Lower School Curriculum
In the Wardlaw+Hartridge Lower School, the primary aim is to provide a nurturing environment in which children develop an awareness of themselves as responsible, capable learners; a respect for others and themselves; and an appreciation for their own and their classmates' talents. As they progress through our Lower School, the children retain their natural excitement about learning and are stimulated to discover and develop their strengths.
Learning in Pre-Kindergarten through Fourth Grade takes place in small, self-contained classes. In Fifth Grade, students experience a taste of departmentalization with the classroom teachers specializing in either Language Arts & Social Studies or Mathematics & Science. The homeroom teachers provide a challenging academic program that includes discrete and inter-disciplinary work within Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science. The faculty, at each grade level, work with each other to develop units of instruction, special projects, activities, and trips to stimulate intellectual curiosity and critical thinking.
Children attend special subject area classes taught by faculty who are professionally trained for that specific discipline. Each special subject teacher has designed a curriculum developmentally appropriate to each grade level. This curriculum often complements the homeroom curriculum. Students move up to Middle School with a solid knowledge and skill base, are confident in their abilities, value learning and respect one another.
Our First Grade program provides learning opportunities for students to engage in a variety of multisensory experiences that will foster independence. Providing students with differentiated instruction through exploration allows students to develop the confidence and critical thinking skills needed to be a lifelong learner.
The First Grade Language Arts curriculum is diverse and challenging, centering on the developmental level of each student. Reading, writing, speaking and listening skills are all developed in isolation as well as across the curriculum using an assortment of approaches. The Orton-Gillingham Approach anchors our instruction in supporting growing readers in the foundational years.
The First Grade Publishing Party is a hallmark of First Grade. After delving into the writing process, students publish their very own Personal Narratives. This process is one of many opportunities for First Graders to effectively communicate their thoughts and ideas through their writing. In addition, students present their pieces, publically, to family and friends in a classroom celebration of their accomplishments.
The Math in Focus: Singapore Approach is the formal curriculum used for mathematics instruction in the Lower School. Topics such as part-whole relationships, deeper levels of addition and subtraction with and without regrouping, mental math strategies, and real-world problem solving are introduced and developed.
First Graders explore the characteristics of different communities. They learn the importance of being knowledgeable and caring citizens within their school and home communities. Our trip to the Edison Municipal building provides students with a first-hand look at how important it is for all community members to work together. The First Grade science curriculum explores topics such as weather, animals and their habitats, and environmental sustainability with a hands-on, experiential approach to learning.
First Graders learn self-awareness, independence, and self-management skills to help them navigate their daily interactions as they continue through Lower School taking their foundational skills to deeper levels as they move toward the completion of the Primary Grades the following year.
In Second Grade, students use their newly refined skills to accelerate their learning as they complete the Primary Years. Direct instruction is coupled with prior knowledge to expand upon the concepts and skills presented in the First Grade. Higher-order thinking skills are introduced in the Second Grade as a synthesis of knowledge.
The Second Grade language arts curriculum further develops skills in reading comprehension, vocabulary, phonemic awareness, writing, speaking and listening. Guided reading is continued in the Second Grade to support readers at their individual, instructional level. Chapter and series books are integrated into language arts work as well. Students are expected to write longer pieces as their writing stamina grows and they continue to learn more about genre, craft, and style.
The Math in Focus: Singapore Approach is the formal curriculum used for mathematics instruction in the Lower School. Topics such as part-whole relationships, multiplication and division as related to addition and subtraction, fractions, geometric concepts, and real-world problem solving are introduced or further developed.
The United Nations unit of study is the foundation of the Second Grade Social Studies curriculum. The development of cultural identity allows burgeoning learners to use their first opportunity in academic research to have personal meaning and value. We compare and contrast our own cultural identities with those of others as the year progresses. The Second Grade science curriculum includes exploration of various topics such as properties of matter and water cycle.
Public speaking is introduced in short presentations on various topics as the precursor to the formal speech program which begins in the Third Grade. There are several opportunities for students to develop competence with more formal, structured presentations. Projects such as Scientist of the Day, News Reports and the Heritage Project, allow children to develop a sense of self-confidence in speaking before a group, as well as an understanding of disciplines within their connection to the global society. These small presentations vary in frequency providing the space for children to build upon each experience.
As the conclusion of the Primary Grades, the Second Grade year emphasizes the refinement of those foundational skills and concepts which provide children with the tools to unlock the joy of life-long learning. Over the year, students become more experienced and confident readers, writers, and mathematicians, by practicing their skills in complex and comprehensive ways in preparation for the transition to Third Grade.
Third Grade is a transitional year academically, socially, and emotionally. Throughout this year, students learn to become more sophisticated readers, more creative writers, and more analytical mathematicians while they dig more deeply into the disciplines. Basic skills taught in the primary grades are now applied as students develop better conceptual thinking for application in their learning. The curriculum integrates language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies so that children learn more fully, making connections throughout their studies.
In the last trimester of the school year, students are introduced to the formal Wardlaw+Hartridge Speech Program. This project is a culmination of their year’s efforts in reading for information, research, writing, and oral presentation skills. Each student prepares, memorizes and delivers a speech to an audience of classmates and parents.
The Math in Focus: Singapore Approach is the formal curriculum used for mathematics instruction in the Lower School. Topics such as using bar models to solve problems, the relationship between whole numbers and fractions, geometric concepts, and real-world problem solving with multiple steps are introduced or further developed.
Throughout the year in social studies, Third Graders study the United States, and with various units of study they learn how our country has evolved into the nation it is today.
The Third Grade science curriculum focuses on earth and physical science while developing their ability to think critically using scientific process skills as their units of study connect to issues of environmental sustainability.
Becoming a confident, fluent and enthusiastic reader of a variety of texts is paramount. Reading becomes the anchor for much of their learning integrated into all subject areas. The Third Grade year is an important turning point where children begin as primary students and complete the year as more independent and mature intermediate learners preparing them for the challenges of the Fourth Grade.
The Fourth Grade year is one of significant growth as students are industrious and intellectually curious, and a good deal of their academic time is spent giving attention to both the process and the product of their school work. The development of organizational and study skills is emphasized to support our students taking more responsibility for themselves academically and socially. Fourth Grade classroom instruction begins to see more discrete separation in individual subject areas within the disciplines of Language Arts, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science.
A year-long in-depth study of New Jersey anchors the Social Studies curriculum and provides the basis for the interdisciplinary work within the Language Arts and Science curriculum. At the end of the school year, as a culminating project, students write a research paper on a New Jersey topic, which they then present as a formal, memorized speech to an audience of their parents and peers.
In Fourth Grade, emphasis is placed on reading to learn. Students explore a range of genres and respond to literature through discussion and a variety of written formats. In addition, students expand their vocabulary and develop analytic skills as they learn how to navigate complex non-fiction texts.
The Math in Focus: Singapore Approach is the formal curriculum used for mathematics instruction in the Lower School. Topics such as complex problem-solving, data and probability, continued study of the relationship between whole numbers and fractions, in-depth geometric concepts, and a study of number theory are introduced.
The Fourth Grade science curriculum is designed to develop students’ awareness of the important role science plays in their lives and the world. Topics such as the interrelationship between plants and animals and weather in the state of New Jersey demonstrate the importance of environmental sustainability.
As Fourth Graders, students learn the complexity of their subjects and deepen their skills to prepare for Middle School. In the Fourth Grade classrooms, students are supported as they, like their younger counterparts, learn best in a warm, nurturing environment. They are guided and encouraged to think deeply about and make meaningful, complex connections across all subjects. Independence is fostered to set the foundation for life-long learning.
Our Fifth Grade program works to develop competence in executive function while working with the complexity of varied disciplines. Organization, time management, and study skills are emphasized in preparing our students to become more independent learners. Within classroom instruction, the Fifth Grade is departmentalized with one homeroom teacher instructing all students in Mathematics and Science and the other in Language Arts and Social Studies.
Fifth Grade students are eligible to participate in Middle School sports or theatre performances throughout the school year. This unique opportunity enhances the confidence, independence, social and emotional growth of students providing them with experiences into Middle School life.
The Fifth Grade Capstone is a year-long research endeavor, which included exploring, researching, writing a thesis, and creating presentations to teach others about a topic of global focus as introduced through the Social Studies curriculum and our mission of global interconnection. At the end of the year, students present their work to their parents and to their peers.
As Fifth Graders assume their roles as leaders of the Lower School, they are provided with the academic preparation needed for success in Middle School. Whether organizing community service activities, helping younger students at lunch, or working as buddies with the Kindergarteners, Fifth Graders learn the importance of service to the school, the community, and the world.
Creating art is a natural occurrence in childhood, an activity that children discover and pursue quite independently. At Wardlaw+Hartridge, this creative impulse is encouraged, guided, and enriched by providing an inviting, challenging, and stimulating environment. From Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth Grade, the Art curriculum builds continuously upon previously learned skills. As children grow, they become more adept at handling a variety of media and will create in both two- and three-dimensional forms. Students are given the opportunity to express their ideas and to explore the work of famous artists. Through this, they learn to appreciate not only their own work but that of others, as well. The Art program in the Lower School encourages individuality and expression of ideas at each grade level while exploring art materials.
Through a variety of activities, students in First Grade through Fifth Grade are encouraged to create projects of personal expression, to make decisions about their work, and to set high standards for themselves as they work through the process. Students are taught the principles of design, perspective, proportion, and the aesthetics of art. In the early grades, the learning experience, or the process, is more important than the visual product. By the end of Fifth Grade, students have the tools necessary to set goals, select a strategy, determine how to apply it, and continually make assessments and revisions in order to create a personal statement in art.
The Lower School Health Education program provides students with a broad base of acquired skills and knowledge to promote the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle and how responsible lifetime decision-making can contribute to their overall wellness. The program highlights key factors associated with the context of their physical, mental and emotional, and social well-being. Units of study include understanding of the body systems, growth and development, healthy relationships, social and emotional wellness, substance abuse and prevention, disease, nutrition and physical activity, and personal health care and safety. Contemporary health issues are often discussed as students are encouraged to actively participate and share their own perspectives on local and global issues that may arise. Information on each topic is age-appropriate with each year building on the previous beginning in the Third Grade. Classes take place as units within the daily Physical Education schedule.
In addition to general and vocal music instruction, students in Fourth Grade begin to take lessons on band instruments. In the first year of school-based instruction, students are taught in like-instrument groupings and perform unison and two-part melodies in the Spring Concert. In Fifth Grade, students meet in mixed-instrument classes once a week to learn playing technique and strengthen music reading skills. They also rehearse as a band once a week to build ensemble skills through learning beginner-level literature.
Students have the opportunity to choose from a woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument. Students who receive private instructions outside of weekly band classes and display more advanced skills are given opportunities to perform in additional school performances, recitals, and are encouraged to participate in regional honors ensembles.
The Lower Snowdon Lower School Library serves students every day of the school year. Students in Pre-Kindergarten through Fifth Grade visit the library once a week for scheduled book exchanges. This space is a vibrant, warm environment that is designed specifically for students in grades Pre-Kindergarten through Five. This print-rich environment provides opportunities for our Lower School students to enjoy literacy in an inspiring space. Students in Grades One through Five visit the library once a week for scheduled book exchanges, yet they are able to choose from the catalog at any time in the week.
The Lower Snowdon Lower School Library is also used for Lower School Assemblies which are held several times a month on Wednesday mornings. Both faculty and students participate in leading assemblies, including the youngest students in Pre-Kindergarten, Junior Kindergarten, and Kindergarten. These first opportunities in public speaking allow all of our Lower School students to serve as leaders to the rest of the Lower School community. Teachers will often use the library for book-related special activities such as the First Grade Author Celebrations and the Second Grade My Favorite Book Wax Museum. Additionally, when there is inclement weather, some classes will come to the library for some indoor-recess time allowing them to feel fully at home in the library. Literacy is critical to academic excellence and a warm, inviting library space is key to building a love of books and the pursuit of learning.
Music participation is important to each student's development. It provides a unique way of knowing oneself and appreciating the world. Students build upon their "Tuneful, Beatful, Artful" foundation, developing musical literacy through a wide variety of activities.
Students in First Grade complete the final year of the First Steps in Music curriculum. Students in Second through Fifth Grades begin to build music literacy through the use of the Conversational Solfege curriculum. Through this instruction, students internalize rhythmic and melodic elements before moving on to improvisation, reading and composition.
Third Grade participates in a unit of study on the recorder to further develop music reading skills. Fourth and Fifth Graders utilize the ukulele to deepen their melodic and rhythmic knowledge, focusing on proper technique. In the Spring, Fifth Grade students attend a trip to New York City to see a Broadway show, which is connected to a unit of study on American Music Theater.
In addition to a weekly general music class, Fourth and Fifth Grade students participate in a weekly vocal music class where they practice as a grade-level choir. Lower Schoolers demonstrate their ensemble learning by participating in choral performances in the Winter and Spring Concerts . As children progress through the Lower School, additional opportunities for performance arise including the Spring Recital and the Fifth Grade Cabaret. The nurturing of the child's enjoyment, responsiveness, and sensitivity to music is always at the core of the Music curriculum. Through musical immersion, we help students to be a musician in a part of a larger musical community.
The Lower School Physical Education program provides an extensive curriculum in which sports, games, dance, and creative movement are explored in developmentally appropriate activities. Students gain a well-rounded Physical Education experience, and through daily participation, understand the importance of exercise as a regular routine. In Physical Education class, students are given the opportunity to learn appropriate social behaviors as they work individually and in small and large co-educational groups. They learn to encourage one another, allowing them to become more comfortable with their abilities and to appreciate the abilities of others through sportsmanship.
At the youngest ages, the development of fine and gross motor skills tasks is emphasized along with a specific focus on overall health and wellness skills. By the end of Fifth Grade, teamwork and game rules have been introduced. Exposure to a wide variety of global sports such as tae kwon do, specialized dance, cricket, water polo, aquatics (Second through Fifth Grades) and global past times, complement our more traditional sports of basketball, soccer, baseball/softball, and volleyball. Specialized units for Fourth and Fifth Grades include archery and 21st century approached to fitness training and conditioning. Students in the Fifth Grade participate in the Physical Education program four days a week, as they are eligible to participate in specific seasonal sports in the Middle School Athletic Program. The Fifth Grade Physical Education program focused on preparing students for a competitive level of athletic participation as well as broadening knowledge of sports from an educational perspective.
Our goal in Physical Education is to facilitate love and appreciation for physical activity and connect the multitude of skills learned to prosper throughout their Lower School experience.
The Lower School Spanish Program is the beginning of an articulated sequence of language learning that builds from one level to another all the way through the Middle and Upper Schools to ensure students will develop proficiency in Spanish. Our program also provides a foundation of foreign language learning to students who choose a different language when they move to the Middle School. The goals of our curriculum are based on the World-Readiness Standards for Learning Languages and are known as the Five Cs. The Five Cs of communication, cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities inform what students should be able to do and know in their language learning classes.
Communication is at the center of the development of language proficiency, and the meaningful contexts for language use are established by the knowledge of cultures, connections, comparisons, and communities. These areas are the basis for instructional activities throughout the Lower School are are embedded within the World Languages Department's communication objectives.
The Lower School Spanish curriculum prepares students to communicate in Spanish by providing a once-weekly lesson for Pre-Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten, twice-weekly lessons for Kindergarten to Fifth Grade in Spanish allowing them to achieve the cumulative progress indicators at the language High Novice Level by the end of Fifth Grade. Students are immersed as they hear and speak Spanish for the majority of the class. By listening to the teacher speak the language, watching the teacher's expressive movements, and being exposed to authentic and non-authentic resources, students are able to understand conversations, directions, and introductions to new concepts in Spanish.
A dedicated STEM class, twice a week, allows students to participate in an innovative program integrating just-in-time learning with high-interest topics. Units of study are presented in a Problem-Based Learning approach, and students are tasked with using 21st Century skills of collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking to solve problems in content-driven projects. Each unit is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which consists of Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts.
Students develop an understanding of the four disciplinary core ideas of physical sciences; life sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology, and applications of science. In the younger grades, students begin with problem-based approaches to learning, by recognizing patterns and formulating answers to questions about the world around them. As students progress through the Lower School, they learn to answer questions by gathering, describing, and using information about the natural and designed worlds.
The structure of the program follows engineering design principles to encourage systematic processing of solutions. The integration of the disciplines and student choice contributes to the overall learning experience. Throughout the Lower School STEM program, students consider the essential question, How do scientists think about the world in which they live? to anchor their learning. Students explore coding, robotics, and engineering, throughout the grades, and in the Fifth Grade, the STEM class complements the Capstone work of the second half of the school year.
Distance learning for the Lower School students is a mix of live sessions, pre-recorded videos, assigned work, and independent projects, along with regular check-ins. Students in the Lower School have both off- and on-screen learning activities designed to engage in experiences that connect to the curriculum and continue their learning. Throughout the Lower School, the balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning differs by grade and discipline, providing developmentally appropriate, targeted instruction and practice.