Students thrive with our robust, experiential approach to learning. Every day, they put their understanding into practice through a variety of hands-on, cross-disciplinary projects. This project-based learning provides authentic engagement for students, resulting in deeper connections with the curriculum. Guided by caring faculty and their own curiosity, students rise to meet academic challenges, demonstrating creativity, critical thinking, and entrepreneurial approaches to learning.
What does experiential learning look like in the Lower School? Discover the major learning initiatives and enrichment clubs that await your student.
Projects drive learning at the Lower School in order to deepen connections and provide the framework for realistic, problem-based understanding. Project-based learning is a highly effective instructional method where students “learn by doing,” collaboratively with their classmates. This, in turn, strengthens social skills and relationships and teaches invaluable skills needed in today’s world.
Authentic Engagement with Curriculum
Students authentically engage with academic disciplines. Our program nurtures lifelong learners, thinkers, and problem-solvers who are ready to adapt to and thrive in a rapidly changing world. For instance, in addition to learning about science and social studies topics through direct instruction, Principia students engage in field trips, simulations, hands-on projects, and interactions with authentic resources that allow students to gain a deep understanding of the material. This integrated approach creates meaningful learning experiences in authentic settings.
The learning environment is crucial to the developmental journey of a child. The recently renovated Lower School features a variety of creative learning spaces that are intentionally and purposefully designed. Classrooms are based on open concepts that maximize light, transparency, and natural colors, and are designed to invite collaboration and subject-area integration.
Starting in kindergarten, students learn to solve problems creatively through our innovative STEM program housed in the IDEA Labs. IDEA stands for Idea, Design, Excellence, and Action. Walk into the Lower School IDEA Lab and you may find a fourth grader animating her digitally-drawn car or a first-grade class exploring the concept of inertia by designing and building pendulums. Here in the IDEA labs, students develop future-ready skills such as collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and adaptability through real-life, engaging work. It’s also a place where students gain a sense of independence through student-centered and integrated projects.
Students use our 360-acre campus to bring subjects like social studies and science to life. We believe outdoor learning is an effective way to make learning meaningful and engaging. Principia students regularly visit the campus’ woods, creeks, ponds, school gardens, and the Challenge (ropes) Course. When young students are able to take concepts they’ve learned in class and apply them to real-life situations, they deepen their understanding and mastery of those concepts, and gain enthusiasm for what they’re learning.
Off-Campus Field Trips
Throughout their Principia experience, students take various field trips that support classroom learning. These educational opportunities help students see what they are learning and make deeper connections with academic subjects. These include various local trips, such as a visit to the Saint Louis Zoo to view animals they’re studying or an excursion to the National Great Rivers Museum to learn about pollution. The culminating trip is an all-class, fifth-grade trip to Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia, and Washington DC, in which students experience firsthand the national history and locations they’ve studied.
After-school enrichment clubs offer fun, educational extracurricular opportunities for children in every grade. Students can pursue a current interest or expand their horizons with a brand new activity.