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Lower School at Parker

Kindergarten  – Grade 5

Lower School students are nurtured in their creativity, playfulness, and joy in discovery. Through a meaningful curriculum, they are challenged to develop powers of observation, analysis, critical thinking, self-evaluation, and collaboration. As they learn to work together as supportive members of a community, students become skilled readers, writers, researchers, scientists, mathematicians and friends. Teachers facilitate the learning process and guide students to reach their highest potential.

Kindergarten – First Grade

Grades 2-3

Grades 4-5

Inside the Lower School:

Mixed-grade classrooms_gg21863

Mixed-grade classes, K-1, 2-3, and 4-5, give students the chance to expand friendships across grade levels. Parker is small by design, and mixed-grade classes build a strong sense of community throughout the school.

Intellectual growth is multiplied as all students gain from the insights and strengths of others. The flexibility to group students in a variety of ways enables teachers to create many different learning situations.

Students in mixed grades learn from the expertise of more experienced classmates and strengthen their learning through guiding others. Classroom routines are quickly passed down to new classmates at the start of the year. Younger students have positive models for behavior and problem-solving, while older students delight in their role as mentors.

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Academics: an integrated, project-based approach

Study is generally organized around themes that incorporate language arts, social studies, science and art. Students collaborate, problem-solve, and innovate in small groups as they produce presentations and projects that explore questions and display knowledge. Students are challenged by assignments that have relevance and application beyond classroom walls.

A two-year rotating curriculum of themes incorporates study of our local community, our region and its history. Themes also cover American history, government and geography, and foreign countries.

Visual and performing arts are woven into and support all areas of the curriculum. All students in grades K – 5 take art, music, physical education, health, science, Spanish, and library taught by subject area specialists.

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Core skills

Language Arts – Students develop core skills in reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, handwriting, and technology. Literature circles, read-alouds, daily silent reading, writing workshops, teacher conferencing, peer-review, research, and publishing are all part of the weekly routine.  The student:teacher ratio in K-1 ranges from 2:1 to 4:1 allowing for every-day individualization during a crucial time of growth.

We request that students read at home for 20 to 30 minutes daily, with parents or individually.

Math – In-depth understanding of math concepts and mastery of math facts are the goals of the lower school math program. In grades K – 4, we use Investigations in Number, Data, and Space as the base for hour-long daily math instruction by grade level. Grade 5 uses the Connected Math program at an advanced level.  Student:teacher ratio is 8:1.

IMG_3638Science – Students develop powers of observation and the habits of scientific inquiry through twice-weekly sessions with our science teacher. Science happens both in the classroom and throughout our 77-acre outdoor classroom.  Students in K-1 and 2-3 spend Friday afternoons in Muddy Boots Club.  Read more here.

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We teach students how to use critique as a tool for improvement. They learn to impart and receive positive feedback to improve successive drafts of a piece of work. Analyzing the elements that make a piece excellent, and then receiving suggestions from peers and teachers, inspires students to strive for that highest level. This teaches students a life-long ability to self-reflect and work toward their personal best.

2-3 teacher, Lynn Schuster describes the process of critique in her blog.

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Culminating projects

Big units of study in the fall and spring culminate in a display of work for parents and schoolmates. As students build knowledge within each unit of study, they begin to find an area of expertise that focuses their research. As the classroom becomes a living museum, individuals and groups show off their expertise through performances, posters, artifacts, essays, creative writing, science demonstrations and a variety of interpretive displays.

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Social learning

Robert C. Parker School embraces the Responsive Classroom® approach, which was developed to foster safe, challenging, and joyful classrooms. Morning Meetings and Closing Circles that build a strong sense of community begin and end each day.

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Lunch and snacks

Lunch: Students bring their lunch daily. Pizza and Panera sandwiches are each available once per week. Students eat in their classrooms in a calm and congenial social setting.

Snacks: We encourage healthy food in school. Candy and sugary drinks are discouraged. Children bring snacks from home for morning and afternoon. A healthy grains mix is prepared for the After Club snack.

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Recess, play and time spent with nature100_5804

Play is an important element of social learning. It also develops creativity, problem-solving, mathematical, organizational and executive function skills. Dress-up and building materials and the time to use them are an integral part of classroom life in the lower school.

Students go outdoors for recess in all seasons to experience our developmentally designed natural play structures and our fields, woods, gardens, trails and streams.

K-1 and 2-3 students have two outdoor play sessions scheduled each day. 4–5 has a daily half-hour recess. Outdoor exploration is not limited to these times, however.

Students use the outdoors to enhance learning opportunities in science and physical education, and for hiking, walks, exploration, IMG_2400observation, reflection and the arts. They help maintain our 5K trail system, learning stations, greenhouse and raised-bed vegetable gardens.

On Friday afternoons children in K – 3 spend an extended period outdoors experiencing an environmental curriculum in Muddy Boots Club.  Read about our outdoor program, the cutting edge of a worldwide trend in education, in The Dirt on Muddy Boots Club.

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School day 8:45 AM – 3:45 PM

Sports and after-school activities until 4:30 or 5:00. Before Club and After Club are available from 7:30 – 8:30 AM and 3:45 – 5:45 PM.

Schedule – The daily class schedule follows a predictable pattern with specials interspersed through the day. Large blocks of time are built into the schedule for students to pursue reading, writing, and projects.

Sports – All lower school students are invited to participate in after-school sports and games, offered one day per week in grades K – 4 and two days per week in grade 5.

After-School Opportunities – Other after-school offerings can include weekly Game Design Computer Club, fencing, African Drumming, drama, chess, sewing, and circus theatrics.

Community Service – Lower school students are responsible for collecting classroom recycling and composting materials, and for classroom cleaning jobs. Reaching into the community, classes decide on a variety of projects that relate to the curriculum and respond to local or worldwide needs.

Public Speaking and Drama – Students practice public speaking skills for culminating projects, class presentations, in assemblies, at singing presentations, and for project night. They perform a scene or adapted play for the annual Shakespeare Night.

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Curriculum Links

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