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Poly Prep Lower School students are immersed in an expansive and inspiring curriculum to ensure a well-rounded and balanced foundation for elementary school and beyond.
Our instruction is tailored to children’s innate curiosity, developmental needs, and creative impulses. Teachers collaborate to produce engaging lessons that nurture inquisitiveness, intellectual courage, and empathy. Our deans promote state-of-the art programs to support curriculum development and student well-being, and our energetic Parents’ Association helps facilitate classroom events, field trips, celebrations of diversity, and conversations about parenting practices.
For more detailed information about Poly’s Lower School curriculum by grade, our Early Childhood Program, Primary program, and specialty subjects, please see our curriculum guide.Lower School Curriculum Guide for the 2022-23 Academic Year
Through the study of art, Lower School students learn to think creatively, see the world from multiple perspectives, and build a rich new language to express themselves and their artistic identities. Our curriculum synthesizes both product- and process-centered art making, while accentuating each youngster’s imagination and encouraging artistic experimentation and risk-taking. Students enjoy new media and projects in each grade, including needle felting, wood work, portraiture, line drawing, pottery, and more. In Grade 4, students sketch a famous artwork of their choice, such as a Kehinde Wiley portrait, on the seat of a stool and apply all the painting techniques they’ve learned during their time in Lower School as they paint and replicate the artwork. Students’ artwork is displayed on a rotating basis throughout the Lower School, and a formal exhibition of student work is on view during the annual Lower School Open School Night each spring.
In our sun-filled Aberlin Dance Studio, students focus on the expression of feelings and ideas through imagination, gesture, and movement. Young dancers explore the gestural properties of arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes, the head, and the torso. They learn ways to move and then participate in short movement projects and dance games that help train them in collaborative movement. Grades 1-4 students begin to experience and acquire an increasingly sophisticated dance vocabulary to choreograph their own pieces and perform a dance at the end of each school year for a parent audience.
The Lower School fosters a lifelong love of reading and an ability to articulate ideas through the written word. Beginning in the youngest grades, teachers use sight, hearing, touch, and movement to help children connect language with letters and words and develop foundational reading skills. As students move through the grades, their focus shifts from decoding to language comprehension as they enjoy and analyze a wide array of genres. By fourth grade, students lead their own literature circles as they generate and explore complex questions, identify symbolism and other literary devices, discuss themes and morals, and practice taking multiple perspectives. In all grades, students learn to express themselves in writing, conducting research and summarizing their ideas in essays, crafting clear and engaging personal narratives, and developing their voices as growing authors. In addition to their daily English Language Arts classes, weekly visits to the Lower School library and an engaging author visits program inspire our students to become lifelong readers.
Problem solving is at the heart of Lower School mathematics. Our research-based approach includes powerful visual models, engaging hands-on activities, and an intentional progression from concrete experiences to abstract representation as students develop their mathematical reasoning skills. Rather than focusing on rote memorization, students build their mental dexterity as they learn a number of ways to manipulate numbers and solve multi-step problems. Through school-wide math challenges curated by our Math Specialist, students can apply their skills and see themselves as mathematicians in a larger community.
We recognize music as essential to children’s intellectual and emotional development. Children learn a multicultural array of songs that they share with parents and friends at Grades 3 & 4 Winter Concert and Spring Concert. By the time they graduate, all our students can sing in tune and have experienced the basic orchestral instruments by playing the xylophone, recorder, and drum. Throughout the curriculum, we emphasize learning to harmonize and work together. We also encourage students to take individual music lessons after school or through our lunchtime music lessons program.
The two Lower School P.E. teachers not only train students in physical skills used in a variety of sports, but also how to collaborate with their teammates. By providing a friendly environment to allow children of all levels to hone their skills, P.E. is about having fun, trying new games, and being kind to those around us. Showing good sportsmanship and being honest is a focal point in Poly’s Lower School athletics program.
Our Science Lab provides students with the opportunity to perform hands-on experiments at each grade level. As early as Kindergarten, young learners explore how to use scientific tools such as magnifying glasses and microscopes. Students are encouraged to ask questions, to think as scientists and develop hypotheses, and to conduct step-by-step experiments that require them to collect and organize data and draw conclusions. Sustainability projects help students understand the complexities of our shared ecosystems and engage them in thinking about solutions to the problems they identify in the world.
In the Lower School, students develop research techniques from a young age by asking questions, interviewing friends and neighbors, making observations, and visiting places of interest. As students get older, they learn to gather information from primary sources and other material, identify the characteristics of trustworthy information sources, and challenge themselves to consider history and current events from multiple perspectives. Group discussion and drawing conclusions are keystones of our curriculum as students explore essential questions, such as “How does geography affect culture?” and “How have past events shaped what’s happening today?” Students demonstrate their understanding in a variety of experiential learning activities, from walking across the Brooklyn Bridge as they study the story of its construction and visiting the Japan Society to extend their study of the country to writing reports about and creating models of different communities of the past. Field trips and exposure to authentic artifacts and activities play an integral role in enriching our social studies curriculum.
Since 2012, Lower School has offered Spanish as part of the curriculum. The main objective is to expose students to the language, culture, and customs of the Spanish-speaking world, which spans 22 countries and four continents, including a significant part of the New York City community in which our students and families live and work. We believe the best way to learn a language at a young age is for students to actively communicate in that language, learning to speak, listen, and think in Spanish. Therefore, our Spanish program takes a communicative approach and focuses on the practical and social uses of the language.
Technology is part of every classroom experience at Lower School from pre-reading to learning to do research for papers on the Internet. There is also a time for students to come to the Tech Lab, where students have access to age-appropriate technology, graphic design, a 3D printer, and robotics equipment. Formal coding and keyboarding instruction begins in third grade, but students in all grades learn the importance of logic and sequential thinking.