The Lower Elementary math curriculum deepens the students’ understanding of simple mathematical operations introduced in Children’s House. Through the use of Montessori manipulative materials, students establish a concrete basis of understanding to support more abstract concepts such as algebra and geometry. Students develop a conceptual understanding of basic number facts and functions, the value of money, the meaning of time and spatial relationships, as well as computational and problem solving skills. When they are ready, students are introduced to more advanced materials that help them understand complex concepts including fractions, multiplication, and division.
Comprehension, grammar, spelling, reading, and group discussion skills are further developed at the Lower Elementary level. Simple research reports give students an opportunity to practice their composition skills, and essay writing is introduced. In grammar lessons, students learn the parts of speech and later perform sentence analysis to identify the parts of a sentence to break down increasingly complex sentences as they become fluent with the function of words. Reading fluency is addressed with the Wilson Fundations Program, which provides the tools for phonetic decoding, reading, and spelling, while complementing the Montessori curriculum. Students also participate in small literature groups and writing workshops to strengthen reading comprehensions and the writing process.
Cultural studies in the Lower Elementary program are comprised of geography, history, and science. The cross-curricular nature of topics appeals to students in a manner that capitalizes on their interests and learning styles. The broad scope of the curriculum cultivates students who are culturally aware and have a true appreciation for the diversity and interest in the world around them. Students begin to gain an understanding of time and history with an overview of human history through storytelling and colorful timelines. Through research and experimentation they gain a basic knowledge of the political, physical, and economic geography of the continents.
Lower Elementary science lessons incorporate biology, chemistry, physics, and earth sciences. Through storytelling, hands-on experiments, exploration, and research, students gain a knowledge of the basic land and water formations, longitude and latitude, the use of a compass, and the study of different flora and fauna. Students also learn about the families of the animal kingdom, including vertebrates and invertebrates, their classification, their basic characteristics, and the way they function to survive. The scientific method is taught at the elementary level, and students in the third year (grade) of Lower Elementary and older are given an opportunity to test their skills at the Oak Meadow Science Fair each spring.
Lower Elementary students attend Spanish classes once a week during which they learn useful phrases, such as “may I come in?” Classroom communication includes: “I need…”; “pass me…”; and “it’s your/my turn.” Additional common courtesies are practiced between teacher and student, and among classmates.
Familiar themes are revisited and expanded upon, and new ones are introduced adapting the Montessori technique of the three period lesson. This spiral approach to vocabulary allows for the development of second language acquisition from preproduction to early production, and eventual fluency in four areas: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. Activities are presented to target auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. In the classroom there is movement, singing, rhyming, and drawing. Students also practice simple skits, and play familiar vocabulary games, such as Bingo (Lotería) and Memory (Memoría).
Social and emotional learning as defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning includes self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision- making and relationships skills. The development of these skills helps to promote prosocial behavior, reduce violence and bullying behaviors, and increase ability to learn and achieve in the school environment. Lower Elementary students explore developmentally appropriate concepts of social and emotional learning. Topics may include mentoring, friendship, bullying, conflict resolution, kindness, self-esteem, diversity, and more. Classes are facilitated in both small groups by grade level, and in large groups by class. Lessons are taught through role-playing activities, stories, hands-on activities, visual cues, and guided discussions.
Lower Elementary students attend art classes by grade level once a week. Students explore a wide range of materials and processes as they begin to develop a deeper understanding of how art materials can be used and manipulated to create unique, personal expressions of their creativity. Experimentation with mixed mediums and exploration of original ideas is encouraged. The teacher provides a framework in which students work independently on projects of their choosing. Awareness of art history and art as an expression of culture is emphasized through focused projects on specific artists, styles, periods, or methods.
The Lower Elementary music curriculum emphasizes group singing, dance, musical literacy, ear-training, rhythmic training, individual confidence, and improvisation. Classes incorporate songs and dances from many traditions, including rounds, cannons, and American Sign Language. Through medolic and rhythmic exercises, students gain confidence to sing alone in front of others and learn to write basic rhythm patterns. Solfege singing is practiced with the simultaneous use of the Kodaly/Curwen hand gestures, increasing the cognitive areas of multi-sensory engagement in the brain by combining attentive listening with singing, verbalization, memory, and hand-eye coordination. Increasingly complex notation symbols are introduced, including clefs, measures, meters, dynamics, articulations, and key signatures. Musical instruments from around the world are introduced in hands-on lessons, which include principles of instrument construction and sound production. Third-year (grade) students learn rudiments of wind instruments, using Baroque recorders and Irish tin whistles. First through third year (grade) students may also participate in an after school musical, and third year (grade) students may join the Oak Meadow Concert Choir.
Lower Elementary students attend physical education classes by grade twice a week. Students are introduced to the importance of muscular development through strength, endurance, flexibility, and cardio-respiratory endurance, which prepares them for physical fitness testing. Students participate in team and group games, and are encouraged to strategize and use their knowledge and skill to work together to achieve a given outcome.
Field trips are an important part of the Lower Elementary curriculum and allow students to learn through their experiences outside of the school. Recent trips include a biennial trip to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, several trips that enhance children’s learning in nature including visits to Cobb Conservatory area, and a trip to Heifer International’s Learning Center at Overlook Farm in Rutland. Third year (grade) students visit Walden Pond each spring to learn about Thoreau and his writings, and each May the entire Lower Elementary program attends a performance by Tom Chapin, which allows students the opportunity to sing together and participate in musical presentations.