Lower School (Nursery, Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten)
Associate Dean of Children's Programs Laura Guarino with the 4/5s
The Lower School consists of five classrooms on the second floor: one 3/4s class, two 4/5s classes and two 5/6s classes. The physical space, equipment and materials serve to meet the needs of young children. The program emphasizes concrete experience (e.g., block construction, cooking, trips) as vehicles for learning. A music teacher, Spanish teacher, librarian and movement teacher work with each group.
Curriculum in the Lower School
An educational approach that addresses the entire emotional, social, physical and intellectual being.
The philosophy and practice in the School for Children begins with the idea that children are makers of meaning through their interactions in the human world. As such, social studies serves as the core interdisciplinary curriculum in the Lower School. Teachers integrate concepts and skills from the other academic areas within children's daily experiential work with materials and each other. In the tradition of Bank Street's progressive origins, which emphasize the importance of active engagement in the world around us, the program addresses two major themes: (1) the study of human life as it presents itself from moment to moment, e.g., sharing, working together cooperatively, resolving conflicts; and (2) the study of the connections and relationships necessary for physical and psychological survival in the world around them.
Literacy is integrated across the curricula in conjunction with social studies, art, music, movement, science and math. Picture books feature prominently in various areas of the classroom and embody children's interests and ongoing investigations. Books also reflect the many cultures represented in the classroom, school and city. Every week, children enjoy time in the library, during which the librarian reads to them and helps them choose books to bring home.
Concrete and active experiences in math provide children with a solid foundation from which, at an older age, they can build an understanding of abstract mathematical ideas. From the earliest years, we strive to ensure that children continue to develop and enjoy mathematical experiences rooted in their lives.
Lower School teachers encourage children to develop an attitude of inquiry and respect for their natural and physical environment. Science is integrated into the daily classroom life. Children investigate, manipulate, discuss, record and predict based on their observations on trips or classroom work. They explore how organisms change over time, cause-and-effect relationships and relationships between form and function.
In the Lower School, the children are exposed to meaningful interaction in Spanish from a native Spanish speaker. Learning the language happens organically as the teacher motivates the students to communicate, without worrying about the form of their utterances. The Spanish teacher works with children in different centers of the classroom, reads stories to the whole group, works with children in small groups, and works together with the music teacher to sing songs in Spanish. Teachers in the Lower School integrate Spanish into the ongoing classroom program. This necessitates a high degree of collaboration between the Spanish teacher and the classroom teachers. The Spanish teacher will connect themes that students are learning about in their respective classrooms to Spanish whenever possible. When young children learn Spanish in a playful and integrated way, they easily acquire vocabulary and simple phrases.
Art & Shop
In the Lower School, painting, drawing, clay, collage, construction, block building and woodworking are the basic materials in every classroom. Classroom teachers plan a sequence of experiences to support each child's individual development. They motivate children either individually or in a group by asking questions that help them focus on the process of making art. Beginning with the 3/4s, young children investigate and explore the sensuous nature of these materials. Soon they learn to control these explorations and make distinct shapes, patches of color and lines. Subsequently, children are able to integrate shapes, lines, and colors into a whole design, an expressive arrangement of visual-graphic elements. In the 4/5s and 5/6s, children discover that this artistic vocabulary can be used to create representational symbols of importance to them, such as themselves, people, animals, houses, vehicles, and plants. Through these planned and repeated experiences, children gain skills in the control of the material and in the use of tools.
The Lower School music program builds on the spontaneous musical instincts of young children. Musical experiences happen in three forms: singing, dancing and playing instruments. Each class, either in a whole group or a half group, move to music, learn songs and singing games, and play percussion instruments. Once a week, there is singing assembly to which parents are welcome. The Spanish language teacher works closely with the music teacher in planning and sharing the song curriculum either in classrooms or during assembly. In late spring, children participate in a Lower School field day in Riverside Park, where they dance and sing with their families.
Lower School students build their listening, discussion, and book selection skills during their scheduled and voluntary visits to the library with their teachers. They learn how to ask for help, about library etiquette, how to take care of shared resources, safety rules, and which books are real and not real. By the time they are in the 5/6s, students feel confident in their ability to find information about those topics that interest them or support their inquiry and work in their classrooms.
Movement and Physical Education
Young children experience the world physically as they begin to explore with their senses and get to know what their bodies can do. In movement, gym class, on deck, or in the park, children utilize many opportunities to explore and expand their physical capacities. Curriculum for the youngest children involves experiences that orient them in space as they learn the art of letting go, reigning in, and controlling their bodies. In physical education classes, the introduction of games provides a foundation for later, more elaborate team-oriented games. There are many games with simple rules that are aimed especially at the younger students in this age range. Gymnastics and tumbling provide excellent contexts for individual development. All of these activities emphasize both repetition and variations of basic movements in order to give children the practice they need to refine and sharpen skills.