The core academic subjects in the grade-level homerooms are complemented by the six "specialist" subjects. All children at every grade level study science, Spanish, art, music and movement, and physical education with faculty members who specialize in that discipline. Students also visit the Lower School library regularly to interact with the dedicated Lower School librarian, choose new reading material, and develop their media and research skills.
The Lower School technology coordinator regularly teaches technology skills and concepts with in the context of homeroom and specialist courses.
- Music and Movement
- Physical Education, Health, and Wellness
- Technology Tools
- Computer Science and Engineering
Hands-on science, engineering, and computer science classes take place in two dedicated science classrooms and a Makerspace with two full-time science specialists. Students investigate the world around them, become observers of natural phenomena, build and create solutions to engineering challenges, and are introduced to computational thinking and computer programming. The curriculum includes interdisciplinary content from the core sciences of life science, physical science, and earth science aligned with the content and practices in the Next Generation Science Standards.
There is a strong focus on creative problem-solving and the engineering design process. Over the course of their Lower School experience, students will design, carry out, and present experiments ranging from investigating the variables that affect the germination of seeds to the behavior of waves and sound; They will learn about alternative energy and then design, build, and test wind turbines. They will also study and observe earth surface processes, learn about the Mississippi River watershed, and design and build a drinking water filter. Finally, students will learn the basics of computational thinking and computer programming through block-based programs such as Kodable, Scratch, and Tickle, and program small robots including BeeBots and Dash and Dot.
Spanish classes emphasize creative and interactive games, songs, stories, skits, puppet shows, movements, and conversations to help students develop their listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. The curriculum offers interdisciplinary integration with homeroom content area units, an understanding of Spanish-speaking cultures around the world, and multiple opportunities for exchanges with native Spanish speakers both in and beyond the classroom.
Students who join SPA in Grades 3-5 with limited Spanish experience are supported in Spanish through a mini-course offered in addition to regular class times to help them build competence and confidence in the basics of Spanish language as they transition into the school community in the fall.
By the end of Grade 5, students have completed the first half of a beginning high school Spanish course. This puts students on track to complete Spanish II by the end of Middle School, entering Spanish III when they move to the Upper School.
In the Lower School, art is a vibrant, creative, and essential part of day-to-day life. Students participate in formal art classes taught by specialist teachers twice per six-day rotation. In art classes, they explore and express themselves through many media and styles. Student work is prominently exhibited throughout the school.
Students attend music classes twice per six-day rotation, and are taught by teachers trained in the Orff-Schulwerk approach. Instruction in singing, movement, instruments, and speech guides students through exploration, improvisation, and composition. Students performing on stage is an important part of the music experience in the Lower School. An additional option for Lower School students is our Private Music Lesson program. Private lessons are available for a wide variety of instruments, and may be scheduled at the Goodrich Campus for before school, during the student's lunch period, or after school.
When students move to the Middle School, they continue their music coursework in choir, band, or orchestra.
Students take Physical Education three times per six-day rotation. Teachers engage, instruct, and encourage each student while they build strong bodies, athletic skills and teamwork. At the Lower School, physical education classes provide opportunities for students to work at developing basic athletic skills such as kicking, dribbling, and throwing. Team sports are introduced in physical education classes at Grade 5 along with interscholastic competition.
Lower School students benefit from an intentional culture and integrated curriculum promoting healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy relationships. Lessons on topics such as human anatomy, families, puberty, gender, human reproduction, friendships, stress, and consent will be presented across the curriculum, in age-appropriate ways.
The Goodrich Campus library is a welcoming, cozy space for Lower School students to explore reading options, listen to stories, and have quiet reading time to themselves. All Lower School students visit the library regularly for activities with the Lower School librarian or to choose new books for their own reading. Students check out books during their designated library time with support and guidance from the librarian and parent volunteers, and participate in in-library lessons and storytime. In the older grades, the librarian works with homeroom teachers to develop homeroom-based book talks, lessons, and research support.
SPA takes a holistic approach to technology in the Lower School. Rather than offering instruction in how to use computers or devices—skills many children have already mastered by Kindergarten—we have developed a broad curricular initiative focued on technology, creativity, and innovation. The initiative involves three strands of skill development: computers and other devices as learning tools; computer science and engineering skills; and Maker education. Together, these three strands give students the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking that can also be applied to the academic subjects they study in their homerooms and with the specialists. Our full-time Lower School Technology Coordinator oversees technology initiatives in close collaboration with the homeroom and specialist teachers.
Students in every grade have at least one unit each year in their science classes in which they explore computer science, robotics and/or engineering at a developmentally-appropriate level. This initiative involves three strands of skill development: computers and devices as learning tools; computer science and engineering skills; and Maker education where students utilize the Makerspace for design, construction, and special projects. Together, these three strands give students the opportunity to explore new ways of thinking that can also be applied to the academic subjects they study in their homeroom and with the specialists.