Lower School Philosophy and Structure
The early years of schooling, when children absorb knowledge and acquire skills at amazing rates, form the bedrock of all the learning yet to come. The Lower School capitalizes on each child’s natural curiosity and urge to explore and discover. As you walk through our classrooms, you will see children enthusiastically engaged in learning. They are not only developing the fundamentals of reading, writing, and math; they are questioning, searching for answers, and creatively solving problems. They feel safe in taking risks, in delving into areas that are unfamiliar to them.
The Lower School program is designed to stimulate intellectual curiosity and an appetite for learning and to help children develop into independent learners and socially responsible citizens. The Core Curriculum is differentiated to meet the needs of children with a range of interests and varying talents. Students are encouraged within a non-competitive environment to work to their “personal best,” fostering legitimate, positive self-esteem and confidence. Teachers and parents work together to maintain a supportive, nurturing, and responsive atmosphere for Lower School students.
Children thrive when developmentally appropriate experiences and activities are presented. Our children are supported as they develop the social/emotional literacy that allows them to “read” situations and people and to confidently and appropriately express their own social and emotional needs. In Lower School, students develop the fundamental reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills necessary for both receptive and expressive communication using language. Math literacy takes our students beyond the “how to” and rote learning of arithmetic to the enhanced comprehension of mathematical thinking.
In conjunction with language arts and math, the specialized content of social studies, science, health, and world language (French or Spanish) provides purpose and inspiration for study as students are taught to take charge of their learning. The fine and performing arts are also considered integral to children’s understanding and enjoyment of the world around them.
In Lower School, students develop critical thinking skills and the ability to make connections through an integrated, thematic approach to curriculum design. Children develop an appreciation for the process of learning and begin to move beyond simply “reading the word” to “reading the world.” Specific skill instruction is provided within a meaningful context and, based upon the needs of students, may be offered as individual, small group, or full class instruction. Children of all ages are encouraged, both in classrooms and during Lower School assemblies, to share their thoughts, knowledge, and accomplishments with others. They develop self-confidence and ease in public speaking, something that serves them well throughout their lives.
Lower School students attend “encore” classes taught by specialists in their fields. Physical education is provided on a daily basis and there is a daily classroom recess. Art and music are offered twice in each six-day cycle. World language (French or Spanish) is offered twice per cycle for Pre-K and Kindergarten, three times per cycle for Grades 1 through 5. A visit to the library takes place once per cycle, although children are encouraged to use the library as often as possible.
Students in Kindergarten through Second Grade and their parents can participate in the Suzuki Talent Education Program, a learning experience in violin, viola or cello. Pre-K children and their parents can participate in the Suzuki Pre-Twinkle program, which introduces them to the Suzuki method of learning music. Beginning in Third Grade, lessons in all instruments are available on an individual basis or in small group sessions. Students also have the opportunity to play in the orchestra or band, sing in the chorus, or participate in dance. Recitals and performances are scheduled throughout the year. In addition, all Lower School children participate in plays and musicals.
MPH believes in introducing students to as many different educational opportunities as possible, and the Lower School brings many performers and guest speakers to campus. Children also participate in numerous field trips. In Fifth Grade, students take a three-day class trip to Silver Bay on Lake George in the Adirondacks – their first annual MPH overnight trip.
A strong connection between home and school is essential to the MPH experience. Teachers communicate regularly with parents through formal and informal channels and are always available to talk or meet with a parent. Lower School parents are encouraged to share their expertise or family culture with their child’s class, which enriches the learning of all the students. School-wide family events, such as our Back to School Picnic, Grandparents Day, Red and White Day, and grade-level family gatherings provide further opportunities for every family to share in their child’s school experience.