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The Lower School program at Sacramento Country Day School is designed to support the growth of the whole child in the complex process of development. An enriched curriculum encourages in each child a high degree of competence and interest in foundational academic skills as well as the performing and visual arts, physical education, and world culture and language. Small classes and individual attention nurture a strong sense of security and confidence, both academically and socially. With one pre-kindergarten class and two classes each in grades kindergarten through five, the total enrollment of the Lower School is fewer than 300 students. The goal of our program is to develop well-rounded, self-confident youngsters with excellent academic skills who are able to meet the challenges of the Middle School, the High School, and beyond. While we develop in our children a lifelong joy in learning, we also seek to develop in them the habit of helping and the moral responsibility for seeing beyond their own wants and needs to recognize the needs of others, locally and globally.
THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM
The goal in pre-kindergarten is to create an environment that promotes positive social and emotional growth in our students. The pre-kindergarten faculty and assistants work with students in a self-contained, cheerful early childhood education center that includes safe, secure play equipment in a fenced play-yard, especially geared to their age level. Through exploration and activities, including interest centers and cooperative learning groups, children develop the ability to work and play in three modes: singly, in partnership, and in groups. Planned play is a crucial aspect of the program, for as Jean Piaget wrote, “through play, children learn that they can cause things to happen and change.” Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, vocabulary, and early reading and math skills are fostered in the context of developmentally-appropriate play.
In a warm, open environment, our kindergarten children learn and play together, find their natural curiosity stimulated, learn to follow directions and organize their activities, and feel good about themselves while preparing for the first grade.
In kindergarten, the multi-dimensional reading program is adaptable to the varying learning rates of our young students. Basic mathematical concepts, science activities, and opportunities to explore the environment are integral parts of the curriculum. Students are introduced to world language and cultures through lessons in Spanish and French. Daily experiences encourage children to communicate their ideas and feelings through art, music, and dramatic play. Participation in group activities helps children see the need for give-and-take in social interaction, and assists them in developing self-discipline. Attention is also given to physical and motor development, with daily classes taught by a physical education instructor.
Grades First – Fifth
The Language Arts Program – Reading and Writing
The Lower School reading program emphasizes the teaching of basic reading and study skills and the appreciation of fine contemporary and classical literature and poetry. Teachers emphasize writing as a process and integrate writing projects with social studies, literature, and personal and shared experiences. Communication skills are also developed through role-playing, oral reading, group discussions and brainstorming, and many opportunities for public speaking in formal and informal ways in the classroom and beyond. The Lower School Library is available to all students during each day, and every class receives instruction from our librarian in library and research skills, are introduced to outstanding literature and poetry, and are encouraged to read and select books that are “just right” for the reading level of the student.
The primary goals of the Lower School mathematics program are to develop in each student the skills of problem solving and critical thinking, and establish a firm knowledge of basic computation and mathematical reasoning. Our math curriculum builds a deep understanding of mathematics at the conceptual level and encourages students to not just “do” math, but to use it in a real world context.
The social studies program helps each child understand his or her role in society and relationships between groups and society. A multi-disciplinary approach offers students learning opportunities in geography, history, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, and government. The program also includes a wide variety of experiential learning activities, which enable students to interconnect all components of their education into a rich and meaningful understanding of the world.
Earth science, physical science, life science, and scientific reasoning and processing skills are taught throughout the Lower School. Most often integrated into thematic units of study, science develops students’ ability to observe, notice detail, record, organize, and interpret information.
All students in grades one through five have lessons in Spanish or French several times weekly. Exposure in this way to the study of world languages helps to develop both a facility in and awareness of the respective Spanish and French-speaking cultures. Language study also enhances auditory comprehension and strengthens phonemic awareness and prepares students for more formal language learning in Middle School and beyond.
All children participate in physical education instruction four to five days a week. Under the direction of P.E. specialists, activities range from group and general recreation to skill building in all motor areas and the development of skills in specific sports. With a basis in developmental movement education, the goal of the program is to encourage physical fitness, teamwork, healthy habits, and the lifelong enjoyment of movement in recreation. Students in grades four and five participate in team sports such as flag football, soccer, basketball, and softball.
Specialists provide instruction for Lower School students in art, music, and the performing arts.
Art: In addition to the many art opportunities in each classroom, the art program stimulates the development of visual and tactile perception, creative expression, and aesthetic judgment through the study of art history and related art projects. Students explore a wide variety of art media throughout the school year. Student artwork decorates our library, hallways, and classrooms, providing a beautiful and stimulating background that enhances creativity.
Music and Performing Arts: The music and performing arts program emphasizes active participation and works to motivate and develop aesthetic appreciation in the many facets of music, drama, and dance. Often integrating themes and concepts taught in the regular classroom, music and performing arts instruction strengthens and enhances students’ understanding of history, literature, and culture. Through periodic performances, students have ample opportunity to share their talent and develop poise and self-confidence.
In a project-based curriculum in the computer lab, students develop skills in word processing and electronic presentation, often incorporating material from their regular classrooms. Technology is integrated into classrooms through the use of projectors and flat screen monitors that allow teachers to bring the world to school through the Internet and various software applications.
Outside the Classroom
Lower School activities include assemblies and musical performances, as well as work in the computer lab, music room and library. Throughout the year, field trips at each grade level focus on social studies and science and include many hands-on learning opportunities in the community. Fourth and fifth grade students reinforce their studies with overnight trips. During their study of early California history, fourth grade students experience life as pioneers on their overnight at Sutter’s Fort. The fifth grade explores marine biology in the outdoor educational environment at Marin Headlands.
Grades and Evaluation
The philosophy of the school emphasizes learning for the love of learning rather than learning for the sake of grades; therefore, our report cards reflect the development of skills and note the progress of each student in their own personal development toward our goals. Lower School students do not receive letter grades. Parents receive written reports three times each year. Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled in the fall and winter and student-led parent conferences are held in the spring. Throughout the year teachers and parents stay in close communication.