The Merriam School operates on a set of educational principles that have been developed over years of discussion and practice. Learn about these foundational principles in the Merriam School Handbook. What we teach in the classroom derives directly from these foundations in conjunction with the curriculum requirements of the Acton Public School System

Organizational Structures for Students

Class Looping: At Merriam, we loop classes together for a two-year period with the same teacher (first graders stay together with the same teacher for second grade; third graders stay together with the same teacher for fourth grade; fifth graders stay with the same teacher for sixth grade.)

Class Groupings: The Merriam School believes that the development of a safe and supportive classroom community provides the anchor for children's academic and social emotional success in school.

The staff works closely and thoughtfully together at the end of each school year to structure classes for the following fall. Serious consideration is given to the following:

 Grouping children with a comfortable peer (a peer with whom they work well!)
 Balancing classes with respect to numbers of students, gender, special education neeeds, and academic, social, and emotional strengths and weaknesses.

Family Groupings: At Merriam School we value community. Supported by parents and teachers, all students are organized into mixed-age groupings. Students participate in the same family group (whenever possible) throughout their Merriam career. Embarking on all-school field trips, participating in core value work and experiencing school theme day celebrations, the children develop and deepen ongoing relationships which foster a strong sense of community. As students advance through the grades, they take on more responsibility.

Organizational Structures For Teachers

Classroom Assistants: Assistants are key supports in every classroom. The prime function of all fund-raising activities and efforts at Merriam School is to provide teachers with classroom assistants. Assistants work an average of 18 hours a week in a variety of ways, including: supporting project-based curriculum, working with small groups and individuals, supervising daily lunch and recess, and organizing materials.

Grade Level Meetings: Teachers on the same grade level meet weekly for an hour and a half on Friday (during the school day) to collaboratively develop meaningful curriculum, including projects.

Faculty Meetings: Merriam faculty meet regularly according to contract guidelines. Meetings are opportunities to discuss current teaching and learning topics of interest.

Triads: Triads is a peer mentoring model that consists of groups of three teachers (from across grades and disciplines) who support and observe one other during the teaching day on a monthly basis.

Organizational Structures For Parents, Teachers and Students

All School Meetings: Monday mornings and on some Friday afternoons, the whole school gathers together to start and end the week as a community. Students and teachers showcase curriculum via poems, plays, performances and other presentations.

Project-based Learning

Project-based learning is a teacher-generated approach to curriculum that is organized, planned, integrated, hands-on and authentic. A project may be short term or long term. The Merriam School staff believes that experiential, hands-on studies provide the richest opportunities for the development of students' skills, self confidence, sense of responsibility, and enthusiasm for learning while supporting various learning styles. For this reason, whenever appropriate, the Merriam School offers a project based curriculum. All students participate in a variety of projects over the course of a year. Math, science language arts, social studies, and the arts are integrated into interesting, challenging projects.

Much instruction is done within the contexts of these projects. Other explicit instruction and experiences are provided as well, to introduce, reinforce, complement, and enhance student learning. Examples of Projects around Merriam School are provided on this site.

What is a project?

"A project is a interdisciplinary study of a particular topic that one or more children undertake... Work on a project might extend over a period of days or weeks, depending on the children's ages and the nature of the topic... Projects usually involve children in advanced planning and in various activities that might require several days or weeks of sustained effort. This approach emphasizes the teacher's role in encouraging children to interact with people, objects, and the environment in ways that have personal meaning to them. As a way of learning, it emphasizes children's active participation in their own studies... An overall aim of this approach is to cultivate the life of the young child's mind. In its fullest sense, the term mind includes not only knowledge and skills, but also emotional, moral, and aesthetic sensibilities." (Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach) by Lilian Katz and Sylvia Chard. 

Examples of Projects

  • Knights, castles and medieval studies in kindergarten
  • Study of Japan in first grade
  • Life Cycles in second grade
  • Farm to factory in third grade
  • Native Americans in fourth grade
  • Transport systems in fifth grade
  • Ancient Civilizations in sixth grade

Service Learning at Merriam

Service Learning provides students with meaningful work to deepen their understanding of community and help them experience a sense of commitment, responsibilitiy, and pride.

Service Learning takes the form of school jobs that are in the service of the school community, or it takes the form of activities/projects that serve a larger community outside of or beyond the school context.  A few examples of Service Learning through school jobs include: running the school store, recycling in the school, leading the pledge of allegiance, delivering mail from the office to the classrooms, and publishing the student community newsletter, The Merriam Monthly.

Service Learning outside of the school might include: painting flower pots for Senior Citizens, collecting pennies for "Penniesfor Peace" program, and collecting unwanted Halloween candy for the U.S. soldiers and people in homeless shelters.