In this first year, children develop skills and phonemic
awareness through songs, games, and daily exposure to language in its many
forms. Each week features a new sight word, literacy station activities, and
guided reading. By the end of the year, they have become comfortable matching
letters with sounds and can write a sentence independently. Reading
comprehension is developed with colorful projects in which children respond to
themes in books such as Wemberly Worried or the Pete the Cat series.
First graders develop their comprehension skills while
engaged in guided reading lessons and literacy stations. The guided reading
rotations include: small-group instruction with the teacher; phonics and word
study activities; listening to recorded stories; independent reading of
"just right" books; and reading-response comprehension activities. Writing
is integrated across all subject areas as the students build their skills
within the context of what they are learning. Various approaches to writing
include: personal narratives, creative story writing, responsive writing,
recording information, and other genres.
With the introduction of the paragraph form, children have a
deeper way to express themselves. The essentials of opening sentence,
supporting details, and closing sentence are given life in writing about
personal experiences, animals, nature, and people. Students also start learning
to proofread for spelling and capitalization, punctuation, and clarity for
Building confident, thinking readers is the focus of the 2nd
grade year. To this end, students are grouped based on instructional needs.
Fiction and nonfiction books are chosen for targeted work at each group's level.
Teachers work with each group on vocabulary, fluency, spelling, and
comprehension. Students develop fluency by reading to the kindergartners.
Readers Theater allows students to record themselves reading a script so they
can self-evaluate their delivery and expression.
In 3rd grade, students first experience the thrill of
choice: Within the language arts café, students choose from a weekly menu of
activities to work on different skills. Vocabulary lists are tailored to each
student's ability. In their reading, students are encouraged to choose books
that will challenge them, while reading response and one-on-one time with their
teacher helps further comprehension. Genre studies focus on specific types of
literature; the biography study, for example, has students choose a person,
read a biography, and participate in a project like a wax museum in which
characters come to life by turn to talk about their lives. In 3rd grade,
students start using iPads to access vocabulary lists, create digital
portfolios, and record themselves learning new skills like spelling words in
Our math curriculum for kindergarten through 5th grade is
based on the Bridges in Mathematics program, a flexible and comprehensive set
of materials and activities. Students in the Lower School develop strong number
sense, learning to look for different possibilities for solutions, as well as
the application of math in the world.
Throughout the year, kindergartners will spend time in the
Number Corner playing math games, and they work on skills during learning
station time. The themes presented by the calendar each year—such as the lunar
new year and the 100th day of school—offer many ways to engage with numbers. By
the end of their kindergarten year, students are able to identify numbers;
count to 100 by 1s, 5s, and 10s; and write their numbers to 30 or higher.
In 1st grade students start working toward developing
multiple strategies for solving addition and subtraction problems; telling time
to the hour and half-hour; understanding denominations of money and how to
combine them; identifying 2- and 3- dimensional shapes; and identifying and
creating patterns. The crab and sea star project takes a skill they became
familiar with in kindergarten—counting by 5s and 10s—and builds their
knowledge. Children create their own number story, illustrated with
hidden-picture answers: "There are 10 arms. How many sea stars?"
Then, they work in small groups or pairs to solve each other's problems. A key
development in 1st grade is for the students to explain their process and model
solutions and strategies in order to strengthen their mathematical thinking.
Flags of the world provide a colorful introduction to fractions;
creating marble ramps gets students thinking about math as it applies to the
world around them: The 2nd grade year introduces many concepts while
reinforcing skills with time and money, which were begun in 1st grade. Students
work to increase their recall of basic addition and subtraction facts to 20,
solidify their knowledge of place value, solve word problems with a focus on
explaining their thinking, and develop double-digit addition and subtraction
algorithms using manipulatives, visual models, and number sentences. The
concept of multiplication is introduced with the use of manipulatives and
areas, and probability is built into math games.
Students in 3rd grade become confident with math
facts and work daily on spiraling skills. Through the frequent use of base-10
and base-5 blocks, mats, tangrams, patterns, and more, they develop facility
with manipulating ever-larger numbers with different types of operations. As in
previous grades, games in the Number Corner have children identifying and
predicting patterns. In teacher-led groups, students also explain their work to
each other, often leading to "a-ha" moments when they show new
solutions. It's all part of getting them to think like mathematicians as they
prepare to move on to Upper School.
The seasons, our gardens, and local resources provide a wonderful entry into inquiry and exploration of the natural world. In the fall, students learn about apples and pumpkins and seasonal growing. In the spring, an annual field trip to Cedars of Marin, a residential community for developmentally challenged adults, provides lessons about growing plants used to make fibers that are then woven into textiles.
Our 1st grade science curriculum builds the skills of collaboration, creative and flexible thinking, problem solving, curiosity and questioning, and communication. "Wiggly Redworms at Work" is the first project-based learning unit in the year. The students learn research skills as they study redworms and vermicomposting. This unit culminates in the publication of books for our classrooms and the school library. The next unit has the students work in pairs to research facts about a mammal of their choice and design a game board to educate others about their mammal. Other units of study include: interactions of color and light; understanding solids, liquids, and gases; and observable lessons in life cycles, including chickens, butterflies, and ladybugs. The first graders also engage in hands-on explorations and lessons in the school's organic garden.
The 2nd grade science curriculum grows from the class's "journey" through Australia and Kenya. In Australia, the students will learn about how the continent developed, resulting in many unique species. They study the Giant Gippsland Earthworm as well as the Great Barrier Reef, adaptations animals need to survive there, and the need for conservation of this habitat. In Kenya, they will focus on not only the flora and fauna, but also on the environmental movement started there by Wangari Maathai. The class also studies weather, weather phenomena, and the water cycle, conducting a water-cycle experiment. A unit on nutrition is integrated with media literacy, discussing advertising and what's in foods such as cereals; this unit culminates with making fruit leather from scratch.
Science in 3rd grade is closely linked to social studies, as both subjects focus on Marin County. Field trips to a bounty of nearby sites bring life into studies of geology, plate tectonics and the Earthquake Trail, estuaries, plant ecology, animal life, and plant-animal dependency. Students do a research project on a Marin animal, and the farm-to-table unit uses our garden as the classroom to show the path of a plant from seedling to salsa (and pizza topping!). Our outdoor education program begins in 3rd grade, with an overnight trip to Walker Creek Ranch in West Marin, where the class hikes and has lessons with naturalists.
The kindergarten year is devoted to understanding oneself within the new community of the school and class. Cultural celebrations throughout the year provide a context for learning about family backgrounds and different world cultures. Woven into this are social-emotional learning lessons that help children develop important community skills: problem-solving, monitoring one's behavior, and understanding the feelings of those around them. In this year, they are introduced to the 12 tools of the Toolbox, which they will continue to rely on throughout their Lower School years: breathing, quiet/safe place, listening, empathy, personal space, using our words, garbage can, taking time, please-and-thank-you, apology, patience, and courage.
The focus in autumn is on immigration, with stories, activities, and guest presentations that explore different experiences of coming to the United States and living in a new country. As we learn about the life and contributions of Martin Luther King, Jr., the students gain a basic understanding of African-American history. In addition, we are fortunate to have two partner organizations in South Africa, which offer wonderful opportunities for comparing similarities and differences between these two countries.
With a year designed around journeys through the distinctive lands of Australia, Kenya, and Japan, 2nd grade social studies broadens student horizons even further. The itinerary roams among people, traditional arts, and the natural environment. Along the way, they will explore topics like What Makes a Hero in studying Wangari Maathai and the greenbelt movement in Kenya; Australia's history and modern daily life; and cultural traditions, arts, and ceremonies in Japan. "Back home" the students visit the Aldersly and Alma Via senior communities each month to read, socialize, and play games with the residents. This relationship is a long-standing part of our local partnerships program.
Language arts are integrated into the social studies curriculum: Fiction and non-fiction books are chosen for the different countries, and the students produce a magazine about their travels. Bon voyage!
The 3rd grade brings social studies home to Marin County, as students dig deep into the place we call home. The year begins with a study of the Coast Miwok tribe. The class visits the Earthquake Trail, learning about both the geology of the area and the folktales of the Miwok and their understanding of earthquakes. At Walker Creek Ranch in West Marin, students visit Grinding Rock to see its ancient divets, created by the Miwok in grinding acorns to make a paste. Studying modern Marin, they learn about some of the services available here, including the Marin Recycle Center, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and the farmer's market. The farmer's market trip is an important part of the farm-to-table unit, and the class plants a pizza and salsa garden that the following year's class will harvest.
Children learn Spanish and Mandarin, for half the school year each, from kindergarten through 2nd grade. Prior to beginning their 3rd grade year, they choose one of the languages to continue studying until they graduate. The Lower School program actively engages our youngest students in learning another language by using stories, songs, dance, games, puppetry, and crafts.
Our language curriculum plays an important role in developing students' cultural literacy, and we continue to grow the connection between languages and our multicultural and global education initiatives. Cultural and linguistic skills are developed through activities and resources in- and outside the classroom. Upper Division Spanish students have the opportunity to communicate with students in our sister school in Costa Rica through Skype, e-mail, and possible travel in 7th or 8th grade, and we have established a student trip with our partner school in Beijing.
Our kindergarten and 1st grade students work on acquiring essential vocabulary, including colors, numbers, and words about oneself and one's family. The tones are introduced in kindergarten, as they are key to verbal communication. In 2nd grade, the key focus is on basic comprehension, pronunciation, and continuing to build vocabulary; students also start learning to form Chinese characters. Third grade is when they start "putting it together": They learn sentence patterns and further writing skills and are gradually able to express basic facts about themselves and their family.
The K and 1st grade years introduce the sounds, structure, and vocabulary of Spanish within the context of themes such as family, school, daily life, nutrition, and customs in the United States and Spanish-speaking cultures. In 2nd grade, comprehension and speaking are further developed, with a focus on accurate pronunciation and an introduction to writing. By the end of 3rd grade, students can comprehend and respond to instructions and questions, describe themselves, their families, and their surroundings, and they are writing short answers in response to prompts to prepare for Upper School.