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Lower School

Student Life

No education is complete with academics alone. Life in the Lower School provides opportunities of various kinds for a well-balanced experience for every child. In addition to daily classes in language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, Lower School students have a myriad of opportunities that complement these core academic classes.

List of 10 items.

  • Science Labs

    Students in all grades visit the science lab regularly to participate in activities which supplement classroom science lessons. Lessons involve observation, investigation, hypothesizing, comparing/contrasting and deductive reasoning. Examples of lab activities: Kindergarten students investigate light and shadows, First Graders use LEGO WeDo Educational Kits to make discoveries about simple machines, Second graders experiment with the states of matter, Third graders build simple machines with LEGO WeDo kits and program them to move and make noise, Fourth Graders dissect oysters and Fifth Graders compare and contrast different types of cells viewed through microscopes. Collaborative engagement fosters curious problem-solvers who explore lessons they’ll never forget!
  • Science, Science and More Science

    Concerted efforts are made to extend the study of science beyond our classrooms and into the world beyond. NSA Lower School students love to do “real science!” Second grade students plant a raised bed garden and work together to care for the seedlings planted. Along with the study of how seeds grow to seedlings, students also learn about the care that a garden requires. The highlight of this adventure is the harvest and eating of the vegetables grown.
    Fourth grade students study the wetlands on campus and compare and contrast water samples from there with those from local rivers. They also visit the Learning Barge, the world’s first floating wetlands classroom where students learn how we can make the Elizabeth River swimmable and fishable again. Their investigation extends to participation in an oyster restoration project, one way the Elizabeth River clean-up is possible. Fourth graders grow oyster spats from thumb-nail size to 2-3 inches in oyster floats. Each month, students record the living conditions of the oysters, including water temperature, salinity, turbidity and morbidity of the growing oysters. These measures are tracked in relationship to the numbers of oysters not found to be alive in a sampling. In the spring, the oysters are replanted on a man-made oyster reef in the Elizabeth River to do their part in cleaning up the river. As a result of this study, the Lower School has been designated a Model Level River Star School for implementing conservation, restoration or habitat enhancement projects.

    Fifth Grade students participate in a design-build challenge to construct a buoy housing a thermometer in a waterproof container. The thermometer records water temperatures in the river where Fourth grade students’ oysters are placed and students conduct in-depth studies of the effect of water temperature on the morbidity of growing oysters. Fifth graders work in groups of four to design and experiment with the most viable buoy model. Students in each class choose the model they feel will serve their purpose best.  

    The Lower School Science experience is dynamic, and while some aspects remain constant from year to year, additions and changes occur to allow learning to stay current in the world of science.
  • The Arts in Lower School

    No student's education is complete without broad exposure to the arts. All teachers in the arts work closely with classroom teachers to provide connections between art and music and classroom study.

    Students in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade visit the Lower School Art Room weekly to learn about famous artists and practice work in the style of the artists studied. All basic elements of art are taught through this study. Each year students visit a local museum, gallery or studio including The Chrysler Museum, the Chrysler’s Glass Studio or The Peninsula Museum of Fine Art and have exposure to a wide range of artists and styles of work. Each spring student art work is featured in a student art show.

    Students also have weekly classes in music. In Kindergarten through Fourth Grade students meet in the Lower School Music Room for singing and listening to music, experimentation with percussion and rhythm instruments and movement activities. Fifth Grade students meet with the choral and instrumental music instructors on the Middle and Upper School faculties. Students have the opportunity to experiment with band instruments and participate in choral music, introducing them  to the musical options available as they move to Middle School and beyond.

    All Lower School students participate in two performances each year. In the fall, Lower School celebrates Grandparents’ Day with a combined performance involving all students. In the spring, each grade level presents a program based on some facet of that grade’s curriculum. All students have speaking parts and exposure to being in front of an audience, life skills requiring practice for mastery.

    For students who desire additional opportunities in the arts, after-school enrichment activities are available in art, music and drama.
  • Technology Abounds

    Schoolwide, NSA is well-equipped with technology and Lower School students benefit tremendously from access to a variety of digital resources as they prepare for life in the 21st Century. Digital tools are infused throughout the curriculum in every grade to allow students to collaborate, create, communicate and become masters of the tools that are modern education.
    Classrooms are supplied with projectors, SMART Boards, Chromebooks or Chromeboxes, a MacAir mobile cart and ipads. The Becky Godwin Memorial Library houses a lab of 12 desktop iMacs, used to hone research skills, do word processing or take Reading Counts tests for our reading incentive program. Additionally, all Lower School students have access via a login and password to the Descubre el Espanol website for extra practice or for enrichment both at school and at home, during the school year or during the summer. Nansemond-Suffolk Academy recognizes the critical importance of our students having a high proficiency in all types of technology as they prepare for college.
  • World Language

    All Lower School students, Pre-Kindergarten 2 - Fifth Grade have Spanish instruction using the new, interactive program, Descubre el Espanol. Students learn the Spanish language through a cultural adventure. This program explores language and culture through explicit presentation and integration of communication, cultures, connections, comparisons and communities. In each of the six levels, two characters for the United States are introduced and travel through a total of twenty Spanish-speaking countries over the course of six years. This highly acclaimed program incorporates SMARTBoard activities which actively engage students and present information ina  brightly colored, real life format.
  • Student Leadership

    Lower School-wide, teachers utilize the Responsive Classroom program to foster a sense of community and growth of leadership skills in all students, with Fourth and Fifth grade students taking on additional leadership responsibilities through the Lower School Student Council. Each homeroom in these grades elects two representatives to the Council, which meets monthly to assist as a liaison between students and administration, discuss school climate/activities, assist with communication to lower grades, and organize and conduct service projects for the school and greater community.

    Additionally, selected fifth graders are tapped by the Office of Admissions to serve as Student Ambassadors. Student Ambassadors host student applicants who typically test and “shadow” during the school day. Ambassadors also assist with Admissions Open Houses twice each year. Occasionally they give tours to visitors to the school.
  • LEGO League

    Each year ten 4th and 5th graders are selected to participate on the Lower School’s LEGO League team. Fall is an intense time for the group as they prepare for the district competition in November. In early September the team receives the “challenge” for the year. They are required to do research on the topic to better understand the problem they are to solve. They design and create some sort of apparatus to assist in solving the problem. 

    Creation of a skit to portray the creation and the manner in which it will be beneficially used is also a scored part of the competition. The team meets with competition judges to be interviewed about their preparation for the tournament and must demonstrate the collaborative, problem-solving nature of the process. In the few years since Lower School began to participate in this competition our teams have done quite well. In 2011, the first year of the Lower School Team’s participation, the Team won the Core Values award, one of the three categories of competition. In 2012, the Team won Second Place in the District Competition in Norfolk, which qualified them for the VA-DC competition; in that event the Team was the Judges Award. The problem-solving, logic and reason, and collaboration required to be successful in this competition is excellent practice for Lower School students.
  • Forensics

    Each year the Lower/Middle Schools enters a team in the local Forensics competition. Grades 4-6 compete in the Robert S. Sargeant Forensics Tournament which allows our students to compete against other students in independent school in the Hampton Roads area. Try-outs for the team are held in December or early January with three boys and three girls competing in Poetry, Prose, Oratory and Storytelling. Over the years our teams in this competition have been quite successful. What a wonderful opportunity for these students who have a special talent in public speaking!
  • Geography Bee

    Students in Grades 4 - 8 are given the opportunity to participate in the National Geographic Geography Bee each year. From this preliminary competition, the winner completes a written exam which is submitted in the state competition. This is a highly competitive event which tests students’ knowledge of world geography in a most challenging way.
  • After-School Opportunities

    Opportunities to participate in special interest enrichment activities and sports are available for students at the end of the school day. Activities include but are not limited to Chess, Reader’s Theater (drama), Book Clubs, Visual Journaling, Robotics, Animal Lovers, My Big Fat Greek Life and La Vida Mexicana. In the arts, students can participate in special interest art groups, choral music, percussion instruments, recorder group or dance. Private piano lessons are also provided.

    Athletic offerings include boys’ lacrosse, baseball, field hockey and girls’ lacrosse. Operation Smile Final Mile Runners is offered for all students grades 1-5 and promotes a healthy lifestyle and awareness of service to children in need. Students participate in the student race during Shamrock Marathon weekend.
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy is a coeducational, college preparatory private school located in Suffolk, VA. Pre-kindergarten - Grade 12.