Lower School Curriculum

Language Arts

The richness and wonder of Language Arts is integrated into all curriculum areas in our Lower School. Students learn how to gather information for hands-on projects in science, social studies, literature and math as well as develop both expressive and receptive oral language skills during Morning Meetings, class meetings and class and school presentations. As they progress toward middle grades, students learn to present using visuals and other multimedia for a range of purposes and audiences as well as hone the skills to express and debate different points of view.

The mechanics of writing are taught progressively. Our younger students use Handwriting Without Tears to develop their printing. In second grade, they shift to Kick Start Cursive, which is reinforced in the middle grades. They also learn keyboarding with online programs –– first mastering the fingering, then developing speed and accuracy.

Grammar conventions are taught using Daily Oral Language and Writer’s Workshop mini-lessons. Students in grades 1-4 use a combination of Rebecca Sitton Spelling and Words Their Way. Lower school students develop reading strategies from the very beginning.

Each classroom is print-rich –– a dynamic and alive environment of words and learning –– and reading is incorporated into every aspect of the curriculum. Students begin their school journey with phonics and phonemic awareness and master reading through poetry, Reader’s Theater and other literature, including both fiction and nonfiction selections. Students use grade-appropriate graphic organizers and reading responses to develop their comprehension. By the mid-grades, they shift from learning to read to reading to learn. As in other areas of the curriculum, reading selections are linked to themes and values. All grade levels participate in the Global Read-Aloud program.

Reading Highlights:
  • Kindergarten: Storybooks, poetry, fiction and nonfiction
  • First grade: A to Z, Words Their Way, Wordly Wise, trade books
  • Second grade: Mystery stories, Flat Stanley books, fairy tales, biographies, short stories, Scholastic News
  • Third grade: Roald Dahl stories, Choose Your Own Adventure series, short story anthologies, literature circles with fiction and nonfiction selections
  • Fourth grade: Island of the Blue Dolphins, Ishi, the Last of his Tribe, Esperanza Rising, Pedro’s Journal, and By the Great Horn Spoon
  • Fifth grade: Seedfolks, Chains, The Game of Silence

All K-5 teachers are trained in the Lucy Calkins Writer’s Workshop program. At each grade level, students learn narrative, poetry and expository writing concepts as well as hone their skills through journaling, book reports, content-area research and Kidblogs.


In the Lower School, students learn scientific methods through inquiry-based units. They define problems, make hypotheses, conduct experiments and draw conclusions. They use the power of observation to study properties and attributes as they develop and ask critical questions. After experimenting, students always go back and revise their hypotheses and draw final conclusions. Numerous field trips to museums and natural environments enhance scientific concepts and the wonder of discovery. In the classroom, FOSS kits bring hands-on learning and science journaling to life.

Units of Study:
  • Kindergarten: Nature collections and classification museums, volcano building, healthy selves-healthy food, Hospital corner, in-class dental office simulation, Earth Day and recycling projects, plants and tree studies and experiments, care of class pets
  • First grade: Habitats (forest, rainforest, freshwater, saltwater, Arctic), Three States of Matter, Air and Weather
  • Second grade: Science Investigations—Mystery Festival, Balance and Motion, Insects and Plants (including mealworm and butterfly studies)
  • Third grade: Local Birds, Space Exploration and Planetarium Design, Individual Scientific Research and Project Design
  • Fourth grade: Soils, Rocks, and Landforms. Energy and Electromagnetism, Inventors, Design Thinking Fair
  • Fifth grade: Living systems including vascular plants, sugar and cells; Earth’s place in the solar system and sun’s effect on our planet; the constant renewal of water on the Earth’s surface making ours the “water planet”

Social Studies

Our Lower School social studies curriculum is energetic, hands-on and experiential. It spirals from focusing children inwards on themselves, to branching out to their families, classes, school, community, state, country and, finally, the world. Each grade has a “buddy” grade that they partner with throughout the year for special programs and activities:

  • Kindergarten/Eighth grade: Thanksgiving Feast, Passover Seder, special visits
  • First/Seventh grades: Science Partners-Creek restoration
  • Second/Third grades: Weekly cooperative projects
  • Fourth/Fifth grade: Weekly long-term cooperative projects
Major Units of Study by Grade:
  • Kindergarten: Social Expectations, Learning to be Social, Family, School and Community, Celebration of Diversity, Planting the Seeds of Global Citizenship
  • First grade: All About Me, Homes and Habitats, Native Americans and Pilgrims, Holidays Around the World, MLK and Civil Rights, Presidents, Mindfulness Practice and Appreciating Ourselves and Others
  • Second grade: Be a Super Sleuth, 31 Actions to Change the World, World Geography and Flat Stanley, People and Places of Japan and Careers
  • Third grade: Myself and My Family, Community Learners and Leaders: My City, Its Government, Its Education, Its Sports, and Its Leaders, Utopian Community Design
  • Fourth grade: Tuning into California –– symbols and “birthday”, Native Californians, European Explorers, Missions and Ranchos, Gold Rush, and California Today
  • Fifth grade: Five Themes of World Geography, United States –– Native Americans through the Civil War, Regions and States of the United States

Jewish Studies

Students are introduced to the richness of the Jewish heritage, including aspects of the Jewish calendar, holidays and cycles of the year. Our Jewish Studies curriculum focuses on universal Jewish values and empowers students to act in ways that give expression to those values. Students study and discuss the Torah and delve into complex and often abstract topics in concrete, hands-on and developmentally meaningful ways.

Areas of Focus:
  • Kindergarten: Introduction to the holidays, including Shabbat, and blessings which develop their natural sense of awe and wonder.
  • First grade: Shabbat in detail and learn about the holidays in Hebrew; focus on the stories of the first three books of the Torah: Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus; lead our community-wide service and receive their own prayer books.
  • Second grade: Continue to study the holidays in Hebrew; in depth study of the Creation story; lead the school community in a service centered around the Passover story; conduct an in-depth study of the modern State of Israel
  • Third grade: Focus on the Life of Sarah from the Book of Genesis, engage in close reading of this part of the Torah in Hebrew.
  • Fourth grade: Compare the Creation story in the Torah with those of other cultures; study the Book of Exodus and the modern State of Israel including geography, current events, and the natural environment; study the Jews of the Gold Rush, which complements their Social Studies unit on the Gold Rush
  • Fifth grade: Study American Jewish History, alongside their Social Studies unit on US History; focus on American Jewish life from 1460-modern day; embark on an extensive family tree project, which culminates with a presentation of their family scrapbooks; study the development of synagogues in this country; reflect on the fourth book of the Torah (Numbers) and investigate the life of Moses as a leader of the Jewish people.


Lower School students learn Hebrew as a modern language using a whole language approach. It’s joyfully and lovingly brought to life through reading, speaking, music, song, poetry and drama and awakens a deep appreciation of the Hebrew culture. By studying Hebrew as a second language, students enhance their memory as well as organizational and communication skills. Hebrew also serves as a bridge to Israel and allows students to engage the texts and ideas of the Jewish tradition more deeply.

Grade Highlights:
  • Kindergarten: Hebrew immersion of phrases, nouns, oral language
  • First grade: Vocabulary and stories related to the classroom, home, school, feelings, weather and the world; students learn read and write Hebrew alphabet in Hebrew print
  • Second grade: Begin to write Hebrew in cursive and hone reading skills; learn vocabulary related to greetings and the classroom environment
  • Third grade: Expand Hebrew vocabulary and grammar in units such as All About Me and How to Succeed in School.
  • Fourth and fifth grades: Beginning in fourth grade, students are taught Hebrew in leveled groups, covering vocabulary and grammar in such areas as Friends, Class Trip, After School Activities, and Objects and Stories.


We focus on making math real, meaningful and inspiring with a hands-on, experiential curriculum that’s differentiated to meet the needs of each student. Our teachers are trained in both Making Math Real, a comprehensive and fully structured multi-sensory, manipulatives-based program, and Singapore Math, which explores a few foundational concepts in great depth. These math programs work in tandem to bring students from concrete to pictorial to abstract thinking and problem solving. We place strong emphasis on mental math strategies as well as use Design Thinking and project-based learning to enrich and enhance the mathematical strands taught each year. Students use the online program, Mathletics, to supplement classroom learning.

Grade Focus and Highlights:
  • Kindergarten: Counting and cardinality, measurement and data classifying and sorting operations, creating and writing story problems, geometry-identifying 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional shapes
  • First grade: Introduction of number bonds for operations and problem solving, place value, addition and subtraction facts to 10 and stories, numbers to 100, graphing, measurement of length and weight, multiplication and division concepts (equal groups), money concepts and telling time to the half-hour. First graders celebrate the 100th Day of School and focus on the math revolving around 100.
  • Second grade: Addition and subtraction facts to 18, multiplication and division facts, place value to 1000, regrouping, standard and metric measurements, telling time to 5 minutes, identifying fractions as parts of wholes, adding and subtracting to 1000 using mental math strategies. Second graders learn logic and strategy games from around the world and create, study, and present individualized math projects.
  • Third grade: Place value and addition and subtraction with regrouping to 1,000,000, two-place multiplication and long-division, adding and subtracting fractions with like denominators, elapsed time and duration, area and perimeter. Third graders use a variety of math games to supplement their learning and develop and create math games for their classmates to use.
  • Fourth Grade: Whole numbers, rounding and place value beyond 1,000,000, factors and multiples of numbers, 3-place multiplication and 2-digit divisor long-division, patterns and equations, four operations applied to fractions and whole numbers, area and perimeter and problem solving applications to all strands.
  • Fifth grade: Begin algebraic applications in all operations, order of operations, multi-digit multiplication, multiplying and dividing fractions, use of percent and decimals, negative numbers, four quadrant graphing, prime and composite numbers, statistics, area, perimeter, and volume. Fifth graders apply their math learning to real world situations such as shopping and planning a Thanksgiving feast, including budgeting.