Fieldston Lower

At Fieldston Lower, students in Pre-K through 5th Grade are immersed in developmentally appropriate academic study through year-long themes. Students engage in their study in the classroom and make use of the campus right outside their door. The curriculum places a special focus on the local environment, including the Hudson Valley.

Social and academic curricula are equally important. Each grade designs its curriculum to present our students with the skills that they will need for the 21st century, specifically cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal skills. Through engaging lessons and activities, students learn about each other as individuals and as members of the larger class and school community while simultaneously engaging in their studies of Math, Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts. Our constant goal is to foster their motivation, participation, and learning.

As students progress through the grades, they learn additional subjects in Specials Classes taught by teachers who specialize in a given discipline. These Specials — including Art, Ethics, Music, Physical Education, and Social Studies Workshop — complement the learning that happens in students’ homeroom classes.

Experience Fieldston Lower yourself in this video!

Pre-K

Teachers take particular care to establish their classroom environments so as to focus on each student’s approach to learning and skill development. Social relationships and class community are major components of school life in Pre-K, and teachers encourage exploration and a joy of learning through multiple experiences, including block building, outdoor play, class trips, art, and science projects.

Fieldston Lower Pre-K students enjoy outdoor play.

Language Arts

Language Arts in Pre-K occurs within the daily activities of the classroom as students develop listening skills, phonemic awareness, and oral language. Lessons encourage self-expression and participation in class discussions to help students use information to understand their experiences. Students develop an interest in letters and words and strengthen their letter recognition, sound/letter correspondence, and rhyming skills.

Math

Students develop both qualitative and quantitative thinking skills while exploring a multitude of mathematical concepts in Pre-K. Teachers encourage the development of number sense through counting, sorting, numbers, patterns, and block shape recognition. Students learn early addition and calendar skills and have other opportunities to exercise their mathematical thinking. Developmentally appropriate scientific investigations, many of which come directly from the curiosity and interests of the students, occur throughout the year.

Spanish

Classroom teachers expose students to Spanish in their daily morning and closing meetings. Spanish specialists teach small groups weekly throughout the school year and place an emphasis on vocabulary: colors, numbers, body parts, the weather, and the days and months of the year.

Specials Classes

Pre-K students enjoy weekly classes with Music and Physical Education teachers.

Kindergarten

Ethics

The development of self-awareness, friendship, and community is very important in Kindergarten. Students spend many hours in whole groups, small groups, and one on one as they learn to define, recognize, and practice talking about their feelings and the feelings of others. Equally important and engaging are their discussions about how to make and maintain friendships with one another.

Language Arts

Kindergarteners learn early reading skills through an established literacy program (Fundations). Throughout the year, a Language Specialist works with students on phonemic awareness and comprehension. Students look forward to read-alouds and practice retelling, sharing connections to stories, and using new vocabulary in book discussions. 

Math

In Kindergarten, Math is a two-pronged approach: structured instruction and everyday applications in the classroom. A Math Specialist works with the Kindergarten teachers and directly with the students in a variety of hands-on activities and explorations designed to develop early numeracy skills. Geometry, non-routine problem solving, and coding are other key components.

Science

Students start the year with a study of monarch butterflies. They use emerging literacy and numeracy skills to write, read, and record the changes that they observe during this study. Other units include a study of the architecture of bridges and the boats that ply the waters of the New York metropolitan area; the use of scientific principles to understand how people stay connected through modes of transportation; and an in-depth study of penguins, their communities, and their social behaviors.

Social Studies

In Social Studies, Kindergarten focuses on neighborhoods. Throughout the year, students review the goods and services offered in each of their own neighborhood communities and then begin to focus on the School’s neighborhood on Riverdale Avenue. This study involves a traditional neighborhood walk where students greet neighborhood store owners. 

Spanish

Students learn Spanish in weekly small-group instruction throughout the school year. Weekly instructional sessions emphasize basic conversational phrases, responses, and vocabulary.

Specials Classes

Kindergarten students enjoy weekly classes with Music, Physical Education, and Library teachers.

1st Grade

Ethics

1st Graders begin conversations about identity, relationships, and responsibility that will continue through 5th Grade. Students develop healthy friendships and peer relationships by practicing specific language to negotiate and resolve conflicts. Teachers introduce the concept of perspective-taking so that students can better understand the experiences of others. Students define and discuss advocacy, kindness, compassion, and empathy while continuing to strengthen their ability to express themselves.

Language Arts

The Language Arts program in 1st Grade focuses on reading habits and skill development, working with an Orton-Gillingham approach to phonics. Lessons and activities strengthen phonemic awareness skills and include book discussions that allow students to compare books and interpret story information for greater comprehension.

Spelling and literature intertwine with and support the 1st Grade’s year-long study of birds. Students explore a variety of forms of writing, including narrative accounts, responses to literature, journal writing, and informational writing.

Math

The Math program in 1st Grade builds foundational concepts, skills, and attitudes that undergird all future math understanding. Students explore sound mathematical strategies for finding sums and differences that allow them to experience firsthand the creativity and joy that come from doing math. Students have many opportunities to share their thinking with their peers. Measurement, geometry, non-routine problem solving, logical thinking, and coding are key components of the curriculum.

Science

A year-long study of birds connects our students to the other living creatures in their world. The interdisciplinary curriculum encourages empathy and care for our environment. It also connects the human experience to the experience of birds, encouraging students to appreciate diversity.

Social Studies

Social Studies begins with a focus on students and their stories. The curriculum strongly encourages conversation between students in order to deepen social connections and interactions. Through lessons and activities, students in each class learn about each other as individuals and as members of the class and larger school community. Students explore each other’s families and learn how to celebrate and respect one another.

Fieldston Lower 1st Graders learn about their classmates in their yearlong Social Studies focus.

Spanish

Students learn Spanish in weekly small-group instruction throughout the school year. The curriculum emphasizes basic phrases, responses, and vocabulary.

Specials Classes

1st Graders enjoy weekly classes with Art, Music, Library, Physical Education, Social Studies Workshop, and Ethics teachers.

2nd Grade

Ethics

In their second year of Ethics, students deepen their understanding of accountability and self-awareness while practicing greater self-regulation and strengthening their overall endurance as learners. 2nd Graders review perspective-taking to improve their understanding of and nurture their ability to advocate for one another. Students extend their discussion of kindness, compassion, and empathy to include their community. Community service projects develop from these discussions. 

Language Arts

Language Arts places a greater focus on literature as students become more independent with their reading. Lessons and activities focus on strengthening decoding, accuracy, fluency, and reading comprehension. Writing intertwines with and supports the 2nd Grade’s study of sea animals in Science. Students continue to learn about informational writing, vocabulary building, capitalization, punctuation, sentence writing, and spelling.

Author Richard Lewis — a fixture at Celebration of Books — leads a rapt audience.

Math

In Math, the year begins with a unit on graphing and statistics in which students learn about surveys. They subsequently conduct a survey on their own and create a graphic representation of their results. The curriculum continues to emphasize facility with mental math and estimation, the building blocks for all other mathematical learning. Students explore all four whole-number operations using base ten blocks and other manipulatives and use their understanding of these operations to solve a variety of word problems. In the spring, 2nd Graders study geometry, measurement (including liquid volume), and perimeter and area. The curriculum also explores non-routine problem solving and coding.

Science

A Social Studies investigation of communities runs parallel to the ongoing Science study of the Hudson River. Students interact with the river through sailing, seining, and fishing. They integrate Language Arts, Math, and Science skills into a research project about sea creatures and use their knowledge in the role as tour guide for a year-end, student-created interactive museum.

2nd Graders sketch the Hudson River.

Social Studies

Social Studies centers on community development. Students study the history of ECFS, relating it to schools of the past and schools today.

Spanish

Students learn Spanish in weekly small-group instruction throughout the school year. Teachers emphasize vocabulary to nurture basic conversation and increased comprehension amongst students. Spanish teachers also attend morning meetings in order to reinforce vocabulary such as the months, days of the week, numbers, and weather.

Specials Classes

2nd Graders enjoy weekly classes with Art, Music, Library, Physical Education, Social Studies Workshop, and Ethics teachers. Students cook, sew, and engage in projects related to the core curriculum.

Fieldston Lower PE Teacher John Dwinell works with students

3rd Grade

Advisory and Conversations about Race and Equity (CARe)

In 3rd Grade, students are introduced to Advisory and CARe. These two programs amplify student voices and strengthen their sense of self and community. In Advisory, students examine themselves and their motivations as a student. Advisory encourages students to practice inclusion and belonging in their work and play and to practice using language in positive and constructive ways. In CARe, students learn to define stereotypes and notice discrimination.

Ethics

3rd Grade Ethics students deepen their focus on identity, relationships, and responsibility. Students practice using “I” statements and learn to develop healthy friendships and peer relationships. Students also practice specific language to address negotiation and resolve conflicts. Perspective-taking strengthens their understanding of the experiences of others and their growing ability to advocate for one another. Students build a school community by looking at their individual impact on shared spaces and taking better care of classroom space.

Language Arts

The Language Arts curriculum adopts a guided reading approach to teach and practice strategies for reading comprehension with literature across genres and diverse perspectives. Teachers guide students to follow plot developments more readily, make text-to-self connections, and capture meaning from figurative language. In writers’ workshop, students create personal narratives and third-person stories and record events and trips. The curriculum also incorporates spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and word choice.

Math

In Math, students build on the foundations established in the earlier grades. In a unit on place value that looks back at the history of numeration, students explore the tremendous contributions different cultures have made to the world of mathematics. Having explored all four whole-number operations in 2nd Grade, students are ready to dive into standard algorithms for addition and subtraction. They develop conceptual procedures for multi-digit multiplication and division. A deeper dive into place value, including rounding and non-decimal bases, paves the way for an appreciation of the base-ten number system. A thorough study of geometry, both 2D and 3D, includes geometric vocabulary and symbolism. Students develop a beginning understanding of formulas as they find the perimeter, area, and volume of geometric shapes and objects. The curriculum also emphasizes non-routine problem solving, deductive reasoning, and appropriate mathematical vocabulary and includes a unit on coding and programming.

Math Specialist Hilary Harris ’90 teaches a class of students.

Science

3rd Graders focus on developing the skills of a scientist, including observation, measurement, data recording, and inference. Students practice these skills through the lens of observing a tree of their choice on the Fieldston Lower campus. Students learn about the different parts of trees and their functions. They observe the tree throughout the year and construct an understanding of the seasonal changes and life cycle of trees. Students construct experiments in leaf chromatography, density, and transpiration. Through the study, students learn about tree and leaf classification and the ways the Eastern Woodlands Peoples utilized trees as resources.

Social Studies

In 3rd Grade, students study the Eastern Woodlands Peoples. Throughout the year, trips to Constitution Marsh, Inwood Park (once a Lenape village), and the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian, among others, supplement this study. Various hands-on projects in the classroom, such as the making of a wigwam and the construction of a model of Inwood Park, provide the students with creative opportunities to work both individually and cooperatively. The curriculum connects the experiences of present-day Native Americans with those of their ancestors. Native American educators and tribal members visit the school and work with our teachers and students.

Spanish

3rd–5th Grade Spanish has three overarching themes: My Family, My Environment and Community, and My Country and the World. Students learn Spanish in weekly small-group instruction throughout the school year. 3rd Grade students also develop a variety of projects designed to help them learn Spanish in the context of real-life situations. In this way, students learn vocabulary and dialogue related to specific and familiar life scenarios.

Spanish Teacher Sheyla Ortiz Peña leads her class of 3rd Graders.

Specials Classes

3rd Graders enjoy weekly classes with Art, Social Studies Workshop, Music, Physical Education, Ethics, and Library teachers.

4th Grade

Advisory and Conversations about Race and Equity (CARe)

In 4th Grade, students review and deepen conversations in both CARe and Advisory. These two programs amplify student voices and strengthen their sense of self and community. In CARe, students learn to celebrate their racial identities, define stereotypes, and notice discrimination. In Advisory, they examine their learning styles, their motivations, and their self-expectations. Advisory encourages students to practice mindfulness, inclusion, and belonging in their work and play and to use language in positive and constructive ways.

Ethics

In 4th Grade, students continue to expand their understanding of identity, relationships, and responsibility. They develop healthy friendships and peer relationships and begin to define moral courage while developing the ability to recognize and address peer pressure and practice strategies for navigating conflict and saying “no.” They learn about their social identifiers as their teachers guide discussions about ethical decisions. Teachers introduce various types of communication (interpersonal, digital, verbal, written, and visual) to help students examine how different ways of communicating impact our ability to convey what we mean.

Language Arts

Students develop and expand their comprehension, vocabulary, and critical thinking by reading texts across genres and voices. They respond to texts through writing and discussions. 4th Graders practice paragraph, expository, descriptive, and narrative writing, as well as poetry.

Math

Starting in 4th Grade, Fieldston Lower uses a comfort group model. After a series of self-evaluation exercises, students consider their learning styles and preferred setting and then choose the pace at which they feel most comfortable learning. Topics include number theory, geometry, place value, computation, rational numbers, non-routine problem solving, and coding. The curriculum emphasizes using appropriate mathematical vocabulary and strategies to solve problems.

4th Graders at Fieldston Lower investigate geometry.

Science

Students continue utilizing organizational strategies, making and recording observations and inferences, taking measurements, and following the scientific process of collecting data. They engage in authentic scientific research, utilizing the fundamentals of experimental design and creating and running their own investigations. The Math curriculum reinforces data analysis skills.

Social Studies

The 4th Grade Social Studies curriculum is an in-depth study of the colonial period and its impact on the forming of our nation. Students learn about the daily life of the Plymouth and New Amsterdam colonies and their impact on Native American life. They also learn about the multiple perspectives of these communities, including students, men, women, free, enslaved, indentured servants, and the diverse religions, races, and ethnicities present in the colonies. As part of their experiential learning, 4th Graders take a trip to Harriman State Park where they assume one of three responsibilities: cooks, shelter builders, and explorers. They also spend a day and a night at Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts to experience the daily life of Native Americans and colonists during this time. Each student completes a final research report on one colonial craft or trade.

Spanish

3rd–5th Grade Spanish has three overarching themes: My Family, My Environment and Community, and My Country and the World. Students learn Spanish in weekly small-group instruction throughout the school year. Engaging lessons and activities emphasize increasing vocabulary, comprehension, and conversation.

Specials Classes

4th Graders enjoy weekly classes with Art, Social Studies Workshop, Music, Physical Education, Ethics, and Library teachers. Physical Education includes a swimming unit and a unit on sports and dance.

5th Grade

Advisory & Conversations about Race and Equity (CARe)

In 4th Grade, students review and deepen conversations in both CARe and Advisory. These two programs amplify student voices and strengthen their sense of self and community. In CARe, students learn to define stereotype and notice discrimination. Advisory focuses on relationships. Students practice the language of conflict resolution and ways to address peer pressure while they deepen their understanding of who has influence over their lives and discuss the impact of rumors on peer relationships.

Ethics

Ethics focuses on identity, relationships, and responsibility. Students reflect on their development over the year and begin to identify the ethical dilemmas that they face. Ongoing discussions consider rights, injustice, social movements, and the impact that these movements have had on their identities. Students discuss the evolution of friendships, popularity, and courage.

Language Arts

Students read and have meaningful discussions about a variety of books. Throughout the year, they analyze and make connections between texts, themselves, and the world around them. They practice writing in response to literature in different forms, with a focus on using textual evidence to support their thinking.Students explore the writing process through various genres. Each unit begins with immersion through mentor texts, then moves on to prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and ultimately sharing. Grammar, including parts of speech and sentence structure, is infused throughout the writing process. Students self-edit, peer-edit, and confer with their teachers using rubrics, checklists, and mentor texts to evaluate their writing. Units of study include poetry, paragraph writing, descriptive writing, figurative language, persuasive essay, and memoirs.In 5th Grade, spelling focuses on prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Each week, students follow a set homework routine to learn 10 new words within a particular spelling pattern.

Dani Cardia ’07 works with 5th Graders in her classroom.

Math

The year begins with a study of graphing and statistics that explores measures of central tendency, including mean, median, mode, range, normal curves, and outliers. A review of more advanced concepts in place value and rounding prepares students for a study of rational numbers (fractions, decimals, and percents), followed by a unit on probability and its many applications to everyday life. Geometry in 5th Grade uses the formulas discovered in 4th Grade to explore formulas for trapezoids and the volumes of some 3D objects. Students also further develop their coding skills.

Science

5th Graders build upon their 4th Grade experience to refine their skills as scientists. Using global climate change as its overarching theme, the curriculum explores hurricane genesis and development, polar ice, urban heat islands, and freshwater resources. Students develop strategies for reading science content from both text and Internet resources. They also use sophisticated meteorological models and satellite images available on the Internet to gain an understanding of weather patterns. Students conduct hands-on investigations to model the meteorological principles of convection, evaporation, and the hydrologic cycle. They also examine how humans contribute to these phenomena and how these phenomena affect humans. By creating controlled investigations, students explore and gain an understanding of these complex physical processes. Classwork develops experimental design and data analysis skills.

5th Graders study science in class.

Social Studies

Our 5th Grade curriculum is based on the essential question, “How can I positively impact my local and global community?” Students explore the rights and responsibilities of citizens. Each unit provides opportunities to develop note-taking, textual analysis, exploration of different perspectives, and effective communication of information and ideas. Throughout the year, students connect their Social Studies learning to their experiences in Specials classes. This collaborative and interdisciplinary work focuses on the climate, including how climate change impacts communities and how our students can be stewards and advocates. Through exploring modes of communication and their effects on present-day and historical issues, students consider how people form and change opinions and how individuals may take action to effect change in their local and global community.

Units include geography, human rights, and environmental design projects (“Shark Tank”). The geography unit incorporates discussions about cardinal direction, the World Ocean, and continents. Students learn and apply study skills in individual, partners, and group activities as they become familiar with the world map and the map of the United States.

In the human rights unit, students discuss, debate, and analyze a selection of human rights from the Declaration of Human Rights. 5th Graders explore what it means to be an ally and upstander through classroom discussions about specific periods in US and world history when human rights were challenged or withheld from groups of people. The curriculum uses human rights as a frame of reference in our students' interrelationships and encourages them to examine and transform their own attitudes and behaviors to advance peace, social harmony, and respect for the rights of all.Using their knowledge and skills across disciplines, students develop projects to address environmental issues facing their communities. They consider how human rights are affected by climate and what their responsibility is in being stewards of the environment in their local and global communities.

Spanish

3rd–5th Grade Spanish has three overarching themes: My Family, My Environment and Community, and My Country and the World. Students learn Spanish in weekly small-group instruction throughout the school year. Engaging lessons and activities emphasize increasing vocabulary, comprehension, and conversation.

Specials Classes

5th Graders enjoy weekly classes with Art, Social Studies Workshop, Music, Physical Education, Ethics, and Library teachers. Physical Education includes a swimming unit and a unit on ballroom dancing.