The mission of the Lower School is to enable students to experience academic success in a nurturing environment. Teachers facilitate critical thinking skills and empower students by teaching organizational and study skills. In grades three through five, teachers challenge students with developmentally appropriate learning experiences that build upon previously learned academic skills and concepts. Students have frequent opportunities for individual study, cooperative learning in small groups, and whole class activities. Varied teaching strategies meet individual needs, and accommodation is provided for learning differences when appropriate.
The Lower School is comprised of third, fourth, and fifth grade classes that are self-contained with one teacher for each. The Lower School classrooms are located in Waddell and Thomas Halls; students travel to other classrooms for Spanish, art, music, dance and physical education.
Lower School students have an eight-period day. Two recess periods give children opportunities to interact with other age groups. The core curriculum consists of language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and Spanish. Additional areas of focus include art, music, computer, library, dance and physical education. The program allows for enriched, cross-curricular learning experiences throughout the year.
The language arts program advances students in grammar and handwriting skills. They explore literature through creative writing, and cross-curricular compositions. Students continue to develop their ability to organize their ideas into longer pieces of writing, thereby enhancing writing process skills. The reading focus shifts from being series-based to literature-based. Reading instruction focuses less on basic decoding and more on the interpretation of the literature. Research skills are sharpened to help students become more independent in their preparation and presentation of oral and written reports and projects.
The Lower School math curriculum incorporates problem-solving into each unit of study. Students are challenged to analyze and synthesize information. From third through fifth grades, students are prepared with strong basic foundations in all operations and are encouraged to use critical thinking skills with practical, realistic applications. Teachers use a variety of instructional approaches that enable students with different learning abilities to be successful.
Multiplication is a major focus for third grade and is the foundation for students’ introduction to multiple-digit multiplication and long division in fourth grade. Students in the fifth grade are challenged with more advanced operations with fractions and extensive use of word problems. “Math for Today” and “Minute Math” are used regularly to reinforce basic facts in the program at these levels.
The third grade social studies program examines the motivations and experiences of important explorers, pioneers of the 1800’s, and early Greek and Roman peoples, with an emphasis on geography. Students also study basic principles of democratic government and economics. Fourth grade focuses on the history of Virginia, from settlement to the present day. Students gain an appreciation for how the state’s history provided a foundation for colonization, independence, and a representative government. The fifth grade begins to study the foundation of ancient civilizations and the roots of related world views. The content focuses on pre-history to the Classical Age. Hands-on experiences in projects and field trips enhance the experience at each level. Cooperative planning integrates co-curricular subjects into the core curriculum.
Lower School students expand their scientific knowledge of life, physical, and earth sciences from group exploration and experimentation in third grade to more advanced investigation using the Scientific Method in fourth and fifth grade labs and projects. Enrichment programs are provided both on and off campus for students to recognize, understand, and learn how to preserve both our own ecosystem in the Chesapeake Bay and environments around the world.
Foreign language is presented and expanded in third through fifth grade with a variety of presentation techniques. Initially, words and pictures, as well as verbal repetition help students to be introduced to Spanish. By fourth grade, students are expected to recognize, understand, and repeat phrases and sentences. The curriculum continues to expand in fifth grade with repetition and expansion of vocabulary and sentence structure.
Computer class in the Lower School program enriches students with a basic understanding of technology and keyboarding skills. Students begin with an overview of computer-related vocabulary and simple programming skills which become increasingly more complex through the years. Weekly use and application of the skills is enhanced with cross-curricular exploration.
Lower School students enjoy art twice each week. The children receive instruction in a variety of art techniques with a multitude of ideas for creativity. Students are encouraged to be organized, to follow directions, and to think creatively. Music instruction is also provided twice weekly. In third through fifth grades, students explore rhythm and melody using instruments and find individual talents in their own voices and pleasure in a group chorus. Musical presentations encourage family interest and involvement and allow students to prepare and experience community performances in a wide variety of settings.
Third grade participates in physical education three days a week. Fourth and fifth graders have a combined class four times a week. Skill development and teamwork, in addition to physical fitness, are reinforced and enriched through intramural activities. Fourth and fifth grades participate in a soccer and basketball play day with two area independent schools. Numbers permitting, some fifth grade students may be eligible to compete with the Middle School. teams.
The Character Education Program uses teachers and peers as models for good behavior and creates positive learning experiences through assemblies, sports competitions, and classroom cooperative learning. At the third through fifth grade levels, teachers challenge students to exemplify good character traits.
The Student Council Association (SCA) is introduced at the Lower School level. The president and vice president are elected from the fifth grade class, and the secretary and treasurer may be chosen from third through fifth. Students participate in the nomination process through teacher-approved applications and student written platforms, which are presented orally to the Division. An adult supervisor oversees the weekly meeting and assists officers in making appropriate decisions for organizing community projects and social events. In addition, a class representative is chosen from each grade to participate in the SCA. Students are involved in organized community service projects to provide clothing and food for the less fortunate. During the holidays, students share cards, presents, and songs with the residents of a local assisted living facility.