Our academic program at Spence prepares young scholars who are confident in themselves and capable of exercising their strengths within a diverse school community. They learn creative, emotional and social competencies to address complex issues. At the heart of Spence’s mission to prepare students is our understanding that students need skills to navigate and bridge differences in our complex world.

How does this learning happen? Every day, students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 practice being in a diverse community, being open to each other, and being respectful of each other’s differences. Academic excellence requires being able to read interpersonal dynamics, to anticipate different approaches, and to use careful judgment and full-hearted curiosity when entering into conversations. Students also learn that successful problem-solving depends on teamwork, cultivating relationships, and developing and drawing insight from multiple talents and perspectives.

Lower School

In K-4, Spence students learn the foundational skills to thrive as part of the community. Teachers draw from a pedagogical approach called responsive classroom, which emphasizes the strong link between social and emotional learning and academic success. They focus on students developing positive identities and interpersonal communications skills necessary to be strong community members. Students become proficient in describing themselves and their feelings and move quickly beyond simple questions about physical appearance to examine more complex aspects of identity—those things one cannot see, such as preferences or values.

As students develop the capacity for abstract thinking, they begin to further their understanding of fairness, justice and action. Throughout their five years in Lower School, students develop the mindful practices of understanding themselves and others that give them competency to thrive in and outside of school.

Middle School

In Middle School, Spence students have the opportunity to develop further their voices while expanding their learning about the diversity of experiences. They begin taking more active responsibility for their community, whether it is through planning their advising group field trips or through managing the Middle School food composting program. They also begin to take more ownership over their chosen co-curricular activities, which includes clubs and affinity groups.

In classrooms across the Middle School, students practice key skills of civic engagement, including empathy and active listening, taking perspective and speaking truth, all while cultivating intellectual and interpersonal curiosity. As Middle School progresses, students learn to account for the histories of social groups that came before them to deepen their understanding of social relationships. They develop the knowledge and language to self-advocate and to approach conflict respectfully and responsibly. 

The Advising program in Middle School draws from responsive classroom practices and is committed to building student-to-student affiliation, advisor-advisee support, social/emotional skills, and community connection. Advising complements the integrated classroom work on equity and identity, while also incorporating service learning. Advising is also complemented by the work done in optional affinity and identity groups including MS Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA), MS Students of Color Affinity (SOCA), MS Jewish Culture Club (JCC)

Upper School

In the Upper School, students continue their skill development for strong engagement through deeper learning about prejudice, stereotyping and bias, and they gain the facilitation skills to work thoughtfully to disrupt these. Students are trained in facilitation skills, and many take on peer leadership roles to build an affirmative school culture and climate at Spence. For some, this means mentoring Middle School students. For others, it translates to sharing current events and key news stories with fellow Upper Schoolers. Many join the wider community of conversations with peers across the country. Students participate in regional and national conferences on anti-bias leadership and community and civic engagement, including the Student Diversity Leadership Conference and the White Privilege Conference. Student-led clubs serve as important, ongoing opportunities for community leadership in Upper School.

Student-led Affinity and Identity Groups and Clubs Include:

• Afro-Latina Alliance at Spence (ALAS) 
• Asian Affinity
• Banana Splits (a group for students from separated or divorced families) 
• Diversity of Thought/Spence Initiatives for Diversity 
• Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) 
• Jewish Culture Club (JCC) 
• Let’s Erase the Stigma (LETS) 
• Multiracial Affinity 
• Spence Alliance for Hispanic/Latinx Student Affairs (SAHLSA) 
• Spence Multicultural Awareness Coalition (SMAC) 
• Spence Women’s Action Network (SWAN) 

ABOUT US section

“Let the education we’ve been gifted here at Spence guide us as we make those important life decisions. We have all grown in courage, competence and maturity, while celebrating our differences in religion, skin tone, who and what we love, socioeconomic status and political views. We have shown that we can operate in unity, which is not the same as uniformity nor unanimity. We don’t all have to sing the same note—like a choir, we are called to sing many notes in harmony, which allows us each to contribute our unique tones to create something beautiful.”