Lower School Philosophy and Programs
Our Lower School philosophy and programs are carefully designed to strengthen areas of weakness in language and encourage individual strengths. Our approach includes laying a strong language foundation, while nurturing each student’s creativity and imagination.
During the Lower School years, topics are introduced sequentially, solidifying core skills and concepts. This is a critical period where learning builds on learning, and when children gain new knowledge by adding to what they already know.
While Cambridge School has multi-age classrooms, we follow the core curriculum found in traditional elementary schools — with subjects ranging from math and science to physical education and the arts. Information regarding the programs and approaches we use can be found below.
The Lower School Math program provides students with a broad, concept-driven curriculum designed to give students the foundation necessary for a successful mathematical future. Students build their knowledge base through hands-on activities as well as direct instruction. Computation, number theory, fractions, geometry as well as problem-solving skills are stressed throughout all levels. Furthermore, real life mathematical topics such as telling time and understanding monetary values are foundationally built and reviewed on a yearly basis.
- Dimensions Math® from Singapore Math is a highly effective, multi-sensory, structured approach to teaching mathematics. This method focuses on concept mastery through the intentional sequencing of skills and a concrete, pictorial, abstract approach that introduces concepts in a tangible way and becomes progressively more abstract. Students’ metacognition skills are strengthened as they are taught to “think about their thinking,” and their communication skills grow as they learn how to effectively share this thinking. Students use prior knowledge to anchor new learning and to make connections between various mathematical concepts. Dimensions Math® teaches techniques and skills to develop students’ number sense, mental math abilities, and flexibility in thinking about numbers. Problem solving is also highly emphasized, and students learn how to transform word problems into visual representations in order to successfully solve them. The ultimate goal is to help students become successful, confident, resourceful mathematical thinkers.
- Making Math Real™ is a multi-sensory, hands-on and structured program designed for students of all learning styles. The approach integrates key cognitive developments necessary to be successful in math. Essential brain tools for math, such as symbol imaging, detail analysis and sequential processing, are developed through fun and engaging lessons that guide students from kindergarten through algebra.
- On Cloud Nine® uses “visualizing and verbalizing” to develop three basic processes to build mathematical skills: concrete experiences, imagery, and computation. The purpose of the program is to help students think with numbers, image relationships, and do mental and written computation. Multi-sensory tools include base 10 blocks, number lines, and imaging cards. Air-writing is used to engage the kinesthetic sense and build visual imagery.
- TINS (Thought, Information, Number Sentence, Solution) Method was designed to help students break down word problems and solve them with accuracy. Students are taught to identify keywords and nonessential words, visualize the problem and understand the “language of math” so they are able to choose the appropriate operations when solving a problem.
In the Lower School, students explore the world around them beginning with study of homes and families, moving through people and communities, and culminating with a study of the regions of our country. Hands-on projects are fundamental, with field trips being an essential component of the learning process. Comprehension skills and integration with language skills are central to social studies. Teaching students map skills, geography, and timeline concepts are important elements of this content area. In addition, the ability to recognize cause and effect, to draw valid conclusions, to categorize, and to compare and contrast are critical thinking skills that are also introduced and taught.
The Lower School science curriculum introduces students to life, physical, and earth sciences. Students learn carefully to observe events and the world around them and to ask questions about their observations which can be answered through investigation. Lab modules are integrated throughout the science curriculum to support hands-on learning. Field trips provide students with additional tangible experiences and opportunities to become further involved in their learning. All students also take part in the annual Science Fair. This activity allows students the opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom to solve a scientific question using the scientific method.
Idiom instruction is exposure to the language of inferences, sayings, and idioms, concepts that are sometimes difficult to grasp for learning different students who can be very literal in their thinking. The entire school community is instructed in “The Idiom of the Week” which is an interesting way for the students to enrich their language and assist them in the process of moving from concrete thinking to the more abstract. Exposure to inferences, sayings, and idioms also helps with reading comprehension skills.
Storytelling is an integral part of the Lower School Curriculum and is integrated into all subject areas. Storytelling creates a bridge between written and oral language, and improves listening, reading comprehension, and literacy skills. Storytelling arts builds self-esteem, exposes students to cultures through multicultural folklore, provides problem-solving techniques for conflict resolution, teaches students how to relate effectively and empathetically to others, and inspires a love of learning and literature.
Music is an essential component of every child’s education and all Cambridge School students participate in musical learning through the Fine Arts Program. Cambridge School’s music program is performance based. The program is directly linked to school celebrations through vocal and instrumental music as well as drama. A winter concert, an annual all-school musical, and an end of year performance are just a few of the ways we share our students’ musical accomplishments. Songs are oriented toward the seasons, holidays, and school projects. It is our goal to develop students’ musical skills including vocal production, rhythm, pitch, dynamics, tempo, note reading, and harmony through the medium of rehearsal. Many different musical styles, genres, and cultures are represented in teacher-led listening activities. The music program is integrated with the classroom curriculum. Opportunities to enhance team work, cooperation, community, and self-esteem are provided through these large-group collaborations where students practice the art of working together to achieve a common musical goal.
Drama has many beneficial applications in the classroom. Research shows that drama increases creativity, originality, sensitivity, fluency, flexibility, emotional stability, cooperation, and examination of moral attitudes, while developing communication skills and an appreciation of literature. Drama accommodates students with different learning styles by providing visual, auditory, and kinesthetic methods of teaching critical thinking skills and engaging in aesthetic experiences with literature. In addition, research on drama in the classroom has found it to improve reading comprehension, persuasive writing skills, self-esteem, and positive attitudes towards others. Drama also provides a platform for safe expression and the utilization of the imagination.
The goal of the art program at Cambridge School is to stimulate creative thinking and to encourage students to feel comfortable using art as an effective and meaningful form of communication. Students with different learning styles often display a strong aptitude for the visual arts. Therefore, we strive to challenge students through creative problem solving and experimentation with art, and to inspire them with a lifelong curiosity and urge to create. Students develop confidence in their creative expression by building skills in a variety of media. The students work with tools appropriate to their abilities and skill level in order to develop manipulative skills needed to satisfy individual artistic expression. Elements of design are introduced: line, shape, color, texture, space, and light, as well as the principles of design: pattern, rhythm, balance, contrast, emphasis, and unity. The students create bridges between art and the world around them through a theme-based integrated curriculum. For example, students design and create set backdrops and stage props that are used in their all-school musical production. Often projects connect art concepts to language, math, and social studies. Projects are designed to offer structure for students to feel creatively safe yet provide enough freedom for self discovery. The students expand their horizons and are visually inspired by experiencing a variety of artwork from contemporary and past cultures. Also, students create a connection with the art community through museum/gallery visits, field trips, visiting artists, and the annual Student Art Show.
This leveled course provides direct instruction in both computer skills and the underlying science that drives technology. Students build their digital literacy as they engage in dynamic experiences that develop their knowledge of the workings of technology, while acquiring critical 21st century skills—including collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. Components of the series include: computer coding, digital design, concepts of architecture and engineering, app development, and graphic design.
The Cambridge School Physical Education Program is developed and implemented to provide opportunities for growth through selected movement experiences while recognizing the needs, abilities, and interests of each child. Teachers allow each child to strive toward fulfilling his/her potential. Emphasis is on self-improvement and the ability to think through and understand skills and strategies. The goal is to develop and improve motor skills, as well as social interaction abilities. Focus is on movement education, development of basic locomotion skills, body awareness, and ball handling skills. Emphasis is placed on listening, following directions, and cooperation. Our intent is to increase each student’s level of physical fitness and enhance his/her self-image through active participation in class. As students progress through the curriculum, various activities are organized to provide continued improvement with hand and eye and perceptual/motor coordination. Activities are designed to reinforce skills that have been taught while taking into consideration the current developmental concerns of students. Activities are presented in a sequential manner; each learned skill is a foundation for more refined movements. Activities include cooperative games, softball, badminton, tennis, lacrosse, basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, baseball, and hockey. In addition, students participate in an annual fundraiser called Hoops for Heart, which ties into our community service program.
During the fitness component the students are evaluated and tested to measure their level of fitness and skills compared to other students their age.
In the winter semester all students have health classes integrated into their physical education program. Health classes are designed to address health issues related to the students’ social environment, equipping them with skills and experiences that will prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will encounter.
Movement Based Learning
Many mornings at Cambridge School begin with movement-based learning exercises. The movements are designed to support a child as they discover reading, handwriting, spelling, or mathematical computation. These natural movements enhance learning by addressing the sensory elements involved in the integration of new ideas and they help to facilitate the flow of information within the brain, restoring students’ innate ability to learn and function at top efficiency.
Instrumental Music introduces students to the two main elements of music: rhythm and pitch through instruction in the handbells and the recorder. Instruction is provided by our Instrumental Music Instructor, Mr. Ray Nugent. Mr. Nugent is a member of the Westminster Conservatory of Music and has a Masters of the Art in Piano Pedagogy and Performance. Proper finger position, embouchure (position of the instrument relative to the mouth), and blowing techniques are demonstrated and reinforced through direct instruction, modeling, and practice. Students are taught notation and different note values using Orff and Kodaly methodologies. A variety of exercises, echoing, reading, and improvising are used to reinforce concepts. Students perform twice annually at the Holiday Concert and End of Year Ceremonies.
Howell Living History Farm
Students involved in this program take multiple field trips to Howell Living History Farm over the course of the year. The program provides a number of opportunities for students to learn about farming, farm animals, and life on the farm from 1890-1910. Each visit focuses on a specific aspect of farming such as wheat harvesting, corn planting, ice harvesting, maple syrup tapping, and sheep shearing. Rotating stations which offer several hands-on and tangible experiences from the field, to the granary, to the kitchen, directly involve students in their learning. Cooperative learning is utilized as students work together to achieve a common goal. Concepts are continually revisited and reinforced and prior knowledge is built upon with each visit to the farm. Back at school, students participate in reading and writing lessons which are linked to their experience on the farm.
Farm to School
Cambridge School, under the direction of Master Gardener, Denise Dunne, planned, created and regularly tend to two (2) organic gardens.
School Gardens help to extend the classroom beyond traditional settings by expanding it outside. Gardening provides students with hands-on learning opportunities while increasing environmental awareness and vital experiences in problem-solving. In our school gardens, children are learning more than just growing plants.
School gardens build important life-long social skills and teach responsibility, communication, teamwork, ownership, and leadership. Gardens also foster a sense of community, bringing parents, teachers, students, and community members together.
School gardens are a wonderful way to use the schoolyard as a classroom, reconnect students with the natural world and the true source of their food, and teach them valuable gardening and agriculture concepts and skills that integrate with several subjects, such as math, science, art, health and physical education, and others.
As a natural adjunct to the classroom, gardening incorporates true multisensory experiences.