LYNDONVILLE -- In its 31st year, The Riverside School has embarked on an early elementary program with a new kindergarten and first-grade class. There are eight students in the classroom working with teacher Nancy Phillips, who is an alumni parent and has been teaching at Riverside for the last six years.
Phillips' goals for the class are about fostering the students' natural curiosities and their passion for discovery.
"You never hear a child at this age say they're bored, or they don't want to do something, so I want to make sure to develop and maintain that wonder they have for life and for learning." Among the many exciting activities in her classroom so far has been going out to catch bugs to feed the toad they have in a terrarium the students constructed.
Riverside prides itself on building a strong community throughout the school by involving parents in events, building the daily schedule to include lessons for students of mixed grade levels, and fostering leadership skills in all students. This year a few of the eighth graders have time in their daily schedule to spend in the K-1 classroom, reading to and helping the younger students.
"Having five- and six-year-olds really challenges us to be thoughtful in how we design and implement so much of what we do," says faculty member Nelia Dwyer. With careful thinking and cooperative discussions, the Riverside teachers have modified the way drop off and pick up happen, the overnight field trip experiences, daily clean up teams, and the all school assemblies to both adapt to and support the inclusion of early elementary students in all-school activities.
First-grade parent Westerly Miller, whose daughter Riley attends Riverside, thanks to school choice funding in Kirby, is thrilled with Riley's experience so far. "She's been in four schools in four years and has never felt more comfortable and welcomed into the larger school community than she has in just her first two weeks at Riverside. She tells me how nice the older students are, and how much they include her in things."
Head of School Dr. Laurie Boswell, who posed this expansion of the program to unanimous support from the Board of Trustees last spring, sees this change as an exciting opportunity to strengthen the school community. "It really helps our families to have all their children at one school, and it helps our students to be a part of something greater."