Character & Community

The Lower School is a caring community — a nurturing environment conducive to learning and teaching and in which each member of the community feels secure and supported. Among our goals is to guide students to develop self-discipline, which in itself creates respectful and responsible behavior.

Character Words

Durham Academy's mission is to equip students for "moral, happy and productive lives." At the Lower School, we integrate character words associated with such a life in literature, the study of current events, assemblies and everyday teachable moments: Empathy, Kindness, Integrity, Responsibility, Courage, Curiosity, Engagement, Authenticity, Joy, Balance, Creativity, Drive, Resilience, Generosity and Wisdom.

lower school classroom

Morning Meetings

Each day in the Lower School begins with classroom Morning Meetings. Morning Meetings consist of students and teachers gathering in a circle for 20–30 minutes and greeting one another by name; sharing information about important events in their lives; and participating in an engaging group activity that fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills; and reading and interacting with a short message written by the teacher to help students focus on the day's work.

Morning Meetings

Grade-Level Buddies

Each fourth-grader is paired with a kindergartner, and each third-grader is paired with a first-grader through our Preschool/Lower School Buddy Program. In addition, second-graders are paired with Upper School student volunteers. Over the course of the year, teachers plan opportunities for students to come together for academic and social activities. This program gives older children the opportunity to be leaders and to care for younger schoolmates, and it gives younger students role models and older students with whom to have warm connections.

Kindergarten Kenyan Masks with Fourth Grade Buddies 2018

Lower School Families

Lower School Families consist of cross-age groups of students in grades 1 to 4 that meet throughout the year. Family meetings include a greeting, a team-building activity and sometimes a project to work on together. Each family has up to 12 student family members of varying ages and two family “parents” (a faculty and staff members). Families promote a sense of community across grade levels.

lower school family