By Sue Kingman, Lower School Division Head
Our Waltham campus gave the Lower School the chance to build a welcoming, tailored community built on ERIK.
Before 2010, each one of Carroll’s grades learned on our Lincoln campus. We knew we needed more room to accommodate all the students who would benefit from Carroll, and we began the process of figuring out how to increase our footprint. Though we had architects trying to figure out how to expand our classroom space, the nature of the campus’s topography presented a major challenge.
In the midst of all this, the former Bartlett School went out of business right down the road in Waltham. Though the facility needed some renovations and “Carroll care”, it featured intimately sized classrooms—a format that fit our learning model. Plus, they had just built a brand new gym… a huge win for us!
Carroll’s Board of Trustees challenged leadership to raise 80% of the purchase price, our largest fundraising campaign to date. With determination and the support of committed families, we raised the money within 3 months. We quickly put together projections, and a five-year plan for how we would ramp up our enrollment to accommodate more kids—ultimately about 100 more students, over time.
With the purchase in hand, we went quickly into action to renovate the building and get it ready to open as the Lower School in the fall of 2010.
The new Lower School building provided the opportunity to build a community more developmentally tailored to children ages 6 to 11 years old. After a first year of cultivating the space, I started working on developing a distinct Lower School culture, and defining our values. That’s when the ERIK principles (Empathy, Respect, Inclusion, Kindness) were conceived as guiding values that kids could easily understand, and that we could use to make cultural decisions and conventions.
I see ERIK in action every single day at the Lower School. We always greet each other by saying good morning. If someone’s struggling with something, we all try to help them. If friends are sad or hurt, we try to make them feel better. The teachers and students are all super nice here which makes Carroll a great place to go to school.
Maddy Khanna, 5th Grade Student
After developing these foundational tenets (and a special song, thanks to Patrick Pate!) we worked closely within each grade team to cultivate distinct identities and traditions, such as the 3rd grade Whaling Town project, the 4th grade States and City Planning projects, the 5th grade “Overnight” event and Gatehouse Birdhouse project. Our goal was to create a sense of a flow to the Lower School, so whether a student starts in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th grade, there are transparent keystone projects and markers that define each grade, and that help students to normalize their experience.
The Lower School building also gave us the opportunity to think intentionally and creatively about physical space, how that impacts programming, and ways that we can provide highly targeted instruction for kids. In the last 10 years, we have broadened those offerings through concepts like the flex block or the focus area, where children are getting even more highly targeted instruction.
We’ve worked hard to create a culture of teacher collaboration and team-based efforts over the last decade, too. Each team does things in a particular way, but we work together to realize our goals and stay connected to one another—because we understand that a sense of satisfaction amongst our team is critical to the Lower School’s success.
The Lower School is a warm and welcoming community that truly cares about and believes in each person who is a part of it. It is small enough where you feel that tight knit sense of community yet big enough across three campuses that you feel you are part of something importantly significant. It is a place that takes each person as the individual that they are and meets them where they are at.
Ryan Walker, 5th Grade Math Teacher
This article is part of a series from Carroll Connection, A Timeline for Transformation: 2005-2021.
- Carroll Connection 2021-22