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.