In the Green Acres Lower School, we know—and wholeheartedly concur with child development experts—that children learn best when they are fully engaged in purposeful learning.
The Lower School program exposes students to exciting investigations that allow them to wonder and refine their thinking. A combined focus on learning collaboratively, while also building on the individual skills of students, helps them solidly grasp age-appropriate concepts.
- A great deal of emphasis is put on the essential skills of writing, so critical to academic achievement across multiple disciplines, as well as life beyond school.
- In social studies and thematic studies, students explore topics such as families, reptiles, oceans, migration, friendship, Native Americans, the early settlement of America, world geography, celebrations around the world, and rain forests.
- As mathematicians, students investigate mathematical ideas and engage in analytical thinking through meaningful, hands-on activities. They sort and classify blocks at clean-up time or record the number of monarch butterflies emerging from chrysalides.
- For science, the woodlands, stream, gardens, and fields of our campus present students with rich opportunities to observe and investigate the world around them and explore scientific principles. The Lower School science program balances a study of life, physical, and earth and space sciences.
- Spanish language study begins in Pre-K. Students not only enjoy gaining acquisition of a second language, but they also become immersed in learning about Spanish culture as it pertains to a variety of countries where Spanish is spoken.
The Lower School is centered around teaching students to be responsible, thoughtful, and independent in both their academic work and in their relationships with others. Through work in the classroom, within classrooms and units, and in discussion with individuals, the relationship between freedom and responsibility is highlighted.
Our students learn what it means to be accountable for personal choice—that, with freedom, there is the opportunity to take risks, but also accountability for the decisions and actions followed. Children are frequently given choices as a way to exercise independence and to support their interests. Additionally, students are expected to behave in a caring and compassionate way toward others and to act with care toward their school environment.
The close connections between students and teachers foster an atmosphere of honest, trusting communication where children are invited to voice their opinions and to learn the art of actively listening to the perspectives of others. Students in the Lower School have many opportunities to practice being part of a community through class meetings or Kid Talk. Students help to form classroom guidelines at the beginning of the year because they accept rules better when they have a part in making them. As problems develop, adults and students solve them together. Teachers support children as they work through problems, suggesting alternative solutions, if necessary. Children are encouraged to make choices and expand their ability to be responsible for their actions.
As experts in child development and progressive education, Green Acres teachers are skilled at delivering a curriculum that is developmentally appropriate for the students they teach. On a programmatic scale, the Lower School experience is intentionally designed to create a Lower School journey that is grounded in best practices in child development.
For example, homework is intentionally tiered with different expectations at different grade levels. Guided by research, we do not assign homework until 3rd grade. This gives children the space to "be kids," introducing additional academic responsibilities only once they have reached the age at which they are equipped with the necessary maturity, energy, and organizational skills to handle them successfully. In the 3/4 Unit, homework is designed to reinforce concepts and develop the study skills and habits of mind that will ensure success with more advanced coursework as they progress in their academic studies.
Similarly, Lower School students do not participate in standardized testing. Our teachers gauge student progress and skill mastery through a variety of assessments, tasks, projects, and assignments. We believe that assessments that are grounded in authentic learning experiences provide the best snapshot of a student's academic growth—not a numerical score resulting from a multiple choice exam.
The culture of the school [is] very child centered—a strong consideration of: What is best for the kids? What is best for the students? And how can we work together to make that happen?
Mary, Creative Movement Teacher & Diversity Coordinator