Multiage Learning

Children learn and mature in different ways, at different paces. Intentional blending of developmental stages within a classroom enhances each child's growth.
-High Meadows School Guiding Principle


High Meadows co-founder Jody Holden believed in the power of multiage classrooms from the school's inception, and research strongly supported this belief. High Meadows first classrooms in 1973 were made up of three, four, and five-year-olds moving between two classrooms. As High Meadows grew, the school continued its commitment to multiage learning and created several different grade level configurations through the years.

Multiage classrooms support children by their abilities rather than just their numerical age. Originally adapted from the British Infant Schools model, a multiage classroom offers a sense of family with “elders” and “youngers” helping one another. The younger students have role models for behavior and academic challenges. The elder students have the opportunity to be teachers and guides. Together they boost each other’s self-confidence and communication skills. Multiage classes allow our co-teachers to build strong relationships with each student, and to identify unique areas for growth and opportunity for each. Teachers facilitate opportunity for additional intellectual challenge through activities and assignments that extend and deepen students' knowledge in a setting not restricted by "grade-level" material.

Within a multi-age classroom, students participate in their own democratic society in which they are active and necessary participants. Students not only benefit from the academic challenges of an integrated curriculum, but also the growth in character that comes along with developing new skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, collaboration, empathy, and leadership.

Read/Download our Multi-Age Learning Primer: How It's Different and Why That Matters


What are the benefits of multiage classrooms for students?


  • Multiage classrooms establish a community that lasts for more than a year, promoting advanced social-emotional skills and maturity.
  • They de-emphasize age and competition, enabling students to view themselves as capable learners.
  • Learning is considered along a continuum of sophistication, and students are taught and assessed according to their developmental stage rather than age or designation.
  • As can happen in single-grade classrooms, there is no "teaching to the middle in a multiage setting.
  • Younger Students...
    • get to know in-class mentors who guide them in a family-like environment.
    • see the curricular challenges that lie ahead without being preoccupied with too many transitions to new classrooms.
    • have the opportunity to work with elder students who are often at a higher achievement level.
  • Elder Students...
    • experience opportunities to exercise leadership, helping them to develop social maturity and a strong self-concept.
    • reflect on their own progress as they observe younger peers, empowering them as self-directed learners.
    • benefit from spending two years in the same classroom, often with the same teachers. Uninterrupted, extended time with the same students allows teachers to continuously monitor conceptual and skill development and design more sophisticated and complex learning experiences for students.
Do the Elder students "lose out" academically in a multiage classroom?


Absolutely not! In fact, there is compelling evidence that elder students may even benefit the most.

Multiage teachers constantly monitor the instructional needs of the students and focus instruction on student stages of learning rather than on grade-level curriculum. This continuous assessment allows teachers to plan to specific support and extensions based on daily observations over time. Elder students are stretched toward more complicated and sophisticated thinking and skill development. Additionally, High Meadows' inquiry approach to learning often involved open-ended activities which can be explored in different levels of depth, quality, and complexity. A teacher may pull together a small group of students of a similar achievement level for instruction in a specific area regardless of their age. At times, the students are working independently, making choices from a menu that includes variety in the level of difficulty.

Staying with the same teachers for more than one year gives students a sense of security and confidence in their learning. Because Elders understand expectations and develop a strong bond of trust with their teachers, they work harder to produce high-quality work. There is also adequate time for parents and teachers to develop a strong sense of partnership in the education of their children. Everyone wins when there is a "family" of learners.


Why is Eighth Grade the only single-grade classroom?


Our Eighth Grade year serves as a capstone experience for students. Focusing attention toward leadership and strong academics, Eighth Graders are prepared to transition from High Meadows into a successful high school experience. To learn more about our student outcomes, Click Here.





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