Touchstone Experiences, Grades 1-4
When Green Acres graduates look back on their years in the Lower School, these experiences often come to mind. We hear time and again from our alumni about how the following experiences shaped their learning, interests, and passions. All share in common a multi-faceted, integrated, hands-on approach, which serves to "cement" various concepts of study in their mind.
Monarch Butterfly Study & Waystation Program (Grades 1 & 2)
Each fall, for nearly 50 years, students in the Primary Unit have gathered monarch eggs and caterpillars, watched them metamorphosize into butterflies, and released them for migration. In recent years, we have tagged the butterflies and submitted our data as part of a national study of the migration. Green Acres 1st and 2nd graders help to address the problem of endangered monarch migration (due to climate change and habitat loss) by participating in the Monarch Watch project. Our campus is a monarch waystation, providing host plants for larvae and nectar plants for adult butterflies—resources monarchs need to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
Integrated, Thematic Curriculum, with a Special Emphasis on the Arts
At Green Acres, we know that children acquire knowledge best when what they learn connects across disciplines and subject areas, as well as to what students already know. That is why, when students are studying a topic, the music, art, dance, science, and Spanish teachers use those topics to create lessons in their own disciplines that relate to those themes. For example, when first and second graders study the ocean, they create ocean animals during their art class. Examples of themes that stretch across disciplines include: migration, oceans shelters, world celebrations, and the rain forest. Research shows that connected learning leads to deep learning, and integration is the perfect vehicle for forging those connections.
Trips to the Sultana & St. Mary's City, followed by an On-Campus "Late Night" (Grade 3)
Green Acres’ focus on hands-on-experiences brings history to life. Third graders travel to Chestertown, Maryland, to board, sail on, and learn about the Sultana, a replica of a schooner that moved along the North American coast in the late 18th century to eensure compliance of the tea taxes, which played an important role in the lead-up to the American Revolution. The students also journey to Historic St. Mary’s City to see, firsthand, the first colonial settlement in Maryland, learning about how the early settlers and native Americans lived. These experiences provide students with an in-depth understanding of the early American settlements through programming built upon authentic historical experiences. Third graders conclude this study with a “late night” at Green Acres, complete with colonial square dancing and time to reflect on their learning.
Literature-Based Reading Program & Writers' Workshop
The literacy approach that Green Acres teachers use immerses children in quality literature, which engages them and motivates them to read more. Participation in book clubs, guided reading all intertwine to challenge children and to promote in them a love of lifelong reading. Our teachers use the writer’s workshop model, in which children follow a series of steps that professional authors use: generating an idea, producing a first draft, editing, conferencing with peers and teachers, publication, and sharing. This multi-step approach enables children to engage actively in doing what “real writers” do. The motivation that children feel when they self-select writing topics that are meaningful to them makes them love writing and consider themselves writers with important messages to convey.
Overnight Trip to Hard Bargain Farm (Grade 4)
All 4th graders participate in an overnight at Hard Bargain Farm in Accokeek, MD. The students experience life on a working farm by learning about the environment, agriculture, and history by engaging in hands-on activities ranging from milking a cow to studying marsh life. The Farm encourages students to “jump right in,” and we expect everyone to get muddy in the swamp and grubby in the barnyard! In addition to being a memorable learning and bonding experience for 4th grade students, this one-night trip is a way to get their feet wet for the many multi-night outdoor educational overnights students participate in during their Middle School years.
A Long Tradition of Knitting & Quilting
Quilting has been part of the fabric of Green Acres School's culture since the 1980s: 3rd graders stitch quilts each year as part of their study of early settlements; 8th graders sew decorative banners commemorating their Green Acres experience; and staff create quilts to celebrate the lifecycle events of their colleagues. These quilts symbolize the value that Green Acres places on artistry, collaboration, and community. Likewise, all 3rd graders learn to knit, and community members from multiple generations are welcomed to partake in this cherished tradition. The children's creations, typically hats and scarves, are donated every year to populations in need who enjoy and benefit from these gifts.
Students on the Move
We all learn best when we are given consistent opportunities to move. Green Acres students move as they transition from building to building on our wooded 15-acre campus. They play outdoors twice a day on different playgrounds designed to match their physical development. Our students enjoy physical education classes three times a week, and participate in a creative movement program for young learners. At a time when many schools are decreasing children’s opportunities to move, Green Acres heralds moving as a vital part of children’s growth. Deep learning requires an active mind and an active body!