Tapping into a child's innate instinct to tinker can create richer and more meaningful learning experiences
We believe that as our students experiment and explore, answering questions of real relevance, they develop skills of inquiry and reasoning, problem solving, and communication that serve them well for years to come.
We also recognize that children learn best by doing, by being engaged in activity; learning is enhanced as children engage their senses and interact with their environment.
Through a rich and varied experience in and beyond the classroom, our Lower School nurtures the intellectual, social, emotional, and physical growth of children ages 6-10. Informed by Quaker values, the curriculum draws on multiple developmental theories, and learning is also shaped by the individual interests of our students and teachers.
Recognizing that social, emotional, physical, and intellectual growth are all equally important in a child's total development, we focus on the unique worth of the individual, recognizing that each child grows in different dimensions and at different rates.
Located on the main campus of Carolina Friends School, rooms in the Lower School are open, colorful, and designed for maximum flexibility, providing space for both independent study and group learning as well as for play. The large playground invites a variety of creative play activities, while the School's creek and wooded, rural setting offer an ideal environment for exploration and nature study.
We have four mixed-age classes with students in the first through fourth grade age range. Each class provides group identity and is taught by a collaborative team of teachers. Classes are divided into smaller groups to work on academic skills as well as artistic and athletic endeavors. Our youngest students enter the Lower School in either River or Sky class. Our older students are placed in either Forest or Mountain class until they are ready to go to Middle School.
Independent and group projects stand out among the primary elements of the Lower School curriculum, as students apply the skills and ideas they acquire and become practiced investigators.
Once a week for three- to four-week sessions, students explore special topics such as drama, carpentry, basketry, cooking, video production, sewing, screen printing, computers, animal care, rockets, creek life, and the universe. Groups are led by staff, parents, or other volunteers.
Each year, the Lower School also focuses on a particular theme for study. Past themes have included walls and bridges, flight, Latin America, Africa, the human body, ecology, North Carolina, fantasy realms, and wildlife. Each theme is integrated into the curriculum. Having the whole Lower School focus on a common theme provides many opportunities for sharing resources and experiences and for strengthening the community.
Each day begins with a few minutes of silence, as children Settle-In with their classmates. The Lower School day is structured around small group classes, with time as well for independent work and projects. There is a half-hour recess and time for snack as well as an hour-long recess at lunch. Older students are encouraged to assume responsibility for planning the use of some of their own time. They establish goals and evaluate their progress with a teacher frequently. Clean-up chores at the end of every day reinforce a sense of community as well as an awareness of responsibility for the environment in which students live and learn. The day concludes as it begins, with a brief, silent Settling-Out in each classroom.