The language arts program aims to produce a student who is confident, proficient, a life-long reader, writer, speaker and listener. Teachers use a balanced approach to literacy, including guided reading, independent reading, whole-class literature experiences and direct instruction of literacy skills. The writing workshop emphasizes the writing process, stresses writing for a variety of purposes and encourages creativity. Students are provided with many opportunities to serve as both presenter and audience throughout all areas of the curriculum.
The 2010-2011 school year introduced a school-wide math block, which encourages students to use a variety of approaches to investigate concepts and learn from one another. At the beginning of each unit of study, students are placed in flexible, cross-age groups based on an assessment in the specific content area. The development of number sense and the study of relationships and patterns are emphasized. Students' math fluency is encouraged by doing engaging and effective activities. A variety of methods are provided in the groups' investigations, ultimately fostering students' competence and confidence in their ability to do mathematics.
In social studies, students learn about themselves, their community, their country and their world. In their study of history, geography and culture, students learn to respect other nations and races and to see themselves as part of the global community. Through social studies, students develop critical reading and thinking skills; learn to read for information; gather and evaluate information; analyze sources; prepare results; compare and contrast past and current events; and develop map-reading skills.
Students experience science as a method of obtaining information through inquiry and investigation. Science classes include exploration of scientific concepts through hands-on experiments and vocabulary study. Students observe, investigate, analyze, hypothesize, research and problem-solve to reach conclusions about the nature of our world. Each year, Lower School students also participate in Science Night, an evening event that includes hands-on experiments and games. The following day, students may participate in the traditional Egg Drop.
Computers are a tool for learning and presenting material. Parents and students are educated on internet safety and the appropriate use of technology. Students learn age-appropriate technology skills through projects for all curricular areas. Faculty incorporate the use of mobile technology, including tablets. Keyboarding skills, connecting to online research via Internet access, and use of spreadsheet, word processing and presentation applications are some of the objectives in the technology curriculum.
Culture and conversation are the focus of world language classes in the Lower School. Students learn vocabulary, sentence structure, listening comprehension and correct pronunciation, and have the opportunity to participate in language labs. Students are placed in cross-age groups based on an assessment in their language of choice. Each group meets three times per week for 30 minutes to provide frequent, developmentally-appropriate exploration of the language and culture.
Personal faith development, Bible history, the Catholic liturgy, building a faith community, and service to others are the foundations of the religion curriculum. Students learn about other religions as compared to the Catholic faith. Sacramental preparation is central in Grade 2 (Solemn Eucharist) and Grade 4 (Reconciliation).
The art curriculum focuses on the process of exploration in art materials. Learning involves creative problem-solving and skill-building through directed activities and independent student choices. Fine motor skills and the concepts of visual design are encouraged in a multi-media approach.
The Orff Schulwerk philosophy of music education builds on a child’s basic instincts to play, sing, chant and move. Students sing, play Orff instruments, improvise, compose, perform and listen. Special emphasis is placed on music of the masters. Students are instructed in the basics of music literacy. Each child finds a place making music with others in the classroom, chapel and concerts.
The music education curriculum is complemented with exploration of creative movement, often with groups of students taking turns providing the music or the movement in the classroom and/or for a performance. The movement curriculum addresses students’ ability to move in personal and general space with safety and confidence. Simple forms of locomotion, rhythmic concepts, following verbal directions and the use of imagination to create something new from something familiar, are goals of movement classes.
The goals of the physical education program include developing a sound body and mind through physical fitness and activity. While students improve their health by developing cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and flexibility, they also cultivate self-esteem, good sportsmanship, leadership skills, interpersonal relationships and responsible behavior. Basic loco-motor skills are also developed, and a variety of team and individual sports are introduced.