Opportunities to Explore
Exposure and engagement across disciplines
In addition to core academic learning occurring in the classroom, Lower School students experience a number of "Specials," co-curricular classes taught by subject-specific experts. Spanish, technology, PE, lab-based science, art, music, and library all round out an engaging Lower School day, allowing students ample opportunities to grow, learn, and shine in a variety of environments.
The Lower School Spanish curriculum provides students with a comprehensive and meaningful program of second-language learning and an appreciation for other cultures. In the early grades, children learn Spanish through internalizing the patterns, sounds, and vocabulary of the language, since children typically learn to understand a spoken language long before they begin speaking. Students begin to develop their understanding of spoken Spanish by learning to follow increasingly sophisticated instructions and commands. Students start reading and writing in Spanish during the latter part of second grade. Introducing reading and writing at appropriate levels also promotes correct Spanish pronunciation; students learn to imitate spoken words as they hear them modeled correctly in class. Games, songs, movement and drama are all incorporated into language instruction in the Lower School in order to bring language learning to life.
Beginning with a foundation which recognizes that technology can be fun and can help us in many ways, students in our younger grades find simple ways to use technology to help them design and create unique projects, as well as solve problems. For our older students, the idea that combinations of technologies working together can produce amazing products is reinforced, and with the introduction of electronics and 3D printing, projects become very intricate and utilize several technologies to produce unique and inventive ideas. Stressing the concept of empathy, our oldest students begin to create for others during the design process, and work to develop the ability to consider different perspectives in their designs.
The Lower School Physical Education curriculum promotes physical, social, and emotional development. Along with learning fundamental movements, emphasis is placed on developing self-confidence, determination, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and the understanding of the value in leading a healthy, active lifestyle. Basic movements are taught as skills and then enriched through a wide variety of games, sports, movement explorations, tumbling, and object-handling activities. Games are used to develop coordination, agility, fair play, and proper social and emotional responses in competition. A wide-range of team and individual sports are gradually introduced into the curriculum, and activities are taught according to the developmental needs and readiness of each grade-level. Aquatics are also introduced through age-appropriate activities. Students are taught American Red Cross water and safety skills in addition to continuous review, practice, and refinement of aquatic skills. Students celebrate and showcase what they have learned in Physical Education in the fall during the Lower School Swim Exhibition and in the spring at the Lower School Track and Field Day.
The Lower School Science curriculum provides age-appropriate opportunities for students to participate in units of earth science, life science, and physical science. Exploration is integrated to give students meaningful experiences with science tools and measurement, along with a wide variety of materials specific to each area of study. The hands-on curriculum develops skills of observing, predicting, record keeping, comparing, communicating, analyzing, summarizing, and applying what is learned. In addition to learning concepts and vocabulary through the discovery process, art, math, and language arts skills are integrated into learning experiences. Field trips give children opportunities to see real-world applications of science and to meet experts. Through multiple approaches, the joy of discovery permeates the lab for all of our little scientists.
The Lower School Art program focuses on developing children’s inherent drive for self-expression. At all grade-levels, students are exposed to many types of media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and clay. Formal guidelines are balanced with opportunities for individual decisions and explorations. From the early ages when students are increasing dexterity and spatial understanding, to later Lower School grades where students are working on multi-step projects and a variety of media, all students are developing observation skills, courage and imaginative zeal, and an appreciation of the act of creating art.
The Lower School Music program is designed to engage students in active learning to explore the nature of movement and sound through a repertoire of folk music and composed materials. During music classes, students move, sing, speak, play, read, create, and listen. These experiences encourage young learners’ musical interests and expand their musical knowledge. As their cognitive abilities develop, students learn to read music and begin to develop a vocabulary to describe the music they hear. Essential components in the music program include (1) an emphasis on acquiring the skills necessary to perform a variety of musical activities, (2) experience with the essential elements of music: rhythm, melody, harmony, form, and expressive qualities, (3) the development of aesthetic judgment through analytical and critical thinking, and (4) shared musical experiences by the school and the community through demonstration and performance.
The Lower School library is used to enhance grade-level curricular learning, with age-appropriate literature and learning activities. From hearing stories that enhance an appreciation of books and literature, to understanding story elements and thematic issues, Library gives students plenty of opportunities for growth. At later Lower School ages, student engage with the Junior Great Books program and utilizing reference resources to support research. With a huge collection of over 11,000 books circulating to every student in the Lower School, the Library supports every student's learning experience!
Lower School students demonstrate their learning often, through performances, presentations, and community-wide experiences, including our Fall Concert.
All PCDS specials teachers are adept at supporting students' emerging skills in a variety of disciplines, including in the swimming pool as a part of our PE program.