Beginning & Lower School Curriculum

lower school students working in chinese class

Beginning and Lower School curriculum helps students build cognitive skills while also developing their physical, social-emotional, and intellectual selves. Students gain knowledge and skills necessary to be informed, participatory, and engaged community members.

Preschool

Social Emotional Learning informs all aspects of the preschool experience and is integrated throughout the curriculum. For preschoolers, this learning centers on the work they are doing to understand themselves and each other, and recognizing and celebrating differences and similarities. They improve their understanding of how to learn as individuals, and how to work with each other through discussion and collaboration.

By the end of the year, preschool students have skills to learn together as a group and to develop rewarding friendships. They have gained independence, an enthusiasm for learning, and social emotional skills to guide their personal choices and decision making.

In addition to the core curricular components of literacy, mathematics, and inquiry, students have many opportunities to learn about and practice group dynamics and community. In visual arts, they learn to be artists in a community space, and discover new ways to express themselves, their thinking, and their learning. Music classes focus on the musical community and group awareness, as children develop a disposition to musical learning through singing, beat, and movement. In PE/Wellness, preschoolers learn how to participate cooperatively in physical activities while developing skill, control, and coordination. Woodshop is a space where students engage in individual and collaborative projects, and develop understandings about process, safety, trial and error, and success.

The progress of preschool students is tracked with formal and informal assessments ahead of conference times, and narrative assessments that focus on the students’ social-emotional development. Preschool teachers constantly observe the children in their care, and engage in open and regular communication with families throughout the year.

Literacy Curriculum

Preschoolers build a foundation of literacy skills, including phonemic awareness, by using expressive and receptive language, developing an understanding of concepts of print, and beginning to recognize letters. They learn the value of words and develop confidence in themselves as pre-literate thinkers and doers.

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Mathematics Curriculum

Students in preschool build context for mathematical concepts with self-motivated inquiry and experiential learning, and with tools and materials they can use in mathematical ways. They begin to learn the language of mathematics, using names for numbers, shapes, and quantities.

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Inquiry

Preschool students practice inquiry to learn something new every day. They develop understandings about the process of inquiry; the skills to find answers by looking at books, asking experts, and using their senses, and the confidence to share out what they have learned.

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Experiential Learning

With encouragement and guidance from teachers, students identify their areas of interest, follow their inquiry, and learn by doing, as when they explore the wooded areas of campus to answers questions about the natural world. During Wonder Week, students pursue a big question together, such as What is an adventure?

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Kindergarten

In kindergarten, the work of Social Emotional Learning continues with an emphasis on self-awareness, self-management, and relationship skills, and students begin to develop the social awareness they need to thrive in a group setting. At the same time, they are becoming self-motivated in their learning, using resources to seek out information and develop skills.

By the end of the year, they have increased their ability to understand the emotions of others, recognize the impact of their actions on others, and take action to uphold kindness, safety, and fairness in their school community. Students identify as a reader, writer, and mathematician, and recognize that they are an active participant in the learning process.

Literacy, mathematics, and inquiry continue to be the core curricular components in kindergarten, with units focused on restorative justice, identity, life cycles, and wildlife. In Music, students can join music inquiry study groups that construct simple rhythm instruments and organize bands. Visual Arts provides students with new opportunities to engage in collage, clay, sculpture, sewing, weaving, and printmaking. Wellness education for kindergarten students includes physical, mental, social, and intellectual wellness – “growing” the brain by learning new activities and using strategy. In Woodshop, every kindergartener begins by building a simple box, and develops their skills throughout the year with individual and collaborative creations.

Literacy Curriculum

Kindergarteners continue to develop their ability to identify and write letters, and begin spelling out words phonetically and reading common high frequency words. The focus during this stage is reading and writing within a meaningful context, as students make connections between the text, themselves, and the world.

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Mathematics Curriculum

With an integrated, cross-curricular approach to mathematics, kindergarten students are provided with opportunities to count, sort, compare, collect and represent data, measure, add, and subtract. They learn to read, write, and say numerals, and use mathematics to solve small-quantity story problems.

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Inquiry

With an integrated, cross-curricular approach to mathematics, kindergarten students are provided with opportunities to count, sort, compare, collect and represent data, measure, add, and subtract. They learn to read, write, and say numerals, and use mathematics to solve small-quantity story problems.

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Experiential Learning

Kindergarten students learn about the environment, agriculture, and water systems on inquiry-based field trips to the Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve, a working farm, and the Sauvie Island bird-watching area, and when they launch boats they constructed with their 3rd Grade Buddies. They celebrate at year’s end with the pageantry of the Kindergarten Olympics.

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1st

Emotional awareness is the central theme throughout the 1st grade year. Students work to understand themselves as learners: establishing what they need to learn best, identifying their strengths, and setting personal goals.

By the end of the year, they have increased their independence as students, learned to think for themselves, and developed social independence by practicing the kindness, communication, and empathy that forms the basis of their friendships and makes them a productive member of the group.

First grade students are guided by homeroom teachers in the areas of literacy, mathematics, and social studies, and work with specialist teachers in other subjects. They begin Modern Language study, engaging in both Mandarin and Spanish classes before selecting the language they will pursue throughout Lower School. Science curriculum includes biomimicry, light and sound, plants, and animals. Students express their creativity with personal projects in the woodshop and Art Barn, and engage in Music and PE/Wellness classes three times a week.

A workshop model guides much of the curricular learning in 1st grade: students are engaged in mini-lessons, guided small group instruction, and corresponding activities. Their progress is tracked with developmental diagnostic tools and assessments. Students begin to use individual iPads with curriculum-based software.

Literacy Curriculum

In 1st grade, students develop a joy for reading and writing by building skills and developing confidence. They work within their zone of development, choosing texts of interest, working on spelling that challenges them at their level, and expressing themselves in a variety of writing genres.

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Mathematics Curriculum

First graders gain conceptual understanding and discovering what they can do with mathematics. They explore a variety of essential functions, including number sense and patterns, addition and subtraction, simple fractions, measuring, and geometric shapes.

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Social Studies Curriculum

First grade students are challenged to focus outwardly, examining ideas and concerns beyond the classroom. The work is centered around the theme of animal conservation, with students exploring conservation issues, and conducting their own research on species and habitats.

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Experiential Learning

Students deepen their understanding of conservation with a series of curriculum-focused nature walks, personal writing projects, and creation of a conservation park on campus. Studies in math and problem-solving are reinforced with hands-on constructivist projects related to real-world scenarios.

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2nd

Throughout the 2nd grade year, a strong emphasis is placed on self-management. Students work on their personal learning strategies, developing an understanding of what they need, both physically and mentally, to be successful. They identify their strengths and challenges, and learn how to self-support.

By the end of the year, 2nd graders have increased their understand of themselves as learners, and their awareness of their emotional, physical, and educational needs, and have developed the social skills to advocate for themselves with teachers and peers.

Second grade students continue to be guided by homeroom teachers in literacy, mathematics, and social studies, and by teacher specialists dedicated solely to Spanish and Mandarin language, music, art, PE/Wellness, woodshop, and library. Science curricula includes the study of land forms, bodies of water, and habitat diversity. Students demonstrate their learning throughout the year in presentations, concerts, and cultural celebrations, and practice democracy in weekly community meetings.

Students in 2nd grade are supported with learning dynamics, workspaces, and tools that enhance their self-understanding and flexibility: Workshops, book groups, and self-directed study; standing desks and wiggle stools; and individual iPads with curriculum-based content.

Literacy Curriculum

As readers, 2nd graders have a repertoire of comprehension strategies to access deeper levels of meaning in fiction and non-fiction books and become confident using tools to navigate the writing process with increased independence.

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Mathematics Curriculum

Second graders become flexible mathematicians. Their conceptual understanding of numbers stretches into the triple digits, and they become capable of mathematical reasoning, using addition and subtraction to solve real-world problems.

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Social Studies Curriculum

A sense of place is the curricular thread that runs through the year, beginning with a study of Pacific Northwest forests, and ending with independent forest service projects. Second graders also study social justice and fairness, and learn how to balance personal needs with the needs of others.

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Experiential Learning

Seasonal field trips to Hyla Woods provide 2nd graders with a chance to study a changing ecosystem and practice field study techniques. On the Opal Creek overnight, they explore new understandings about the forest ecosystem, and exercise their group-dynamic social skills.

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3rd

In 3rd grade, students engage in emotional self-regulation, including using mindfulness techniques. They develop strategies that help them thrive as individuals and as part of a group, and an understanding of when and how to apply what they’ve learned. Students take ownership of actions and decisions in school, such as working together on classroom agreements, and practicing the steps of a conflict resolution process.

By the end of the year, they have increased their ability to identify the feelings and perspectives of others, developed cooperative behaviors, practiced empathy, and expanded their ability to listen and express feelings.

Literacy, mathematics, and social studies are the primary subjects explored in homeroom classes, and students are guided by specialist teachers in many subject areas, including library, art, PE/Wellness, and music. In their third year of Modern Language study, students are developing listening and speaking skills, and learning to think from a multi-cultural perspective. The year-long exploration of water drives the social studies work, and Science classes are devoted to water quality, human impact, and salmon biology and life cycle.

Curriculum-focused small groups are a central part of the learning dynamic in 3rd grade, and studies are reinforced with in-class independent study and tablets. Students’ progress is analyzed and supported with reading, writing, and math assessment tools.

Literacy Curriculum

Building on practices developed in the previous year, 3rd graders expand their abilities and interest in literacy with more challenging texts, and with the addition of reading literature circles, independent writing projects, and reading and writing conferences.

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Mathematics Curriculum

In 3rd grade, students continue to develop their understanding of the practical implications of mathematics, and develop new skills in working with decimals, fractions, calculations, algebraic reasoning, measurement, geometry, and data analysis.

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Social Studies Curriculum

The social studies theme for the year is water. Students study local water use, the water cycle, Oregon’s climate, and watersheds, then move beyond their community to learn about how people in other parts of the world access water. As the year progresses, their study turns to the life cycle of aquatic plants and animals.

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Experiential Learning

As part of their water study, third grade students engage in inquiry projects throughout the year, and visit a reservoir, wastewater treatment plant, dam, and salmon habitat. In the spring they spend three days at the Oregon Coast studying the habitat, human impact, and adaptations of tidepool plants and animals.

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4th

In 4th grade, students continue the journey of moving from concrete to abstract thinking. With their year-long study of immigration and emigration, they consider the experiences of family members as well as people they’ve never met, and in the process develop their abilities to imagine, understand, and empathize. Fourth graders are also challenged to build on their self-awareness work of previous grades.

By the end of the year, they are better able to analyze their work on multiple levels, reflecting and incorporating feedback into their process. They can identify their own learning needs and self-advocate for accommodations.

Core components of the 4th grade year also include Music, Art, Woodshop, and PE/Wellness which includes physical, mental, intellectual, and social self-care. Now in their fourth year of Mandarin or Spanish language study, students build on their listening and speaking skills, and develop an understanding of the structures of language. The theme for the year in Science is circuits, with a focus on force and energy, and the curriculum also includes study of natural sciences, including landforms, animals, and Earth’s processes.

In addition to individual iPads, 4th graders begin to use laptops in the classroom, and content-sharing software including Google Suite. Students track their progress in partnership with teachers using a combination of teacher observation, student interviews, and teacher- and student-created rubrics. Primary assessments are administered in math and reading.

Literacy Curriculum

Having developed reading competency in previous grades, students in 4th grade begin reading as a means to gain knowledge and understanding. The focus on comprehension carries over to their own writing as they develop their skills in informational and report writing.

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Mathematics Curriculum

Having developed reading competency in previous grades, students in 4th grade begin reading as a means to gain knowledge and understanding. The focus on comprehension carries over to their own writing as they develop their skills in informational and report writing.

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Social Studies Curriculum

The social studies theme for the year is immigration, with students’ inquiry starting with local and region topics and expanding to address human migration in the United States and beyond. Fourth graders reflect on social justice issues, and learn to appreciate the value of multiple perspectives.

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Experiential Learning

As part of their immigration study, students create characters in the Oregon Trail Storypath Project, and a detailed walk-through evoking the Ellis Island experience. They visit Portland’s neighborhoods and downtown, and travel to Seattle to explore its history and relationship to immigration. Students produce a classroom newspaper, and develop business models in the Classroom Economy Project.

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5th

In 5th grade, students practice and understand their responsibility for leadership in the Lower School. This new social stage has a direct connection to the year’s curricular focus on peace, conflict, and change. Having developed a concrete sense of the world, they now expand their ability to enter the realms of abstraction, perspective-taking, and inferential reasoning.

By the end of the year, 5th graders are ready to move on to Middle School with a sense of their strengths, areas for growth, resilience, and learning tools that serve them well, and the ability to self-advocate when necessary.

While 5th grade students expand their skills and knowledge base in homeroom-based literacy, mathematics, and social studies classes, they are also advancing in specialist-taught areas, including wood shop, library, and music. In art classes, they work in drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, textiles, and printmaking. PE/Wellness involves students in three distinct units: net sports, movement activities, and team sports. Skill-building in 5th grade modern language classes includes typing and dictionaries, and interacting with visiting native speakers. Science curriculum is focused on chemical reactions, matter, the universe, and life science.

With personal iPads and Chromebooks, students have access to curricular content and creative digital tools. Pre-assessments and formative assessments are used to track student progress, and to guide teaching in every subject area. A series of culminating activities and projects demonstrate what each student has learned throughout the year.

Literacy Curriculum

In 5th grade, students develop their ability to read for comprehension and meaning, with a focus on self-selected non-fiction texts. They learn to write with intention, establishing their purpose, identifying their audience, and revising their work to improve clarity.

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Mathematics Curriculum

Fifth grade students move into more complex areas of operations, algebraic thinking, measurement, and working with data, while developing a flexible understanding of mathematics through experiments, reflection, and adaptation.

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Social Studies Curriculum

Peace, conflict, and change is the theme that runs through 5th graders’ yearlong study of American history, which includes inquiry-driven segments on Native American history and culture, the formation of Colonial America, the Revolutionary War, and slavery. Their learning process includes field study, role-playing, and the creation of living history museums.

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Experiential Learning

As part of their year-long study of peace, conflict, and change, students visit museums, conduct first-person interviews, engage in simulations, and create podcasts. A three-day Oregon Coast trip serves as both a social and educational foundation for the year, and their Celebration of Learning night at year’s end is an opportunity to share what they’ve learned.

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