In accordance with the Academy’s philosophy of teaching the whole child, our Lower School program strives for a balance among intellectual, social, creative, and physical activities.
The academic program focuses on five major disciplines: Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and World Languages. This core coursework is supplemented throughout the grades by experiences in Fine Arts, Physical Education, Computer Studies, and Character Education.
The development of reading and language arts skills is a major focus of the Lower School. An eclectic approach, combining children’s literature with exercises from basal readers, is used. Emphasis is placed on phonics and other word attack strategies, comprehension skills, and vocabulary building. All other aspects of language arts – grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc. – are incorporated into the program through writing, which is an integral part of the language arts program. During the intermediate years (Grades 3-5), students continue to build upon this foundation through the use of trade books, basals, and the Junior Great Books program. Reading instruction includes both whole-group lessons and small, cooperative group activities. The emphasis on writing continues in these grades with portfolios and journal writing.
The Everyday Mathematics program, which begins at the preschool level, continues throughout the early childhood and lower school grades. The spiraling curriculum helps children to master basic numerical processes and understand key mathematical concepts. In the 3rd-5th grades, students are transitioned from this constructionist mathematical program to a more traditional one, forming a bridge to Middle School.
In the lower school grades, the social studies curriculum is designed to help children organize and develop appropriate perceptions of themselves and the world around them. Class discussions and role-playing are used, along with materials from various programs designed to strengthen self-concepts and decision-making skills. In the intermediate grades, students learn of factors that have shaped their world, develop research skills, learn how to read and create maps, and begin to develop the skills necessary for critical analysis. To enhance their studies, students frequently work in cooperative groups, give oral presentations, enact historically significant events, and make use of the computer as a tool in research and presentations.
In science, students develop an understanding and working use of the scientific method as they practice questioning, predicting, observing, experimenting, collecting data, and drawing conclusions. Activities and experiments encourage students to develop skills of scientific inquiry as they deal with a wide range of topics within the physical, chemical, and biological sciences.
World language study, introduced during the early childhood years, continues throughout the Lower School. Kindergarten through 5th Grade students attend world language classes four days a week, with class times gradually increasing from 18 to 40 minutes. In an informal, yet structured and sequential program, songs, poems, games, and dialogue are used to emphasize vocabulary development and correct pronunciation in the early grades. With the introduction of textbooks, students at the intermediate level continue to develop listening, speaking, reading, and writing skills. More advanced vocabulary, grammatical concepts, and basic verb conjugations are introduced at this level. Lessons are based upon themes and include conversations, projects, listening to modeled instruction, and other learning experiences.
A Day in the Life
Students in the Lower School experience a full and enriching school day, five days a week. Here are is a sample kindergarten schedule to give you a taste of a typical day in the Lower School.
8:10 a.m. — Teacher welcome and attendance 8:15 a.m. — Language Arts, Math or Journal Writing 8:45 a.m. — Review of the day, Kindernews, jobs assigned 9:00 a.m. — Language Arts 9:45 a.m. — Classroom center time 10:15 a.m. — Snack 10:30 a.m. — Art, Library, or Music 11:15 a.m. — Recess 11:35 a.m. — Math 12:00 p.m. — Physical Education 12:45 p.m. — Lunch 1:40 p.m. — Foreign Language 2:05 p.m. — Recess 2:25 p.m. — Math/Story 3:00 p.m. — Dismissal
What Makes Us Different
The curriculum reflects rigor:
Lower School students typically read and write well above grade level on standardized tests
Over 35 percent of 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders regularly qualify for Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development’s Midwest Academic Talent Search.
Students studying French regularly receive recognition in the National French Contest.
Music, art, physical education, library, and world languages are part of the regular curriculum and taught by subject specialists.
Science is learned using hands-on activities; math classes stress problem-solving.
Students are involved in at least one major dramatic performance per year.
Accelerated math groups are formed at the 4th and 5th Grade levels for budding mathematicians.
Accelerated math and reading materials, such as Junior Great Books are used starting in the 1st Grade.
Reflects global perspectives and understanding:
Diverse student body leads to celebration of days such as Diwali and Ramadan.
International Day is an extensive educational project in Lower School involving research, planning, and sharing of cultural knowledge.
Social studies is taught throughout the Lower School. The content moves beyond the areas of family, local, and United States to include current national and world events.
Students can express their individuality and show their varied strengths through open-ended activities including writing projects, literature groups and projects.
Learning differences are quickly recognized and the school works closely with students and families to ensure success.
The teaching methods in the Early Childhood and Primary grades reflect a constructivist approach, and a belief in the importance of play and child-directed learning.
Reflects state-of-the-art education:
Computers are used in the classroom and students develop technology skills in regular lab classes.
The Lower School focuses its attention upon five major disciplines: Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and World Languages. This core coursework is supplemented throughout the grades by experiences in Fine Arts, Physical Education, Computer Studies, and Character Education. See pull down menu above for detailed information.
Learning flourishes in environments where students are encouraged to go beyond the normal classroom routine to explore their intellectual curiosity and express their individual interests and talents. The Academy’s Lower School supports this throughout the school year through a number of activities and events.
The Lower School holds both Social Studies and Science Fairs where students annually exhibit the results of independent research and experimentation. During these fairs, students demonstrate knowledge gained as they present and discuss their projects with both students and adults. Other fairs include two Art Shows where student work is prominently displayed in the Art Center.
Several contests are held each year, championing children who excel in an area of interest. The Mathematics League Contest is held for students in 4th and 5th Grade. High scorers show mathematical aptitude, especially problem-solving skills. Other contests include the Lower-Middle School Spelling Bee and Geography Bee. Students in the Beginner or Cadet Band are encouraged to participate in the Regional Solo and Ensemble Contest in the spring.
Assemblies provide another opportunity for students to enrich their learning. Each grade level from Kindergarten through 5th Grade presents a musical dramatic performance for the entire school community, including parents. Each student takes part in these productions, which are highlights of the year. Other programs include Field Day and the World Languages Musical Celebration. Students are encouraged to volunteer for a number of productions such as the Martin Luther King Assembly, Black History Assembly, and International Day Assembly.
Special projects in the classroom such as the National Parks Project in the 3rd Grade encourage individual and group research. In this project, students develop speeches, brochures, displays, and even T-shirts regarding their chosen parks, and in this way, share knowledge gained. For International Day activities, students of each class choose a country to research. After decorating their room to reflect their country, other classes are invited to learn through cultural games, crafts, stories, and food.
In order to further expand student knowledge of global issues and promote stewardship of the planet, Lower School children take part in activities such as recycling, composting, and caring for the school garden. Through activities such as these, students are given the understanding and tools they need to become responsible citizens and global leaders.
At Morgan Park Academy, our teachers do far more than teach facts or school subjects. We cultivate our mission through our students’ learning every day in the classroom. Character education is both respected and reinforced through teachers’ daily interactions with students.
Morgan Park Academy places importance on its advisory program throughout the entire school. The idea that all students have someone advocating for them and guiding them through their education is crucial to their success, and plays a vital role in helping them feel part of a caring community. Having this “special faculty member” looking out for students is valuable at every grade level.
In the Lower School, while teaching is the teacher’s primary responsibility, each child’s homeroom teacher fulfills the significant role of advisor as well. Maintaining consistent communication with parents, advocating for students and monitoring each student’s academic progress remains at the forefront of everything we do. This advisor role becomes more formalized in the later grades.