Cultivating Creative Minds and Capable Hands
Teaching in the Elementary grades aims to develop individuality and freedom balanced with cooperation and collaboration. Academic subjects such as math, reading, and writing are introduced in ways that nurture students’ natural curiosity and imagination. Subjects are brought to life through multicultural and history-based stories. Drama, painting, drawing and movement are used to lead students in learning beyond the memorization of facts. Students learn that even the most abstract concepts can be concretely grounded in the real world.
In these years, City Garden School teachers employ the children’s natural forces of imitation and delight to their fullest. We create a rich language environment that draws the students toward reading and writing skills. In early lessons, we preserve the vitality of language by reciting playful verses and masterful poetry. Students write down well-loved stories and are active in the learning process. Reading follows naturally when the content is already intimately connected to the students. Learning is less stressful, and all levels of literacy are addressed.
Movement and math go hand in hand as students step and clap rhythmically through the times tables. Numbers begin with the children’s immediate experience and are made concrete by counting shells, beans, or other small, natural objects. Knitting and flute playing develop dexterity in the hands and flexibility of the mind. Exposure to Spanish develops problem-solving and listening skills and sets the tone for interest and appreciation for other cultures and people.
In third grade, children begin to separate themselves from their environment and look more critically and consciously at their environment. Practical skills, such as farming, house building, and measurement, are all part of the curriculum. At this time, carefully chosen stories provide reassurance and support for the inner stages of growth.
Fourth graders meet the world with new capacities of thinking and feeling. Students seek experiences of self that are wider than their families. The curriculum addresses their need to move beyond themselves while cultivating a warm, human connection with the environment. For example, early science lessons introduce them to the animal kingdom in relation to the human being.
Geography lessons begin with a classroom map, expand outward to encompass the local community and surrounding area, and later to the entire United States. Students learn to ask, “What is it about the natural resources of this particular place that led human beings to settle here?”
In fifth grade, we explore botany. Students learn to observe the characteristics of various plants and the environmental conditions in which they thrive. They are taught to observe, draw, and paint the unfolding phases of plant growth from root to leaf to flower. Hero stories from the world's great mythological traditions form the thematic heart of the language arts curriculum. Students learn about ancient world culture through the literature and history of the peoples of India, Persia, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Scandinavia, and Greece.
The Fifth Grader is at a balance point between innocence and wakefulness, often called the pinnacle of childhood. They are just beginning to discover their identity, and with it, their feelings are often big and sometimes confusing for them. While they can put on such a show of bravado, this emerging adolescent being is sensitive and impressionable. The Fifth Grade offers a curriculum that challenges them to develop new capacities in themselves they never knew they had.