Lower School Curriculum
Through the Lower School curriculum, students begin to explore the world around them. They acquire excellent reading and writing skills, encounter the basic concepts of science and math, begin to study Spanish, and express themselves creatively through art, dance, drama and music. Every student is encouraged to become a life-long learner and leaves the Lower School well-prepared for the increasing challenges of Chapin’s Middle School.
- Fine and Performing Arts
- Language Arts
- Learning Resources
- Physical Education
- Social Studies
- Tech Integration
Recognizing that the arts help us to appreciate and express both the individuality and shared threads of the human experience, the Lower School arts program is centered around cultivating artistic expression as a means of constructing and demonstrating learning. We work with each student to build her capacity for innovation and creativity. While exploring their artistic identity and the creative process, students learn about a diverse array of artists and deepen their experience in the visual and performing arts. The program empowers students to use their voice as artists to engage, reflect and shape the world they live in.
With a focus on Arts Integration, we examine how the arts can more powerfully interact with other subjects of study. To support this important work, each division has a dedicated Arts Integrator who, in collaboration with grade-level teachers, creates a curriculum that focuses on building artistic literacy in visual art, dance, drama and music, as well as cultivates a synergy between the arts and other subject fields, all to serve the important purpose of "education in the arts and education through the arts."
Lower School Dance is a creative movement-based program that is designed to encourage body and spatial awareness and to strengthen the students sense of self. This is achieved by guiding the students through integrated movement explorations.
Collaborative projects are an essential component of the dance curriculum, providing students with opportunities to develop the language of dance, express ideas, problem solve and create original choreography. The dance curriculum integrates with both homeroom and other disciplines to deepen a student’s overall academic experience.
Our music program strives to develop unique abilities and the potential of each child by offering a student-focused, developmentally appropriate and enriched music program. We prioritize the music language, skill-building, applied knowledge, and the students' voice to express a rich and varied program throughout grade levels.
Lower School Music is a sequential and experiential program inspired by Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze, and Jump Right In. The LS Music pedagogy blends together some of the core fundamentals of those programs to cultivate musical curiosity and a love of making music.
Students learn through aural and physical activities, which lead to visual representations and musical notation, and they have the opportunity to sing a diverse repertoire of authentic multicultural folk music in solo and ensemble settings. In addition to embracing traditional elements of world music, our curriculum also explores composition through technology integration and contemporary musical styles that will allow students to continue to grow and appreciate music for years to come.
Throughout their time in the Lower School, students will develop musical skills through playing cooperative games, singing, listening, moving, improvising, and reading and writing music. Each year, students have opportunities to perform in concerts as well as in interdisciplinary presentations.
Drama in the Lower School provides students the opportunity to cultivate creativity, express their learning through performance, and develop skills such as empathy and confidence while deepening their connection to each other and the world around them. Students get experience with various art forms including puppetry, stop-motion animation and playmaking.
In Kindergarten and Class 1, students build their social emotional and expressive skills through puppetry and role-play. Students use stories as a jumping off point for their exploration, which allows each student to consider, examine, and embrace attitudes that differ from their own. Within the safety of a story, students build fluency, empathy, and their sense of narrative structure.
In Classes 2 and 3, students learn the fundamentals of theater making and develop the tools to facilitate their creative endeavors. We begin by focusing on the core elements of story building: Character, Action, and Setting. Students use their own lives and experiences as inspiration for their storytelling but also pull from what they are learning in the homeroom to inform their artistic demonstrations of learning. Students are given the opportunity to write and perform original plays as well as exhibit their learning in non-traditional formats.
Lower school artists use their creative voice to explore and express identity, culture, and community. While growing their understanding of self, connections are built with others through sharing within their classroom communities, learning about creative people in many mediums, and connecting with visiting creative professionals who bring a range of perspectives.
Throughout Lower School, students are introduced to artistic concepts to expand on their understanding of methods and materials, and challenge their ability to think and create visually. They learn about sculpture, construction, basic printmaking and painting among a wide variety of media and visual concepts. Classes are intentionally designed to integrate with several subjects such as library, Spanish, science, and social studies. As students progress through Lower School, they strengthen their artistic skills while exploring new mediums.
Our Language Arts program aims to develop joyful, passionate and critical readers, creative writers and skilled communicators. The program balances each of the four strands: speaking, listening, reading and writing. Developing these essential skills helps our students make insights out of observations, meaning of their lives and to think about the ideas of others
Our balanced approach includes three major components: Reading Workshop, Writing Workshop, and Word Study. In Reading Workshop, students select from a wide variety of books according to their interests and “just-right” levels. During interactive read-alouds and when reading independently, our young students learn the habits of good readers – stopping to interact with a story, asking questions, making connections with prior knowledge and responding to multiple viewpoints.
In every classroom in the Lower School, our students, even the youngest, are competent writers with interesting ideas and stories to tell. We focus on developing both the skills and the process of writing, allowing the girls to take ownership of the techniques modeled during mini lessons and begin to apply them independently. With intentional instruction and support, they learn to write meaningful and exciting pieces just like “real” writers.
In a learning environment that is adaptive and collaborative, the Lower School learning team supports students’ development and potential across the curriculum. They work with girls both in and out of their homeroom classrooms and collaborate with classroom teachers to fine-tune their teaching practices to best suit each student’s needs. They are an integral part of each grade level team and meet weekly to provide resources that help teachers reinforce or extend concepts with their students. In addition to their work in the classroom, the Learning Resource teachers partner with families in support of students.
The Lower School Library provides an open and inviting space where students are actively encouraged to explore stories, genres, subjects and ideas during weekly library classes. With over 28,000 books and several hundred eBooks, our collection is both expansive and diverse in scope and representation. It is a collection where students can see themselves, learn about others, satisfy the pursuit of current interests, and discover new ones. The foundational skills that are introduced and built upon each year regarding research, the independent navigation of the collection, catalog searching, citation of digital and print resources, and responsible citizenship within the library, all help to prepare students for Middle School and beyond. Whether students are listening to a story being told, learning the importance of giving credit to a resource, participating in a movement activity, engaging in a thoughtful discussion, creating a hands-on project, or immersing themselves in a good book during quiet reading time; the Lower School library program celebrates the creative process, supports inquiry, inspires curiosity, fosters connections and champions the joy of reading, learning and growing.
The Lower School Mathematics Program allows students to construct understanding from their own experiences. As such, students are actively engaged in acquiring knowledge as opposed to passively receiving it.
Through a mix of inquiry-based explorations, real-world problems, games, and direct instruction, students develop deep conceptual understanding and problem solving skills that they gradually generalize to procedural computations. During daily discussions, students learn to communicate in the language of math, make connections between concepts and apply their understanding to novel situations.
Throughout their time in Lower School, students engage in 4 ”Cs” – Constructing Understanding, Connecting Ideas, Communicating Thinking and Computing with Numbers.
The Lower School physical education program is developed around the belief that students' physical, intellectual, and emotional lives are interconnected. The curriculum is specifically designed to foster the enjoyment of movement, develop physical and cognitive abilities, understand the importance of health and wellness, guide social and emotional growth, and cultivate character through decision-making and teamwork activities. In Kindergarten and Class 1, locomotor, gross-motor, and manipulative skills are emphasized on a regular basis. Students begin to explore sportsmanship through cooperative play. In Classes 2 and 3, these critical foundational skills are a key component for more specialized learning and greater individual skill acquisition. Students are given opportunities to demonstrate leadership, risk-taking and success.
Teachers create an environment where students feel safe and supported. Group activities and game play are included throughout the curriculum to build skills related to communication, cooperation and compromise, all of which are essential elements to developing a sense of community at Chapin. Skill development, fun fitness, inclusive participation, and fair play are key components of our curriculum. Classes 1 through 3 meet three times per cycle for 45 minutes and Kindergarten meets four times per cycle. The student-teacher ratio is kept small in order to maximize learning through individual attention. By the time students leave Lower School, they have a basic skill foundation (jumping, throwing, striking, catching, kicking, balancing, etc.), an age-appropriate understanding of rules and strategies, a respect for and an appreciation of others, and a healthy spirit toward all aspects of movement and play.
The Lower School science curriculum is inquiry based and hands-on. Capitalizing on children’s natural curiosity and wonder, the science lab is buzzing with excitement, where the unexpected can happen and questions abound. In our program, students are introduced to the scientific method: observation, hypothesis, and experimentation. In each grade, they are exposed to earth science, life science, physical science, and engineering (S.T.E.M.). Through active exploration and developmentally appropriate activities, young scientists build an understanding of the world around them while designing models, planting seeds, programming robots, and building bridges. Most importantly, the Lower Science science program emphasizes the process of learning and the joy of discovery.
The foundation for the Lower School Social Studies curriculum is built on the concept of community, which informs our understanding of the past and our ideas for the future. Within this study of community, children become caring learners who feel valued for their unique experiences and cultural background. They learn to respect differences, embrace individuality, develop relationships, resolve conflicts, cultivate empathy, and collaborate with their peers. In addition, the Lower School teachers help our students appreciate the value of living in a diverse and sustainable environment and understand their responsibility as citizens of our school, our neighborhood, our city, our country and the global community.
Using an inquiry-based approach and integrating with other subjects, students develop a series of questions to help guide their research and problem solve. Our youngest learners explore and share their family histories before learning about the people and cultures of the Chapin community. Exercising creativity and imagination, students in Class 1 consider the question, "How can we build an equitable, creative and sustainable community?" Stories and storytelling serve as the cornerstone of the Class 2 study of New York City. Throughout the year, students develop an understanding of how storytelling acts as a valuable and necessary agent in learning the city's authentic history, its people, and the cultures that have contributed to its growth. They explore the stories of their lives and skillfully investigate those of the homeland of the indigenous Lenape, their living history, and the lasting impact of settler colonialism. Through various activities designed to foster critical thinking, self-advocacy, and creativity, they gain greater perspective and knowledge of the contributions to this spectacular city of the generations of New Yorkers who came before them.
In the final year of the Lower School, the Class 3 curriculum provides an experience for students to develop a better understanding of their place in the world. The class spends time learning about their identities and that of others. They construct an understanding of how their identities affect their perception of their place in humanity and enhance their cultural awareness. Learning about the impact of well-known global changemakers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Wangari Maathai, and Malala Yousafzai, students consider how their social responsibility extends as young citizens of the world. For their culminating project, students focus on the people, topics, and causes important to them and choose specific changemakers to study. As they conduct independent research using text and other media, students immerse themselves in the life of their changemaker. In collaboration with the Arts and through a written and performance piece, students creatively convey their knowledge to their families and the Lower School community.
The Lower School Spanish program is student-centered and provides a culturally rich language experience that develops communication skills and a keen ear for the sound of Spanish. Students acquire the language by engaging in storytelling, singing, playing games, using Total Physical Response, a teaching method built around the coordination of speech and action; and exploring Spanish artists and culture. Supporting an integrated curriculum, we collaborate with homeroom teams and other disciplines to create units that infuse and reinforce content studied in the Social Studies, Arts, and Science programs. An important part of the program is understanding how our identity, and the identities of the members of our community, connects us across cultures. Aligned with the School's mission, the Spanish program considers equity, inclusion, and collaboration as essential components. Embracing a growth mindset, we reinforce three key ideas: all questions are welcome, mistakes are part of learning something new, and trying again and again builds knowledge muscles.
Beginning in Kindergarten, we introduce Spanish through whole group instruction three times a cycle, in addition to leading morning meetings and incorporating the language in playful ways during Learning Centers. In Classes 1, 2, and 3 the contact time increases to include both whole group and small group instruction. All classes are taught entirely in Spanish, and students demonstrate progress using technology like SeeSaw, a media application that allows differentiation, partnership, creativity, and responsibility.
In the Lower School, education technology is used to enhance curriculum and elevate student learning across disciplines and grade levels. Both low and high tech tools are used intentionally to scaffold classroom experiences and promote a greater understanding of how tech can improve the daily lives of students and their teachers.
Lower School students use an array of technology tools and benefit from our 1:1 iPad program. In addition to learning how to use iPads, keyboards and laptops, students are introduced to robot design and programming, fundamental computer science skills, and the Design Thinking Process through various project-based explorations that are closely aligned with their everyday learning.
Throughout the year, all Lower School students will explore critical elements of coding and programming, focusing on its authentic and responsible use in everyday situations. Students explore various opportunities for hands-on learning with both “unplugged” programming activities as well as the use of robots and robotics tools such as Blue-Bots, Ozobots, Lego WeDo and Makeblock Robotics Kits.
Weekly Technology and Design classes from Kindergarten through Class 3 encourage students to ask questions, make mistakes and explore firsthand how everyday objects work. Students learn to use empathy and innovation when approaching new problems, ideate creative possibilities as members of a learning community, invent prototypes and potential solutions, and finally test out and reflect upon their experiences.
Through the integration of tech learning and project-based curriculum, students are empowered to think critically, communicate effectively, solve problems creatively, and actively engage in their learning as members of a uniquely tech-savvy generation.