Lower School

Grades K-4The Lower School Experience

Our youngest children arrive at school with a natural desire to make sense of their world and to find meaning in their learning through opportunities to investigate, inquire, experiment, and exchange ideas. They learn best when activities are purposeful and when there are opportunities for choice in an environment with high expectations. The Lower School provides a warm, friendly, and invigorating environment where children from kindergarten through fourth grade can learn and grow to be confident and curious learners. 

We are committed to diversity and embrace a culture in which there is comfort in noticing and talking about differences, as well as in recognizing the feelings and wishes we all share. Empathy, self-control, cooperation, respect and caring for one another are the main threads of the fabric of who we are and what we hope to instill in young children.

List of 4 items.

  • ~170

    Naturalist Journeys per year K-4
  • 16

    Kindergarten Class Size
  • 18

    Grades 1-4 Class Size
  • 4

    Subject-specific LS Learning Specialists

What guides our work? LS Educational Philosophy

  • The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum. 
  • How children learn is as important as what they learn; process and content go hand in hand. 
  • The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction. 
  • To be successful academically and socially, children need a set of social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. 
  • Knowing the children we teach individually, culturally, and developmentally is as important as knowing the content we teach. 
  • Knowing the families of the children we teach and working with them as partners is essential to children's education. 
  • How the adults at school work together is as important as their individual competence; lasting change begins with the adult community.

Life in Lower SchoolCuriosity In & Beyond the Classroom

Introducing New Subjects & IdeasEnrichments

Our youngest scholars benefit from an engaging rotation of enrichment courses and enjoy PE daily. In doing so, Lower School students are introduced to new subjects, explore new ideas, and gain a greater understanding of the world around them. Enrichment courses generate enthusiasm for what students can expect in other divisions, while also offering inquisitive young minds a chance to dig into the imaginative thinking integral to learning in Lower School.

List of 6 items.

  • Art

    Observation and creation are key in Lower School art. Students' natural inquisitiveness is encouraged as young artists examine the objects and events of their lives then use various tools, processes, and media to communicate their observations and ideas with others. Through these explorations of the visual world, students gain a greater understanding of their classmates and the world around them. 
  • Library

    Students enter a world of imagination and endless information when they enter Hassenfeld Library [link to library page]. In Lower School, students familiarize themselves with the process of checking out books and seeking out information during enrichment time. Each week, they take home books of choice as they develop a love for reading and strengthen literacy skills. 
  • Music

    In Lower School music, students embark on an immersive exploration of all the elements of music. They sing, dance, listen, perform, and create while learning to express themselves in unique ways. Experiences such as Star of the Week, Holiday Songfest, Kindergarten Family and Friends Day, and Celebration Days expose children to a wide repertoire of musical knowledge relevant to their lives.
  • Physical Education

    In daily PE classes, Lower School students develop a spirit of cooperation while being introduced to numerous games and activities. Students develop fine motor skills and lay a foundation for future athletic pursuits through swimming, biking, rock climbing, relays, team sports, and much more.
  • Spanish

    Weekly Spanish classes for lower school students provide the opportunity to hear and speak the Spanish language, while also learning about Spanish-speaking cultures. Students in upper elementary grades also have Spanish morning meetings in their homeroom classes, led by the Spanish teacher.  
  • Technology

    Lower School students are introduced to technology in developmentally appropriate ways beginning in kindergarten. Weekly classes in the lower school technology lab are designed to familiarize students with various devices and programs, while also teaching the importance of the responsible and balanced use of technology. As students enter the upper elementary grades, technology is also integrated into classroom studies and projects.

Lower School Leadership

List of 10 members.

  • Photo of Amy Woodson

    Amy Woodson 

    Head of Lower School
    Georgia State University - Ed.S.
    Mercer University - M.Ed.
    Berry College - BS
    At USN since: 2014
  • Photo of Felicia Holst

    Felicia Holst 

    Assistant Head of Lower School
    University of South Carolina - MAT
    Columbia College - BA
    At USN since: 2019
  • Photo of Margaret Stewart

    Margaret "Annie" Stewart 

    Administrative Assistant, Lower School
    At USN since: 2019
  • Photo of Trish Buckner

    Trish Buckner 

    Lower School Counselor
    Cleveland State University - MEd
    Baldwin Wallace University - BS
    At USN since: 2022
  • Photo of Kari Jansen

    Kari Jansen 

    Lower School Student Support Coordinator
    Lesley University - MEd Creative Arts in Learning
    College of Charleston - BS
    At USN since: 2016
  • Photo of Iloire Nye

    Iloire Nye 

    Lower School Math Specialist
    Bank Street College - MSEd
    Syracuse University - BS
    At USN since: 2021
  • Photo of Deborah Roth

    Deborah "Debbie" Roth 

    Lower School Literacy Specialist
    (615) 321-8000
    Vanderbilt University - MEd
    University of Kentucky - BA
    At USN since: 1984
  • Photo of Caitlin Tisch

    Caitlin Tisch 

    Lower School Learning Specialist
    (615) 321-8000
    Vanderbilt University - M.Ed Special Education
    Indiana University - BS
    University of Kansas - Certificate- Autism Spectrum Disorders
    At USN since: 2022
  • Photo of Aviva Wasserman

    Aviva Wasserman 

    Lower School Assessment Manager
    (615) 277-7371
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill - Ph.D.
    Harvard University - A.B.
    At USN since: 2006
  • Photo of Roderick White

    Roderick White 

    Director, Office of Diversity and Community Life
    615 277-7480
    Trevecca Nazarene University - BA
    Nashville School of Law - J.D.
    At USN since: 2015
USN Mission: 
University School of Nashville models the best educational practices. In an environment that represents the cultural and ethnic composition of Metropolitan Nashville, USN fosters each student’s intellectual, artistic, and athletic potential, valuing and inspiring integrity, creative expression, a love of learning, and the pursuit of excellence.