Third through Sixth Grade
Our teacher to student ratio of 1:20 is an impressively low ratio for the older grade levels. It allows students to work more independently while also still providing the ability for direct teaching and assessment for learning.
The outdoor classroom is an integral part of a creative educational approach that combines heart, mind, intellect and appreciation for diversity in the natural world.
We understand that not every child learns in the same way. Nor do all the children arrive at school with the exact same strengths to build upon. By assessing your child's unique learning profile, we work with them to help them grow in knowledge and gain confidence in learning. We are an inclusive school where neuro-diversity is recognized and respected. For Upper Elementary, there is a special educator on the teaching team that assists develop plans for those students with already prepared IFSP's, IEP's or 504's.
For Mathematics, and English Language and Literacy daily systematic instruction, children are grouped primarily by age (grades 3 + 4, and grades 5 + 6). Where appropriate for differentiation purposes, some children may receive systematic instruction in the group outside of their age grade.
Across the rest of the curriculum, and for project work, Grades 3rd through 6th will work as one mixed age group class of 20 children per grouping with a teacher and support assistant.
Our approach to math involves daily systematic instruction in critical math skills, followed by activities which employ those skills to solve math problems in real-life application. This way math skills are not simply abstract concepts, enabling children to engage with math in more meaningful ways. We use multiple strategies to solve math problems; there is usually more than one route to the correct answer, and we explore all methods to find the right method for each child so they can be confident in their abilities. Our approach encourages teamwork and peer-coaching. Students become fluent in the fundamentals of mathematics through varied and frequent practice with increasingly complex problems over time, applying their skills to a variety of routine and non-routine problems with increasing sophistication, including breaking down problems into a series of simpler steps and persevering in seeking solutions. Mathematics is an interconnected subject in which students are taught to apply their math knowledge to science and other STEAM subjects.
Our approach consciously moves away from an over-reliance on commercially produced student workbooks and worksheets, which are pre-set and can be repetitious. We prefer more creative methods for generating calculations and recording written math work.
Grades 3+4 Key skills include: Number sense and operations, Units of Measurement, Data collection, presentation, and interpretation, Geometry, Simple algebra, Probability, Problem solving.
Grades 5+ 6 Key skills include: Number sense and operations (including negative numbers and decimals), Units of Measurement, Data collection, presentation, and interpretation, Geometry, Algebraic equations, Percentages, Averages and Rates, Probability, Problem solving.
English Language and Literacy:
Reading, writing, speaking, and listening are inter-related skills. These are taught in an integrated way, through daily systematic instruction, followed by application activities. A range of genres of fiction and non-fiction texts are studied at word level, sentence level, and whole text level. Children develop understanding and enjoyment of stories, poetry, plays, and non-fiction. They transfer their knowledge and skills in reading and writing non-fiction across their wider projects. They learn to justify their views about what they have read both verbally, and in writing. We source texts that are extremely interesting to our children. Through active listening, we meet their imagination, and explore together. Small group guided reading within the class helps students develop greater control over the reading process through the development of reading strategies which assist decoding and construct meaning. The teacher guides or 'scaffolds' students as they read, talk and think their way through a text.
Grades 3+4 Key skills include: Reading (de-coding and comprehension), Writing (spelling, sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, form, and purpose), Speaking and Listening, Presenting.
Grades 5+6 Key skills include: Reading with appropriate intonation to show their understanding, and de-coding (pronunciation) of unfamiliar words with increasing automaticity. Writing (spelling of unfamiliar words, complex sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, form, purpose, and speed at writing down their ideas quickly). Finding their ‘authentic voice’ in writing. Confidence, enjoyment and mastery of language will be extended through public speaking, performance and debate.
History and Social Sciences:
Children explore key topics which are relevant to their understanding of the world, both globally and locally. We use a range of ‘ways in’ to these topics, drawing on skills learned in all curriculum areas. Children collaborate with their peers and outside experts to develop their own projects around these topics, exploring sub-topic areas that particularly interest them. Grades 3 – 6 work together on a rolling program.
Key topics: 1. Maryland history, geography, and government, 2. Introduction to world geography and culture, 3. Movement of people (slavery. exploration, immigration and emigration), 4. Ancient and Medieval world.
Knowledge, skills and understanding in biology, chemistry and physics are developed through systematic instruction of skills with science equipment, alongside opportunities to transfer these skills across science projects. Children work in groups to design, carry out, and evaluate projects of scientific inquiry. They work in groups and independently to use source materials such as reference books, the internet, and experts, to inform their projects. Grades 3 – 6 work together on a rolling program. The science curriculum is designed as a spiral model, in that children’s ideas gain in complexity and power, as they reflect on their experiences with these topics in previous grades and integrate new information.
Key topics: 1. The Environment (plants, animals, the ecosystem), 2. Energy and Inventions,
3. Weather, Solar, and Human Biological Systems, 4. Geology.
The Foundation Subjects are integral to preserving a broad and balanced curriculum, where all types of learners can grow and flourish physically, mentally, and creatively. These subjects are taught through systematic skills instruction, followed by the opportunity to use those skills within exploration of their projects in History and Social Sciences, and Science.
The Performing Arts (Music, Dance and Drama) and Visual Arts include opportunities for students to learn specific skills using musical instruments, voices, bodies, and visual arts materials. Students learn to create, organize and develop their artistic ideas and work pieces, independently and in groups through project work. They analyze and interpret works of art, including compositions and performances, learning how society and culture has conveyed meaning and communicated ideas through art forms throughout history.
Physical Education (P.E.) includes the development of gross motor skills, movement patterns, concepts and strategies, across athletics, gymnastics, games, and outdoor and adventurous activities. P.E. provides the aerobic exercise essential for growing bodies. We combine P.E. with Health Education to inspire a desire for lifelong health and fitness.
Technology Education, including technology literacy, is integrated throughout the curriculum. Skills are taught through systematic instruction, alongside a range of opportunities to transfer those skills across children’s project work. Technology Education is used appropriately to improve children’s creativity, motivation, efficiency and enjoyment of learning.
A Note about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)
Our integrated and inquiry-based approach provides a well-tested-and-tried model of incorporating all areas of learning under the umbrella of an inclusive, in-depth investigation or project, for example, one answering a complex question, investigating a global issue, or developing solutions for challenges and real-world problems. This is perfect for increasing children’s STEAM skills and knowledge. In projects with a STEAM focus, preliminary investigations can explore knowledge and skills involved in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. There will also be opportunities to introduce new vocabulary associated with these STEAM subjects. Selected achievements can be featured in a presentation showing what the STEAM subjects have contributed to the study as a whole as well as to the individual explorations the children have carried out.