kindergarten, the Lower School is designed in multi-grade classrooms, allowing teachers to create student groups according to abilities, interests, learning styles, and strengths. Kindergarten, first, and second grades learn together, as do the third and fourth grades. This system-utilized at Country Day for more than 30 years has been widely accepted across the nation as a successful, stimulating approach to learning at the initial levels of formal schooling.

Teachers strategically assemble student groups according to students' abilities, interests, learning styles, and strengths. These small groupings provide students of different skill levels in each of their subjects appropriate attention, and are an intellectual foundation of multiage classrooms. During the years in which children are developing at various rates, the students in multiage classrooms benefit from individualized curriculum and varied methods of teaching.

At the same time, teachers in our multiage classrooms look beyond scaffolding knowledge and skills to actively instill dispositions of intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, empathy, and personal responsibility. Intellectual growth is not separate from social/emotional growth, and at Country Day, learning includes a deliberate focus on creating and maintaining a strong community of diverse thinkers. Students grow in their ability, inclination and engagement as they seek to master multiple subjects of interest; at the same time, they develop their sense of mindfulness, paying attention on purpose to creating, practicing, and strengthening their individual character under the active coaching and counsel of adults. Meaningful relationships and caring attitudes are so important to shaping who we are intellectually.

This does not look like a traditional classroom. Children work at tables and move around the room, learning cooperatively through individual and teacher-directed activities in an environment structured to their needs. Because academic and social needs become more distinct as children grow older, 5th Graders in the Lower School are introduced to the experience of a departmentalized schedule. Specifically, they are taught in separate classes, by subject-specific teachers, as the students prepare for Middle School.

Benefits of Multiage Classrooms

List of 7 items.

  • What the experts say

    Professor Barbara Pavan reviewed sixty-four research studies on multi-grade classrooms and found that 58% of students in multi-grade classes performed better than their peers on measures of academic achievement. She also found that students in multi-grade settings were "more likely than their peers to have positive self-concepts, high self esteem and good attitudes toward school."
  • Yearly time restraints are removed

    Children are allowed to progress successfully at their own rate of development, not on a timetable set by a textbook.
  • Multiage curriculums challenge gifted students

    Students in single grade classrooms are assessed by what is considered acceptable performance for children at a given age. Multiage curriculum challenges talented children because "grade level" is no longer a place to stop while others catch up.
  • No lag time at the beginning of the year

    Meaningful instruction can begin on the first day since teachers already know the individual strengths of returning students. This can happen only in multi-grade classrooms.
  • Greater opportunities to get to know the parents

    The multi-grade class maximizes the working relationship and partnership between school and family over a longer period of time.
  • A shared sense of learning and community

    The teachers provide the structure for the classroom community, but the children create the unique environment with their own personalities, strengths, and needs. Behavior problems are minimized, and children feel a responsibility for their work. The majority of the class is already familiar with how the class works. Older students act as models for new students. In fact, older students develop independence as they take on the role of teacher and mentor. Students have friends of different ages.
  • Children progress rather than just pass

    Multi-grade classrooms allow teachers to consider the whole child, to work with your child over a period of two to three years rather than within a rigid, nine-month time frame. Students receive different assignments and daily responsibilities at each grade level. For example, while kindergartners learn to record daily temperatures and weather conditions, first graders are building rain gauges to measure rainfall. Second graders use their findings to compute monthly rainfall averages and share their findings with the younger students.
Children learn through active exploration of their environment through children-initiated and teacher-selected activities. The program should provide numerous opportunities for students to explore materials and environment, engage in activities, interact with peers, interact with adults, and to construct knowledge about the world around them.

- National Association of the Education of Young People

    • The Pre-K K/1/2 Experience - Come Inside!

Upcoming Events

List of 3 members.

  • Photo of Mimi Odem

    Mimi Odem 

    Lower School Principal
    (504) 849-3148
  • Photo of Emily West

    Emily West 

    Lower School Assistant Principal, Technology Integrationist/STEM Coordinator, CajunCare Enrichment
    (504) 849-3155
  • Photo of Kelsey Beahm

    Kelsey Beahm 

    Lower School Division Assistant
    (504) 849-3130