Lower Group

The Lower Group is a playful, warm, humorous, and exciting place for four-to-six year olds to spend the day. Teacher Pamela nurtures their innate curiosity, creativity, and kindness as she guides them into the world of learning at Walden. Subjects are integrated into cohesive units of study that call on all of the children’s senses to explore and learn. Education is respectful, collaborative, playful, and hands on in the Lower Group. In the fall Lower Groupers begin school a day earlier than the rest of the school so they have the whole campus to themselves to explore and settle in. Our Lower Groupers’ day runs from 8:45 am. Here is a sample weekly schedule:

American Sign Language

Sign language is a fun and physical way for young children to connect with language. Walden's ASL program for the Lower and Lower Middle Groups helps expand vocabulary, improves expressive and receptive language, and teaches an appreciation for deaf culture and diversity. It can provide early inroads to writing - young children are often able to finger-spell before they can easily write the alphabet. The dramatic nature of signing engages the imagination and encourages expression, and the children enjoy using their signing skills to write and film their own sign-language "play" at the end of the year. Back to top

Drama and Movement

Getting to know you: The Lower Group drama and movement class is an informal mix of creative dramatics and imaginative movement-based activities. The over arching goal is to provide the children with a wonderful, relaxed, fun-filled introduction to creative movement. Dance education is at the forefront in order to help younger children break away from preconceived notions of gender roles. Ballet, African Dance, Jazz, and Hip Hop become the world in which the children explore and thrive. We all dance through life! Lower Group drama is a merry mix of active free-form movement, acting games, dance appreciation, and experimentation. Movement skills and physical fitness are encouraged through noncompetitive play such as catching, kicking, skipping, rope jumping, and of course, running. Children this age are not expected to perform in the traditional sense. Performance opportunities abound in the wild and tumble world of class twice a week, in monthly assemblies, and on the day-to-day stage that is the world of the four-to-six year old. Laughter is the key component to this curriculum. Wild, uninhibited dramatic play meets the academics of dance study and rudimentary stage skills. The drama teacher is an integral part of the youngest class at Walden, whether leading them in a rambunctious game of Storm or assisting them into their raincoats on a rainy day. Back to top

Language Arts

Teachers use a literature-based approach to reading and writing at Walden, balancing the best of whole language and phonics curricula. In the Lower Group, we begin by emphasizing oral language development, through listening and speaking. From these familiar language patterns we introduce the printed word and model reading, integrating phonic instruction and word recognition skills. We focus on the enjoyment of reading as something to be shared: teachers read to children daily; Upper Group and Lower Group Reading Buddies share reading and games once a week; and parents, our Royal Readers, read favorite books and share follow-up activities with the class. Our literature consists of stories, riddles, rhymes, poems, songs, legends and myths of various cultures, nature and science books, history books, and current event reportage. We encourage children to express their ideas verbally, artistically, and in writing. As a first step for these beginning writers, teachers will write down children’s ideas – modeling correct letter formation, reinforcing sound-letter correspondences and identifying commonly used words. When ready, children are encouraged to write independently using their own estimated spelling. Children use writing in meaningful ways daily – signing up for projects; adding to lists, graphs, and the daily calendar; recording estimates; making menus; labeling objects in the room; or recording science observations. Back to top

Mathematics

Mathematics is an integral part of a child’s everyday life. At Walden, we explore the mathematical concepts readily found in children’s literature and in everyday experiences like block play, setting a table, and measuring ingredients for a cooking project. As we play and cook together, teachers ask children to observe, reflect upon, describe, qualify, quantify, and communicate what they observe. Our math program teaches abstract concepts through hands-on experiences with real objects and manipulatives. The children first freely explore a set of materials, then they are introduced to specific concepts, such as number, nonstandard measurement, patterns, addition, and subtraction using those materials. We observe, discuss, and describe specifics of sorting, classifying, grouping, counting and quantity, estimation, graphing, and problem solving. Children use specific tools such as unit blocks, tangrams, scales and other measuring devices, geoboards, sequencing games, unifix cubes, as well as collections of buttons, shells, wooden cubes, pattern blocks, and coins to represent number and shape, and to practice simple addition and subtraction. A tremendous amount of authentic mathematical learning takes place at calendar time each morning: we count, add, look for patterns, develop a time line, and work on number recognition and formation as well as build upon the children’s ever growing sense of time and sequence. Teachers model using graphs as another way to visually represent amounts, as well as the concepts of greater and less than, biggest and smallest, and other number sense concepts. Back to top

Music

Lower Group music builds upon the young child’s natural joy in chanting, singing, moving, imagining, and storytelling, guiding these abilities into organized forms. Students learn to focus their energy into goal-directed activities involving speech, rhythm, melody, tone color, and dance. They develop an awareness of their place in the group, a sense of personal versus shared space, and the ability to participate in guided group activities. As the year progresses, the students develop a varied repertoire of games, dances, rhymes, songs, and other materials. We cover the following:
  • RHYTHM: Nursery rhymes, patting a steady beat, echo clapping, question-answer, two-part rhythms, reading rhythm, clapping the rhythms of words, moving to the beat, experiencing phrases through games and dances
  • MELODY: Singing songs of many types, pitch-matching games, moving the body or gesturing up and down to imitate melodic contour, singing while playing a melody or drone instrument
  • MOVEMENT AND DANCE: moving together in circles and lines; exploring a variety of basic movements in rhythm (step, turn, swing, shake, sway, walk, march, jump, hop, etc.); learning and creating rhymes and songs with motions; learning set folk dances, play parties, and gesture songs
  • INSTRUMENTS: exploring percussion instruments and using them to accompany rhymes and stories, improvisations and beginning pieces for Orff instruments
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Science

In Lower Group science we concentrate on developing observation skills, posing questions, and being imaginative. We tap into children’s natural curiosity in our science curriculum. Teachers help children to be scientists who use their five senses as well as a sixth sense of wonder to explore the world around them. Both natural and physical sciences play an important part in the Lower Group classroom experience and are integrated into our language arts and visual arts programs. Field trips are a strong component of our program, and include visits to wildlife refuges, regional and local parks, museums, planetariums, and environmental centers. Parents often lend their talents, skills, and tools to extend our knowledge and enjoyment of scientific explorations. We invite children to share items from nature with the class. Some topics we’ve explored in the Lower Group are: plants, birds, the solar system, dinosaurs, weather, properties of water, magnetism, electricity, the seasons, and light and shadows. Back to top

Social-Emotional Learning

One of the most important aspects of the first year at Walden is learning how to be in school; how to be a friend, a student, and a member of the class and larger school community. Using a Responsive Classroom approach children participate in games and other active learning in order to develop and reinforce the skill of empathy, and how to express feelings in a prosocial way. Back to top

Social Studies

Initially we focus on the child. We explore our students’ ideas about themselves, and encourage them to broaden and deepen their ideas of themselves as learners, doers, and friends.  After focusing on the child as an individual, we move on to relationships within the larger groups of family, school, neighborhood, and community. We celebrate the diversity of our community by encouraging families to share special traditions, food, and favorite music and literature with the class. We strive to present an antibias curriculum, one which includes and honors all families and cultures. Back to top

Spanish

Spanish teaching in the Lower Group focuses on exposing students to the social and cultural aspects of a learning and speaking a different language. So in addition to learning the Spanish words for colors, animals, and fruits, we learn the manners that Spanish speakers follow. Lower Groupers love singing the many Spanish songs in our repertoire and they are surprised to find they understand most of the many stories we read in Spanish. Back to top

Visual Arts

Lower Group art is experiential, focusing on the art process as kids discover art through their senses. The program helps students feel comfortable and
 excited in the art studio environment, learning a visual language as a resource to express themselves. They also learn basic routines like returning materials to their place, cleaning up after class, using an apron, and working
 in their sketchbooks. Throughout the year we explore different materials. Using their imaginations and enjoying their different ways of thinking, children find new 
opportunities to work and learn.
 Kids learn to share materials and feel free to ask questions as they
 make connections with other previous experiences. They practice self-expression through art activities like painting with oil pastel, tempera, water color, cutting, sculpture with paper, clay, using tape, collage (with seeds, yarn,
 fabric or paper, playing with textures), printing, etc. They learn to paint with brushes, and also with sponges, combs, and corks. Through these activities they will develop their fine motor skills while learning that there are no mistakes in art, only opportunities. Art for the lower group is an open door to a whole new world! Back to top