The art program at Fieldston Lower is exceptionally rich, with multiple opportunities at each grade level for ceramics, painting and drawing, and multimedia sculpture. The challenges in each of these media are developed sequentially, with technical and interpretative skills increasing at each level. The art studio is a place for personal exploration, with a balance of individual and collaborative projects relating to the core curriculum and those relating to the elements of art. Students discuss their own work and study the work of artists from many cultures, times and traditions, travelling to the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan, the Dia in Chelsea, Dia Beacon, the Whitney, and art galleries.
Our mission is to create lovers of reading and independent and thoughtful seekers of information. Instruction from pre-k through 5th grade is age-appropriate and cumulative. The youngest grades learn library routines and behavior, and develop a love of and connection to story, leading to student-led book talks and a look at concepts of organization using the library as an example. From 3rd-5th grades, students become fully conversant with all the Library’s holdings and resources, participate in creating a reading culture through many different kinds of discussions, progress from simple to more advanced searching skills using the online library catalog, learn how to access a variety of online resources for research purposes, use various platforms (iPads, laptops) and develop critical abilities when searching the web.
The focus of the lower school music program is learning by doing and it is organized to be as fun as possible, while still teaching music fundamentals. The lower school music curriculum includes assemblies, movement and dance, singing, proficiency in recorder, pitched percussion, introduction of instruments of the orchestra, music history and appreciation, musical notation, and interdisciplinary work with the social studies curriculum. By the time students leave lower school they will have a working knowledge of conventional notation and a mind open to the possibilities that music encompasses across genres, cultures and individual expression.
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Spanish at Fieldston Lower is about fun and learning at the same time. Students practice vocabulary and grammar by recreating everyday activities such as going to a restaurant, visiting the doctor, or making use of their passport. All activities are designed to encourage conversational skills. Singing, puppets, games, short stories, and cooking are part of the program.
As the Spanish program continues to be enhanced, we have moved from an exposure program (FLEX) to a Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES) program. With the FLES program, the children get three to four contact times of Spanish per week, and all lessons are in the target language. Major improvements have been perceived with the new model, and students seem more engaged. The students get the extra contact time through Mónica Mella, our Spanish Integrator, who goes into the classrooms and runs morning meetings, lunchtime, and work time with the children. This more involved approach not only allows students to visualize and utilize Spanish within their regular routine, it also allows us to turn Spanish into a more interdisciplinary subject.
The cultural aspect of the Spanish program is an important element of the redesign. Music from Spanish-speaking countries is introduced through various activities with the participation of the music department. The customs and cultures of Hispanic countries are also emphasized through hands-on activities.
We are in the second year of curriculum enhancement and, thanks to the collaboration of the classroom teachers, have been able to double the contact time of the kindergarten, first, and second graders. Moreover, we have restructured the entire Spanish curriculum with specific themes to make it even more relevant to the children.
and fourth grade
, we are introducing homework to the students, allowing them to use the Spanish website as a resource, and integrating morning meetings in Spanish once a week.
Lastly, in fifth grade, Cristina Mella uses a new educational concept called “flipped classroom.” In this innovative teaching model, students familiarize themselves with new vocabulary at home using videos, flash cards, interactive games, and animations and come to class ready to practice what they have learned. Research shows that this new model of instruction is excellent for students as it allows them to learn vocabulary and basic grammar structures at their own pace, providing more opportunities to practice in class and accommodating different learning styles.
Science, along with Social Studies, serves as the core of children’s studies throughout their years at Fieldston Lower. In the lower grades the curriculum centers around the individual, family, and community, as well as the easily observable components of the natural world around us: seeds and seasons, birds and butterflies. In the upper grades the core is centered around history and more complex natural phenomena such as ecosystems and severe weather systems. The objectives of teaching science includes expanding the children’s knowledge of their surroundings and encouraging critical thinking about the social and natural worlds. The study of a community is the foundation for looking at the broader society, while the study of a specific species or class of animals and its relation to people, is the foundation for an understanding of the concept of ecology. This knowledge, gained through firsthand experience and information from a wide variety of sources, combined with many opportunities to discuss, recreate, and express their questions and understanding, leads children to both wisdom and responsibility.
The sequence of projects in Social Studies Workshop follows the sequence of social studies topics that are being covered in the classroom. In this way, content can be integrated through a variety of media and be expressed in diverse ways by a student population with diverse strengths. This is learning with a goal of creating individuals who will be innovative problem solvers in the 21st century. The goal of the projects is to help students experience subject matter with all their senses and express their learning through the objects they create. This provides students with techniques that build their fine motor skills along and develop in them the close attention to detail necessary to formulate ideas and express themselves.
The physical education/movement programming for Pre-K through second grade at Fieldston Lower is founded on movement education and exploration. Students are taught spatial awareness and interacting with peers with an emphasis on games, rhythms, and locomotor/movement concepts. In third through fifth grade, the curriculum explores personal fitness, sports, and games. In each unit, game rules are introduced with a focus on sportsmanship, teamwork, skill development, and strategy. Non-traditional physical education units such as yoga, juggling, cup-stacking, and circus art keep young minds and bodies active and engaged and demonstrate to students that they can experience movement and stay fit in a variety of ways.