The Lower School Experience
Good friends. A loose tooth. Word of Wisdom. Chapter books. Watercolor paintings. Picking apples. Junior Olympics. Great Person report. Makerspace. Community Contributions.
During these early years of education, students develop a love of learning while building a solid academic foundation. Integrating innovative and traditional educational practices are the hallmarks of our successful Lower School curriculum.
This is a place where your child is nurtured, and where your child is known and valued as a unique member of our family-like community of learners. Children explore ideas and learn from each other in small, personal classes. Teachers partner with parents to support students’ budding independence and help them identify how they learn best.
Small-group instruction in the core content areas of reading and writing, mathematics, science, and social studies allows for the full participation of each child. Woven in and out of all the subject areas is the Consciousness, Connections and Life Skills (CCLS) curriculum. Cooperative groupings emphasize communication and collaboration skills. Classes in art, greenhouse/cooking, music, makerspace, and physical education round out a stimulating and invigorating schedule that encourages ownership of learning, independence, and most of all, fun.
Lower School Core Curriculum
When students are explicitly taught the skills and strategies of proficient reading and writing and are invited to live as richly literate people do, carrying books everywhere, bringing reading into every nook and corner of their lives, the results are dramatic. More... It is the goal of our teachers, using the Lucy Calkins “Units of Study” curriculum, for our students to experience the joy of learning through becoming better readers and writers. The Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Program (TCRWP), as created by Lucy Calkins, is taught in hundreds of schools across the country, and has given young people extraordinary power, not only as readers and writers, but also as thinkers. Implementing this program in the fall of 2017 has been transformational for our students. Reader’s Workshop includes habits of good readers, fiction, nonfiction, critical informational text skills and study of characters. During Reader’s Workshop, students read, write, discuss deeper aspects of their books, are read to, work on vocabulary and comprehension, and choose just-right books. Readers receive one-on-one instruction, based on needs and goals. Writer’s Workshop provides opportunities for students to exercise writing skills that support their ability to communicate ideas, thoughts, and perspectives. This includes developing the habits of good writers, the art of informational writing, opinion/argumentative pieces, and narrative writing. Katherine Walmsley, 2nd grade reading and writing teacher commented, “My students come skipping down the hallway every day holding their tiny notebooks of ‘seed ideas’ to write their stories. After a short eight-minute mini-lesson they are sent off to read or write—‘off you go, writers,’ a favorite Lucy Calkins saying.” “After the second week in writing, one boy said to me ‘I never thought I could love something more than math!’ My students are studying mentor authors in writing class right now. They love writing their stories reflecting what they learned in their mini-lessons. One boy in class wrote that his story about how the book by Jane Yolen entitled Owl Moon made him feel peaceful and calm. He went on to describe his favorite description of the trees. He later told me in our conference meeting that he wanted to be a writer just like Jane Yolen.” “In Reading, 2nd graders are developing their stamina for reading for longer periods of time. We started off the year reading for 15 minutes, now they just want to read for longer and longer periods of time. They go book ‘shopping’ once a week in the classroom, choosing the ‘just right’ book. After choosing several books for the week, they read the books, reread the books thinking more deeply, and then partner read. Partner reading is book discussions, figuring out hard words, and reading out loud.” “The only complaint is, ‘reading is too short!’ They just don’t want to stop reading even after 45 minutes.” Less
It is the goal of our teachers, using the Lucy Calkins “Units of Study” curriculum, for our students to experience the joy of learning through becoming better readers and writers.
The Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Program (TCRWP), as created by Lucy Calkins, is taught in hundreds of schools across the country, and has given young people extraordinary power, not only as readers and writers, but also as thinkers. Implementing this program in the fall of 2017 has been transformational for our students.
Reader’s Workshop includes habits of good readers, fiction, nonfiction, critical informational text skills and study of characters. During Reader’s Workshop, students read, write, discuss deeper aspects of their books, are read to, work on vocabulary and comprehension, and choose just-right books. Readers receive one-on-one instruction, based on needs and goals.
Writer’s Workshop provides opportunities for students to exercise writing skills that support their ability to communicate ideas, thoughts, and perspectives. This includes developing the habits of good writers, the art of informational writing, opinion/argumentative pieces, and narrative writing.
Katherine Walmsley, 2nd grade reading and writing teacher commented, “My students come skipping down the hallway every day holding their tiny notebooks of ‘seed ideas’ to write their stories. After a short eight-minute mini-lesson they are sent off to read or write—‘off you go, writers,’ a favorite Lucy Calkins saying.”
“After the second week in writing, one boy said to me ‘I never thought I could love something more than math!’ My students are studying mentor authors in writing class right now. They love writing their stories reflecting what they learned in their mini-lessons. One boy in class wrote that his story about how the book by Jane Yolen entitled Owl Moon made him feel peaceful and calm. He went on to describe his favorite description of the trees. He later told me in our conference meeting that he wanted to be a writer just like Jane Yolen.”
“In Reading, 2nd graders are developing their stamina for reading for longer periods of time. We started off the year reading for 15 minutes, now they just want to read for longer and longer periods of time. They go book ‘shopping’ once a week in the classroom, choosing the ‘just right’ book. After choosing several books for the week, they read the books, reread the books thinking more deeply, and then partner read. Partner reading is book discussions, figuring out hard words, and reading out loud.”
“The only complaint is, ‘reading is too short!’ They just don’t want to stop reading even after 45 minutes.”
The books are colorful and engaging—math is fun! That is what students want. Using the McGraw-Hill My Math series, students are challenged in a way that inspires them to embrace the power of mathematics through real-world applications, and experience just how fulfilling math success can be.
The progression of knowledge taught in grades one through five, using the McGraw-Hill My Math series, provides a research-proven approach to learning that takes a student from first through fifth grade. This framework is the perfect foundation for rigorous standards. By weaving the three components of rigor— conceptual understanding, procedural skill and fluency, and application—throughout the program, My Math enables students to progress toward a higher level of achievement and steadily grow in math confidence.
Teaching involves keeping students motivated and engaged. Learning the “big idea” of a lesson and breaking that lesson into small parts is a primary teaching tool used at Maharishi Lower School. A key feature of the My Math curriculum is that each chapter is organized around an Essential Question that is clearly identified throughout. In every lesson, students build on their knowledge to answer that important question. An example from a first-grade unit on “Time to the Hour” is: “How do I determine length and time?”. Students learn the “big idea”.
No two students learn alike. My Math is designed for personalized instruction. Students arrive at their “a-ha” moments at different times and in different ways. Teachers have access to differentiated instruction strategies that allow them to address students who are “on level,” “approaching level,” or “beyond level.” There is also a strong ELL component. My Math also offers visual/spatial, kinesthetic, aural, verbal, and social learning opportunities. The links between each medium help students relate to math in the learning style that makes sense to them.
It is widely accepted that children learn science concepts best by doing science. Meaningful active learning experiences are motivating for students, and stimulate inquiry and curiosity.
Discussion and hands-on activities stimulate inquiry and curiosity in the field of science. Meaningful, age-appropriate topics that follow Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are what students engage in with Mystery Science, the online program the lower school has adopted for grades one through five. Students are encouraged to investigate, experiment, gather data, organize results and develop conclusions and questions based on their own actions and class discussions. During hybrid learning, Mystery Science, due to its online format, has allowed teachers to bring information and activities directly to the remote learners; most of the science experiments and activities include materials found in the home. Each of the students are able to watch science videos, engage in discussions and actively participate in the science unit.
The National Council for Social Studies describes the primary purpose of social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.
In the Lower School, we are in the process of adapting our curriculum to be aligned with the newly- adopted K-12 Iowa Core Social Studies Standards.
In grades 1-2, the following Standards are covered:
Communities & Culture: Students explore from their family culture to their communities, including school and town.
Choices and Consequences: Students learn about choices and consequences. They engage in thinking and conversing about their own responsibility to take care of their communities, focusing on cooperation and citizenship.
In grades 3,4 and 5, the following Standards are covered:
Immigration and Migration: Students study how and why people move from one place to another with the theme “Immigration and Migration.” Students look at the geographic, political, and cultural reasons that people move to a new place as well as what they experience during the transition. They understand that a society is a complex and changing place shaped by laws and the civic virtues of the citizens who live there.
Change and Continuity: Students focus on how society has changed and stayed the same over time. Students see how change is inevitable and the patterns and consequences of change across different historical eras.
Activities and Themes covered include: Geography of the United States, Americans and Their History, People and the Land, with a focus on Pioneer life.
To enrich our social studies with the lives of great people, each year in grades 4 and 5, students pick a great American person to research. This project-based unit includes a choice of how to present the findings, including creating a movie poster, a skit, puppet show, live news report, time line or a picture book for younger kids.
In grades one through five, we use My World Social Studies textbooks. The structure is similar to the Lower School Math curriculum, where Essential Questions provide a larger framework to guide students and help them see the “big idea” of each chapter.
By having the “big idea” woven throughout each lesson of math, social studies and SCI, students gain a deep familiarity with knowledge learned. The Essential Questions help students to connect to the content by activating prior knowledge, by experiencing information through meaningful hands-on activities and by transferring their knowledge to new learning situations that demonstrate understanding.
CONSCIOUSNESS, CONNECTIONS AND LIFE SKILLS (CCLS)
Studying the 16 Principles of Creative Intelligence in grades 1 through 3, and the Fundamentals of Growth in grades 4 and 5 provides a new way for students to see all the parts of learning contained within the bigger picture.
In today’s global world, these timeless and universal principles inspire deep thinking and creative problem-solving. The ability to take what seems to be an insurmountable task, and break it into manageable pieces, is a skill all successful students possess.
By embedding these principles and fundamentals throughout the curriculum, students learn to think empathetically as well as critically, open their awareness to many perspectives, and persevere in resolving problems while embracing unsuccessful attempts as an opportunity for growth and learning. This unique approach to learning helps students see themselves in what they are learning, helps them to feel the connection with themselves to the natural world, and empowers even the youngest student to think big, and feel they are part of a global society.
Also part of the CCLS program is the Rights, Respect and Responsibility (3 R’s) curriculum. The RRR curriculum is a sexual education course where the students are given knowledge about their bodies, tools to deal effectively with life situations and taught to respect their rights and the rights of others. This course is also vertically aligned among classes.
Maharishi Ayurveda is introduced in the lower school beginning from the first grade.
Areas covered are understanding and recognizing the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) in our bodies, ideal daily and seasonal routines, balanced eating, exercise for energy, balance and bliss and acting according to natural law using behavioral rasayanas. In the lower school all areas of Maharishi Ayurveda are presented in a concrete and enjoyable manner according to grade level.
The Life Skills portion of the CCLS curriculum is also taught using Positive Discipline in the 1-2 classrooms and Restorative Justice in 3rd through 5th. By using Positive Discipline and Restorative Justice as part of our classroom management program, the students learn self-discipline, responsibility for their words and actions, empathy and strength in healing.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is also incorporated into the lower school. Starting points for discussions with the younger students are books that spark insight and curiosity for the children. The social studies curriculum lends an important historical perspective to many topics that spark DEI discussions from slavery to the holocaust to origins of the human race as they traveled from continent to continent.
Lower School Specials
Our Lower School music program introduces the students to the basic building blocks of music theory/ performance. Through games, they learn about intervals, scales, chords, ear training, basic musical reading and sight singing. Through our use of African drums, the students learn how to improvise, develop a better sense of rhythm, learn how to work together as an ensemble and enhance their musical memories. *Due to covid, music classes have been temporarily suspended.
Through our Physical education program students learn that good health comes through exercise, and that exercise can be fun. We stress the value of recreation and fresh air. The numerous games we play naturally encourage skill development and the importance of teamwork. The program seeks to help students achieve active and healthy lives.
Seed to Table Greenhouse and Cooking
Our Lower School Garden of Bliss showcases the Seed-to-Table curriculum, where students are making real-world connections to the food they eat. Our students work within a 4100 sq. ft. space which includes a three-season greenhouse, vegetable and flower gardens, and fruit tree orchards. Children learn about composting, the benefits of solar energy and how a pollinator garden can help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators. In the fall, from the greenhouse to the kitchen, children prepare, cook and eat the food they planted in the spring. Learning to live a healthy lifestyle begins at an early age! Due to change in staffing, the Seed-to-Table program will be at the request of classroom teachers.
During weekly art classes, students have an opportunity to grow in their appreciation of the arts, while also creating their own art. Art and design is taught through drawing, painting, collage, ceramics, fiber arts, and photography. *Lower School students have their own art classroom with access to the photography lab and darkroom, as well as the ceramics room and kiln. Every quarter, showcase events feature the artwork of students, allowing others in our community to view their work and validate the student experience.
Our beautifully designed and colorful 21st century Makerspace classroom allows for independent and collaborative creative activity. Materials and processes range from low-tech to high tech—from legos and building to robotics and coding. Many schools have decided to join the “Maker Movement” and our Lower School is a leader in this innovative space. Students of all skill levels experiment, invent, create and explore STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) through the use of tools, equipment and materials.
In our Makerspace, students develop a maker mindset, learning to create something out of nothing. They love developing their skills and imagination to think deeply, to make their own ideas come alive, and engage their own creativity. Students become budding inventors, artists, entrepreneurs, and crafters.
In 2016, our Lower School was the proud recipient of an Iowa Governor’s STEM Scale UP Award, called Making STEM Connections for its one-year-old Makerspace. The School received close to $5,000 worth of new materials, including a 6-drawer tool chest loaded with tools, robotics equipment, six Makey Makey and 16 hours of professional development for our teachers.
Students have a choice in the Makerspace of working in one of seven distinct areas. Below is a brief description of each space.
The Tinker Table is where makers learn how electrical circuits work and how to connect wires, batteries, and alligator clips to make projects move, make a sound, or light up. Students explore simple principles of circuitry. Tinkering is about hands-on experiences, learning from failures, and unstructured time to explore and invent.
The goal of exploration and invention lies in the potential for innovation. By experimenting, kids begin to understand how things work and how to iterate on their learning to find even better solutions. The create robots, boats with propellers, inventions with buzzers, detectors and spinning parts.
Recyclables/Arts & Crafts
Using a wide assortment of recyclables donated by contributing parents, students use what they have on hand to make something new and original. They consider what is available, draw out their design ahead of time and gather what they need. It is amazing to see what bottle caps, egg cartons, plastic cups, and tin cans can turn into! By crossing over into the Arts and Crafts station, children add those finishing touches with colorful beads and sequins, pipe cleaners, straws and popsicle sticks!
Computers, Robotics, and Coding
What is more fun than learning to code? Following basic curriculum guidelines, students learn simple systems of symbols and rules to tell the computer what to do. It’s easy enough for even first graders.
Makey Makey is a simple invention kit for the 21st century, used by beginners and experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between. Students turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. Let’s say you upload a piano. Then, instead of using the computer keyboard buttons to play the piano, you can hook up the Makey Makey to something fun (and conductive!), like bananas or Play-Doh, and turn them into piano keys.
Dash and Dot: Dash is a highly responsive, real robot, who responds to voice, navigates objects, dances, and sings. Students use apps on the iPad like Wonder and Blockly, to create new behaviors for Dash and Dot. Dot, Dash’s sidekick is a clever little robot with multiple sensors and a quirky personality. Kids learn about robotics and develop fundamental coding and problem-solving skills while having lots of fun.
Under the guidance of a skilled volunteer, students make projects using wood scrap pieces, pre-cut wood or collected natural materials. They learn to use real tools including hammers and drills, screwdrivers and saws. A skill progression is followed from learning to hammer a nail to using power drills and routers. Finished projects include birdhouses and castles, boxes and containers, wood burned signs and recycled robots.
Sewing is a craft that involves stitching fabrics together using a sewing machine. Students learn to follow a paper pattern by pinning them into place on the fabric and cutting it out, then sewing the pieces together to create a finished garment or another item. In this space, they also can sew without a pattern, or learn hand stitching. Making puppets, costumes, backdrops, and decorations for plays, or something more practical like an apron to wear in the greenhouse are a few of the favorite projects.
Legos & Blocks
In this fun building area students can create almost anything using a bit of imagination, colorful legos and wood blocks. Simple KEVA planks create challenges to develop skills of engineering and basic architecture. The complex structures students build are sometimes taller than themselves!
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804 Dr Robert Keith Wallace Dr.
Fairfield, IA, 52556
Tel: (641) 472-9400
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