Primary Level Program
Our primary group is a multi-age kindergarten through 3rd grade class. The group shares a core room home base and teacher. Two teachers work with the group during most academic periods to support the range of levels within the group and provide smaller group instruction and projects. The primary group integrates with the rest of the school for All School Meeting, Wednesday Workshops, Mentors and other mixed age activities, and at recess.
Students have outside time for play, building, sports, sledding and skating.
8:45 Morning Meeting
Each group begins with a Morning Meeting to focus on community building and to orient for the day. We greet each other, exchange important news, share announcements, and discuss plans and issues that affect the group. Everyone gathers for an All School Meeting once a week.
9:00 Independent Choice
During this block of time, primary students initiate their own activities, join into activities created by other students, and take part in projects generated by the teacher or which evolve through the interests of the class. Pursuits at choice time often include woodworking, design and construction projects, painting, drawing, handcrafts, science explorations, play, block building, reading, puzzles, clay sculpture, writing, taking things apart, and puppetry.
We value independent choice for the way it supports young students in developing a strong sense of themselves and their interests, and fosters personal initiative and self-direction within the setting of the school. Students’ choices and their approaches to learning during this open time also give us important information about how each student naturally interacts and learns.
Science, Social Studies and the Arts
Through the year the primary group engages in a series of thematic inquiries in the areas of science and social studies. Examples of recent themes include geology, the scientific process, habitats, and Native American life in our area. Each inquiry provides a focus for learning about an aspect of the world in depth, and gives us a context for developing critical thinking, communication skills and creative expression. We emphasize hands-on activities to kindle curiosity and to foster understanding. We integrate project work with explorations in the arts. Learning often happens outside.
9:45 Snack & Outside Time
10:15 Language Arts
We immerse primary students in inherently meaningful and engaging activities to support them as beginning readers and writers. We do shared readings of stories and poems to model the reading process, teach specific skills, and generate appreciation for story and language. We voice act stories together through reader’s theater, and create puppet shows and small plays. We sing each day, and students have songbooks with all of the songs we learn so that they can read as well as sing the songs. We undertake integrated projects that focus on a topic, such as insects or dragons, and explore the topic through reading, writing, the arts, and hands-on activities. We do direct skill building through word and language study. The focus in all activities is multi-tiered to support students at different levels.
Primary students spend time reading independently each day. The scaffolding they experience in shared reading sessions and lessons is put to practice with independent reading. Students choose books with our assistance. Emerging readers each have a basket of appropriately leveled books that we regularly help to stock.
Primary students write daily in a writer’s workshop. The purpose of the workshop is to enable students to think and work like writers, to experience writing as a significant and compelling way to develop and communicate ideas, to cultivate a love of writing, and to experience being part of a writing community. Young students express themselves initially through drawings, then begin labeling their drawings, then move to writing sentences and longer pieces. Student writing is published in class anthologies.
Primary students explore new concepts and skills in math through hands-on activities in which they manipulate a variety of math materials and objects. As they progress toward conceptual understanding, they incorporate the use of symbols and engage in paper and pencil work. Students work with the teacher in direct and guided instruction, do projects, math games and independent practice. Science and math are often integrated when data collected from science explorations is analyzed and interpreted. We emphasize concept development, problem solving, real world applications, and fluency of math skills. Students work at their own level and at their own pace.
12:30 Lunch and Recess
Primary students eat lunch together, then head outside. Outdoor activities include all kinds of student initiated play and games, soccer and other sports, projects in the outdoor classroom, climbing and swinging, building houses, shops and forts, and sledding and skating in winter.
1:30 Read Aloud
Reading aloud creates a shared world for the primary group, immerses them in a common literary experience, and serves as a springboard for discussions and content area explorations. Read alouds for the primary group include picture books as well as chapter books that take several weeks to finish.
Mondays: Sports & Games
We play sports and games such as soccer, kickball, capture-the-flag, and tag games that develop physical stamina, strength and coordination, and which encourage cooperation and friendly competition. During the winter months we sled on our hill out back, skate on our ice rink, and go on treks in the woods.
Each younger student in the school is paired with an older student and given support to form a yearlong relationship. Partners work with each other on projects, read together and play games. Partners sit together at All School Meeting and other special gatherings, and pair up during field trips for the whole school. These relationships are significant for both the older students—who are developing leadership skills and the ability to empathize with and support others—and the younger students—who appreciate the security and nurture that having an older student look out for them and take an interest in them provides. Older-younger partners often seek each other out each day.
Inspired by the Chautauqua movement of the late 1800s and early 1900s that was based on the concept of life-long learning, we invite people from the area who are doing interesting things to come in and give an interactive presentation, or we go and visit them.
Students choose between participation in a music ensemble that emphasizes improvisation and musical conversation, and choral singing.
Wednesday Workshops 1:30 – 2:45
On Wednesday afternoons, all students participate in workshops that typically last for a four-week session. Teachers, some older students, and community members lead these. Students suggest ideas for workshops they are interested in. They then choose one workshop among those that are offered for each month-long session. Workshops are offered in the arts, handcrafts and living arts, outdoor adventure, and other experiential learning opportunities. Many workshops take place outside.
Students help to clean and take care of the school.
Emerging readers are asked to read with their parents each night until they are able to read independently, and parents are encouraged to read aloud to them. We don’t give any other regular homework until students are in the upper elementary group.
Sharing of Learning
Students periodically share their learning with the school community, including other students and the parents. For primary students, this takes the form of presenting group hands-on projects, visual displays, research projects, puppet shows, reader’s theater performances, writing, art, and singing.
Arts Immersion Week
For a week during mud-season in March each year we turn every classroom into an art studio and immerse in the arts. Students choose among week-long morning and afternoon workshops. Recent Arts Week offerings have included sewing with felt, environmental sculpture, small boats & whirligigs, the art of Colombian cooking, wood carving, large paper mache animals and puppet plays.