Lower School

With an emphasis on experiential learning, the Lower School teaches basic skills in reading, writing, science, and mathematics and forms the intellectual habits that provide the foundation for all future academic work. To promote positive attitudes toward school and lifelong learning, the program is carefully crafted to encourage an interest in, and a confidence for, independent work.

By fostering active learning, the Lower School program allows students to grow and develop as individuals and as members of a close-knit community. In a supportive and stimulating environment, rich with interesting texts and materials, Lower School children experience the joy of learning inside and outside the classroom.

The language arts program teaches children to read fluently and with comprehension, to write correctly and creatively, and to express themselves clearly and articulately. Basic decoding skills are taught with an emphasis on phonics in the first grade, where the reading program is individualized. By second grade, comprehension and discussion skills are stressed and reading become more of a group activity. Written expression is an integral part of all subjects and is practiced in many forms. While the writing program is designed to honor and encourage creativity, students are also expected to carefully edit and revise their work. Oral expression is developed through conversation, discussion, reports and performance.

In the mathematics program, children engage in exploratory work with a wide variety of manipulative materials to gain a solid understanding of elementary arithmetic. Students are asked to be effective problem-solvers, communicators, and reasoners in their mathematical work and are expected to master computational skills. Connections are made between mathematics and other academic disciplines; the relevancy of math to the wider world is also emphasized. The study of patterns, geometry, measurement, and spatial relationships is an important part of the program.

The science program is designed to build on the children’s natural curiosity about the world. It teaches students the skills they need to observe with care, to ask thoughtful questions, to offer predictions, to form hypotheses and draw conclusions, and to record findings accurately. Lower School children study the natural and physical sciences. The goal is to develop the students’ sense of the beauty and order of nature as they become adept at using the scientific method.

In social studies, the children learn about different cultures and develop an appreciation for each society’s contribution to human history. Beginning in second grade, the disciplines of social studies and language arts are joined to form a thoroughly integrated program. Reading and writing skills are further developed as students use these tools to acquire an understanding of various cultures around the world.

The French program uses games, songs, puppet theater, conversation, French cooking, and visual aids in a playful setting to introduce students to basic vocabulary and language patterns.

Computers are used in classrooms and in the Lower School computer lab to support work in various academic disciplines. The curriculum also is supported and complemented by a comprehensive library program and field trips.

From the very first days of school when students in each class work together to develop the class "rules," there is a strong emphasis on the responsibilities of citizenship at Key School and in the community beyond. Throughout the year, students participate in a variety of service projects, benefiting communities around the world. A weekly assembly program brings all Lower School classes together as a community.

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The  Admission Office encourages you to schedule an individual appointment to tour campus and see classes in session.


  • Key Third Grader Makes A Difference

    Inspired by her classroom sharing, Una Harrington '26 set out to help Syrian families...and succeeded!

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  • First Graders Seine at Hillsmere Beach


    On a sunny day this September, the first grade class walked to Hillsmere Beach to seine for Bay organisms in support of their Science unit on Habitats. At the waterside, the students caught and observed many denizens of the Bay including crabs, silversides and other small fish. They learned blue crabs hold water within their bodies and circulate it to create air for breathing which allows them to survive outside of water longer than may other Bay creatures. First grade teacher Becky Fetters is shown safely holding a crab’s claws while placing it up to the ears of the children so they could hear the bubbling and gurgling sound of the water and air moving through the crab’s body. Click to see more photos.

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  • Chester the Cat Joins the Manse Library Mural

    Chester Cat.jpg

    At the end of each school year, Key’s Lower School students vote for one of their favorite literary characters to be added to the Manse Library mural. Once the winner is chosen, art teacher Dawn Malosh paints the character’s likeness on the mural just in time for opening day. This year, Chester the cat, based on the Chester books by Mélanie Watt, joins his friends the Wimpy Kid, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Harry Potter, Madeleine, Wilbur, and others. The students love scanning the mural to find out who has joined the ranks!

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  • 1st Grade Amazon Rainforest Service Learning Project


    The first graders have been actively engaged in studying the Amazon Rainforest; learning about the amazing animals, interesting plants and vibrant indigenous cultures of the region. In exploring the Rainforest, they have gotten a sense of the distance between South America and Maryland and delved into how Marylanders can help the creatures living in the Amazon. Click to view more photos.

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  • Musings from Matthew


    In less than two weeks I will have the opportunity to take part in Key’s 45th Commencement. Unlike most graduation exercises where graduates and their families hear a speech from one individual who, at best, has a few close relationships with them, Key’s Commencement provides every student with the opportunity to have an individual of their choice speak on their behalf. While one speech espousing the virtues of the coming of age that Commencement represents can be entertaining, close to fifty speeches celebrating the individuality of each Obezag is truly memorable.

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The Key to Our Eyes

A s a first grader, Alex Barranco ‘23, watched a sunset over the Manse and hatched an idea that would allow his classmates and him to capture and share their unique perspectives of life at The Key School through photographic images. Together with Lower School art teacher Dawn Malosh and Lower School Division Head Emily Legum, Alex developed the Key to Our Eyes photography initiative to provide students access to digital cameras during their lunchtime recess and encourage them to highlight aspects of school life they found compelling.   Today, Alex is in fifth grade and his vision is still present as one of the most popular lunchtime activities in the Lower School.

Upcoming Events

Tue Feb 21

Mid-Winter Break - Administrative Offices Open

Thru: Thursday, February 23, 20178:30 AM - 3:30 PM
Fri Feb 24

Mid-Winter Break - Administrative Offices Open

8:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Mon Feb 27

School Resumes

Wed Mar 01

Annapolis Book Festival Planning Meeting

8:30 AM - 9:30 AM
Thu Mar 02

Lower School Parent Program: Understanding Individual Learning Profiles (Grade 4)

Location: Lower School Science Room
8:30 AM - 9:15 AM