Lower School Curriculum
- STREAM Overview
- Early Childhood Program
- Grade 1
- Grade 2
- Grade 3
- Grade 4
- Public Speaking
- Support Services
- Extracurricular Program
The Lower School STREAM curriculum (science, technology, research, engineering, art, and math) builds on a child’s natural curiosity. Each STREAM subject is an access point for guiding student inquiry and problem solving with hands-on, project-based learning.
Students develop a deeper understanding of a topic by working on each STREAM project in multiple disciplines weekly, which enriches the learning process. The projects are strategically integrated into various subject areas to develop knowledge and skills over an extended period of time.
STREAM positions students as the intellectual authorities; encouraging them to challenge certain frameworks through a process of questioning, investigating, problem solving, and creating. Teachers choose projects according to the developmental age of students, and the challenges grow more complex with each year.
Early Childhood Program
Children in the Pre-Kindergarten and Junior Kindergarten classes learn through guided play. Teachers emphasize independence and self-motivation, and encourage students to choose and complete developmentally appropriate activities. The program supports the emotional and intellectual needs of each child, and fosters her growth in self-awareness and empathy. Group activities are designed to help the child see herself as a member of the school community.
A major goal of the early childhood program is to develop a child’s socio-emotional skills, so she can express herself and communicate with adults and peers. Students also begin to understand how to construct positive personal and social self-identities. Students develop language skills as they listen to stories, perform plays, recite poetry, sing, and participate in daily discussions.
During daily meeting time, students practice speaking in front of the class to develop oral language skills. Role-playing helps children to practice their newly emerging social skills and to develop their imaginations. Pre-Kindergarten classrooms are equipped with reading and mathematics readiness materials geared to a range of developmental levels. A variety of appropriate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities foster alphabet and number recognition. Block building, puzzles, games, and art projects emphasize the concepts of space, pattern, size, sequence, and measurement, and encourage the development of fine motor skills. The use of manipulatives promotes a strong number sense, the foundation upon which our Singapore Math curriculum is based. Daily art activities include easel painting, watercolor, collage, clay modeling, and drawing. Hands-on activities in science encourage the skills of observation, prediction, and classification. During their weekly visit to the library, students explore themes through stories, songs, flannel-boards, and crafts to encourage early literacy skills. Each week students participate in creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, and religion. Students also engage in read alouds, conversation, and activities that aim to increase awareness and grow in their basic understanding of identity and diversity. Students take part in daily outdoor play, and our learn-to-swim program is held weekly at our Athletics and Wellness Center. At this level, students receive pool instruction on respect for and safety around the water. Basic survival skills are taught, including entering/exiting the water and floating. If students choose the full day program, they will have the opportunity to participate in a range of activities in the afternoon, including sports, dance, arts & crafts, drama, legos, etc.
Junior Kindergarten seamlessly integrates learning and play. When children engage in pretend play, building, and creating, they are developing many important skills that build a strong foundation for future success in school. Peer-to-peer conversations build expressive and receptive oral language and communication skills, and children learn how to share and to cooperate with materials in a meaningful way. Students develop their fine motor skills throughout the year while they play with putty, bead pipe cleaners, and sort beads, pom poms, and other small objects by color, shape, and size. The Junior Kindergarten teachers thoughtfully prepare weekly thematic-based units which tie together all of the academic learning centers, read alouds, and dramatic play that happens throughout that week.
Reading readiness is taught from Wilson’s Fundations literacy program. Students practice recognition of letters A- Z, including the letter names, keywords, and sounds (letter-sound correspondence). Students make visual connections between the letter name, its sound, and its grapheme (or written representation). In the second half of the year, students focus on the physical aspects of writing and letter formation using the Handwriting Without Tears program. Students work on implementing proper writing habits such as pencil/crayon grip, top-to-bottom habits, capital letter formation, and body awareness. Number sense and recognizing math in the world around us are skills that students practice throughout the school day in daily activities, such as recognizing shapes and patterns in our environment, identifying the numbers on the calendar, counting out our snacks, and sorting classroom materials. During their weekly visit to the library, students develop their comprehension and early literacy skills through stories, songs, flannel-boards, and crafts. Each week students participate in creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, religion, and science. Students also engage in read alouds, conversation, and activities that aim to increase awareness and grow in their basic understanding of identity and diversity, as well as beginning to develop a shared language when discussing similarities and differences. Students engage in outdoor play every day, and our learn-to-swim program is held weekly at our Athletics and Wellness Center. In Junior Kindergarten, swim instructors expand on safety and survival skills in the pool to include basic propulsion through the water. In the afternoons, students will have the opportunity to participate in a range of activities, including sports, dance, arts & crafts, drama, legos, etc.
The Kindergarten program develops a child’s sense of confidence as an active learner and member of the school community. Each child learns to assume responsibility, master skills, and solve problems. The classroom environment stimulates students’ natural sense of wonder and curiosity through opportunities for fun, friendship, vigorous activity, adventure, and quiet reflection. A rich and varied curriculum—including language arts, mathematics, and social studies—supports and promotes students’ intellectual development. Students also participate in weekly classes in art, creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, Positively Me!, religion, and science.
Each child builds her early literacy skills in an environment rich with opportunities for direct instruction, individual practice, and exposure to a diversity of texts from authors such as Ezra Jack Keats and Grace Lin. Students participate daily in lessons from Wilson’s Fundations program for instruction in phonics, as well as read 1:1 with their teacher each week so every child can be met right where she is in her reading journey. Students also listen to stories and learn poems to strengthen their ability to empathize, to express their feelings, and to use their imaginations. Students regularly sing and rhyme to hone their word patterning skills. By the end of Kindergarten, children are exposed to blending, segmenting, and manipulating sounds, as well as tapping out and spelling three-sound short vowel words.
Students start the year in writer’s workshop by learning that when they write, they are telling a story. They then learn to draw pictures and label their pictures using inventive spelling. This leads to a study of sentence writing with the understanding that a sentence is a complete thought. In Kindergarten, that thought grows from a couple of words on a page to sentences that include details and extenders such as ‘because.’ Students learn proper uppercase and lowercase letters and punctuation. Throughout the course of the year, students also participate in shared letter writing in which the teacher models these sentence structures and introduces new vocabulary. In addition, students practice D’Nealian handwriting.
Using Singapore Math strategies, students develop mathematical understanding in stages, beginning with the concrete (using hands-on manipulatives), then moving to the pictorial (solving problems with pictures), and finally working into a greater understanding of the abstract (the most efficient “traditional” methods of using symbols). Through this process, students learn a variety of strategies to deepen their understanding of numbers. They build number sense through part-part-whole thinking and begin to understand place value. They also begin basic computation skills in addition and subtraction, as well as learn concepts in time, measurement, and money. The math program is supplemented with Earlybird Kindergarten Mathematics.
The Kindergarten social studies program focuses on the child as an individual, her family, and her class at school. At the beginning of the year, students celebrate their individual “personality boxes” by sharing with their peers what makes them unique. The goal of this unit is for students to continue to grow their sense of self, as well as continue to develop a shared language when discussing similarities and differences. Lessons are supplemented with curricula about identity and diversity from Learning for Justice. Throughout the course of the year, a thematic, interdisciplinary family study includes literature, writing, art, and individual class visits from each family. Students begin to understand that all families are different, while recognizing their class as being a unique family as well. Service learning is also incorporated throughout the year.
Kindergarten students work in the mediums of drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and mixed media. They explore the basic skills of constructing with paper, clay, recycled materials, fabric, and a variety of other media. They practice fine motor skills through the use of drawing media, paint brushes, scissors, and other art tools. Students understand and use the elements of art—line, shape, color, value, space and texture—through projects and class discussions. Students develop their visual voice through discussions and projects centered on a variety of artists from diverse cultural backgrounds. Experimentation and creative thinking are encouraged as students learn to explore their imagination in an atmosphere that is comfortable for each child. The Kindergarten art program is designed to develop students’ confidence and skills in making art.
Drama embraces our students’ imaginations and creativity through vocal, physical, and emotional expression. As Kindergarteners work to develop confident public speaking skills, they practice speaking in front of the class in a variety of ways. Students participate in units on creative movement, story-telling, puppetry, story drama, poetry plays, musical theater, and 3-D theaters.
French and Spanish
Students choose to study either French or Spanish. They are exposed to and explore the language through visual aids, songs, stories, games, and various kinesthetic activities. Instruction emphasizes oral expression, aural comprehension, and pronunciation. The Kindergarten French and Spanish curricula establish foundations for successful language acquisition as well as a positive attitude towards world language and culture.
In library, students focus on different units of study throughout the year. Kindergarten lays the foundation for students to become lifelong library users and recognize its centrality to the community. Initially, students learn about different sections of the library and become familiar with library procedures. Students begin to examine what types of stories they personally connect to and learn how to review literature. They learn that different people prefer different books, they interpret books differently, and—most importantly—we are all individual readers. Students then go on to learn about the oral tradition of folktales and finally culminate the year learning about children from around the world—a study rooted in the understanding that we all share the same night sky.
Music appreciation in Kindergarten emphasizes the exploration of folk songs, musical storytelling, listening activities, and games. Students are introduced to pitch exploration (high and low), simple songs, song stories (with verses), rhythm (beat and counts), as well as the concept of same/different in music. Students listen with their ears and eyes and make note of rhythms with different patterns.
The Kindergarten physical education program emphasizes the acquisition of fundamental motor patterns and manipulative skills, as well as the development of social skills. Simple organizational games and fitness concepts help students develop agility, coordination, strength, and endurance. Students learn tossing and catching techniques as well as other foot-eye and hand-eye ball handling skills. In swim class, students work in small groups with instructors to learn safe water behavior, basic water safety rules, and introductory propulsion skills on both one’s stomach and back. Students are also introduced to basic water safety skills (treading water and floating). Students learn specific behaviors and attitudes about competition, teamwork, good sportsmanship, game play, and safety.
Positively Me! is a program of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, leadership, study skills, healthy habits, executive function, and character development. This program connects to our mission of focusing on the whole child and nurturing each child’s gifts. The goal of the program is to promote self-esteem and the social skills that are foundations for all healthy behavior. In Kindergarten, students practice breathwork techniques, self-soothing skills, and teamwork.
The Kindergarten religion program is designed to support students as they develop a positive self-image. It emphasizes the uniqueness of each child and celebrates the natural joy and wonder of childhood within the embrace of God’s love. Students explore and celebrate the five senses as well as the importance of thought and imagination. Students give careful consideration to belonging to various communities: family, school, parish, neighborhood as well as the world of nature. Lessons utilize children’s literature, songs, and art projects.
In Kindergarten science, students take on the role of scientist by learning to explain their observations and predictions through investigations of a variety of phenomena. In the first unit, students build their ideas of properties of matter by developing vocabulary around what it means to be a solid or liquid, and investigating how temperature impacts state of matter. In the second unit, students begin working with forces, and ultimately design and engineer their own systems of pushes and pulls. In the third unit, students explore the relationships that organisms have with their environments. Each unit is centered around a problem that students use their understandings throughout the unit to solve. The year culminates in a unit on weather, in which students use weather data they have collected throughout the year to analyze patterns and make predictions. Throughout each year of the Lower School science program, students learn about various STREAM careers, with a particular focus on women in STEM. During each Heritage month (and in between), students learn about women scientists from that cultural background. Kindergarten students know they are scientists!
The first grade program provides a strong academic and social foundation that supports the development of the whole child. An emphasis is placed on developing resilience, empathy, flexibility, problem-solving skills, and critical thinking. Students also develop an even stronger sense of community as teachers strive to create a safe and fun environment where each child feels a sense of belonging and acceptance. Students continue to grow in their understanding of identity and diversity, as well as how to act for justice. The first grade classroom is set up for each student to explore, express themselves, and learn. A rich and varied curriculum—including language arts, mathematics, and social studies—supports and promotes students’ intellectual development. Students also participate in weekly classes in art, creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, Positively Me!, religion, science, and technology.
Students learn reading, writing, spelling, listening, and oral expression using multi-sensory instruction. A balanced literacy approach emphasizes recognizing basic trick words, using decoding strategies, building fluency and expression, and expanding vocabulary. Students participate daily in lessons from Wilson’s Fundations program for direct instruction in phonics and learn from a coherent set of evidenced-based mini-lessons, interactive and shared read alouds, and small guided reading groups rooted in the Fountas and Pinnell curriculum. The first grade reading program also emphasizes independent reading, and students begin to learn the tools necessary to make book choices appropriate to their individual reading levels.
In writer’s workshop, as students more formally learn the writing process, they work on elaborating their sentences by adding details and descriptive words. They learn how to use the CHOPS proofreading tool (check: capitalization, handwriting, organization, punctuation, and spelling) to independently check and edit their work. Writing assignments include personal narratives, a series of realistic fiction stories, monthly autobiographies, poetry, and community books. Students learn the writing process of brainstorming, planning, drafting, conferring, revising, editing, and publishing. Students use D’Nealian manuscript.
The Singapore Math approach fosters continuing development of each student’s number sense through part-part- whole thinking, concentrating on place value, and a concrete, pictorial, and abstract understanding of all concepts. Students learn to decompose numbers into parts or “friendlier numbers'' to encourage mental math strategies. They learn to recognize, write, compare, build, break apart, and order numbers up to 120, as well as how to add and subtract double-digit numbers up to 100. Students also learn to use a variety of strategies to solve addition and subtraction word problems, including model drawing as a tool for problem solving. Units on picture graphs, tally charts, and bar graphs, time to the hour and the half hour, and money up to $1.00 are included through real-world applications.
Social studies activities help students develop an awareness of community, appreciate diversity, and better understand themselves in relation to others. Students understand that they can make connections with people who are seemingly different and that every person, including themselves, plays a special role in the many communities in which they are a member: their class, their grade, the Lower School, 91st Street, the greater local community, and the Sacred Heart network. Students learn lessons emphasizing friendship, problem solving, respect, listening skills, and cooperation. Lessons are supplemented with curricula from Learning for Justice. Service learning is incorporated throughout the year.
The school community study is the central focus of the spring social studies curriculum. Beginning with a walking tour of the school, students conduct weekly interviews of a diverse group of Sacred Heart faculty and staff from across the school. Students summarize what they have learned about each community member’s role in the school and publish individual community books. Each student also creates a self portrait each month to pair with her monthly autobiography.
Students work in the areas of drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture, and mixed media to develop their skills with art tools while experimenting with color mixing and the beginning of color analysis. They draw and paint from imagination and learn to observe nature and the work of artists from diverse cultural backgrounds to broaden their creative view. Coordinated projects include a mixed-media project inspired by a study of illustrator Eric Carle and a bird STREAM unit. Students focus on further developing their understanding of line, shape, color, texture, and value. The elements of form and space are studied in more depth. Students continue to learn the joy of exploring and experimenting as well as following more complex sequential directions. Learning and sharing continue through art exhibits and class discussions.
Through movement, imagination, and guided imagery, students further develop their ability to think creatively, speak clearly, and use their bodies effectively when acting out scenes and communicating ideas and information orally in the classroom and in performance. Students use puppets to tell stories they have read together out loud. This helps them learn how stories are structured, how to explore and invent characters, and how to embrace new experiences.
French and Spanish
The first grade French and Spanish curriculum expands on students’ language skill set. They refine their oral and aural skills through music, stories, games, and kinesthetic activities, and begin to communicate in the target language. Students develop an appreciation for different cultures throughout the French and Spanish speaking worlds. They also begin familiarizing themselves with the written word through various reading and writing exercises.
Weekly visits to the library expose students to good literature to promote enthusiasm for reading. Regular read alouds during library class strengthen a child’s language and literacy skills and expand her vocabulary and comprehension. Students learn how to find books on the library shelves and how to choose books based on personal interest and reading level to help motivate their independent reading skills. Students engage in a comprehensive introduction to research that focuses on learning how to use nonfiction text features to find in- formation. In an integrated unit, students investigate birds by using both digital and print resources, and use this information for a combined science, art, and library project. Children end the year with a study of folktales from around the world that focuses on finding the “truth” in these stories and verifying this information.
Students begin to develop a deeper understanding of music through listening activities that distinguish beats from rhythms and identify differences in pitch, dynamics, and tempo. Students continue to explore rhythmic and melodic notation by practicing various strategies and playing games together. They also utilize healthy vocal practice and learn to sing as part of an ensemble.
The aim of the physical education program for first grade is to establish a basic foundation in motor skills, water safety, and physical fitness. Students develop gross motor skills, body awareness, and coordination through movement games and activities by using small apparatus such as balls, hoops, and jump ropes. Students continue to develop sport specific skills in soccer, volleyball, and throwing/catching mechanics with a focus on cooperation and spatial awareness. In the pool, students reinforce proper pool etiquette and develop basic water safety skills through treading, floating, and propulsion. Specific behaviors and attitudes about competition, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and safety are discussed, developed, and emphasized along with game play.
Positively Me! is a program of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, leadership, study skills, healthy habits, executive function, and character development. This program connects to our mission of focusing on the whole child and nurturing each child’s gifts. The skills being taught connect to our research on skills that students will continue to need in the future. The goal of the program is to promote self-esteem and the social skills that are foundations for all healthy behavior. In first grade, students practice leadership by identifying and expressing their feelings appropriately, engaging in positive self-talk, and using “I” statements to communicate with their peers.
The religion program in first grade focuses on the theme of God’s love. Children listen to and reflect upon Scripture stories about God and creation. The Scripture readings of the liturgical year serve the dual purpose of introducing the children to the narrative of Jesus’ life and exposing them to the rhythms of the liturgical calendar. A rich foundation is created in preparation for the Sacrament of the Eucharist in second grade.
First grade science helps students to fill in the details about things they see or use every day. Students begin the year by exploring light and solar patterns. They learn about the properties of light, make observations about the relationship between light and our ability to see, and conduct investigations to deepen their understanding of transparent, translucent, opaque, and reflective properties. Next, students study structures and behaviors in living things by looking specifically at birds. Students learn about the parts of birds to compare and contrast the various behaviors of different species. The research conducted during this unit supports the cross-curricular first grade STREAM project. Students end the year with a study of sound. Using our study of light as a foundation, students understand the similarities and differences between light and sound waves and conduct investigations to amplify or muffle sound using a variety of materials. Each unit ends with a design thinking project where students use what they have learned to solve a problem. Throughout each year of the Lower School science program, students learn about various STREAM careers, with a particular focus on women in STEM. During each Heritage month (and in between), we celebrate by learning about women scientists from that cultural background. First grade students know they are scientists!
Students in first grade begin the year learning about the basic features and functions of a Chromebook. Then, students engage in a hands-on, minds-on approach to internet safety through a social and emotional learning lens. Students learn self-regulation strategies for technology use, how to have a healthy balance of screen time and offline time, as well as how to be a good digital citizen. Students then transition to a typing unit following the scope and sequence of the Typing Without Tears program. Students work on their fine motor skills through learning proper hand positioning on a keyboard, posture for typing, and locating all of the keys on a standard keyboard. Students also begin to explore apps such as Raz Kids, Reading Eggs, and Book Creator, which play a role in enhancing and developing their digital literacy skills.
The second grade program provides a strong bridge between the early and later Lower School grade levels. The program offers both academic and social-emotional support for building independence and confidence as students continue to grow in their sense of self, both as individuals and as learners. As in first grade, teachers work hard to foster the whole child as each student continues to recognize and acknowledge her strengths and challenges. Students grow more socially aware as they study how their actions affect the greater world they live in, as well as spiritually as they prepare for their First Holy Communion. A rich and varied curriculum—including language arts, mathematics, and social studies—supports and promotes students’ intellectual development. Students also participate in weekly classes in art, creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, Positively Me!, religion, science, and technology.
Through the use of a wide variety of literature, the second grade reading program emphasizes the refinement of decoding skills, the expansion of students’ sight word vocabularies, the development of reading comprehension skills, the application of reading strategies, and the ability to read aloud with fluency and expression. Students continue their phonics instruction using Wilson’s Fundations curriculum, now placing a greater focus on the increasing complexities of phonemic awareness in multisyllabic words. In addition, students learn from a coherent set of evidenced-based mini-lessons, interactive and shared read alouds, and small guided reading groups rooted in the Fountas and Pinnell curriculum. Students learn about a variety of genres, and they continue to grow the tools needed to make book choices appropriate to their individual reading levels.
The writing program provides opportunities for students to explore and create a variety of writing styles including persuasive, informative, narrative and creative. In writer’s workshop, students continue to use the writing process of brainstorming, planning, drafting, conferring, revising, editing, and publishing. In addition, grammar instruction emphasizes how to properly expand and enrich one’s writing, and over the course of the year, print and cursive handwriting skills are developed using D'Nealian handwriting books.
The Singapore Math approach continues to foster the development of each child’s number sense through an understanding of place value and the relationships between parts and their whole, as well as a concrete, pictorial, and abstract understanding of addition and subtraction with numbers up to 1,000. Students learn to break numbers into decomposed parts or “friendlier numbers” to build their mental math strategies. Students are also introduced to basic multiplication and division. The helpful tool of model drawing, a pictorial tool to solve word problems, is studied in depth as students continue to develop their problem-solving abilities. Units on lines and surfaces, shapes and patterns, time, and money are also studied through real-world applications.
The second grade social studies curriculum starts with lessons that continue to build personal identity, as well as social identity with a growing awareness of our greater community. Students learn about their school from a historical perspective, exploring the history and the architecture of the Otto Kahn and James Burden mansions, in which our school resides. In connection with the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts programming, students then explore the architectural elements of other buildings in their own neighborhood. An immigration unit focuses on the rich cultural diversity of New York City, as well as immigration into New York through Ellis Island during the late 1800s, early 1900s, and today. Each year, students interview adults in our Sacred Heart community who share their personal immigration stories and answer questions about their experiences. A brief study of mapping skills precedes the explanation of public transportation in the city. In the culminating unit, students explore the five boroughs and focus on specific landmarks in each borough. To end their boroughs study, students work in teams to recreate important landmarks with recycled materials. Lessons are supplemented with curricula from Learning for Justice which focuses on identity, diversity, justice, and action. Experiential class trips to key New York City sites including Ellis Island, the Transit Museum, and the Tenement Museum promote student learning and a deeper understanding of the history of New York.
Students continue to explore drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and mixed media to develop skills in using a wide variety of art tools. Students create art from their imaginations and observation, in which color mixing and analysis are a strong focus. Integrated art projects emerge from their studies in science and social studies. The final STREAM project focuses on creating a 3D diorama of an animal and its habitat. Students further develop their understanding of the element of space with an emphasis on composition. Throughout the year, students study and learn about works by artists from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds. Learning and sharing continue through art exhibits, reflections, and class discussions.
As the students mature and start to have greater control of movement and voice, they begin activities that enhance comfort, confidence, and performance skills through musical theater. Students also begin to collaborate with their peers to create original work. They improvise, create scenes, and share their efforts and talents both in class and in fully staged performances. The spring semester culminates in an informal sharing of their musical theater unit.
French and Spanish
Second grade students continue exploring their target language and respective cultures. Students improve their oral language skills and aural comprehension through the use of music, kinesthetic activities, interactive technology, stories, games, and celebrations, as well as spend more time developing their reading and writing skills.
The second grade library curriculum promotes increasing independence in students using the library and locating different types of library materials. Many hands-on activities enable students to discover how libraries are organized and how materials can be found. Students learn to use print and digital forms of reference materials such as dictionaries and encyclopedias, which act as a foundation in the research process. Students further their research skills through an integrated STREAM project about animals. The students begin a unit on folktale types and use this knowledge during writer’s workshop to write pourquoi tales based on their specific animal. At the end of the year, students learn to analyze books by writing “Itty Bitty Booktalks.”
All second grade students learn how to play the recorder at an introductory level. Students begin to learn to formally read music. The award winning computer program MusicAce is used to reinforce theory, reading, and aural skills. Students develop healthy and natural vocal production, which culminates in Christmas and spring performances. Musical preparation for First Communion is an important part of the spring curriculum.
Students in second grade work toward greater mastery of basic motor skills, hand-eye and foot-eye coordination, ball handling, dance concepts, and swimming techniques. During team sports the students work on soccer, volleyball, and throwing/catching a softball. They become aware of the fundamental skills of all three sports and the vocabulary/terminology associated with them. They primarily work on individual and partner skills in order to gain confidence and develop their ability. Dance education is focused on introducing students to a variety of dance styles, including modern, ballet, kathak, and musical theater. In each unit, students explore different lenses for creating dance including inspiration from nature, storytelling, and visual arts. In the pool, students learn basic water safety skills (treading water and floating) as well as the long axis swimming strokes of freestyle and backstroke. Through an interdisciplinary mermaid unit, students learn surface dives, dolphin kick, and foundations of synchronized swimming. Students also learn how the body works in relation to the particular sport. They learn the muscles associated with each and why the body reacts in certain ways to certain activities. Nutritional tips are also provided throughout. Safety in physical education is emphasized throughout the year, and students discuss and develop specific behaviors and attitudes about competition, teamwork, and good sportsmanship along with game play.
Positively Me! is a program of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, leadership, study skills, healthy habits, executive function, and character development. This program connects to our mission of focusing on the whole child and nurturing each child’s gifts. The skills being taught connect to our research on skills that students will continue to need in the future. The goal of the program is to promote self-esteem and the social skills that are foundations for all healthy behavior. In second grade, students continue to grow in self-awareness and practice grounding themselves so that they can feel empowered to ask for what they need academically, socially, and emotionally. Focus is also placed on executive function skills such as planning, organizing, and staying on task.
Students in second grade learn about and discuss the stories of Jesus in the Bible. Through reflection, literature, discussion, art projects, and drama activities, the values of Jesus are more immediate to everyday life. The religious studies program also prepares the students for the Sacrament of the Eucharist. They develop a sense of belonging to God’s family by exploring their relationship with Jesus and the Christian community. For eight weeks leading up to Communion, parents, teachers, and students collaborate in preparation for the celebration.
Second grade science is all about water. Our first unit kicks off with a study of local water through deepening our understanding of how hurricanes (like Hurricane Sandy) can cause flooding. Students describe where our water comes from, how flooding can be measured, and how landforms might impact flooding. In our second unit, students discuss interactions between plants and animals and learn about the different biomes. Students develop models of a variety of ecosystems to show how living and non-living things interact. This unit leads to a STREAM project during which students create models of their own biomes by conducting research about animals. Our final unit returns to concepts learned about flooding, and students explore the impact of water on various landforms by investigating the earth’s materials and erosion. Throughout each year of the Lower School science program, students learn about various STREAM careers, with a particular focus on women in STEM. During each Heritage month (and in-between), students learn about women scientists from that cultural background. Second grade students know they are scientists!
Second grade technology classes begin by connecting to the Digital Citizenship skills learned in first grade. Students practice skills through activities about internet privacy, online communities and communication, and staying kind online. Students then transition to a typing unit using the Typing Agent program. Typing Agent provides differentiated lessons and strategies for teaching students how to properly type while working on speed, accuracy, and skill level. This unit is then followed by an introduction to coding and computational thinking. Students learn the four basic computational thinking skills: decomposition, algorithmic design and thinking, pattern recognition, and abstraction. They end the year with a hands-on approach of computational thinking using Bee-Bots, a visual and tactile programming tool that allows students to take a deeper dive into coding and engineering. At the end of the year, students bring their stories to life by creating stop motion animations of their writing.
The third grade program is designed to support students as they become more independent thinkers and learners. Having mastered the fundamentals in earlier grades, students develop more complex skills as they read longer texts about varied topics in language arts, social studies, and across their specialty subjects. Students write longer, more expressive stories and essays, and they engage in higher-level problem solving. The third grade curriculum places focus on giving students more opportunities to engage in critical thinking and to express those thoughts in discussion. A rich and varied curriculum—including language arts, mathematics, and social studies—supports and promotes students’ intellectual development. Students also participate in weekly classes in art, creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, religion, science, and technology.
Students learn reading in a variety of ways, through large and small group differentiated instruction, as well as one- to-one instruction within group lessons. Students focus on learning a variety of inferential comprehension strategies that help deepen their understanding. They utilize these comprehension strategies as they read and reflect upon their own books, as well as shared texts. The third grade reading curriculum encourages students to read with appropriate expression, develop critical thinking and comprehension skills through discussion, and foster an appreciation for various genres of literature. Students transition from Wilson’s Fundations program to Megawords, a study of how to use syllabication rules to aid a child’s reading and spelling.
In writer’s workshop, teachers emphasize expository writing as students learn how to organize their ideas in a structured paragraph that grows throughout the course of the year from one to three paragraphs. This paragraph writing is closely linked to the research strand taught in library classes. In addition, students continue to develop various techniques as they compose narrative, descriptive, and creative writing pieces. Students also continue to learn strategies to both revise and edit their own writing and in conference with peers. Students learn to publish their writing at first in cursive and then in Google docs on their individual Chromebooks.
As students continue their study of the Singapore Math approach, they further develop their number sense by exploring the relationships between the parts and whole, concentrating on place value as well as a conceptual, pictorial, and abstract understanding of addition and subtraction up to 10,000. Students take a deep dive into multiplication, studying arrays and area models so that they can truly understand these concepts before learning the standard algorithms. Students learn strategies to reinforce number sense and mental math strategies, and the now familiar tool of model drawing is integrated into every new concept. In addition, students build upon their background knowledge of angles and lines, fractions, and time.
The initial lessons in the third grade social studies curriculum are rooted in continuing to construct personal identity, as each student continues to develop an understanding of their multicultural selves. Lessons are curated from the Learning for Justice curricula, and an overarching important understanding for the year is that our identities, and others’ identities, are not based on one thing alone. Students study the landscape of New York City 400 years ago and the Lenape people who lived on it. They learn about the Lenape of the past, as well as the Lenape of the present. The Lenape people today work hard to keep their culture and traditions alive, and it is our responsibility to work with them in that effort. Then, students learn about communities around the globe and about global citizenship. Students’ understanding continues to grow concentrically from the self, to the family, to community, to greater New York City, and now our global community. Students make comparisons across time and space, examining different world communities, their geography, natural resources, industries, and economies, as well as their respective cultures. Students begin to understand how world communities interact with one another through trade and how they can do their part in creating a more sustainable world. Teachers also connect these world communities to our greater Sacred Heart Network.
Using their imaginations and life observations, students further develop their skills in the areas of drawing, painting, collage, sculpture, printmaking and mixed media. Students develop their skills in color analysis and design in two and three-dimensional art projects. Students’ observations, drawings, and paintings reinforce the concepts of scale and spacial relationships. Students use clay to create a STREAM project exploring solutions to climate change problems facing specific countries. The final project is a study of artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Throughout the year, art projects are coordinated with other areas of study and highlight artists from cultures celebrated during Heritage months. Learning and sharing continue through art exhibits, class discussions, and self-evaluations.
As their understanding of movement and voice develops, students learn more advanced techniques in creative drama classes. Students use improvisation, tableaux, and stage movement to exercise creativity and imagination when creating their own original scenes and monologues. In preparation for these presentations, students use images and music as inspiration to generate their ideas. As actors, students further develop effective skills of clarity and communication which add dramatic flair to their performances throughout the year.
French and Spanish
The French and Spanish program in third grade emphasizes pronunciation, oral comprehension, and a continued awareness about the many cultures that exist in the French and Spanish-speaking communities. Students learn basic grammar, and units are aligned with the language arts curriculum whenever possible. Students complete homework assignments regularly and begin taking short written and oral assessments.
Students continue to learn the complex organization of the library and learn how to use the patron’s catalog to search for materials for their reading pleasure. An American Library Book Award unit emphasizes the importance of having representation in visual images in books and allows students to practice discussing children’s literature. In connection with the social studies curriculum, students use research tools, such as the encyclopedia, databases, and web-based databases to find and analyze research about the Lenape people. The year ends with a unit on graphic novels that examines storytelling throughout history. Students use their knowledge to create book talks.
Students use Orff instruments and Boomwhackers to explore song form, melody, and notation as well as to have the experience of performing in an ensemble. Through using instruments and voice, students explore improvisation and music composition. They practice harmony and ear training while singing and playing partner songs and rounds. Students begin to formulate and delve into researching musicians of various music genres. Liturgy preparation also encourages students to grow in their ability to sing.
The third grade physical education program continues to develop motor skills, coordination, agility, strength, and endurance. During team sports, students work on soccer, basketball, and volleyball. They build upon previous knowledge and develop more intricate skills which culminates in small group drills and activities. These progressions help students develop their spatial awareness, communication skills, and teamwork. Understanding of the games and decision making skills are continually worked on.
Third grade dance education is taught through a creative and collaborative method with foundations in the elements of dance and dance notation. Students use these understandings to create dances inspired by poetry and social dances working in solos, duets, and groups. Students also learn basic health-related fitness concepts, including how to take one’s pulse, understand one’s target heart rate, and develop cardiovascular endurance. Building on the swimming skills learned in second grade, third grade students develop more advanced swimming skills. Students begin to learn short axis strokes of butterfly and breast-stroke, flip turns, and diving. Specific games and activities emphasize safety, sportsmanship, and teamwork as well as behaviors and attitudes about competition.
What does it mean to be loved by God? Students in the third grade reflect on the experience of being called by God into a personal relationship, and how this relates to being Christian. The stories in the Bible and the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament further interpret the faith experience. The curriculum emphasizes the intersection of grace and the divine call to action. An introduction to some of the traditional prayers and devotional practices of the Church enhance the students’ appreciation of Church heritage.
Third grade science revolves around how organisms and environments can change and the catalytic factors. Students begin the year by learning about inheritance and variation in organisms. Students explore biological traits and how they are passed onto offspring over generations, investigating how traits might shift in an animal population when a new predator arrives or based on other environmental factors. Next, students discover the relationships that abound in ecosystems by investigating interdependence. Using our understanding of predator/prey relationships from the first unit, students explore what would happen to an ecosystem if any one organism were to go missing. Students learn about advances in space exploration and which organisms we would need to bring to space if we wanted to recreate the interdependent systems of Central Park. In the third unit, students learn about how environments change over time by using fossil records to make inferences about past climate and resiliency for the future. Students discuss New York’s aquatic past during the Cambrian period and make connections with the challenges of sea level rise that we currently face. The unit ends with students researching global solutions to sea level rise and making recommendations to city officials. At the end of the year, students analyze interacting forces, both balanced and unbalanced. Students also observe the effects of magnetic and electrical forces and devise ways these forces can be harnessed to solve problems. Throughout each year of the Lower School science program, students learn about various STREAM careers, with a particular focus on women in STEM. During each Heritage month (and in between), students learn about women scientists from that cultural background. Third grade students know they are scientists!
The third grade year begins, as all the Lower School years do, with a unit on Digital Citizenship that emphasizes how to exercise judgement in posting content online, to create strong passwords, to avoid cyberbullying and be an upstander, and to plan and engage in device free moments. Students then attempt a design challenge in which they explore the principles of engineering and circuitry through collaborating on the construction of a straw tower. Third graders also spend time reinforcing the typing skills learned in first and second grade through the use of the advanced program on Typing Agent, and learn fundamental coding concepts in the programming language Scratch, an interactive, game-based coding program. Students end the year with an introduction to circuitry and an Adobe Spark tutorial.
Health is integrated throughout the third grade curriculum with the goal of developing knowledge and skills for making responsible decisions regarding personal safety, conflict resolution, and other important health issues. The implementation of a social-emotional development program emphasizes positive social interactions. During the second semester, classes led by the Lower School psychologist are devoted to a discussion of the physical and emotional changes that occur in young girls at this age.
The fourth grade program is aimed to develop confidence, independence, resilience, and leadership as these students are now role models for the Lower School community. Students grow in responsibility with specific charges they carry out throughout the course of the school year, and they grow their care for our community as they develop a relationship with their Kindergarten Buddies. They also receive mentorship from their senior Prayer Partners, and they mature spiritually as they prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Academically, students continue to develop the ability to self-monitor and self-advocate while acquiring study skills. The classroom environment encourages students to enhance their critical thinking skills through discussions and collaborative work with their peers. A rich and varied curriculum—including language arts, mathematics, and social studies—supports and prepares students for Middle School. Students also participate in weekly classes in art, creative drama, French or Spanish, library, music, physical education, religion, science, and technology.
The goal of the fourth grade language arts program is to develop reading, writing, vocabulary, and analytical thinking skills. During reader’s workshop, students read high interest, self-selected literature from multiple genres. Teachers select texts to model and apply higher-order thinking skills such as synthesis, interpretation, and critical thinking. Students then practice and demonstrate their understanding of these skills through independent reading, student-teacher conferences, literary discussions, and written journal responses. In addition, several shared reading texts throughout the year provide the opportunity for students to share ideas, discuss text connections, and dig deeper into themes with one another.
During writer’s workshop, students learn to write across a variety of genres, including narrative, creative, persuasive, and a research-based five-paragraph essay. Grammar, vocabulary, and spelling instruction further enhance students’ writing. Graphic organizers and individualized teacher conferences help students to further develop their brainstorming and organizational skills. Students are also taught and encouraged to use their voice in all of their writing assignments. Teachers work closely with specialists to integrate reading, writing, research, and study skills across the curriculum, and students develop public speaking skills through class projects and presentations.
As students continue their study of the Singapore Math approach, they further develop their number sense through an understanding of place value up to one million, as well as a conceptual, pictorial, and abstract understanding of multiplication and division. Students continue their deep dive into these concepts using a series of approaches, from the area model, to partial products and quotients, and ultimately to the standard algorithms. Students continue to learn strategies to reinforce number theory and mental math strategies, and model drawing is applied with skill and accuracy. The students’ study of numbers continues with improper fractions and mixed numbers. The fourth grade math curriculum also includes units on tables and line graphs, perpendicular and parallel lines, angles, squares and rectangles, and area and perimeter. Each unit provides opportunities for real- world applications.
In fourth grade social studies the focus of the year is on a theme: “In Search of Freedom & A Call For Change.” Students learn about moments in American history spanning the Revolutionary War and establishment of government, the Civil War and slavery, and the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The curriculum considers a variety of perspectives and examines essential questions, including those on ethical judgment and racial justice. Lessons are enriched with curricula from Learning for Justice which focuses on identity, diversity, justice, and action. This curriculum was also designed with "Herstory" in mind, the fourth grade culminating unit in which every student researches and embodies a notable woman in history. By the end of the school year, students have a wider range of knowledge and deeper appreciation for these incredible women, what they endured, and why their legacy is so important in history. Students also have a greater understanding of activism, even at a young age, and how each of us has a responsibility to advocate for freedom for everyone. “Herstory” is an interdisciplinary unit, which includes research, writing, art, creative drama, and public speaking.
While continuing to use the media and tools introduced in previous grades, students discover new media such as acrylic paint and paper collage. Students grow in their understanding of perspective and 2-D design as they experiment with different techniques and concepts. Art projects are often integrated with social studies, language arts, and technology. Students begin to write about their art as well as the art of others, and through class discussions students begin to interpret a piece of art. Students are given a sketchbook in which to record their ideas. Throughout the year, students are introduced to artists and art movements from a diverse group of cultures. The year culminates in an integrated unit with a collage portrait of a notable woman for the “Herstory” project. Learning and sharing continue through class discussions, art exhibits, and self-evaluations.
Students profit from the practice of good communication habits and purposeful movement, and they continue to develop comfort and ease in solo public speaking performances. As a result, students become more self-aware and feel ownership over their work. The entire second semester is spent studying and performing the works of William Shakespeare, culminating in a staged production in the spring. As the girls approach Middle School, they possess a clear understanding of what an ensemble is and how to support one another.
French and Spanish
The fourth grade French and Spanish program emphasizes pronunciation, reading, aural comprehension, and writing. Students learn about essential structures, expressions, and vocabulary through oral practice, written exercises, role-playing, and games. Regularly scheduled homework assignments, projects, and short assessments supplement these activities. Cultural awareness remains an integral part of the program.
Library work in fourth grade is closely coordinated with the classroom language arts and social studies curriculum. Following a review of general library skills, including the use of the online catalog and locating materials on the shelves, students are exposed to a comprehensive study of literary terms that highlight genre, mood, pace, and characterization. In connection with their persuasive letter writing unit in writer’s workshop, students review the steps of the research process and learn to use databases and how to create a works-cited document using Noodletools, an online research platform. In a culminating integrated research project, aptly named “Herstory,” students conduct an in-depth study of a notable woman in history using books, reference sources, and websites. Students end the year with a study of fables.
In fourth grade music, students consolidate the musical skills they gained throughout the previous years. The award winning computer program MusicAce is used to reinforce these theoretical and aural skills. Students work in ensembles with hand chimes and rhythm band and learn harmony through part-singing and rounds. In the spring, students study orchestral instruments. End-of-semester performances form an important part of the year.
The fourth grade physical education program emphasizes team sports, primarily soccer, basketball, and volleyball. These three sports are the first team sports the students will encounter as Middle School athletes. Team concepts and decision making is a focal point of each unit. Communication skills and learning to be a good teammate are stressed. Each unit closes with a mini tournament- the World Cup/ the NBA/ the Olympics. Understanding winning, losing, and supporting each other helps the students as they move into more focused/organized teams in Middle School. Fourth grade dance education is focused on dances of many cultures around the world. Students learn about the partner dances of Latin America and Europe, American social dances with a focus on the contributions of the Black community, and end the year with dances on stage that range from Japanese Kabuki to the NYC founded post-modern dance movement.
Fourth grade students learn more advanced swimming skills to build on the swimming skills they learned in prior years. By the end of fourth grade, students are able to swim all four strokes and know how to dive and to do flip turns. Game play and lessons throughout the year emphasize competition rules, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and safety.
The formation of conscience is emphasized in fourth grade. Our study of Gospel stories focuses on Jesus’ message of forgiveness. Since preparation for the solemn celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a central part of the year’s instruction, religion classes are designed to foster moral discernment in a Christian context. There is particular emphasis on the extravagance of God’s love, which is God’s acceptance of our shortcomings. Students receive the sacrament in the fall. After Reconciliation, the lessons follow the trajectory of the Sunday Gospels, as they lead us through Jesus’ life to Death and Resurrection, and finally to the birth of the Christian Church through the arrival of the Holy Spirit.
Fourth grade science centers around energy. In the first unit, students develop models and investigate how the structures within organisms provide them with the energy required for sustaining life. The second unit centers around the conservation and transformation of energy. By exploring renewable energies, students examine a variety of energy types and sources and design a device that converts energy from one type to another. In the third unit, students look more specifically at what happens with energy when objects collide. They design solutions that relate the speed of objects to the energy of those objects. In the final unit, students examine how energy is at the root of changes in the earth’s surface. They consider and design solutions to help humans mitigate the effects of natural processes, such as earthquakes and volcanoes, using what students know about energy. Throughout each year of the Lower School science program, students learn about various STREAM careers, with a particular focus on women in STEM. During each Heritage month (and in between), students learn about women scientists from that cultural background. Fourth grade students know they are scientists!
The technology program in fourth grade engages students in hands-on, open-ended projects that encourage collaboration, problem-solving, and iteration. Students are exposed to engineering and coding challenges utilizing Scratch and using the Lego WeDo 2.0 kits. Students also learn introductory file management skills as well as more advanced features of Google docs and Google slides. Stu- dents learn the presentation skills necessary for their “Herstory” project at the end of the year. Throughout the year, emphasis is also placed on Digital Citizenship. Students learn how to identify “clickbait” and navigate through gender stereotypes used online and in video games. As leaders of the Lower School, fourth graders model for younger students how to use the Internet safely, responsibly, and with kindness towards others while also getting ready to apply these skills in Middle School.
Students continue to develop the skills to positively resolve conflicts as well as to make informed decisions regarding their personal well-being. Two classes during the first semester are devoted to a discussion of the physical and emotional changes in young girls, while other classes focus on social-emotional development of students. These classes address self-advocacy related to academic needs, social situations, as well as boundaries and body safety. The Lower School psychologist plans and leads these sessions.
Beginning in Kindergarten, Lower School students learn the rudiments of oral presentation: eye contact, expression, volume, posture, and poise. Students develop sequencing and organizational skills, and grow in confidence through a series of oral presentations. Since public speaking is integrated into academic curricula and interdisciplinary projects, students improve their ability to identify and recall essential facts and to present this information to various audiences.
The Support Services program is a resource that offers a variety of services to children, parents, and teachers, both individually and in groups. The reading and mathematics specialists provide remediation and enrichment, both in the classroom and with small groups outside of the classroom. The Lower School psychologist is available to teachers and parents to consult about individual children, to offer workshops on developmental issues, and to support students through short-term individual counseling or group counseling, as needed.
Beginning in Kindergarten, children may choose from a wide variety of after-school activities that take place both at school and off-campus. The after-school program includes activities in sports, dance, art, drama, chess, STEAM/Coding, sewing, stock market, and robotics. There is a fee for each class.
An extended day option is offered for children in Junior Kindergarten through fourth grade. The program runs Monday through Thursday until 5:30 pm and Friday until 4:30 pm when school is in session.
Financial aid is available for both the after-school and extended day programs.