Each day, students focus on these core subjects: language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. They also have regular classes in PE, art, and music. A hands-on, experiential approach across the curriculum—particularly in math and science—encourages young learners to explore, experiment, and problem solve using logic and critical thinking.
Character education, while not a “class” per se, is a vital part of our curriculum. In recent years, we have incorporated into our program and interactions with students five “big ideas” drawn from the Bible—service, responsibility, leadership, ethics, and democracy.
At the heart of all Lower School learning are high expectations of each student, spiritually based character education, and a commitment to differentiating the curriculum so that every child is engaged.
Progress and proficiency in the essentials of English—reading, writing, speaking, and listening—are emphasized and evident at each level in Lower School.
As they move upward, students extend and refine alphabet- and word-recognition skills into spelling, grammar, and handwriting capabilities. Our goal is to help students construct meaning from language and develop reading fluency. In grades 4/5, students are learning advanced vocabulary, reading comprehension strategies, and literary devices such as similes and metaphors.
Each day, learners use a range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate literature. Quality children’s literature and poetry, as well as established programs (such as the Six Traits of Effective Writing) advance proficiency. They also explore the phases of writing (drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing) and experiment with various approaches, including descriptive, persuasive, and expository writing, personal narrative, research reports, and poetry.
From a young age, children use math every day, in every way . . . whether it’s sorting blocks by size, counting off team members, or pointing out that one sibling got more than M&Ms than another!
Our work is to help students master key mathematical concepts of quantity, size, space, portions, proportions, and relationships in a way that makes everyday sense. Starting in kindergarten with the Math in Focus® program, we follow a three-step process—moving from the concrete to the pictorial to the abstract. Using manipulatives to demonstrate a concept, followed by a pictorial or graphic re-creation of it, sets the basis for understanding the concept through numbers and symbols.
After sorting, classifying, measuring, identifying patterns, exploring number concepts, and practicing logical thinking in first grade, topics such as basic geometry, time and temperature, money, graphing, and place value are introduced in second grade. From third through fifth grade, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division become increasingly complex, with fractions and decimals introduced at the higher levels. Geometry, averages, mean, median, and mode, and the interpretation of graphs and charts, along with estimating and problem-solving skills, are taught as well. Daily home practice and in-class exercises deepen students’ grasp of the material.
Stars and space, bees and butterflies, worms, machines, plants, pebbles . . . and questions. Lots of questions!
There’s always so much to ask and learn about! And with a full-time science teacher, a fully-equipped science classroom, and our 360-acre “outdoor lab,” there are so many fascinating ways to unearth (sometimes literally!) the answers.
Students in kindergarten through Grade 4/5 have science at least twice a week, and cover themes such as patterns of change and constancy, change over time, and systems and interactions. Students learn about habitats, the solar system, ecosystems, forces and motion, geology and earth materials, plant cycles, weather and seasons, electricity and energy, and forces and motion. They also learn how to investigate and document ecosystems, particularly rivers and wetlands, which are so much a part of the local landscape.
Field trips are frequent and include activities at sites such as the World Bird Sanctuary, Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, Melvin Price Lock and Dam, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Missouri Botanical Garden, Principia College, and the Challenger Learning Center. Through project-based learning, student teams analyze issues, solve problems, and develop prototypes such as simple machines. Sometimes, stuents even work with Upper schoolers to collect and report data for the Missouri Stream Team project.
Learning that goes beyond self, way beyond self—that’s what social studies is all about at Principia Lower School.
Our aim is to expand children’s awareness, understanding, and appreciation of a range of peoples, cultures, and ideas—both past and present, local and global. Themes that are incorporated into the program include:
Students get repeated exposure to world and U.S. geography, map-reading and map-making skills, and native cultures and traditions. They also study concepts and examples of leadership by examining the lives and ethics of notable individuals, including biblical characters and African American leaders.
In the 4/5 grade classroom, students learn about European explorers and their journeys, and focus on the first English settlement on the U.S. mainland (Jamestown). They also study Ancient Greece and the relevance of its ideals of democracy and citizenship to the American Revolution. This two-year focus on the early years of European and American life in the U.S. is capped by a weeklong trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, during which students learn about the history of independence—and about expressing independence, flexibility, and cooperation while traveling.
Our studio is a hub of creativity, visual problem solving, and expression, as we harness students’ sense of wonder and exploration in weekly art sessions.
The art teacher works closely with classroom teachers to integrate lessons in the art room with learning in the classroom. As a result, students often create art and craft works that relate directly to their study of science and social studies. When students observe, reflect, express, envision, and explore, they expand their world in appreciation of themselves and others and the beauty around them.
Lower schoolers’ art experience culminates in the annual Art Alive! exhibition, which highlights each student’s knowledge of a specific artist or medium. In preparation, students study masterpieces of art and practice some of the artistic styles and interpretations associated with these works. They research an artist of their choice and reproduce one of his or her artworks for the exhibit.
“Legs, clap, shoulders, head.
“Legs, clap, shoulders, head. . . .”
Movement, rhythm, repetition, and a few giggles (!) are all part of music education, which we consider an essential aspect of Lower School education.
In weekly classes, we use the Kodály Method to introduce children to elements of rhythm and tone through folk songs, games, dances, and Orff instruments (tonal devices such as xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels). By the end of 2/3 grade, students learn how to play recorders, read notation, and play the pentatonic scales.
In grade 4, students are introduced to band instruments. After an evaluation process, students choose their instruments and are ready to begin their band journey. They participate in one end-of-year concert.
Participation in band is required during Grade 4/5 (and on into sixth grade in Middle School). Students perform in two annual concerts and also participate in the annual ABC Solo and Ensemble Festival hosted by Principia. These occasions provide early opportunities to develop poise and stage presence.
Nothing is more fun and exciting for young children than active learning through movement!
Physical education classes for students in kindergarten through grade 4/5 meet four days a week; pre-kindergarten classes meet two days a week. Our facilities include a dedicated Lower School playground and two fields; access to the School track and turf field; a climbing wall; and an indoor pool allowing for swimming instruction in every grade.
PE classes are very active, engaging, often include music and teach children the joy of developing an active lifestyle. Christian Science-based character education is the foundation, and in all classes students learn the importance of respect, responsibility, honesty, and moral courage. Teamwork, team play, problem solving and leadership are practiced. Students are encouraged to “Play Hard, Play Fair, Play Safe, and Have Fun.” A safe environment allows students to freely explore their imagination and develop their creativity.
In the early grades, the focus is on space awareness, movement concepts, and relationship concepts as well as fundamental locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills in order to achieve movement competency and proficiency. In the upper elementary grades, the skills developed earlier are applied as activity-specific motor skills in a variety of settings. All levels include the learning of personal and social responsibility. This includes practicing sportsmanship (using the Golden Rule). The learning environment encourages students to be thinkers and active, giving participants.
Classroom learning is creatively integrated into PE in several ways: a geography activity during which third graders develop jump-rope skills while learning the names and location of states; using a jump rope to practice spelling words; a class “hike” to certain parts of campus to practice orienteering and compass-reading skills. This type of interdisciplinary instruction reinforces learning by helping them make connections across subjects. It’s also a lot of fun!