An independent, coeducational PK-Grade 12 private school located in historic Fredericksburg, Virginia

Learning Together Blog

5th grader works on a laptop on a bean bag
Eighth grade anticipates big transition
Henry Millar '20

The Upper School at Fredericksburg Academy is a wonderful place, but there's no arguing that there's a huge change from Middle to Upper School. Current eighth-graders – our rising freshmen – definitely have this change on their minds. Their sense of anticipation is familiar to everyone who has made the official transition between buildings.

"[Upper school] is a huge thing to step into from Middle School," eighth-grader Nina Zarin said. "But with the opportunities to explore the high school as an eighth-grader, each student can see the Upper School for themselves. This helps the students form their own opinions about the high school."

One of the focuses of FA administration over the past few years has been strengthening connections among the different divisions of the school. In February, the eighth grade class shared the experience of recreating Shakespeare's Macbeth in the form of a movie in groups with the current sophomores. This was not only a creative academic project, but was also a way to introduce the eighth grade to people and traditions in the Upper School.

"Originally we were kind of scared by the idea of the Upper School. But the school tried to do as much as possible to connect us with the Upper Schoolers," said Christopher Sniffin. "We even made our own friends in the Upper School through things like Shakespearience."

Through cross-division events such as the Perch, FAFA Fest, and sporting activities, eighth-graders begin to get an idea of what high school at FA might be like for them. As expected, the middle-schoolers have some anxiety about the big transition, but they are also excited for the many opportunities and freedoms offered to them in the Upper School.

Fredericksburg Academy is a PK-Grade 12 coeducational, independent, private school in Fredericksburg, VA. FA is regarded as a top private middle school in Fredericksburg, a top private middle school in Stafford, and a top private middle school in Spotsylvania. It is recognized a top private high school in Fredericksburg, a top private high school in Stafford, and a top private high school in Spotsylvania.

A Man and his Trumpet: Worlds Colliding
Mirinda Reynolds

I am an artist and an educator, and I get to be both at Fredericksburg Academy. I bring these worlds together for my fourth and fifth grade students by inviting artists to visit school to share their unique styles and techniques to give my upper-level students a real-world experience.

In honor of our visiting artists and Black History Month, my fourth and fifth grade students created a 63-canvas panel picture of iconic musician Louis Armstrong with his trumpet. I came up with the idea in fall 2016 with guest artist Angela Maniece, and we added Armstrong's name hidden in pictures of his life at the bottom of the image.

For six months, both in and out of art classes, the fourth and fifth grade students cut over 4,000 pieces of 21 different patterns of fabric and glued pieces that coordinated with each individual square. The pieces were then joined on a large table. In January, we moved it to the wall and finished adjustments. On February 23, our fabric mosaic mural was permanently installed in the music hallway. I believe we created a near perfect marriage of music and art, but in order to do so, my students used mathematics extensively in their planning and design and delved deeply into history and social studies by celebrating Black History month through the concept development phase.

The market value for the Louis Armstrong mural is $7,500. To me and the students who created it, however, it is priceless.

Class Size Matters
Zach Santulli, Lower School Music Teacher

Like a gift, I was delivered this article from The Washington Post one morning. This is probably the number one reason my mind was open to leaving a school I loved to come teach at Fredericksburg Academy. Over the last several years my elementary music classes were often 30 or more students per class period. This number had been increasing steadily over my 14 years in the classroom and I did not realize the difference class size made until I visited FA. Since teaching here, I have fallen in love with much more than its small class sizes. As a teacher at Fredericksburg Academy, I am encouraged to learn about each student's individual needs and I have the freedom to adapt what I teach to meet those needs. I have never felt more supported in my profession. What started with class size has become so much more and I was grateful to be reminded of that as I read this article.

Tearing Down Walls at Our Private School in Fredericksburg to Remove Barriers to Student Success
Karen Moschetto, Head of School

As I watched students in all divisions come together last week to rally around our fall athletes during Spirit Week and Homecoming, I was reminded of something that happened just before school began. Something that is perfectly symbolic of what our purpose is as an independent school:

The finishing touches around campus and in classrooms were taking place to prepare for students to return, and our faculty had just returned. One classroom in particular was not quite ready, as a surge in enrollment late in the summer caused us to rethink what the students in that grade level would need for the year. Our decision: tear down a wall to open up the room, giving them more space, and add an associate teacher to give them the same one-on-one attention they would have received with a smaller class.

A new faculty member watched the maintenance crew demolish the drywall between two rooms with awe. He came from a school where this would not, could not, have happened. He came to our private school hoping it was different. And in his first week on campus, he saw that we are. When you put your students first, as we do at Fredericksburg Academy, you have to tear down walls.

We tear down physical walls to give our students a proper space in which to learn. We tear down walls between grade levels and across divisions to give our students a more meaningful experience. We tear down walls among courses and disciplines to give our students broader application and greater understanding.

I am often asked why Fredericksburg Academy exists and that is the answer. Fredericksburg Academy exists for our students; past, present, and future. As long as there are parents who want their children to have the best possible education, and will not settle for anything less, Fredericksburg Academy will be there to tear down any and all walls standing in the way.

Fredericksburg Academy is a private school in Fredericksburg, VA. Our Early Childhood program has been recognized as a top preschool in Fredericksburg, VA.

Tech Instruction at Our Private School: It's not all fun and games - or is it?
Carolyn Anderson

Technology is fast-paced and ever changing. Students seem to love this aspect; always something new, exciting, different to experience. In my field as a Technology Resource and Computer Lab Teacher at a private school, I get to bring the new and exciting and present it for a purpose. Students that I teach will comment, "I love the games and activities that we get to do in computer class." I always smile and thank them, secretly congratulating myself on duping another child. They may see the activities as just fun and games, but there is a greater purpose behind everything that we do. Students racing each other in typing games may not seem to have much academic benefit, but if you could see last year's first graders, who are now second graders, you would see incredible progress and growth in self-confidence. I love hearing students say, "I passed this level, Mrs. Anderson!" Or, "Watch as I type! I don't have to look at the keys anymore!" They see their own progress and become more self-empowered. If nothing else, that is what I want for my students. Students who last year needed my help with almost every coding puzzle, are now learning to problem-solve collaboratively with a classmate, or even on their own. Believing in themselves and what they can accomplish gives them limitless possibilities for their future.

Last year during our six week #TechCrushTuesday, I created age-appropriate activities for all our Lower School students. One day was dedicated as a Makey Makey Day. (Makey Makeys are small motherboards that can connect to your computer. It can control your spacebar and arrow keys when a circuit is completed between the Makey Makey, an item that conducts electricity, and a human.)

One of the stations created was a Tetris station with foil arrows on the ground. Students used bare feet to change and direct their shape. Most students played the game and enjoyed seeing how it worked, but one class of students decided to have four students play together, each one having assigned themselves an arrow. By connecting hands, they discovered that electricity would flow from person-to-person, allowing them to take turns stomping on the appropriate arrows to beat the game. I was thrilled to see the problem-solving, ingenuity, collaboration, and the determination these student exhibited.

Tomorrow's job market certainly won't care whether a student knows how to play Tetris, or if they have memorized the degrees in a right angle, or even if they keep their pointer fingers on J and F when typing. However, what they will value is the confidence, collaboration, problem solving skills, and ingenuity that students gain when using and working with technology in interesting, yet purposeful ways. As adults, we use technology so often that for many of us, it has lost that sparkle of being exciting. For my students, technology allows them to create, collaborate, communicate, problem-solve, and dream just a little deeper. I sincerely hope that my students will continue to develop these qualities and skills throughout their lives, even as the world and the job market continue to evolve at an incredibly fast pace.

Watch one student play Tetris below!

#TechCrushTuesday Tetris from Dee Hwang on Vimeo.

Fredericksburg Academy is a private school in Fredericksburg, Virginia, serving students aged three-years through twelfth grade.