Lower School Curriculum
Each classroom in the Lower School includes two teachers who provide an inquiry-based curriculum in addition to a strong language arts and math program. Classes in the arts (visual, music, dance, and drama), science, computer technology, foreign languages (French and Spanish), information literacy, and physical education are also offered and taught by specialists. Guest speakers, visiting performers and artists, and curriculum-related field trips help expand our student’s knowledge and help them grow in awareness, expression, and appreciation.
- Foreign Language
- Information Literacy
- Physical Education
- Social Studies
Thinking creatively and having artistic perspective drives the experiences of our youngest artists in the studio. The Lower School art curriculum fosters curiosity about materials and process while providing a strong foundation in visual literacy. Students are encouraged to develop their own artistic voice and acknowledge that there can be multiple solutions to creative endeavors.
We believe in the importance of having a tactile experience with a variety of materials such as oil pastels, paint, clay, and fibers. To feel these materials, to manipulate them, and express ideas and emotions, provides students a creative outlet that is both joyful and challenging.
In order to cultivate global perspectives many studio lessons share the art of cultures from around the world. Seeds of possibility are planted as students begin to picture themselves traveling and learning about different places and people.
To prepare the next generation of thinkers, inventors, and global leaders, we strive to instill a love of art and creative process that continues to grow throughout their experience in the arts at Country Day.
The Lower School computer curriculum is delivered through a sequential, spiraling set of experiences beginning in first grade and continuing through fourth. Rooted in our philosophy of technology in support of learning, students gain a solid foundation of skills, which transfer from device to device and program to program.
As students’ progress through the Lower School, the computer curriculum is authentically integrated with classroom curricula on each grade level to deepen learning, broaden experiences, and foster confidence. Students successfully use technology as they become lifelong learners.
Twenty-first century skills, central to the curriculum, support our students as they take important steps toward what will be intrinsically necessary for life in the future. Balancing the high level of technological efficiency is a focus on our digital citizenship and our curriculum governs appropriate use of technology in all aspects of life.
If “all the world’s a stage,” then we are committed to showing our young students the joys and techniques of being a great performer on and off the stage. Lower School drama is dedicated to providing students with a dynamic and fun introduction into the world of theatre.
Students begin performing onstage in front of peers, parents, and faculty as young as junior kindergarten. All students participate in a production in every grade, and by fourth grade, every class participates in its own play. Each stage production advances students’ understanding of their presence on stage, character development, and the intricate yet fun ways music and dance are incorporated into theatre.
We believe the learning of a second language helps to cultivate a lifelong interest in different cultures and global perspectives. Lower School foreign language classrooms are engaging and creative environments where students learn through singing, dancing, and acting. In grades JK–1, students are exposed to both French and Spanish. Second grade students choose one language to enter a more rigorous study in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. By fourth grade, students have achieved novice-level proficiency in either French or Spanish.
Lower Guidance nurtures each of our student's individuality through activities designed to increase students’ self-esteem, sense of identity, and an understanding of their feelings and the world around them. The program uses a primary prevention approach in an effort to prevent minor issues from developing into major ones. This developmentally appropriate sequential program prepares our students for social, emotional, and personal success in our ever-changing global society. Lessons focus on character development, friendship, coping, communication, and safety skills.
From Heidi to Henry and Mudge, the Lower School library has a book for every reader. Students eagerly visit the library throughout the day with their classes and in small groups to check out books that fit their personal interests and research needs.
They acquire information literacy skills through hands-on, developmentally appropriate experiences using a variety of 21st century media and technology tools, including iPads, eBooks, e-zines, online encyclopedias, and Web sites.
In a lively and inviting environment, Lower School children develop literary appreciation through story times and book talks with each other and the librarians. Students discover, through their reading and research, what it means to be a digital citizen in a global community.
Lower School supports the love of learning through building a strong foundation in the literacy skills of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Promoting the love of reading and the confidence to become writers is paramount to our beliefs.
Our balanced literacy program includes both reading and writing workshops which includes implicit instruction in mini lessons followed by extended time to practice, confer with teachers, and reflect. Students become proficient readers by reading more and expert writers by having extended periods of time to write. Our reading program incorporates word study, reading aloud, and shared reading. Children are naturally curious so teachers provide inquiry-based learning opportunities in the classroom, library, and in special area classes. Students learn strategies and the differences of reading fiction and nonfiction, and higher level comprehension strategies are taught and reinforced beginning in kindergarten.
In writing, teachers instruct to a spiral curriculum, allowing students to spend considerable time on multiple types of writing: informational, narrative, opinion, and response to literature. All aspects of reading and writing are taught individually, with partners, in small groups, and with the whole classroom.
The overall philosophy of our Lower School math program is for children to love math, build confidence, and see the relevance of math in everyday life. Math provides experiences to explore, learn and practice mathematics in a range of settings, including whole class, small groups, partners, and individually.
Our program spirals so children are given multiple exposures to math concepts before mastery is expected. Through interactive games, inquiries, and open-ended questions, students learn the processes involved in solving mathematical problems with creativity, flexibility, and grit. Class discussions and written reflections in mathematics are encouraged because this is when students clarify and solidify their learning.
We believe music is a universal language and inspires acceptance of each other, community, and creativity. At Country Day, we strive to meet our student’s developmental level and encourage a love for all aspects of music. Students are taught to sing, clap, and play rhythms with a large variety of instruments and they learn to experience the beauty of performing music with others. Introduction of the recorder with the Recorder Karate program begins in third grade. By the fourth grade, students are accepting the challenge to practice at home and record their progress with learning new songs.
The Lower School physical education program offers every Lower School student with a daily fitness improvement plan. Teachers provide unique experiences by instructing an entire grade level at the same time, allowing them to mix classes and offer a more sequential individualized plan.
Country Day is recognized as a North Carolina Physical Education Demonstration School and we serve as a professional resource for teachers and administrators interested in improving student fitness, curriculum design, and other innovative physical education practices. Our program is recognized by the Governor’s Council on Physical Education and Health for our efforts to improve physical education programming and by the National Physical Education Association, which recognizes top elementary physical education programs in the nation.
The Lower School science lab is truly a place where each child’s inquisitive spirit soars. The children are immersed in hands-on experiences, enabling them to explore a variety of scientific concepts. These experiences strategically build from year to year and children work as scientists by observing, classifying, and recording data collected through their investigations.
From exploring with magnets and observing the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly, to planting and cultivating the crops in our organic garden each season, our science program actively nurtures students’ natural curiosity.
The Lower School social studies program focuses on the study of people in relation to their past, present, and future; their environment, and their society. Our curriculum encourages curiosity and helps students develop an understanding of a rapidly changing world. Students become aware of their personal and cultural identities, and they acquire the skills and knowledge needed to actively participate in their classroom, school, community, and world.
Since 2010, Lower School students have planted, tended, and harvested seasonal vegetables in our organic Community Garden, which provides hands-on lessons in horticulture and the environment. The newest addition is a greenhouse to help extend the growing season. The bounty of vegetables is shared with both the school cafeteria and our community partner Friendship Gardens Network. In second grade, students visit Friendship Trays and learn how their efforts contribute to providing good nutrition for those in need.
The Junior Kindergarten and Kindergarten experience begins each morning with circle time—a nurturing tradition that includes stories, singing, reading, and time to preview the day's calendar. Closing circle concludes the day in the same way and helps ground each day in a spirit of community.