Upper School Environment

The Prepared Environment is an essential aspect of our pedagogy and curriculum at every level, specifically designed to meet the changing needs of your student as he grows and matures.


In Upper School, we give your student the space she needs — literally! Set amidst 40 acres of forest, streams, and wildlife, MSR’s Brier Creek Campus provides the ideal environment for students in the Third Plane of Development. Our natural surroundings provide expansive space for experiential learning and quiet reflections as your student performs scientific field studies, raises her environmental awareness, loses herself in a great book, stages an outdoor performance, or participates in community service.

Meanwhile, indoors, our Upper School forms the lively new hub of activity on our Brier Creek Campus. Our students inhabit and help create vibrant, start-up-like workspaces — classrooms, labs, and other collaborative areas — that support the natural flow of focused learning and vigorous discussion within and beyond the walls of the classroom.


Your upper schooler doesn’t just need physical space, he needs a social space that allows plenty of room for him to broaden his sense of identity and his sphere of influence, where he can express his opinions and ask hard questions, master healthy collaboration and participate in spirited competition with many different kinds of people.

At MSR, with a student-teacher ratio of 10:1, an average class size of 14 – 16, and a target cohort size of 75 students, we strive to balance the variety, diversity, and opportunities that greater numbers allow with the mentorship, free space, tailored learning experiences, and personal connections that only smaller class sizes can ensure. A well-balanced cohort means your student develops the capacity to appreciate and collaborate with different kinds of people, since it precludes the development of look-, act-, and think-alike cliques so common in larger school environments. And not only does your student develop close relationships with an incredibly diverse group of peers, he also connects personally with his teachers who are his mentors, advisors, and friends.

In other words, your upper school student is surrounded by a community of adults and peers that meets his need for belonging, inspires him toward ever greater independence and personal discovery, and supports him as he navigates his relationships and growing academic responsibilities.


Perhaps the most vital aspect of our learning environment, palpable the moment you arrive on campus, might also be the most difficult to describe. It’s not something you can easily point to: a place, a program, a policy. Rather, it’s a mindset — a community-wide belief in the capacity of our students to set and achieve their own goals; seek out big, meaningful challenges; both fail and succeed spectacularly and safely; and thus learn lessons so deeply that they inform their lives forever.

Over time in this environment, through both practice and osmosis, your student develops the MSR mindset, too. She learns to approach every challenge first with the assumption that she can do it — design a new app, research and write a biography, invest money in stocks, interpret an Old English poem, run 400 meters in under a minute (whatever “it” is) — with an ever growing sense of her strengths and how she learns best.

She may not know how yet, but she knows from experience that she’s capable of learning how to do anything, that with hard work and persistence no problem is too big to take on, and that grappling with complex, interesting problems is part of what brings joy and meaning to work and life.