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lower-school-curriculum

Strong, independent and empowered thinkers.

Lower School is a learning environment where academic achievement is enmeshed with developing a true love of learning. Daily, students and teachers are absorbed in deep discussions. They are experimenting and asking thought-provoking questions. Time and space is made for these questions to be explored. In this kind of atmosphere, students see themselves as strong, independent thinkers who are empowered in academic, artistic and social realms.

Resource teachers work in conjunction with the classroom teachers to help students develop their ideas across a range of disciplines. The integration of classes like art, science, music and Spanish into classroom studies is a unique aspect of our Lower School that differentiates us from most others. Skills are best learned when students are able to apply a broad range of ideas and concepts to the task at hand. Long term, this makes them better problem-solvers, stronger in their ability to analyze and think critically, and able to view ideas and understand concepts through multiple lenses.


Featured Programs

Science, AFS Outside, and our 50-acre campus

Abington Friends Lower School Science Program combines a hands-on, inquiry-based exploration of the natural and physical world that integrates science and classroom studies. Our students make discoveries in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, and earth and space science. We emphasize science as a process, enabling children to understand that science learning is not just studying a collection of facts but is a process of inquiry, investigation and discovery.

Whenever possible, the science program integrates with and extends classroom studies. Whether in the science classroom or outside on the campus, the curriculum encourages children to utilize their natural curiosity while experiencing the joy of discovery. Our beautiful 50-acre campus is home to a rambling creek, wooded groves, and an abundance of of green space. These outdoor spaces provide countless resources for exploration and study for our Lower School students.

Art & Music

The art program in Lower School encourages inquiry, discovery, and wonder. Creating art promotes self-awareness, problem-solving skills and the ability to consider multiple viewpoints.

Art instruction is a regular part of the Lower School curriculum, and students have the opportunity to participate in a variety of art projects throughout the year, working both individually and collaboratively. By fourth grade, students are able to make independent decisions about their artwork and clearly articulate their artistic process. Students learn more sophisticated and complex artistic techniques, such as using a hand coping saw, building clay vessels and carving linoleum blocks for printmaking.

Regular music instruction focuses on developing musically independent students who experience, explore, listen to, perform, notate and create music. Class activities use speech, song, movement, drama and instruments in varied but integrated ways of performing. Class activities include speech, singing, creative movement, organized dance, drama, reading, writing, listening, performance, instrumental experiences and instrumental technique. By fourth grade, students are well prepared to begin their introduction to strings, small group lessons conducted within the music program.

Spanish Language Instruction

With the belief that learning a second language is vital work both for the developing brain and for the shrinking boundaries of the globe, we offer Spanish language education in our Lower School program. Children who receive regular, systematic second language instruction in the elementary grades perform better in their native languages and in school overall, develop greater problem-solving skills, become more creative, and achieve a greater understanding of their own and other cultures.

Class activities encourage the use of language in authentic situations such as describing self and environment, counting, identifying weather and time and following classroom commands. The approach is hands-on and includes the use of games, puppets, props, dialogues, storybooks, music, technology and visiting native speakers. Instruction is conducted in Spanish, but is integrated with the overall classroom curriculum. By fourth grade, students are able to demonstrate oral proficiency in class presentations and active participation.

 

Lower School Outdoor Play and Physical Education

Lower School students receive their earliest exposure to athletics and fitness in physical education classes, through participation in athletics enrichment programs and through regular opportunities for outdoor play.

Recognizing the importance of physical play for growing minds and bodies, our daily schedule for Lower School students includes a 20-to-30-minute morning recess period and a 30-to- 40-minute post lunch recess, in addition to  physical education classes and other day and grade specific recess times.

Our Lower School physical education classes and athletics enrichment opportunities emphasize the joy of athletic participation and the development of crucial fundamental skills in a wide variety of sports. Each Lower School student spends significant time every week engaged in organized physical activity that develops his or her athletic foundation.

To supplement the benefits gained through consistent school-day physical activity, AFS offers selected athletics enrichment opportunities throughout the school year and summer months. These organized, structured physical activity opportunities occur outside of P.E. classes and are another way for Lower School students to engage in physical activity and develop their athletic skills.

Growing Skills: Our Math and Language Arts Specialists

Lower school students have the capacity for tremendous academic growth between kindergarten and fourth grade. To support our budding readers, writers and mathematicians, our students have access to math and language specialists who work alongside our lead grade level specialists and collaborating teachers.

Our full time math specialist works directly with students in grades K through 4 to provide support and enrichment as children acquire and use strategies to perceive, understand and solve mathematical problems.

Similarly, our language arts specialist works with Lower School students and teachers, planning reading and writing workshops and literacy activities and providing support and enrichment to our growing readers and writers.

Freedom from standardized testing

Abington Friends School is a learning environment where the art of teaching is evident in every classroom every day. Our curriculum is rich in all academic areas, and skilled teachers provide a high level of challenge and guidance, measuring growth and progress in their daily work with students.

Standardized tests do not guide our understanding of student learning or shape how we structure our curriculum. In fourth grade, we choose to give our students the experience of a standardized test as a practical experience with this type of assessment, but it does not define their skills or their learning profile. Instead, regular assessment is naturally integrated into the course of daily work to better support group and individual progress.

Enrichment and After Care

The Extended Day Program at Abington Friends School takes place before and after school hours and offers a safe, fun and supportive environment to meet the needs of students and families during before and after-school hours. The Extended Day program also provides programming during select school closings, including inservice days, parent conference days and some vacation days.

In addition to the after school Extended Day program, AFS provides free, early morning childcare beginning at 7:30 a.m. for all students ages 3 through 4th grade.

After school hours, the program is an extension of the experience we cultivate daily. Whether it is through arts and crafts, games, music, or sports (when age appropriate), this program provides safe and enjoyable care for AFS students three years old through the sixth grade.

Seasonally, additional after school enrichment opportunities are available according to age, appropriate offerings, and family interest. Enrichment classes vary by grade and season. In the past, some of the courses offered include Chess, Mandarin Language, Clay Creations, Soccer and Cooking.

Our extended day program is staffed by Lower School classroom teachers and other part-time school personnel. The Extended Day faculty participates in our opening days inservice training and are seen throughout our daily program and act as substitutes when needed.

An integrated curriculum and a resource-rich environment

In every classroom, students are putting their knowledge of the arts, mathematics and sciences to work in research, on projects and during discussions. Students are engaged in the work of designing and building. Wigwams, greenhouses, plant dissections and teddy bear furniture adorn the halls of the Lower School and are integral parts of our curriculum.

Upon entering Lower School, you are immediately presented with a lively and well-stocked Makerspace, a room dedicated to exploring, inventing, creating and crafting. Many of the world’s greatest inventions began with an idea, a perceived need that was fulfilled by time and opportunity to construct a solution. Students in our Makerspace can work with hand tools to build. They use LittleBits circuitry to bring creations to life, and utilize computers for designing and programming.

Technology and Access in Lower School

Technology should enhance students’ abilities to be resourceful, creative and critical thinkers. Lower School students engage in genuine uses of technology that support the curriculum. Use of technological tools is dependent on what we are studying and what we want to create. A critical component of our technology program is media literacy. Students who are productive and literate in a diverse and interconnected world understand that media messages are created for a purpose and are able to identify and analyze how technology is used to reinforce those messages.

Lower School students explore and utilize a wide range of technological skills and resources including online portfolio development, programming with Scratch, podcast development, stop-motion animation, LittleBits, iMovie and Garage Band. Teachers model using technology to enhance their own learning and deliberately model a sense of balance in how and when they use technology. Throughout their time in Lower School, students employ technology in a range of opportunities that require research, analysis, design thinking and project development.

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