The joy, excitement and hard work of learning radiate from Lower School classrooms—onto the walls of hallways and stairwells, onto the stage in the auditorium, into every corner of the school. We believe that children learn best in an atmosphere where they are applauded for taking risks and feel safe enough to make mistakes. Although there are goals for the mastery of skills in each grade, children are encouraged to take pride in their own progress, not in comparing themselves to others.
Rich curriculum allows integrated learning; ideas and skills flow from one subject area to another.
Because young children learn at different rates and in different ways, teachers use a variety of methods and materials; they may work on projects with a whole class, in small groups or individually. The rich curriculum allows them to integrate learning so that ideas and skills flow from one subject area to another, including science and the arts, which are taught by specialists outside the classroom and foreign languages, which are taught by native speakers in the classroom. With two co-teachers in every class, three reading specialists and two math specialists, teachers can monitor each child carefully and provide both enrichment and support when needed.
The core of Town’s reading program is children’s literature.
Teachers select prose and poetry, often related to the social studies theme, for the class to read and discuss together. Children read books they have chosen themselves with the teacher’s guidance. Lessons in phonics, vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension are based on this literature, and children are encouraged to respond creatively and thoughtfully to everything they read.
Lower School children are writing constantly.
From the first day of school, they keep journals, making entries to which their teachers respond. Writing is also fostered through stories, responses to books, research projects or assignments related to the social studies theme. Children learn the process of writing—editing, revising, publishing on the computer—as well as the mechanics of sentence structure and punctuation. They learn to discuss their own work as serious writers and to offer helpful criticism to their classmates as serious readers.
The goal of Town’s mathematics program is to develop children’s ability to think systematically and abstractly.
Throughout the grades teachers use concrete manipulative objects to help children internalize mathematical concepts. As children progress from operations with whole numbers and fractions to basic principles of volume, area and perimeter, they learn to apply their skills to a variety of problem-solving tasks—word problems, mental math, logic puzzles and games. Whether learning about time, money or weather patterns, the emphasis is always on applying skills to real life situations. Although accurate computation is always required, the emphasis is on estimation and the reasoning that underlies all mathematics.
Social Studies program focus on the family is compelling for children.
The focus of the social studies program throughout the Lower School - the family - is especially compelling for children, and its themes deepen and expand with their growing understanding. They move from a study of their own families and the structure and customs of different families today to the lives of Native Americans and family life in New Amsterdam or the old West. Finally, in the fourth grade study of immigration, children make the connection between their personal heritage and the shaping of this country by various ethnic groups, both contemporary and historic. Research, report writing skills, history, geography and map reading are all incorporated into this curriculum, as are many opportunities for artistic and dramatic projects and field trips.
Science program fosters curiosity through process of inquiry.
The science program fosters and focuses children’s natural curiosity by teaching them a process of inquiry. In a fully equipped science lab scaled to their size, children conduct their own experiments taught by a science specialist. They learn how to make hypotheses and test them, how to do careful observations, take measurements and keep records, and how to interpret unexpected results. The curriculum moves from a focus on plant and animal life and their own bodies in first grade to complicated subjects, such as electricity in Third grade and the solar system in Fourth, expanding and changing according to the children’s own interests and abilities.
Spanish is taught from First to Third grades in an immersion-based fashion, encouraging real-life use of the foreign language. Cooking and art activities, songs and games are used to bring different cultures to life in the classrooms. In Fourth grade students study French and Spanish, each for half of the year.
Technology is used throughout the curriculum.
From Smartboard presentations of core subjects in the classrooms to the second grade use of computers to teach music notation, technology in the Lower School is rarely taught in isolation but to enhance the teaching of other subjects. Third and Fourth graders come to the computer lab regularly to practice keyboarding, publish their own stories and do Internet research in social studies.
Conferences and reports give parents insight into their child's progress.
Progress Reports: Teachers meet with parents twice in November and March for formal conferences and send narrative reports to parents in December and June. Third and Fourth graders are included in the spring conferences as students learn to set their own goals with the guidance of their teachers.