In Early Childhood we set the foundation for cultural experiences. Cultural units of study help the child adapt to their world (particular place and time) so that he can function as a contributing member of society. They include lessons about science, geography, history, art and music.
- For children under six years, this begins with concrete, sensorial experiences with real things the child might encounter in their environment. This sensorial exploration then fuels their natural curiosity to ask questions, explore the environment, seek out the answers and share information.
- We provide the child with an understanding of the world around them through carefully scaffolded interactions with their environment — categorizing animals into vertebrates and invertebrates, what are our senses and how do we use them, the parts of a seahorse, life cycle of a pine cone and so on
Although providing children with an introduction to the life sciences is important in its own right, the cultural units of study serve other important purposes, such as:
- The opportunity to develop vocabulary, e.g.; leaf shape names, geometric solids, parts of the skeleton, and landforms.
- To apply math, geography, and formal language knowledge (reading, composition, grammar)
- To utilize scientific tools and instruments (measuring, weighing, using a microscope or dissection tools)
- To cultivate an understanding of the scientific method (making predictions, testing hypotheses, and recording observations)
During the Lower Elementary years, students continue to build their understanding of themselves as part of history. Several major questions are woven throughout these studies:
- Where did we come from?
- Where do we fit in?
- What happened before humans were even here?
- What is our responsibility here?
The Lower Elementary Cultural Curriculum includes History, Geography, Biology, and Physical Science.
- In history, children study the creation of the Universe and the geological history of Earth, the beginnings of life, and how early humans started to measure time.
- In geography, children learn about land and water forms, the composition of the Earth and its dependence on the sun, maps, flags and the geographical features of and the political structures within the seven continents.
- In biology, they study the five kingdoms of life. They learn about how the features of each allow for classification. And later, they learn how living things have adapted over time to survive in different environments on the 7 continents.
- In physical science, the children study the properties of water and air and their impact on the shape of the land, weather, and ocean currents (and therefore human history). They also study the principles of light, sound, and magnetism, and learn about simple machines.
Throughout the Lower Elementary years connections are made between these disciplines. They conduct experiments and learn to document their results. Children begin to see how all humans are striving to meet the same fundamental needs for life (food and water, clothing, shelter, communication, transportation, spiritual and artistic needs) and how different that looks depending on where you live on Earth.
Upper Elementary continues the theme of helping students find how their community both resembles and differs from different cultures and communities around the world. We do this by studying biological, historical and present day communities.
The framework of fundamental needs informs the Upper Elementary curriculum of social studies and science. At this point, however, students are challenged to widen their focus on those needs to include more abstract ideas, including:
Students have moved away from card material, simpler nonfiction books, and charts to:
- Primary sources
- The Internet
- Collection of their own interpretation of data
They learn to synthesize and critique both their own work and the materials they are using. Field trips to places of historical interest, such as Plimoth Plantation, Sturbridge Village, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. provide children with opportunities for direct research followed by group projects. In science, projects in school such as researching water filtration and making a working filter; or in Black Rock Forest such as bridge or trail building, eradicating invasive species, or setting up a weather station, supplement their classwork.