Academics

The Academic Experience at VES

At VES, students love to learn.

The VES academic curriculum delivers all of the courses you expect in English, History, Science, Math and World Languages, as well as fields of study that reflect trends in globalization and technology, equipping students with the latest skills in computer science, multimedia production, robotics, world languages, global studies and more.

And then we stretch further. We believe in delivering interdisciplinary programming that drives creativity, innovation, critical thinking, emotional intelligence and so much more. Our faculty use a variety of teaching and learning styles to engage students—from project-based and place-based learning to Harkness discussions and guided inqiury, to experiential learning and design thinking—skills critical to success in today's world. 

Classes are small—the average size is 12—to encourage contributions of all students. We say there is no back row at VES.

Throughout the year, students showcase personal examples of learning inside and outside of the classroom to their peers, our faculty and staff, parents, the board of trustees and our broader Lynchburg community.

Take a look at just a sampling of student learning experiences.



CREATING SAVVY ENTREPRENEURS

With Shark Tank investors intently listening, three entrepreneurial student teams have pitched their product innovations and new academic building designs, hoping to win the sharks' confidence and financial backing. These students are members of VES’ Science and Math Advanced Consortium, a senior-level, interdisciplinary, student-driven program that teaches the fundamentals of advanced science and math, while focusing on critical thinking, design thinking for innovation, research, collaboration and presentation. Students live into real-world collaborative work experiences and are developing viable solutions for the marketplace.


STUDENT WORLD LANGUAGE FILMS AT THE OSCARS

Language students at all levels partner within their class to create original short films. The projects involve script writing in the target language, costume and set design, acting and video production. The projects culminate in Oscars Night, where the VES community and outside native language-speaking judges comes together to view and vote on the nine movies. It’s a night of exhibition and celebrating our culture of creativity, innovation, collaboration, as students also demonstrate their command of spoken language.



OPENING OUR MINDS TO THE WORLD

Globally minded VES students rise early for the opportunity to connect with peer students who live in Gaza, Palestine. With all eyes affixed to the video screen, students on both ends of the world ask questions and listen intently to learn about cultural differences and similarities. They discuss the environment, favorite foods, where they travel, what the schools and classes are like, what they do for fun, religious aspects of their daily lives, politics and more. Our VES partnership with the Global Nomads Youth Talk Program is just one of many global initiatives at VES that enable students to build cross-cultural understanding, empathy and respect, while becoming genuinely engaged global citizens.



STORYTELLING WITH STORYCORPS

Freshmen participated in StoryCorps’ “The Great Thanksgiving Listen”—a national education project in which high school students capture contemporary U.S. oral history with elders. The interviews are archived at the American Folklife Center within the Library of Congress and on StoryCorps.me. To prepare for their work, VES students listened to compelling stories of people from all walks of life recorded by StoryCorps, then interviewed VES family members over the Thanksgiving holiday. Back on campus, students interviewed VES staff and members of our dining services and maintenance teams to better know the people that make up our VES community.



REACHING FURTHER THROUGH THE ADVANCED STUDIES PROGRAM

Students who have achieved the most advanced course in a discipline that VES offers and who want to explore a topic in greater depth often pursue VES’ Advanced Studies. Students selected through an application process pursue a topic of interest—most often interisciplinary, align with a faculty mentor, set their own deadlines and goals for their studies, and culminate their study with a presentation of their learning to the VES community. Topics have included:

  • Eradicating the Equality Gap: A Solution to Poverty in Zimbabwe (economics and social issues)
  • The Art of Home Renovation: Plan B for Better Living (aging in place and architecture)
  • The Bronte Sisters: A Feminist Perspective (social issues and literature)
  • The Development and Construction of a Bionic Exoskeletal Arm (science and technology)
  • The Matrix Inverted: An Exploration of Linear Algebra with Cryptography (math and coding)
  • Locas Mujeres: Feminism in Latin America and the Women Who Changed the World with Their Words (world language, literature, social issues)
  • English Boosters: A Study in Entrepreneurship (entrepreneurship, establishing an English language practice business for Chinese students studying for TOEFL)
  • Whistleblowing Cases and the Changing Role of Journalism (ethics, journalism, law, corporate communications)
  • Object Oriented Programming, and Team Based App Development (software engineering)
  • “To Reason Most Absurd”: A Particular Celebration of my Father’s Life (writing, storytelling)




EXPLORING ISSUES OF SOCIAL JUSTICE, EQUITY & INCLUSIVITY 

Each year, the VES community addresses an issue of social justice. Last year, our community explored issues of social and health equities and practiced civil discourse. The prior year, VES hosted a week of education, open dialogue and engaging activities focused on Islam, religious beliefs, global awareness and pluralism. This annual week-long program blends thought-provoking documentaries and discussion, integrated classroom learning, expert speakers and parent learning. Conversations such as these are what VES is all about—opening minds, knowledge-sharing and building understanding, and encouraging exploration, curiosity, civil discourse and critical thinking.

This year, our school hosted the first in an annual series of conversations on important topics that have shaped VES and our world. 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the integration of VES. Our Dare to Imagine a Better World Dialogue: Breaking Down Racial Barriers brought together more than 450 students, faculty, staff, parents and the Lynchburg community to listen, ask questions, learn and discuss solutions to complex issues covering race relations and inclusivity. The stimulating conversation was led by Mosi Secret, journalist reporting and writing for The New York Times Magazine and This American Life. Throughout the school day, Dr. Marvin Barnard '71 and Dr. Bill Alexander '71—Stouffer Scholars who joined our community beginning in 1967—along with Mr. Secret and the first black faculty member of VES—Hank Wilson—joined students in History and English classes and hosted lunch table discussions.

Leading up to this weekend of community dialogue, relevant topics and place-based learning that explored issues of race relations, inclusivity and equity were introduced into the History and English curricula, chapel talks, debate club topics, civil discourse opportunities and more.



ANTIGONE ON TRIAL

In an interdisciplinary program, tenth grade students put Antigone on trial for treason for betraying her country. English students read Sophocles’ tragedy, took on the roles of characters, attorneys and judge, and prepared persuasive arguments supported with evidence and logical analysis for trial proceedings. Government students studied the court system, judicial review and numerous court cases to serve as the jury responsible for determining Antigone’s fate. Placing themselves in the shoes of characters, students empathize with their character and put aside their personal biases. During the mock trial, both the prosecution and defense argued with such passion that students questioned their opinions. After deliberations, the jury’s verdict was guilty—different than the play’s outcome.



PAIDEIA CLASSES: ACTIVE LEARNING, SOCRATIC DIALOGUE

Our faculty conduct strategic learning days, with 20+ offerings from which students may choose. Called “Paideia” classes—Greek for “education”—these sessions give faculty the opportunity to teach topics beyond their core curriculum and students the chance to learn new information and gain new experiences in areas of interest. Classes range from the practical to the frivolous, may be held outdoors or inside the classroom, and may be conducted in English, Spanish, French or Chinese. Topics run the gamut. Examples include history of the macaron that includes baking the delectable treats, conversations about feminism, pottery and raku firing, improv, the culture and mythology of Ireland, building smart machines, the haka tribal dance, Star Struck: an Introduction to the Universe and many more.




A College Preparatory, Independent Boarding and Day School for Students in Grades 9-12
400 VES Road, Lynchburg, VA 24503 • 434.385.3600