The Lower School is a community, and children are our center. The Lower School faculty celebrates each child’s uniqueness and special contributions and cares deeply about each child. We are all charged with creating an environment that is designed to nurture each child’s social, emotional, academic, and physical development. The Lower School curriculum encourages teachers and children to become dreamers and risk-takers, and prepares all children to become independent and life-long learners. Our curriculum is designed to be appropriately rigorous according to a child’s readiness, offering children an opportunity to learn as much as they can and as deeply as they can. -Head of Lower School Patty Estes
Lower School Curriculum
The Lower School has developed a language arts program that emphasizes phonics, collateral reading and extensive writing.
Our youngest students are immersed in oral and written language and are encouraged to develop language skills during conversations and in-group situations. Exposure to quality children's literature and phonics as well as games, projects, and field trips stimulate language growth and development. In kindergarten, children keep daily journals, write experience stories, and begin developing reading skills.
In the primary grades (one through five), every area of the curriculum is used as a context in which language arts is taught. Students learn the steps of the writing process; they learn punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, and they become writers fluent in many genres: personal, reflective, imaginative, persuasive, and academic. They learn to read with fluency, understanding, and expression, becoming increasingly competent and avid readers. By fifth grade, students read a variety of texts; they endeavor to understand not only the content but the structure of each type of text. The continued study of phonics, grammar, vocabulary, and spelling, as well as handwriting, are important components of the language arts curriculum.
Math class is one of the favorite times of the day for many Lower Schoolers. The mathematics program, using small group instruction based on students' individual progress, combines the development of mathematical concepts with mastery of skills in arithmetic processes. The Everyday Mathematics Program, The University of Chicago Mathematics Project, emphasizes conceptual knowledge and problem solving, and the use of concrete manipulatives develops and reinforces an understanding of algorithms and mathematical concepts.
The science program is hands-on and experiential. Students learn scientific concepts and their application to real life. Engaging in the process of scientific thinking, children study the topics of the human body, plants, animals, Earth and space, and physical science. Students are presented with opportunities to explore and observe various scientific principles through inquiry-based experiments and activities. An expanding scientific vocabulary is developed and research technique and presentation skills grow through assigned projects.
The goal of the Social Studies curriculum is the acquisition of the knowledge and the development of the skills which enable students to understand the modem world and the concepts of democracy, freedom, equality, and, ultimately, themselves within that world. Through the exploration of the world and its multicultural differences, the development of map skills, the study of Virginia and American history and geography, students look critically at the events in our history and formulate their ideas of today as they develop tolerance and understanding of the world around them.
Utilizing our updated and expanded computer lab, classroom projectors, and iPads, the primary goals of the Lower School instructional program are to enable all students to become competent users of technological tools. Students begin blogging in first grade, researching and creating presentations in third grade, and developing more advanced internet research and multimedia skills in fourth and fifth grades. Students also learn keyboarding.
The study of Spanish or French focuses on communication, vocabulary development, the understanding of structure, and the appreciation of cultural diversity. Listening and speaking skills are emphasized and are practiced by singing songs, reciting verses and presenting skits and dialogues. Through playing games, eating special foods, and celebrating holidays, children learn the habits and traditions of other cultures. By fourth and fifth grade, students become more fluent and are introduced formally to reading and writing skills in a foreign language and begin more in-depth analysis of grammatical structures.
Art and Music
Appreciation and understanding of the fine arts enhance and enrich students' lives. Fine Arts instruction in the Lower School provides a wide variety of learning experiences. In Music and Movement, students learn basic music terminology and vocabulary, as well as notation, instrumentation, and appreciation. Gaining self-confidence through performance is a major goal of the program. Art provides opportunities to experiment with color, design, and patterns through a variety of media. Drawing, painting, printmaking, fibers, sculpture, and fine crafts allow students to express personal ideas and emotions. Works by famous artists, as well as their historical connections, are studied.
The goal of the physical education department is to help students develop a positive self-image, refine motor skills, experience enjoyment of physical activity, and acquire competence in athletic pursuits of their choice. The Lower School physical education program encourages the active participation of all students and allows children to develop at their own pace. Students are involved in activities that are developmentally appropriate and allow them to explore and enhance motor skills. Swimming becomes a part of the physical education program when students reach the third grade.
Fredericksburg Academy ensures that the Lower School curriculum provides a well-articulated and smooth transition to the curriculum of the Middle School.