At The Summit, our Lower School curriculum, for students in kindergarten through elementary school (5th grade), is designed around thematic inquiry. This approach allows for a year-long exploration of topics in science and social studies while promoting depth of learning and enabling cross-curricular integration with language arts and mathematics. Within these themes, Lower School curriculum and instruction are adapted to student strengths, interests, and needs.
Adopting a progressive framework, our K-5 Lower School classrooms are student-centered where students serve as active participants. Through thematic inquiry, students’ interests and understandings guide the learning process. Critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and problem solving are emphasized. The open physical environment of our classrooms supports flexible use of space, cross-grade level collaboration, and project-based learning.
Our elementary school classrooms – along with all classes and grade levels are welcoming, safe, and operate as a community in which each member is valued and respected. Character education is integrated throughout the day as students are supported in developing social emotional competencies including cooperation, assertiveness, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. Students are encouraged to assume leadership roles and engage in service learning, working together to execute school-wide and grade-level projects.
The Summit welcomes all parents as active participants in the learning community. Lower School faculty work diligently to foster ongoing relationships with students and their parents, forming a valuable partnership. Our Lower School faculty have over 50 years of combined experience and hold degrees in early childhood, elementary, and middle school education, as well as in art, music, Spanish, and physical education.
Progressive Education Goals for Lower School Students
We invite parents, students, and all prospective families looking to enroll their students in one of the best private elementary school programs in Springfield, MO to explore what our kindergartners and our first grade through fifth grade students are learning through our classroom blogs. These blogs are updated by our faculty throughout the school year, so check back regularly for the latest in Lower School news!
The Kindergarten language arts curriculum focuses on the fundamentals of literacy. Students will have daily reading and writing experiences that foster development in letter recognition, letter sounds, letter formation, sight words, and emergent spelling and grammar knowledge. Phonemic awareness is an important part of the curriculum. Both in groups and independently, children are actively involved in working with letters, words, and sentences in a variety of ways. Students engage in literature each day by listening, reading, and responding. They learn about authors and illustrators as they are exposed to a variety of literary texts and genres. Kindergarten science and social studies concepts are introduced and supported using fiction and non-fiction books selections connecting students’ learning through the day. Kindergarteners apply D’Nealian handwriting, sentence structure, and story writing elements through the creation of their own stories, poems, captions, and personal letters.
The Kindergarten math curriculum takes an integrated approach, utilizing games, manipulatives, and activities to create meaningful connections with mathematics and other aspects of the curriculum. Number sense, an important base for mathematical understanding, is emphasized. Complex number patterns, geometry, graphing and data analysis, measurement, problem solving, and computation are part of the kindergarten year. Students are given opportunities to explore ideas, work cooperatively, play games, and use the computer to reinforce and expand understanding.
Under the year-long theme of ‘Our Community’, science and social studies topics are woven into the day. The social studies curriculum begins with a focus on community helpers and the role that they play. During second trimester, Kindergarteners will explore urban communities and discover elements of a community, typical and unusual modes of travel, as well map use. Rural communities will round out the social studies curriculum during the third trimester. Farm life, including animals and crops, will be investigated. Field experiences, community service projects, and guest speakers enhance the social studies curriculum.
The Kindergarten science curriculum is closely related to the social studies curriculum and works in tandem to provide a well-balanced learning experience for students. We start our year with a scientific inquiry learning unit- exploring what science is, how we can explore and investigate the world around us, and how to ask scientific questions. Students explore force and motion and transportation throughout second trimester. This allows students to utilize the scientific process through hands-on learning and put physical scientific concepts to the test. Alongside rural communities, life cycles are the science focus third trimester. Students will be able to group living things, compare life cycles of various animals, and gain understanding of the needs of plants and animals.
Kindergarten students access computers and iPads for a wide variety of activities that support classroom learning in all curriculum areas. The students access the Internet under teacher supervision to participate in age-appropriate activities and games. Keyboarding and word processing documents are introduced.
The first grade communication arts curriculum builds on knowledge gained in the kindergarten classroom and fosters a lifelong interest in literature. Writing skills and concepts are reviewed, expanded, and introduced allowing students to make connections and use these concepts and skills in meaningful ways throughout the day. Decoding, recognizing phonetic patterns, and continuing to develop a mastery of sight words is a natural progression from kindergarten word work. First graders will practice reading fluency, comprehension, and build vocabulary as they read aloud individually, with a partner, and in small groups. Additionally, students are read to, participate in book discussions, and explore works of various authors. Story elements, story sequence, making predictions, and recalling details will be a focus in verbal and written formats.
Students review correct letter formation using D’Nealian handwriting and expand knowledge of sentence formation, word use, and punctuation through a variety of writing genres including narratives, poems, fiction, friendly letters, and informational reports. Spelling skills are developed by the introduction of rules and patterns in words. First graders are given many different opportunities to apply spelling patterns in personal writing pieces. The writing process is developed throughout the first grade year including brainstorming, creating a draft, editing, and publishing.
In math, students build upon and broaden their practice and understanding of concepts introduced in kindergarten. A connection to real-world problem solving is emphasized as students explore mathematics concepts using manipulatives, bridging concrete and abstract understanding. While math focuses change each trimester, developing a strong number sense and computation skills in addition and subtraction remains an emphasis throughout the year as this is the foundation for all mathematical understanding. In the first trimester, a geometry focus exposes students to the concept of two and three dimensional shapes, new vocabulary, symmetry, and congruency. Through patterning, students begin to learn basic algebraic concepts. Second trimester math builds students’ knowledge as they actively explore addition and subtraction operations, place value concepts, rounding, greater than and less than, and counting by multiples. Measurement is the math emphasis in third trimester enabling students to use a variety of tools to develop measuring skills in length, weight, and capacity as well as time and money. Using a variety of games, manipulatives, activities, and visual models, students strengthen math fact memorization and problem solving skills.
Social Studies and Science
“Me in the World” is the social studies and science theme for first grade. When possible, subject matter is integrated within the curriculum to make learning more meaningful. Students begin the year exploring the concept of community on the local level expanding to the global level later in the school year. Taking personal responsibility in caring for our environment, emphasizing reducing, reusing, and recycling, students learn about how their daily choices impact the world around them. In our exploration of community, we come to understand the differences between needs, wants, goods, and services. Second trimester, students discover North America and various Native American cultures. Introducing geography concepts, they learn about North American landforms, as well as weather, the water cycle, and states of matter. Third trimester, expanding beyond North America, students will learn about each of the other continents and oceans. They explore various world countries and cultures by learning about their music, art, food, and daily life. Investigating Earth’s biomes, students learn about animal classifications and habitats.
Technology will be integrated throughout the first grade curriculum as we have implemented 1:1 computing. Daily use of computers in the classroom allows students to independently practice a variety of computer and word processing skills. Students practice keyboarding skills emphasizing finger placement and use of the home row keys. First graders create documents and use simple formatting through Google Drive. Student laptops are used to access the Internet to carry out curriculum related activities as well as research on topics related to classroom learning. Learning to take responsibility for their materials while navigating Internet safety issues are key components to the technology curriculum.
Social-Emotional Learning and Character Education
Social-emotional learning occurs through everyday interactions as first graders work to build a classroom community in which each member is respected and valued. This too is reinforced through literature, addressed throughout the school day, and is often a component of morning and closing meetings. We will utilize some concepts from Conscious Discipline in our classroom to help students better understand their own emotions in order to regulate themselves and build positive relationships with others.
Character Education will teach students valuable soft skills such as kindness, respect, and tolerance. Our learning community is built on respect and kindness towards others. Students also participate in school-wide and classroom-based community service projects during the school year.
The second grade language arts curriculum continues to build upon reading, writing, and spelling skills acquired in first grade, with a greater emphasis on comprehension strategies. In reading, students will use phonetic and structural analysis to decode unknown words, and practice using mental images and meaning clues from both pictures and print to make predictions and comprehend text. They will also read aloud familiar stories, poems, and passages with fluency and expression, learn to preview text, and determine a specific purpose for reading. Students will make, confirm and revise predictions about a text, use context clues to decode unknown words, and practice using a dictionary, glossary, and thesaurus as word reference materials. They will use skills and strategies to understand a multitude of literature genres, including folktales, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.
In writing, second grade students Writer’s Workshop to challenge themselves to be the best writers they can be. Students will focus on the 6 + 1 writing traits and follow the writing process using prewriting, drafting, organizing, reviewing, editing, and publishing when planning written work. They will also evaluate their own writing and that of their peers, and learn to write for different purposes and in a variety of forms, such as stories, poems, friendly letters, informational pieces, responses to literature as well as autobiographical works.
In math, students will continue to practice computational skills and broaden their understanding of number sense. They will also focus on exploration of new concepts, memorization of basic facts, application of principles in problem solving situations, and hands-on use of manipulatives to increase conceptual understanding. Through geometry, students will learn basic properties of 2 and 3 dimensional figures, understand characteristics of lines and angles, explore symmetrical and congruent shapes, and explore how geometry effects architecture. Students will learn how to organize and display data in simple bar graphs, pie charts and line graphs as well as learn to read and interpret these results. They will understand the basic measurement concepts of temperature, perimeter, area, volume, and capacity. Students will use strategies to estimate quantities and measurements, and select appropriate units of measurement. Second graders will also explore multiplication, division, and fractions, while strengthening their understanding of money and time. They will solve real-world problems involving number operations, and understand the relationship between addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
Social Studies and Science
“American Discoveries” is the overall Social Studies theme for second grade. When possible, subject matter is integrated within the curriculum to make learning most meaningful for students. Students will begin the year by focusing on influential Americans who have historical significance. Through research and the reading of biographies, students will gain greater knowledge of the contributions of these important figures. Second graders will also understand the significance of certain holidays that reflect American customs, and the various symbols used to depict America.
Second grade Science themes are out of this world! Students begin the year learning about the solar system and celestial bodies as well as our place in Earth. In the second trimester the emphasis shifts to simple machines and how things work. One of the exciting highlights of this unit include an invention project during this period. Third trimester delves into an exploration of the human body and students will identify the basic structure and function of the body systems. Scientific investigation will be used following the scientific process during experiments and other hands-on activities.
Technology will be integrated throughout the curriculum. With a 1:1 student to laptop ratio, students use computers daily to increase keyboarding skills, and strengthen core curriculum concepts. They use their emails to communicate exclusively with Summit students and staff, while learning word processing skills using Google Drive. They will use the presentation feature to create slide shows. Learning to take responsibility for their their materials while navigating internet safety issues are key components to the technology curriculum.
Character Education is integrated into daily classroom interactions throughout the school year. This reinforces a school-wide goal to build a community of learners that values and respects each individual. Integrity and perseverance are two key values emphasized during the year. Students will also participate in both classroom and school-wide community service projects.
The third grade language arts program allows students to build on reading, writing, and spelling skills acquired in second grade. Third-graders further develop conventional spelling through more complex spelling rules and patterns and applying them in their writing. In writing students will use figurative language and sentence fluency to respond to different texts. Students will be writing an opinion piece, an informational text, a fictional narrative, a personal narrative, and a historical narrative. As we read our texts we will be finding cause and effect, making inferences, making predictions, and making connections.
Through the use of manipulatives, hands-on experiences, and problem-solving opportunities, third grade students increase math skills acquired in second grade. Students will learn to multiply and divide friendly numbers and tricky numbers. Throughout the year students will increase their math fluency. Students will continue to expand their geometry skills and learn to find the perimeter and area of shapes. As we continue to study numbers we will begin to study fractions and learn to display data through different types of graphing. Third grade students will build upon prior knowledge in telling time as they learn to tell time to the minute and determine intervals of time.
Through inquiry-based study, third grade science incorporates hands-on learning experiences that bring science topics to life. Students will be discovering the history of the Earth as we talk about rocks, minerals, and fossils. Third graders will also be talking about the ecosystems of Missouri and the relationship between organisms in different environments. Through the physical science study of energy, we will be studying light, sound and heat. Students will discover and learn how each form of energy travels and characteristics of each type of energy.
Social studies topics integrate with the third grade theme, “Show Me Missouri.” Students will learn topography and use those map skills to learn about the different regions of Missouri. Third graders will also be learning about early Missouri history. This topic includes the first Missourians, Native Americans in Missouri, European explorers, Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark Expedition, European immigrants and settlement, Missouri statehood, pioneer life, and Missouri during the Civil War. In addition, students will learn about the state government, Missouri lawmakers, and how state laws are made.
Third grade students will integrate technology into each area of learning. They will demonstrate an understanding and proficient use of technology systems, tools, and telecommunications. Third graders will practice responsible use of technology systems and information. Students will use technology to enhance learning, creativity, problem-solving, and productivity through research, reinforcement, and enrichment. Students will use Google Suite to organize assignments, publish, collaborate, and interact with peers and teachers. Through research, students will use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of online resources. Third grade students will present research findings in a variety of methods including slideshows, videos, and typed reports.
Character education in third grade is integrated into classroom interactions as we work together to build a community that values and respects each of its members. Students will be learning how to practice mindfulness through Inner Explorer. This program will aid in life skills such as improved focus, compassion, gratitude, and self-regulation as key elements in a student’s continuous improvement. Reaching beyond the classroom, students will participate in a variety of community service projects.
Language Arts consists of reading, writing, and word study. Reading and writing regularly each day is strongly emphasized, and both are incorporated throughout the day in all subjects, including math. Students will read a variety of genres and be exposed to many authors. Mini-lessons and read-alouds will focus on a comprehension skill or strategy, such as analyzing characters or setting, visualizing, predicting, and making inferences.. Small group instruction and independent practice will follow whole-group lessons. Fourth graders will participate in group book clubs, reading partnerships, and independent reading. Writing is taught using models and mentor texts to focus on a specific skill within the writing process. Writing includes journaling, narrative stories, informational essays, opinion essays, literature responses, letter writing, and poetry. Word study includes vocabulary and instruction of spelling patterns. Since over half of English words are derived from Greek or Latin roots, fourth graders will be introduced to the meaning and spelling of words with a new root each week. By analyzing the meaning of a prefix, suffix, or root, students will learn to unlock the meaning of an unknown word. Students will be given multiple and various exposures to a word in order to fully understand the meaning.
What to Expect:
While reading logs are not sent home, students will be expected to read every night for at least 30 minutes. Students will be working through a 40 book challenge throughout the year that encourages students to explore different genres and authors. Two to three times a week, we will do a “Status of the Class” check-in and/or individual book interviews, in which students will share what they are currently reading, and how far they are into the book. Not only does this help students make book recommendations and share books they enjoy, it helps determine if the book they are reading is a good fit or not. Written reading responses are completed regularly.
In connection with science and social studies units each trimester, students will be introduced to a root each week to build their understanding of Greek and Latin root words, and a vocabulary word to learn how to decipher unknown words using context clues.
A weekly list of spelling words pertaining to a specific spelling pattern will be provided each week. Emphasis is on learning spelling patterns and increasing vocabulary, rather than memorizing a list of words for a Friday spelling test. Spelling lists will match a student’s developmental spelling stage based on a Spelling Inventory taken three times over the course of the school year.
Through the use of manipulatives, visual models, hands on experiences, and problem solving opportunities, fourth grade students build on previously learned math skills. Working with numbers into the billions, students broaden their understanding of number theory, place value, rounding, and estimation. Students evaluate expressions using positive and negative integers, applying order of operations, and solving for variables. Computational skills are furthered through instruction and practice in adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. Conceptual understanding and automatic recall are both emphasized as students solve multi-digit multiplication and division problems. Further work with fractions, decimals, and percents will be integrated in the study of economics as students use mathematical knowledge in practical application. Through geometry and measurement, students identify and measure properties of figures, determine perimeter, area, capacity, surface, and volume, and explore coordinate grid systems. Integrating data analysis and probability, students will use real life data to create and interpret graphs, make predictions, and solve problems.
What to Expect:
Having a positive mathematical mindset is important for students as developing mathematicians. Daily math instruction is implemented through whole-class mini-lessons followed by small group instruction and independent practice. Students are encouraged to work with others as much as possible through games and real-world problem solving projects. Different strategies are encouraged and respected, as we are all different learners. Strategies may be used “As long as it works every time.” Visual models, written explanation, and multiple strategies and methods are stressed during regular word problem solving and real-life projects and exploration.
If necessary, students will be required to practice math facts at home to increase fluency.
Science and Social Studies
Students will engage in hands-on science experiences as they study a variety of science units throughout the fourth grade year. Field experiences will enrich the course study, when possible. Beginning with our Life Science unit, students will investigate Ecology, looking at the components of different ecosystems and how organisms and the environment interact with one another within different regions and biomes of the United States. For Earth Science during Trimester 2, students will study oceans, including features of the ocean floor, various ocean habitats, and identify environmental problems in the oceans. Physical Science and the topic of Force and Motion comes in Trimester 3, where students will review simple and complex machines, explore kinetic and potential energy, gravity, and Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion.
In Social Studies, our first trimester will begin with learning about components of Economics, such as natural resources prevalent in the United States, and how opportunity costs, supply and demand, and entrepreneurship affect the United States economy. We will then focus on the United States government and the Constitution. During the second and third trimester, students will identify characteristics and locations of the five regions of the United States, the 50 states and their capitals, and elements of our country’s National Parks Every Kid Outdoors program.
What to Expect:
Science and social studies topics will be integrated daily through reading, writing, and math, when applicable.
The Science Fair is tentatively scheduled to take place in the spring, and students are highly encouraged to participate. Between January and April, students will work through the Scientific Method to choose a scientific problem, create a hypothesis, create a list of materials, develop a step-by-step procedure, and conduct three experiments to test their hypothesis. Projects will be completed for judging at The Summit Science Fair, and will be on display at Grandparents Day.
Once a week, fourth graders will participate in STEM class with the Lower School STEM Coordinator.
Students use their laptops to support all areas of the fourth grade curriculum. They will be expected to have their laptop charged and ready for each school day. As a school, we utilize the word processing and presentation applications of the Google Suite. Keyboarding skills are emphasized for students to type quickly, accurately, and with correct technique. Multiple online programs allow parents to keep track of student progress, such as iXL and Epic Reading.
Character Education is integrated into a variety of classroom interactions, reinforcing the Summit philosophy of valuing and respecting each individual. We will use our Morning Meeting times to build on different components of Character Education, focusing on topics such as Growth Mindset, Integrity, Intrinsic Motivation, Compassion, and Kindness.
The fifth grade language arts program allows students to build on reading, writing, and spelling skills acquired in fourth grade. In reading, students expand skills of decoding, word analysis, vocabulary development, reading fluency, reading comprehension, and literary response. Phonics, syllabication, the use of word parts, and books read aloud will aid students in achieving reading fluency. Students will use word reference materials (e.g., glossary, dictionary, thesaurus) to determine the meaning and pronunciation of unknown words. They will ask questions, make connections, infer information, and evaluate text to improve their reading comprehension skills. Students will examine the characteristics of a variety of literary genres. Focusing on the 6+1 writing traits and using the Write Now, Right Now curriculum, students compose literary responses, narratives, expository pieces, descriptive pieces, poems, and autobiographies. Students will use multiple resources to develop research reports. Fifth-graders further develop conventional spelling through learning and applying more complex spelling rules and patterns.
Through the use of manipulatives, visual models, hands on experiences, and problem solving opportunities, fifth grade students build on fourth grade math skills. Working with numbers into the billions, students broaden their understanding of number theory, place value, rounding, and estimation. Students evaluate expressions using positive and negative integers, applying order of operations, and solving for variables. Computational skills are furthered through instruction and practice in adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing whole numbers, decimals, and fractions. Conceptual understand and automatic recall are both emphasized as students solve multi-digit multiplication and division problems. Further work with fractions, decimals, and percents will be integrated in the study of economics as student use mathematical knowledge in practical application. Through geometry and measurement, students identify and measure properties of figures, determine perimeter, area, capacity, surface, and volume, and explore coordinate grid systems. Integrating data analysis and probability, students will use real life data to create and interpret graphs, make predictions, and solve problems.
Students will engage in hands-on science experiences as they study a variety of science units throughout the fifth grade year. Field experiences and laboratory use will enrich the course study. Students will participate in research and scientific writing and journaling throughout the year. Beginning with Earth Science, students will study plate tectonics and how they move, creating changes in the earth’s surface. We will also look at slow changes through weathering and erosion. In Physical Science, we will explore the topics of magnetism and electricity. In Life Science, students will learn about the classification of animals, and how organisms change in order to adapt to their changing environments.
The fifth grade social studies curriculum examines pre-Columbian America and the founding and growth of the United States. Our study of American history begins with the original people living on North America, then moves to the European explorers and how their exploration and colonization changed the world. We will finish up the year by discussing the revolution and resulting government.
Fifth grade students will integrate technology into each area of learning. They will create, open, name, print, and save documents. They will edit and format by using spelling check, importing and arranging graphics, and cutting, copying, pasting, and highlighting text. Students will use data from a spreadsheet to create tables and graphs and give presentations using a variety of programs. Students will also have the opportunity to explore online learning activities and conduct research using internet sources. We discuss responsible internet usage and how to identify reliable sources of information.
Character education in fifth grade is integrated into everyday classroom interactions as we work together to build a community that values and respects each of its members. Reaching beyond the classroom, students will participate in community service projects.
K – 5th
Capped at 18
8:45 a.m.- 3:30 p.m.
Polo top with Summit logo and khaki or navy bottoms
P.E. & Yoga
Minimum of 30 minutes exploring outside each day
Interested in enrolling a kindergarten, primary school, or elementary school student in our Lower School program? Fill out our contact form to get in touch with us. We’ll be happy to work with you in scheduling a tour, answering any questions you might have, or providing you with more information about The Summit’s approach to independent education.