Wonder Year: Second Grade at Viz

Second grade at Visitation Academy is a best-kept secret. Just ask the 14 lucky girls who cannot wait to walk through the doors each morning, eager to be with their school family and discover what fun and new authentic learning opportunities are in store for the day. They might only be seven to eight years of age, but Viz second-grade students welcome the challenge of the accelerated curriculum, taking ownership of their individual learning and pushing themselves in an environment that allows them to, “Be who they are and be that well.” The second grade classroom is a collaborative center of learning where students work together as a family, as well as the setting where girls learn and practice the Visitation, Salesian charism.
What Makes the Grade?
In the area’s only all-girl program for students in this formative age group, it is “Never about one girl, it is about us.” The strong relationships formed between the teaching team and each student and each student and her classmates empower them to try and, if they fail, try again. They learn it is okay to fail and accept failure as a positive learning process. Because each student is genuinely supported by her teacher and fellow classmates, compassion, resilience, confidence, and an eagerness to learn and try new things is ingrained, forming a strong foundation for the future.
 
Second grade teacher Mrs. Doey Boldt models how to learn and students take this and run with it, investing in the process and making it their own. Daily goals are set, and each child is assessed based on their individual goals and progress. It is not about book-based, rote memorization in second grade. Students “work” the curriculum which is the basis of authentic learning.
 
For example, in a typical classroom, students may have a study unit on rural, urban, and suburban communities, spending a day or two looking at pictures, reading words on a page, and memorizing the definition of keywords. At Viz, second graders have an immersive, real-life experience with this subject matter. This involves the adoption of a class cow, Zooming with farmers and their families to actually see their daily life and talk to them directly about what it means to live on a farm, and connecting this rural lifestyle to an end product that is used in urban and suburban communities. In this case, enjoying Pevely Farms ice cream made from the milk produced by cows.
 
There are countless examples of authentic learning opportunities as well as the other benefits of second grade at Viz. Check out this video featuring Mrs. Boldt that highlights a few of them, including a First Ladies project and “edible engineering” made possible through a hydroponic growing tower and dedicated Lower School food science kitchen.
 
Educational and Spiritual Home
As Mrs. Boldt mentions in the video, beyond the many knowledge-based and skills-based learning advantages, Viz also offers thoughtful preparation for two very important sacraments: First Holy Communion and First Reconciliation. Students and parents enjoy the family-centered versus parish-centered approach to receiving these sacraments. The conferment of these sacraments takes place in the Sisters’ Chapel located on the Viz campus, and First Communicants and their families also celebrate “second Communion” together the Sunday after First Holy Communion in the Cathedral Basilica.
 
First Communicants also play a very important role in Viz’s annual Maypole ceremony which celebrates graduating seniors; young women that second graders have formed lasting bonds with. This special connection is symbolically evidenced in the white dresses worn by both the First Communicants and Viz graduates, but it goes much deeper than that. Through the Big Sister-Little Sister program at Viz, second graders and seniors have many opportunities throughout the school year to engage in activities such as picnics and shared reading time. These meaningful interactions lead to positive relationships that have a direct and lasting effect on both the younger and older girls.
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