Lower School Academics
The curriculum of the Lower School is designed to provide a well-balanced, integrated program that emphasizes the daily teaching of reading, oral and written language, mathematics, and social studies. Throughout the Lower School, classic children's literature, texts, and non-text trade books, both fiction and nonfiction, are part of the reading program. In pre-kindergarten through first grade language arts, literature-based reading strategies are incorporated into a program that has a strong skills-building component. In second through fourth grades, students are actively engaged in whole group and small group discussions to expand their abilities to think analytically and verbally express an understanding of the text. The Junior Great Books program is used in first through third grades to increase the students’ critical thinking and analytical skills for reading comprehension through carefully guided discussions. In fourth grade, students are challenged by literature with increased expectations for expository and creative writing across the curriculum.
All students have a weekly library lesson that allows them to explore literature and borrow books from the collection. As students progress, they learn library skills that allow them to use the library more efficiently for research and reading pleasure.
The integration of reading and writing skills with social studies concepts builds as the students advance in the Lower School. Research and report writing skills are taught, and students enhance them with the use of technology in second, third, and fourth grade. Students have many opportunities to speak publicly in oral presentations at each grade level.
Mathematics is taught with hands-on lessons as a foundation for more abstract work in the subsequent grades. Manipulatives and a variety of games are used at each grade level. Pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students begin with counting, sorting, and number games, which continue to expand and advance at all levels. First and second graders gain an understanding of the vocabulary and skills that prepare them for higher-level math. Basic facts are emphasized, as well as mental computation and problem-solving.
Students attend science classes twice a week, taught by a science specialist in a dedicated classroom. Thematic units that cover physical, life, and Earth sciences are coordinated with grade-level teachers. Science resources include specialized equipment and technology, guest speakers, and science-based field trips. The Children's Courtyard Garden is integrated into lessons, which adds a rich dimension to the life science curriculum.
Spanish is taught at all Lower School grade levels. Students attend class twice each week. Building vocabulary, aural development, and cultural appreciation are the main goals of the program.
The physical education program is a vibrant component of the Lower School students’ education. Led by highly trained specialists, physical education classes meet from one to five times a week, depending on the grade level. In fall and spring, students in grades kindergarten through grade four are instructed in swimming. The gym, track, and field activities round out their program the rest of the year. The fall Swim Exhibition and the spring Track and Field Day highlight students' skills and confidence.
Visual arts and music programs enhance the students' artistic capabilities and encourage creativity and critical thinking. In the spring, the Arts Walk is a showcase to celebrate and appreciate students’ artwork. In music, the Fall Concert and Grandparents’ and Special Friends’ Day performances give students opportunities to demonstrate their talents in the performing arts. Music and art classes meet twice per week. Each grade level also has its own performance or special event.
The Lower School technology program serves students in kindergarten through the fourth grade. Integration of technology is the underlying philosophy of the program. Communication between the classroom teachers and the lab instructor helps coordinate activities that reinforce skills presented in the classroom. Grade levels meet each week for formal technology instruction. In addition, teachers can schedule times for special projects and enrichment.
Teachers often use thematic units that integrate music, art, technology, science, foreign language, and the library. For example, the third graders study the environment, and projects include nonfiction literature studies, computer skills, art projects, and science experiments. The music teacher works with the classroom teacher to create a musical production, Circles of the Earth, to share with the community. It is followed by an Invention Fair using recycled materials, which is attended by Lower School student body and parents. The first grade teachers coordinate a play with the Spanish teacher, and the librarian leads Junior Great Books groups to support the classroom teachers.